The Creative Epiphany – Soul Food

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This mixed media collage is titled SOUL FOOD – I did it several years ago and it is now owned by one of my favorite people. It is a large painting, it makes a strong statement,  and requires a dedication of space, much like the various things that feed my soul. If you examine it closely it reveals details about the passions in my life. I could not get them ALL worked into the composition of course but there is a selection of clues. Sort of like Cliff Notes. But my life is an open book…always has been. If you ask me a question I answer it honestly – if  you know me it does not take long to figure out what makes me tick. I reveal a lot in my art and my writing, and of course those “life journals” are pretty much out there all over the damn place so it is already too late for me to be mysterious even if I claimed I wanted to be. I am a communicator. It runs in my family – the genes from my straight-up-tight English Lit and correct grammar teacher mother combined with my artistic, musical, eccentric risk-taking furniture salesman father gave me no choice in life, really. My dad could tell a story – always a true one – and it would be hilarious. He was charismatic, handsome, romantic and a naughty boy to the very end. So the fact that I seem to be drawn to that very  type of guy is no big surprise.

But I digress – soul food is what is on my mind today. Cravings – soul food places and faces and things that feed me and fill me up, leaving me satisfied and content. I hope you all know what your soul food is, because when you need symbolic comfort food and you need it NOW then you probably know just what to do with yourself. I guess my equivalent of the old tried and true comfort soul food mac & cheese has got to be the BIG SUR COASTLINE of California. When I move back to Denver this summer I just don’t know what I will do without it. There is a very special place to stay as you travel south on highway 1 – it is a charming cluster of motel cottages perched along the edge of the sand dunes  on a desolate stretch of beach overlooking my Specific Ocean, as I call it – it is going to beckon you again and again once you go there. The place is THE SANCTUARY, just a bit north of Monterey and Carmel. Visit the website at   www.thesanctuarybeachresort.com

Oh and by the way, as you begin your drive down the coast, in the town of Pacifica just south of SF (that place that is always on the news because it is losing chunks of real estate into the sea)  be sure to stop for BBQ at The Gorilla BBQ place, 2145 Coast Highway 1, Pacifica – located in an orange railroad car on the left if you are headed south – the best BBQ I have EVER had. They do have mac & cheese.   www.gorillabbq.com   They even have their own theme song available on the website.

Another must-visit place, farther down the coast past Carmel by almost 2 hours is Nepenthe – you can Google or Bing it and read to your heart’s content – I cannot possibly do it justice with my mere words, but I will say that the word Nepenthe means to alleviate pain or sorrow….to cause to forget trouble….and it does live up to it’s press. The views are beyond belief, and on my last visit there for the occasion of my late husband’s memorial day spent along Big Sur with dear friends, my pain lifted and I felt lighter than air when we settled in there for a very long dinner on the terrace. Go there to feed your soul. Go.

There are many areas here in northern CA that I consider my soul food places. In the 7 years I have lived here I have soaked up a lot of rare and wonderful memories. Yosemite leaves me breathless, Tahoe of course is my family’s playground just an hour and a half from my front door. Wine Country – Oh my goodness. My favorite art supply store of all time is FLAX in San Francisco – it is like a candy store for me. The exotic collage papers imported from all corners of the world are my magnet, pulling me in and holding me hostage there for hours. That store is responsible for changing my artistic life and direction. And it is so much more than papers – it is a great place for kids and for wrappings,  ribbons and albums, books, journals, paint of course and canvas and every single thing you can think of in art.  www.flaxart.com

This blog entry will be continued – so much to say and so little space. Emotional Soul Food is a concept that I highly recommend you explore – if you find a safe and comforting place to go, a particularly wonderful person to visit, something satisfying to eat, a lovely location to sit for awhile or a midnight walk along the beach – if you know how to employ your special people, places and things for your own peace and comfort – well then you are taking care of yourself well. And I believe in taking care of yourself. There are few people who will do as good a job of that as you do, and it is indeed a full time job.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Is Your Rorschach Stuck?

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We see films where the patient is being asked to tell the therapist what he sees as a series of Rorschach images are flashed before him. Ambiguous ink splats are seen as images that consistently reveal the patient’s view of life in general – revealing how he interprets life and what he thinks constantly about. Typically his proclamations for the subject matter of each image are slanted in the direction of violence, witches, sadness, loneliness, sex, butterflies, sex, flowers, or bugs having sex. Results can be funny to watch…or sad.

And so I ask myself sometimes if my Rorschach is stuck. It is a fine question to ask yourself. I certainly don’t want to see things in a consistently stereotypical way. Creatively speaking, as an artist and writer, it is a common problem to get stuck in a rut. You become comfortable. Life is hard so you crawl into your studio seeking refuge and a quiet place to hide. You escape into your world where you see things the way you prefer to see them. You do what you have always done because perhaps it brings you accolades and sales and peace of mind and quick therapy and an easy way to express your creativity, and an escape… You use the same tired techniques; you construct your subject matter, or your abstractions using consistently predictable methods that bring you to the quite similar results of the day before. Your artistic destination seldom changes. Your journey of creativity has dropped off imagination, experimentation and innovation somewhere along the bumpy road.

We all see things through the lens that is uniquely our own – we observe and gather inspiration, either externally or internally, in order to decide what to create and we attach our own moods, prejudices, preferences and peculiarities to those observations. It seems logical that if you are in a creative rut it might be the result of a narrow lens through which you are observing the world out there and the world in there. They say that you ARE that which you think constantly about. So if your days are spent in constant review of the past or the unsatisfying history of your life and how you have always seen things and how you have always done things then I believe you will get what you have always gotten, speaking creatively.

People who live their lives creatively are my favorite kind of people. They don’t have to be artists of course! In the words of Jack Kerouac:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
That is a bit extreme and difficult to find all in one person (and sometimes you will find those kind of people in prison) but occasionally I find glimmers of it all in a person roaming the world freely and doing great things, and those are the people I am drawn to.

This is why travel and culture and broadening your horizons can never be a bad thing. This is why film and theater and concerts and reading are essential to staying alert and stimulated creatively. We all meet people, and I mean all kinds of people in all walks of life, not just artists, who never pick up a book, don’t travel, can’t get into films, don’t even cook much, seldom read the news…and can’t even decide what their favorite color is. When that happens to me I take it as a pretty big clue that sooner or later I will run out of things to talk about with that person. And if we don’t know by now that creative muscles need to stay toned for best results, then we lose out. Creativity requires exercise – use it or lose it. You cannot be aware of and appreciate alternatives to your tried and true predictable (and sort of pathetic) creative efforts if you close yourself off and see only what you have always seen up there on your personal Rorschach screen.
Title of Mixed Media Collage – SEA CHANGE

The Creative Epiphany – What is a creative epiphany?

80834_coverI was so fascinated with the creative gene and the creative process and the intuitive realizations that sometimes accompany them that I wrote a book. I was not only interested in the personal creative process, I wanted to know what types of enlightenment and inspiration and guidance creative people experience while trying to find their particular paths within their creativity. Creativity often tugs people in multiple directions and they find it difficult at times to know which area to concentrate on, or how to be successful at a selection of things without diluting it all into nothing of special significance. I invited dozens of people of high creativity who had actually experienced what I define as a life-changing  “creative epiphany” to contribute chapters. I interviewed dozens of people at great length, sometimes across states just by phone, who I either knew personally or who had been recommended to me as having particularly fascinating stories to tell.  My theory was that if they could tell me, in their own simple conversational vocabulary, without being preachy and arrogant, about a startling life-changing personal experience where they felt that a light bulb had been turned on in a previously dark corner of their minds that shed its light and inspiration, revealing a solution or a path to be followed or a missing piece to the puzzle of their creativity, then I would ask them to write a chapter for the book.

And it worked. Nineteen writers including myself wrote chapters for my second book titled “The Creative Epiphany – Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations” available on www.Amazon.com and through various other distributors. One story from a gifted southwestern painter, Randy Pijoan, who had a near-death experience followed by a major epiphany during his recovery and was forever changed not only in the way he painted but in realizing he was brought back to do something meaningful, tells how he proceeded to found a non-profit organization called VENTERO OPEN PRESS. Google that and you will see what he accomplished, and read about how it really happened in my book. Or a college graduate of CU in Boulder, Regan Rosburg, who was an extraordinary fine art major but had not the confidence or self-esteem to pursue that avenue, choosing instead to become a stripper in the Denver area. A great stripper! A legendary stripper. But still not an artist of the kind she wanted to be. Through an epiphany  – a sharp and instantaneous one awarded to her one evening – she realized she had to paint and would no longer compromise her gift. Google her and you will see just how far her epiphany has taken her.

The book is not just about artists because I believe that creativity is often manifested in simply an extraordinary life well lived, or in discovering how to creatively twist adversity into a life-long calling that will change other lives. There is a chapter written by a lovely and accomplished gentleman, now deceased, which explains a simpler way to read music. I edited the chapters myself because I did not want to call in an editor who had no personal knowledge of the writers and who might be inclined to edit the living daylights out of them, losing the personal conversational style and unique vocabulary of the people who wrote them. The men and women are from many fields of life all woven together with a common thread of gratitude for their creative gift and their desire and passion to consistently and enthusiastically accept the gift as they go through life. They are a fun and rowdy bunch.

Epiphanies can arrive with a whisper or a shout and all points in between. You see, some epiphanies need time to reveal themselves. They percolate up from the deep recesses of your mind through layers of your consciousness and gradually begin to arrive to the area of your brain where one fine day they are “suddenly” so very apparent. You wonder how you could have been so blind, but that is because you needed time to “know”. Other epiphanies happen like an earthquake – the sharp, loud ones that rattle your brain. They grab you, stop you cold in your tracks and shake you like an 8.5 on the Richter scale – they fill your mind with instant illumination as if a light bulb was just turned on, accompanied by a call to action. You have been struck with a brand new way of seeing things. Your blind spot is gone and you know you have just received a message from somewhere deep within your soul. And your authentic soul voice will never give you the wrong message – it has only your best and truest interests at heart. That’s why you need to keep those paths of communication open to your soul, and that is accomplished by paying attention and living in the NOW. By being aware. Be being open and at times quite vulnerable – but present. You must be present to win, as the saying goes. Life’s prizes go to those who are full participants. Showing up is half the battle.

To quote from the book, “A creative epiphany brings discovery, illuminaton or new understanding to your creative endeavors. It often provides a tidbit of vital information or an intuitive realization, delivered with a high degree of life-changing  power and strength that enables you to more clearly define and utilize your special gifts of creatiivty.”

In my Introduction to the book I talk at length about creativity – defining it as I see it, playfully personifying it, comparing it to other gene-gifts, and talking frankly about its positive characteristics and downsides. Yes it does have those downsides. But if you are a creative person who chooses to acknowledge your creativity – because everyone is born creative in some way – acknowledging that gene and acting upon the positive components of that gift is the part that takes courage and an adventurous, risk-taking kind of mind. It is not always easy to embark on a life-long gamble with creativity, but the rewards are well worth the risks. This book takes the time to ask about the process and inquire about the rewards. A Creative Epiphany will reassure you that in discovering your life’s purpose you will reach fulfillment and understanding; knowing without a doubt what your unique creative contributions must be in your brief lifetime here on earth.

Epiphany.

Read about them.

Recognize them.

Listen…

Have one.