Sunday, July 23, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 13

Today, Sebastian Michaels is challenging us to go deeper into our art projects.

I have mind mapped a bunch of projects and chosen two. The first will be a picture book, titled, for now, Trees: Known and Dreamt filled with real and digital art trees combined with a poem I wrote years ago about trees I’ve known.
The second is a longer term project for my granddaughter who will turn thirteen about a year from now. It will be a picture and word book focused on Mexico. Her father is part Mexican but they don’t celebrate that heritage so I want to show her some of the beauty and magic of Mexico.

Book #1 can be done rather quickly and could even be Christmas presents. I am going to the states in early October so I could have them ready to deliver or ship by then. First Deadline: rough layout of pages, words and images: August 15.

Book #2 still needs the concept worked out. Mexico is big. What part of it do I want to capture and how? My first deadline will be to have that scoped out by September 1.

I love Sebastian’s key project question:  
“What would make this SO MUCH cooler?”

And, as I was thinking about that question, the thought hit:  what if we went on a trip to a few places in Mexico and took photos along the way that could be put into the book … hers as well as mine? The title could be Reyna Meets Mexico. Thank you, Michael, this just got way fun.
Ernest Hemingway on big projects:
"You will ache and you’re going to love it. It will crush you and you are still going to love all of it. Doesn’t it sound lovely beyond belief?"
Sebastian says, “Projects are going to challenge you. They’re going to push you. Count on it. If they’re worth a damn, they’re going to be hard."

Challenge #13 asked us to split a long canvas in half lengthwise and work with the idea of summer and winter. I tried. I really did but summer and winter wouldn’t stay in their places and I wound up with the image above. By the time I reached what I thought was "done," I had far more layers to be deleted than I did active ones.

BTW, a note on inspiration. Years ago my friend ReAnn Scott, an amazing world traveler, and I went to San Francisco where she wanted to see a museum show on Gaultier, the designer. I didn't really want to go. She's a clothes person and I'm not. I barely knew who Gaultier was but did remember that he designed Madonna's  cone bra, not an accomplishment that impressed me much. Reluctantly, I went.

OMG! It was the most fabulous exhibit I've ever been to. Not only were his designs completely outrageous and beautiful, but the exhibit itself was technologically amazing. The mannequins talked. Their mouths even moved and they had expressions. It was all done with cameras, but it made my head spin. I took hundreds of pictures and the two sisters in the image above came from that exhibit.

The lesson I learned was to notice my resistance and do it anyway. Over the years since then I've often noticed that if I will just do what I was resisting, gifts are waiting.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Aquí en México

The face of Mexico

What a cultural feast the last two days have been!

Alcatraz (a flowering plant)
Art Auction. There was an art auction in the plaza to benefit two local families, hosted and auctioned by well-known local artist and muralist Efren Gonzales. I, of course, did not plan to buy anything, but, of course, did. I fell in love with this painting by Xill (pronounced Jill) Fessenden. It positively glowed and I was delighted that it was somewhat within my budget.

Mariachi concert. I’ve never been a fan of mariachi music so I decided to attend a concert, especially since this music originated in my new home state of Jalisco. There’s definitely a difference between concert level mariachi music, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and what I was used to in restaurants. 

There were ten musicians playing violins, guitars (including a vihuela, a high-pitched, round-backed guitar and a bass guitar called a guitarrón that provide rhythm) a trumpet and a Mexican folk harp which the harpist played with blinding speed like a jazz instrument during one solo. It was the older guy’s birthday (I think) and he sang a couple of solos. What a voice! He could hold a high octave note so long most of us were growing uncomfortable.

Another treat of the concert were songs by Lola, La Tequilera (as far as I can tell, that means someone who can make tequila.) While I didn’t know what most of her words were, she belted one out with such force and emotion, it made me weep. And to top it off, costumed dancers who were a delightful sweep of color and rhythm.

What made the evening truly special, though, was that the mariachis were backed up by a local high school symphony who were given opportunities to solo. It may sound trite, but the evening had so much heart.

Celebration. To celebrate International Love and Gratitude to Water Day in honor of the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, there were many ceremonial activities at the malecón including dances, poetry, and music. It was a feast for the senses and here are a few photos. Unfortunately, I don’t have names for these people yet but hope to soon.

A woman read a poem by Nezahualcoyotl, "Coyote who Fasts") (April 28, 1402 – June 4, 1472) who was a philosopher, warrior, architect, poet and ruler of the city-state of Texcoco in pre-Columbian era Mexico.  In the poem there is a listing of things found here in Mexico, thus the refrain “Aquí en Mexico."

According to Wikipedia: Nezahualcoyotl is best remembered for his poetry, but according to accounts by his descendants and biographers, he had an experience of an "Unknown, Unknowable Lord of Everywhere" to whom he built an entirely empty temple in which no blood sacrifices of any kind were allowed — not even those of animals. However, he allowed human sacrifices to continue in his other temples.

Here are a few more photos from the ceremony. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 12

Artist Card
I think there’s an important rule Sebastian Michaels has neglected to tell us … never go to bed with an unfinished art project. 
Rain woke me up about 2 a.m. and I started thinking I had just the right image for my unfinished project.  By 2:30, I gave up sleep and was at my computer.

I have to admit I was a little irritated when my phone alert went off at 9 am telling me to get up and CREATE!. 

Today’s message  for the 21 Days to Creative Abundance project should be: go back to bed, but it isn’t. It’s about organizing work into projects. Sebastian gives three ways to judge a potential project:

  • Is it meaningful for you?
  • Does it make you a little bit uncomfortable because it’s slightly out of your reach?
  • What will you wind up at the end of the project?

He also offers us a great quote from author Neil Gaiman:
“Looking back, I’ve had a remarkable ride. I’m not sure I can call it a career, because career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children’s book,  comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who … and so on. I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list."
Our assignment is to brainstorm ideas for projects … a task I will take on after my nap.

Challenge #12 was to create an artist card, closer to a postcard size than a business card. I’ve made a lot of these over the years, for myself and other artists. This was fun because it challenged me to do something new. 

This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 11

Day 11 … half-way through the 21 days. I didn’t know if I would make it to this point without a pause. My computer has been wonky. I made an appointment to meet the computer people from Guadalajara, and, of course, by the time they got here, it was working perfectly. Something’s going on, but for now I’m on track.

My morning creative routine is settling into place and I’m finding that, for me, there are two keys: setting up the night before so that nothing’s in my way when I get up, and the phone alerts that mark the timed, 50-minute work blocks. Plus, knowing that all of this happens in the morning which leaves my afternoons free for exploring, having lunch with a friend, reading or whatever.

I also really like the “Way of Life” app which calls to me to review my habits at the end of each day and gives me a visual of how I did for the day.

Challenge #11. This called for a triptych of a story in three acts: Setting, Character, and Climax. Years ago I wrote several “50 words or less” stories so I used one of them in the image above. Very fun to find photos to pair with the words. 

This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 10

Color, Color, Color!
The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add ROUTINES and 
RITUALS to your working life 
designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.” ~ Cal Newport, author of Deep Work

Sebastian Michaels in his creative abundance program, advocates developing the habit of working in timed blocks of 25 to 50 minutes followed by a short break. I’ve set up three 50 minute block alerts in the morning, signaled by a high energy song that makes me get out of my chair and dance. After dancing a song’s worth, I push the snooze button and when it goes off, I’m back to my computer, re-energized.
I’m finding that the timed aspect of this process keeps me from wandering off to check email … or the refrigerator. Also helpful for the email part of this was turning off my notifications that tell me when a new email has arrived. (Most of them are junk mail or political stuff that just takes me way off track anyway.)

Challenge #10 - for this challenge, we were called to capture a great passion on canvas and to be big, bold, focused on the passion and dramatic. Color seems to be the driver, the passion, in my art so I focused on that and incorporated a small piece of art I did years ago, one of the few I brought to Mexico with me. 
Two base photos:

This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here,

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 9

Dancing on a Dime
The Creative Abundance process reminds me to start my day by asking the three morning questions:
  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What am I excited about?
  3. What do I want to create today?
I am grateful to have the time to go through this process of exploring my creative life and immensely grateful to even have a creative life. It isn’t where I started out in life and I’m the last person who would have ever thought I would have one.

I am excited about all the new techniques I’m learning and for being forced to try new things, even when I don’t want to. Like today. Challenge #9 insists that we search Flickr for images that are opposition to each other. I never use other people’s images so this is not something I’m looking forward to. However, it has occurred to me that, by looking at other people’s photos, I am expanding my own perspective. I will probably find this a useful exercise.

And, I am going to create an image of opposition somehow using the instructions given in Challenge #9.

Challenge #9 - Opposites In Conflict (w/ Flickr Images). MUST use Flickr creative commons images. Somehow the words, “Dancing on a Dime” dropped into my mind and I saw a ballerina. The first image that emerged was fun but looked like a commercial dance poster with no conflict or opposition. I was going to move on but it haunted me so a rework wound up with the image above. Not quite as postery but I was still compelled to keep on and wound up with this version. Who knows where this could go?

This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 8

Dragon Dog
Sebastian Michaels talks a lot about our creative routines and how we can “engineer” greater creativity. He says our job is not to find the muse but, rather, to show up consistently so she can find us and to create an attractive invitation for her.

I know absolutely that my best creative times are in the morning and since I am doing digital art, my creative space is where my computer is. Fortunately, I work on a laptop, so I can go other places with it. What I have found in the last few days, however, is that going out with just my camera, myjournal and a pen, has a completely different feel and takes me into different thought processes. It’s more of a “pre-creation” experience, allowing more space for the “what-ifs."
 Side note: As I was writing this post, I suddenly heard Barbra Streisand singing, “You don’t bring me flowers anymore.” Perhaps my muse wants flowers?
Going out with just my camera and my journal has a joyful, just-exploring feel to it. There’s no pressure to deliver something, it’s just gathering sights and impressions. 

Sebastian also asked us to find triggers that invite the Muse. For me, I know that one reliable method is just browsing through my photos. This has always worked, but what Sebastian’s guidance prompts is looking for photos that not only inspire me but somehow seem like they want to play together.

Earlier I mentioned the app: Way of Life. If you’re a visual thinker, you may like this app. It gives you a simple process for checking off your habits at the end of the day and shows your week with bright red and green boxes which are so much more dramatic than just check marks. My ugly index card approach is gone forever. Yesterday, I missed studying Spanish so I got 4 greens and 1 red.

The important point is that it made me realize I have to have a special time for Spanish. Not my creative early morning time, but still a time when I have the energy needed for learning. I like going out for a walk around noon so I’m going to complete my 30 minutes of Spanish study before I can go for my walk. 
Challenge #8 was about photo compositing, putting things together that don't belong together in a way that looks real. The specific instructions were to put something inside of something else. With the dog I chose, that was tricky because he was tied up with a rope. I can't say this was a favorite challenge.
Base photos for this challenge were:

This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.