The Zen of Doodling

Exploring “Creation Meditation”

Start with a shape, a circle perhaps?  Or maybe begin with a line, straight, zigzag, or a series of turns, twists and loop de loops?  Add onto what you started with maybe a pattern…Circle, line, circle, line, dots.  Punctuate with a triangle- just for fun.  Take those lines for a walk and see where they take you, putting off any specific destination in mind.   Work with in a small area like 2”x 2.”A calendar block, the back of a business card, or a post-it note is perfect.  A small space provides comfort lest you prefer journeying in a vast wilderness of white space. 

Work in pen so you won’t be tempted to erase.  Fill in some shapes if desired. Put letters, numbers, keyboard symbols, and words in your tool box.  Keep working until you feel an end point.  Then leave it.  Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.  Often you will be charmed by a doodle that you didn’t like initially.

The rules are simple- no erasing, no judgment, no starting over. Let your hand go where it wants to go.  This is merely a creative exploration to see what comes up.  As you progress with this practice, maybe add recognizable objects.  I seem to be fond of birds, teapots and tea cups. Sometime my random shapes become objects without intention.  Odd cars and animals have been known to appear and I delight in building on to them.

 If you are a writer you can doodle with words and letters.  Start with one word and through a stream of consciousness; add more words that might relate.  Feel free to put them upside down, sideways, smaller, bigger, thick or thinner than the original word.

This exercise functions in some ways like Julie Cameron’s morning pages.  Allow your pen to express what it needs to express. Doodling has freed me to examine myself, my fears and my willingness to explore.  It allows me to have a little fun without worrying about outcome.

I started this practice because I no longer had time to do my visual art daily due to all my writing and home improvement projects I had undertaken.  Inspired by the book, If You can Doodle, You Can Paint, by Diane Culhane; I knew I had the time to do at least a daily doodle!  My day planner had an unused square.  First thing in the morning after I planned my day, I started doodling in that square before I got out of bed.

After several months of this, I have fallen in love with these quirky expressions to the point doodling has become a favorite art form.  As with any practice it has evolved.  I have developed more of a style with reoccurring themes.  Some of these have wound up as part of larger art pieces, and some I am going to expand into pieces in their own right.  Some have inspired stories, but the vast majority remains “creation meditations.”  This detachment from outcome can lead me to places I never would have gone.  As a result, I am less inhibited in my creative process. My doodles have gone wild inhabiting my journal, notes, or wherever there is a fallow piece of white space.

I doodled all through high school and university courses to help keep me focused.  Remembering this, when I taught a middle school, I allowed students my doodle during lectures when they did not have to take notes.  For many people like me, lines provide an anchor.  Now much later in life, I have again allowed myself the pleasure. 

Try it!  Buy yourself some special pens.  I am especially fond of the fine line pens from Jet Pens if you don’t have a local art supply store you can visit. 

Happy doodling!

PS- see more doodles on my new instagram feed @almostdailydoodle. I’m also blogging at One Sweet Earth.

The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version

This is a rehash of a post from 2018 with some new modifications for the times…

monalisa-4893660_1920It shouldn’t be that difficult.  Most people open their eyes, pop out of bed, and voila!- on with their day.  For me, making the transition from Dreamtime to wakefulness is a sacred ritual.  This can sometimes take up to an hour. Even when I was working full-time I always allowed some time for this. Now with COVID 19 &  sheltering in place, there seem to be no people to be held accountable to, nor yoga or pool schedule to meet and no medical appointments.  Now I am left up to my own motivation.  It’s gotten to be more difficult not to be tempted to sleep in.

First step- avoid reading or listening to the news.  I fail to see the point of starting the day feeling depressed.  It’s curated to produce nightmares. (Plus, there is a dearth of good news to be had even though I know it exists.) My phone is in silent mode or better yet turned off.

Place my 15-year-old dog, Bandit on the bed.  He makes me smile.  Then have to free the  “wild img_2131hamsters” that populate my head and if I don’t get rid of them my day seems chaotic.  Essential to that process is to brew a cup of tea, heat up my “hottie” for my tight back, and do a quick meditation.

I spend a few minutes in my planner thinking about my goals for the day or week. I have been finding that scheduling joy into my day can really help to keep the lonely demons away.  Anything from reading a good book, walking the dog, gardening, phoning a friend, or watching a movie IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.  Then onto my journal where I may write anything that’s been lurking in my mind, a poem. Finally, I add a funny daily doodle in my planner for fun.

Now I am ready to transition from human being to more of a human doing with a foundation of centeredness that I hope to carry with me throughout my day.

Next step- remove body from bed and get to living in this simplified yet complicated world.

Continue reading “The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version”

Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

This is a repost from 2017.  I have been traveling and have not had the time to create fresh content.  This essay of Gilbert’s is timeless no matter if you are a writer, artist, or musician.  I reread it from time to time just to give myself a reality check!

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life”

Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska

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2020 Photo Juneau Daily Empire

I just returned from a week’s visit to Juneau, Alaska. Juneau was one of my residences as a young person as I explored the far North in the late 1970s and early 80s.  Besides visiting friends and seeking better snow for XC skiing than Oregon had to offer, on this itinerary was attending the 20th annual Juneau Wearable Arts Show.  This was my second time for this event after about a 10-year hiatus. The show is put on by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and all proceeds go to their organization.

This is an extravaganza where a majority of the attendees dress to the nines to enjoy the show in a hall equally dressed up.  There is dazzling lighting, a long curving runway, and img_3380several large monitors placed where you could be sure to have a good view.  The professional emcees also wildly decked out.  This year they had a local drag queen star and a well known local actor running the show.

Juneau is a relatively small town remotely tucked away in the seclusion of Southeastern Alaska’s majestic landscape with the only access being by boat or air.  Still, residents value the arts and know how to come together for a really good time.  The entries are from local artists who strive to use recycled and/or unique materials to assemble the garments to match the year’s theme.

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2017 entrant that was removed- SAD! Photo by Juneau Daily Empire

 

This year’s theme was Joie de Vivre (French for “Joy of Life”).  Unfortunately, the show was smaller than in years past.  Artists have boycotted after an entrant in the 2017 event was accused by a local citizen of cultural appropriation for her geisha themed garment (really???) She was then pulled from the next performance. Still, aside from the politics, I enjoyed the night with all the flair and people watching. I appreciated the fact many of these artists take the better part of a year to fashion their pieces.

Continue reading “Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska”

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 Art of Learning Art Online

IMG_3245As a creative soul, it’s important to me to keep a fresh flow of ideas and perspectives entering my psyche so I can continue to grow.  Taking classes is a wonderful way to do so.  In recent years I’ve turned to more to online classes.  Though I appreciate the human component in an actual class, in an online class I don’t have to commute and carve out a substantial chunk of my day to attend one session.  I also have access to the video content so I can watch the lesson over and over again.  In terms of engaging with other students, there has always been a dedicated Facebook page to post and comment on other students’ work.

As I am a non-traditional artist not wedded to just painting and drawing I find there is more of an eclectic selection of classes offered online.  In the past, I have taken Make Monotypes” (Gelli Printing) with Linda Germaine, “A Year of Painting” with Alena Hennessy, & currently, “Words & Pictures” produced by Carla Sondheim and friends.  All these classes have been top-notch and reasonably priced.  I made the mistake with “A Year of Painting” of not researching the artist’s style thoroughly. Though it was well taught ultimately the content was not for me.IMG-3253

If you are interested in taking an art class online, just Google online art classes in your specific media and then do some online research on the reviews as well as the artist’s work.  Instagram is a good one for that.  Also, consider MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are FREE.

I am having loads of fun at the moment with “Words and Pictures.”  This class is currently getting me out of my comfort zone to explore lots of great ideas.  A friend of mine signed up for the class as well which makes it even better. The current lessons are being taught by the infamous Martha Rich.  We are quick sketching life around us and the conversations we hear (including internally).  I have my first ones with this post.

Never taken an art class before?  Go online.  There is nobody to be self -conscious around but yourself!

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The Art of Creative Problem Solving

Somewhere overr the rainbowThere are times you will find yourself mired in a quandary. Sometimes the solution becomes clear in a relatively short amount of time and in others it takes a while to get clarity.  Making art is a great metaphor for life in this regard.

I’ve had two art pieces that were finished – but not.  Some things were missing and I did not know what.  So I let them sit for weeks revisiting them from time to time.  I had to let the questions percolate within me for months and be patient.  Recently, I finished both pieces.  All that mulling worked out in the long run.

Somewhere over the Rainbow draft
First draft- can’t find the second!

 

The collage (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) piece pictured was mounted on a cradled (dimensional) board.  Over the weeks I added more marks and contrast but it still wasn’t enough.  I finally came to the realization that it needed a more definite frame around it. Thus I purchased a bigger cradled board, flipped it around, painted it a deep plum, and then mounted the collage board within it.  Voila- closure!

Sprit mask draftThe ceramic mask was the same way as I tried bits of this and that over weeks.  In the end, I replaced the headdress of wheat with two lovely feathers, mounted a piece of an old earring on the forehead, and then glued brass nails around the neck area.  That last step made the formerly boring piece really shine.

In both cases, it took me about three months to get resolution.  The muse can be slow.  Rushing won’t work. I do this same process with my writing.  Put it away and let it stew for a while.  There is nothing like having fresh eyes when looking upon a problem.

Solutions will come. Sometimes you just have to slow down and be patient!Sprit mask final

3rd Blogaversary

why-i-started-to-writeThree years ago I started this blog to promote my artwork because that’s what “everybody” said you should do. (See “I was supposed to be Blogging About my Artwork”) I had no idea how to start a blog, nor post, and what do I write about??  I started anyway and when I got a “Like” and a “follow” on my first post I was stunned that someone actually enjoyed what I wrote!

Three years in writing a blog post is a weekly ritual.  In the process, I’ve developed a love of writing and have gotten several pieces published along the way.  It’s become a meditation of sorts, thinking about what’s been important to me in the week to share. The practice of blogging keeps me grounded.  Some posts are better than others.  Showing up is the important part. Originally I thought it would be more of a show and tell of my visual art process. My intuition told me to do otherwise and as a result, my artwork has taken a more back seat.  This really is just a blog about me on the creative journey we call life.

Then there’s the takeaway from reading the blogs of others.  I’ve gained a lot of perspectives just from reading about the experience of fellow bloggers and commenting on their posts.

Putting up this blog was a creative risk. Every time I post is a creative risk.  But it’s with those risks we take we grow so much! Ultimately the most important thing is that my personal expression satisfies myself.  I still don’t know exactly what I am doing but that is what makes it such an adventure.  If you have been toying with the idea of starting your own blog, just do it.  There are so many tutorials right on WordPress to help you on your way.

Soon to come this year is a second blog dedicated to tips on sustainable living.  Also, I will be including some of my artwork on the bottom of posts just in case anyone is interested. Stay tuned….

Tea Time
“Tea Time” Ink, watercolor, & colored pencil

 

A Road Map for the New Year 2020

“There is more to life than increasing its speed” Mahatma Gandhi

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artwork by the author

One of my intentions for the New Year is to manage my time more effectively.  As a creative type, I am constantly let astray by shiny distractions – a crow woman of sorts. I found two books that are very helpful on the subject.

41btviico9l._sx329_bo1204203200_“Make Time” by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky gives clear strategies to simplify and prioritize your day in a way that will give your life less stress and more meaning.  The two authors are self-described “time dorks.” They were so overstressed in their high tech world that they developed simple techniques to really focus on what matters by doing less.  Besides providing you with a simple daily template this book is chalked full of strategies to help you deal with digital distractions, tips to eat and sleep more effectively, and even how to get the most out of your caffeine habit!

Then there is “Manage your Day to Day: Build Your Routine , Find Your Focus, & Sharpen 51gpnuhi4-lYour Creative Mind” published by 99U.  This compact little book is geared more to the creative than Make Time.  There is also some overlap.  Each chapter is written by a different person in creative fields about building a successful creative routine.  The chapters are short, there’s a lot of quotes(I love quotes) and you can open anywhere in the book for a little pick-me-up.

Check these out.  Best wishes for a creative New Year!

 

“If you want to create something worthwhile in your life, you need to draw a line between the world’s demands and your own ambitions” Mark McGuinness

 

 

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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