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.

I Don’t Have Anything to Write About Today

IMG_3645I don’t have anything to write about today but say, you should really see the Hawthorne tree in the driveway bursting forth into a blaze of magenta blooms and how about those pie pan size exploding pink peonies on the kitchen table that Mary brought over as a May Day treat from her garden, eye-catching saffron-colored bundles of stamens and pistils in their midst.IMG_3644

I don’t have anything to write about today but the blaze in the woodstove on this chilly May morning cheers me, as well as the news that Raymond saw a pair of scarlet tanagers in the trees by the west fence line!  I haven’t seen tanagers in years around this place- so exciting to know they are still around.  They must be migrating through. I wonder where they go? And darn, wouldn’t you know that we have a pair of ground squirrels that moved in and are making a fine Swiss cheese mess of the yard along with the huge party of voles living below ground.

branch-387101_1920I don’t have anything to write about today but wow- all of a sudden the lettuce is big enough to pick in the garden along with some kale and chard and even a few snow peas to throw in the evening’s salad and I’m so excited about the flower seeds I started that are almost ready to plant.  The vegetable garden will be so colorful this summer!

Back to birds, the black-headed grosbeaks returned to the feeder and will probably stay to nest in the yard.  Oops, the hummingbird feeder is empty.

Gotta go.

 

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Also blogging about living sustainably and making nature your friend at One Sweet Earth

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”

The Art of Germination

Growth drawing

It’s the growing season and my garden is being planted in stages.  I marvel at the magic of seeds- how something so small can germinate to become a huge sunflower or a plant that offers juicy red tomatoes.IMG_2158

With the exceptions of weeds, seeds cannot manage successfully on their own in a garden.  The soil must be tilled and enriched.  Then once the seeds have been planted they must be nurtured with proper watering and attention lest they be eaten by some pest or choked by weeds.  It’s work to bring seeds to their full potential of flower or food.

Ideas are so much like seeds.  The soil of the mind must be fallow and fertile.  To have a fallow mind, one must be open and ready to receive the seeds of ideas.  Fertile means paying attention and being open.  Ideas often come when the mind is relaxed like when you’re taking a shower, on a walk or doing something innocuous like washing the dishes.  Having a head full of earbuds and social media is not conducive to collecting seeds the muse has to offer.

IMG_2164When they come, catch them by writing or sketching them in a notebook less they blow away into someone else’s “garden”.  Then give them the attention they need to germinate.

Like seeds, not all ideas will manifest.  Some are not viable. Then others are past their shelf life.  Don’t be afraid to throw them out and get new ones.

I’ve had ideas like these artichoke plants that surprised me and grew into something much more than I expected.  I started these plants last year from tiny seeds and now they are 6-foot record-setting monsters!IMG_2146

You don’t have to plant a garden.  Just get a pot with healthy soil, some seeds, water them, and enjoy the magic of germination.

 

In Every Seed a Promise

A germ of possibility

Tucked into a tiny package

Waiting to unfurl its cotyledons

Up in the sunlight

From the depths of fertile ground

 

The sprout will grow vigorously

With the right conditions

Beneath the suns rays and the spring rains

With the breath of nature whispering

“grow, grow”

 

Tend it with care

Lest it be choked by weeds or eaten by pests

Then feast from your labors

and natures’ mystery

The wonder of a tiny bit of matter

That waited to reveal its purpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Art of Finding Creative Inspiration

I find now when I am stymied on what to write about, make in my studio, or do with my day, I come back to these words by Mary Oliver from her poem “Sometimes”…..

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So simple, so powerful.

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Photo courtesy austinkleon.com

The Nuthatch Society

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.

James Cash Penney

nuthatch-915435_1920Last year during the local Terroir Creative Writing Festival I found that there were four of us in our rural proximity that shared a love of writing and poetry. We are all novices on a path to discovery.  Why not get together now and again?

Last October we did just that.  The first meeting took place on a Sunday afternoon at Patricia’s lovely greenhouse. We sat at a table nibbling a delicious homemade coffee cake and sipping tea while a tangle of tomatoes and other vegetables seemingly were our audience. Then we rotated to Linda’s, my farmhouse and next month it is Deb’s turn.

A sort of agenda has emerged.  The person hosting leads off with something they’ve read that they would like to share and then some of their personal writing.  I am working on a memoir piece.  The last two meetings I have read parts of it.  We discuss and offer feedback on pieces if requested and then take turns.  We all adore Mary Oliver. At her recent passing, there has been much to share.

At our last meeting, we suggested all purchasing Oliver’s book “A Poetry Handbook” as a tea-time-2resource that we all have in common.  For writing challenge we have suggested finding a poem we like, using it as a “pattern” and then writing a new poem with our own words to share.  With all of our so-called assignments we put in the qualifier “or not.”  There is no pressure here, just pleasure.

Since I have a penchant for naming things, the name “The Nuthatch Society” came into my mind for our group.  The four of us live on rural property and we are quite familiar with these quirky little birds that frequent the foliage and feeders about our homes.  They are busy creatures, quite chatty, cute, but fierce and have the ability to walk upside down on trees.  The name seemed to fit with us.

There is value in online community but it cannot compare with four souls coming together to share a common interest over tea.  I’m so looking forward to the next meeting of the Nuthatch Society and sharing my writing and all the fascinating things I’ve read this month as well as what my fellow Nuthatches have been up to in their busy lives.  Community is a powerful thing- no matter how small.

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I was Supposed to be Blogging About My Artwork

Two weeks ago I received a message from WordPress…..

“Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com.  You registered with WordPress.com two years ago.  Thanks for flying with us.  Keep up the good blogging.”

This gave me pause on the passage of time and where I’ve come since I originally set up my blog.  Having failed to embrace other social media-Instagram and Facebook with enthusiasm to promote my art, the advice out there said: “you need to blog about your artwork.”  Okay, I thought, let’s give that a go.

Up went my first post, The Artist Demystified” on June 4, 2017, not really about my art but it was a start.  I was stunned to get one “Like”  and then double stunned when I received a “follow.” Wow, somebody read and identified what I wrote.  Then I found the WordPress Community Pool and the Weekly Photo & Writing Challenges (now extinct and sorely missed).  Then I found other bloggers and that I really liked to write and share my writing. Then I found (again) that I really hate self-promotion just for self-promotion’s sake. 

Now I’ve officially let go of the idea that my blog exists to promote my artwork since I really wasn’t doing that anyway.  If someone wanders over to my Etsy shop and purchases something, fabulous, but that’s not why I’m here.  Blogging has become a grounding force in my life

This is pretty much a blog about sharing my thoughts and experiences with others.

May my writing spark some resonance in my readers and bring forth some smiles through this process which I so enjoy.

I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BLOGGING ABOUT MY ARTWORK

You know, make a splash

With Google Analytics

Get followers

Boost sales on Etsy

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

But then I discovered blogging as an art form

Blogging just to blog

Sending my words out into the universe

To maybe catch hold on the edge

of some other celestial being

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered other bloggers

With their words that fed me

And then found a hold

In my celestial body

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered that I just liked to make art

…… not so much the selling 

So I think I will continue to make

And I will continue to write

For no other reason than it feeds my soul

The Magic of the Deadline

“The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline”        Unknown

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When I was teaching middle school science my life was run by daily, weekly, and academic calendar deadlines.  When I walked into my classroom door every morning I had to be ready or suffer some really awful consequences.  (Students can smell when you are unprepared).

I longed for retirement when deadlines no longer ran my life.  Finally,  I could concentrate on my art and the other things I had left simmering on the back burner.  It didn’t take me too long to realize that unless I imposed my own deadlines upon myself, my dreams would still languish on the back burner.  As unpleasant as they can be, deadlines can provide a sense of structure and accomplishment- that is if one sticks to them.  Otherwise, count on suffering a hit to your self-esteem.

bieszczady-1002402_1920It’s been a learning process. One thing I’ve realized is to have a series of deadlines mapped out.  Otherwise, when you finish one there is a sense of disorientation that can set in.  Paying for guitar lessons and showing up weekly has definitely insured progress.  My writing and visual arts practices have been trickier.

I usually get one blog post out every week and try to work on either a poem, essay or journal entry every day before I get out of bed.  Recently I joined a neighborhood writing group that meets monthly so I need something for that.  Then I go online to find publications soliciting for entries and mark my calendar with the deadline.  I have had 3 pieces published in the last 2 years with that strategy.

Artwise I just made a huge (tight) deadline applying for a juried membership in Print Arts NW, the regional printmakers association.  It was a lot of work but success!  I was accepted this week and now can put work in their holiday show.

My continuing challenge is structuring my home studio time with deadlines to be more productive.  Having a flow chart posted with milestones has worked before and I’m going to try that again.  Stay tuned…..

 

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Deadline

Dead Line

Sprawled flat in your path

Like giant road kill

Small, undetectable from a distance

Looming larger and larger

Until its great heaving, behemoth body

Brings you to your knees begging

For mercy between pathetic sobs

And muttered excuses

All the while knowing full well

Relief will only come

When you shut up and scale the smelly beast

Head down, focused

Heaving with all you’ve got

Step by step

Leaving all your whining behind

blocking your ears from the siren sounds

Of your favorite distractions

Eventually, you make it

Drinking in the expansive view from the top

Wondering why you made such a fuss in the first place

Until scanning the horizon

You notice a small lump

Blocking your path in the distance

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The Art of the Creative Blahs

thermometer-398735_1920It’s another hot smokey summer in Oregon.  It appears that temperatures of 90 and above and forest fires are the new normal.  Summer used to be my favorite season here but now that the jet stream has settled further south, spring and fall will get my vote.  Then air quality has been so poor you really don’t want to be outside doing much.

Motivation has been difficult.  My studio does not have air conditioning.  If I don’t get work done first thing in the morning, it doesn’t get done.  I think I’m getting summer cabin fever.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Rather than just push through it, my usual MO, maybe I should learn to roll with it and make this season the one to read, watch movies, and write more?  Maybe this is a good time to relax my expectations and go with the flow….

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Continue reading “The Art of the Creative Blahs”