Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My dad served in the Air Force twenty six years. He retired when I was in sixth grade. But by then he had a bug. The travel bug. Wander lust. A passion.

My life has been full of travel. There was a week long vacation every year. We usually drove, which I have good/bad memories of! But dad always managed to get away as often as was possible. Although we were comfortable, we were not rolling in the money. But there was always an allocation for travel. We stayed in motel 6 a lot. We found way's to cut back "here" to enjoy more "there".

My mother always wanted to go to Oberammergau in Bavaria to see the "passion play" about the last day's of Jesus. It is performed only every ten years and has been for almost 400 years. The villager's have done this since praying for deliverance from the black plague and war in 1633. Dad took her on a river cruise on the Rhine in 2000 and to see the play. When she returned, she told me that although wonderful, it never occurred to her it would all be in German! But it was an experience of a lifetime, set in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world! And it combined his love of travel and her love of religious history.

I think when you have a passion, it's a force to be reckoned with. It's a drive that has it's own momentum. I think passion is the creative force in all of us. What's your passion? And how, like my dad, do you find a way to make it a part of your life-even when it isn't easy?

Don't let your passion go by the wayside because of any of the many reasons that rival it! You don't need to be rich, thin, happy, talented, retired or anything else to at least find a small space to feed your passion.

Make a pledge, promise or new years resolution to put some "passion" in your life in 2010! Plan for it. Fail to plan, plan to fail. Make it a priority and find a space, some extra $$, a bit of time to feed your passion. This will pay off in way's that cannot be measured.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy New year. But one filled with, wait-did you get it? PASSION!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I love the fall. I love the bold warm colors. I love the crisp chill in the air. I love that the light bends farther and all the colors seem richer. I was born in the fall, so maybe I have a natural association with it. School starts in the fall, and I always got new clothes and got to start all over again in a new (higher) grade!

I like the first fire in the fireplace, the first raking of the leaves, (which, to be honest, I don’t do anymore-but I like to watch Tom!), and the first frost. That is a thing of beauty.
Although it signals the end of summer and a transition to winter I don’t feel it’s the end of summer, or the beginning of the “dreaded” winter. (I actually like winter until about February, and then you can have it back!) Instead I see change. I see the cycle of life. I remember that, “to everything, there is a season”. That unless a plant dies and drops its seed, it cannot continue. Unless the leaves die they stay green and we never see the structure of the underlying branches against a fall sunset. I know there are tropical climates where the trees never lose their leaves, but there are seasons there as well, with cycles of life and death.
In that light, it is the death of one thing and a new beginning for another. If you think of fall like that you begin to think in terms of your own life and its cycles. Unless I let go of a thing, good or bad, I cannot grow and move on to new things. Sometimes we want to stay in a perpetual summer. (choose your favorite season) Try as you might to stay in that warm summer sun, the cycle of life has other plans. Change is the only constant in this world! But when you fight that flow, block the rhythm, stifle the natural order of things, to hold on to something you enjoy and is comfortable, you create friction.
There is a similar order to my creative world and maybe yours as well. We need to change and grow in our applications, our processes and our conceptions. We should try to view change as growth and strive to move out of the season that has treated us so well we don’t want to leave! If we keep doing the same things the same way, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow we stagnate and eventually smell! So in the end…its dies anyway! And isn’t that the whole point? It just whether you are going to fight the process or move with it willingly!

So my final thought here is this: just because you prefer one season over another does not mean you cannot find the beauty of that different season with the change and embrace it. Because the truth here is, you can’t stay there long either! Soon fall gives way to the first snowfall, which in turn is followed by the first crocus. And so it goes. I like the permanence of seasonal change! Think deeply, love richly, laugh loudly!

Friday, October 23, 2009

All You Need is Love

Creativity. What is it and how do we get it? Webster’s defines "create" as- “to bring into being; originate, design, invent, ect. 2. To bring about, or cause”. I understand that. But the deeper question for me is-where does it come from. Unless you are God, your creation doesn’t come from nothing! It starts with a thought or idea. Maybe it starts with a feeling or something you see. But my point is it starts in your mind.

Since I believe that there is nothing new under the sun, I think we re-circulate things. We may put a new twist to it, or you may have not seen it before-so it’s new to you, but the reality is in the infamous words of the Beatles:

There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy!

Nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
It's easy!

Nothing you can know that isn't known
Nothing you can see that isn't shown
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you were meant to be
It’s easy!

All you need is Love
Love is all you need.

It was there all along. So my theory is-stay with me here, creativity is born of love. I want you to ponder that. Creativity is born in unconditional freedom and love. Really ponder this. To really wrap your brain around it takes some thought. If we have unconditional love there is total support, total freedom, total access, total resources- just “total”, all, everything, complete, whole, whatever verbiage you need to use. There is no fear as I’ve said before, because there is no failure, no crossing the any lines. You are unlimited and limitless. That’s big, and empowering.

So, if I’m not feeling creative, or can’t seem to create (or am blocked), where does that come from? Am I feeling unloved or unloving? Could that be blocking the receptors in my brain where that endless creativity and energy come from? (I also think creativity is energy.) Or do you think I’ve lost a marble or two? It doesn’t matter, as long as you think about where your creative energy comes from. It’s a powerful tool if you think about it. Let's use our powers for good and not evil! Let’s choose love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!

Well, I think I’m home to stay a while. I’ve decided I don’t travel well. While my father seems to thrive on going all the time and experiencing new places-my new motto is ““if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! “(Dorothy-Wizard of Oz)
Now, I wasn’t looking for my heart’s desire exactly, my dad is. And if my dad wasn’t footing the bill, I doubt I would have ever gone to Europe at all! And I don’t want to sound at all ungrateful. I am totally grateful for the experience. But after 20 hours of travel time, you arrive in another country and you say “Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.” And so it began.
We were touring so much and experiencing so much, trying not to miss anything that I really did not have time to paint. I did two quick paintings and that was it! To me, that was so hard. While in Dubrovnik, I spied a man painting watercolor across from a beautiful church. In true artist spirit, I asked him how long he’d been painting and so on. Turns out he was on a “painting holiday” with a group from the UK. I was so jealous! Can you believe that? Here I am in one of the most picturesque cities in the world, and all I want to do is sit and paint! I was ready to miss all the touring and just plunk myself down and paint! As I continued through the city I saw several others of his group happily painting away to their hearts content!
I think I learned something vital about myself this trip. First, art is not what I do anymore, it’s who I am! I need it to calm me and keep me centered. And to really engage in a place or with a person/people, it’s best done while painting!
That’s a huge change from the Michelle of ten or even five years ago. I still had trouble calling myself an artist then, let alone practicing my craft in public. My how I’ve grown! But it’s really been less about my painting, and more about acceptance. Accepting that this is who I am and what I do and that that’s OK. It’s not a frivolity I indulge in selfishly! I’ve spent hours honing my craft and am proud of that. It’s that I can do something, and it has value for no other reason than because I did it. It no longer matters if it sell’s, or if someone raves about it, or it wins a prize. (Which- while I was gone I won nothing in a show I was in, but one of my favorite people won Best of Show! That’s almost as good as winning myself!) It’s being comfortable with who I am and what I’ve invested so much of myself in.
If you learn nothing else from traveling to Europe, I think it should be that they value the arts in a much more profound way. It’s not questioned as important, or viewed as something pushed to the periphery. It is part of the fabric of everyday life. It is learned as part of their history, which it is. And it is not separate from anything they do, whether walking down the street or eating a meal. It is unquestioned and important still today.
I am not sure if it comes from our Quaker/Shaker roots, but the idea that art is not intrinsic to a happy life or something to be viewed as unnecessary or unimportant makes me crazy! Yet I’ve gotten that message directly or indirectly from well meaning people who felt I was wasting my time on a “hobby” as well as from others whose motives were unclear. The bottom line here is -BUZZKILL! I think when we begin to pit function against form (or beauty) we kill something inside a person. Why would you not want your surroundings to be beautiful or your clothes to have color? It’s counter intuitive really.
So, getting back to the Wizard of Oz…I think it was good to get out of Kansas! But I’m glad to be back, and I think my new vision is to make sure my own backyard has LOTS OF ART! Let’s make art necessary!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finish What You Start

Being a right brained individual, I tend to have ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. That's the fun part. I love the beginnings, the freshness, the endless possibilities! Getting into the nitty gritty of a project tends to leave me cold. Details are not my thing. And I am not good at finishing once the enthusiasm is gone. Thank heavens others aren't so prone, or the world would be a very scary place!

I realize it takes all kinds and that I fit in there someplace. It is not a good character trait to start things and not finish them because I've lost the "mood". But I fear I am not alone! Are you out there? Do I have kindred spirits in the world of drudgery? Some of us are so consumed by fear of failure that we don't even start things! But that's a different blog!

To my credit I do finish some things. I managed to raise the kids without killing them with neglect. I am still married, though I suspect Tom wears different colored soxs a lot. But I forget and leave the laundry in the washer and have to rewash it. Or move it from the drier to a basket and istead of folding it, just pick out what I need for days! I forget dates because the calendar and I are not friends. Yes, I have issues!

So, here's a sketch I FINISHED this morning-largely to avoid doing other boring tasks-that I started this July while in Chicago with my family. It was good to revisit the sketch book and finish what I started. I had time to think about the good time we had. Though this will probably remain nothing more than a sketch, I did some art today. I finished something. Now maybe I'll be in a better frame of mind for those other menial tasks that must be done!

Go finish something! In the immortal words in Nike commercials: Just Do It!

Monday, August 31, 2009

On the Road Again! part 2

This summer has flown by! I can't remember a busier summer-but they all seem that way these days! Do you think it true that the older you get the faster time goes by? I believe it. Time is such a precious commodity to me these days. No one ever has enough, no matter how we use it. What is that about? Are we really too busy, or do we just think all those other things are more important than nurturing our creative selves?

"On the Road Again " was supposed to be an adventure in nurturing my creative side. How? Well, I've been several places this last few months. Lakeside, Ohio; Chicago; Brown Co. Indiana; Sonoma/Napa Calif; San Francisco; Sausilito, Calif. And I will be leaving for Italy in a few short months. These were supposed to be painting opportunities as well as mini-vacations. (all were 3 days at most-but still!) I was so busy going, going, going, that I didn't have painting time! Ah, the best laid plans...
I have painted precious little at all this summer! And when I get home...I have too much to do to catch up from being gone to have studio time-Aarrrggghhh! If you can't tell, I am just a bit frustrated. But if I'm being honest, the real problem is not a lack of time. It is a lack of focus, a lack of structure and a lack of priorities. All of which I struggle with daily, let alone when something disrupts my routine-or lack thereof. I have never been very disciplined. (like writing this blog! I dont have time for this! But it is more for me than anyone else. "Chatty" is how my friend described one. Yes, but I tell you, this stuff is floating around in my head otherwise-this is therapy!)
But here is another nugget of truth. Being gone and in new places with new people gets my creative juices flowing! I have a million more paintings in my head than were there a few trips, photos and color notes before! I am really craving painting time now - since I can't fit it in right now! I have seen new things and experienced new places and people and am richer for it. And who can complain when they have done so much in such a short time-most of which was done within a few day's notice! That takes flexibility! I'm not very flexible either!
So, even though I don't have time to paint right now, I want to really bad! Maybe that's the lesson. Are you craving time to do what you love? Yes, we have to make the time. But sometimes I think it's good not to be able to do what we usually can. It makes us hungry! And I was doing other fun things as well as not so fun things that had to be done!
To everything there is a season... And the seasons change regardless!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On the Road Again! Part 1

I love a good road trip! It's my preferred method of travel most of the time. It may take longer sometimes, but when you factor in how long it takes to get oneself to the airport, in the hour and a half before a flight, and if (and you know it will be) it's delayed, or you can land on time, get a car and get to your destination...unless its across the world, I'll drive! But I digress...

How does a road trip have anything to do with creativity? I'm sure you can figure it out. But here are some things that you may not have thought of. If your like me, you crank up the tunes! And you sing at the top of your lungs. Your in another county or state, so no one is going to recognize the crazy woman rocking out behind the wheel! I think this behaviour is essential on many levels! I highly recommend it.

If the trip is long, you have time to revisit some artists you may not have listened to for a while. My taste in music is very eclectic. I seem to love everything but rap. (opera, not so much either) Country has special appeal to me on a road trip. "looong neck bottle, leeggo my hand!" and "I dug my keys into the side, of his pretty little souped-up, four wheel drive, carved my name into his leather seats - took a louiville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires, maybe next time he'll think before he cheats!" , "where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away...and I'll be o.k." I mean, who can argue with that? And I cannot listen to Rascal Flats "my wish") without tears. Good a Capella Harmony makes me cry as well. Yes, music moves me.

But I was thinking about how much creativity goes into what we hear. The lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation, and how we really don't think about what it takes to get it to the radio. We enjoy and appreciate, but not being involved in the process, we miss a lot. My musician friends get this. I can appreciate, but not fully. But they do it because it's their passion. And we listen because on some level it speaks to us. The musicians need to speak in that creative way, and we hear what they are saying!

So, my point? And not to be redundant here, but, EVERYONE has a creative voice of some kind. We may not all speak the same creative language, but we should visit other creative "states" along the way. It may lose something in translation, but we will be richer and broader for having taken the trip! Audit a journalism class, if you read the paper. Learn to cook french food if you like to eat it! If you get into it, you might understand and appreciate it better, even if its not your language. Or do what I did, think about it real hard...

So hit the road people -Visit a new "creative state" -Life is a journey!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Creativity as Therapy

Years ago I thought I wanted to become an Art Therapist. I love psychology and art so it seemed natural. After looking into the requirements, the timing was off. (so were the funds!)

But I kept the idea in the back of my mind.

One reason for the interest was because art has been very much "therapy" in my own life. I went back to my art during a very difficult period in my own life. It was something that was all my own, something that I did just for me. I experienced release, joy, success, (often enough to continue anyway!) and challenge. I found like minded people and others who challenged my own ideas about life and art. There is a great deal of avant guard thinking amongst artist! And I was learning something new, which always opens us up to a bigger world experience.

I now wonder if part of my difficulties at that time were due to a frustrated creative self trying to get out?! I know that was not the whole of my unhappiness, but I think it was certainly a component. That may be pooh-pooh to some, but I think there must be some part of your life that nurtures your inner self. You need to care for that part of you just as you care for those around you. I don't mean you should be selfish with it. There must be balance in life as well. But I find that those who have this piece/peace in their lives seem the most fulfilled.

One reason I chose to blog Art as Therapy is because my daughter just went to a conference for certification in "therapeutic art" for domestic violence. Not "art therapy", which she explained uses the therapist to interpret the art made by clients and to diagnose and direct further exploration. This she explained was "therapeutic art" where the client uses the art to express and explain their own experience through their art. She wants to implement a program to help the troubled women she works with. And art will be a tool they use to explore and hopefully heal from a violent past.

I am excited for her, and for these women, since I know first hand creativity can heal and bring clarity and peace. (I was not a victim of domestic violence and we realize this is not a replacement for psychotherapy!)

But I know that finding your inner creative self and voice is a powerful place to stand. From that place, the possibilities are endless. From that vantage point-a place of endless ideas, resources, and energy-anything is possible. From that place the future looks hopeful. Think about that for a while. Let it sink in. Creativity has no limits and knows no fears!

Open yourself to that. To the creativity in you. Live a creative life! Don't be afraid if someone doesn't understand or value what you do. I remember what a freeing feeling it is to not need their approval or understanding! It is only important that you do it. And what are their motives anyway? Do you need people in your life who disapprove of your inner self? That might tell you something right there!

So live a creative life this week in some way. I do this blog as a creative outlet. And I will be doing it in a larger way this week, which I'm sure will be the next blog, so stay tuned! But sometimes small is all we can handle or need. Share the journey with me!

Have a creative week!


Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm glad my battery died!

I teach a class called "Watercolor on the Run" every spring or summer. The purpose is to equip students to use their art to record their life, wherever it happens. Not a new concept-taking your art supplies with you to record vacation experiences with sketchbook paintings. But my spin is to always be ready. I have a purse kit, car kit, and a very extensive plein air set up. The latter I use most often these days since I've begun painting plein air with friends.
On our trip to visit my son in Chicago, I was snapping away with my camera thinking "wow that would make a great painting"! There is so much to see an do in Chicago and although we've seen and done most of it over the years already, we packed in the car and went to Lincoln Park Zoo for the day. While at the zoo, I was snapping photos of everything. And then the battery died...bummer.
So while everyone was in the reptile house-which holds little interest for me-I sat down and practiced a little of what I preach! I painted the Flamingo's. Now this was a challenge. First, Flamingo's stink! Second, have you ever tried to sketch a bunch of moving Flamingo's? This is why I use a camera. But it is also why you should be lucky enough to have the battery die! The camera lacks the feel of the place. Sometimes the camera changes the colors, or they just don't have the same impact they did in real time. (I'm talking your average reference photo taken with an SLR, not a good photo by someone who knows their stuff!) I doubt I would have taken the time to sit that long, what with the smell, and observe their movements which were very graceful. Emily and I discussed their color, a pale peachy pink to a very bright peachy pink, which she says comes from the shrimp they eat. And their noise. All of which I remember vividly, though I don't remember many other details from the outing. That is why painting on the spot is good practice! You become intimate with your surroundings and your subjects in a way the camera never can.

Then came the six hour drive home that turned to eight! Traffic out of the city was bad, not a surprise, but by the time I let Em drive I was spent. I am always made peaceful by the countryside vistas while driving. Again, no camera! And really, how many snapshots of barns and fields can you have? Out came the sketchbook. You have to get creative to paint moving flamingo's and a vanishing landscape! Again, I picked and chose things I saw as we went and invented a country landscape! I felt less tense when I was done.

Translation? Find a way to do what you love. Really experience the moment in "real time". Think of a way to record it. Write, paint, or scrapbook your experience. It only takes a few minutes, but your memories will be permanent. And if your like me, you could use the help in that department!

Let me know what you are doing to nourish your creative self. Am I just rambling or are you feeling the same? I hope you have a great week!


Monday, July 27, 2009

I've looked at clouds from both sides now

I swear I will not post daily! Come fall I hope to post weekly! But I had some thoughts I wanted to add.

In my classroom I have a quote on the wall - "To think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted." George Kneller. I find this so true. When you learn something new, you see the world differently. That's why we should never stop learning!

I love it when I teach a class on painting clouds, and a student says "I've never really seen clouds before!" or, "I can't quit staring at clouds now!"

I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow,
It's cloud illusions I recall,
I really don't know clouds, at all.-Joni Mitchel

My friend Rich Clem has a signature for his emails that has a quote I like. "Look at life with the eye's of a child" Henri Matisse. That's what we must do to free our creative self! Look at life as though we've never seen it before! Really look at it.

So, this week, slow down. Really look at what's important, what enriches your life. (a lovely dinner Al fresco with a good glass of wine? A walk in the evening when the light is long?) See if you can find time to really look at your muse. This week, schedule time to indulge in your passion and feed your creative self. Take time to savor the moments we have here. Make the most of the time you have to devote to your creativity!

Next week, I'd like to explore what thinking creatively really means. What does it mean to you?

yours creatively,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

in the beginning

In the beginning God CREATED!! And aren't we made in his image? Therefore, we are created, creative beings. I figure if it's good enough for Him (or the "Big Guy" as my friend refers to God) it's a worthy endeavor. OK, no more of my spiritual philosophy! Well, for now anyway!

For many years I felt my art was an extravagance, a luxury, something that was not as important as just about anything else. There was much reinforcement for this way of thinking. Back in the day, art school was something few could afford. And I don't mean people couldn't afford to pay for an art education, I mean because you just couldn't make a living at it easily, so why would you spend the money on the education in the first place? With computers came graphic art, and of course there was illustration and other money making art avenues. But fine art was and continues to be a struggle for the large majority of fine artists. You've heard the term "starving artist"? Many of us then find a way to make money and pursue our passions on the side.

What have you put on hold because you needed to eat? There is nothing wrong with that, we need to eat! But I found there was a need in me to create that could not be silenced. I was not whole or happy without it. It took a long time for me to get that. And really, like I've said other places, what would the world be without the arts? I ask you, do you own art for your walls? Of course you do. Do you listen to music? I'm sure you own Cd's of artists who's music speaks to you. Do you read, or see movies or the theater? Life would be very bland without those artists who followed their passions regardless.

So, I titled this "the creative life" because I think we cant have one without the other, really. I'm interested in how we can enrich our lives by embracing our creativity. I'm interested in what you create and your thoughts on creativity. Lets share the creative life.