Tag Archives: art
We, the people, are the documenters of history. It is our stories, our artwork, and our photographs that future generations will look upon to get a true insight into our society. It won’t be Jeff Koons multimillion dollar balloon animals, nor will it be the latest best-selling novel, the current viral tweet or trending tik tok videos that they will seek out.
People are fascinated by the everyday lives and struggles of the “common” people. From the earliest cave drawings and logbooks of the first explorers, to the diaries of Civil War soldiers and a beautiful young soul named Anne Frank. From field sketches on the battlefields and poems scrawled on napkins to photographs tucked away in books. These are the words and windows we study to view what life was truly like.
The greatest artists and writers throughout history created works that have withstood the test of time. But we are just as fascinated by DaVinci’s notebooks and observations on life as we are with his creations. And the words of Charles Dickens are just as relevant today as they were almost 200 years ago. Truly great art survives, and so do the stories behind them.
But to dig even deeper, to see and read and feel what people were experiencing, how they were living and working, how they were reacting to what was going on around them, we turn to the “regular” people. The journals, the sketches, the photographs of everyday objects they put together for us. This is what allows us to get a true vision of their existence.
And that is why what we do today, by creating stories, by making our art, by documenting our experiences and lives and struggles and observations and reactions to what we see and hear, is so important. Document your reality. Your words matter, your art matters. Your journals, your blogs, your photography, your creations, they all matter. Your life matters.
Putting your work out there can be very intimidating. Chances are, though, if it’s something you’re passionate about, there are other people out there who share that same passion. It’s just a matter of finding them, as well as giving them the opportunity to find you. Whether you join a community already in existence or gather people together and make your own, you’re not alone.
One of the few positives that social media has bestowed upon us is the ability to connect with others who share our passions. Unfortunately, most of the attention has been directed towards those that are harmful, contentious, and misinformed. But there really is good out there, there are good people all over the world, and the challenge we face is seeking them out and connecting with them. And in order to make that happen, you have to share your work.
Carve yourself out a space online, whether it be a blog or a website, and buy yourself a domain name. It’s always the right time to put yourself out there. You don’t have to be perfect, and your work doesn’t have to be either.
Whether you’re a writer, a photographer, a graphic artist, a painter, a musician, a jewelry designer, or anyone else creating something, there are others doing something similar. They’re just waiting for you to show your work, to share your passion and your process, and to offer up their encouragement and stories. One group often leads to another, and you will begin to become part of a community of like-minded creators. The deeper into your niche you explore, the better chance you have of finding your place and finding your people.
Every one of us fears rejection. And you will find those who don’t like your work. Probably tell you all about it too. They carry no weight or importance in your life. That’s not why you do what you do. There is no such thing as universal validation. The only validation you ever need is your own. It’s your life to live, your passions to pursue, your art to create.
Do what you do, always keep making things, and share them with the world. You’ll find your people.
As I pursue this passion for writing that I’ve had since I was a child, I find myself revisiting many subjects I have written about before, as well as other attempts I’ve made at expressing my creativity. Lately, I’ve gone back to doing graphite drawings of old signs. I’ve always been fascinated by the expressive fonts as well as the old-fashioned art of sign making. Must be tied into my love of words.
All of this has bolstered my deconstruction of the creative process, which is also a favorite subject of mine.
One of the most challenging, as well as exciting parts of pursuing your creative instincts is the nonlinear path it takes. There is no destination point, no moment when you’ve “arrived”. Just an endless stream of loops and twists, usually mirroring our lives in the process. Each project we take on leads us to something else or winds us back to the beginning. That dreaded blank page or canvas. Each harvest leaves us wondering what to plant next, and that we probably should have planted those seeds in the ground already.
It never gets easier. Whether it’s your source of income or your means of creative expression, you still have to make the first move. The muse will not come looking for you, and gently guide you by the hand. Inspiration will not come and hunt you down. In the words of Laurie Anderson, “None of us know what will happen. Don’t spend time worrying about it. Make the most beautiful thing you can. Try to do that every day. That’s it.”
Everyone has their own unique rituals for waking that inspiration inside. And not one of them is foolproof. My latest one is to sit quietly, drink one complete cup of coffee, and just let my brain wander for 20 minutes or so. I don’t read emails, check social media or the news before I’m done. It seems to allow my brain to clear itself, and go wherever it wants to go right now, but then it’s time to get to work. There’s no guarantee that this will work tomorrow, or next week. As I mentioned in a previous post, Mason Curry’s Daily Rituals is just loaded with the rituals of some of the most creative and inventive minds in history. It’s a fascinating look at how different, yet alike we all are.
Did I mention it never gets easier? There is so much happening around us, so much changing in our lives every day. Things we notice and those we don’t. Jobs change, relationships change, and sometimes the people we count on and believe will always be in our lives are suddenly gone. Finding a way to insulate ourselves from success, from failure, from the bumpy ride we are on, we must rely on our creativity for that beacon of light. It can be the only constant in our lives. Only for today, because tomorrow is never promised, and yesterday is long gone. Make something beautiful today.
It’s been a crazy week of writing, so it got me thinking about how to refuel and add some creativity to daily life in other ways. I’ve discussed the importance of adding input in a previous post about keeping the creative fires burning, and filling the well from which to draw, but here’s a list of ideas for trying out other forms of creative expression. Most don’t even require leaving the house, and little or no financial investment. Just simple ways to inspire your artistic expression.
*Walk around your neighborhood and use your phone to take pictures of ordinary things other people wouldn’t notice. Look for striking shadows, interesting combinations of shapes, objects that usually don’t belong together, and different angles. Then convert them using your greyscale or black and white filter and see how moody you can get them.
* Rearrange some pieces of furniture, or all of it if you’re up for it. Switch around your artwork or add some more. Changing our physical environment, those things we see and use every day but really stopped noticing long ago changes our perspective. Changing what we see in front of us, in turn, changes how we see and what we notice.
* Plant a container garden, as small or as large as you like. Herbs, flowers, a few tomato plants, all will do well. Keep it somewhere you can see it, whether it’s in the kitchen or outside your window. Spend a few moments with it as often as you can, water it, nurture it and watch it grow.
* Draw, doodle, scribble. Allow the right side of your brain to take the reins, and don’t think about it. It’s not for anyone else to see. Draw shapes, random lines, try Zentangling. You just need a pencil and a piece of paper. Relax and have some fun. Doodling while on the phone or watching TV helps distract us from what our hands are doing.
* Try Coloring or a Paint by Number. The simple act of adding color to something, to creating something you made by hand, that empowering of an alternate source of creativity. If you’re feeling good about it, try some abstract art with a small set of watercolors or a few tubes of acrylics.
* Cook it up! If you’re someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen cooking, baking, or culinary artistry, then dive a little deeper. Try and come up with a signature dish, muffin, or drink. Those ingredients are your medium. Like the decorating part the best? Then let that cookie be your canvas.
* Listen to a completely different genre of music. Spotify has some great playlists, from classical greats, 1940’s Jazz Legends, Reggae, to songs you’d hear in a Parisian café. Let it play in the background as you go about your daily chores, or when you sit down with your favorite book. Take notice of how differently each genre affects your mood and creative thoughts.
* Make lists. Lists of everything you can think of. All the places you’d go if there were no obstacles, the books you want to read, the people (famous and not) that have influenced your life, things that you own and love, things you’d love to have, positive things in your life, things you like about yourself. Again, these are just for you to see. The list of lists is endless.
* Get some fresh air. Take a walk to the end of the block and back, sit on your porch, patio, or front step. Just listen and hear the sounds. Watch the birds, or traffic, or people, and see what’s in front of you. Just let it all soak in, and remember to breathe.
Here’s my list of the top 10 books for writers, for those needing some inspiration, and for everyone who is just trying to add a little creativity to their life. There are many others that are worthy of your time, but I’ve scaled back my list to just 10. I’ve included links to amazon.com for consistency, and to make it easier to see more information on each title. As always, please support your local bookseller and independent bookstores like powells.com or bookpeople.com whenever possible.
On Writing ~ Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class, this is by far one of the most definitive books on the art of writing. Full of inspiration and practical advice from one of the true masters. Every writer should have this on their bookshelf.
Daily Rituals ~ Mason Currey
One of my favorite books to pick up and browse through, Daily Rituals is Mason Currey’s massive collection of habits, quirks, routines and rituals of individual writers, artists, scientists, inventors, and a host of other creative minds. Fascinating insight into the creative process.
Bird By Bird ~ Anne Lamott
Already in its 25th Anniversary edition, this classic is also a must read. Filled with advice, humor and wit, and layered with honest and personal stories of her life and journey as an author. You’ll find this on most Writing Top 10 lists.
Steal Like An Artist ~ Austin Kleon
I’ve included Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going all by Austin Kleon as a trilogy, but each book is worthy in its own right. Each contains honest, straight forward advice and solutions for everyone trying to make their way in the creative world. I refer back to all 3 frequently for motivation, inspiration, and help in resetting my goals and priorities.
The Elements of Style ~ Strunk and White
Included in many college writing curriculums, this classic guide covers everything from grammar and style to usage. A handy reference guide to have on hand.
On Writing Well ~ William Zinsser
Another fundamental classic that should be in every writer’s arsenal, this one focuses on writing clear, concise nonfiction. A must read for content writers, copywriters, grant writers and anyone who just wants to learn how to tighten up their writing.
No Plot? No Problem! ~ Chris Baty
Written as a guide to penning a novel in 30 days, this is an adrenaline fueled, kick in the pants push to get you motivated and just get the words out. A fun read, and great for anyone putting off writing that novel.
Things Are What You Make Of Them ~ Adam J. Kurtz
Life Advice for Creatives. A boost of support, motivation, compassion and inspiration on those days when you feel like no one is listening.
The Art of Noticing ~ Rob Walker
131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration and Discover Joy in the Everyday. Through a series of simple exercises, Rob Walker guides us through a reawakening of our senses, helping us to take note of the world around us. Perfect for both writers and artists, it points out all the things we tend to overlook, and teaches us to pay attention in new ways to the world around us.
Four Thousand Weeks ~Oliver Burkeman
This book will be released on August 10th, but I’ve included it in my Top 10 because I’m a huge fan of Oliver Burkeman’s past work. He addresses the entire “Productivity Crush” felt by creative people in all fields, and offers warm, heartfelt advice on time management, and the balance between productivity and creativity.
You’ve got your notebook, you’ve got your passion, and now your final preparation is making that commitment to yourself. That’s right, to yourself. Everyone else gets your attention and time, and it’s perfectly acceptable to claim a bit of it for your own.
Whether you’ve carved out a quiet piece of real estate in your home (or more realistically a flat space) or bundled your laptop and supplies in a backpack so you can work anywhere, it’s time to honor and respect yourself enough to make that promise. I will make time to practice my art. A certain time on specific days, an hour a day, a specific word count for the day or week…whatever it takes for you to make it happen. And happen easily and consistently.
You can draw up a contract and sign it (which didn’t work for me…too easy to throw away and pretend it never happened, but it has worked for others) or you can buy something to commemorate the occasion. A special coffee mug, some business cards which are surprisingly affordable, a nice pen…anything that reminds you of your passion, your dream, your true self.
This isn’t a lifetime commitment to one project…it’s merely symbolic. You may have set your word count to 5000 words a week and you’re only reaching 3000, or only finding time 3 days a week instead of 5, that’s fantastic! Every single step is progress. Adjust your schedule as needed. Set yourself up to succeed.
Start a blog, write letters, write poetry, write in a journal, or tell stories. It truly doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you are writing. You might discover that those little doodles you make in your notebook are a lot of fun, and decide to learn how to draw as well.
I’ll be sharing some books, newsletters and websites in the following weeks that will hopefully give you lots of inspiration and ideas to keep that passion burning and keep you excited about being creative.
Until then, be kind to yourself, and enjoy your time, your passion and your life.
While you’re spending time keeping your hands busy making small things, and your thoughts calm, it’s also the perfect time to be collecting ideas. Creating a “swipe file”, an “idea file”, or a “future projects file” can help offer some promise or hope that the muse will return, and you will once again be able to continue your creative pursuits.
Whether you keep these ideas and images on your computer, or on paper is solely up to you. I, myself, prefer to collect these things manually. There’s something comforting about taking pen to paper or cutting out images and words by hand, and it triggers a different part of my brain than typing or cutting and pasting on a keyboard does. Many find that the opposite is true. Experiment with each way and see which works better for you. Or do both. I keep all my ideas in a box, which allows me to dig through it when I’m ready, and often several will piece together and morph into something totally unexpected. The important thing is that you’re cultivating ideas, and still always moving forward. They don’t have to be great ideas, but they only exist if you acknowledge them. You have a lifetime to decide if they are good enough to work with.
Lists are also a great way to gently nudge your muse. List all the things you like to photograph or draw or paint, everything you enjoy writing about, all the instruments you’d like to learn how to play, your favorite bands, your favorite authors or books, movies or books you’d like to see or read, places you’d like to go, things you’d like to make, everything you have enjoyed doing, and especially everything that you would like to enjoy in the future. You can add house project lists, art supply inventory lists, things you’d like to buy…the well of possibilities has no bottom.
Everything that you are doing; emptying your brain of all the chattering and worries onto paper, distracting and distancing yourself from the things you cannot change, and nurturing, protecting, and making time for your creative energy will be the fuel that gets you to the next step in your journey. Just one small step at a time.
We all see it… the world around us is in chaos. We wake each morning wondering what’s going to happen today, what new challenges are going to be thrown upon us, what’s next in this seemingly unending uncertainty and upheaval.
We want to continue with our creative endeavors, practice our craft, disengage from the world and continue making art, writing stories, living our lives as best we can while fulfilling that desire and need to be who we are.
But focusing…focusing on our art while constantly being bombarded with information from tv, from social media, from neighbors and family and friends, is just about impossible. What was once a simple trip to the store is now unsettling and uncomfortable. You can feel the tension and fear in the air. Our leaders, whose job it is to unite us, are instead dividing us.
But now is the most important time for us to use our creativity to both protect ourselves and do what we can to help our society. To pull out the positive, to shine a light on both the good and the bad, to document the history and tell the stories.
So how do we regain our focus long enough to do this? By taking a step back, realizing what we can and cannot control, and taking a different route than we have become accustomed to.
- Document everything that is happening. Take 15 minutes, or more if you wish, and write just a blurb about what transpired that day. You can use a page-a-day diary, a notebook, a sketchbook…whatever you’re comfortable with. Pocket size or large. Something that you can hold onto that is tangible and comforting. You can make it personal by dumping your brain onto the pages every day, giving those emotions and worries a place to land. You can approach it like a historian and write about the events of the day. Or you can combine the two. How has one affected the other? Just put words down on paper. It’s for your eyes only.
- Make collages. Cut up scraps from the junkmail clogging up your mailbox. Cut words out and glue them to paper. Add pictures from magazines or drawings you’ve made, or stickers you might have around. Don’t over think it. Do it in your logbook, your journal, whatever you’d like to call it. Add some doodles or random words. Your hands are engaged and you’re making something.
- Try your hand at a haiku. (3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables) Try to use words you like or enjoy the sound of. Or just open a dictionary and pick one to start.
- Watch a funny, silly, outdated movie. Or go the other way and watch an old foreign film with subtitles. The idea is to just let your brain detach itself from current events.
- Take a walk. Negativity, fear and creative blocks hate fresh air. It’s a great way to remind yourself that life is still out there. The sun is still rising and setting, the tides are still coming in and out, the plants and trees are still growing and the birds are still singing.