Posts in Creative Restoration
Summer Creativity

What I love about the summer heat is painting... well, everywhere! It can be a little random considering the variety of choices. Watercolor at a cafe early in the morning as the sun comes up at 5:30 a.m.? Or order two cups of coffee and paint with one, skip the cup of water for dipping? And then what about breakfast? Consider the many types of breakfasts possible with all the fresh fruit and vegetables. But what I get a kick out of is the yoga that happens organically from painting large (and in charge? ha! not really) on the floor. 

This has been a year of deep and wide organization and the new website and brand is part of the outcome of digging through the piles of digital dust and art in pockets, containers and vessels all over the place. Years of mining and deciding what matters not, what might matter later to keep and what might matter later but isn't in line with goals and so it goes. I'm still deep into it. Finding half written children's stories and business ideas such as The Half Sandwich shop (if we can mix and match ice cream why not 1/2 sandwiches? Besides how many times do you just eat 1/2 of the sandwich?) and piles of sketches, old novels, scripts and more. It's endless. What keeps me going is the vision of a light and airy creative summer. 

Summer can be that way. I remember it well as a child. Sun, water and suntans - wet dogs and the smells of food cooking, swimming until toes are soggy and hair is turning green. 

Summer is a good vitamin. I would love to hear about your creative summer thoughts and plans. 

Giro del Mondo

Though there are many stories rolling around my head post Italy, the one that is front and center has to do with the title of the Italy book I'm working on now. GIRO DEL MONDO. In Italian it means Tour of the World.

The narrative painting retreat took place in Cortona, Italy. It was all women and one man who accompanied his wife - a writer and watercolorist from Southern Oregon. He rode his bicycle daily while we worked. I cooked for everyone. One day, I decided to take a break from cooking. I offered to take everyone to lunch at the Plaza.

We were met by a very charming Italian waiter. Our languages were all over the map: English, Italian, Dutch, German. It takes a lot of trust to communicate from different languages and know you are understood if only by gesture and intent alone. This is what I love about traveling to new countries. This intimacy. It's precious.

Our waiter (here is he is)...

... asked where we were all from. Germany, USA, Holland.

Oh, "Giro del Mondo" he gestured with emphasis. "Tour of the World" he said as he poured our Rosé. "That's the name of our book" I said. Clear as day.

We had decided that morning that instead of creating individual books of each student's stories and paintings (plus photos I was taking of every experience we had), the book would be one book of all of it. So this title came in a very timely manner.

Here are a few more photos of this delightful lunch. We were so happy with our food, our waiter and our wine. I was blissed out to not cook for a meal.

We went on to paint the streets, people, bicycles, flowers, shops after this meal. But the sketchbooks were out before dessert was over. They were very inspiring.

If you'd like to see a few more pics... go to the updated Tuscany page.

To visit a couple student blogs that cite a bit of their work, here is Corinne Bekker's blog. And Kathrin Werner's colorful world.

Also, we have a FB page, Writing and Painting Italy. I'm posting news and you will find the 4-day practice challenge before the retreat. I'm always so stunned by how the subconscious makes these stories so effortlessly.

I'm busy designing and producing the Italy book to send to students. It's part of their package. As I do so, I'm also considering the next retreat and an online version of the course for 2015-2016. So stay tuned.

It was an amazing experience. Still learning from it. Still inspired by the work and Italy.

May 2016 be your best creative habit ever!

  2016 began early for me — if renewing good habits over bad has anything to do with it.

Since Christmas eve., I have been unplugged from technology and recently, TV and screens of any type. I'm sleeping better, painting better, feeling better, walking more, reading more and calling to touch base with friends  vs. texting etc. I can't tell you how life changing this has been in just one short week. Body and mind are talking to each other and creative chemistry is at work in a more focused way. The seeds are planted for some new ground rules in 2016.

I'm a total mush-ball sponge type. This  means that  if I watch a movie, I dream about it. If I engage in social media, I'm everywhere and nowhere at all. When I interact with Facebook everyone might as well be sitting around the campfire with me.

I have needed to sip camomile tea and numb out on a movie on more than one occasion to reset to  the standard mean of "thick skin".  I realized 2016 will contain better coping mechanisms. Whatever your balance metric is, this is what I wish for you in the NEW YEAR:

"Use the year like a tool - make space for creative passion, hone it, practice a little bit day by day, and make it the year of your most abundant creative habit ever — whatever that means for you."

Space to let things marinate, simmer, and move organically feels like an amazing thing to me. Nearly a luxury! Until I decide to  take a stand and do what is necessary to carve out a bit of feeling time. Suddenly problems are solving themselves, decisions get made like buttah! Even my rabbit jumps for joy more. Secret: Rabbits love creative energy. They dance to it. It's pretty funny.

I want to leave you with this video - Eve Ensler. It was passed onto me by a fellow MFA alumni and I adore it. One of the best talks I've ever seen. Made me cry actually. So INSPIRING.

If this video is not working for any reason, Click this LINK to go there.


PS: The image in this post is the beginning of a series of large paintings I'm working on now. This happened this past week in my unplug mode. The second painting is in the works and all I will say is that a dreamy rabbit and hard working pony are involved. ; D

Animal Stories * New Directions

  Love stories ... they inspire action.

I have a love story that I'm writing and illustrating right now about a yellow cat. He adopted me and coveted my heart for 9 months before his many illnesses took him over. He lived to see 16 years, though feral and was outside until his final 9 months with me. I called him my 'sack of cat' because he aimed to attach to my body at every possible angle. The desk, the toilet, the couch, while cooking, while leaving for work.

As I grieve him, I just have to write about his amazing story. I had to sketch him and bring him close after he was gone. It has done me a world of good. I've discovered a new direction in my illustration style and for whatever reasons other animals are showing up. Chicken, pig and rabbit. I have 8 illustrations done and 5 pages of the story. I don't exactly know what it will become. I just keep doing an illustration every other day and writing on the days I don't illustrate. It's given me peace and grounding in a time that is otherwise painful. He was a great cat. Old soul and kind of a bad ass. Loved him!!!! My first cat. Kind of like 'first love' -- it bowls you over.

I'm getting organized for the new year. Another retreat coming up. And some fun programs and new directions in art. Filling the store with holiday fun and people are already buying the farm animals here including myself. I just hung this one in my bathroom yesterday of Max.

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I am wishing you all a loving holiday season. Remember to be quirky and laugh as much as you can. It matters!

Love, Niya