Posts in Practical Creativity

  Today as I worked on the welcome brochure and packet for the Italy writing retreat I committed to a fun gift incentive for registrants before April 1. But I'll get to that later. The idea, however, dovetails with an experience of social anxiety I went through this weekend while sketching in a crowd. It was San Francisco's history expo at The Mint building downtown. There were about 20 sketchers perched outside and inside. We sketched the character actors (loved the busty woman on the steps who kept saying "Hello handsome ... " to men walking by), the old bank vault in the basement, detailed art deco lanterns and more. I thought for sure I'd warm up and end up walking out of there having enriched my sketching brain with vital Ca. history stories by experiencing them with full on empathy (a required skill when fast images that are moving are in play). But two hours later, I had a stomach ache and a case of vertigo. I had to get out of there. Luckily the artists followed and we had Vietnamese ice coffee together and shared our work. Mine was the very worst of the bunch. I'm not just saying that. Apparently I am most at ease working solo, not with people over my shoulder taking photos and actors whirling by blowing kisses. It was just all too stimulating for my lil' artist heart.

Now onto why I'm writing about this. For the gift incentive to people who register for Tuscany before April 1 * ( because this makes the planning stage so much easier, having everyone's preferences logged ahead of time) ... I am offering a printed book of their work created in Italy. Fully designed with the intent of offering back a lovely package of their imagination and experience in one place to share with friends and loved ones. But then I thought ... what if they would rather eat barbed wire than to have their work presented in a book. Especially, since they don't know if they will love it yet? Fresh and raw thoughts from my experimental weekend.

Well, I intend to sketch with the SF Sketchers every week or other week until June. I decided the experience is just something that outlines where I am nervous and need to relax. And we humans are competitive by nature. I DO want to be a person who can draw in public and feel good not bad. I know people will relax into it as they settle and what they create will be a surprise (in good ways). It's designed for this and my teaching experience has shown this to be true.

I still think its a good gift. But perhaps I'll give folks the option of just their stories in words - or just their sketches/watercolors or something that I put together for them to mark the memory of our adventure together.

Shyness - ouch! Deep breaths. Try again. Get a hug. Drink a glass of good wine, pet a warm, cozy animal, sing loud into the wind when nobody is looking... tell that story, even if it's a pile of nonsensical words. Especially so!

Please forward this post to a friend or two who you think might love some art, story and Italian cuisine with 7 other participants in Cortona, Italy where the charming story "Under the Tuscan Sun" takes place. And I will be cooking many of her incredible recipes.

TUSCANY Writing/Painting Retreat

Register by April 1 and you will get a juicy book of your own work!

Waiting for Blue

  While most are making new years resolutions, I've been eliminating them and making watercolors work on a limited palette -- without blue. Why? Good question. And a convoluted answer, but I'll give it my best.

Two days before holiday vacation, feeling better I was set to go ... but the respiratory infection came back with 3 times the power. Add sinusitis and fever/flu. After canceling vacation and a big ol' not so satisfying redhead temper tantrum (not pretty), I settled in to paint. My Van Gogh pan watercolor set was nearly empty. I've had it for close to 10 years. There was yellow, green, ochre, black, orange a smidgen of red, no blue. I put in my order for another set but with the holidays delivery was delayed.

Without blue I enjoyed thinking about what was possible. Without the expectations blue packs into a painting my mind wandered to  the light I love so much in Santa Fe, NM — the church murals and rooftops in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy hilltop towns. I began a new series imagining being there. You can see those paintings here if you are curious.

New Years resolutions have culminated into the lessons of a limited palette.  What would the year be without too many goals? What can be subtracted and what needs full on focus? Perhaps consider subtraction and limitation this year as a way to pull into full focus what matters most. What gets your love and tending this year? Those lucky people and projects!

Here are a few watercolors to share while I waited for blue. {Frida Khalo, if you are listening ... I get you!}.



And, after blue, I had to paint big flowers and a blue sky. Ah...



Happy News Years Everyone -- 2015 feels juicy to me.


ps: Thank you for all of the sweet well wishing about my health. I'll be okay. This seems to only happen one every 3 years or so but when it does it takes no prisoners. I'll be looking forward it moving on. In the meantime, it hasn't been all bad. I got to paint!


Gratitude, Gravity & Grace

  The words gravity and grace have my undivided attention right now. I'm not sure why ... but I do know Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) has something to do with it.

Recently, I've been reading "The Innocent Eye" -- this is a book I've never been able to let go of and will likely see it to its raggedy end.

Considering how children express the truest character of their soul when they draw and paint. Or, when they make a mess in the kitchen trying to make pancakes. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is useless. The compassion, patience and utter abandon that is involved in the sentiment of the expression is something I feel awe for.

During the holidays it can be so easy to forget the simple magic of gratitude. Gratitude for the the things that didn't work out that makes us dig deeper in and change course if necessary. Gratitude for the daily kindnesses and simple surprises in life.

Though we may think a lot about what we want that we don't have, there is a grace in what we do have. If nothing more than an imprint of where we've been and markers for the journey forward.

I say, life isn't something to master but experience in all of it's imaginative power. Getting the "goof" on and the simple return to nature through food and love is the gravity and grace I'm aiming for this season. And I am already super duper grateful for it!

If you really want to be inspired watch Ursula LeGuin's speech as she accepts a Lifetime Achievement Award.

ps: The silly drawings are my from my daily sketchbook as I aspire to be a child everyday.

Perfection to Profection

Still geeking out on reflections of perfectionism in action. There was something bothering me after I wrote and published "Marvelous Human Mess". The gist of the article was encouragement to use the messes of our creation for more creation. To roll around in the mud and let the word 'mess' be something of a fossil of a past concept.

However, I think what was missing in that article was something that a reader brought to my attention later. Also something that a Joseph Campbell passage also touches upon. What about when you are striving to make something incredible? Isn't that what distinguishes the artist? Campbell believes so. And there is a good and proud feeling — a soapy, clean feeling after going all the way with a work you really care about it. I'm still feeling this from my most recent book. It's a great feeling.

Soooo ... perhaps it's the human imperfections I'm drawn to (the Marvelous Human Mess) ... while the object the artist crafts - (all heart circuits engaged) is where the stingy edges of perfectionism turn to gold. Or in the words of Steven Pressfield, when we turn Pro. There is still a dissolving of self/ego in both. Deep into a work I find that I no longer matter, it becomes something else. And once the work is released to the world it's no longer my business. It becomes completed by the stories in the people who engage with it.

Perfectionism perhaps ... has a good and strong instrument in the beginning stages to motivate the passion into the work. But after awhile the creation asks us to sacrifice and allow the work to become what it wants to become. When we listen deeply the relationship to the work turns to PRO-fection - to the public domain.

Therefore, I wish you all a healthy dose of human imperfection. Yet, a strong measure of perfectionistic energy toward your creations and the courage to sacrifice that when the listening takes you beyond perfection to PRO-fection.

Happy Monday!

PS: I will be in SF this Wed. eve as the Featured author event, chatting it up and reading from The Art of Daily Cultivation. If you are in the area, here are the details ... come on by!