Dealing with Your Inner Critic

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If you are any type of creative person you probably have a cheerleader on one shoulder and your inner critic on the other.  My muse is my cheerleader, that voice that feeds me sparky ideas and inspiration.  My muse is the positive force in my life.  My inner critic, in contrast, argues with my muse.  She likes to shout words of discouragement and fear in my ear to the point I quiver with self-doubt.  Unfortunately, she’s an annoying fact of my life.

I have come up with strategies to deal with this bitchy pest that tries to drown out the voice of my sweet muse.  One of them was to give her a name and draw a picture of what she looks like….

Helga, my IC, is an ample pickle-shaped-figure with spiny whiskers protruding all over her grotesque, gelatinous body.  She has a high whiney voice resembling the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.  The only facial expression she has is a grimacing frown of disapproval.

Daphne, my muse is a sprite of a being that emits light from her colorful body.  She dances with joy and speaks to me in cheerful songs of encouragement. Her voice is softer than Helga’s and can be easily drowned out.

I’ve become more adept at isolating those two voices by putting an identity to each.  When Helga gets too annoying I visualize swiping her off my shoulder with a THWACK and then dropkicking her out the door. (So satisfying).

Inner critics tend to love periods of creative inactivity.  The best way to keep the beast off your shoulder is to diligently keep up your work on a daily basis in some form. Even 15 minutes a day of seat time can make a huge difference can add up to a full article in a matter of days, a chapter, a painting. Set a timer and go.

You can read about the creative process and motivation all you want but the only way to have to leave your squawking inner critic behind is to build momentum. The bike won’t go unless you start peddling. The muse loves to feel the wind in her hair.

Best of luck.

MUSE

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.

The Goddess of Lost Things

The Goddess of Lost Things“If you’re not careful you can spend your whole life looking for what you’ve lost.”
― Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Spellbook of the Lost and Found

Being a creative soul, my brain is constantly mulling over new ideas and possibilities for my visual art and writing.  Being absent-minded really means not being mindful of the reality is in front of me in exchange for the reality I’m experiencing in my brain.  My head is often somewhere in the clouds growing flowers.  A really annoying side effect of that part of the creative mindset is losing things- constantly.  I’m working on it.

A few years ago I welded a piece from junk objects I call ” The Goddess of Lost Things.”On her arms, I hang earrings and I have lost in hopes they will return to me (there have been mixed results). Her headdress is made from a rusted pair of garden clippers, some kind of plumbing fitting for her head and various bits of this and that I came across for her body.

This month”s prompt for “The Nuthatch Society,” My petite writing group was “loss,” a topic that can be explored so many ways.  Rather than the serious side of loss, I chose this everyday part of my life.

Where the Lost Things Are

Tucked in burrows, sheltered from the obligations of daily use

I imagine they are gathered

Possessions I once held in my grasp that broke free and claimed their independence

The khaki hat I wore on the Camino de Santiago, left at a resting stop under a tree

How I missed its wide brim as my eyes squinted and my brow perspired under the Spanish sun- such a lucky find for another pilgrim

My prescription sunglasses in a case of mustard yellow, guaranteed to catch my eye, my name address & phone number in black sharpie on the back

No strategy foolproof

The red leather wallet lost years ago that fit so easily in my pants pocket.  Where are you little one?

Earrings – always my most cherished

The mates, now single, put into service as zipper pulls, charms, and bling for art projects in memory of when they made such a darling couple

Hats, headbands & gloves fallen from pockets on ski trails through snowy woods- usually the ones hand-knitted by dear friends

Sets of car keys

The scarf that dropped from my neck as I walked through the bonny highlands of Scotland

Then the myriad of expensive striped wool socks that enter the wash as pairs and then exit a party of one

Unfaithful jokesters

At times the lost return by chance or effort

Like my favorite watch of silver and turquoise from Santa Fe

But not before I bought a replacement on Ebay

Now I have a spare

In the end, it’s the curiosity that haunts me, the perplexing questions of how, when and where the lost were lost

Questions I would like to be answered complete with videos and maps before I die

Have the socks and earrings joined in more diverse pairings?

What new adventures did my khaki hat have?

Unsolved mysteries that will most likely remain as such

But for now blessings to all my lost possessions

Thank you for your service and blessings to the finder if there was a lucky soul

May you go in peace

As I do as well

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“My Head is Full of Flowers”  mixed media monoprint by the author

 

 

 

 

Of Tide Pools, Art, & Math Scores

IMG_0602I am captivated by tide pools.  They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish.  Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.

Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.

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Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use.  Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution.  Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.

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final piece

 

This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution.  I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence.  Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful.  Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.

So what does all of this have to do with math scores?  After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation.  I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations.  A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely.  Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone).  Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more color-4503279_1920testing.

So back to art.  There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process.  In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music.  In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes.  All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions.  In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.

My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun.  Children need creative outlets!  And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!”  Maybe have students visit tide pools too.  Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?

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courtesy Pixabay

The Anatomy of an Open Studio Tour

img_3017Every October the Art Harvest Studio Tour provides an opportunity for local artists to open up their studios for the public to get an intimate look at their work and process. Thirty or so juried artists about Yamhill County, Oregon participate. Studios are open for the first two three day weekends in October. Some artists are clustered in the local towns and others, like me, are peppered about the wine country in quaint settings. Art Harvest is in its 27th year.  To visit studios there is an $8.00 fee for a button which acts as a wearable ticket to gain entry to the studios

For some Art Harvest is a purely recreational experience, making a fun day with friends, buying a few small items and going out for a nice lunch in between.  Others are serious art buyers looking for unique pieces to purchase directly from the artist. Some drive as far as 200 miles away to make a weekend of it or fly from across the country to visit relatives during tour time.

For artists, it’s a chance to have a more interactive experience with people while avoiding the commissions and control that galleries levy.  Often being on the studio tour can lead to other sales and contacts.  I made sure I had items such as magnets and notecards of my prints that were only $5.00 for “takeaways” and for gifts.  Most of my things were in the $20 to $50 range on up to a sculpture for $380.

Spring Migration

I was on the tour 20 years ago and then had a hiatus for a teaching career and raising my son.  Now in retirement, I thought I would give it one more shot. It’s a huge undertaking and expensive for the artist.  The entry fee is $300 which pays for the glossy catalogs, advertising, buttons and a part-time coordinator. Artists must also volunteer on one of the many committees to make the tour function.  On top of that, I had expenses of at least $200 for art supplies and display materials.  That means I had to earn $500 before I would start to make any type of profit (For anyone wondering why art can be expensive, this is why!) Here is a timeline of the tour experience for the artist…

March– Submit application, images, and fees

April– juried in. Continue to amass a volume of work in ceramics and mixed media monoprints.

Summer– attend committee meetings.  I served on the education committee to facilitate school children visiting participating studios.  Make more art!

StandingMaskAugust– drop off two pieces of work to be in the Chehalem Cultural Center show running for the months of September and October.  (Many stop by this exhibit first to decide which studios to visit). Be filmed by a local cable access show Wild Geese mary oliver tributecalled Arts Alive.  (See video here.  My spot starts about 15 minutes in)

September– distribute signs and programs to local businesses and organizations.  Get work framed.  Clean out the studio with a dear friend who offered to help me.  Drape tables, add lighting, hang wall pieces and arrange ceramics on the tables. It’s a huge undertaking to get a studio from a workspace to a display area!

October– Price all work. Place bright yellow At Harvest signs along the routes leading to my studio. Oct. 4-6 AM and Oct 11-13 open my studio from 10 am to 5 PM.

Black Sheep 3Fridays were very slow so I had time to finish up items not yet completed. Saturday & Sunday could get quite busy.  I tried to spend as much time with people as I could to visit and answer questions.  In between weekends I made a new herd of ceramic sheep as the first one was almost sold out. The following week was spent in recovery mode.  I’m not used to that much talking and being “on” since I taught middle school!

Overall, the studio tour was a great success.  Beyond making a respectable profit, it was so sweet to get such validation of my work.  I had numerous visitors make a beeline for my studio after seeing my pieces at the Cultural Center show or seeing my page in the program.  My new work is quite eclectic and unusual.  Working alone as most artists do, I

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Tea Time 2

have to work hard at times to keep my insecurities at bay so having such positive feedback was food for my soul.  Thematically I range from whimsical to spiritual depending on what needs to manifest.  It’s not for all but there were a fair number of people that resonated with it and gave me positive feedback.   It was a great time to  make new friends and connect with old ones

I let a few favorite pieces go during the sale.  Thes beautiful pieces were kept in storage as I had no place to put them in my house.  I was surprised at the twinges I felt as some of these were purchased and left the studio with happy customers.  But art should be seen and enjoyed, not hidden away so they needed a new home.  I was especially pleased when they were adopted by friends.

If you have not participated in a local open studio tour, try it!  Lookup for them online in your area or afar.  It will take you on a mind-opening adventure with not much expense.

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Beyond the Studio Door

“Failure is success in process”- Albert Einstein

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  ― Salvador Dali

img_2951So you walk into an art gallery or an art festival and there is the fruit of the artist in all of its magical glory, looking like it was created effortlessly.  What you don’t see is the plethora of mistakes and sometimes heartaches that go into making art.  It’s a part of the process.  If you aren’t willing to fail, you are not going to learn.  This is especially true in the medium of ceramics.  There’s no way you can work with mud and transform it into permanent objects without running into some challenges.  There are so many variables to contend with in the making- construction, drying, firing, glazing, and firing again at a temperature around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

img_2950This week before my open studio on the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County I img_2960opened my kiln to find my share of disappointments.  The beautiful grape leaf plate on the upper left (traced from one of my grapevines leaves) has a crack down from the notch of the leaf shape.  It’s still lovely but not saleable.  I’ll use it though.  No one will notice under a pile of carrot sticks.  Those three lovely bowls with incised grape leaves rubbed with iron oxide all cracked.  This was a img_2961puzzle.  Maybe they got jostled when I removed them from the press mold?  These will become part of a mosaic on my future walkway. Then there was the barn owl sculpture with hairline cracks in two places – maybe from cooling too quickly in the pit fire?  I love this piece though and I am not sad to keep it.

The failed prints I have cut up and am using in other img_2962incarnations such as “quote blocks,” little sculptural pieces with collages.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of other lovely things to look at my studio sale-  but the invisible mistakes will be just as much a part of it for me.

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Beautiful Failures

They are the cracked

The not quite right

Products of my hands

And soul

Victims of experimentation

Poor judgment

Or forces beyond my understanding

 

Sometimes their enduring beauty breaks my heart

Their fatal flaw rendering them undesirable to others

Then sometimes their glaring shortcomings

Are so embarrassing

They are destroyed or reincarnated

Taking on a new form that will touch my soul

Or someone elses

 

The buyer will never know

That my work is built on beautiful failures

Marveling at my wonderful talent

Wishing they could have it too

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On Not Minding My Own Business

erika-fletcher-YfNWGrQI3a4-unsplashI’m going back to just making art and not being an artist.  Having had the goal for years of being a successful artist, I recently woke up to the fact that indeed, I had arrived.  That means I’m good with where I’m at.  It’s kind of like where to stop on a painting without overworking it.  Once I attained the label of “Artist” it came with art fairs, shows, social media, websites, marketing, basically business.  I am NOT a business person and am an introvert on top of it. Looking back I had way more satisfaction when I was just playing around and gifting my work to friends and family. Seeing looks of delight on their faces was payment enough.

I used to think that being accomplished was something akin to notoriety, copy-3129360_1920profit, fame, status or similar. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion after many years, that for me, fulfillment is in the creative process and the sharing. Monetary gain is just an added bonus. It’s kind of like fishing.  It’s great being out in nature no matter what and if you catch a fish- even better.

Now that I have less of my life before me than behind me, I am becoming very mindful of how I spend my life’s energy.  Do I want to spend hours at my computer marketing my work on Facebook, Instagram, & Etsy?  What am I giving up to do that?  After experimenting withbranding_131 all that the last few years, it’s felt too sleazy, like dressing in clothes that aren’t me. Do I really need to brand myself?  Seriously, I don’t want to fit in a box like Ritz Crackers. Art galleries are there for a reason.  They take 50% of sales but they could work on the selling while I could be out hiking.

Author Marsha Sinetar, famously said in her 1989 book titled the same, “Do what you love, the money will follow.”  Well, maybe.  For me, it’s turned out to be “Do what you love because you love it- and get a day job that you can tolerate”. Retirement works too. Otherwise what you love may turn out to be another form of the daily grind.

It’s an individual thing crafting a creative life.  THEY (whoever THEY are) may say do this and that, but ultimately it’s very personal what being successful is.  For some, they are content with the time invested in marketing themselves.  Their time is justified. I applaud them. But for me, creativity is a spiritual experience. Monetizing it takes away the joy.   So with that realization, I am taking the priority of selling my art out of the img_2831equation.

My last public show will be the local Art Harvest Studio Tour in the first two weeks in October.  Lately, I’ve been in the studio doing lots of work.  I will have an array of mixed media prints, found object sculpture, and ceramics on display.  After that, my remaining pieces will be in local galleries and online light.  Then, I’m going to design that patio and walkway I’ve always wanted, write more, play more music, and do more hiking. See you on the trail!

To check out my page on the tour go here

follow your nose

 

The Art of Keeping On

 How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives Annie Dillard

img_2025Unfortunately, when we were born we did not come with an instructional manual on how to live our lives.  We are all individuals with unique traits and circumstances.  As we go through our days there can be a lot of trial and error. There are some principles though, that will serve all of us, especially in this crazy digital age.

As a creative type, I keep an arsenal of motivational reading nearby.  The creative practice not often respected by our culture so I need all the cheerleading I can get.  Thus keep goingsaid I was more than excited when Austin Kleon released his third book Keep Going about 10 days ago.  I even preordered a copy, unusual for me.  The tag line of the book is “10 ways to stay Creative in God Times and Bad.”  If you’re sighing right now and saying “Too bad I’m not creative,” think again.  We are all creative beings. With few exceptions, we all have opposable thumbs.  That means we can make, cook, write, etc.  If you have kids – that’s the ultimate creation.  If the word ART trips you up, just insert the word LIFE or HUMAN.

Like Austin’s other books, Steal Like an Artist (on unlocking your creativity), and Show Your Work (on how to become known), this is a small affordable manual ($9 on Amazon).  It’s an easy, read full of his entertaining graphics, photographs, and words of keep going 3wisdom as well as some of his kids’ artwork.  It’s divided into 10 chapters, shown below.

I have come to some of the same realizations as Kleon himself but it is so validating to see them in print.  If you are in need of a reference in how to live and stay creative, or know someone that does, this is a good one. Worth a read, worth a place on your shelf!

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Images from the book Keep Going, by Austin Kleon

 

Being a Verb

fairy-2573105_1280It’s a risky business calling yourself an artist or a writer.  People tend to hold you in higher or lower esteem than you actually deserve.  Then there is a matter of assumptions…  Attend a social gathering and then introduce yourself as a brain surgeon to one group a people and then a waitress to another.  You will be treated accordingly.  Thus I prefer to avoid labels entirely preferring when asked what I do using more of these descriptors:

I write, I make art, I play guitar, I sing, I garden, I am recovering from teaching middle school, or whathaveyou.  Then there is the added pressure of living up to your label.  It’s far more enjoyable to be a verb.

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Verbage

I would rather be a verb than a noun

I would rather emerge, shine, fly, dance

And kick up my heels

Rather than just be a person, place or thing

Let me describe an action, state or occurrence

And wedge myself in the predicate of a sentence

Give me the energy to escape the box with a pretty label

And end with the pleasure of being all used up

My wings in tatters

My breath gone

When my time on Earth is done

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The Blessings of Wintry Weather

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View from our porch Feb. 25, 2019

The start of our winter was mild with temps in the upper 50s and sunny skies.  The bulbs were fooled into poking their heads up a month early.  I worried about another summer of unseasonably warm temperatures and drought.  The snowpack was low.  Now our familiar Western Oregon weather has returned.  Rain and even a little snow dusts the yard.  There was even enough powder snow where friends and I drove up to Mount Hood last week for a day of cross-country skiing.  I haven’t been able to do that in years.

I celebrate winter. This is my creative time. It is a time to come inside, literally and figuratively.  Nature needs rest and renewal and so do we.

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THE RAINS CAME

And the humans complained

But not the Earth who soaked the sky water deep into all its pores

Nor the trees who quenched their thirst in grateful gulps from deep roots

Nor the bulbs gathering strength for their dazzling spring displays

Nor the deer hungry for tender green grass

Nor the salmon longing to swim upstream

Nor the bees dreaming of anthers heavy with gold pollen and pistels leading to chambers of sweet nectar

Nor the seeds shivering with anticipation of their impending emergence

Nor the  bears conjuring images of plump berries in their sleep

Nor I, with book and pen

Joining their ranks 

Resting,

Going within

Savoring the blessings

Of wintery weather

 

Studio Notes 11/5/2018

writing-828911_1920From my writing desk….

My second piece of prose “Bull’s Eye” was published recently by “Montana Mouthful” a literary magazine out of Missoula Montana.  This was in their latest“Haunted” issue on page 15.  They also were the publisher of my first prose piece “Looking for Abraham” back in their August Secrets issue on page 29.  Both were blind submissions so I guess got lucky!  In both cases, having a submission deadline got me focused and finished– even though my inner critic was whispering “not good enough.”  I’m so glad I followed Natalie Goldberg’s advice “Let others be the judge of your work”.

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