January 6-The Day of Epiphany



Several years ago after my success of writing a book about creativity and the epiphanies that had inspired 18 people to choose which of many available creative paths might give them their greatest fulfillment, I began this blog.

For many years I have written about just what an epiphany really is, how I define the contemporary meaning of it, in what circumstances and forms they come to us, how to listen for them and hear their messages over and over again, and how they have changed people’s lives for the better with the enlightenment they provide. My book is still available on Amazon.com under the title THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, and my WordPress blog archives will provide additional information, including the historical meaning of the Day of Epiphany.

Epiphanies are essentially messages from our souls; they deliver truth; the only simple, pure agenda they have is to inform us and guide us. The epiphany will never steer us in the wrong direction. The voice we hear will start out as subtle messages that might whisper a suggestion or as helpful bits of new information that help us solve a problem and if we pay no attention at all the messages will repeat and repeat, becoming louder and stronger and more commanding until we truly pay attention and acknowledge them and alter our actions accordingly. Because you see if you ignore a message from your soul, you have a great deal to lose in life.

Most of you have had an experience where your better judgment, your conscience, your intuition, YOUR SOUL told you NOT to do something. Or perhaps it told you that you MUST do something. That inner voice is sending you a clue. It is giving you help. It is guiding you. It is from your soul and therefor it is sent to you as surely as if you had a pipeline to the universe where all the wisdom of the eons and the ages is stored….

I could wish nothing better for you than to experience a life-altering epiphany in this new year. If you are floundering and searching for some answers, you need one. And if you are just fine, you certainly want to stay that way. Meditation will facilitate your inner soul voice and clear a path for information and new viewpoints to percolate up through your layers of thought to the surface where they can be heard. But you must LIVE IN THE NOW, refusing to allow the clutter of prior disappointments to cloud your mind; you must BE QUIET and AWARE for a focused part of every day. Then you must LISTEN.  And you must ASK.

The Creative Epiphany – Amazon.com  by Jo Ann Brown-Scott


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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.

Singapore, George Clooney, the Arctic Circle and Food

lunch    monk     paellaguy0ne    fishguy

panda    jump    urn    photo 5

Tomorrow is my Monday art class – advanced abstract expressionism. If you are following you know by now that I have been offered the odd assignment of working on one canvas for an entire year. Oh I do other canvases too, but I use one of them as a 365 day continuing, living breathing project that I vow to keep working on whether I want so badly to finish it or not. Yes I accepted the challenge. Yes I sometimes feel that I am nuts to have done so. You have read all of my speculation about the why’s and wherefores of this project (check my archives) – I am sure you could offer some new ideas I have not yet considered about the lessons to be learned from doing this.

What I do know for sure is that I am not a person who gives up easily or is likely to give it anything less than my best effort. I believe that when you commit to something you keep at it until it is no longer for the good of any one thing or person – it has turned sour, in other words. I don’t foresee that happening with this project – there is just so much to be learned from it.

But I do want to think about other things besides THE CANVAS. It is a big world out there and whatever I choose to fill my free time will support, inform, guide and feed my art projects – all of them. I am working on several things at once, parallel with THE CANVAS. Life goes on, all around them.

Today some of my thoughts are on Singapore, for instance, and a trip I made there last fall. I cannot get Singapore and Bangkok off my mind – in a good way. I miss them. I want to go back. I learned a lot while there. The entire journey was eye candy for me, but I also learned a lot about Asian people, Asian food, legends, Buddhism,Monks and relic tooths and Jim Thompson textiles and silk worms, temples and markets and the Asian art of foot massage. What an exotic trip. Thanks to my lovely daughter who was my tour guide, and knows the area well, my simple mind was loaded up with layers of complexity. That is what travel does.

I am also thinking about that rascal George Clooney, who is astoundingly, enthusiastically and actually voluntarily engaged to a lovely woman who is finally, I believe, a person with brains as well as beauty. For all of us (girls mostly) who have been fascinated with him from afar, this is something that has captured our attention. This will be interesting, watching the progression, from sworn, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor to husband……would love to have been a fly on the wall when gorgeous George changed his mind and had his epiphany.

One of the best meals I ever ate was at the Turkish café pictured above, located in the Arab Street section of Singapore. I am thinking about food (I am starving and ready for a meal right now) and how it unites us all in its never-ending daily preparation ritual. You are fortunate to have it and lucky be you if you can enjoy the luxury of  choice, answering your cravings and satisfying your palette. If you have a well stocked pantry, I consider you wealthy. If you ever watch the National Geograhic TV show called “Living Below Zero” about Americans who live near the Arctic and must hunt caribou, bears, fish, goats etc , for survival, you are probably as impressed as I am with their strength and courage. Their pantries are well stocked or not depending upon weather, ammunition, deadly accurate shots and absolute luck, plus their own ability to trek way out into the wild and cut up and haul back whatever they shoot. I know that I could never do that.

Back to George Clooney – he does great things in Africa. And she is a brilliant lawyer based in London who deals in Humanitarian issues. Perfect.

Aren’t you fascinated by what other people do?


The Creative Epiphany – January 6th, The Day of Epiphany

photo 5 (3) photo 4 (3) mantwo manone

Photos courtesy of my recent trip to Singapore and Bangkok, October 2013

This blog was originally written as a broader continuation of my second book, The Creative Epiphany – Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations available on Amazon.com, by Jo Ann Brown-Scott. Since the book was published in 2008 we have had what I am going to say is great success for a first time author and a book that was published through Amazon’s self-publishing division. As I frequently say, the GIFT OF CREATIVITY is AWARDED FREE AT BIRTH –  everyone gets some. Your lifelong challenge is to accept it, locate its best vehicle and venue, then define how you can most effectively use it for yourself and the greater good. Remember that part about “the greater good”  because we do not include clever, creative criminals in the greater good category.

After you read my Introduction, in which you will come to know the lovely, personified creativity as I see her and defines just what a creative epiphany is, then offers suggestions for how you might be able to tap into a life-changing epiphany for yourself as well, you will see that the book is a compilation of personal experiences from 19 creative people including myself, who all had life-changing epiphanies involving their personal gifts of creativity. I selected people for the book based upon recommendations from friends, my own circle of eccentric acquaintances, family members and experts I knew. I interviewed the prospects by phone and in person, the theory being that if that person had an amazing life-altering story and could tell it beautifully in a normal conversation, holding my attention for hours, then that person could write it down and with my editing then release it for the world to read, thus changing lives. I was right – the stories are all told in a conversational style that I was careful to edit without stomping out the character and personality of the teller thus altering the book into a collection of boring, homogenized junk. It is not a perfect, polished example of literature – it is a real, down and dirty book from people living out in the trenches of a creative life, and that is not an easy life. They tell it like it is.

I have heard from many “strangers” who read the book, enjoyed it and gained something from it, including a psychologist who says he uses it as therapy, a highly devout woman doing work in a Buddhist monastery, a person walking down the streets of London who happened to see that the person coming toward her was also carrying a copy of this book. With Amazon you reach the world – with blogs you reach the world. For me, sitting here at my computer or painting in my studio, that is an intoxicating phenomenon. I have so much to say, and thank you profoundly for listening.

(Oh and as a side note – They say the sincerest form of flattery is to copy – and we have had that experience with our book in a publication that did not just borrow our idea but was bold enough to use my exact phrasing from the back cover of the book. If you check the dates of publication it is obvious who is copying who…and so was I flattered? Not so much. Not in the least. Was I angry? Much. What is that old quote? The one that says, “Be Yourself – everyone else is already taken.” Well hell yes, of course.)

The Day of Epiphany, January 6th. approaches I wanted to honor it with this blog. According to Wikipedia, the Day of Epiphany is defined this way:

  • Epiphany (feeling), an experience of sudden and striking realization
  • Epiphany (religion), the appearance of a deity to a human, known as theophany
  • Hierophany, an epiphany or manifestation of the sacred more broadly defined than a theophany
  • Darśana, Hindu term commonly used for “visions of the divine”

I prefer to reference the modern definition of epiphany when I write about it – the “light bulb” effect when a piece of life-changing inspiration or information comes to you in a moment of grand realization. You have had that happen – I know you have. It is both shocking and welcomed – sometimes the “knowing” percolates up through your consciousness over a period of time and gently but powerfully gains your attention – at other times the message might strike you instantaneously like a bolt of lightening. The common thread is that an epiphany brings information – an enlightening message of some variety – that you did not have before. A missing piece in your plans. And you needed it to move forward. It is of great help to you and utmost importance that you pay attention to it.

There are some keys to accommodating the arrival of the coveted epiphany – the best one is to remain open and present, living in the now, aware and alert to all possibilities. Keep a receptive mind, engaged and involved in life. Be hopeful. Have faith.

The creative epiphany – read about it. Listen. Have one.


The Creative Epiphany – The Epiphany in Nelson Mandela

thQ0OY6LUZ photo courtesy of heavywordstoliveby.blogspot/2012/7/nelsonmandela

When I began writing this blog over a year ago my intention was to present definitions and examples of epiphany in its many incarnations and to encourage people to be aware, listen to your inner voice and allow the messages of illumination to be heard, especially in regard to the gifts of creativity that you have been given. Your creative gifts are awarded to you free at birth – what you choose to do with them is your choice. That is still my purpose, but I would like to emphasize that I believe every day brings epiphanies, and messages from your inner self, your soul, often repeat themselves in an ever-increasing frequency and urgency. Many times I will write about my experiences, my crazy observations about life, my concerns, etc – all of which are epiphanies to me. In my previous post about the bitter cold here in Colorado, seemingly a casual commentary on the weather, an epiphany is buried. I will allow you to find it for yourself if you care enough to go deep.

Life is rich with layers of discovery, both inside your mind, heart and soul and from the world outside your self. So much to be learned in so short a lifetime. I learn something every single day, whether it be earthshaking or subtle. Today I have re-learned something – I have been re-visited by a piece of wisdom that is so monumental that it might seem obvious, and yet we forget. With the death of Nelson Mandela I have once again been confronted with true greatness and reminded that the authentic heroes of our time or any time in history are people who have cast aside bitterness, hatred and revenge to take the high road, because they know that the most effective way to spread their message is to forgive but keep speaking the words of truth. You can be a highly enlightened person, as was Mandela, and have feelings of bitterness in your heart, and he did admit to having bitterness, but the key is to moderate those feelings, control them and channel them in a positive direction for the greater good. That is no small accomplishment – many people allow the bitterness of the wrongs they have experienced to consume them in a fiery blaze that burns burns burns for as long as they live, destroying everything good in its path. Twenty-seven years in prison could easily do that to a man, but Mandela kept his dignity intact and walked away from his cell a better man determined to seek not revenge but monumental change for both the blacks and the whites in South Africa.

Mandela was a normal human being, first and foremost, capable of both love and lust and violence in defense of what he believed, who found himself in the right place and the right time to do the right thing, and his actions were heroic. He is a hero in all of that word’s definitions to me, and to many other people. The very definition of personal strength. But he had a wicked-good sense of humor, he called a man who was a jerk a jerk, he made friends with his captors during the 27 years he was imprisoned and he invited them to sit in the front row when he was made president. This man was as real as anyone can be.

The epiphany of his reality as a human being has re-hit me strongly today and the knowledge of that is both encouraging and enlightening. I am also, once again, struck with the belief that after death a person of this magnitude does as much or more good work than he was physically able to do in life. Life is confining, finite, and as we grow older we become weak of body – but the spirit soars in death and becomes a larger, more encompassing force than any one frail body can ever be. There is epiphany in all of that.

The Creative Epiphany – People Who Need People


Sculpture near the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, river flowing below

Hope you are enjoying this series about Singapore and Thailand. I believe that this will be the final blog on my experiences there, but then again one never knows.  It struck me today, especially today, now that I have been home a week and have some perspective under my belt,  that the backbone, the heart, the soul of anyplace you go is of course the people and how they represent themselves in art, sculpture and real in-your-face life. What a person like me chooses to make permanent with a photo says so much. I, personally, look for moments that capture a variety of emotions that float my personal, uncomplicated and joyful little boat. I was on vacation – I chose to be easily entertained. I saw wonder everywhere.

In many of the places I visited, accompanied by my daughter, we were met with the friendly question – Where are you from? The curiosity was enormous and reciprocal. I wanted to ask many things of the people I encountered along the way but at the risk of being perceived as rude and pushy, I did not. You must remember that the Asian people are usually more reserved than the typical American. Someone asked me when I got home if I believe that the people where I traveled like Americans – if I had to guess, I would say that in a small group, almost as small as one on one, they generally do. They seem to get a kick out of us. But many people listen to CNN and BBC, Aljazeera  and other far more objective news reporting stations than we offer here in the USA, and so they are very much aware of our recent Congressional dysfunction and governmental foolishness because it is on display to the entire world. I never asked what they think of the USA because I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, really, and I was at risk for putting people in uncomfortable situations with little time for a totally thoughtful response. My choice was to enjoy the light-hearted and brief exchanges that came my way and call it a day.

But of course people fascinate me. Thus the following selection of pics that made me smile because of the universality of them, the sense of humor they display, and how flattered and happy most people are when you ask to take their picture. AHHH…that is nice. Now we are friends, they say with their eyes. We have made a personal connection and I will be with you forever, held in touch by the tiny thread of one photo in your forever collection. Thanks go both ways. The epiphany here is the human connection, and that without specific words exchanged, we know we are all souls together in this life.

antoinettes  guard   hindu  fishguy

newclothes1newskirt   bobby  monk

paella2  paellaguy0ne  panda  people

school  Thaiguyone  Thaiguytwo  lunch

The Creative Epiphany – Sustaining Creativity, Part 2

vangogh Van Gogh – a creative talent sustained over a lifetime, in spite of vast misfortune and little reward.

In the previous post I touched upon the subject of Creativity – personifying her as I see her – exposing her fickle nature. Her tendency to use us at her will, wringing every last imaginative drop out of us  and then abusing us and abandoning us  when she grows weary of us. Leaving us with the impression that we are unworthy of her faithful and consistent attention and her inventive charms.

It is a common complaint and a valid observation from artists, musicians, writers – all of you creative ones – that creative inspiration comes fleetingly at times and is difficult to sustain for the long haul. There are those who say that it need only visit you once to make its mark and give you a “15 minutes of fame” distinction. As in the case of the song writer who writes the song that everyone on the planet is humming  which sells a million or more CD’s. Or the author of a New York Times best selling book who then finds that he/she does not have a second best selling book in his/her lifetime – that happens a lot. But hey, maybe you should be thrilled  being a one-hit wonder, because it is better than no hit at all. It puts you on the map. People respect that and it takes you a long way in the game of life.

But still, the thing is, creativity is such a flaky wench. She is never dependable. How can you make the most of her visits and keep her engaged and happy so that she moves right in and stays a long while? Perhaps for a lifetime?

Let us consider the importance of the inner voice. The strength of an inner voice can be tapped into, guiding the creative ones, the artist for example, past enormous earthly noise. This ability to follow an illuminating inner compass allows the genius soul of the artist to triumph over distraction, focus and live on forever through work that is aligned perfectly with the purpose of that artist and his universe during his particularly shining, rarified point in history. His lifetime.

If you, whatever type of creative being that you are, can maintain a consistent level of fine creativity over a long period of time then perhaps you have had the experience of feeling uncomfortable accepting all the credit and praise for your own fine achievements. Creativity seems a separate entity; apart from you; she is the shining one, the genius. Quite honestly, you might feel you were a mere vehicle for the expression of your greatest creative ideas – you were just the means for giving them life. They happened to you rather than by you. You feel that some of your finest work and your most original ideas were effortless and not entirely of your own mind – so “involuntarily” accomplished that they seemed to flow through you from somewhere above you as if your actions were being orchestrated by some far more gifted conductor – the beautiful, illusive, divine Creativity God. You felt like a puppet channeling gifts from beyond, strings attached, arms flying in all the right directions, but totally under the control of another entity.

If you are an artist who can tap into this “flow” of creativity it is more a surprise to you than anyone else that your best work is born through the strokes of your own paintbrush or pen. In fact, it is difficult for you to remember how the process unfolded, as you painted or wrote or composed a song, because initially this “flow” experience was beyond common understanding and unlike anything that had ever happened to you, the creative person, when it first occurred. It was of course your work, it was your style, it was your time and effort; it was your paint and your canvas and it was done in your studio space, but the inspiration was so obviously not of this world and the result so much better than your own mere earthly thoughts could have planned to achieve. When this happens, as the work is progressing, the hours fly by, energy does not wane, the steps taken toward completion are automatic and effortless; this level of inspired work is achieved in far less time than other paintings labored over for weeks. And yet it results in your most inspired work; it is the work of your soul in sync with the universe. Creativity was there in the room, but you were more aware, more present, more inspired than ever, receiving messages from your soul.

Ken Robinson, in his brilliant book about creativity titled Out Of Our Minds, Learning To Be Creative, says on page 154:

“Creative processes draw from all areas of human consciousness. They are not strictly logical nor are they wholly emotional. The reason why creativity often proceeds by intuitive leaps is precisely that it draws from areas of mind and consciousness that are not wholly regulated by rational thought.”

On page 155 he continues:

“The term ‘flow’ has been used to describe peak performances. These are times when we are immersed in something that completely engages our creative capabilities and draws equally from our knowledge, feelings and intuitive powers. These peak performances typically occur when someone is working in their element at the peak of their performance. In this respect, creativity involves particular attitudes and being able to access deep personal resources. There is a further factor, which is difficult to describe. Perhaps the best word for this is passion.”

This magic happens in other creative endeavors besides art – musicians such as Sting speak about having no remembrance of how a particularly brilliant song was written or truly understanding the profound meaning of his own lyrics until years later… Inventors suddenly know what must be adjusted for the efficiency of their revolutionary new whiz-bang idea. Or for another creatively inspired one, a great solution comes by way of a dream. In any case, you had an epiphany – a realization.

A creative epiphany can arrive in a sudden shudder of realization, or a slow unfolding of obscure information that forms a finished puzzle as it reveals itself in your mind. It can arrive via an inner voice from your soul that is most assuredly audible in your mind’s ear as it offers you instant advice or a fast solution to a problem just when you need it. Something seemingly unrelated, unsophisticated and of humble origin might trigger the breakthrough of epiphany required for your missing solution to be heard. Epiphanies come in many costumes. They are not proud; whatever type of energy carries them along is just fine for their purposes. Because whether they arrive in elegant style with pomp and circumstance or in the most common of events, they always bring discovery and illumination, as if a light bulb was suddenly turned on, clearing the shadows of our mind. Epiphany is always offering a previously over-looked solution or a startling jolt of new information or a missing ingredient essential to your creative process thereby clarifying your understanding about something you urgently needed to know. Epiphany always knows what information to bring to you if you will listen. Just listen.

I believe this alignment with the universe, when a brilliant message of creative realization is received and then executed by an aware mind, is a CREATIVE EPIPHANY. 

Epiphany will always be Creativity’s best friend, her illumination, her guardian angel, her candle in the darkness. Epiphany always brings news. Creativity must keep an open mind for Epiphany’s message – so she lives in the now, receptive and eager for that special visitor. She listens for her, she watches for her, she can feel the vibration of her impending arrival whether by a thunderous, earthquake shifting of thought or as subtle information, delivered like the slightest flutter of a butterfly’s wing, discernible amid worldly chaos. When Epiphany arrives, you know it. She has no substitute – she is never mistaken for anyone but herself. All the other crazy voices in your head step aside to facilitate her entrance. She brings full body chills to Creativity.

Creativity dwells in our soul and travels through our hearts and our minds. She enters from the open door of the universe carrying free samples of Inspiration. She gets you out of bed in the morning; she calls for your attention. She sings the music of ideas. She chants mantras of encouragement. She meditates while performing humble rituals. She is the reason for wondering. She challenges you to do more – to continue at your work, your hobby, your garden, your learning, your love of life – and to discover your authentic calling. Creativity is actually always there – she never leaves – but you must be aware and open to her song of epiphany.

Portions of this blog were excerpted from Jo’s book, THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY – Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations available on Amazon.com

link to book www.epiphanysfriends.com

The Creative Epiphany – Every 17 Hours, here it comes again…


Every 17 hours or so I try to get some sleep. Some nights it is effortless and deep and other nights not so much. So then I lay quietly listening to the music of the night, as they say in Phantom of the Opera.

“Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness  stirs and wakes imagination. Silently the senses abandon their defenses. Helpless to resist the notes I write, for I compose the music of the  night…

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor. Grasp it, sense  it, tremulous and tender. Turn your face away from the garish light of  day. Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light,  and listen to the  music of the night.”

Read more:  Phantom Of The Opera – Music Of The Night Lyrics | MetroLyrics

My experience in the hours from 11pm to 3 or 4 am are not quite so romantic. I hear the crescendo of ice cubes falling like freighter sized shards of arctic ice from the icemaker into the plastic, clattering container way out in the kitchen. I hear the crickets outside – the incessant cricketing – I know it means they are trying to attract a mate. Holy Cow, how can that take all night long and require such a deafening screeching. I hear the distant train, the far-off siren, the flutter of an outdoor creature….perhaps an owl or a bat. Coyotes howling. I hear my own stomach growling, contents of my innards slurping along the tube they are in like a waterslide ride. I hear things I cannot explain. The house has a life of its own; it creaks and groans as it cools and settles. Pipes snap as if they are breaking; the fridge hummmmmmms. Rumbles and …. or was that thunder? Will it rain? I listen for rain. No, it is the wind picking up.

In addition to that roar of auditory stimulation I hear the louder thoughts in my head and I see images randomly presented to me in a rapid fire stream of almost unconsciousness. It is on like ping pong. There will be no sleeping tonight. Obscure fleeting ideas, not fully formed and recognizable, fling themselves at my screen. The colorful day’s activities parade past the inside of my eyes. Who was that person I saw do that amazing thing….did what’s-his-face really say what I thought I heard him say? So worried about my friend who has cancer. Am I going to have to call the handyman again about the thing? That movie did not turn out as good as it was supposed to be. I wish I had bought that cowhide rug I saw. I have always wanted a cowhide rug. Why can’t I find the size canvas I need? I think paint is on sale. Did I remember to call the lady back about the insurance? Who was that person who waved at me – did I know her? Why is my hip hurting. I think I forgot to plug in my phone.

None of this makes any sense to me in the dark purple of my room in the middle of the night. It is an exercise in fruitless thinking. It is never ending and always changing providing nothing and yet it is everything…. in my simple mind world. But I solve no world problems. I have no illuminating realizations. How we can truly save the whales and end world hunger and make that horrible weed go away and die – the one that is choking and devouring our outdoor spaces around the globe. Those solutions do not come to me in the knot of my covers inside my fetal position with my pillows scattered. The night has been a failure to sleep and to solve.

Except once in a while – once in a great whopping while – a super duper idea will come to me that seems pure genius. Usually it’s an idea for a painting composition or a blog or a third book or a recipe or a unique vacation or a great original quote from me that everyone will remember or a creative solution to some issue I needed to finish. If that happens, I force myself to sit up and write it down on the tablet next to the bed. Far too many brilliant ideas were totally lost to me through the years by believing that I could remember them until morning. That is a big mistake, waiting until morning. You have almost always lost the magic by then. You have sacrificed a glorious something for the comfort of not getting up to write it down. Lazy, slovenly you. You need to learn to use the night. It rewards you in unexpected and wondrous ways and you feel productive and smart when you take notes.

On the other hand, occasionally you’ll wake up and read your “notes to self” in the morning and they make no sense at all.

the hot dog faucet was slick. i want to sit in. my third arm would not paint. chasing the rock was weak paint. he was under the cowhide rug. the weeds strangled the whales.

When that happens, you give it a couple minutes of thought and if nothing sensational and worthy of your thoughtful time comes back to you, then you just forget it. Days later you might get it. Or not.

The Creative Epiphany – The Scheherazade Violin

2vioThe violin Scheherazade by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

While we are on the subject of creativity, let me tell you a story within a story. Just a little personal experience of sadness, discovery, healing and joy. A recent chapter in the biography of my art – a true tale, unembellished, able to stand firmly on its own merits. It has always seemed to me that my long career in art has provided me with more than enough fascinating stories – enough for a lifetime of enlightenment and inspiration. Stored in my mind are humorous anecdotes, disturbing happenings, brilliant realizations and numerous other categories of true occurences that have enriched and enhanced the initial act of creating a piece of artwork. Let me begin with this one…..

In the fall of 2010 while living in northern California I received an honored invitation to create a piece of artwork – a painted violin – for the DYAO – Denver Young Artists Orchestra. This long established, prestigious, charitable project involves the yearly selection of about 20 artists  who are invited to paint an actual violin (one that has been put out to pasture) in whatever flavor and style they are comfortable with. The violins then tour galleries for viewing, over several months in the Denver area, culminating in a gala event in the spring, where the violins are auctioned, thus funding the youth orchestra for the next season. www.paintedviolin.com   www.dyao.org

In that fall of 2010 my husband was very ill. I was thrilled with my violin invitation, and yet it was placed in my mind on the very back shelf of priorities…  As December arrived with holiday preparations and obligations, my husband worsened and finally died on December 7th. A week or so later the violin arrived at my door by UPS in a lovely case….at first I had no idea what the DYAO could possibly be sending me, and then I remembered. I made a mental note to notify them that I could not possibly participate in the violin event, as honored as I was to have been selected. I did not have it in me to paint.

After holiday season spent in Tahoe at my family’s gentle insistence, while recuperating from cataract surgery on my first eye and grieving the death of my husband, I arrived back home to face the hard reality of dealing with nasty insurance issues, ugly Social Security issues, clearing out my husband’s closets and office and trying to not have a meltdown. Trying very hard not to lose it, when I ran across the violin. The violin committee was expecting that it be shipped to them, all finished, by April 1st. They requested that it reflect my characteristic mixed media collage technique. I was convinced I could not possibly muster the artistic inspiration and strength to accomplish that. I had only emptiness where the creativity used to be.

As the weeks passed I began to wonder what I would, theoretically, do to the violin if I somehow could do it….if I decided to accept its challenge. Ideas gradually came to mind, creeping in under the  blanket of my sadness. Sort of warming me up. I reminded myself of other circumstances when my art had been my solace and my escape. As a diversion from the sad tasks I was dealing with all day long, I thought about the violin. I remembered when I was young and Mom used to play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on Saturday mornings; music inspired by the ancient Persian Tales of the Arabian Nights. The music was haunting and exotic, and told the poetic fable of the handsome Sultan who demanded a different virgin be brought to his tent every night, then killed them the next day so that they could not be unfaithful to him. Enter the beautiful Persian Princess, Scheherazade, who made love to him, then told him an intriguing tale and promised to finish the story the following night. She returned, continued the tale night after night, and kept herself alive for many thousands of years, bearing his children and making him very happy.

I approached my collage papers and my paint with doubt and trepidation, wondering what would happen as I attempted to pull my creative gestures and thought processes up from the depths of my misery. I decided to incorporate meaningful mementoes and papers into the collage as omens of good will and peace of mind. I collaged the violin with the same coral and gold leaf paper I had used for the cover of my handmade wedding invitations as a tribute to my husband,  I used a gold circle, a link from a broken necklace of my mother’s. Then some polished stones that my daughter had given me were used to circle the arm of the violin like a bracelet. I added a hunk of clear crystal for good karma. I antiqued the  entire violin with gold paint, made a keyhole design on the backside as a symbol of entrance to a new life, used an East Indian paper around the edges…and I was quite happy and amazed with the results. I titled the violin Scheherazade, in honor of the Persian Princess, and nicknamed her “Scher”.

The story does not end there – with the violin project I was taken through a door to a new place in my life. A place where I was reassured that my life was going to begin again and there was still much to look forward to. As of this day I am still entering that door, leaving soon for my move to Denver where both family and some special friends await me with open arms.

Scher and I have been telling tales for years and years…..but mine are all true. People ask me often if I have any new stories. And I always do. This particular story is one of my best and will always be remembered as a pivotal point in my long life of change, resilience and renewal, three conditions upon which creativity thrives. The violin and my continued enthusiasm for life are my proof positive of that. I live, I love, I paint.

To see the 2010-2011 season of painted violins in which I participated, plus archives and the current season, visit www.paintedviolin.com or http://www.dyao.org



The Creative Epiphany – Sea Changes

seachange      hawaii 008

If I had to go back over my life and single out the biggest, most life-changing epiphanies, they would number 10 or less. Of course I’m grateful for the smaller but much appreciated epiphanies and I don’t mean to discount them, but in the overall scheme of things they were not the cause of paradigm shifts. They were not on the grand scale of the ones that rocked my world, added wisdom to my years, and affected a “sea change” type of transformation for me.

The phrase “sea change” is frequently used these days. I like this description, in large part due to its origin. A century or more ago when men went to sea for long stretches of time, their women waited. They had no idea when the ship would come back and no dependable way of finding out. A year? Maybe much longer… They climbed the stairs to the “widow’s walk” at the top of their homes and stood there for hours searching the horizon for incoming vessels. When and if the men returned, they were often deeply changed by the adversities of the journey they had endured; their eyes had a permanent vacant stare, they spoke little of the things they had seen such as starvation and brutality. Their women referred to it as a “sea change”, a profound change brought about by the time spent at sea. I believe that change can be considered a change similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But now the phrase “sea change” is being frequently used again, this time to describe a major life change, a 180 degree reversal of some kind, a  transformation, a paradigm shift. When you have a gigantic epiphany the result is often a permanent “sea change” – for you it has brought about a transformation, a realization, an illuminating discovery or a light in the darkness showing you a clear path. I can only hope that you have experienced this phenomenon, because you will be a better person for it. It doesn’t make you perfect, but it does make you a more authentic human being. What greater change could you ask for than one of the sea variety?

Visit the website at http://www.epiphanysfriends.com