The Creativity Muscle Personified

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Best Laid Plans 18×24 mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2015

I believe that creativity is a mind muscle that needs consistent flexing to remain active, aware and functional. People ask me sometimes what can be done for burn-out; the inevitable creative blockage that arrives without warning like an unwanted houseguest who might settle in and stay for days on end. All of a sudden you find that you are stalled in the middle of what was a great creative roll. Or perhaps you have been anticipating a new project for weeks, simmering and planning and building your creative excitement for the day when you must begin work, when you are amazed to find that you experience failure to launch! Fear of success perhaps?

Creativity is a fickle bitch, isn’t she? She comes breezing in, all colorful and witty, commanding your complete attention and getting you all jazzed up with her come-hither looks of sensuality and promise. You cannot resist her; you build your life around her, dropping all practicality and allowing yourself to get caught up in days and nights of her entertaining and stimulating tease. You produce your most inspired work – you paint, you sculpt, you write, you compose music, you cook, you photograph, you build, you design, you weave and you invent and you pull your inspiration from the vast store of fantastic ideas that creativity carries with her in her mysterious bag of tricks. She is your favorite guest. You cater to her; you feed her your best foods and give her her very own space in your home to do with what she likes.

But sometimes she is just a momentary guest, getting you all fired up and sweaty with energy and then she leaves in the dark of night and disappears for long spells of time when she is out of communication and mysteriously gone entirely off your radar. How can you lure her back?

But you see she never really left. She is always there, hovering over or behind you, watching, making comments and sometimes rude remarks about what you are doing and how you spend your time. You must realize, you must know by now that she actually does live right there, just over your shoulder of consciousness. But sometimes she time-travels – she has to – are you kidding – that is what she does best! She cannot be confined to the here and now. The universe is her playground.

She gets cranky when you fall into ruts and don’t exercise her enough. She needs daily activity, she needs sunshine and awareness to be happy. She needs stimulation, conversation, the flow of ideas and the food of thought. She needs far horizons of new places and unknown adventure. She loves humor, she gets off on sex and romance, she needs film and theater and children’s joy and the wisdom of older minds. She wants it all. Feed her often and she will come back – her brief flights of fancy when she does not answer your calls, your texts, your tweets and then your high-pitched screams for help will be less frequent. When she begins to notice that you are a serious, dedicated creator who will not be denied her attention, a person who is filled up with potential that you were given for free at birth, she will truly respect you and she will never be gone for long.

Copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2015 – This post is excerpted from my upcoming novel to be published in late summer of 2015

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The Wonders of the World

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Photos taken are from the Denver area and Conifer, Colorado

Here we are in late December about to celebrate Christmas and fortunate to be living in the United States of America at a particularly daunting time in history. The world around us churns with random chaos and mayhem, and yet, for the most part, we are able to enjoy our holidays in comfort and joy. This year, as always, my family is all over the world map visiting exotic places where both work and play summon them. Their passports are getting full; one had to be replaced with a new one this year. We are a close family that keeps in almost daily touch with each other, but we are seldom together as a group during the holidays. Christmas is a difficult occasion for me, the older I get, but I am so very thankful that we all live lives rich in unique experiences that includes acquaintances and friends from all over the globe.

Many of our favorite blogs involve travel, and travel in these precarious times is both a luxury and a risk, whether or not you are going out of the country. My family and I  have learned volumes from our travels. My two grown children in particular have been shining examples – respectful and constantly fascinated travelers/ambassadors for the United States of America wherever they go, and they go to some especially unusual places – Yemen, Madagascar, the Arctic Circle, Myanmar and Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Gabon, Irag, Kurdistan, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Viet nam and the list goes on. You would have to know them and hear their stories to realize that they make friends of every person they encounter, and my family does indeed know that for sure, having heard their tales ranging from the hair-raising to the miraculous for many years now. They have gone to places where Americans might not be welcomed, maintaining their dignity and  compassion, knowing that government does not always represent people. They have made lasting friends in all walks of life and with people quite eager to meet Americans and ask questions of them despite the official tone of the location.

My son happened to be in Poland on business when 9/11 occurred, and received the warmest comfort and the most profound sympathy and understanding during his stay there, as his home country was brought to its knees. People are people everywhere.

Christmas always leaves me sentimental and missing my nearest and dearest, but what our family has gained by being away far outweighs my temporary sadness. I am partly responsible for all this distance, instilling in my children a sense of adventure and discovery from the time they could walk. The wonders of their traveling lives are instantly revealed to me via Instagram and text messages until I can see them again, and I find myself wondering how people ever endured such distance without the constant  ability to be in touch. We are so fortunate.

I wish all of you around the world a loving and meaningful holiday season in a safe place with the ones you love the most!

The Second Knowing of Art

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Mosaic from the Grand Palace in Bangkok copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

Rumi, the 12th century scholar and poet, is my favorite source of wisdom – as you know I often include Rumi quotes because his words are ageless; he is relevant even now in the chaotic 21st century. Every single time I browse through my Rumi books I am stunned to find quotes that jump off the pages to me exactly when I need them.

Today as I read his words, in speaking of knowledge and practical education, he says:

There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside of you.

A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through the conduits of learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you, moving out.

And so it goes with painting. Although the artist might be a realistic plein air artist, a painter of photographic realism, portraits, or even a photographic artist, he or she must always call upon something from inside in order to decide upon and create an image. In abstracted art you must pull from an even deeper place, and you must define your own personal language of art.

Some people do that quite well; others struggle with finding the particular art language that is true to their soul. If you, as an artist, try to speak artistically from a place that is not genuine, I believe your art will be soul-less and uninspired. You can spot art that has no soul – there is a lot of it out there. It is gutless, bland and forgettable.

Rumi also said to me today:

Do you know why your soul-mirror

does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.

It needs to be cleaned.

Whatever makes your soul sing, seek that. If you know  the secret of where to go, either deep inside yourself or outside in the real world, and what to look for in gathering mental material for your own artistic soul to become inspired and thrive, you are fortunate indeed. We must all find the source of the food that feeds our creativity.

The Artful Grace of Gratitude

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The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

Friedrich Nietzsche  Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/friedrichn100896.html#Xjd7rOQCkWQr6kYC.99

I am reminding us all today what Nietzsche had to say on the subject of art. And I so agree with him. Furthermore, you have all heard the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I.” from John Bradford. John Bradford was a prebendary of St. Paul’s. He was an English Reformer and martyr. Bradford was in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor for his Protestant faith. Bradford was burned at the stake on 1 July 1555. Life’s adversity finally caught up with him, apparently. But he left us with a quote we all remembered. en.wikipedia.org

My Archives contain a blog I wrote titled “This being human is a guest house…..” That is a great quote by Rumi, used for the title in a post where I discuss the experience of being creative and how that gift might be affected by basic human daily moods, life’s worst traumas and all points in between. For some reason or another this blog is recently receiving a lot of attention. People can relate to it – probably because we know that none of what life offers us ever comes our way without meaning attached and/or an implied message that can be learned from it. Nothing is wasted in the universal plan. Everyone has a story and yet what you do with that story is what defines you and your creative work. Where and how do you place a creative reference to the joys of your life and also the troubles you have seen? Have you learned to put the passion from your life experiences to good work? Will you share? Can you reveal yourself for the sake of creativity? Are you a card-carrying member of the human race, having paid your dues of life out in the muddy trenches, or are you merely a side-line observer?

My recommendation in that blog is to use these swings in spirit – these normal and/or difficult human experiences – these ups and downs. Use them to your advantage, be influenced by them, acquire depth in your creative efforts from them and milk them for all they are worth. The gifts that life’s experiences bring to you are the unexpected dividends that feed your creative soul. The best writers, artists, poets, actors, composers, photographers, inventors don’t live in blissful bubbles. They allow themselves to FEEL. They offer themselves up to the universe as vulnerable human sponges, able to absorb and learn and express. If you are going to be blowing in the wind at the mercy of one day’s terrible misfortunes or another day’s earthly delights, then walk directly through the chaos and let the pain or the pleasure wash over you and allow it to bring depth and understanding to your creativity. Paint right through it, write about it, speak or sing or photograph it. For God’s sake express yourself. If you will just feel things, deeply, truly feel them rather than attempting to deny or escape their weight on your shoulders, your creative work will shine as a result, because people recognize soul when they see it.

People who drink to excess out of denial, use drugs for painkillers and to escape, while becoming experts in dodging life’s greater challenges are forever frozen in the hollow status quo of being pitifully without the degree of character development and depth that is earned by feeling deeply. If you want to experience the passion for life we are all meant to enjoy then do not shrink from adversity. And on the flip side, when you are high on life and all it has to offer, decide what you are going to do with that intensity of joy. Even goodness holds responsibility for expression and thanks……display your healthy soul so others might learn.

A kind of gratitude is born in walking directly into the fire and coming out OK on the other side. Someone told me the other day that I seemed to be quite happy now. This was a person who knows my history – and is aware what I have been through….the before, the walking through it, and the after. My art and my writing have become enlightened and enhanced as a result of all of it – they are the total sum of all my parts, because I figured out how to use adversity to go deep. And I know whereof I speak.

Hangin’ With the Creative Ones

And what an awesome tribe it is! ;)

Seldom have I written one blog so closely on the heels of the previous one, as a follow up, but here we go….since I seem to have struck a very good nerve with yesterday’s post.

Creative people always have new insights and alternatives that no one else thought of. And we really don’t know for sure where they come from. Yet it is such a simple, basic  concept; and the most obvious way of spotting a more creative thinker. How many times have you been involved in a conversation with a person, or a group of people where someone is struggling with a decision in which some choices, some alternatives, must be weighed and considered so that the right  decision can be made – and yet that person believes the decision must be made at the exclusion of all the other viable and even desirable choices? I see that a lot – people believing that one choice must trump all others and that valuable sacrifices have to be made to achieve the major goal. Well that is just crazy.

For many years I saw myself as only an artist – I thought that my constant desire to write would dilute the art pursuit, lesson my attention to it and even diminish it. As I matured I discovered that I had a book or even a half dozen books inside me shouting for my attention, and I began to say to myself, “If not now, when?” I said to me, “What in the hell is your excuse not to write? Do you want to stifle this urge for the rest of your life?” OH! You mean that painting thing you do….well just maybe the writing would actually enhance the art and vice versa. I had to try it and it worked. The two passions in my life dovetail perfectly and have each become better for the union. The  two are so much alike, and one feeds the other in a constant loop of inspiration. Miraculously there is a little space left in my mind for other stuff too – I still have time to read, exercise, eat some food once in a while, sleep  and have some fun in addition. What a surprise. Imagine that.

You could say I had an epiphany – one of my favorite subjects. My second book, THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY – Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations is the result of my own epiphany breakthrough. I have had many life-changing epiphanies in my life, and I learned a long time ago that if you ignore the little message coming to you from your subconscious, you will regret it later. It will come back louder and more often until it is red-faced, wild-eyed and literally screaming and spitting at you to listen!! So be aware and open to inner voices. They always tell the truth and they always have your best interests at heart, because they are from the soul. Your soul. Like a pipeline of the truth, coming from where the truth really lives.

Many creative people have had such revelations. I believe we all, as human beings, have in common the potential to tap into the messages coming from our higher self, our inner voice, our soul – whatever you choose to call it – but few exercise that ability on a steady basis except the more creative ones. We often feel that we are actually channeling our creative gifts from beyond, and that our creative breakthroughs come to us from outside our own consciousness. There are many books on this subject. People call that phenomenon being in the flow. You could read the book FLOW  – the psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published by Harper for more information.

In the meantime, you can also surround yourself with creative people who think beyond the normal scope of things. Yes, everyone calls it outside the box but even that is limiting. I believe that highly creative people are in tune with the universe.

“This Being Human is a Guest House” – Rumi

 

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Mixed media titled RedSeaMoon by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some monetary awareness comes, as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

RUMI, 13th Century Poet and Scholar

Sometimes I wonder how I would have managed to paint if the context of my life had been different…if things had been less to my liking in my life, would I somehow have struggled to rise above it and paint anyway? Would I still have been a painter, or maybe even been a better painter, if I had been forced to deal with more obstacles, dysfunction and disorder? Do I have the determination and drive to be a painter no matter what, or must I have all  conditions favorable in order to be my most creative self?

I have painted, actually, through many misfortunes, if I stop to think about it, but I saw them as temporary and surmountable. I consider myself fortunate indeed in that regard. Some would go so far as to say that my life has been hard, and have told me so, but I think it has merely been a life. Everyone has a story – I know of no one who gets off without being beaten down, scarred or broken.

I follow a blog on WordPress written by a lost and lonely fellow who cannot seem to work his way to the safety of dry land but continues to nearly drown in his pool of self pity. I feel very badly for him. I wonder when he will discover that he is the single one person on earth who can pull himself out of that situation and open up his future to a new path? We are all responsible for our own survival. No warriors of happiness are ever going to ride in on horseback and storm the walls to your city, to save the day and bestow happiness upon you. Don’t wait for that to happen. For god’s sake do something now for yourself. Rolling around in the muck, wallowing in it for an eternity is not working for you.

I do not happen to believe, either, that artists must be depressed and lonely, unfulfilled and angry to do profound work and be taken seriously. But I do think that, like actors, adversity can be used as a tool while acting or painting, adding depth to the performance or the composition. Consciously or not, it seems that certainly your particular adversity will work its way into whatever you are creating, whether that be art or music, poetry, pottery, novels, design – because it requires that you dig deeper. So do dig deeper if you are going to milk it for whatever it is worth. And in the digging experience you will find your way through the mess and come out on the other side. The larger problems in life must be dug through – you have to “go in” rather than around. Skirting around only makes the healing a longer and more difficult journey and often leaves you just lost with no destination at all. Learn about yourself in the process and OWN your part – your responsibility – in the adversity. The you will be a better person for it and on your way to a better place.

I believe the life context that has always surrounded me, while fluctuating wildly at times, was always still viewed by me as workable, and that is a big factor in my artistic progress through the decades of my life. My decades have ebbed and flowed with the good, the bad and the ugly – I have not always been gifted with smooth sailing. Some people ask, when shit happens, why me? I always wonder why they thought they were so special. Bad stuff does happen to good people, as the book of a similar title explained. Why would I or anyone else be exempt? But for me, at the base of it all is a bedrock of faith in a world that I have consistently found to be both astounding and bursting with positive potential. I see the glass as more than half full.

Why am I on this subject tonight? I have no idea – well yes I do – I see a lot of friends struggling and I wish I could help. But I will just say that when life brings you those “character building” experiences, then accept the challenge and prove that your character is in fact going to be made stronger from it all…..easier said than done, but workable.

 

 

 

 

 

Year Long Canvas #12 – SheTakes a Whimsical Turn

 

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YLC #12, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott, not yet titled

“You breathe; new shapes appear, and the music of a desire as widespread as Spring begins to move like a great wagon. Drive slowly, some of us walking alongside are lame!”  Quote from Rumi, born in 1207, Afghanistan

Of course it has everything to do with my mood. The day was gorgeous, took a long walk, ate some great food, listened to some upbeat music and there we were – arrived at a brand new place from the scariest storm experience of my life just 2 days ago (see the previous blog about Mutha Nature).

Let the games begin….

Lots of minor changes were made, but larger ones too, such as Lady Magenta making an appearance, dancing across everything just for pure fun, and a second (or third?) sun showed up in the unexpected sun color of purple….that’s what you call artistic license, but of course you knew that. I first took artistic license when I was in kindergarten, and teacher instructed us to finger-paint a tree. My tree was purple and she had an absolute fit, being the realist that she was. Even at that young age I knew she was dead wrong – how could she know anything at all about art history and object to a purple tree!? I have been getting her back ever since, sinking at least one “artistic license” thing in painting after painting for many decades now.

I am here to tell you that abstract art does not have to be profound and serious. Since I am working on this canvas for a solid year, I felt free to be light-hearted and free spirited. I can always get dark and brooding at some future point if I so desire. The changes made in this work session were begun with an eye for balance. The upper left area needed some action to be weighed against all the color and motion in the upper right. What to do, what to do. Circles seem to be a repetitive feature, so I thought I might just capitalize on that. Another sun, in PURPLE, could get attention. Not tooooo much attention, however, or the focal point on the right side would be severely compromised. Where is Homare when I need him? I am going to have to fly by the seat of my own pants this summer.

The changes made today were accomplished in less than an hour, and I used my fingers while wearing a latex glove. I seldom use paint brushes anymore – preferring plastic palette knives and oddball kitchen tools like a plastic BBQ sauce “mop”, scrapers and other stuff I find. I often use the dried acrylic paint that has globbed around the top of the paint tube, picking it off and pushing it onto the composition for texture – you can see one of those in about dead center of this painting, sticking out almost like a button. I love bumps and wrinkles, and I like to use acrylic very thickly but I also love to thin it down with lots of water and paint like a watercolorist which is how I first learned to paint. For Homare’s classes in advanced contemporary art I used purely paint, without any exotic collage papers or mixed media techniques, or matt medium to build up a textural affect. I am a mixed media artist at heart but I wanted to go back to my roots and see what happened there. That was a good decision because I have enjoyed it and found that I am still able to paint without any of my favorite bells and whistles. The method in my madness of returning to the classroom was to see what I was made of – to rediscover my earliest training. Doing that could only be for the good, I thought.

The YLC has a journey ahead. She will be thick with paint by mid-Fall and difficult to deal with. Unruly and short-tempered from all the indecision and abuse she has endured. She will have screamed at me to leave her alone. Making anything good happen will be a huge challenge, because everything that has gone before will have been sacrificed and lost and I will mourn those versions. I will be sick and tired of re-inventng her. She will be fed up with me as well. It will be like any other relationship!

But of course you probably knew all that.