The Fourth of July Weekend and Summer Art

  

first photo courtesy of winridge.srgliving.com – second photo courtesy of artsnfood.BlogSpot.com – third from visitfortmeyers.wordpress.com

Summer in the Denver area is plentiful with outdoor opportunities for art, wine and food appreciation.  Friday we spent all afternoon walking the route of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in the premiere gallery district of the Denver area. I had not attended in many years due to the fact that I was living in California, but now I am back where I belong and happy to have had the opportunity to be leisurely wandering around at the festival checking out the art and craft of fine artisans from all over the country. The competition at this event is always fierce and the art is nationally diverse – ceramics, photography, woodworking, mixed media, watercolor, oils, acrylics, textiles, pastels, jewelry, baskets, metalwork, glass and even more. It took about 3-4 hours to make our way around, not even stopping to inspect each and every booth, and with an hour or so lunch break. It was hot, of course, as you would expect on July 4th, but everyone was well prepared. Even I did not get all hot pink and crisp as I might have – I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and layers of SPF15.

My companion and I are both artists – experienced life-long artists, who have had deep experiences with many galleries and selling situations. We have empathy for what is required of an artist to pay for a booth, fill it with art that has been carefully packed and transported from far away places, SMILE, answer questions and talk to people all day long while roasting in the heat and also attempt to make sales so that you can do better than just breaking even. Many of the people we spoke to said that sales were slow, but of course it was only the first day. Some booth owners were sitting in chairs out behind their booths rather than standing up inside where they could meet & greet the visitors….not such a great idea, expecting customers to come and search for you behind your booth….

Several things struck us as we made the rounds. Generally speaking, the art was highly commercial – much more polished and expensive than you would find at the art fairs in the mountain communities such as Evergreen. The people who do these major festivals make a  profession of it because they have to in order to sell. They make more money in summer events and seasonal bazaars than if they tried to sell in galleries, and so the product has become rather slick and in some cases a bit trite. But that is what happens down through the years – the game keeps getting more competitive and the art has to become geared to the mass-market tastes of the people who attend the shows.

Another thing we noticed, in a big way, was the relative absence of any quality abstract art. There were feeble attempts at abstraction, but the few examples we found were soul-less and poorly done. How does this happen in such a prestigious venue and why? Of course the jury committee decides who makes the cut – and if the powers that be have no appreciation of abstract art, and/or that kind of art has no audience and just does not sell…..well than we have a sort of sad situation. If you don’t even show abstracted images how will you build an educated following? People have to see it to learn and understand it. I would rather see a bit more abstract art in the show and less furniture inlayed with thousands of bottle caps. I would rather see an abstracted landscape here and there in the show than 55 ways to paint a red barn. But that’s just me. Well hell YES it is just me! I have a right to expect a bit more intellectual stimulation from a summer art fair that has such a fine reputation and gathers such huge numbers of attendees.

Nevertheless we had a great time – the food trucks were like an art show all their own – and deciding what to eat was a 25 minute long walking and smelling crash course in gourmet food truck cuisine. So much to choose from and so many wonderful aromas – I settled on Greek. Of course the “people watching” is often better than the art – it IS THE BEST FORM OF ART, actually. I kept thinking I was seeing people I knew – from years ago when I lived here – in disguise – as older people than I remember them to be. Me included in that same type of disguise.

From there we went to a traditional dinner menu of  BBQ chicken, potato salad, etc. from my own kitchen followed by fireworks and ooo’s and aahhh’s. Then the familiar tingling feeling we get when we remember why we are celebrating and what we have to lose if we do not stay aware and alert. The older I get, disguise or not, I can barely hold back the tears that come when we celebrate the Fourth of July and I realize once again how amazed and blessed I am to have been born in a country where I am free. If I had but one wish, it would be that everyone everywhere, no matter what the circumstances and location of their births, could experience a life of free choices. It is precisely what makes a life worth living.

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Creativity – Surprisingly Human…

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mixed media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2013

Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. He who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations. He who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers. (James Allen)

Many articles are written about creativity. It seems rather a newish thing, that after centuries of witnessing its manifestations but not bothering to stop and figure out what the internal dynamics of it are, we now seem to have the time to pick it apart and examine it more closely. Everybody wonders how it happens – what facilitates it, who gets it, how do we nurture it, does it peak and then decline with age, how it can be enhanced and how to increase its potential.

First of all, everybody gets their fair share because it awarded free at birth – absolutely no one is born without it. The degree to which it shows up depends upon which gene tendencies you begin to massage – because certain aspects of creativity can lay dormant if not discovered, acknowledged, encouraged, stroked and cared for. When I taught mixed media painting to adults, people came to my class who had been CEO’s of corporations, high earners and achievers, outstanding in their fields which of course requires enormous vision and creatiity. But they had waited until their retirement years to tentatively tap the latent but strong desire they had kept hidden to someday learn to paint. They had been extremely creative in other areas of their lives to the point where no one had a single clue they secretly wanted to paint. The desire had been put on the shelf or choked out entirely for years, so  that ambition of a different caliber could take the lead at the exclusion of all else.

The creativity was bound to come out sooner or later…or was it? We hear all the time about people who discover they can sing, dance, write, paint and numerous other creative activities well into their adult lives, and I say what a shame that they waited so long. I wish more people would live the wondrous, colorful world of creativity all along the journey and not confine it to the last couple chapters of the book of life. Think of it! Life is all about the journey…living in Technicolor is of great importance.

We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket. (Winston Churchill)

There is no secret formula for being highly creative. The habits of the most gifted creative people vary enormously – they are observed and envied, scrutinized and examined by people who want more of what they see. The trick to being creative and using the potential that is already there inside you is to dig deep and know yourself. Define what you desire, ask yourself if it is true and appropriate to who you authentically are (because not every one of us has exactly what it takes to be a Steven Spielberg) and what you are unconsciously drawn to, and give it some oxygen. Bring it out to the light of day. It does not have to crowd out everything else, to the extent that you drop whatever else you were doing and give it your complete 100% ALL  (although that has worked for many people) but it does mean that you must give it a fighting chance to be heard, seen and nurtured. You have to be willing to bring it out of hiding and show it to the world, unapologetically, unselfconsciously, and even proudly, as you sharpen your skills and learn. You cannot be timid – you must be strong – gutsy –  not easily discouraged – able to listen to criticism –  and you must have confidence and trust yourself even on the days when you are less convinced that what you are offering to the world is worthy of attention. Creative people make mistakes, get embarrassed, sometimes make fools of themselves all the damn time – even the best of them. But they keep going. They have tenacity. They are resilient.

But you knew all that, right?

A heartfelt sense of aspiring cuts through negativity about yourself; it cuts through the heavy trips you lay on yourself. (Pema Chodron)

The Creative Epiphany – Playing the Networking Game

?????????? mixed media collage titled “THIRD DAY’S END” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

Oh wow it feels good to stretch and move around and enter back into the world of sane people…well, you know. Almost sane. What do people do all day when they don’t have to be glued at the hip to their computers? I just noticed there is sun outside today and I heard a bird. I wonder what I have missed in the past 3 days. Where were we, you and I? I have missed you.

I have just spent 3 days of my life (that I will never be able to get back), barely eating or drinking, hunched over into a tight knot, a ball-like posture where my internal organs are all jammed up on top of each other groaning, my chin is nearly touching the desktop and my knees are up into my armpits as I sit beady-eyed in front of my PC and struggle with a website issue that was marketed as being so easy and fast that “your new blankety blank art website will be up and in working order in just 15 minutes!” After a day and a half with nothing much accomplished, I decided my old art website was not so bad after all, but I persevered. It took another day and half to see the light of day. Now I am not a stupid person. So that is just wrong.

For the past 2 nights I have poured myself into bed well after 10 pm after a full day of it, hallucinating instructions and website pages, and even then unable to sleep. I am like a pitbull when this kind of stuff happens – I become so frustrated and infuriated at the counter-intuitive instructions and the stupid names attached to certain actions and tabs and sections that I want to leave my home office and fly to the place where these fools work and scream into their ears up close and personal about how SIMPLE it could all be if they didn’t feel like they had to inflate their own job description with lofty, enigmatic words and phrases in place of common words giving common instructions. Doesn’t it make you wonder if they have a clue what the website is actually supposed to do for the client? Do they understand my needs? I have NEEDS. And why can’t a task with several steps that must be made in the correct order for a procedure all be grouped on the same page so that a person does not have to go back and forth between several different pages to look stuff up in order to enter it all and get it to function?

Do I even have to mention the fiasco of OBAMACARE? Do software computer geeks live in the real world with the rest of us? Aren’t these things given a trial-run before they are released to the innocents? Everybody else has been taught to check and recheck their work before they turn it in. I keep telling myself that I could have designed it better. But I get up from my desk in total, in white-knuckled frustration, stand straight up and spin around 3 times and sit down again hoping for illumination and progress and a new perspective. The HELP option does not even address my issues. There is no live person to speak with. At the end of one of my last and most time consuming tasks, I carefully, holding my breath, click on the exact thingie I have to click on to save my newly compiled list of contacts, which had to be entered by hand (well over 2 hours just for that) into the networking support section, and in a nano-second they fly off to MARS – they are gone – never to be found again.

I scream. Neighbors think I am being injured or robbed. They call. I explain that I am just in the outer ring of computer hell. Oh, they say. Glad you’re not hurt. Been there, done that. It was last week actually. You are not alone. Just chill, step slowly away from the desk, have a drink. Take a bath and shake it all off. Try again in the morning.

I realize that all these social networking venues are critical for a person who paints, who writes, and evidently for anyone who just breathes the same air as everyone else here in the 21st century on planet earth. But I am truly sick and tired of Facebook, not yet twittering at all and don’t want to have to twitter, don’t even know what instagram is or what it’s good for, not active on Linked In, and I very seldom care – about all I do is text and email and blog and paint and eat and sleep. Is there a life remaining out there for a person like me? Or  should I just cave in to ignorance and become irrelevant?

Do you think people would still find me?

Oh and PS – I have passed my 100th blog post and hardly knew it. Whooo Hooo!

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.

www.epiphanysfriends.com

The Creative Epiphany

The Creative Epiphany
Gifted Minds, Grand Realizations

We are proud to say we have fans of the book around the world. There is something for everyone inside these apple green covers. I selected 18 people to write chapters for this book, chosen for the extraordinary  realizations they had experienced involving their creativity which opened their eyes to some missing puzzle piece that changed the way they looked at life, taking them in a direction they had never before imagined until they had a creative epiphany. The book is available with Amazon.com and other booksellers. When you are a creative person one of the most difficult decisions you face is choosing which direction to follow – usually multiple directions are available because you are a creative idea machine spitting out more ideas than you might ever be able to put into practical use. My Introduction to the book discusses the phenomenon of being highly creative and what agonies and ecstasies await you in life. Creativity is always a challenge; a curse at times; a gene you cannot deny any more than you can deny the color of your eyes. As for me, I seem to have settled upon fine art and writing as my most passionate pursuits after putting in some years in other more practical positions teaching Interior Design, working in sales and marketing for a financial advisory firm, then Director of Marketing for my boss’s financial book which led to the decision to author and market my own book,  being an art gallery director for a couple of great locations which was the best training for the successful marketing of my own art in fine galleries. They say that life prepares you for life, and that is exactly how it worked for me. You become involved in what you love, you learn from it and you make it your own direction. I was enrolled in watercolor classes when I was about 8 years old at the Dayton Art Institute, feeling validated and proud even at that young age that I was indeed an artist, so identity was never in question for me. I am saddened and surprised by some people of great talent who never manage to see themselves as authentic artists – I tell all of my students that they are artists.  I sold my first piece of art when I was in high school and began selling professionally after I graduated from U. of Colorado with a BFA. And so it has gone.

The journey of an artist, a photographer, a designer, a musician, a poet, a writer, a chef, a race car driver – or any career that is non-robotic – is long but it also needs to be WIDE. There is much to be said for WIDTH – because every journey stretches long into the future but it must not be a narrow, one lane trip.  My advice is to use your peripheral vision  so you don’t miss the great side stuff as you watch for the end goal. That’s like going to a three-ring circus and only watching the center ring. Creativity demands a big picture view. If you live in the now, being aware of the possibilities to your left and right as you move forward, you just never know what epiphanies will brush against you. Creativity is BFF with serendipity, improvisation and unexpected opportunity. When the epiphany light bulb goes on, you’ll be enlightened.