Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Changing the question


Message from the road. (More at Digital Art Gallery above)
“What keeps you from creating the life you want to live every day?

When I originally wrote about that question, it seemed rather straight forward. Life seems to have a mind of its own.

Last night, three of us contemplated that question and others as we joined together for what we’re calling Juntos Salon … juntos being the Spanish word for "together." My reading for the evening was the blog post which introduced the question. One of my friends responded that we’re already creating the life we want. Her meaning was if we wanted a different life, we would be doing things differently. Therefore, this must be the life we want.

All my bells and whistles started chiming … but … but … but!

All three of us are writer/artists. The pieces we read circled around living life as artists, living lives of choice and creativity. We are each single, older women who have chosen to move to Mexico within the past year, leaving friends, family and our familiar worlds behind. We are making our art, actively living a life we’ve chosen, and grateful for the opportunity to live in this vibrant village in a country that has captured our hearts.

And, yet. And, yet, some mornings I find myself mired in Facebook. Don’t get me wrong; I love Facebook and I honor the service it does the world … for free! However, I want Facebook in my life like salt, not as a main entree, yet I find myself checking the number of likes on a post, feeling compelled to acknowledge the posts of others, and responding to the many dramatic announcements related to the endlessly ongoing flood of politics.

According to my friend, this is what I’m doing; therefore, it is the life I’m choosing, the life I want. She’s right, of course. If I truly wanted a different life, I would do things differently. There really isn’t any wiggle room. As Yoda says: there is no “try.” There is only do or don’t do.

It seems like a whole lot of creating the life we want comes down to articulating what we want, which means being okay with “wanting.” In our culture, asking what we “want” seems to spark answers that are primarily material: houses, cars, clothes; or status: achievements, titles, certificates, memberships, and so on. Wanting is also tied together with a sense of lack. Since I want something, it must mean I feel incomplete without it.

Wanting appears to be in conflict with the spiritual belief that we have enough, that we are enough, that everything is perfect. There is general agreement that wanting is driven by ego. So, is wanting to live a creative life just another aspect of the ego? When I thought of all the “doing” involved in that definition of living life as an artist, I began to wonder if I were asking the wrong question.

Another reading from last night’s salon was about reframing our trials and tribulations and recognizing them as perfect situations for helping us achieve our purpose of life. My friend said she was here in this lifetime to explore love and wrote about reframing her story as one that has given her the experiences necessary to help her truly understand love.

I could feel my nerves tingle in alignment as I recognized that I was still looking for that clear statement of purpose for my life. I have long told my story as one of disconnection and aloneness but this morning I realized I could replaced those descriptors with the idea of “solitude.” Suddenly, I recognized the amazing gift of time I was given, not only as a child, but also now in my later years. As I thought about my journey, what brought it all into focus was the idea that my life purpose is the development of my personal consciousness, my true-self rather than my ego-self.

When this whole line of thinking began, I defined the life that I wanted to create as one of learning and growth and being immersed in art and beauty. That sounds good. However, if my life purpose is developing my true-self, it leads to a broader definition, one less about doing and more about being. And, all of that led me back to thinking about the place of art in my life.

The piece the third member of our little salon read compared an art class to life. She is taking a watercolor class where the instructor forbids using black, brown or gray. However, outside of class, she had done both a gray-tone study and a color study and brought both of them with her to our salon. Her reading explored how both of them had helped her see more clearly about herself and the world around her. We talked a lot about the *dark* aspects of life that help us appreciate the radiant colors.

As each of these readings built on and deepened the others, more thoughts began to churn about the original question and my responses to it. I realized the deep dive into photo artistry that I’ve been doing for the past two months has excited and thrilled me, focusing me on my life as an artist. When I thought about the original question: What is keeping me from creating art every day? my answer was only about art and the making of it. Now I realize that art is one of the joys of my life, but it is not the purpose of my life. Maybe there's a different question.

When I changed the question to “What will help me further develop my personal consciousness, my true-self?” it was like shining a beacon onto my path. The word that showed in the dim light was “Accept” ... accept that life is perfect, giving me the experiences I need. Accept whatever is and be present with it. Accept Life.

This pricked me with dissatisfaction. 
 
Accepting is not doing. I wanted something to do, a list, a project, a goal. I wanted something to *want.* Twenty-five years ago, I  took a class that had the concepts of “doing” and “being” at its core. It befuddled me. I am a doer. I have a lot of energy for doing things, making art, rearranging cupboards, writing blog posts. Does accepting mean not doing?

Obviously, it’s a good thing I have been given all this time to try to figure this stuff out. And, as my physical self began to demand breakfast, these words came ...

Do what brings you joy.
Accept the results of that joy.
Be grateful for everything.

My guess is there will be more.

About the Image

All of this lead to the image above which developed from a photo taken on a spring day on one of the back roads of the Sierra foothills. The manipulated sign came from travels in Mexico, taken because I collect words and signs that end in -eria, designating businesses of different types. This one originally said, “La Mezcaleria,” as in a place that sells mescal.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday Create: Are you creating your life seriously?


Tumbling
This is the first in a series of posts loosely based on Sebastian Michaels’ photo artistry program: Awake. One of the things I love about Sebastian and this program is that it’s about living the artistic life instead of just being about the techniques of art.

Life is busy. It takes a lot of time and effort to support the necessities of life, and, for many people, that means that our creativity gets put on the back burner. I didn’t recognize it then but there was a gift hidden in the chaos of my husband’s death and the coming financial crisis of 2008: TIME.

Desperate for distraction, I launched myself into a digital collage workshop focused on photography and Photoshop. What I found was the fit I had been looking for in my travels through   cooking, gardening, various musical instruments, needlepoint, quilting, drawing, painting, and mosaics. Finally, something I could actually do!

And, while I have loved making digital art and even slipped into a couple of galleries and eventually managed to say the words, “I am an artist,” without completely choking, I still never took it seriously. The great gift of the course that I’m taking with Sebastian is that he is asking … nay demanding … that we take our art and our artist selves seriously. It makes me tremble with fear and excitement.

Replace the idea of "art" with "creativity" and I think this same idea touches every single one of us.  While I am no longer a religious person, I stumbled across these words from Genesis when I was a child and have contemplated them extensively all the years since.

     Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … 

At first what fascinated me was the plural pronoun, but then the question that became my real focus was how we were created in the likeness of God … the Creator. Surely not in the sense of a frail human body or tempestuous emotional likeness. Where I wound up was that we are all creators (small c), creating our own lives, our own family and homes, our own stories, our own beauty. Creativity is the way we love the world as well as ourselves.

You are creative and you can decide to take your creativity seriously. Even if you don’t want to practice any sort of art, writing, music or dance, you can take the process of creating your life seriously … regardless of where you are, who you are, how old you are, how smart you are, or how physically fit you are.

This week, Sebastian asked the question  What keeps you from creating art every day? Change it to “What keeps you from creating the life you want to live every day?” and think about how you would answer it.

Before I opened email or Facebook, I sat with that question and began to answer it. Here is the resulting conversation of my thoughts in yellow and the answers in bold.

     — Not believing that it matters; that I matter.
First of all, it matters to you. This is your life and you want to live it as an artist. If it doesn’t matter to you, it will never matter to anyone else. It is your job to live the live you want and share your joy of creation with your audience … which could mean just one other friend who likes what you’re doing.
     — Believing it’s too late to be an artist.
Ummm … Grandma Moses? You’re still breathing and all your parts are working. This is now. Now is never too late for to do or be what you want right now, even if it means just taking the first step in that direction.
     — I didn’t go to art school.
Yes you did. You’ve been in art school your whole life, assembling impressions, feelings, and insights. You’re in art school right now. If you’re learning and practicing the craft you want to master, you’re in school.
     — Yeah, but, that’s different.
Why? Because you’re not going to get a diploma or a certificate? Because some great man hasn’t given you his seal of approval? Because some museum isn’t begging you to come exhibit your wonders? Who the frog cares? If you want to make art, make art, and love it like it’s your first born child.     
     — Okay. Okay. I get it. Stop whining and make art. Right?
Right! Go forth and prosper, Grasshopper.
       — eye roll, grinning

I would love to hear your thoughts about how you would answer that question.

"Its time to claim your place in this world.
Go create something extraordinary that shows that."
— Sebastian Michaels

About “Tumbling"

Sebastian Michaels suggests that we do what he calls “finger exercises,” … simple quick digital sketches … warm-ups, like doing scales on an instrument. “Tumbling” was inspired by a painting I saw in a hair salon. I wanted to play with spheres so this started out as a simple exercise. Then, it got serious. You never know where play will wind up. How could you “play” with creating your life?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Art gallery launch … Everyday Beauty

Three Fledglings

After two fairly intensive months of study and contemplation about what I want to share with my art … and thanks to the brilliant Awake program for digital artists begun by Sebastian Michaels … I am ready to launch my new digital art gallery and create a new look here.

This blog is almost nine years old and has been my rudder for the rather chaotic past nine years. During this time I have lost parents, friends, homes, financial security and my beloved Missy. I have moved seven times across three states and two countries. One constant across all that change has been photography and digital art. It has introduced me to amazing artists, new friends, and opened up aspects of myself that I never knew existed.

Every day I am grateful for the opportunity to be an artist. This kid from Kansas never even contemplated this possibility.

You can visit the new digital art gallery by clicking here or on “Digital Art Gallery” above. This is where all my new art will be exhibited and discussed. If you are so inclined, it also offers three different print options: canvas wrap, dibond metal, and photo mount on acrylic, and various sizes.

About: Three Fledglings

It was almost dark when I heard the fledglings carrying on from their nest under the eaves of a shop on the village street. I could see the nest, but it was an awkward angle and the light was dim at best. But, they were so cute. So, while their parents watched warily, I leaned the camera against the wall, pointed straight up and set it on multiple shots. It's not one of those breath-taking shots that real bird photographers get, but it warmed my heart.

I feel like I'm one of those fledglings ... flight is within my grasp but this nest is so comfy. It reminds me of the Mercedes ad from 2000 ...
Live. A lot. 
Unleash yourself upon the world and go! 
Go now! And fly free in the frowning face of convention. 
Giggle.  No laugh.  No, howl as if you've never grown up. 
Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, this is it! 
Take it all in.  Yes every last rose and every single breath.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Are these the two most important questions in art?


Message on a Bowl
"Creativity is how you love the world."

That thought was in my head when I awoke this morning … a thought not just for me but for everyone. Whether it’s raising a child, planting a garden, cooking a meal, painting a landscape, singing a song, prepping for a complicated surgery, or planning a family vacation, bringing our full selves into whatever we’re doing is an act of creativity … an act of love.

Yesterday, I watched a video from humanitarian photographer David duChemin where he asked us to think about what value our art brings to the world and who our “audience” is. I think the questions are useful for any of us, regardless of what we’re creating because it brings others into the creative process. And, we're all creating, every day.

Creativity is that somewhat mystical process of bringing something forth from ourselves in service of someone or something else. It’s not just adding purple to apples because they would be different. It's asking how something within ourselves might create a new value that serves ourselves, our family, our community, the world? 

That means we have to know ourselves … and who we’re serving. What is it in ourselves that we want to bring forth and what value does the world need that might be served in some way by our offering. It doesn’t have to be curing cancer or solving the climate crisis. It could be as small, but important, as a moment of beauty and comfort for a loved one.

Considering my own art and photography in light of these thoughts made me remember a story about the great wilderness photographer Galen Rowell. One of his most famous photos shows a rainbow ending at the Buddhist Potala Palace in Tibet. The story of how he took this iconic shot included him running miles to be in place at the exact right time to capture the rainbow touching the monastery.

I am thankful that we have photographers such as Rowell who show us bits of the world we would never ever see ourselves. However, as much as I love their photographs, I know that I will never be one of those photographers who takes us deep into the wilderness, shows us glorious landscapes, or breath-taking action events. 

All of this threw me into reflection. While most of my photography and art has been in reaction to wherever I was and whatever I was seeing, it now seems time to answer the questions: What do I want to share with the world? What legacy do I want to leave? And reminds me: I do not have time to not have time.

I don’t think I’ve been ready to address those questions before now because I didn’t take myself seriously as an artist. I was just messing about occasionally creating something that pleased me. Now, however, at 71, I realize it’s time to accept the next step on this journey … intentional art. 
 
Creepy scary, but exciting. And, this has nothing to do with talent or “art,” it’s simply about me bringing forth pieces of myself in the most joyous fashion possible and with the intention of serving myself and others.
A momentary hiccup: wouldn’t it be better if I used my time and talents to resist the strange political happenings in the world … or serve in any of the many humanitarian organizations here where I now live? There is a wonderful world of activism art … but, sadly, that doesn’t seem to call to me.

I wandered through the maze of Googleland trying to find an answer to this hiccup and found an article by Jessica Davidson titled “Being Creative in a Mad World.” It’s a great article which I think she boiled down perfectly when she said, "The only way to respond to such rampant insanity and myopic destruction is to create.” There are a thousand ways to create a better world. However, the one that seems to match my skill set, passion, and temperament is photography and digital art.
She also says: As you create, so the world becomes.

When I read that, a voice in my head said … see, permission to do what you love. The world will go on. It might even be better … you’ll be one less person not doing what they love.

So back to figuring out what my intentional art is. Writers are told to write from what they know and love, even if it means inventing a world of simple folk chasing about the world after a golden ring. What has thrilled me since first picking up a camera more than 50 years ago was capturing color and beauty, big and small, especially the bits that often go unnoticed, with the primary “unnoticer” being me. 

Gradually, photography made me more aware of the world: the colors, textures, lines, contrasts and patterns. Sometimes I think I was born blind and have only gradually come to see the amazing diversity and beauty of the world around me. I’m probably never going to see Galen Rowell’s Tibetan monastery or most of the other wonders of the world. However, if I can learn to see the beauty in everyday things, maybe that will be enough.

The Spanish language has a beautiful word: cotidiana, which basically means ordinary, everyday things and customs. And, the word for beauty is belleza, Belleza Cotidiana. Everyday Beauty. If I can focus on seeing the beauty around me and bringing it into art that brings me joy and connects with others who possibly have that sudden shock of recognition of beauty in an ordinary thing, maybe that’s suficiente (enough).

Message on a Bowl  … the sticky note says: I don’t want to go ‘way over on the East side. I’ll be late again. Cliff. A minor mystery ... who is the note for? Where didn't he want to go and why? Why is he late ... again? Who is sitting there looking at the bowl, and what is she/he feeling?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Intend Peace

On September 15, 2009, I began this blog. At the time, it was called Peaceful Legacies and it helped me stay peaceful through challenging times. As my life changed, the identity of the blog changed and now it is changing again. Once again it began when a piece of art resurfaced ... art that was created as I thought about my intentions.

Here it is again with my renewed commitment to these intentions:

Trust Love
Create Beauty
Seek Truth
Give Freely
Receive Easily

Listen Generously
See Goodness
Honor Self
Laugh Often
Practice Joy

Be thankful for EVERYTHING!



Parallel Parenting

Update: This post was originally written in 2011. I am delighted to report that it is the second-most non-Rumi poetry related blog post I've written. I hope that means that it touched some families and, perhaps, made things a little better. The parents involved in my personal situation have matured and developed a much more peaceful approach to their shared parenting, which gladdens my heart. That prompts this repost.

The link included in the original post is no longer functional, so I am recommending a helpful article:

 ****

Yesterday I spent the morning in family court as part of the ongoing custody fight over my granddaughter.  This is the third time I've spent a morning there, watching the human drama play out.  This time was supposed to be the "trial" with testimony and witnesses and all. However, the court didn't have a courtroom.  I thought the lawyer was kidding when he said it was a fifty-fifty chance that we would get a courtroom.  He wasn't.  We didn't and a couple of weeks from now, the lawyers will meet to set a new court date and some time in the future everyone will show up again to spin the courtroom roulette wheel.  The system is broken so the chaos plays on.

But, while I was sitting there watching the fallout of broken relationships, it made me once again wonder why we don't spend more money helping people make better life decisions and choices.  We obviously can't afford the system that we've created.  And, why don't we create a process where parents are forced to take responsibility for their decisions?  Why can't they sit in a room with a skilled arbitrator until they come up with a decision they can all live with? 

Better still:  people should have to go through a training program and get certified before they would ever be allowed to have children!!!
A friend of mine teaches a course called "Parallel Parenting" which teaches parents how to end the war.  In some areas it is a court mandated course but not here. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Desert Wind blows right through me


Desert Wind - Click for Gallery info.
There is a song sung by Jevetta Steele that has haunted me for years. I wasn’t thinking about it this morning when I began this piece but it quickly began to play through my head. The song, “Calling You," comes from the movie “Bagdad Cafe” and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1988.

As I worked on this piece, a range of bright, luscious colors showed up and that’s where I wanted it to go. However, sometimes these things have a mind of their own and a more subdued and almost melancholy palette insisted on getting its own way and also demanded a title that wasn’t what I wanted. 
I wonder who’s in charge here?

I also wonder how the brain works. What takes it down these rabbit holes and is there a reason for its venturing into places I don’t seem to have conscious control over? Oh, I could force it into lock step with my druthers but I kind of like these side trips that make me think about things in a different way. I guess that’s part of the fun of art … never knowing where the muse and I are going to wind up. 
Who needs drugs anyway?

You can hear the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk7mCmgzpPE

To see more of Joyce Wycoff's art, click here.
 

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 malecĂłn, 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.