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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Back Again With the Year Long Canvas, 10/22/2014

  

photos courtesy of travelmag.com and pinterest.com

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder – Scroll down to see YLC

Yes I have been out of the loop for a while, preoccupied and otherwise engaged. Just involved in life itself, nothing major. Enjoying fall and weekends in the mountains. Was up in Boulder on Saturday night to attend a concert, and so we wandered the legendary Pearl Street Mall. (Had some fun with a faux bronze statue guy who came to life right before my eyes. If you are familiar with that crazy scene in Boulder you are laughing right now).

The multicolored confetti of leaves was flying around, families were out in the balmy night air having fun together and watching the street buskers perform. Had a great dinner at the Boulderado Hotel. Went to a rousing Patti Griffin concert where no one in the audience was timid about speaking up and interacting with Patti and her band. Someone then commented sarcastically on that by also yelling,  “Well welcome to Boulder, Patti….” and she agreed, but she was fine with it. Boulder is just different – people there are not easily defined but if I had to try I would begin by saying that they are quite proud of themselves to be living there, considering it a lifetime achievement or something. Bucket list item #3 – live in Boulder. Become an authentic  Boulderite. You see people in Boulder don’t see themselves as subordinate to anyone. Well why should they? I have loved Boulder since I was a student of fine art there in the 60’s at a time when the campus scene was PARTY and the art professors were deliciously weird and cutting edge. The Young People’s Socialist League was active and the Viet Nam war protesting was just getting started. I was there to paint; I did my share of partying too.

Being back there again, and still painting, in the company of a person with whom I shared many of those Boulder years is always rather surreal to me. This Saturday evening was especially magical. We actually talked a lot about my YLC – the year long canvas. I have been neglecting her. In the wise words of my friend, “The Year Long Canvas is a zen lesson in sustained patience and restraint,” or something to that affect. Delayed gratification should also be mentioned; I am a person who enjoys actually finishing a painting. We decided that the assignment of one year (March, 2015) needs to be loosened a bit, to allow my tolerance and focus a little wiggle room. Maybe more than a year, maybe less. My esteemed instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, who offered me this assignment, most certainly would have many additional comments and opinions about this process I am experiencing since I last saw him. Once in a while I run into him and we talk, which is enlightening and meaningful to me. As I explained in one of my earlier posts, he believes that every painting you will ever do as an artist is already inside of you, waiting for the right time and place in your life to be set free from its “cage” – and cage is my own word, not his. You just need to uncover it by stripping away all the unnecessary layers. That is a fascinating concept. A lot of thought is required to get your mind around it. Please visit  http://www.homareikeda.com

Today when I worked on the YLC I went a bit crazy. I gathered all of my confidence in order to believe that I was always going to be able to make a great painting out of it and I was fearless. I am sure many of you will be disappointed with this step, but I am NOT FINISHED. That is the entire point. It needs to get weird before it can get better again. It needs to evolve, and after seeing it sitting around here the way it was for so long I began to yearn for a new language and a fresh message. These new strokes are either the beginning of the end, or even the end of its beginning, whichever way you prefer to interpret it. Have a look, and zoom in for details:

Busker 003

Year Long Canvas, mid-October 2014, not yet titled, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Making Yourself Vulnerable

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Against the Sun copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

“All day I think about it then at night I say it. Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.

This poetry. I never know what I am going to say. I don’t plan it. When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.”  – Rumi

Art is very similar to writing, and one of my favorite quotes about writing which I cannot remember verbatim, says something to the effect that, “Writing is easy – all you do is open a vein and let it pour out.”

The same could be said of painting. You just have to be more than willing to let it all come out, opening yourself to that uncomfortable feeling of being vulnerable. Really really vulnerable. Hit me with your best shot, you think to yourself, and I will somehow absorb that blow and learn from it and move forward. It’ll sting like hell but that hurt is what keeps me alive and persevering.

Artists, writers and all creative people are the brave ones. The ones who spill their blood & guts onto canvas or paper and wait for the reviews. Some refuse to hear the reviews; others use them like salt in an open wound and they learn from them, if they choose to take them seriously…..and we all know that often the harshest review comes from the least qualified person to deliver it. If you are an artist who has ever had a show of your own, and you are wandering around listening, anonymously, to people’s conversations about your art before they have actually discovered who you are – well that is fabulous. The raw, the uncensored, the blunt, the stunningly honest observations are breathtakingly valuable. But you have to be strong.

I believe that artists and writers who cannot make themselves vulnerable are seldom going to break the barrier to attracting a following that lasts through the years of a career. Sustaining a selling career for an entire lifetime is not impossible, but for most of us, if you fall away from your own authenticity and lose your soul somewhere along the way, I think your sales will suffer and then your next step is near obscurity. Your fifteen minutes of fame are over; throughout the chapters of your life it is difficult to be a consistent success. In the literary world of books, which I do know something about, many authors have a blockbuster hit that might even reach the New York Times bestseller list for weeks only to find that they had only one fine book in them. They (the literary “big guys”) say that almost everyone has one book in them, since we all have a compelling story of some kind – but can we tell it? Can we spin the tale to make it marketable? That is the question. Think back to just one example – “EAT, PRAY LOVE” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She told a hell of a good story about herself and made millions. She spilled all of her guts and had nothing much left. We all know of many other authors who never managed to be inspired enough to succeed with a second or third or fourth attempt.

It all boils down to sincerity. Open up, be vulnerable. Tell your story or paint it – but bleed it all out. Then see what happens.

 

Creative Thinking

 

  

photo of RUMI courtesy of: spiritualnotreligious.blogspot   Rumi art from glad.is

You know by now that I find many words of wisdom in the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi – a man who was born in the year 1207 in Afghanistan, which was at that time a part of the Persian Empire.  ( Just as a frame of reference, time-wise, the year that Michelangelo began painting the Sistine Chapel was 1511. ) Until the age of 37 Rumi was a brilliant scholar and teacher. His life changed dramatically when he came to know a wise, wandering man who was a dervish. Shams of Tabriz became a god to Rumi and with their friendship, for Rumi, there came a new kind of spiritual enlightenment.

One of my all time favorite quotes from Rumi is this, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

I have several of my own interpretation of that sentence, found by applying it to various situations. I will allow you to have yours….but I can assure you that the intent of the quote, coming from Rumi, can only be  good and purely spoken. It seems that no matter what my needs are at any given time for a meaningful quotation, I only need to open my Rumi book and one or more appropriate ones appear to me. His words are timeless.

I can absolutely apply this quote philosophically to life, to love, to any number of human conditions, to painting, or to any kind of creative endeavor. Simply put, it says that you must think outside the box and that there are no rights or wrongs in creativity, no mistakes, only the doing that comes with inspiration.

People always want to have creativity defined. Well that can’t be precisely done. There are so many aspects and variations and manifestations and incarnations of it that after a while it becomes lime green jello. But I would imagine that creative people – the most creative people – have a few things in common. Things both you and I have observed – not really mysterious things at all. Early indicators of exceptional creativity in young children include an extraordinary descriptive vocabulary, an attention to detail and laser focus not always found in small children, early reading, constant questions, taking things apart, risk taking, a love of adventure, building collections of beloved specimens and treasures such as bugs or stones, and endlessly searching for new ideas.

Creative ones of any age read a lot – voraciously. They challenge existing ideas. They are gifted beyond the norm with many talents; along with that goes an advanced intellectual ability and a higher IQ.  Therefore they can see or imagine multiple perspectives and they are always learning. They are generally quite imaginative, unusually curious, and in the time-worn phrase, they constantly think outside the box. They see the world in a unique way. They are less concerned with making mistakes and they acknowledge little wrongdoing – in fact there are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

I suppose creative thinkers can also be narcissistic,  eccentric in the extreme, endlessly amusing and  somewhat crazy but that discussion is for another time. That crowd is still out partying and have not come home yet.

Rumi says, “Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street. I took it as a sign to start singing, falling up into the bowl of sky.”

The Art Game – not for the faint of heart

 

 photo courtesy of larryvillephotos.blogspot.com

Who am I, standing in the midst of this thought-traffic?  – RUMI

The life of an artist is like being a one-armed paper hanger or a one-man band or someone who herds house cats. Anyone who still believes that an artist passes the days squirreled away in some romantic, sort of melancholy, splattered-up loft studio, sipping wine and adding a brush stroke here or a swipe there is sadly misinformed. Here in the 21st century, life has changed so dramatically that you would scarcely recognize it as being a quality life for the professional fine artist. It is rather chaotic, and requiring multi-tasking and laser focus. It can make you crazy.

With the evolution of the computer we artists have absorbed a relatively nano-second-ish,  lightening speed change in the way we do business. With digital imagery, social networking for marketing purposes, website maintenance, the need to write newsletters & blogs, keeping a database of clients on  spread-sheets, writing our own resumes, bios, mission statements, self-publishing brochures and invitations, then photographing and cataloging our work, cutting matts, framing our work, seeking gallery representation, shipping art and transporting it to and from shows, recording sales, bookkeeping and paying our quarterly taxes…..well you get the picture. A much smaller percentage of time is left in the day to relax and paint. In many ways it is easier to do all this than it has ever been – and in other ways it has become increasingly more and more complicated. The tasks have widened, deepened and intensified instead of narrowing and being more focused. Today’s artists can no longer afford to just paint; not that they ever could; and few to none are able to afford an art rep. And NOW! OMG there is mucho competition out there, and unless you can run with the wolves you will be trampled and forgotten. With all the ways to communicate now, an artist is constantly bombarded with the images of the others, the wolves winning the race. An artist can stay aware of everything else out in the marketplace and even make adjustments, if he/she is flexible within his particular genre, to what is more trendy and marketable if that is what he/she desires….  Or if he/she wants to stay totally off the beaten path, then at least he also knows what the beaten path is doing at the moment so he can travel against it. Never before has the world seen so much about what the rest of the world is up to. Ignorance is no longer an excuse for any single thing.

An artist has got to be clever. And very efficient. Organized. Charismatic, great with the public, charming, funny and able to speak well about what he does and why. Technologically savvy. A marketing genius. A true salesperson. Gone forever are the days when an artist got away with silent sulking, being disheveled and drooling, a cigarette hanging just off the lip, obtuse and inarticulate, not to mention solitary, antisocial and in need of personal grooming…. I can’t say these days that we are all polished up poster children for the perfectly put together artist in the 21st century, but we do generally look different now – almost like downtown city business people who are just dressed a little off. We are better now than ever, just still odder than most.

And that is how we like it. For god’s sake let us at least hang on to that, OK?

My Summer Festival 2014

photo 4   photo 2   photo 1   photo 3

The universe and the light of the stars come through me. I am the crescent moon put up over the gate to the festival.

The soul at dawn is like darkened water that slowly begins to say THANK YOU, thank you.

I am not contained by this universe. RUMI

I hope you are all enjoying the summer of 2014 to the fullest – including whatever activities define your favorite summertime theme. God knows the international news is chilling, disturbing and so difficult to watch unfold. I cannot overestimate its importance….but from where I sit there is little I can do about it except to carefully choose accurate, unbiased media outlets and read the WordPress blog titled THE HUMAN PICTURE by my wise friend ShimonZ who lives in Jerusalem, hoping that he continues to stay safe, and offer us his first-hand accounts.  http://thehumanpicture.wordpress.com  How fortunate we are, here in the USA., and I am all too aware that it must not be taken for granted.

My own personal summer fun involves live music, gallery shows, outdoor mountain adventure, great fresh food, best friends, loving family and one special man. All that good stuff is wrapped around a pulsating cultural scene in the greater Denver area and beyond. Denver is ALIVE here in 2014 – electric and eclectic, pulsing with new jobs and construction, cutting edge restaurants and shops – growing by leaps and bounds into a gorgeous environment with everything available to satisfy many kinds of people and lifestyles. cThe foothills and expanses of parkland are greener than I have EVER seen them – the rains have been good to us this year. That life-giving liquid Mother Nature gift can all change in the blink of an eye, so better to love it and capture it in pictures while we can.

Yesterday I purchased more collage paper for my mixed media abstract paintings, using a gift certificate from my son that he had given me for Mother’s Day. You could offer me a clear, perfectly cut gemstone, and given the choice I would be more thrilled with the collage paper. These days I am able to find unique and exotic papers from all over the world – I buy them in Hawaii when I am there because they have a special Asian flavor, I bought them in Singapore when I visited my daughter, I find the most enormous selection I have ever found at FLAX in San Francisco….and I can find a perfectly wonderful variety here in Denver at Meininger Art Supply,   www.meininger.com  where I have been purchasing art supplies since the 60’s or in Boulder just 45 minutes up the highway. I have a discerning eye – I have been doing this for years – so a paper that you might think is extraordinarily  beautiful might be something that I used for a long period of time in my artwork 25 years ago and finally got tired of – but each to his own and if I could educate you a bit about what is out there you would understand.

These papers are made for collage art – they are most definitely not wrapping papers, or drawing papers, and certainly not scrapbooking papers…they are a cut above all that. They are colorful or stark white, highly textured, sometimes embossed with a sculptural motif, sometimes cut-out with a delicate lacey, light-as-air look, solid in color or  elegantly patterned, handmade (often embedding organic matter such as leaves, heavy fibers such as straw and fabric, even bugs and such in the papers) and they do sometimes have an ethnic theme indicating where they originated – Africa, India, Asia, France (where book binders used fine marbled ink papers) Japan, Thailand and many more amazing places. The colors, the feel and the quality of these art papers has enhanced enormously over the past decade or so. It is a big business, this paper production. Knowing your papers is a way to know the world!

On many occasions I find my first inspiration for a mixed media painting in a selection of papers – they speak to me – they beckon me – they seduce me into a flow of creative action that is almost beyond my own worldly confines. On a lovely summer’s day, if I am inside, I am painting….and that process can take me around the world.

Please enjoy some of my favorites with these photos from my studio…..

Artist & Author Jo Ann Brown-Scott

www.epiphanysfriends.com

http://joannbrownscottart.artspan.com

Book – The Creative Epiphany, Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations

by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, available on Amazon.com

 

The Abstraction Connection

construction 003 copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014 – not yet titled

Good day or evening to you – I have been painting all day and although it was not the YLC that I was working on, it has been a productive afternoon.

One of the ways to decide whether or not an abstracted image – a totally abstracted image with little or no hint of realism – is well balanced, carefully composed with lights, darks, texture, line, space etc etc etc is to view it from all 4 orientations. This is why you sometimes see people nearly standing on their heads at art museums, getting a new directional perspective on a piece of art. If the art is a well composed piece, it must “work” from any rotation. Some rotations might work better than others but they must all be successful for it to be a really good abstract.

Sooner or later the artist has to sign the painting and that generally happens at the bottom (although not always) so he/she artist must make a decision at some point. That decision might not be the most popular orientation for you. I do, personally and emphatically, believe that when you hang the painting, you really are sort of obligated to hang it in the direction the artist preferred it to hang, placing the signature side wherever that artist wanted the signature to be. If he/she signed it on the side, and it is hung that way by the artist, then please hang it that way, OK? Oh I know – it is your home and you can do whatever you want….but try to play nice and honor the work that was done and the intent of the artist. The art cops won’t storm through your door and change it on the wall but the art Buddha might frown if you hang a gorgeous painting the wrong way. You just do not want to offend the art Buddha – that is just such bad Karma. Not to mention offending the artist him/herself, even if he/she never even sees it.

Attached is a photo of the painting I finished today – and it is a perfect example of an image that can hang in any direction. Generally speaking the human eye prefers the darker areas of a painting at the bottom (seems logical – gravity), but sometimes the artist wants to give you a visual JOLT and make you re-think your reaction a little bit so he/she artist puts the darkest area at the top. Sometimes the dark is on a side, more often it is on the bottom. The focal point can be anywhere, even almost sliding off the side into oblivion. This painting seems to work in any direction for me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

There are several dots in this painting – two black and one orange and a small yellow circle as well. Using round dots is a thing I often do, and have always done. The dots in this piece have several purposes – there are many straight lines, squares, boxes and rectangles in this piece and the dots are placed to make your eye move around and to create movement and rhythm among all the geometric shapes; they are also there for roundness amid all the angles.

No title yet – that sort of depends upon the final orientation I choose.

Still have not given up on the Year Long Canvas – have faith.

http://www.epiphanysfriends.com

www.https://joannbrownscottart.artspan.com