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The Wonder of Nova Scotia: Inspired by Place

Stuff your eyes with wonder

Stuff your eyes with wonder. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. — Ray Bradbury

Baby eyes

Babies intrigue me…and it’s not just because they are so blinkin’ cute.

I love the way they observe the world around them, soaking it all in without judgment. Their eyes are so bright and clear. I especially love how they stare back without self-consciousness. It’s their wide-open curiosity I find so appealing.

It’s no wonder kids are so creative. They haven’t built up filters and preconceived notions about how things should be. Everything is a miracle to them. They’re still asking questions.

Here in Nova Scotia I find myself having a similar experience. This new-to-me place re-awakened my curiosity and filled my creative well in a way I thought was long gone. Thank heavens I was wrong!

Curiosity and wonder hold the seeds of creativity

The Tide Pool Wonder

Being by the Bay of Fundy is key for me. Large bodies of water stoke my own sense of wonder.

Every morning I walk the dog down to the shoreline  where we wander among the rock formations and check out tide pools. Now that the warm days are here, I usually perch somewhere and spend a few quiet moments gazing over the water, listening to the waves washing in and out.

(There’s even a word for that whispery sound. Did you know that? Susurration. Isn’t that perfect?)

I love the far horizon and the smell of salt in the air. Seated there, I take deep breaths in and breathe out gratitude and feel real peace again.

waves and wonder

When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer visits with my aunt and cousins on Narragansett Bay. Those were the days before cars were air-conditioned so I would sit by the car window and try to pinpoint the first whiff of salt as we got closer.

Happiness still smells like salt air to me.

rock formations and wonder

The rocks on “my” beach are old volcanic formations, sculpted by the awesome Fundy tides and storms. They remind me of pieces of modern art. I love walking among them, making up names for some of the formations. They’re becoming familiar friends but I wonder if I’ll recognize them after next winter’s storms.

There is almost always a breeze against my skin, ruffling my hair but it’s the clarity of the air that especially delights me as an artist. I’ve had visitors comment on how different the colours are here. (And the stars!). Everything seems more vivid.

Except, of course, when the fog rolls in and sound is muted and everything takes on a dreamy quality. (Or eerie if you’re a Stephen King fan.)

All in all, it’s the perfect environment for this artist and writer. Definitely feels like home.

Definitely feeds my creative heart.

See with fresh eyes

While you may not want to move across the country to a completely new environment, you can still feed your own sense of wonder right where you are. You just need to see with fresh eyes.

Break out of familiar habits and routines. Strike out in a different direction. Choose a new route to work. Turn left instead of right. You don’t even need to leave your neighbourhood. Just getting out of the car and walking your own street lets you experience the familiar in a fresh way.

When was the last time you ‘stuffed your eyes with wonder?”

Join us in the Creative Fire Café

 

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Meet My Creative Friend: Elizabeth Cottrell

The creative art of writing

This month my guest creative is Elizabeth Cottrell, a heart-based writer I’ve come to know in the virtual world. Although we hang out in similar circles and have many friends in common in the real world, our paths have never actually crossed except online. I hope one day we get to share a cup of tea and some face-to-face time because I consider her a friend in a very real way.

In the meantime, it’s my pleasure to introduce her to you and the creative art she practices.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Being creative, to me, is tapping into a more intuitive, spiritual side of myself for guidance from God’s Holy Spirit on how to live, how to interact with others, and how to write. Others may use different names for this higher power: Source, Light, Abba, Yahweh… We shouldn’t get too hung up on semantics. When something is True (with a capital T), I believe it transcends all religions, labels, and limitations. Creativity is a universal energy to which everyone has access if they open themselves up to it.

When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?

I’m guessing my answer to this might be a bit different than for many of your other guests on this blog. It has been—and continues to be—a journey, not a moment in time.

For way too many years, I thought I was not creative at all. I am a math/science/business person and was not drawn to traditionally artistic practices. The closest I ever got to creating a real painting myself was with one of those step-by-step courses where I was told exactly what to do…not much more advanced than paint-by-number! I thought I was just “left-brained,” and while I have always appreciated art in nature and art made by others, I never felt called to create it myself. So I concluded that I wasn’t creative.

About ten years ago, in an effort to explore my more whimsical side and get to know myself better, I participated in an online class by Cyndi Briggs called “Play in May.” Cyndi told us that if we ever felt resistance to her suggested activities, we should sit with those feelings and ask ourselves why we felt that way.

Her first assignment was to gather all the art supplies in our house – colored pencils, glue, glitter, stickers, markers, crayons, paints, blank paper etc. and identify a space somewhere to use them creatively. Wow, resistance slammed me like a sledgehammer, partly because I didn’t even have those kinds of supplies around (except what was left from my now-grown children). But being the “Obliger” I am, I followed instructions and started having a conversation with myself:

Me: “Self, why don’t you want to do this assignment?”

Myself: “Well, it just feels like a waste of time.

Me: “Okay, self, but what else do you have to do that’s more important?”

Myself: “Good grief, just about anything! I’ve got a client’s job to finish and groceries to buy and laundry to do and …”

This “conversation” continued in this vein for a few more minutes. Fortunately I was very patient, because finally, I very calmly asked myself:

Me: “So, you’ve got a blank sheet of paper there. What would you like to do with it?”

And suddenly, in a flash of enlightenment, my response was:

Myself: “ I want to put words on it!”

Eureka! The colors and emotions could pour forth through my pen. They didn’t have to only come through traditional art supplies. For me, this was truly a breakthrough moment.

From then on, I began to redefine and greatly expand what I understood to be creativity. I’ve come to realize I AM creative after all! I write personal notes that recipients call to thank me for. I often find the right words for awkward and difficult situations. My blog posts resonate with readers. I help clients find solutions to communications issues they have. Even the ability I have in a board meeting to take in a lot of complicated information and synthesize it to its core elements is, in itself, a type of creativity.

I’m still not drawn to the studio arts, but I’ve started cutting out beautiful or interesting pictures from magazines to decorate my journals. I’d like to take a drawing class to teach me how to be more observant. Being part of Aprille’s Creative Fire Café has deepened my appreciation for ways to stimulate my creativity.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone who seems called to take the ordinary tools available to any of us and make something fresh and new. I am especially inspired by writers who can use everyday words in thrilling and unique ways to transport me to places and experiences I couldn’t otherwise know. Annie Dillard’s writing gave me fresh eyes for nature. Mary Oliver’s poetry shifts my thinking about the world around me.

What do you want your art to communicate?

I want, more than anything, for my words to encourage, comfort, and inspire—to remind my readers and anyone whose paths and mine intersect that they are worthy and special, and important to the whole of life. It would make me so happy to know that my words might be an antidote to the shrill and polarizing voices of our culture today.

Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

My morning routine is perhaps the best practice I’ve developed (thus far) for creating space for Spirit to speak and move in and through me. I like to get dressed before coming downstairs. That feels like an important step towards a mindset of readiness for the day. I make a pot of coffee, and while it’s brewing, I stretch and drink a glass of water to rehydrate after the long night. Often I step outside to breathe in the fresh country air and enjoy the sights and sounds of a Shenandoah Valley morning. I give thanks for the day and its opportunities.

With coffee in hand, I head to my favorite chair—an upholstered rocker/swivel chair—surrounded by books and writing supplies. I begin with Scripture and devotional reading. This helps to settle me down and “primes the pump” for a receptive mindset. I go through my own “Heartspoken’s Morning Checklist for Spiritual Well-Being” (Click Here to download). This practice often inspires writing in one of my journals. I use a lap desk, and I prefer fountain pens and high-quality paper.

While there are some days when I “hit the floor running” without this special time, the day goes better when I fit it in. It is a “marinating time” when ideas and thoughts have a little extra space to declare themselves.

What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?

Information overload, distractions, and interruptions are all challenging to me. Meditation has helped me re-frame the distractions and interruptions and begin to view them as divinely-inspired. Sometimes the phone call or email that feels like an interruption is an opportunity to touch someone and be a channel for God’s love.

I still think it’s helpful to set boundaries to protect the time and space we need to nurture our creativity. Getting up before anyone else is up or likely to call and interrupt works best for me, but my success in meeting the challenges effectively varies from great to dismal.

What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?

Two come to mind – one has come from many sources, but most powerfully from the work of Dr. Brené Brown: Stop comparing yourself to anyone else! Each of us is unique, yet we waste so much mental and emotional energy when we feel “less than.” Her book Gifts of Imperfection addresses this propensity for self-comparison directly. We’ve got to learn to appreciate the creative gifts of others without it making us feel our own gifts are small in comparison.

The second comes from creative business coach Laura West. At a retreat several years ago, she suggested we adopt this practice: “Say No more often and Yes more fully.” This is such important advice, especially for those of us who tend to think we should just because we can. I call this “The Tyranny of Shoulds.” The reason it relates to creativity is because when we burden ourselves with activities we’re not really called to do, it squeezes out the time and space required for creativity to flourish in us.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

I just want to thank you, Aprille, for creating a community that celebrates and nourishes creativity. You have walked the walk and shared your highs and lows, and you’ve been generous in finding and sharing ideas and practices we can implement ourselves for a more creative life.

“I’ve been lots of things in my life—from farm girl to leprosy researcher; from wife and mother to bank board chairman—but at my core, I’m a connector and encourager whose artistic tools of choice are fountain pen and paper and whose deepest desire is to be a channel for God’s light and love as long as I’m able.”

Elizabeth CottrellElizabeth is a freelance writer​/blogger​ ​and ghostwriter​​ ​at Heartspoken.com​ ​and RiverwoodWriter.com. ​ You can connect with her here:

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Art at the Speed of Life

Art at the speed of life

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, would answer you: I am here to live out loud. – Émile Zola

Last week, life demanded something new from me.

We left the house at sunrise, headed for my husband’s knee surgery. It was a day of firsts. First surgery ever for him. First time I was the one waiting. First time so far away from family support when life felt scary.

For the six months prior we kept busy, focused on finishing projects like the new BnB suite and my studio. The last 30 days were particularly intense. Toward the end of all our rushing about, we had to keep re-evaluating what we had time for and what could wait. Creative time fell off my list of priorities.

As we drove to Kentville, I took a deep breath and noticed the world around me again.

Mist in low-lying places. A pheasant pacing along the shoulder of the rural road. The silhouette of a lone hawk on the phone line, looking for her breakfast. Soft pink on the eastern horizon, gradually brightening to a sunny day. The spring green of fields and trees.

Now that the (successful) surgery is behind us, I’ve taken on the role of caretaker, which still devours a lot of hours in my day. My studio is waiting for me to return and I’m okay with that. This is what you do for someone you love.

What does this rather personal story have to do with art and creativity?

Sunrise

A lot actually.  Art should happen while we are living very real, very human lives. If we aren’t connected to the people around us, how can our art communicate anything meaningful?

I’m sure you’ve read posts, watched videos and listened to other artists who advise “Just follow your passion”. The experts (and those clever memes) tell us, “If it was really important you’d find time.” The implication seems to be creative passion must take precedent over everything else or we’re not really serious about our art.

We nod our heads because it sounds like great advice and then beat ourselves up, wondering why we can’t find the time or energy to ‘just do it.’

I know if this is true for me, it’s also true for a lot you reading this.

Finding the balance in life

The truth is, this is one more example of those social media ‘echo chambers’ people are talking about. Hearing only one side of any story distorts our perception of what it takes to lead a meaningful life. Because those of us who are artists and writers often seek out creative experts focused on their chosen topic, we can miss the counterbalance of what it means to cope with real life.

It becomes a trap of ‘all or nothing’ thinking. And if I’ve learned nothing else, life is about balance. Ever tried to stand on one foot? In order to retain your balance, your leg and ankle are making constant small adjustments. Balance means adjusting, not rigidity.

We live in a world of contrasts. If our goal is peace of mind then we must let go of the judgments. Both light and shadow are necessary. Ask any artist. Without the shadow, how do you show light?

Filling the well

Life is like a wellWe fill our creative wells by living full lives and living sometimes demands a lot of us.  When we embrace the ups and downs, we have something to say when we do get into our studios or back to our desks.

We must be about life’s business if we want our creative expression to touch other hearts. We must be real. There are times when that passion we’re following will mean taking care of personal needs or a loved one, time with a child or being an active part of our community. It all matters.

Meaningful art doesn’t happen in a bubble. And when life gets crazy busy, as mine did, we can try to fit some tiny snippets of creativity around the other priorities. They act as reminders that this too, is part of who you are.

I did a couple of small sketches and made notes in the little book I keep in my purse. I used my phone to take reference photos. I browsed Pinterest for inspiration and ideas for when my schedule has more space. I knit while I keep my husband company as he heals. I stayed connected to my Facebook group of creative folk.

Meanwhile my focus is on my husband. Underneath, the creative urge is building, like steam under pressure. When the time is right and I return to my studio, I’ll have lots to work with.

 

 

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Muse Flash: Simplify

Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify. – Henry David Thoreau

Simplify. Sounds so easy but here I am, once again, learning the lessons of simplicity. To ask myself if I really need to do ________(fill in the blank) or is it a distraction? Does this painting need this level of detail or am I fussing too much? Do I really need to do this chore or is it busy work?

Getting too ‘fussy’ results in chases down rabbit holes and procrastination.

I have to stop myself and ask “Who made up this rule anyhow? My standard? Or someone else’s?”

A good case in point is my MuseLetter. I can get so caught up in what the ‘gurus’ say I must do that I overcomplicate things. It’s far more important to listen to what my subscribers say they what.

When I simplify, everything else flows

simplifyTime and again, people tell me they like the MuseLetter I send out because its simple and short. They can take a couple of minutes out of a busy day to be inspired.

That’s also the reason I like it. It’s simple which means it doesn’t take hours to create but it keeps me in touch. When I try to get “fancy” I end up procrastinating.

The same thing works in my paintings. When I keep composition pared down to the essentials, I feel a different energy and I find people respond to it differently.

In my art work, it’s the same question. “What does the viewer want?”

The simple answer for me is they want to share my experience. Keeping it simple feels lighter and I like the idea of inviting my viewer to be part of the creative process as their imagination fills in the details.

Embracing simplicity

So my creative mantra is “Simplify…simplify” because who doesn’t love it when life flows along easily?

What about you? What keeps you in flow?

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Meet my creative friend: Karen Richardson

I’m very excited about introducing you to this month’s guest artist – Karen Richardson.

I first met Karen Richardson when we visited her home during a Studio Tour and came away with one of her paintings. Later, I enrolled in her workshops and along the way discovered a good friend. Before my move to Nova Scotia we got together regularly to paint and encourage one another.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Karen Richardson, an extraordinary watercolour artist.  I have no doubt she will inspire you as much as she inspires me.

Karen Richardson painting
Time to Head South
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Karen Richardson painting
Stillwater Lily

For me, creativity comes in many forms. It is an activity that is so absorbing that I lose track of time and of my surroundings. Creative pursuits make my troubles fade away and leave me feeling happy and re-energized. I can be creative as a gourmet cook and baker; as a home gardener designing layout, shape, colour, and bloom time of my perennial beds; as a designer of my web site; as a writer of my artist’s-life-and-travels blog and my painting instruction book; as a photographer of my travel adventures; as a creator of mini-videos for social media posts; and, most importantly, as a painter of realistic landscapes and nature studies.

When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?

There has never been a time in my life where artistic creativity was absent. As a young child, I enjoyed playing with construction paper, scissors, colouring books, and drawing pencils, and in high school I excelled in a sophisticated arts program. But back then, I could not envision a practical career in fine art, so my life took a different path.

About ten years later, a chance night school course rekindled my love of watercolour painting, and I began moonlighting as a professional artist at age 29, while working full time at a day job. My art was therapy for my stressful career, (and my day job skills helped me build the business side of my art), for the next 18 years.

Finally, at age 47, when my husband retired, I became a full time artist. Later, I began teaching watercolour workshops, and that lead to the publication of Watercolour Toolbox, my painting instruction book. So far, in the 32-year span of my fine art business, over 600 of my paintings have made their way into art collections in 19 countries.

I have been heard to say, jokingly, that I became an artist by accident, then an art instructor by accident, and then an author by accident. But if I really think about it, maybe I always was destined for this artistic path. Looking back and looking forward, the journey feels absolutely authentic to me.

Karen Richardson painting
Leaves and Lichen
What inspires you?

My husband and I love to travel, and we have been privileged to explore every province and territory in Canada, every state of the USA, and several countries abroad. I carry a pocket camera everywhere we go, so I can capture fleeting moments of inspiration. RV touring, hiking, motorcycling, snowmobiling, ATVing, kayaking, and gardening provide unique images for my paintings. My instinct is to seek out peaceful surroundings – natural places that rejuvenate the spirit. My paintings reflect this feeling of inner harmony.

What do you want your art to communicate?

When I see something in Nature that is worthy of celebration, I want to capture that feeling of heartfelt awe and wonder in a painting. My artistic mission is to uplift, to share a moment of focused calm; in short – ‘making the world a happier place, one painting at a time’. (That is my business tagline.)

Karen Richardson painting
Hunter’s Moon
What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?

I believe in the famous quotation from Chuck Thomas Close (American photorealist painter and photographer): “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”  I share his belief “that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea’.“

Describe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Karen Richardson gallery
Karen’s Home Gallery

My year is divided roughly in thirds; 4 months of travel, 4 months of teaching watercolour workshops in my studio and at local galleries, and 4 months of intense painting time in my studio. During my studio painting time, my goal is to complete one painting a week on average. During my teaching time I produce at about half that rate, with my class demonstration paintings becoming saleable inventory. During our travel months I only paint a few hours each week, finishing a couple of paintings while on the road in our travel trailer. Most of my photography work is done during our travel months and becomes the inspiration for my studio paintings.

What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?

Often my studio painting time takes a back seat to other activities in my art business and life in general. For me, two strategies help to avoid this problem. One strategy is to have external commitments to create new work. This could be scheduling weekly time to paint with a buddy, partnering with art galleries to sell my paintings (and therefore I commit to supply a certain volume of new work to support those galleries), or exhibiting at art fairs and open studio events. Another strategy is to schedule regular painting time each week, while getting ‘buy-in’ from family and friends to respect that schedule.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?
Karen Richardson studio
Karen’s Studio

Recently, I completed an 18-month online ‘Art Business Academy’ course, in which I was coached by a gallery owner in Arizona and had to complete a new assignment every second week. The goal was to expand the number of galleries showing and selling my paintings, by ramping up all aspects of my art business to a highly professional level. Thanks to my ABA lessons, I now have 7 gallery partners across Ontario.

Connect with Karen Richardson:

https://karenrichardson.ca/

http://watercolourtoolbox.com/

https://www.facebook.com/karen.richardson.studio

https://www.facebook.com/StoneGardenArt/

https://www.instagram.com/stonegardenart/

Order Karen’s award-winning book for watercolour artists by clicking the image below:

(*affilliate link*)

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Muse Flash: Tell the Story

Tell a story

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

Choosing the head or the heart

I have to watch myself or I get too “heady” when I’m painting and I forget to tell a story. My background in designing computer systems may have something to do with that.

We like sheepFor that reason, I’m consciously painting “looser” these days. I try to avoid realism, not because it can’t be a story but for me, it becomes an exercise in skill, not story.

Loose, however, is not easy. My Inner Perfectionist wants it to look like a photo. (So does my husband, who just doesn’t ‘get’ anything else.)

To help break away, I’m experimenting with acrylics, bigger brushes, pouring and other mediums such as collage. I’m kicking myself because I gave away all my encaustic supplies before we moved. (Note to self: NEVER give away art supplies.)

As I play with these new (to me) materials, my inner dialog goes something like, ” What am I curious about? What do I feel? What do I want this to say…wait…that doesn’t look real…Oh, right. Back to story.”

Ask the right questions

The trick seems to be sticking with the right questions. The ones about heart, emotion, meaning and story. Doing a piece that is technically well-executed feels…well…satisfying and when I let it, the detailed work pulls me in. The problem is, it doesn’t share anything about me except that I know how to handle a brush and familiar medium.

So I’m on a quest to reach deeper and deeper. To tell a story with my art. To let my inner artist out more and more.

I may end up back where I started but I’m hoping the journey will teach me how to tell my story on a heart to heart level. That’s the powerful kind of art I long to make.

What are you exploring? What story do you want to share?

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13 Ways to be Creative Every Day

In my last post I suggested we need to be creatively active every day in order to ‘stay in love’ with our muse.

When I first came across that idea, I balked. I couldn’t always be in my studio. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Or I need a break because the well is dry.

Then I shifted my idea on what “being creative’ actually meant. After all, I’m the first one to tell others that creativity isn’t necessarily art, dance, literature, etc. Which, of course, is what many people flash on if you say ‘creative’.

Apparently, I’d fallen into the same narrow mindset.

So I dusted it off (my mind, that is) and put my thinking cap on. Surely I could come up with a list of alternatives for those days when the Muse takes a break.

Some suggestions

1. Try a new recipe. I confess. Cooking isn’t my favourite thing but I do love baking so my new recipe will probably be a sweet treat. No one in my house will object.

2. Do a small daily sketch for 30 days. Committing to 15 minutes a day during a Passion Project is what started me down this road. I highly recommend it as a practice. Cathy Nichols, a mixed media artist I follow is doing hers on small tags. I may give this a try myself.

3. Do some gardening. Get your hands dirty. If you live in an apartment, offer to help a friend. Gardening is guaranteed to fire up all your senses.

taking a walk4. Walk with your camera. Toting my camera, I notice more details and special moments. So yes. You could just take a walk, but I find the camera is a good reminder to stay present and not make up a shopping list in my head.

5. Get out old art materials and see what ideas they trigger. I bought the materials to make rubber stamps awhile back, made a few stamps and had fun. Now the materials sit in a basket in a cupboard. Time to get them down and make some new ones.

6. Quilt. It doesn’t have to be a large project but fabric offers pattern and colour. Piecing a project means deconstructing and re-imagining. Totally creative and inspiring.

7. Have projects bookmarked in magazines and books? Grab one randomly and do the first marked project. Or go to the library and browse a section you don’t normally visit. Pull out a random book and see what it inspires.

8. Rearrange the furniture.  A fresh perspective on a familiar place always gives me a lift.

9. Draw a mandala. I love these geometric forms. I don’t have to think about them the same way, especially if I use a compass and protractor but they always feel so satisfying.

10. Zen Doodle. Not much to add to that. Highly addictive.

11. Browse Pinterest. Find some artists you admire and see what they have on their boards. (Here’s a link to my boards in case you’d like to check them out.)

12. Again on Pinterest, create a  board of images that inspire you.  No need to second-guess or  explain it to anyone. Let it be your highly personal source of inspiration.

13. Hang out in the Creative Fire Café. This is my online creative community and the conversations are inspiring and helpful. Join us?

That’s my list. Thirteen creative alternatives.

What’s on your list? Share your ideas and inspire us!

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Muse Flash: Be the Verb

Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day. Barbara De Angelis

I know. This is an art blog, not a relationship blog.

Or is it?

BE a verb and be creative every dayRecently we watched “Big Eyes” on Netflix, a movie based on a true story. The motivations of the two lead characters fascinated me. The wife, artist Margaret Keane, allowed her husband Walter Keane to claim her work as his.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the story itself but at one point I turned to my husband and said, “He wants the title, not the work.”

Like a good marriage, you first fall in love with your creativity. But you can’t be passive about it if you want a long term relationship. You must commit and work at it. And some days? It ain’t easy.

But it’s always worth it.

So to paraphrase Barbara De Angelis – “Creativity isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your muse every day.”

If you agree, why not “be a verb” and share this. Thanks!

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15 Reasons Why I Believe Creative Expression is Vital

Recently I asked myself these questions, “Why do I believe so passionately that creative expression is a sacred trust? Why do I believe it’s vital to leading a full life?”

It wasn’t always like that

I grew up around people who taught taking time to paint and draw was a frivolous use of a precious resource. The leaders of the church I attended taught fiction was like telling lies. Dire warnings that following my own path threatened the natural order of the universe. People I respected told me creativity was highly suspect and safer to steer clear.

Why the next thing you knew, I’d be thinking independantly!

Not my truth

Is it any wonder I felt confused? What I heard didn’t line up with inner wisdom.

It was years before I realized those message told me more about the messengers and not about truth. Their words and warnings reflected warped belief systems, disappointed dreams and their own legacy of distorted messages.

Creative expression or follow the herd

Then one day, I challenged those messages.

Choosing my own path of creative expression

So here I am. Passionately devoted to my own creative path as well as to helping others find theirs.

Today I ask why is that so important to me? Why do I feel words like “sacred trust” are accurate?

Like I always do when I reflect, I turned to my journal and made a list.

 

In no particular order, here it is:

1. Creativity helps us uncover our own truth. It reveals us to ourselves and ultimately, to others.

2. Leading a creative life leaves a mark that says “I was here”. It creates a legacy.

3. Creativity is a form of meditation. When we are in ‘flow’, time disappears. In our chaotic, fast-paced society, this is rare and valuable.

4. As an antidote to our frenetic modern life, anything that reduces our stress offers health benefits.

5. What we are creatively passionate about reveals something to us about our core values.

6.  Anything that nourishes our soul is a positive response to all the negativity that surrounds us these days.

7.  It’s our birthright. We are all born creative. How we express that creativity is unique to each of us.

8. Creativity is a source of personal power. It’s our voice.

9. Creative expression can be a powerful form of protest and activism. Despots and dictators have good reason to be afraid of creative expression.

10. It’s a powerful way to teach without preaching. Let your creations do the talking.

11. Creativity connects us. We find others on the same path as us or we discover intersections and enhance each others’ journey.

12. Creative expression makes us more aware of the world around us.  (When I sketch something I know it in a more intimate way than a mere glance offers.)

13. It expands our world. Think of what we owe to inventors, innovators, photographers, chefs, gardeners, etc, etc .

14. Play. The world needs less seriousness and more joy.

15. Creative living offers the satisfaction of being fully alive, using our gifts.

What did I miss?

Help me to add to this list by replying in the comments.

I’m including a pdf of 15 Reasons to Be Creative. Click the link to download. No need to sign up for anything.

Post it by your desk or in your studio. Share it with anyone who is struggling against old messaging to find their path.

It’s that important.

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Book Review – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic

Today, I welcome Elizabeth Cottrell to the blog. She is a writer and creative friend who generously offered to share her review of “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”.

Redefining creativity

From the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration”

There are a few books in my life that I want to buy several copies and share with my dearest family and friends. Brené Brown’s books are among them, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is another. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, because I didn’t jump on the bandwagon for the author’s famous book Eat, Pray Love, which took the world by storm many years ago ( some loved it, some hated it). I have recently started following Elizabeth Gilbert again — she has grown up; she’s a marvelous and engaging writer with a wicked sense of humor; and she is motivating and inspiring. I follow her Facebook page and enjoy her posts.

Who is this book for?

As with most books, timing is everything, and while I could blithely say this book is for everyone, it is probably going to resonate with you more at certain times than others. However, Elizabeth Gilbert is not so timid in her introduction:

I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure…The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.

The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

The often surprising results of that hunt—that’s what I call Big Magic.

So right from the beginning, she throws down the gauntlet with that challenge…because who wants to live just a mundane existence, right? And who isn’t tantalized by a good treasure hunt? With those words, I was hooked and ready for the adventure.

Creativity Myths Busted

While this book flows well and is an easy read, it can also be put down and picked up without losing continuity. It’s like a necklace of jewels strung together, each beautiful or interesting itself, but even more lovely as a necklace.

Myth-busting is an entertaining and enlightening part of Big Magic. Gilbert takes on some of the myths about creativity that hold us back or paralyze us.

  • We have to kill off our fear of our creativity. No, she says. It’s too likely that when you kill off your fear, you kill off your creativity too. She advocates acknowledging and leaning into your fear. “The less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.”
  • Our worth is measured by our successes or failures. No, our worth is measured by our dedication to our path.
  • Your muse is yours alone. Gilbert believes inspiration is energy seeking a human partner to be made manifest. So if one human refuses to embrace and cultivate it, it will move on elsewhere. She shares a fascinating personal story to demonstrate this.
  • There are creative geniuses. She would say there are people who embrace genius.
  • True creatives must do something original. Gilbert says, “Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.”
  • True creatives must suffer and starve. “There is no dishonor in having a job.”

Question the common wisdom

One of Gilbert’s gifts is taking common/trite sayings and turning them on their ear. A good example of this is the question often asked by motivational types in an attempt to help their students identify their true calling: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Gilbert sees this differently and asks instead, “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” That’s a question to test your passion, for sure.

One of the reasons I particularly enjoyed this book is because of my own conflicted feelings about creativity and how narrowly I used to define it. I’ve written about it before (See “Are You An Artist?”), but for years, I was sure I wasn’t the least bit creative. I was a science major with no obvious aptitude for drawing, painting, or thinking up fiction plots. My only skills were all about logic, productivity, business, or common sense.

Or so I thought.

Several years ago, I had the startling revelation that creativity manifests itself in lots of different ways, including business, marketing, networking. When I have a blank piece of paper and colored markers in front of me, I may not want to make a picture, but what I DO want to put on the paper is WORDS. So now that I’ve embraced the notion I’m creative after all, I can’t get enough of reading about creativity. Gilbert’s words on the back of this book’s dust jacket are compelling:

Creativity is sacred, 
and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously,
and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are
accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and
a wonderful privilege.
The work wants to be made, and
it wants to be made through you.

Elizabeth Gilbert, through Big Magic, made me want to say YES to the adventure of uncovering the hidden treasures within me. What books have you read that motivate and inspire you to live your most creative, wholehearted life?


Elizabeth Gilbert has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, was named a best book of 2013 by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and O: The Oprah Magazine.


Elizabeth Cottrell, Big Magic reviewElizabeth Cottrell, author of this review, hales from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She is a freelance writer and blogger at Heartspoken.com.

“I’ve been lots of things in my life—from farm girl to leprosy researcher; from wife and mother to bank board chairman—but at my core, I’m a connector and encourager whose artistic tools of choice are fountain pen and paper and whose deepest desire is to be a channel for God’s light and love as long as I’m able.”