Friday, January 27, 2012

Art Marketing Case Study: Drew Brophy

When we think about marketing our art, it's easy to get lost in generalities.  Today I found an artist who offers an excellent example of many principles of art marketing.

I was introduced to Drew Brophy by his wife Maria Brophy, who is part of the SmArtist TeleSummit.  I was intrigued when I heard that he painted on surfboards so I went to his website and found an artist passionate about surfing ... or maybe a surfer passionate about art.

Here are some of the specifics I noticed:

A tagline that builds credibility and speaks to the target audience:  "Making things look cool since 1971."  Surfing is one of the few "young" activities that seems to honor the elders in the field.  In some fields, mentioning the year 1971 would almost relegate you to the dustbin, but here, it's a badge of honor.  There's a secondary tagline of "Livin' the dream" with a picture of a surfer and a killer wave."

Understanding and speaking the language of your audience:  In addition to images that fit the subject ... bright colors, dragons, eyeballs ... Drew's words fit the subject and the audience.  Here's the opening of his artist statement:  
In high school Drew Brophy’s guidance counselor pulled him aside and sternly warned, “Drew, you can’t just surf and paint your whole life.”   He was crushed, because those were the only two things that he was good at.  He was determined to prove her wrong.
By proving her wrong, Drew connects with every frustrated teenage surfer ... even if they happen to be adults still remembering their younger days.

Using the technology relevant to the audience:  Drew's clientele is young and the media of the young is video.  Here's a video where Drew transforms a plain vanilla van into a surfer's dream machine ... all to the pounding beat of music that fits the target audience.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Steampunk Art

My friend Vivian turned me onto this video about the Steampunk exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford from 2010. Steampunk focuses on Victorian science, real and fantasy. The art doesn't really ring my chimes so I was hesitant to watch the video. What delighted me was the creativity and passion. It really is worth watching.

Opting Out Of The Fear Cycle

Recently I was in a conversation with an extremely smart man and he was telling me his version of the Apocalypse, in this case it was financial and included the demise of our monetary system, hyperinflation and high-level collusion, all leading to a Mad Max world.  It seems like I'm hearing a lot of strange tales these days ... chemicals being dumped on our heads as part of what we think are jet trails, secret prison camps for internal terrorists, in-home spy systems through digital television, and untold number of alien activities.

All of these may be true ... I definitely cannot prove them false.  But, one thing I have figured out is that they all involve fear and if I choose to believe them, I would have to live in fear.  I'm not going to do that any more.  I spent much of my early life in fear ... fear of almost everything.  It often kept me from doing what I wanted to do.

There was a game I used to play in an attempt to reduce that fear.  I would think of every possible permutation of what might happen in a situation and then work out what I would do in each case.  It made me feel stronger and more in control.  There was only one problem ... almost always, in spite of carefully working out all the possibilities, something completely unexpected would happen. Finally I got the picture that I couldn't predict the future ... I could only stay in the present and do my best to cope with what came my way.

I think all these doomsday scenarios are somewhat like that game.  Each one is possible but we really don't know if any of them will happen because game changers happen all the time.  One day we think there's a market for a few thousand computers in the world; the next day, school children are writing apps for iPhones.

We have a choice of what we believe, but what we believe affects how we live our lives.  If we believe that bankers are evil conspirators who try to steal our money, we try to find a way to take our money out of the system.  If we believe the world is a hazardous place, we try to build protective barriers and find weapons to defend ourselves.  When we see evil and danger in every corner; we start to live in fear.

I'm a practical person so I believe in being reasonably cautious and observing the signs of change in the world, but, call it pollyanna, apathy or just plain ignorance, I am opting out of the fear cycle.  I've lived my entire life under jet trails, I refuse to see them as anything other than interesting patterns in the sky.

And, if the Apocalypse is really coming, and I'm dead wrong, I'll deal with that when it gets here.  Meantime, I'm going to live in joy, focusing on the beauty of this world, believing that most people want to do what's right (even politicians, although that is sometimes a stretch) and that I'm better off living each moment fully rather than trying to anticipate a future which no one can know with any certainty.

I think Lillian Carter (Jimmy's mom) said it best:  "I don't think about risks much. I just do what I want to do. If you gotta go, you gotta go." 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Joy after the Fire: It's a book!

It's a book!!
The past five years have been an amazing journey, even though it was not one I would have chosen.  The story of this journey is now available in my book "Joy after the Fire, when grief, despair and loss become the seeds of new joy and growth" available for iPads from iBookstore and as a downloadable pdf by clicking the BUY NOW button on the right.

Loss comes to each of us, and, in the beginning, it just feels like pain, grief and despair.  Gradually, however, the pain begins to lift and we can choose once again to live.  For me, there was no way to live my old life so I wound up in what felt like a free fall ... which landed me in an art workshop in Mexico that changed everything.

The purpose for telling this extremely personal story is to help others who may be experiencing loss.  I want people to know that there is definitely joy after the fire ... but it's not always easy.  The path to that new joy winds through a forest of self-reflection ... finding what brings you joy, stepping onto that path regardless of what the world thinks you should be doing, learning to be grateful for even the smallest things that gladden your heart.  At the end of each chapter and "interlude," there are questions to help you look at your life and your choices in new ways.

There is more about the book on the Joy after the Fire menu bar above and I would love to have you post your comments on that page.  Feel free to tell your story and tell us what has helped you.  What you say has the power to help others.

May your path to joy be filled with great friends and new insights about your own magnificence.

Focus or Fail!


What do carrier pigeons have to teach you about reaching your goals?  A lot, according to artist and writer Jack White in his fascinating post for Fine Art Views.  
White begins with John James Audubon who reports seeing the sun eclipsed by a flight of millions of pigeons and continues into the tales of heroic carrier pigeons and their amazing ability to find home under extreme conditions.  He uses the pigeons to teach several lessons important to artists, and anyone trying to create success in their professions.  
My favorite, perhaps because it hit home, is Focus or Fail! and here's what White says:
3. Carrier pigeons faced great danger with the enemy doing all in their power to kill them. Yet they ignored the fodder and fire to push on - always pressing forward and never looking back to where they left. The moment the pigeon carrying a vital message was released from its base, the bird became single focused. The one and only goal was to reach their home coop. I have found lack of focus to be the Achilles Heel of so many artists. Write this down, Focus or Fail.

The post is filled with interesting information and valuable lessons and well worth reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dragon Year: The Adventure Begins

Year of the Dragon
Today is the first day of the Year of the Dragon. The dragon, considered the most auspicious Zodiac sign in Chinese culture, is often associated with good fortune and intelligence and is believed to be the sign of those destined for success.  According to Chinese astrologers, the year of the dragon ushers in a time of optimism and hope ... and change.
2012 is a year of the "water dragon" which predicts an increased flow of communication among people and, according to many, a change for the better for the economy.
In keeping with this new year of the dragon and my own desire for a dose of adventure, I've just purchased tickets to Pyramid Eclipse, a Symbiosis event.  I originally bought tickets to Burning Man but then decided that, without an RV, I really wouldn't be able to handle the harsh weather conditions.  Then a friend told me about Symbiosis which seems to be a New Age Burning Man/conference/music festival type of event.
It's already pushing some buttons for this basically-introverted participant-to-be.  The friend who recommended it is the most out-going, whirlwind of energy I've ever met.  Energetically, we couldn't be less alike.  From the videos I've watched, it looks like a pretty young crowd and I'm sure there will be drugs, nudity, and endless loud music.  But, it also looks like an abbondanza of creativity and a photographer's paradise.  So, I'm going to put on my "participate in everything (well, maybe not EVERYTHING!) hat" and take a leap into the unknown. The event happens in May so I'll keep you posted on the events (and feelings) leading up to it.
In the meantime, since this is a dragon year ... take a risk that might bring with it unexpected rewards that might expand your world.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Importance of Beauty

The Dance of Beauty
In 1990, I accompanied a bunch of American teenagers to Moscow as part of an international SuperCamp. an organization that creates incredible accelerated learning experiences.  It turned out to be a water-shed experience for me.

I am basically a practical person so I was going because I wanted to know more about the remarkable learning processes SuperCamp uses and to give my then-14 year-old stepdaughter an experience that I thought would be helpful.  The USSR was just opening up and was in the midst of radical and disrupting changes.  Times were hard, stores were empty, literally empty ... shelves in grocery stores were completely barren ... and people would wait in line for hours for a loaf of bread.

Most families lived in tiny apartments in tall, gray, concrete buildings ... ugly buildings that were an invocation to the god of function with absolutely no ornamentation, grace or beauty.  Moscow was a city of contrasts, beautifully ornate historic buildings surrounded by rings of gray boxes.  It was like someone drew a circle around the past and said "communism starts here."

After spending several days working and living in those gray buildings, one morning I took a walk through a nearby birch forest and was stunned to tears by the beauty.  Suddenly, I understood the importance of beauty.  It isn't just a "nice to have;" it's a connection to something beyond ourselves, something we can't define or put into a neat little box.  

Years later, in a moment of insight, this thought came to me: Beauty is not a luxury, nor an art. It is the soul's breath of life.  Keats said "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, -- that is all Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know."  and Dostoyevsky said “Beauty will save the world.”

Beauty is important.  We may not be able to prove it with a computer or calculator but we know it and need to honor that knowing.

Here are some other thoughts on beauty:
"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love."                                                                   -- Kahlil Gibran"Children of Gods, Scions of Apes" 
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."                                                              -- John Muir, The Yosemite
"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror."                                                                     -- Khalil Gibran 
"My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth's loveliness."                                                                                                                             -- Michelangelo
"You agree--I'm sure you agree, that beauty is the only thing worth living for."    -- Agatha Christie 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pinterest: A New Addiction

Two Pinterest boards I've created so far.
It's Annie's fault.  She told me about it ... actually she raved about it.  And, as usual I didn't get it but decided to try it.

It's not that easy ... you have to be invited ... what's that all about?  But, an artist friend sent me an invitation so I stuck my toe in and a whirlwind sucked me in and still hasn't let go.

Pinterest is billed as an electronic pinboard.  That seems innocent enough ... until you start pinning things on boards and then it's like eating popcorn ... you just keep taking handfuls until suddenly the bowl is empty ... or hours have slipped by unnoticed.  Pinterest puts this simple little button on your web browser that says "Pin it."  If you see something you like, you pin it to a board you've created.  For some reason, that action is like playing a game and creates a pull to keep on pinning.

Sometimes someone else will like something you've pinned and they'll repin it and that adds to the energy to keep going.  It's very visual and fun to see what other people are pinning.

Check it out at your own risk.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In a Grain of Sand

William Blake opens his poem "Auguries of Innocence" with these famous lines:

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower  Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.
I've always thought of those lines as a metaphor until I saw the incredible photography of Professor Gary Greenberg who has a PhD in biomedical research from University College London.  Now, I'm not sure.  Blake was a visionary who saw things others didn't ... maybe he was just reporting what he saw.

Professor Greenberg has spent five years traveling and photographing grains of sand, even developing his own processes to get these spectacular photos of such tiny objects.  You can see more photos and his books here.

How I would love to spend an afternoon with Professor Greenberg's microscope and sand.

Here's the full text of Blake's poem:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cookies and Art

I grew up in a tiny town in Kansas, population 266, and went to an even tinier church which had an even tinier flow of cash into the coffers.  One weekend we had a bake sale and lined tables up in front of the church on the main street.  It was a feast of cakes, cookies and pies and the tables were womaned by eager and friendly church members.  Who stood there.  Traffic down main street was pretty much non-existent so there was no one to buy their lovingly prepared baked goods.

My friends and I had been enrolled in helping with the bake sale so we, too, stood there with nothing to do.  I'm not sure whose idea it was, but finally we got frustrated enough that each of us took as many cookies, pies, and cakes as we could carry and went walking door-to-door through the neighborhood ... and came back, time after time, empty handed.  The bake sale was a success and we had, inadvertently, learned a lesson about marketing.

Now, many years later and like many other artists, I'm trying to figure out the marketing side of art.  There seems to be a legion of us standing by our tables of lovingly baked goods on a road with too little traffic.  So the question is how to take our art to the people who would be interested in buying it.  It's not quite the same as taking cookies door-to-door but that may still be a metaphor to contemplate.

People like cookies and they know exactly which cookies they like, whether it's sugar cookies with sprinkles or chocolate-chunk-with-pecan cookies.  Most people are far less comfortable about art.  Many feel intimidated by art, unsure that what they like is "right."  They hesitate about buying art, afraid of making a bad decision, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of winding up with a black-velvet Elvis on their walls. (Personally, I loved black velvet art, but that's another story!)

And, of course, cookies are far more affordable than art.  They are small, inexpensive indulgences whereas art is often an investment, a commitment to beauty.

Perhaps last and least, cookies don't have to match the couch!  In a few minutes they're gone, leaving only a sweet memory.  We've been schooled to believe that art lasts forever, that it gets handed down to the next generation, that it has to stay on your wall even when you can't remember why you bought it ... because it's ART!

What if we thought about art in the same way we think about clothes?  Beautiful things to dress our homes, offices and studios.  Beauty that makes us feel beautiful, peaceful, enlivened, connected to the world.  And, when it stops "fitting," we pass it along to someone else and purchase the next experience of beauty.  Maybe we don't have to "collect" art; maybe it should be ok to just wear it, enjoy it, savor it and then let it go.

Food ... or should I say cookies ... for thought.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year I post this poem honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
in gratitude for all that he gave us and in hopes that
we live up to his words.

Twenty-six he was when destiny crooked its finger,
beckoning the still-green minister-scholar into the world.
Forty-two she was when she pounded on the door
Theoretically opened ninety-four years before.

It was the first of December, 1955, when history wove
Their fates together into a multi-colored tapestry of change.
“Tired,” she said, “Bone tired. Tired of giving up.
Tired of giving in,” she said and sat in the front of the bus.

Montgomery, Alabama, shivered as the temperature rose.
The old ways could be heard keening long into the night
As 42,000 people left the buses to stand by Rosa’s side.
381 days they walked: nannies, maids, carpenters, all.

Two hundred years of anger rose up to shatter the silence
And from this deafening roar came a molasses-rich voice
Spinning a song of hope with a melody of peace and love.
“I have a dream,” boomed and echoed across the land.

The young minister-leader painted a picture of a life
without color lines, a world without violence.
His voice lifted the dream: Richmond, Little Rock,
Dallas opened their buses, took down their signs.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter," he said, never silent again.
He took our hands and led us step-by-step onto a new path,
Brothers and sisters connected by heart rather than skin.

“Always avoid violence,” he said.
“If you succumb to the temptation …
unborn generations will be the recipients
of a long and desolate night of bitterness,
and your chief legacy to the future will be an
endless reign of meaningless chaos."

Thirty nine he was when one man with a gun silenced the voice,
But not the words …those four words branded into our brains:
“I have a dream …,” saffron-rich messengers left behind to
Carry forward the dream of a color-blind world of hope and peace.

Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. born January 15, 1929;
Assassinated April 4, 1968.
And Rosa Parks, civil rights activist, born February 4, 1913
Died October 24, 2005

-- Joyce Wycoff, copyright, 2011

Artist Statements - An Evaluation

How do the pieces all come together?
Emily Dickinson once said, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant."  She makes it sound so simple.

I've been picking up artist statements mainly done in the form of "rack cards" (generally 4"x9" although they varied somewhat in size).  One of the hardest things artists are called on to do is write about ourselves and our work.  "We're artists not writers, salespeople or marketers," we say.  Yet in today's art world, any artist who wants to sell her or his work does not have the luxury of being "just an artist."

We need to put our best foot forward in our printed material, just as we do in our artwork, so here are some observations made from the 36 cards I have picked up so far.
  1. We can do better ... we NEED to do better.  Typos, hard-to-read fonts, and endless paragraphs are all-too-common.
  2. We need to be clear about the purposes for these rack card statements.  They cost money so they should *do* something ... remind the possible client of who we are and what they liked enough about our work to pick up our art statement card.  They need to know where they saw our work and how to get in touch with us. (FOUR of the cards I looked at had NO contact info.  28 of them did NOT reference the gallery or city they were showing in.)
  3. Did I mention that these cards cost money?  Yet, only NINE of the 36 cards had anything printed on the back of the card.  All that space just going to waste.  Yes, it might cost a little bit more to print on both sides but it's an opportunity to show more of our work or add intriguing information that would engage our potential clients.
  4. All of these cards were from VISUAL artists who paid MONEY to get their cards printed, yet 22 of the cards had only one, often small, image on it ... and 2 cards had no image at all!  How will the potential client remember our artwork if they can't see it?  The cards that had at least 4 images seemed to make a stronger impact although one artist included a powerful image that took up half of one side of the card.  That worked well, too.
  5. If the purpose of the art card is to remind a potential client about our work, shouldn't the card make it clear what our work is? On 17 of the 36 cards, I had very little sense of what the artist's work looked like or what the focus of their work was.
  6. If we want a potential client to contact us, shouldn't we give him as many ways to contact us as possible?  Assuming that email, website and phone numbers are the three basic contact points, I was surprised to find that only SEVEN of the cards contained each of those fundamentals.
  7. When a client buys a piece of our art, they are also buying us.  If they've resonated with our art, they feel like they "know" us in a way.  I hadn't thought about putting my photo on the art card but NINE artists did (and FOUR did self-portraits in their own art forms).  Those cards stood out for me, I felt a connection with the artists and their work.
  8. A lesser observation was that 14 of the cards were written in 1st person, with the rest in 3rd person.  It didn't seem to be the driving factor in the impact of the card.
  9. Overall, first sentences on the cards were very weak.  Glance through the list below and note which first sentence fragments would make you want to read more. (Only the first four words are included in order to not reveal any identities.)
I started taking pictures ...
I spent many of my ...
Painting has been a ...
I started oil painting ...
California, and specifically ...
I grew up in ...
My interest in working ...
I’ve been working with ...
My art is  ...
I create hand-marbled ...
I attempt to convey ...
My father and mother ...
I tend to remember ...
Hello there, my name ...
Born in Santa Ana ...
(Name) describes himself as ...
Born and raised in ...
(name) graduated with ...
If you like the sea ...
(Name) paints with passion ...
(City) resident (name) ...
(name) is from (city) ...
(Name) is the youngest ...
graphic artist by trade ...
local jewelry artist (name) ...
(Name) has been a ...
(Name) uses the art ...
(name) has resided on ...
(Name) has long focused ...
(name) creates her ...
To create new, diverse ...
(name’s) interest in art ...
(name) earned a BS ...
(name) has been creating ...
(Name) is a native ...
(Name) resides on ...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Artist Statements: Ridiculous to Sublime

You know you need one, but you're an artist not a writer. How do you write one that that isn't boring, dull and stupid? Think about that as you watch these short videos which range from ridiculous to sublime and something in between.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tick ... Tick ... Tick!

It's almost here.

After months of toil and trouble, it looked like it would be here in August.

But, things take time ... September, October and November dropped off the calendar like fall leaves.

December got sidetracked by holidays and bureaucracy.

Now, it's 2012 and it's almost here.

Patience is a virtue.

Virtue is getting thinner.

Maybe tomorrow.



Free Art Supplies

While schools continue to cut back art programs and the availability of art supplies, Lisa Ambler started a non-profit organization in Denver that has given art supplies to over 100,000 children in 80 countries.  She inspires me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Dream - Two Years Ago Challenge

Here's a challenge for all you bloggers ... find your post from two years ago and repost it.  Think about where you were then in connection to where you are now.  

This was my post on January 11, 2010 ... a poem that came after a hike into the Rockies with a friend.  This image of life struggling forth from hard rock moved me.  My life felt like that back then ... like little was supporting my growth but yet I was growing.  I am so grateful for all the miracles that happened in the past two years.

I Dream

"If one is lucky, a single fantasy can totally transform a million realities." 

-- Maya Angelou

I Dream

I dream of being.
I dream my roots deep down into the impervious,
sun-warmed granite where their tendrils drill into
the tiny cracks and crevices where life hums.

I dream of truth.
I dream my dark spine rising upward
into the harmony of sun and earth and rain and wind
until it sings one clear note of an ancient melody.

I dream of love.
I dream my green needles into the crystal air
dancing light beams back to the sun
in a forever rainbow waiting simply for rain.

I dream of death.
I dream my shadow across the lichen children
reaching outward further, further each hour
stretching beyond, yearning ... yearning for ...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unexpected Gifts

One part of my annual review process is looking at last year's intentions to see what happened and what didn't.  It reminds me of the psychic predictions that used to be part of the tabloids (and may be still).  I used to always buy the beginning-of-the-year-prediction issue and save it till the following year to see how many "hits" there were.  As you might guess, there were darn few.  

It seems to be the same with my intentions.  At the beginning of 2011, I made an intention map of things I wanted to "Learn," "See," "Do/Create," "Experience," and "Contribute."  I remember really liking the categories and how succinctly I could put so many intentions into such a small space.  I was very specific about my intentions in each category.  Here are my results:
  • Learn -- 5 specifics ... 1 Yes, 4 No
  • See -- 8 specifics ... 2 Yes, 6 No
  • Do/Create -- 7 specifics ... 2 Yes (if I stretch a bit), 5 No
  • Experience -- 9 specifics ... 6 Yes, 3 No   ... these "specifics" were more general
  • Contribute -- 5 specifics ... 1 sort of 2, 3 No
This doesn't look like a very good track record so I decided to look at the specifics to see which ones would still be on my list for this year and discovered that a whole lot of them apparently just didn't have much energy behind them because they quickly dropped away.  What really surprised me was when I made a map of the unexpected gifts of the year and came up with 13 things I couldn't even have contemplated at the beginning of the year.

Some conclusions I have from all of this are:
  1. Perhaps my intentions were too specific and too time-bound.  They were more "bucket list" kinds of things.
  2. I am not the same person today that I was a year ago and will probably be a different person still a year from now. 
  3. Setting intentions is a worthwhile activity, but I need to stay open to the unexpected gifts that come my way and flexible enough to change directions when I recognize a new path.
So, how do you feel about setting intentions?  Do they work for you?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Doing Changes Things

A new year is like a magical chest filled with things unseen and, in a quantum physics way, affected by our thoughts about it and our processes of observing each day as it slips through the measured opening.  I love the abundance of this time of the year as it always seems so pregnant with possibilities.

My annual ritual of planning is underway ... choosing my words for the year (check), collaging the opening pages of my journal with inspiring images (check), decorating the outside of the journal (today's task), making a calendar list of coming attractions (in process), weaving together the strands of "doing" into a ribbon that will gently and colorfully guide me along the path of what I truly value (also in process).

One of my favorite activities during this process is to flip through previous journals, and a couple of days ago I found the three words that make up the title of this post:  doing changes things.  At first I skipped past them as a "duh."  However, they kept coming back to me as I thought of things I had done in the past that changed things, some that changed everything.  And, then it hit me:  what I am doing right now and in the coming days will change things.  Our actions are our thoughts, beliefs, hopes and dreams made manifest.  

Our actions are the future being born.  Each action is a step down a path, a path that shifts slightly with each step.

It makes me want to take a little more time in planning my actions for the year and to be a little more careful of my actions in each moment. It makes me want to focus carefully on what I want so that my focus guides my steps.  And, it makes me willing to take a little more time making sure I'm clear about my values and what I truly want.

Gandhi put these thoughts into a more elegant statement:

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny.

May your magical chest of 2012 be filled actions that lead to a destiny of joy and fulfillment.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Sid Parnes and George Washington Carver

What a day of creativity this is!  Two great creative souls were born on this day

Dr. Sidney J. Parnes (born 90 years ago today) is a retired professor at Buffalo State College (located in Buffalo, New York) and the co-founder of the International Center for Studies in Creativity. The Center is housed within [[Buffalo State College], one of the only places in the world that offers a Masters of Science degree in Creativity.  He is the gentle and guiding force behind CPSI, one of the most remarkable gatherings of creative souls on the planet and the longest-running international creativity conference in existence.

This video explains the creative problem solving process developed by Dr. Parnes and Alex Osborn.

George Washington Carver who was born on this day in 1864, perhaps into slavery, is acknowledged as one of the most creative and inventive minds of the scientific world.  His reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanutssoybeans andsweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.  In 1941, Time magazine called him a "black Leonardo."

There is a national monument dedicated to Carver at his birthplace in Diamond, Missouri.

How fortunate we are all that these men dedicated their lives to creativity.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Words for the Year

Every year I pick a word (sometimes two) as my talisman for the year.  I decorate a plain, black 9"x12" journal with the words and as much glitter glue and paint as I can pile on it.  It's a tradition started years ago when I lived in Santa Barbara and discovered my first word while driving through a residential area. When I spotted an old, rusted RV with the word "Jubilation" painted across the back, I fell in love with the word and chose it as my first journal word.  Or, perhaps, it chose me.

Usually I start trying to find my word in mid-December and have time to contemplate several words before settling in to one or two.  This year, I've been moving too fast for the past several weeks to think about my word. So I made a date with myself today and thought I'd use this post to focus my attention.

Now I'm sitting here with my journals circling me as I think about 2012, a leap year, and what words call to me.  I often note words in the back of my journal so I'm flipping through the old ones and the following possibilities appear:
  • Exuberance -- joyous vitality
  • Reflection -- being a clear mirror of spirit and joy
  • Quest -- an adventurous seeking for something of value - I like the connection to question
  • Mandala -- a symbol of sacred peace and the reunification of self
  • Zest -- passion for life
  • Dayenu -- Hebrew -- it would have been enough
After much tea and thought, the choices for words to guide me during 2012 are "quest" because I want to continue learning, exploring, seeking new experiences that help me better understand the world and myself ... and "dayenu" because I want to remember every day how overwhelmingly grateful I am for all that I have been given and to remember that even a fraction of it would have been enough and that I do not need more.  There seems to be a lovely tension between these two words.

FYI: here are the words for the past few years ... and if you decide to choose a word or words, I'd love to know what yours are.
  • 2011 - Temenos, sacred space. Carl Jung used this same word to refer to the inner space deep within us where soul-making takes place.  Hallelujah -- as in the words from Leonard Cohen's song, "nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!
  • 2010 - Beauty and Equanimity (complete with a mindmap of things that nourish equanimity)
  • 2009 - Miksang (Tibetan for "good eye" and a photography process that involves a deeper way of seeing, and Abbondanza - joyful abundance
  • 2008 - Chrysalis -- a place of deep transformation which cannot be seen until it emerges
  • 2007 - Autopoiesis -- continually re-creating and organizing self in relationship to surroundings
  • 2006 - Joy and Dreamway ... the title of a book by Robert Genn
  • 2005 - Emergence
  • 2004 - Querencia - a calm and quiet, yet powerful, place of safety