Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We cannot go backward

Photo by Todd Robertson
I came of age on the edge of darkness. My senior year in high school was spent in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where I saw “whites only” drinking fountains and there were no black faces in my school. I went to college in Oklahoma and heard tales of black students having to sit in a roped off area of the law school classes. In the dorms, we had long conversations about whether or not we would want to swim in the same pool with “them." At my first "real" job, I was shunned because I went to break with the only black person in the all-women department supervised by, of course, a man.

I didn’t grow up in a particularly progressive family, but it wasn’t filled with hate. When I looked at the photos from the Charlottesville rally, what struck me was the angry hate that filled the faces of the young, white men. What happened to them? How did they get to a place of such deep hatred, teetering on the edge of violence?

It reminded me of a time in the early 1990s when I visited the compound of the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group led by Richard Butler from his compound outside Hayden, Idaho. I was writing a novel about white supremacists and, at the time, the Aryan Nations was a well-known terrorist group. I wanted to see for myself what they looked like and what they said in a one-to-one conversation. I was surprised when they granted me an interview. I was a nobody from no where.

When I drove into the compound in my tiny rental car, two old dogs came up to the car, tails wagging, which somewhat relieved the pounding of my heart. At least the dogs were friendly.

The compound had a rural, run down look: worn wooden buildings, people sitting in chairs on a long front porch. I noticed two, young tow-headed children coloring on the porch steps. I could have been visiting my grandparents.

Butler’s office was a make-do metal building overflowing with papers, pictures of Hitler, swastikas and t-shirts for the believers. Butler was in his mid-70s and was kindly enough as he began to spew a well-rehearsed stream of how white people are threatened and have to stand up for themselves. He had heard all of my questions before. His answers were ready and pat so he didn't mind that I was recording them.

After about an hour of his disturbing monologue, I left. As I walked to my car, I glanced over at the children and could see what they were coloring: swastikas. That image of those young, innocent children coloring a symbol of hate shocked my system. I managed to get my car started, but as soon as I was off their property, I stopped and wept and still tear up thinking about them. That was about 25 years ago. Were they part of the torch-carrying crowd in Charlottesville? 

When Jimmy Fallon said in his powerful message, “We cannot go backward,” it made me weep again. Weep for the hard-earned progress made  over the past few decades, when all it took was one man with no moral compass to puncture the apparently unhealed wound underlying that progress.

We have much work to do. We cannot go backwards. However, those of us who believe in love, have to find a way to connect with those who hate. It reminds me of Edward Markham's poem Outwitted:

He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But, love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle and took him in!

We cannot go backwards. We have to draw a bigger circle. Each one of us who believes in love has to try to pass that love along to those who may have literally spent their chiildhoods amidst hate. Last year's election separated us into camps, divided friends and families as we drew a line in the sand and defended our positions, creating "them" and "us."

We cannot go backwards. Gandhi said, "We have to be the change we want to see in the world." We must have the "wit to win."

If we want to see a world of love, we have to BE love. Maybe it's time to refriend the people we've unfriended on Facebook. Maybe we can't understand their political position, but each one of them is a person: a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son. Each of them is carrying wounds that cannot be seen, facing fears that darken their days.

If we can't love them, how can we expect those young men in Charlottesville to put down their torches?

We cannot go backwards.

Many years ago I was at a spirituality in business conference in Puerto Vallarta. During a break I was walking down the sidewalk and a young man was walking toward me focused on something in his hands. The sidewalk was narrow and we were on a collision course. Suddenly, the thought came to me: He with the most awareness has to be the one that moves. Of course, I just stepped aside and he moved on unaware of the life lesson he had just provided.

Those of us who know and believe in love are aware of its importance and power. We have to be the ones making the first move. We don't have to accept or condone their hatred or positions, but we do need to love the person.

We cannot go backwards.

Photo Credit: The photo above comes from a newspaper article taken during a Klan march in Gainesville, Ga., by photographer Todd Robertson on Saturday, September 5, 1992.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Day 9 Implementation: Talking to Buddha


Talking to Buddha
 A friend sends me a monthly outlook from a wise woman in Alaska. This month’s report struck me with the term “fierce stillness.”

It occurs to me, on this 30th day of Sebastian Michaels’ program of creative abundance, that the morning and evening routines he has suggested are a form of fierce stillness.

By fiercely following a self-designed set of routines for evening and morning, I have created a stillness within myself and my day. It’s beginning to feel like a calm center forming, from which whatever love resides within me can flow forth into the world. In other words, it feels more like clearing roadkill bug juice from a windshield. I can see more clearly in order to follow the path I’ve chosen.

Thank you, Sebastian Michaels for creating a simple, motivating program to help so many of us establish routines that support our creative endeavors.

This image, “Talking to Buddha” comes from reworking an older image and adding a momma and her chicks I met yesterday. She was fiercely protective of her brood and, actually, not very silent about it. However, for some reason she reminded me of the term fierce silence.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Day 8 Implementation: The beauty of a clean desktop


Give Peace a Chance (revised)
One of the simplest habits I’ve developed over the past 29 days is cleaning my computer desktop every day. 
 
I have a tendency to overload my desktop with images and screen shots. Before this program to help us develop creative routines, I would sometimes have dozens, maybe even a hundred items on my desktop. It was often over-whelming as I lost track of what was there.

Now it’s part of my evening routine to trash everything not still being used. Somehow that clean desktop makes me feel more organized and focused. Those simple things are so important.

Nine years ago, I created the image below. I loved the metal sculpture of a policeman I found somewhere along the way and created an image titled “Give Peace a Chance." It didn’t work. 
 
Give Peace a Chance (old)
 This morning I pulled it out and applied some new techniques and new insights and wound up with the image at the top of the page. There is still something about the image that pulls me and I still don’t think it’s “there.” 
 
I wonder if I come back to it a year from now, if I will have found the new tools and techniques and the new imagination to bring what’s lurking there to the forefront? 
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michaels' "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 7 Implementation: Evening Routine


Home Sweet Home!
Sebastian Michaels emphasizes the importance of having a good morning routine to start your day in the direction of what you want to create. I agree completely.

However, what I am finding even more important is my Evening Routine. Before this 21days … plus 9 days of implementation … program, my evening routine was a typical email-facebook cycle until time to go to bed, leaving dishes in the kitchen sink and bits of clutter here and there. Nothing dramatic, but leaving about 20-30 minutes of busy work to be done before starting my “real” day the next morning.

Now, I realize that my evening routine is critical for protecting my morning creative energies and setting up the next day. My evening routine starts at 9:00 pm with a phone alert to update my "Way of Life" app and shut down my computer. That gives me an untethered-to-technology hour to wind down, read, relax and get ready for sleep.

To support both morning and evening routines, I have created a two-sided refrigerator card … one side for the morning routine, one side for evening. In the evening, after I finish cleaning the kitchen, clearing clutter, putting my gratitude journal on the table where I sit with my morning coffee, and laying out my yoga mat on the floor, I turn the card over to Morning Routine so I will be ready for the new day.

I’ve always thought I must be a bit simple-minded. I definitely need simple routines. My fridge card gives me the reminders I need to do mundane, but important, things like charging batteries and asking myself every day what I truly want to create.

My first husband once told me I had no bad habits. I thought, “how nice …” until he continued, “you have no bad habits … you have no good habits … you have no habits.” It took me awhile to realize I was driving his engineer-self crazy with my unstructured approach to life.

It took me even longer to realize I was driving myself a little crazy, also. Now I know that I’ll always find it easy to break habits as I go wandering off the path following a bright blip on the horizon. That’s okay. With my Evening/Morning Routine card, I have a gentle spirit sitting on my shoulder saying, “Come back … wake-up … create the life you want."

One of the fun things I’ve been doing is going back through old art rejects and applying new tools to them. “Home Sweet Home!” above comes from a photo of an abandoned house found in Arkansas. I never could quite get the image to work … but, now I have a new toy box and I think this one is fun. 
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michaels' "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 6 Implementation: Routine vs Spontaneity


Wisdom Moon (revised)
This morning I awoke with my morning routines doing battle with the desire to take an excursion to Chapala to see a Oaxaca market. After 3.2 minutes of debate I decided that the routines suggested by Sebastian Michaels are intended to energize creativity not crush it. Grabbing my camera and bus fare, I walked out the door. 

The market turned out to be mediocre but the feeling of being free and alive in the world was heavenly and, during a leisurely breakfast on the malecón, I thought about one of the projects I’m working on and my excitement about it grew.

Perhaps following these routines is somewhat like flying an airliner that’s always slightly off course. The routine is a flight path intended to keep you headed in the right direction. The important thing is not to be exact … or exacting … about it, but just to be able to see when you need to adjust your efforts back to the path you’ve chosen.

After discovering Photoshop's  Color Lookup yesterday, I’ve decided to get better acquainted with it. I chose a piece I liked but wasn’t completely happy with … "Wisdom Moon” ... and ran it through all of the Color lookup profiles. Of course, I didn't get into all the permutations of blend modes and opacity changes ... I only have one lifetime that I know of.

Wisdom Moon (original)
Here’s a copy of the original and the image above is the one I chose as the final version. 
Below is the page of thumbnails that give you a sense of how much you can alter an image just by using Color Lookup. I really liked the Blue tone - abstract ... and even the gray tone abstract ...  but finally chose the one above.
Photoshop Color Lookup thumbnails
 This post was prompted by Sebastian Michaels' "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 5 Implementation: Edgy Amber


Edgy Amber
It’s Saturday morning. Even though I’m retired and nothing external differentiates my days, Saturday mornings still feel different … free, lazy, open to whatever comes my way. 
 
What came my way this morning was a conversation I had this week from a man who had been deported from the US and separated from his family.

Regardless of political positions, his is a disturbing story of a person who has worked hard all his life and now finds himself homeless, without family support, and disconnected from everything he has known. HIs story haunts me and, with my morning cup of coffee, I started writing a blog post about him and the current political situation.

An hour went by before I remembered my morning routine and asked myself: Is this how I want to spend my time? Not that writing about the world’s situation is a bad thing … just, is this what excites me? Is this what I want to create?

So, I went to my journal and asked the three morning questions and decided today would a play date. A companion on the Awake journey made a comment about a Photoshop technique I had never used … one that turned out to be a previously unopened toy box. 

"Edgy Amber" emerged from that toy box many hours later. I won't call it art but where else could I play with Mardi Gras beads, masks, party store supplies and my first digital painting? Edgy Amber is the name of one of the effects available from Photoshop's Color Lookup, my new toy box.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Day 4 Implementation: Hanging out with Friends


Hanging out with Friends
Observation: I’m at the awkward stage of the artist’s journey … that confusing territory between the place where you’re just delighted that something … anything … shows up, and that place of confidence where you can actually follow an inspiration and create something that is crafted by your intention.

It needs a name, this place. Uncertainty. Doubt. The Slough of Despond. (A bit overly dramatic and already used.) 
 
Thinking about what to call this place led me to Google the stages of artistic development. As is true of almost anything, the number of stages seems to always be 3, 5, or 7. What did even numbers do wrong as to be so shunned?

There is one guy, Dr. Viktor Lowenfeld, who published “Creative and Mental Growth,” who uses six stages but his stages end at age 16 and relate only to style of art. Not very helpful to those of us who started late.

One model offers 3 stages: emerging, mid-career, and established. That’s only useful if you’re trying to understand commercial progression.

An article on finding your creative voice, helped. Loved the advice and the encouragement, but it didn’t answer the question. This model uses four stages, basically described as:
  • Discovery Phase. It’s when you suddenly become fascinated with an idea or a new direction for your work, but you don’t yet have a clear path forward.
  • Emulation Phase. By mimicking the work of their influencers, artists are able to build a basic platform of skills necessary to eventually branch out and explore new territory.
  • Discovery Phase. In this phase, you may suddenly feel suffocated by the work of your heroes and may see an opportunity that you feel a little ill-equipped for, but feel compelled to rise to the challenge anyway. You begin taking risks as you sail out into uncharted waters.
  • Crisis Phase. Once you become known for something, it’s tempting to begin to protect the thing you’re known for. 
Quotes from the article:

"For many of us, the perception of incompetence is the worst sin, at least psychologically. We would rather live with the perception of invulnerability than test our limits and discover that we actually have some."

"Be brave, hone your skills, and develop your unique voice."

Maybe what I’m trying to describe is the gap that Ira Glass talks about in his popular quote:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

That works for me. For ten years I’ve been delighted with almost anything that showed up. Now, I want that “special thing” even though I don’t quite know what it is. It’s okay if it takes awhile.

As for the challenge: I'm going straight to Awake and skipping the two-page magazine spread. It’s my time off for good behavior. 😉 And, maybe I’ll come back to it later ... maybe.
 
For today, I hung out with a bright spirit who left too soon. She was a mighty magnet of people, bright colors and love, and I think of the flowers in this image as the many, many people she touched with her love. The Buddha image was actually a statue in her yard. I like thinking about her hanging out with her friends and teachers. It helps take away the sting of her leaving.
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Implementation Day 3: Missing Missy


Missing Missy
These nine days of implementation are about developing routines that support our creative life. I’ve dutifully set up my morning and evening routines and feel more focused than I have for a long time. … At least I did until today. 
Most of my days are simple and open. Today wasn’t. My morning routine fizzled and I’m already pushing into my evening routine while trying to catch up. 

Bottom line: Tomorrow’s a new day. 

 

The next exercise of the 26 Photo Artistry challenges is about selling something. I’m opting out of this one. It’s not a bad challenge but it’s just not one I want to do. Unfortunately, the next one, the next-to-the-last one, is one I’m not sure I’m ready to do. It’s about a pet. Maybe it’s time. Maybe it will be healing. Maybe it won’t.

After thinking about it, I decided it was time and began a piece about Missy. It was full of puffy clouds, god rays and roses, as well as some of my favorite images of her. It turned into a mess. Especially when I added an image of a piece of fabric I shot in the mercado. I liked the fabric part but the rest was a hot lump of cliche.

Today, while doing a lot of other things, I decided I wanted to go for a soft, ethereal look. By the time the other parts of my day were done, I had the first layers planned and expected to easily develop that soft, misty look I see other artists do. Nope.

The one thing that kept calling me was that bit of lacy fabric. Suddenly I realized that was the metaphor I had been looking for: Missy was part of the fabric of my life for almost ten years. Now that fabric is no longer what it was. Immediately I had an emotional reaction that said this was right approach.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Implementation Day 2: Child of Stardust


Child of Stardust
This is such an interesting journey. Yesterday, I worked hard, made two completely different versions of the image I was trying to create and wasn’t truly happy with either.

Today, I threw two images together and they fell in love with each other and I couldn’t do anything except tweak here and there.

The instructions for this challenge said to create a piece that should, "invite us to let go of whatever might otherwise be troubling us in our lives, and give us a few precious, lazy minutes where we can stop fidgeting with our daily concerns and imagined worries and dramas ... and just take a moment to enjoy something beautiful ... and perhaps find something extraordinary quietly awaiting us there."

The rules were … no clocks, no words, keep it simple and keep it light. Digital art tends to go dark with all the layers, so keeping it light is a challenge. I didn’t manage to do that in this piece, so I put a light frame around it. That will have to be enough. 
 
Does this actually give me "a few precious, lazy minutes?" I'm not sure, I just know it makes my heart sing. Perhaps because it comes from two favorite photos ... a face-painted child at a music festival and an oil slick. One of my earliest memories of delight came from oil slicks after rain. They still enchant me. I also love the idea of how we came together from stardust. All in all, I really like this one.
 
Is it okay to say that?
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.
 




Louise Gallagher’s Rebellion: She Persisted


Artist: Louise Gallagher
Eight years ago I met a blog sister: Louise Gallagher. She’s from Canada and we’ve never met in person. However, our paths have interwoven through the years through our blogs, emails and an occasional Skype. I have come to love this woman for her heart, spirit and joy of living.

Louise is one of the most heart-centered, creative people I’ve met on my journey. Recently, she was inspired by the Congressional shunning of Elizabeth Warren and the words: "Nevertheless, she persisted” bitterly uttered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when she refused to bow to his will. (He must truly regret that bit of oratory and the women's movement it launched.)

After watching the actions of Senator Warren and hearing the dismissive words of Senator McConnell, Louise vowed to do a series of twelve paintings with the theme of “she persisted.” She has now completed 44.

Louise says: 
This series is my rebellion.

I am not a placard bearing, slogan chanting protester. I am strong and forthright. Willing to step in and be heard. In my way.
Louise’s rebellion inspires me, gives me permission to be socially active … my way. I highly recommend connecting with Louise and her words and art through her blog: LouiseGallagher.ca



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Implementation Day 1: Photoshop Artistry


Turn My Ship Around
Since Implementation Day 1 coincides with the first of the month, there is a lot of organization going on. I always try to set up my intentions for the month and take an assessment of my well-being, primarily health and financial on the first day of the month.

What I realized this morning was that a good morning routine actually depends on a good evening routine. What I do before I go to bed helps set up the morning. My evening routine looks like this:

Evening Routine:
8 pm photo organization
9 pm - 5 minutes delete emails
Review accountability - Way of Life
Computer off
Clean kitchen
Check electronic batteries
Put out yoga mat
Declutter
Hygiene
Read/Listen

Do remember that this is a NEW routine. We’ll see how it holds up.

I am going to continue through the PA challenges during the next 9 days, but not necessarily with the urgency to complete one every day. Today is exercise 22 about creating an image from a song. The three songs I chose to listen to were:
  • Amarantine by Enya
  • Turn My Ship Around by Jeremy Buck
  • Calling You by Jevetta Steele
After listening, I realized I could go with any of them, but the first photos that leapt forward fit the Jeremy Buck song and turned into the image above.

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 21


Harmonia: Amor Y Gratitud
This is Day 21. Yes, I made it, but is that enough? Apparently not.

For some reason, Sebastian Michaels of 21 Days to Creative Abundance seems to think we should actually implement all the information and techniques he has offered us for the past 21 days.  He wants us to IMPLEMENT the plan we’ve been putting together for the next NINE days. Imagine!

Okay, I recognize that he’s given us some great advice and tools and tips. Probably the biggest thing for me was to create projects, art projects. I have been so overwhelmingly grateful to make art at all, I haven’t thought much about deliberately attempting a project. It seems a bit like trying to schedule magic. 

However, I now have two projects that I love thinking about, although one scares me and calls up all those doubts that come along with trying to do something new and a bit outside our comfort zones.

I’ve started on a series of nine muses for digital art. The first two came rather easily but where would the other seven come from? I’m committed to using only my own photography in my images and I’m not sure I have enough muse-worthy images.

That was my thinking when I sat down this morning and started browsing through photos. Soon, I had three that seemed to want to play together and Harmonia was born.

So, yes, Sebastian, I will sign up for another 9 days of implementation. Tomorrow morning I will try to put all the pieces of the plan together.
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 20


Artwork at Sacramento International Airport
Day 20 begins two days of wrap up and developing a clear plan for living the creatively abundant life.
 
Fundamentals of the plan:

  • Lock in a morning routine … “If you win your morning, you win the day."-- Sebastian Michaels.
Include movement and answer the three questions.
  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What am I excited about?
  3. What do I want to create today?
  • Decide on one or more specific artistic projects.
  • Schedule tasks related to your artistic project every week.
  • Work in focused blocks of time without distractions.
  • Develop an accountability process.

Today’s challenge is about capturing and editing a self-portrait on a cell phone. As I was leaving the US for Mexico, I found an amazing piece of art in the Sacramento International airport. Only my iPhone was handy so at least I got that part of the challenge right, but I manipulated the image in Photoshop on my laptop.

I was intrigued with this photo but it’s also something of a mess so I had few expectations as I began to play, layering on unrelated stuff and watching it turn into pure chaos, reminding me of Nietzsche’s quote:

"One must have chaos in oneself 
in order to give birth to a dancing star."        
 -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Not that I think the result is a dancing star. However, it was fun.
 
Caught in Selfie Hell
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.
 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 19


Water Dancer

Today Sebastion Michaels asks us to tackle Procrastination. 

His suggestions include being clear about what you want to do and why, having an easy “on-ramp” to your art, making a list of what needs to be done on your art project so you can always know what’s next, and having an accountability partner.

Generosity. In the past few days, I discovered something not on his list that works for me. One of our challenges was to complete a piece of work and give it to someone. I knew who I wanted to give a particular piece to and this morning that desire pulled me into making art when I might have done something else.

Follow your energy. I'm adding this as a procrastination technique. Today's challenge was to create a book cover. I found myself doing anything but going to Photoshop and finally realized I really didn't want to do this challenge. I've done a lot of book covers so it didn't feel fresh. When I shifted to creating an image for my series on digital artistry muses, I couldn't wait to get to my computer. Sometimes, if a task just feels like slogging uphill through muck, maybe it's time to turn around and skip downhill.

My easy on-ramp is simple … just browsing through my photos or spending time organizing them throws open the doors to Photoshop and makes me want to see how one or more photos might play together.

The list is something I need to do. I’ve identified three projects I want to work on, but I need a simple to do list for each of them, posted in a place where I can review them easily.

The accountability partner is a challenge. People are busy and they have their own projects. I’m thinking that maybe deadlines and having a recipient for each project might keep the fires stoked.

Since one of my projects is the creation of images for the nine muses of digital art, I’ve decided to make a separate blog page for them which will also be a little accountability pressure as I create images for each of them. The photo above is a young Mexican woman who is the stimulus for the second muse, Bailanda. Check out this page to see the muses.

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



Friday, July 28, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 18


Findings
The story unfolds. We do our work, focus on gratitude and love, but still the Universe sends us the unexpected, some of it delightfully good, some of it heartbreakingly bad. All of it mingles into this thing we call life.

I decided today would be the day that I would deal with Missy’s left over food. I have a friend who will take the bag of gourmet food, but also have an almost full bag of “back-up” kibble that I bought when we unexpectedly ran out of her regular food.

A friend told me about a woman who rescues dogs who would like the food, so I set off to find her with only minimal clues as to where she lived. Obviously, the clues weren’t sufficient because I wound up with a different woman, but our conversation revealed that she was getting ready to deliver food to some starving dogs and would be happy to take my offering.

The story she told me began to ring a bell. A Canadian man rescues dogs but he had to make a trip back to Canada and left someone else in charge of feeding the dogs, six or seven of them. Apparently that person disappeared and the dogs are starving, eating newspaper and barking all the time.

Missy, 3 months, on her way to her new home.
When I asked for a few more details, we discovered that it was one of those dogs that rushed Missy and caused her to get hit. The cycle of all of this makes me shake my head and weep. I’ve tried not to blame the other dog, but I have to admit to having hard feelings toward it. Now, I find that the poor dog was apparently trying to escape its abuse and starvation. Missy’s food will help feed that same dog.

It’s too complicated for me to comprehend, but it feels like karma in action.

Challenge #18 directed us to create three images of specific sizes that would hang together, each individually whole yet related to the others and all tied together with one word. I started trying to find a theme and pulled up a lot of keyword photos but nothing was sparking. 
 
I decided to let the images come to me, so I randomly browsed through my favorites file and pulled three that jumped out at me and then looked for some common element that tied them together. The above image … Findings … were all things that took my breath away when I found them ... a mural in San Miguel de Allende by Sego, the inside of a cathedral (San Francisco, I think), and a big horn skull hanging on a fence in New Mexico superimposed on a high desert sunrise in the eastern Sierra where I lived for two years.
 
I started to use the theme word "golden" because each image has a golden tone, but love the idea of finding unexpected beauty. I also love the feeling of letting things come to me, letting stories unfold, being open to the unexpected regardless of whether or not I would choose to have those things come to me.

There are streams of thought that hold that we can affect what comes our way ... we can attract good things, magnetize or manifest connections and abundance. I like those thoughts and believe that when we think like that, we change ourselves and that affects our own actions and our surroundings. I don't know if it goes beyond that, but I do know that we are in charge of how we react to what comes our way. We can make art out of the materials we have at hand. We can create life and love from the circumstances around us.

"Findings" feels like a word that helps me remember to honor what comes my way.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 17


Esperanza, digital artistry muse of story
What’s your story?

Sebastian Michaels in his 21 Days to Creative Abundance program paraphrases a quote from Tony Robbins, saying: The only thing preventing you from getting where you want to be is the STORY you are telling yourself.

There are a few common stories we artists tell ourselves:
  1. I’m not a real artist; I didn’t go to art school.
  2. I’m not a real artist; I’m just a weekend dabbler.
  3. I’m not a real artist; I can’t draw.
  4. I’m not a real artist; I got rejected by a gallery.
  5. I’m not a real artist; I’ve never sold anything.
  6. I’m not a real artist; my work doesn’t have a profound message.
  7. I’m not a real artist; I just mess around with photos.

I bet we could go on. My particular story was that I wasn’t born creative or artistic. For years I knew that was true because no one ever made over my childhood artwork or called me creative. So, for thirty years after I left home, I let that story dictate my life.

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until I turned 50 that I began to entertain the thought that I might be creative. And, this is the ridiculous part, I was teaching creativity by then and telling my classes that *everyone* is creative (which I truly believe) while the little voice in my head whispered … “except you. You are the exception to the rule."

I tried a multitude of media … drawing, watercolor, pastels (oh what a mess I made there!), acrylics, colored pencils and markers. Bupkis. I did manage to do a few collages that I liked but my skills sucked and there were always wrinkles, air bubbles and loose edges in each piece.

Then, I discovered digital collage and my story began to crack. I could do this. So, I started cycling through the other stories one by one. I think I’m done now. I am making art. I am an artist. It’s not my call whether it’s good or bad. It just is. Just as I just am. 

When we think about it, these stories sound pretty silly. If someone plays golf on a sunny weekend, we call her a golfer, even if she doesn’t break 100 … even if, heaven forbid, she doesn’t keep score. People who cook are cooks, people who sing are singers,  people who make art are artists.

So, what new story shall we tell ourselves? I think I’ll choose this one ... feel free to claim it for your own:  
I’m an artist. I make art that sometimes thrills me and sometimes frustrates me. However, I am deeply grateful that I get to participate in this process of putting bits and pieces of the real world together to create what calls to me from my imagination. I am a digital artist.
Challenge #17 was to rework a previous piece, print it, and give it to someone. I picked a piece that I thought was finished, and, it was, mostly. However, while working on it, it developed a new identity.

I knew this image somehow represented my muse, but today, I decided that it is the first in a series of muses for digital artists. (I may be getting a bit carried away with this whole “series” and “projects” idea.)

Digital artistry operates on the same principles as other art, so the Muses who watch over this process each have their own area they protect and inspire. And, just like the sister-goddesses of Greek Myth, there are nine digital artistry muses.

The first we’re meeting is the digital artistry muse of story. Her name is Esperanza (Hope) because sometimes all the elements of an image come together to create a story, and, in that moment, hope is born into the world. 
 
This post was prompted by Sebastian Michael's "21 Days to Creative Living" and "Photoshop Artistry" programs. More information here.

 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 16


Estudia
Weird Story: Many years ago, I attended a Consciousness & Business conference in Puerto Vallarta. While there, I met a Mexican guy who recommended a Siddha Yoga group in Santa Barbara, where I lived at the time. I really liked it and went to their New Year’s celebration weekend.

One day, after getting up early for meditation, by mid-afternoon I was ready for a nap. Just as I was falling asleep, a word popped into my head and I forced myself to write it down and then went to sleep.

When I woke up, I found the note and the word was “estudia.” At the time, I knew a smattering of Spanish, enough to know that it meant “study” … or could mean “es tu día,” it’s your day. I thought it was interesting but just tucked it away as a “who knows?"

The challenge I worked on for today was about creating a visual reminder of a resolution important for our art. Since I had already decided that studying Spanish a critical skill for my art, I decided that needed to be the reminder piece.. 

I have long loved Mary Oliver’s line, “One day, you finally knew what you had to do and began …,” so I started playing with those words, stripping them down to their essence and turning them into Spanish, changing tenses, adjusting the person, trying to find the right look and sound. For most of the time, I was using the infinitive for study: estudiar. Then I decided it had to be a command and looked up that tense only to find: estudia.

Suddenly, in that moment, that nappy word on a scrap of paper came back to me. Weird? Coincidence? A message from the Universe or just a word? I’m choosing to take it as a confirmation that I should be studying Spanish and, perhaps, it has just taken me a long and winding path to get here.

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


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

21 Days to Creative Abundance - Day 15

María Félix's Star
On more than one occasion since I’ve been here on Lake Chapala, I’ve heard about María Félix, the beautiful Mexican movie star. Last week I finally made it to Hotel Real de Chapala where they have many photos of her and a large wall painting which I photographed for the image above. I asked who the artist was but no one seemed to know.

What caught my imagination
through all of this wasn’t what she accomplished, but what she refused. She was the darling of the golden age of Mexican cinema, starring in 47 films, but never went to Hollywood, as did her contemporary Dolores del Rio. La Doña, as María was known, said it was because Hollywood only offered her “Indian” parts. However, some say it was because she refused to learn English. Either way, she never achieved her Hollywood star.

In our 21 Days to Creative Abundance program, Sebastian Michaels states that we have to be clear about our artistic vision … what do we want to BE as an artist?

It is clear to me that I want to capture some of the color and magic of Mexico, both in images and words. To do that, I need better skills with photography and Photoshop. However, this weekend I recognized another skill, or lack thereof, that limits my progress. 

Ceremonial headdress of the drummer.
I was at a celebration at the lake where a religious celebration of water was taking place. It was a sensory feast: colorful outfits, tall feathered headdresses, drumming and ankle seed pods creating rhythms as the dancers danced. Later there was a long poem dramatically read by a woman in indigenous clothing. My eyes were filled with the color and motion but my ears were filled with cotton.

Because my Spanish skills are still minimal, I wasn’t getting the meaning and depth of the ceremony. I had an opportunity to talk to people about their ceremony … except I didn’t have the language so I remain with dozens of unanswered questions.

It dawned on me that what will make a huge difference to my art is being able to understand more about what I’m seeing and experiencing. To gain those insights, I need to speak Spanish. Somewhat like La Doña, if I refuse to do the work necessary to become fluent in Spanish, I will be limiting myself to English subjects or to a superficial take on what I find here in Mexico.

Studying Spanish is critical to my art. This program of learning more about the artistry of Photoshop has been so exciting that I’ve spent most of my time submerged in layers, extractions and blend modes. I’ve neglected my Spanish studies because they don’t have that same “pop” of accomplishment.

It is easy in most places in Mexico to get by with English, so drifting along, distracted by all the attractions, becomes normal. Sebastian reminds me that, if I’m clear about what I want my art life to be, I have to refuse to let lack of language skill undermine that creative life and limit my art.

Mi nuevo compromiso: estudiaré mucho! 

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