An Artist's Quest for "Soul" in a Chaotic World—by InnerSpirit

This is my InnerSpirit blog page...a page of reflection...inquiry...
and artistic questions about myself, my life, and the world around me. A place for my own personal contemplation of my emotions, my actions, my art, my spiritual journey and how they all intertwine and influence each other. I hope that you check it out, think a little about your life and the many creative things that you might be engaged do those fit into your life and impact the various aspects of your own life? Let's reflect together!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reveling In The Treasures Of Simplicity

I was having some trouble sleeping last night, I have that sometimes...maybe that is just the fun process of getting older. After laying in bed for hours without being able to get to sleep, I went to the internet for some possible solutions to my dilemma and found 10 Ways To Cure Insomnia. I started using this list to evaluate if I had done my part in preparing myself for adequate and healthy sleep patterns. I have found that as I have gotten older, along with a number of other significant changes, I have noticed that it is even more important that I get an adequate amount of sleep. No longer can I run on 5 hours or less of sleep and still be at my best (I suppose even when I was younger I was not ALWAYS in top form with little sleep...but maybe now it matters more to me how I feel, and how I react to the world?).

Checking The List
As I went through the list I realized that I was doing pretty good on 1-4, and 7. In addition, 8-9 did not apply since I am single, and #10 was a little hard to maintain since I have been working full-time while being a graduate student in what is now my second master degree. So I blew 10, was that my problem? Hard to say. As far as #5 and #6 went, I found these to be the most helpful. Even though I often read before falling asleep (usually a textbook is a great resource for that), most nights I do pray, and I listen to relaxing music sometimes also. This list seemed to be great for attempting to GET to sleep, but it seemed to not provide me with what to do when I already could NOT sleep. As I reread #5 and #6, I realized that I had to stop fighting the fact that I could not sleep which was causing me to get frustrated and anxious.

Mandala To The Rescue
Once I let myself off the hook by realizing that most of the things on the 10 Ways To Cure Insomnia list I was pretty good about, I decided to take the pray, meditate, and paper suggestions of #5 and #6 to heart and I decided to start another Mandala for my Circles Of Time Mandala Series at 2:00 a.m. Well, ironically when I was done I felt peaceful, relaxed and I was ready for sleep even though it was 3:00 a.m. I have learned that being creative does not always come at the most convenient times, but I have found if I can just let it flow as it does come, it can provide the right comfort at the "right time".

Words To Live By
The free association words that I wrote along the outside of this Mandala proved to be very insightful to me. They read "The power of HUMILITY reins...RELINQUISH control and seek and you will find. Revel in the treasures of SIMPLICITY—SEEK NOT—What is not for you to find...knowingly surrender". Wow! These words really spoke to me. I wondered to myself how much of my inability to fall asleep was around trying to plan, control and otherwise foretell or imagine what my future career, school and life in general, held for me. I often find that I spend way too much time in thoughts about the future and a good amount of time dwelling in my mind about the past. I am consciously trying to remain in the present and to experience life as it unfolds with God's plan. It's hard when you are guilty of being a "Control Freak" about some things. I am definitely getting some messages about learning to relinquish that control and learning to live more simply and to question less the things that I don't really need to be concerned with. paves the way if we listen.

We Are All In This Together
Do you suffer from difficulties getting to sleep or waking up at odd times in the night? What do you do to help yourself get to sleep or get back to sleep? Do you ever try anything creative such as creating art, playing the guitar, writing in your journal, creating poems or songs? Have these types of right brain activities helped you to quiet your left brain "analytical" processing that might be keeping you up and making you anxious or frustrated? I would love to hear your thoughts about my Mandala message, and any of your own personal stories about sleep or your lack of it. I would welcome your comments and I may even find some other ideas of how I might relax in the night for the future.

Blessings and Love,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bouncing With The Glow Of The Holiday

Once again, I am posting from the Art Every Day Month Challenge, this was my art activity for Day #27, which was the day after Thanksgiving. I have only three more posts and I will have it all up for everyone to see. I am slowly trudging along, slow but steady as they say. I would rather trudge ahead slowly, than not move at here I go!

This year I was lucky to be invited to one of the best Thanksgiving celebrations that I have ever attended. After many consecutive years of spending this holiday with my family (I am a prime target each year for ALL holidays now that I have officially been single for close to four years), I chose to do something different this year. During the years that I was in a relationship, the holidays were negotiable as to what ones were spent at what parents house. I know this may sound bad, but I liked the variety that this arrangement provided. Since I have been single, it is just assumed that I will have "nowhere" to go, I will just be alone and depressed, sitting at home eating Kraft macaroni and cheese and drinking myself into a stupor. Maybe that is over exaggerating, but I sometimes wonder. This year I chose to add some spice back into the event when I accepted an invitation from a couple of very good friends of mine to spend the holiday with them and their very large family of four daughters, their husbands, their grandchildren, a brother and his wife, and an elderly uncle from out-of-town. This was a lot of people, but it was "glorious"! So different from my small family.

A Bouncing Ball Of Energy
After such a wonderfully exciting and fun holiday, I was exuberant the following day! I got up, shot off to the gym, treated myself to a hazelnut latte, and came home to create my Art Every Day piece, Day #27. Once again, I chose to play with the spontaneity of the moment. I took out a big pad of 18x24 inch paper, pulled out some big bottles of tempera paints (you know, the ones that we got to use as kids in school or art class) and squirted out some big blobs of each color on some paper plates and went to work. What I ended up with kind of reminded me of a big ball of energy, so I called it "Energy Ball". So original you are probably thinking. Yes, that's why us artists get paid the big bucks! (Refrain your laughter to a minimum please).

Glowing Emotions
Anyway, I thought it really captured my emotion for that day in visual form. I had lots of fun with it at least. Have you ever tried to just paint the emotion you are feeling at a particular moment of your life? Or have you asked yourself what certain emotions might look like if you had to represent them in painted form or some other art medium of your choice? This exploration can become a finished art piece, or it can just be a nice way to begin a painting session since it allows some connection to begin with that place in your heart and soul where our true art originates. Once the connection is ignited, or the wick is lit, it will continue to burn into whatever you choose to do next. Try it and let me know how it goes for you by posting a comment or a link if you would like.

Blessings and Love,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swimming Upstream

I am still trying to catch up on my blog entries from this past week, the holiday time and my daughter coming home from college has set me back a bit. Today is actually the last day of Art Every Day Month Challenge, but I am still posting art that I have created in the days prior to today. What can you do? Eventually I will be caught up. I am practicing cutting myself some slack and just doing what I can do and trusting that it will be okay. I don't have to measure of to anyone else's progress chart but my own.

Playing With Ink and String
As I mentioned in my last post, I used the couple days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday to do some loose, fun artwork that would keep my stress level down and provide some relaxation into my life. I created this piece for AEDM Day#25. As you may remember, I was picking my daughter up from college in Chicago on the 24th, so that day was very long and the following day, I was pretty tired. I began this piece by using a technique that I learned from an art therapy mentor of mine that involves dipping cotton string into India ink and creating various abstract shapes and spatters onto the paper. By dragging, dropping, spinning and laying the ink drenched string onto my paper I created some very abstract black shapes without any preconceived notion of what the creation might become. This aspect is very much like the Scribble Drawing "Flowering Lady" post, they both allow the artist to work very intuitively, which is just lovely for relaxing and letting go of your "inner critics" inhibitions.

Gazing Into The Water
Once the India ink was completely dry, I tried to find a picture that wanted to emerge from the abstract shapes. I began to see a striped fish first and I started to add some pastel colors to it. As I worked, I found a seahorse and another little pink fish come out to greet me. I finished the piece by adding some green seaweed and some nice blue swirls in the water that surrounded my sea creatures. In the end, I felt really pleased with my creation. I was kind of surprised that I was lively enough to actually create anything after all the driving the day before. If you look closely, all three of the sea creatures do have pretty droopy, sleepy eyes...especially the little pink one at the bottom. Hmm...something always carries into our work from our personal experiences. I have gotten caught back up on my sleep now.

More Art Every Day Month pieces to come!

Blessings and Love,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Freeing The Flowering Woman From The Scribble

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up around the corner, I chose to use the days prior to the big day as a way to just have some fun and relax with my art. I created this fun scribble drawing for my Art Every Day Month Challenge Day #23. I was going to be leaving the following morning of the 24th to pick up my daughter for her college holiday break from DePaul University, in Chicago, and I knew that day would be a long and tiring one. The drive was about 3.5 hours one way and then we had to pack up her luggage for a five week holiday stay, and then we drove the 3.5 hours back to Grand Rapids, MI. It's not really too bad of a drive, I used to live in Chicago for 10 years and I don't mind traveling there, but it makes for a long day to go there and back. I planned that I would not be able to create art for Day #24 due to this traveling day.

Squiggling To Music
I chose to use my body a bit when I created the blue scribble that this picture was formed from. I have found with my clients and workshop participants that doing body movements prior to creating art pieces will often open up a nice creative flow for them and it worked for me this day too. I danced and frolicked around, probably looking a little silly that morning if anyone other than my dog and cat had been around, but they are used to my crazy antics so they just slept with one eye open just to make sure nothing got out of hand. I cranked the old iPod up to some favorite tune and went to work. I also like to close my eyes when I do the scribble so that I am not inclined to force an image or to prejudge what is going on with the strokes.

Color Choices Are Interesting To Contemplate
I also like to pay attention to the color that I choose to make my initial scribble with. I tell those that I do this technique with that they need to sit with the colors that are available and see what color calls out to them to be used that day. I usually get some odd looks from some of them, especially if they are not used to being so intuitive with their art materials. But they usually humor me in the end.

Blue was my color choice of the day. I usually have a sheet of various color meanings that my clients/workshop participants can look at when they are trying to see if the color they chose for their scribble has any inner meaning for them. Since color is very subjective, much like the art itself, I like to have a list of some of the more common associations that people have had with each color and then I tell the artist to read through the list and if something jumps out and "resonates" with them they might want to pay attention to that or they may just want to jot down their own thoughts that they might associate with their color choice. I treat this also as a very intuitive process. I usually reserve this color reflection until the rest of the drawing is completed, so I just tell them in the beginning to respond to the color that calls to them and then to create their scribble.

Some of the meanings of blue that resonated with me on this day were loyalty, security and rebirth. It was kind of interesting later when I reflected on this color choice, that I had chosen to add a flower to the hand of this woman. Rebirth and flowering into something new?

The Final Drawing Emerges
As I squinted at the scribble and looked for a hidden image, much like the watercolor technique I did a few posts back, I saw this woman quickly emerge and she instantly grabbed my attention. I loved her style and something about her attitude was very appealing and strong for me to draw that day. In the end I added the blue lines to the scribble to form a flower for her to hold. Maybe it was the size of her nose that suggested that additional element for me? I'm not sure, but either way, when I was done with the drawing and I reflected on it's presence, I felt that she was a strong messenger for me. She had a very distinct style about her and she was not afraid to show it, it was what made her unique and she seemed to love her life. Hmm...I thought to myself, maybe I need to let more of my style out and embrace my unique qualities and gifts. We all have something to bring to this world. We should not be afraid of who we really are.

Do you ever try and hide your uniqueness sometimes behind the ways that society tells you that you should act, look, behave, etc. Try and let the "inner you" shine more openly, and see if you feel brighter and lighter because of it. We can all benefit from the unique nuances of each and every person in this world of diversity that we live in.


Catching Up After The Holiday

I have gotten pretty behind on my Art Every Day Month Challenge with Thanksgiving falling during this month. I am going to be spending the rest of the weekend catching up on my blog and showing the various AEDM things that I have been working on. I apologize for the fact that I am not going to be posting all of my creative undertakings in chronological order. I am choosing to post the Mandala that I did today for my Circles Of Time Mandala Series (Day #28 of Art Every Day Month), and then I am going to go back and blog post some of the other art pieces that I have been working on for the last few days.

Relaxing Into The Creative Flow
This morning was a good morning to just relax with my coffee, some nice Joe Henderson: The State of the Tenor saxophone music playing, and taking advantage of the sun shining into my dining room (a rare event the last few weeks, since it has been dark, overcast, and sometimes raining the last few weeks here). It was a nice morning time to recuperate from the last few days. I just allowed myself to enjoy creating the flowing lines and the nice little design elements that began to form on this piece as it went along. In the end I wrote the following free association words around the Mandala. [ • Rain • Robins • Respite & Relaxation • Random • Relinquish • Rejuvenate • Replenish • Recharge • Responding • Rebirth • Respite • ]

The words seem fitting after a long, and eventful Thanksgiving Holiday. I had a great time with friends and I enjoyed a wonderfully decadent dinner, but I was very tired on Friday and I am just now starting to feel like I am coming back to life. I guess my Mandala message today was to spend time "rejuvenating my soul and my body", much like spring rain and robins rejuvenate the winter landscape...I will have to remember to treat myself well today.

Treat yourself to something that will rejuvenate you after your own holiday time. Take a bubble bath, get a massage or find someone who is willing to give you one for free, take a swim at your health club if you are a member, go to a museum/art gallery, take in a movie, or just treat yourself to a nap in the middle of the day. We owe it to ourselves to pamper our soul and body after a stressful, tiring, or just an eventful holiday with friends and family. You owe it to yourself...INDULGE! Feel free to share how you chose to spend this indulgence time with yourself, I would love to hear of what other things you are doing that I might like to treat myself to during the next holiday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Fun in Douglas, Michigan

I decided yesterday that my Art Every Day Month Challenge for Day #21 was going to be "feeding my soul" so that I would have some things tucked away in there for future creativity. I was fortunate that several of my friends suggested that the five of us take a run over to Douglas, which is a small town by Saugatuck, MI (where my favorite beach on Lake Michigan is located, if anyone is interested). The trip is only about 35 minutes from my house in Grand Rapids, MI so it is a quick getaway...and during the holidays, the little shops and galleries are really decorated quite nicely as you can see from the photos...with the exception of the "creepy window dressing man" as we called him, that you will find below. I had to take a photo of him AND the three clown heads art piece that was in a gallery that we went in. There was certainly "something for every taste and interest".

I had a wonderful time laughing with good friends and we had a fantastic dinner at The Wild Dog Grille shown above with the wreaths lining the windows. The name of the restaurant is not any indication of the elegant menu that it holds and all of the luscious wines that they offer to their patrons. My dinner was Butternut Squash Ravioli in a Marsales Sauce with walnuts and onion complimented by a lovely glass of Malbec wine. I was in heaven. Let the holidays begin.

I even had one of the fun shop keepers, who was really decked out for the season, offer to have his picture taken with me since we had been admiring his little elf hat with the bell. I'll let you figure out who is who. Overall, it was a fun filled night, full of laughter, good food, good wine, treats and champagne at the little shops and galleries, carolers and even a nice hazelnut cinnamon fat-free latte for me. Decadence at it's best.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Decay From The Inside Out

On Day #20 of the Art Every Day Challenge I found myself thinking a lot about about my friends and/or their friends and loved ones that have been either recently diagnosed with a serious, life threatening illness or who are suffering from chronic illnesses that they have been dealing with for a very long time. I found myself thinking about the cells in our bodies and how they are both very strong and very vulnerable at the same time. They are susceptible to so many things, nutrition, environmental threats, chemicals, stress, lack of exercise, limited hydration, the list goes on and on. It seems what frustrates me most are all the things that are not easily within our own control to change such as environmental issues and toxins in our foods etc.

I get really angry sometimes when I think about all the people that I care about that have illnesses that they cannot control and sometimes they can even feel like the illness wants to control them, or worse, kill them. Sometimes it actually does kill them. This iphone painting is about those feelings that I was dealing with today.

This piece is called "Killing From Within" and it is my visual representation of all of the internal wiring (or various body systems) that go "haywire" in the body when it's cells start to break down and a disease spreads. The disease grows and spreads outward and things break apart from within. The dark splotches are like rotting, spots of decay that is spreading into the body but might not normally be seen from the outside. Sometimes disease is seen externally and sometimes it isn't.

My prayers to all those who who suffer from disease. May God watch over you.

Blessings and Love,

Effort Can Still Fall Short Of The Vision

I have finally gotten around to posting my Art Every Day Month Challenge piece for Day #18 and #19. Can you feel my obvious rebellion to posting? Even though I spent a lot of actual time on this piece, I feel like it still looks unfinished and amateurish to me. Ah, "give it up" and say, you tried something and "you have what you have". Life will go on. As you have probably gathered by now, I am not extremely pleased with the final result, though I like the second cropped version a little better (see the narrower image below). Do you ever have one of those times where the image you see is much more interesting than the way the piece turns out in the end? I have to look at it as an experiment. I figure this is God's way of telling me to remember to be humble. I tried a few new things, namely colored pencil on rough watercolor paper...I can't say I am a fan of the effect, or at least my own execution of the technique. I have done this hidden imagery watercolor work before to produce a few pieces, but at that time, I went back into the original abstract watercolor pieces with more watercolor lines to define areas and then added some other mixed media stuff and those pieces seemed to work better for me. I might play with this one in Photoshop and see if I can do something else with never know.

A Process Of Exploring Imagination
The process that I followed to create this art did allow me to enjoy engaging the  imaginary, playful side of my personality and that is always good. They say this type of imagination work is good for keeping Dementia at bay, so Kudos for me...I'm not getting any younger! Here is the process that I did, in case anyone wants to try it. It is a really fun process and it always provides new ideas and visual shapes to challenge your imagination, much like dragging or dripping India ink to make shapes on the page and then finding the hidden image.

Here we go: 1) Wet a sheet of watercolor paper (I use a watercolor block of cold pressed paper so that I don't have to stretch the paper before starting, but you can do the stretching if you want to). Cold press or rough watercolor paper is preferred over the hot press papers due the fact that they are both rougher, and they allow the pigment to settle into the crevices and create really cool shapes when you complete Step 3. 2) Once the paper is thoroughly wet; pour, drip, or spatter watercolor paints of any color combination onto the wet surface. 3) While the paper is still wet, take a sheet of plastic food wrap (or more than one if you are working on a very large sheet of watercolor paper) and lay it over the paint. Once you have it on the surface, take your fingers and "scrunch" it up is some areas or push areas together so that the plastic wrap has lots of wrinkles and crevices for the paint to flow into. 4) Set the watercolor sheet, with the plastic still attached to it aside to dry thoroughly. 5) Once it is completely dry, slowly peel back the plastic to reveal some lovely abstract images that you can work with (you can see a sample below of how the watercolor sheet that I drew into looked after the plastic was removed–this is a portion that I cut off, but you can get the basic effect). The shapes are always different.

Once you have your abstract shapes, squint a bit at them a bit or spin the paper in each direction and look patiently until you find some imagery that is waiting to come alive for you. This is a lot like finding shapes in the clouds when you were a kid. If you aren't inspired with found imagery, these shapes are still fun to embellish as abstract art or they can be used as a background for another art piece.

Have fun and let me know if any of you try this fun technique. I would love to see posts or any art you do with this if you are willing to share. This process is usually quite relaxing, that is, IF you do not get too frustrated and overwork the piece trying to get something to I did.

Happy Painting,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Does Playing Do For The Soul?

I have been working over the past two days on my Art Every Day Month Challenge piece that is shown here. It is my offering for both Day #16 and #17. I drew in the big shapes with the colored markers on Day #16 and I managed to finish up the many details while I drank my coffee and sat in the sun that was streaming into my dining room this morning. It seemed deceivingly warm to me, but I was forced back into a midwestern Fall reality when I took my dog out and I realized that it was quite brisk and windy. Once I was back inside, I was pleased that I could feed two important needs at once, my creative "innerspirit" and my physical and emotional need for sunshine. More and more is being found out about the importance of adequate vitamin D in our bodies and the sun is a great source of that in a natural form. This time of year in Michigan it is a little too cold for me to enjoy being outside drawing for a couple of hours, so sitting inside at the table was a good way to still benefit from the warm sun.

A Planetary Mandala Drawing Emerges
I just allowed myself to play with the shapes and lines again today with this Mandala since it is also part of my Circles In Time Mandala series. I did try today to stretch the series a bit by doing a mixed media Mandala. After playing with the watercolor Mandala on Day #13, (see the previous post if you would like to see this image) I felt that I could take some artistic liberty and use whatever I wanted on this Mandala and it still would be part of the same series since it was the same size, I approached it the same way, and it was still being used for the prayer/meditation time that it was intended to create for me. I really became quite involved in the intricate line work in this piece and it ended up looking like something from outer space, maybe a really cool planet that is yet to be discovered with many circling moons or suns? I listened to several soothing, contemporary Christian music selections, while I created, and I thought a lot about how God manifests himself in my life. I began wondering why it is so hard to see God sometimes in my life, and other times it seems that he is so very close that I can actually almost touch him...I felt closer to my creative source when I was done, which I believe for me, is God.

Missing AEDM Days Creations?
Those of you that are following this blog might wonder, what happened to Day #14 and #15? Well, I have to admit, Day #14 did not consist of any art, but I was excited that I did manage to do a little artistic "playing" in the way of incorporating music into my Day #15. I have not played my guitar much over the last year, it seems this goes in cycles for me. Sometimes I play a lot, and other times I move away from it and into other things. I enjoyed playing and singing a few songs, but I soon regretted having let it go so long when my un-calloused finger tips started hurting after only a few short songs...this should be reason enough to not let this pleasure go so far between music sessions. Singing and strumming the old familiar songs was a soothing and relaxing way to feed my creative and artistic soul. I find that music in all forms can really move quickly into my heart and it makes me feel alive.

What types of things do you do to feed your artistic soul? Do you take the time to "eat" regularly from this "soul food"? It is easy for us to push time for ourselves down to the bottom of our "To Do" list, even society would tell you that art and artistic endeavors are "frivolous", especially if they do not make money. Don't buy into it, our soul needs the time and the honor of being "fed" and "cultivated", and in return, it will feed and cultivate us in many abundant ways.

Blessings and Love,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Swirling Colors and Lines Free Me

I am a little behind on postings for my Art Every Day Month Challenge. I was out of town and without my laptop for a few days so I did not have the ability to post. I was in what I will call a "forced techno escape". I had my iphone with me, but I was only checking email infrequently and the idea of trying to post a whole blog entry by typing on that little keyboard seemed a little "crazy" to me unless I was a problogger and I was actually getting paid to get something up for those days that I was pretending to be "techno free". In addition, since I was doing traditional media artwork, I still had to photograph it, upload it, adjust it in Photoshop (which in this case still is not the most pleasing photos. but you get the idea anyway), and then get it into the actual blog entry. All of this is much easier when I have my laptop back and I am home. This way I get to sip my coffee, listen to some nice Diana Krall (a lovely, sultry,  jazz singer—if you are not familiar with her work) while I am blogging.

Relaxing Into A Meditative State
The Mandala shown here (in various cropped views to highlight the details) was created for Day #13 of Art Every Day Month, but it is also part of my Circles In Time Mandala Series that I am working on. I have not used watercolor yet in the existing Mandalas that I have created for this series, even though a lot of my primary artwork is in watercolor. I originally started my Circles In Time series with colored Sharpie markers, in various sizes, with the idea that it would be a very portable art form and that it would force me to think less about each Mandala having to be a "finished" art piece, and it would also allow me to focus more on it's prayer/meditative properties as I worked. I often say a prayer before I start or during the creation process, other times, I may simply take several deep breathes while reciting a simple breath mantra before beginning the work to help "center" or "ground" myself prior to drawing my beginning circle. The Sharpie markers are fun to work with and they have freed me up to new possibilities, but on Day #13 I was moved to work with a more flowing media for this little Mandala for something different for my Art Every Day Month piece.

Allowing My Body To Feel The Flowing Peace
I initially followed the same process as I always do for this small Mandala (all Mandala's in this series start with the same size circle of 7.5"x7.5" in diameter) by saying a prayer before beginning. On this day my prayer was simply "Lord, allow me to move freely into this space and to be held softly in your creative source as I rest and I am replenished by you".

I dipped my brush into the sweet, wet watercolor and rolled it out onto my paper, concentrating on the tactile feel of the brush in my hand and the soothing flow of the colors as they flowed into each other and onto my paper. Oh, how glorious this process felt to me. I wanted to live forever in the swirling colors and puddles of spontaneous exuberance. If only we never had to return to the complications of life. At some point my small Mandala was filled with color and it seemed time to put the brushes down and allow the paint to dry. In reality, I do have to admit that I cheated a bit with the drying process since I was so excited to add some details to the piece. I am guilty of using the blowdryer to speed up the drying in some highly saturated areas. You won't tell anyone will you?

Pulling Out The Details
Once the piece was sufficiently dry to accept another media, I started playing with my colored pencils and I began to add details as they came freely from my creative source. I loved playing with the various lines and working with the soft texture of the pencils on the slightly rough paper. It was very relaxing and it allowed me to continue to rest my analytical mind (which is often raging far too fast for my own good). I did not really have any preconceived notion of what the details would suggest, but in the end, as I reflect upon the piece now, they seem to suggest a kind of organic quality. Parts of the piece appear to suggest to me a marine theme of some sort containing organisms such as starfish, jellyfish and various aquatic plant life.

What do you see when you look into the Mandala? We all have our own interpretation of what is created by other artist's abstract imagery. As I look deeper into the work, there also appears to be a lot of roots and new growth budding in this piece... is this about my own stretching and growing? Sometimes I think am being forced to stretch and grow too quickly in some ways and other times I feel frustrated that I am not growing and stretching enough in other areas of my you ever feel the push and pull of "growth and stretching" in areas of your life? How can you cultivate those areas that you would like to grow? You may also need to consider taking a break in areas that you may feel are moving too fast for you and in which you are having a hard time catching up. This racing often causes internal stress. It's okay to slow down a bit, we need to give ourselves permission to be where we need to be. Only you know where that is at any given moment in your life.

(This Mandala can be viewed in it's whole circle form on my InnerSpirit facebook page in the Circles In Time Mandala Series).

Much Love and Blessings,

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Self-Portrait Work-In-Progress

As my days are progressing on the Art Every Day Month, I was drawn back on Day 11 to a blind contour drawing that I did about 8 months ago for an art response to an Graduate Art Therapy class that I was taking. I have been wanting to do some more work with it since I felt that it really had captured a distinctive mood and feeling of that moment in time. So...I pulled it out, scanned it, and I am have been playing a bit with adding some washes of color in Photoshop. It is still unfinished, and I hope to finish it up later this weekend. I will unfortunately be without my laptop for a few days since I am taking it in to the Apple Store for some warranty work...bummer! BUT, I am looking at the positive side, it will give me a break from the techno of my life (which is good), and I will go back to the old fashioned art mediums and probably work on the weekend on the Fire and Gecko Mandala that I started and featured in a few blog posts ago.

I have to run now and shut down the computer, but I wanted to get something up to show that I was working and to let everyone know where I am and what I am doing.

Blessings and more to come!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Blessing of Fall's Timeless Serenity

After being out-of-town for the weekend, I have finally gotten back into the swing of things around my home and with regards to my art offerings for Art Every Day Month. I have been wanting to do something with the fall images that I took last week (see my previous post if you are interested to see the original image that I started with for this art piece). I have been doing a lot with Mandalas the last few months for some reason. Before about 6 months ago, I had used Mandalas quite a bit with some of my clients and in many healing art workshops that I have run over the years, for their centering and calming effects, but I had not really done that many of them for myself. Then suddenly, they just seemed to start evolving into my some of my art. Around that time period, I started a series of them for prayer meditation (see my Circles In Time Mandala Series on my InnerSpirit facebook page) which I am still working on at this present time. After I create a Mandala in this series, I allow myself to be open to "free association" words that arise in my mind as I look into the Mandala. I have written those words around the outside of this series and some of them have provided me with personal insights along the way. I have found Mandalas to be very healing for me and relaxing, especially on days when I am know that I have a lot of emotions flowing around in my heart.

Changing Seasons Can Bring Deep Moods

The Mandala above is called "Fall Wood & Leaf Mandala_Purple", and it was inspired both by the images from my last post and the gorgeous sunset that happened last night behind my house. I saw the sunset through my sliding glass window that looks out to my deck, while I was working on my laptop—just trying to catch back up with my life and feeling very drained from my weekend away. I grabbed my iphone and went outside to capture it before it was gone. It was so beautiful that it made me think of new possibilities and new hope that some of the feelings that were whirling around in my heart and the heart of those that I loved, could be made lighter by the beauty of the season and this brief glimpse of the breath of God's Palette in my own backyard.

Digital Mandala Play
After taking that sunset photo, I started playing with the original fall image that I put in my previous post by placing it in a circle. I was not really sure that I was going to create a Mandala with it, but it just seemed a calming shape to start with and a way to contain some of the emotions that I was still dealing with. It helped to keep me focused on my art and away I went long into the night. I wanted to add some variety and a bit of an abstract quality to the image, so I created some arbitrary stripes and let the areas where the stripes overlapped the image do some fun things with the various filters that are available in Photoshop. I like how it turned out. I rotated the same stripes to create a horizontal set of a different color and somehow these also helped to "center" and ground the piece on the canvas. As I continued to work, I found that I also began to feel more centered and grounded. It is funny how that therapeutic effect happens, I guess that is why I am so passionate about art therapy. It works, and I know it's power from an intimate perspective. In the end the piece seemed to whisper to me the I included them in the piece. I often find that if I listen closely my art it has a life of it's own, and it will speak to me!

I have included the first version that I did with the word "Timeless" in a green color, but I later did this version in purple and it seemed to resonate better with me. I have included the green version here for others to review. Which is your favorite and why? Do you get any particular feelings that are evoked when you look into either of these Mandalas? What are they? If you click on either image you can see a larger view of each one.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Colors and Textures of Fall

Yesterday was day #5 of Art Every Day Month and Leah suggested that I might want to use nature as a starting point for some artwork. Ideally, she suggested taking the opportunity to take a long leisurely stroll in the woods, but that was not an option for me yesterday. Not only are there no woods in close proximity to me, but in was cold, and I am a wimp when it comes to being cold. Outside looses it's luster for me around November in the Midwest. So, since I do have to go outside fairly frequently to let me cute little dog, Cocoa, out to relieve himself, I took my iphone with me and snapped a few shots of some things that caught my interest.

It Does Not Take Long For Art To Be Found
I did find some inspiration, even in just this small time that I allowed myself to focus on nature. I love the texture in these wood pieces, that were found in my yard. I get a lot of branches from several big oak trees that I have in my backyard that loose their limbs during the wonderful storm winds we have that go through here. The colored leaves brought back memories from my childhood of raking big piles of colorful leaves and jumping into them and saying "whoosh!" I wish I could cultivate that appreciation for the fun of leaves again, now...I only see piles that have to be mulched, and bagged for the season. Ah, the carefree times of our youth. I am going to be turning these little inspirations into some art in a few days. I will be taking a break from EADM today since I have an important interview that has to trump art right now and then I pack for an out-of-town trip for the weekend. I will pick EADM on Day#6 with some fun with the fall pictures. Happy Trails Everyone!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mandalas and Good Music Go Together

So...It Has Begun
Day #3 of the Art Every Day Challenge has continued into Day #4, which is today. Over the past few days I have been multi-tasking—both spending time with a Mandala I am working on trying to finish and slowly uploading some of the CD's from my music collection that never seemed to make it into my 30 GB ipod the first time around. I think in the beginning I had no concept of how much music it would take to actually fill up a 30 GB capacity...which is a lot! I originally selected some of the tried and true CD's and artist's from my collection that I knew that I listened to frequently or that I just could not see living without. Some good ones found there way in there in that first round, but I was to discover there were still some sweet ones left to be savored.

Music Moves Me
Over the last two years, I have also downloaded a number of new albums and singles from itunes to add to my ipod collection, but I had never found my way back around to see if there were still any CD's that did not get put on my ipod during my original selection time. I am now reassessing what remaining music I have in my collection and listening, remembering and making selections of those that I might have forgotten and those that still held a special place or memory in my heart.  So, while I sipped some green tea...wishing it was wine, but refusing to open a bottle in the middle of the day with still so much to do, I did art and listened to CD's to begin the assessing process.

I am still working on the finishing touches of this Mandala which should hopefully round out later this evening after I go to the gym, but here are just a few snapshot details of it's progress from this mornings session. I have a lot of detail work to still add in, but, you can see some of what I am adding to the pastels in the gecko lizard area and the bursts of light rays. While I worked and listened, I came upon some gems of music that I had forgotten were in my collection and I found them to be new "must haves" on my ipod. Some of those included some obscure, but lovely ones such as: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Soundtrack The Eagles-Desperado, David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars John Coltrane-Blue Train, Four Bitchin' Babes-Beyond Bitchin',  George Benson & Earl Klugh-Collaboration, and even a couple of choice tracks from The Doors-Greatest Hits to get me thinking "way back". I was not old enough to enjoy the original Doors chart releases in the late 60's and early 70's but I came to love them in college. Ah, the memories.

Overall, a nice day...AND it was even productive! What a plus! If you had to pick one or two albums that really made an impact on you or that you remember sticking out from your past, what would those be? Don't be shy...we all have them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creativity In All Forms

Day #2 of Art Every Day Month
I started an art project for day two very last night, at about 11:30 p.m., and even though I told myself that it could still count for day two, it really flowed mostly into day three, which is today—so I will post on that when it is done. As you can see from my last posting, I will be posting about each day's saga of this artistic journey on the following day. This gives me time to process what was done the day before and to have time to actually post something. So here we go.

After deciding that my starting of art on day 2 at 11:30 p.m. could still qualify toward my personal commitment to this month's challenge...since there are really no requirements that a whole piece of art is actually completed everyday, in the end, I chose not to use it. I remembered that I had started reading a new book The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life  by Twyla Tharp, earlier yesterday while I sipped my coffee and ate my oatmeal while I woke up. I lingered a little longer that morning allowing myself to consume more of the pages of this intriguing book while my cat and dog cuddled up close to me and my warm blanket on the couch.

So, this is my day #2 qualifying bit of art in my day. A good book, cuddling with my pets, and warm coffee all of which are creative stimulants and qualify in my mind as an AEDM accomplishment. What things stimulate your creative thinking and warm feelings these days?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fear Still Lives Within Me...and It Breathes Deeply Today

Create Art Everday, November 1
Today is the first day of the Art Every Day Challenge hosted by Leah Piken Kolidas that I have committed myself to undertake for my own creative growth. My luck would have it that the first day of art making would also be the day that I unexpectedly had to drive all the way to Chicago and back (about a 3 1/2 hour drive one way) to take my daughter back to college from a weekend visit home. My drive would have originally been slightly under 2 hours, one way to the Michigan City, Indiana, train depot. BUT, as we stood alone at the train station and wondered aloud why there were not more people traveling to Chicago on this Sunday night, we slowly began to read the digital sign above the depot that told us that there would be no scheduled train run that evening leaving from that depot due to some unexpected work being done on the tracks. The message told us that we could catch the train in Gary, Indiana (another half hour south). Needless to say, we could not get to Gary, Indiana by the time the next train left and we missed it by 5 minutes.

At this point, the next train was another hour and a half later and I was only 32 miles from my daughter got curbside service to her dorm at DePaul University in Lincoln Park. As I traveled home I remembered that it was November 1st and I had not done any art that day. I am embarrassed to say that a significant part of me breathed a sigh of relief and cautiously thought...oh, a good excuse to use, "I did not have the time". As I thought about that initial gut reaction, I realized that I was still very much afraid of what I was undertaking and if that was the case, I might be truer to myself to try to recognize the fear and to use the art to work with that fear. I remembered a book that I had read on fearing our own artwork (one of many I have plowed through over the years) and a quote came to mind.

"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons that every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential." David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Is what I fear my own failure of my work? I have struggled with that repeatedly through the years and still it haunts me. This quote is right; cognitively I KNOW it is right. Every logical part of me: the art teacher; the social worker; the future art therapist; the student; all agree that it is right. Nevertheless, the artist in me is terrified of failure. I have personally experienced and have studied enough therapy to know that this fear is stroked by my little "inner critic" which is also sometimes formed or at least influenced greatly by my "inner child". Neither of which realizations seem to comfort me when I actually undertake the art process.

I Must Leap Before I Can Fall
I believe for the art process to be real and authentic it must be emotional and that is should be felt from deep within our being. This is where I think I get caught, I fear leaping into it. I fear that deep emotion can sometimes arise from this process. I know from past experience with art that if I can just get started...just put a toe over the edge and get it wet...I can allow myself the freedom to fall into it and in doing so, I feel free during the creative flowing of the art. It is only again after the process is completed, that the fears arise again. I decided that this time I was going to look at this as an art therapy project and let the fear doodle it's way out to be seen, acknowledged and comforted ritualistically by talking to it and recognizing it's concerns. Sometimes, I have found that letting the fear appear in visual form to me takes some of its power away.

A New Tool For Drawing
I created the painting above in "Brushes" which is an iphone painting application. I have seen some of the hype about the cover of the New Yorker Magazine being created from this and I was a little curious. I also visited the flicker group of artists who were playing with this new tool. The beauty of this choice of media for me was that it was a new application for me so I was providing myself with a bit a way out of "creating a great art". I told myself that I could just play and let my apprehensions play out in the doodling aspect of a new process with no pressure. As I looked at the work once it was created, some things came into my mind. The unconscious choice of drawing some sort of a fruit suggested to me a feeling of wholeness of being and a comfort by the fruit remaining intact. The idea of biting into the middle of this fruit seemed both reproachable and delectable at the same time. It also struck me how much the fruit looked like a heart...and a "purple" heart at that. Hmm...a purple heart of bravery? Oh how art can reveal, even when we are not looking for as much introspection.

Off to the races, or let the eating begin!
Onward I trudge into day two, which is well into itself as I write this post about day one. I hope to still get some art done...though I will need to rely heavily on this first sketch, and it's purple heart as I move forward in the month long challenge. Baring my heart, which often reflects my soul, as I explore this art making is a journey that I am on. I am going to try and just let things happen as they will and I will be trying to hold my judgments at bay with each endeavor. Fear can be both a strong motivator and a serious foe on this road to enlightenment.

What are the types of things that you fear? Do you often have difficulties or fears around your art or have you accepted a personal challenge that makes you a little uneasy? What types of ways do you try to overcome your fears? I would love to hear from some of you and maybe out of your feedback we could start a list of "Proven Ways to Move From Fear to Success"...hmm...maybe another blog in the works.

Friday, October 23, 2009

An Art Challenge for 30 Days

"Whaaaaaaaaaat have I done?" I am crying aloud to myself. I signed up recently for Leah Piken Kolidas's Art Every Day Month challenge @ that starts on November 1st. I guess I am having buyers remorse, and I have not even purchased anything. Maybe it should be called "creativity remorse" in my case. I am telling myself that I am very creative and that I should not have to worry about a 30 day challenge to make art every day. If I really think about it, I do a lot of creative things every day and Leah mentions that those creative things can be defined as broadly or as narrowly as you would like; anything from making a creative dinner, finding a creative way to save money, taking a creative outing, or just producing creative art. It's all about just recognizing and honoring that creative aspect of yourself everyday. I should be able to do that right?...then why is it still scary to me?

Riding the Roulette Wheel of Fear Again

I am reminded again of my sketch from my last blog post. How often this idea of fear creeps into my life. In response to my confession to her that I was a bit afraid of this new challenge, Leah wrote, "Fear is a good thing." She suggested that this might mean that the challenge is important to me and that "I might be at my creative edge, which is exciting". I guess the truth be known, I am both afraid AND excited to begin something new.

I have listened to several people over the years tell me to just "Do It Afraid", which is a concept that others make sound far easier than it actually is to accomplish. This shortened mental affirmation appears to reflect the essence of another quote that I have visited periodically during my life. Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman of great courage and strength once said "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing that you think you cannot do." I can not say that I would consider creating art every day a "horror" in itself, but my fear always revolves around failure or not "getting it right".

Listening To My Own Inner Voice and
Taking Notes

Listening to my own small "innerspirit" soul voice...and not "The Inner Critic's" voice that is always shouting louder to be heard, is something that I have to consciously decide to do each time that I set out to do something that makes me feel "butterflies in my stomach". I need to take more stock in some of the things that have told my clients and students over the years when they have experienced these feelings. I tried to make a mental list today of what some of those encouraging words or concepts were, since usually they came to me during the moments when someone was stuck, a group was staring at me with paint brushes frozen in their hands and terror in their eyes, or when someone was complaining that they had no artistic talent and lamenting that the things that they drew or painted never were any good. Here is the mental list I came up with to reflect on as I undertake this new month long art challenge. It comes from some of my favorite quotes, concepts that were shared with me by my own mentor/teachers, and from my own general stumblings through my art and life journey.
  1. Do you know what FEAR stands for ? False Evidence Appearing Real. (I always loved that one)
  2. Everyone is artistic. We are born with the gift to create. When I give a 6 year old child a piece of paper and a brand new set of 64 crayons, you do not ever hear them say that they are not an artist or that they cannot draw. That is a learned concept. Someone, several someone's and/or society have told you that you are not artistic, it's just not true. 
  3. "Fear is the prison of the heart." Anonymous
  4. "Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." Eddie Rickenbacker
  5. Art is subjective. The concept of what makes "good art" and who is an "artist" are society created paradigm's. 
  6. Remember the Impressionists? Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, etc? No one would discount that they are great artists and as such, their paintings hang in world class art museums. During the Renaissance, these artist's were denied the opportunity to show their work in the prominent french "Salon" which was the most well known and elite art show of it's time in Europe. They were not only denied for many years in a row, but they were told that their works were not any good and that they would never be successful. This certainly is something to think about.
I believe wholeheartedly in Ambrose Redmoon's quote that "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." This judgement has kept me trudging forward all these years. I am not perfect. I suppose that I am what some people would refer to as a "work in progress", but I am real. As I get older I am trying very hard to accept my own authenticity and cut myself a little slack. I have made progress and each little step along the way is helpful. At least I am "Doing It" sometimes even when I am afraid. I think that owning our fear is a huge step in our own personal growth.

Lastly, when I am really floundering and I need to make life a little lighter and let the anxiety lift,  I take a long, deep breath in and long, slow breath out and remember "A woman is like a tea bag—you never know how strong she is until she's in hot water." –Eleanor Roosevelt. That one always makes me smile. 

What things do you fear? How have you handled the fear or what tools/resources have you used to help you to cope with your fears? I would love to hear from you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Roulette Wheel of Life

I have been thinking a lot about this sketch that I did about a year and a half ago during a worship service in my church. I usually find myself sketching thoughts that come into my mind that are evoked from particular ideas surrounding the topic of the day. Doing these types of sketches and other larger color paintings or drawings during these moments have provided me with a wealth of knowledge about my innerspirit and things that are going on in my heart and soul.

What Color Will You Choose?
Often, these images generate questions or queries about areas of my life that I was unaware were either problematic or challenging. This sketch is a perfect example of how this process provides me with knowledge about my unconscious thoughts or fears and helps me to crystallize behaviors or patterns that are reflective of how I live my life or should be living my life. I can see the two sides of my personality reflected very vividly in this artwork. My conservative, and analytical "Don't Do It" side and my opposing passionate, adventurous side saying "Dive In, It Will Be Okay."

Taking a Ride on the Wheel
This sketch constantly continues to remind me that my fears are often much bigger in my own mind than they really are in the big picture of life. As I reflect on it, time and time again, I realize that I miss out on a lot of experiences in my life because I allow myself to get so caught up in analyzing and predetermining the outcomes, that I miss opportunities for experiences that might be very fulfilling and energizing. I am trying to learn that there is a healthy balance in "playing devil's advocate" around the safety or practicality of certain choices in my life but at the same time not allowing that overly analytical side to become a fear monger which squelches the life right out of me. Sometimes, I believe it is healthier to just hop on the red square on the wheel, take the risk to experience the moment and all the feelings, sounds, sights, and emotions that those moments in life provide and know that when the wheel stops you can just get off at the next stop. It doesn't matter whether the square is red or black. You still can always get off life's track for a while if you want to and explore how the new place feels to you, or you can just roll yourself back onto the wheel and go around again. There are always choices in this life, the question I just need to ask myself more often is whether I am willing to take the risks to be able to explore the wealth of experiences that are out there, or if I will allow the fearful side of my personality to freeze me into stagnancy? I am trying to choose to play the game of life a little more aggressively and to take more risks.

Are there any risks you are trying to wrestle with or areas you feel stagnant in?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Re-experiencing the Bliss

It is interesting how even though we sometimes hate limiting certain things in our lives that we "love", or we know that having them or participating in them everyday or at least very frequently, could mean making decisions about our lives that are not nutritiously sound, mentally balanced or healthy for our bodies and our lives in general. Often, we "crave" these vices, whether they are people, things, or behaviors. What I noticed today was what I will call "Re-experiencing the Bliss".
Morning Ecstacy
     I have been dieting for several months or as I like to think of it "focusing on a healthy diet that I can sustain for my lifetime, with the short term goal of losing some weight". I have been focusing more consciously on creating a very healthy eating lifestyle that I hope will sustain me into my second half of life...5o is looming for me on the near horizon. This conscious restriction or moderation of some things that I love, but which may not be the best FOR me,  has actually increased the pleasure that they bring to me when they are indulged selectively and intelligently. I was overwhelmed by this new discovery today!
     I arose to a dreary and rainy day so I decided that I was going to treat myself to a hazelnut latte (my personal favorite coffee of choice). As I arrived at the coffee shop, I asked the person who took my order to be sure and make it with skim milk and sugar-free hazelnut,—I was being decadent...but still making some healthy choices by keeping my calorie count to 150 calories. My biggest indulgence came when I miraculously found myself ordering a toasted Asiago Cheese bagel with garlic hummus. Whew! Should I do it? My mind flowed quickly through the calculations and ramifications of this decadent indulgence and I let the order fly! A Calorie/Carbohydrate "upper"...and I was in heaven as I slowly bit into the luscious creation and enjoyed it's seductive qualities.
Life's Decision Making
     Our conscious moderation of these types of life's indulgences makes the times that we do "treat" ourselves to them all the more wonderful, as long as we think about balance in our lives...and don't go over the top never to return to our level of homeostasis. It is good to "feed our soul" sometimes with decadent things in life. In my case, I enjoyed a fairly low calorie latte by ordering it with skim milk and the sugar-free syrup (about 150 calories) and the extra carbs and calories of the bagel and hummus (about 500) will fall into an extra 30 minutes of aerobic workout at the gym during my normal routine today. I was aware of the consequences, intelligent about the choices that I made, and I allowed myself a wonderfully savory experience that "fed my soul" and my appetite.
     Like anything in life, I believe that going into things with our eyes wide-open, a sufficient knowledge base of the items at hand, and having a sound plan to manage the after effects of our choices in life can help to keep all areas of our life in a healthy balance. By not allowing ourselves to go overboard everyday and weeks and months at a time, with decadent choices we can help ourselves remain healthy in our mind, body and spirit AND as an added bonus, we are actually increasing the richness and the "heaven sent" quality and enhancing our ability to savor special moments in life such as my lovely coffee and bagel morning on this dreary, rainy fall day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dusting Out the Cobwebs

I originally started this blog over a year ago, with the intention of using it as a reflection tool for myself, and any one that happened to decide to read and follow my ramblings here in cyberspace. After a year of inactivity, I have revamped the Blog's "look and feel" to be more representative of the direction that I am taking now with my life and my career. The name of the Blog will stay the same. The name still resonates as being the core essence of my search and inquiry here. I will be making a regular effort to write new posts and to get back into writing down some of the reflections that have been swirling around in my mind for the last year without anywhere to really go, other than into my artwork, or to drive my family and friends nuts. Even though my art provides me with an opportunity for expression and inquiry about myself and the world around me, often, my artwork and even the process of actually making it, provides me with more concepts, questions and enlightened ideas or emotions that I feel need the added element of the written word to more fully flush them out. I hope to use this blog as a support for that process and as a way to expand on some of the concepts and ideas that I am incorporating in my own art and the work that I do with my healing art sessions with others. Please come back again, and I promise, this time there will be something else to see...I can't guarantee that it will be "profound", I can only guarantee that it will be "authentic" and from my heart.