Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z: Zen

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart always ends with a "moment of zen." Granted those are comical clips, but I think we need to end with a moment of zen of our own.

Wikipedia defines Zen as: "Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism[note 1] that developed in China during the 6th century as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, to Korea and east to Japan.[2]

The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (dʑjen) (Modern Mandarin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna,[3] which can be approximately translated as 'absorption' or 'meditative state'.[4]

Zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings.[5] As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine[5][6] and favors direct understanding through zazen and interaction with an accomplished teacher.[7]"

We need zen in art.

We need to absorb the art and creativity that surrounds us. Creating will put us in a meditative state. Think about it. How noisy is your brain when you create? Are you not quiet, peaceful and happy when you are creating? You bet you are! We need zen to create art and creating art gives us zen.

Breathe deeply. Listen to the sounds of running water and chirping birds. Find peace and quiet within your soul. Once you feel your heart rate has decreased and you feel less anxious, allow yourself to create.

As you create, be in the moment. Pay attention to the joy you feel, the reprieve you experience. Live and love in the moment as you draw, paint, write, sing, play, do, make, create.

May you create in joy and find joy in creating.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Y: You


Yes, you! Tell me about you. Who are you? What do you like? What are your creative endeavors?

Which of these blogs have appealed to you? I think I've done more than enough "talking" this month. As a reader and fellow appreciator of the arts, tell me what you think, what you feel. This time the spot light is on YOU!!! :)

Did you like my blog about gardening?

Perhaps you hated my blog about poetry.

What did you think?

What did you like?

What didn't you like?


Let me get to know YOU! ;)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X: Xylography

According to arthistory.com, xylography is "wood engraving, and the oldest known relief printmaking technique. The discipline was first practiced in China, then picked up in Europe centuries later. Using a block of wood in somewhat the same manner as a rubber stamp, a xylographer cuts and/or carves wood away from those parts of the design that will not be inked. The 'sticking up' parts that are left form the final print."

Once again, I have learned something new. For fear that I would be writing about xylophones (no offense, xylophone players), I knew there had to be some kind of art form that started with the letter x.

I LOVE wood engraving. As some of you know, I worked with a chainsaw carver for a couple of years. I loved working with wood. Sanding, burning - it was an incredible new medium for me and I adored every second of it.

I also love print making. My grandfather passed earlier this month, but during his amazing career, he was in printing and lithography.

So a combination of wood art and printing really hits close to home.

Since I know so little about xylography, I looked up some images and thought you might like these:

Friday, April 26, 2013

W: Writing

I would be doing us all a disservice if I didn't have a blog about writing. :)

Writing is a rather unique creative outlet. Music, dance and art all allow us the opportunity to express ourselves without uttering a single word.

Writing is a creative process that rests solely on words. We scribes follow an ancient art and yet as we evolve, so do our languages and our writing processes.

Personally, I would love to have the talent to be able to create an image that leaves you breathless. But I can't. I cannot put a bow to a string and create an amazing sound. But what I can do is use my linguistics to create that image or music. The best part is, that image or song is not necessarily completely due to the words I write. Sometimes, the words I don't write are the important. How so? Because they allow your imagination to play! Writing is nothing without the imagination of the reader!

Yes, I love writing. I love creating people, stories and images with words. I have been doing this since childhood and I have no plans on stopping, so long as you promise me that you will continue to use your imagination when you read! ;)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V: Victory

What real victory is, in the context of the arts, is in the making of the creation. To be brave enough to create; to be courageous enough to put our work out for all the world to see. There is victory in creation. We have chosen to break down walls of insecurity, walls of doubt, walls of social response all in order to do and make something that we want.

Each creation, each stroke of the brush, each note played, each word typed is a victory in and of itself. To do, to make, to sing, to play, to dance...they are all victories.

That doesn't mean, however, that once we've created something we're done. No, not at all. Victory is not an end point. Victory is a moment of joy, of emotional satisfaction. Our lives (both creatively and overall) should take us from victory to victory. We should never stop after one victory because the next one could be much, much better!

Keep going! Keep creating! Keep celebrating your victories and become increasingly victorious day by day!

Victory is a tricky subject with creativity. Victory is us creating that piece we have always dreamed of. However, we cannot afford to sit on our laurels, either. Yes, we can be victorious in the creation of one piece. Yes, we can relish in that victory. However, we cannot sit on one victory alone. We need to use that victory to push ourselves forward, to challenge ourselves further.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U: Ubiquitous

Ubiquitous. Omnipresent.

The arts are all around us. The arts are indeed ubiquitous.

Look at nature. We have beautiful trees and flowers (painting/colors). We have singing birds (music, performers). We have animals of all sorts (performers, dance). Indeed, the arts are all around us.

I love the fact that the arts are ubiquitous. I need not look far for inspiration. Inspiration, creativity and various creations lay before me wherever I turn.

As a creator, it could be say that I am following in the foot steps of the great creator: the one who created those flowers, birds and animals.

Creativity is as ubiquitous as God/The Universe/Great Spirit/Whatever you want to call him/her/it. Divinity and creativity are actually tightly intertwined when you think about it.

So the ubiquity of the arts denotes its divinity. Go relish in nature, in life, in the arts.

Ubiquity is the best facet to creativity.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T: TV killed the Writing Star

We live in a world of distractions. TV, internet, smart phones, constant news feeds, twitter, Facebook. We watch TV, tweet and play on Facebook all at the same time. We are innundated with information, and yet we listen more. When was the last time you truly listened in a conversation without looking at your phone or at least thinking about it?

I am guilty of it as well; I am anything but a saint with this.

The issue that I as a writer find is that these distractions kill my ability to focus and write. Oh wait, I can't write yet, I haven't checked my phone in 5 minutes. Oh, I'll watch that TV show and then I'll write. Yeah, we all know how that goes.

You see and read about it all over the place. Turn off the TV and write. Go to a place where you won't be distracted. The tips are endless and the advice is all the same.

I have to admit, it's difficult to do. We live in a world of noise. We multi-task constantly. When I come home after a long day, I just want to sit on the couch and not think. This is just what we have allowed our lives to become.

The sad part is, technology has killed (or is killing) many art forms, writing included. Television shows and movies are anything but original. People don't read full news articles any more. They watch videos or just read quick excerpts. As long as there are pictures, people will look. A reader is more likely to read a blog with pictures than something that is picture-less.

People don't read like they used to. Books on tape/CD/MP3 are all the rage as are e-books. Why? Because it is easier to listen (or read while on Facebook)than to sit down and thoroughly enjoy a book.

It saddens me, really. I hate to see such a decline in my favorite form of art. It kills me to know that as hard as I work to write, most people want the abridged version. Length is frightening to people nowadays.

What does this mean for me as a writer and the industry as a whole? Honestly, I'm not sure. I fear that the future of writing is short. I fear that the craft will die. But, I won't allow myself to be a part of that decine. My hope is that with my effort, and the efforts of other writers, we can revive our craft. Perhaps we can help it to renew and rise up like a phoenix.

So readers, please keep reading. And we die-hard writers will keep writing! :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

S: Silliness

Play and silliness are as key to creativity as paint brushes.

Without a care-free attitude, our art loses its heart. Art is mean to be enjoyed. We must approach our art with light-heartedness and a willingness to laugh and play.

The Artist's Way and several of my fellow writers/creatives/artists all talk about how key play is. In fact, I met one of my dearest writing friends through a course she taught on playing with your writing.

Children are always happy to create. They want to draw or paint or color of do whatever. They just want to make stuff. They have no inhibitions, no fear. Children are silly when it comes to creativity. Who else but an imaginitive 5 year old would make blue playdough french fries?

Do see what I'm getting at? Have fun! Create! Play! Art was never meant to be serious or even solemn. Art and fun are both three letter words and they are, indeed, synonymous.

So go out there and create! Don't forget to have fun while you're doing so!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R: Respect

Respect may not seem applicable to art and creativity, but respect is actually very important.

Respect. What is respect and why do we need it in art?

Respect means to value something. To understand that it has some value, whether monetary or emotional.

Why do we need it in art? We need to value all forms of art. Art has both monetary and emotional value to all people. We need to respect other artists' work. Even if it is not our cup of tea, so to speak, we still need to respect it as something that is of great value to that artist. We also need to respect our own art. We need to realize that our own creations have value, too. They have value to us and they even have value to our audience.

Respect is vital in any relationship, including our relationship with art and artists.

Every creation of ours deserves respect from others and from us.

Please don't ever forget that your art deserves respect too!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q: Questioning

One of the biggest obstacles that any creative person encounters is questioning. More specifically, questioning ourselves, questioning our abilities, questioning our motives, questioning our place in the artistic world. We simply question EVERYTHING.

It's hard not to question. We live in a society that idolizes perfection. The perfect hair, the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect novel, the perfect masterpiece. How can we not question ourselves and our abilities when we are comparing ourselves to such unattainable standards?

The thing is: nothing is perfect, no one is perfect. In fact, contrary to the US, there are many other countries and cultures that actualy revere imperfections! The sign of a good, hand made oriental rug is a specfical, purposefully created imperfection. The rug weavers do not question themselves. Instead, they embrace their humanity and infuse it into their art.

From one questioning artist to another, don't question yourself or your capabilities. You ARE good enough and your art has its own place in the art world. Don't compare yourself to others. You are not like them and no one else will ever be able to create in the same way you can either.

Go embrace yourself, your humanity and your art. There is no need to doubt or question anything!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P: Poetry

In my younger days, I loved writing poetry. Poetry was a wonderful outlet for me and I think I wrote poetry well. My staccato voice and love of powerful words found a great home in poetry.

When I divorced, my sole request was to have all of my belongings returned to me. Unforunately, my ex-husband did not fulfill my request. Instead, he held on to a few of my most prized possessions including books I had been published in and my beloved blank journal in which I wrote my poetry.

I have not written poetry since. That was thirteen years ago.

Thirteen years of no poetry. In fact, it was at that point that I had really focused my attention on the sciences and any writing I did was non-fiction. Facts were my life; creativity eluded me greatly.

In 2006, I began writing fiction just for myself. I enjoyed it tremendously. Pushed by my publisher, I submitted it and have been writing fiction ever since.

Still no poetry, though.

That is until recently.

A dear friend of mine is a writer in The Netherlands. She recently discovered the Dutch form of poetry known as Elje.

An Elfje is a Dutch poem of consisting of 11 words. The stanzas are broken down such as this:


So it's one word, then two, then three, then four, then back to one.

I don't know why, but something about Elfjes appealed to me. They weren't intimidating. They seemed like a fun form of poetry.

There are rules for writing these, but I (along with my friend), have decided that rules are simply meant to be broken! :) I have no idea what the rules are, I just write them as I see/feel fit.

And they are. Since I started, I have written several elfjes (I average about one poem per day). I cannot describe how cathartic these poems have been for me. They free me, cleanse me, heal me. Most importantly, they challenge me. It's a new genre. There are so many ways to write these, so many different ways to express one's self just through elfjes. I simply love enfjes!

Poetry takes on many forms and are a wonderful way to express oneself. I highly suggest writing in any form of poetry that appeals to you. Elfjes are just one wondeful form of self expression. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O: Op-Art

I was originally going to write about opera today. But then I felt it was a tad cliche. So, I did some homework and learned about something called Op-Art.

Optical Art is a unique art form. According to what I read, the main movement of Op-Art began in America in the 1960s, however an artist named Victor Vasarely created a piece of Op-Art in 1938 called Zebra.

Though the fad was short lived (about 3 years according to my sources), there are artists who still use this as their medium.

What I like about Op-Art is that it's different. It's not a still life or a portrait. Don't get me wrong, I love those styles. I like things that are unique and that give us a new perspective. Moreover, Op-Art is actually very mathematically based. How often do we hear that math and science are completely oppositional to art? Op-Art disproves that. Op-Art tells us that we can use math in art. As a science and history geek, I love the blending of math and art.

So I'm glad I didn't go with my original idea. I got to learn something today and I was given the opportunity to share that with all of you. Isn't that what art's all about? ;)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N: Naysayers

As many of you know, I have been working with a close group of friends through a book called, The Artist's Way. It is a phenomenal book and I recommend it to all creative souls.

One of the big topics in TAW is naysayers. In creativity, we all face naysayers and critics. Some of the worst ones are the ones in our heads.

Creativity is hard. It's hard because through our art, we bare our souls. We leave ourselves exposed and vulnerable for all the world to see. When our art isn't received well, it cuts us right to the core. The critic is not only rejecting our work, but they are rejecting us.

One thing that I love about TAW is that they discuss why people are negative. Very often, a naysayer is a jelous creative. They are angry and resentful at themselves for not creating and when we do create, their envy becomes the whip with which they beat us. Naysayers are the ones who are too afraid to create. Stuck in a mental box of fear and self-hatred, they displace their anger upon us in order to feel better about themselves. After all, isn't it so much easier to criticize someone else than to be daring enough to reveal our own souls to the world?

Each and every creative will ALWAYS encounter naysayers. It is simply a part of the world. However, we need not take their criticism to heart. Knowing and understanding where they are coming from (and that their negativity is really just misdirected) makes it easier for us to not take their harsh words personally.

So when you have a critic and hear a naysayer, don't feel badly. On the contrary. Feel good because it means you are far more courageous than they! ;)

Monday, April 15, 2013

M: Money

Do we create for money or do we create simply for the pleasure of creating?

It has been said that money is the root of all evil. An artist will tell you that is absolutely the truth.

We create not for financial gain, but for the love of the creative process. We enjoy painting, we are fulfilled when we see our final product. For us, there is no real price tag for each of our creations is our child. Each piece bears a piece of our soul. How can you put a price on that?

But people do. Society does. The outsiders tell us which art is good and which is bad and they suddenly slap a numeric figure (good or bad) on our creation.

As artists, this concept is foreign to us. As people living in today's economy, we need money. So, we're really caught. Stuck in the middle of an unanswerable question: art or money.

Both, please. It is a difficult balance. It is difficult to find money in art. I for one make no bones about the fact that I have a day job because writing, as much as I love it, does not pay the bills. I hate that, but at least for right now, it is my reality.

So I write for the love of writing. That gives both you and me a blessing. It gives me the blessing of doing what I love for the right reasons. And that gives you the blessing of reading work that truly comes from my heart.

I hate money, I really do. But it is a necessary part of my life as a modern American. Ideally, I would live with my wife and a heard of animals in a log cabin in the woods and all I would do is write.
But, we live in a suburb of a smaller city in upstate New York and we both work. We love our home, but a log cabin it is not.

It often seems that reality and idealism are polar opposites and ne'er the 'twain shall meet. That's not necessarily so. The two need not conflict. Instead, there is a happy medium. My situation works for me. I know other writers, artists, creatives who find a balance that works for them as well. The trick to money is not letting it drive your art nor letting it drive you away from you art. It is simply a facet of our lives, not the end all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L: Love

Love is the driving force behind any creative endeavor. If you didn’t love color and the process of creating a picture, you wouldn’t paint. It is not for ego that we create. We create because we need to and we love that need.

Everyone has some kind of outlet. Whether it’s sports or the arts, we all blow off steam and center ourselves through something. There is a need. There is a need to feel and then to move forward from those feelings. From that need arises creativity.

Everyone’s creativity is different. I write. I’m not the only writer out there, but I am the only writer with my voice and my perspective. I write not because I think I am the best writer. I don’t even necessarily write for a specific audience. I write because I need to express myself and I love writing and the writing process.

Artists don’t become artists for the money. Artists become artists because they love and need art.
At the end of the day, it’s not about a royalty check. It’s about creating something. Getting emotional satisfaction from the creative process.

Art, like everything in life, really, is all about love.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K: Kites

One of my favorite childhood memories was an art contest my father's company held when I was a kid. The contest gave us blank kites to draw and color on.

As I recall, I drew on a couple of them. I knew my skills would not win me the contest, but I didn't care. I just remember being so thrilled with the blank kites - the endless opportunities that awaited me on those diamond shaped objects.

I remember walking through my father's office once - it must have been on a weekend as no one was working, all the lights were off, but we were in the office with my father for whatever reason. As we walked around the dark office, I remember seeing all of the childrens' kites hanging on the walls. I knew mine weren't the best, but I remember being SO proud and excited seeing my drawings up there. Looking back on that memory, it really brings a smile to my face and even still makes my heart skip a beat.

Today, that is my wish for you. Yours does not have to be the absolute best in any art form. But go create. Create with excitement and reckless abandon! Look at the blank page, canvas, kit and see the infinite possibilities before you. Be proud of your work, even if you don't win the contest. Just enjoy the creative process. Enjoy the kites.

That is my wish for you today: kites. :)