Artist Date

The Artist’s Way is a book dedicated to unblocking the creative within you by overcoming your deepest fears and doubts so that you can do what you are meant to do. The “program” is outlined into weekly readings/tasks, morning pages, and a weekly artist date. “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” It needn’t cost much and you can do anything so long as you are having fun and doing it alone.

If you’re anything like me, the artist date is the hardest part of the program, which is odd because it’s arguably the easiest part. But, there is a deep feeling of guilt around spending two perfectly good waking hours alone, not working, not spending quality time with my family, and not getting precious sleep.  I’m three weeks into the 12-week program, and so far, no artist date. There is always a “good” reason to not do it, skip it, reschedule it – the resistance is real, folks.

Why do we feel so guilty about making time for ourselves? We are worth it. We deserve it. And, we need it. So, tonight, it’s going down for me – my first artist date. Tell you about it tomorrow! 😉

When was the last time you did something alone that was fun and stimulating for your inner creative?

What is your IKIGAI?

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) (ee-kee-gah-ee) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” While there is no direct English translation, ikigai is thought to combine the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live”, and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for”. In addition to giving one a deeper satisfaction and perspective in life, it can also be an attributing factor to longer and healthier life.  [Source: WEF article]

As creatives, we are no strangers to our calling in life. Being a creative is such a deliberate choice that without knowing it, we embrace this notion of ikigai. And yet, we have a hard time concisely vocalizing exactly what our purpose is. Defining our ikigai as artists can be very helpful in combating our daily doubts and fears, because ikigai is grounded in practicality and truth. Ikigai lies at the heart of What we love, What we are good at, What the world needs, and What we can be paid for.

What is your ikigai? Can you state your ikigai as a concise artist mission statement that answers these four criteria? I’ll be working on my artist mission this week and I put the challenge to you as well. The Venn diagram is helpful in visualizing ikigai and the surrounding conditions, so I am borrowing and sharing it with you here. 🙂

Collect inspiration.

I love Austin Kleon’s perspective in Stealing Like An Artist.  Nothing is original and “all creative work builds on what came before.” The good artists embraces influences but not indiscriminately – she carefully chooses to consume the work of those predecessors that resonate with her soul. The good artist is selective about what she consumes with eyes, ears, mind and heart because she will consciously and unconsciously leverage those influences as inspiration for her own art and personal style. It is the unique collection and manifestation of each individual’s life experiences, tastes, interests, influences, and inspirations that gives each artist the opportunity to be “original.”

Let’s stop obsessing about originality and invest in the cultivation of our individual tastes. Let’s feed our eyes, ears, minds, and souls with the things that inspire us.

What art needs from us…

I’m reflecting on the pages I read from Art & Fear today and gleaning some thoughts on what art needs from us, the creatives.

The thought that art needs something from us assigns living qualities to our art. With the first stroke of the brush that we boldly lay down, we breathe the life of our imagination into a once inanimate sheet of paper. Every subsequent contribution forms and feeds this infant art. When it’s at its infancy, our art requires us to build it up, but at some point, the art starts to tell us, the artist, what it needs, and where it wants to go and our job is to listen. Making art is a fluid conversation of sorts between our self, the medium of our choice, and the art as it comes into being, not a monologue.

Art needs us to start with a broad concept and permit it the flexibility to become what it needs to become.

Art needs us to be vulnerable, to embrace mistakes and uncertainty and to let go of the need to control the process and the result.

Art needs us to consider our role in the work as the uncovering of the potential in our medium – whether it is ink, paint, clay, or fabric.

Excerpts from Art & Fear:

“In making art you need to give yourself room to respond authentically, both to your subject matter and to your materials. Art happens between you and some thing – a subject, an idea, a technique – and both you and that something need to be free to move.”

“What’s really needed [to make art] is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way.”

” Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art.”

[Sharing two mini watercolors from a couple mornings ago – I didn’t know I was in the mood to paint florals, but that’s kinda what they make me think of. I used a variety of round foam brushes and they were so much fun to make.]


Bobbins & Threading…

A couple weeks ago, I got my first sewing machine for a DIY project my husband and I are working on (we are building a big kid bed for our toddler). I have always wanted one but never took the plunge because it was intimidating to try something so entirely out of the realm of my expertise.

I would overhear terms like “threading the bobbin” and “achieve the right tension” and I would think of the sharp and tiny parts – I convinced myself that I could seriously get injured handling the machinery. What business did I have getting a sewing machine anyway? Oh, doubt and fear… at it again.

Today I spent some time making simple stitches – yards and yards of it for our project. At first I worked only on the slow setting and used the default straight stitch because it felt safe and familiar – like how I would have stitch by hand. But, pretty soon, I was feeling impatient with the tempo and I kicked the speed up a notch. Ah, the rhythm – it felt good. After a few yards at that speed, I kicked it up to high and though I fumbled a bit, I still managed to successfully stitch long panels of fabric for exactly what we needed. I had such a positive experience with my new sewing machine that I am thinking up more DIY projects around the house.

I guess that’s the thing about trying something – you really just have to defy your doubts and do it – and crawl, walk, then run. I could have hated it, but I didn’t.

CreativeMornings: ANXIETY

I think of anxiety and fear as conjoined twins borne of our primal instincts to survive predatory threats that no longer exist today. Prolonged and chronic experiences of anxiety are known to induce stress related health complications – mental and physical. But, more insidiously, the fear of failure and humiliation fuels our anxiety and paralyze us so that we remain in the “safety” our comfort zone. As Creatives, we must daily battle and defy our anxiety and fear, but how?

January’s CreativeMornings global theme was Anxiety and this morning, we hosted our Boston chapter event with guest speaker, Jenni Stuart,  who gave a candid talk about her experience overcoming anxiety and fear. Instead of trying to get rid of her anxiety, she acknowledges its existence, personifies it, reasons it down, and occasionally calls her anxiety a b–tch, but ultimately comes out on top. She is enjoying the success of a thriving business doing what she’s passionate about – making hand crafted fine jewelry – but admits that anxiety is never gone, just managed.

Sharing is caring, so here it is: check out the FB Live Stream of today’s talk with Jenni Stuart. It certainly can’t hurt to have another tool in our belt in battle against anxiety and fear. I created a board for our attendees to write down their anxieties… What are yours? Write them down and break them down!

[CreativeMornings is a free monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community and there are 180 chapters worldwide – there is likely one near you. Check it out and get involved.]

Making & Mistakes

Staring at a blank canvas, a pile of raw materials, or a lump of clay waiting to be sculpted into something magnificent, can feel as daunting as staring down the barrel of a gun. To make a new thing requires that we take a risk – the risk that we will make a mistake, feel foolish, and have to start over again (and again, and again). The alternatives to making a mistake are: to choose to only make the things we already know how to make, or to give up altogether. Giving up gets us nowhere, and the risk averse strategy of sticking only to what we know, may, with the exception of human error, get us nearer perfection. But, perfection of this kind would come at a heavy cost. Invention and creation would exist at the sole mercy of happy chance. Life/Work would be repetitive. And, humanity would suffer the loss of human ingenuity.

As creatives, our calling is to make something new, to try a new thing, and if we’re brave enough, we will have made progress through failures. Let’s submit to the inevitability that we will make mistakes (in life and in our work) and adopt a healthier, more compassionate perspective on making mistakes. Let’s regard our mistakes as opportunities to learn and get closer to materializing that which our imagination is fixated on.

This small excerpt out of Paul Arden’s, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, inspired me to write today so I thought I’d share it… it’s a great book, if you are looking for an easy and inspiring read.

(The author claims that the misspelling in the title is a fortuitous coincidence, but I’m going to give him credit for ingenuity and humor.)

Happiness and Choice

The sage phrase, Happiness is a Choice, refers to much more than simply choosing a “happy” state of mind. It is a call to action. It begs us to make choices and to follow through, to secure our present and future happiness.

Happiness starts with a Choice.

Choose the noble path. You may not always get the desired results but there is happiness in knowing that you did the best you could do, with what you had, and what you knew, at the time. 

Choose to listen to, and honor your self – to follow your dreams and passions means living a fulfilled life doing what you arecalled” to do.

Choose to love and embrace others instead of harboring hate and contempt for the world.

Choose the fellowship of kindred spirits. Toxic and negative people are happiness killers. Surround yourself with positive energy.

Happiness starts with a choice, but it is achieved through actions. What will you do to secure your happiness today?

‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’ by Elle Luna

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna is the kind of book you can read cover to cover in a couple days, but definitely one you will find yourself going back to often to glean more inspiration on the journey to find your ‘must.’ It is simply written, beautifully illustrated, and the anecdotes are so on point. But, more importantly, there are tangible steps outlined to help you uncover and define your ‘must’ and overcome your ‘should.’ There are prompts and actions you can take, whether you are a fledgling creative or a thriving artist. There are ever growing and ever changing demands on your time and energy and sorting out the sheep from the goats is a constant struggle so if you have not read it, do!

P.S. I would recommend getting a hard copy of the book, it’s just so pretty and colorful and pleasant to hold. A Kindle reader just wouldn’t do it justice.

Elle Luna gave an amazing talk at CreativeMornings /San Francisco for the global theme INK in 2015 [Watch Video].

Pay attention to the ordinary things…

In a podcast with Tim Ferris, Lessons from Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, and Ben Franklin, Walter Isaacson said that to foster greater creativity we must “be interested in everything” and that we must “push ourselves to be more observant… to pause and be curious about what makes the sky blue.” He goes on to say that we must “notice the most ordinary things in life and marvel at them.”

Writing of her grandmother’s beautiful letters detailing the seemingly insignificant miracles around her like the tiger lilies or a quick lizard scooting under a river rock, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way says, “The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention…. more than anything else, attention is an act of connection

Takeaways: Feed creativity with curiosity and the power of observation; Connect with, and marvel at the surrounding universe and draw inspiration from the experiences of delight over the ordinary things. 

The lesson the universe is teaching:  No one is exactly like you. No one ever will be. It follows then that, no one will see the world exactly as you do, if you would only take the time to observe it closely. When creativity is inspired by this deep and personal observation, the expression of it can be no less original than its creator.