Sustaining Your Creativity

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When it comes to creativity, many complicated layers are worthy of discussion, and at this moment in time it is a hot topic. In my book titled THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, available on Amazon and Kindle, I explored, with a select 18 highly creative individuals, the process of choosing and defining your creative direction. The subject common to all of their chapters was the event of experiencing a creative epiphany. I have written many blog posts about such an experience, (see my Archives) how I define it and how to encourage and recognize the epiphany event that will change the course of your life for the better, if you remain open to hearing it.

When a person is super creative, it oozes out in many directions, seeking the most fulfilling path that will bring the best results (not usually the path of least resistance). I do not believe that a person must confine her creative work to one lasting lifetime lane that moves forward like a turnpike and allows only one facet of creativity to get anywhere, with no exit ramps and no room for further adventures. What I do believe is that selecting one or two dominant and slightly meandering creative avenues will bring the best enlightenment and satisfaction in your journey. Certainly not at the dictatorial extinction of everything else – but to allow adequate concentration of time and energy in the primary pursuits that offer you the most potential for a life of moral and career enrichment. If you dilute yourself too much, you water down all your creative  endeavors to a thin, weak soup that never tastes very good.

Many creative people re-define themselves over a lifetime, using chunks of time to do one thing very well, then switching to some other choice and doing that quite well for another period of time. That is a wonderful way to keep things fresh, avoid boredom and follow the money trends to a creative work that will bring in some bucks. I love that. That is a fun way to live.

Through the years I have been advised to produce greeting cards, write children’s books, become an interior designer, run my own B&B, be a painter of faux finishes on walls, design clothing, manage art galleries and decorator fabric shops and the list goes on. Some of those things I did, some I wish I had done and some I may still do…. Underneath it all, however and sometimes on top of it all, I was an artist. In spite of being an artist I have spent embarrassing  amounts of time diluting myself to such a degree that I was crazy with juggling it all, and yet what ultimately happened was that I learned from it so that now I can write confidently about it with a high degree of credibility. In retrospect, perhaps in doing this writing that time spent has become worthwhile…even valuable and necessary. Phew – because I hate wasted time. Now I am an artist and an author and you can be sure that any advise I offer to you was gathered through my time in the trenches.

I am now beginning a sequel to The CREATIVE EPIPHANY,  title to be determined. I have more to say – I would like to assume that you have chosen a creative direction; you are immersed in it, devoured by it, and perhaps being driven crazy by it. I have some observations about all that…. I would like to get them all gathered up, organized and put them between the covers of a new book. I do not want you to smother the flames of your creative fire. Help is on the way! Stay tuned!

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com

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Within Eleven Days

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18 x 24 Mixed Media acrylic painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott

The week started out rotten as a two week old peach left out in the rain – things looked bleak on all fronts with no solutions in sight to a number of problems. Usually I might comfort myself in the knowledge that none of my pathetic little issues are life or death situations but in this case there were several major situations and one of them was indeed a life or death struggle for a person I love…..and as I hung on, white knuckled and melting down with every passing silent hour while the phone did not ring and the texts were all too infrequent…..I tried to deal with the other situations that also required my (diluted) attention.

It seems ridiculous under those kinds of circumstances, but life does go on. The world does not stand frozen as you wait and wonder and agonize for news. Every tiny mundane task you must perform, every thought in your head, every meal you do not eat, every waking hour and every sleepless night spent twisting and turning in the belly of the darkness you continue to wait for the slightest news that things are improving. For days on end nothing much changes.

I would imagine most of you have been to that hollow terrifying place. If you have not, you are extremely fortunate, but know that some day it will visit you. No one escapes.

But then, after seven moons plus four, there is a turn for the better and I wake up to sun. The slightest baby steps have been taken and taken and taken, the news is more hopeful, the big picture seems to be improving and the world outside your mind gains color and noise and aromas once again. There has been a sea change of the utmost proportions.

Was it your prayers? Was it your faith? Was it sheer determination and a personal will to live? Did the universe intervene at your request? Does group prayer make a difference? Have you witnessed a miracle?

All of the above.

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Textures of Angkor Wat

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If you get off on color, pattern and texture as do I in my mixed media collage artwork and my contemporary abstracts, well then Angkor Wat can offer you a plentiful selection of all three of those as well as inspiration for color ideas ranging from weathered reds to terra cottas, burnt siennas and other shades of orange – originally all the structures were painted. The very high relief of the sandstone sculpture is astounding and reflects the sophistication of each temple’s design preferences. Simple carvings remained lower to the ground, for easy access by the common people; carvings increased in complexity the higher they got on the temple wall with the simple fact that it took more educated people who lived in the upper chambers to read them. To complicate matters, speaking in terms of art history, the historically Hindu Angkor Wat includes an invasion of Buddhists who breezed onto the scene sometime around the 14th or 15th century and proceeded to conquer and destroy all Hindu references to the Hindu god Vishnu! Modifying (smashing) the faces, headdresses, leg positions and arm placement of seated figures and transforming them to Buddhist! It is an abomination – and a horrible attempt – clearly an obvious and disgusting falsification of important art, and Angkor Wat remains Buddhist to the present day. One can easily see with the naked eye the areas where these uncharacteristically violent Buddhist changes were made in the carvings.

The Year Long Canvas reaches her one-year mark!

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The Year Long Canvas has had several major changes today, and you can compare them with the previous version below, as well as with the very first start of the original painting from a year ago. I worked the new additions to the composition from all sides today and offered all four orientations of her for your review. You can zzzzzoom in and see her texture – not quite as thick as I had imagined it would be at her first year anniversary.

This project might not be 100% finished at this point. If I look at this painting long enough I will always see something I would like to change…it is a sickness…never being satisfied. But perhaps my fatigue with the entire project will prevent any further work. I cannot say that this newest version is my favorite of all the stages of the past year, but it is certainly among the top three. It has indeed been an exercise in patience, perseverance, dissatisfaction and approval, unease and comfortable-ness with my own work. If the lesson to be learned was that I should trust myself more, that has been accomplished. I was at times discouraged that I would ever be able to make a whole new painting over the top of many other incarnations, but I did it, over and over.

My son says this painting reminds him of RIO – a landscape in other words if it is placed horizontally. It does not remind me of Rio, but it does speak to me of action, energy, optimism and fun. So maybe it is RIO after all! I cannot decide which orientation I prefer…I really do not care at this point. I just like the color, texture and pattern of it, and most definitely color is the thing that grabs people first, then maybe the dramatic composition. The sensuality of color is usually what most people respond to in art and try as I do sometimes I cannot do quiet neutrality. It bores me to tears.

I have had a great year with this project and I hope you have too! Phew…I think we almost made it. Thanks for hangin’ in there!

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Previous version on the left and the very beginning of it last March on the right.

Being Creative

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Paintings #1 and #2, not yet titled, copyright 2015 Jo Ann Brown Scott

There is something about a snowy, extra icy day that fires up my creativity. The sidewalks are a sheet of ice, the temps have plummeted from yesterday, there is thick, cotton gauze fog and no one who has a choice would be outside. And so we paint, me and my creativity. The light is perfect – bright with the outdoor whiteness, but no sun glare, no reflections in my north facing window. I always say that my most ideal conditions in which to paint, or write, are simply a good night’s sleep and a day when I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything.

I rolled out of bed about 8 am, a little late for me, went directly to the kitchen and made my famous chicken broccoli soup, eliminating any distractions about what I am going to eat today. It’s on the stove simmering, crusty Asiago bread nearby. This must be heaven.

As any artist is bound to do from time to time, I sometimes wish that I could paint a different way. It happens to the best of us; it is born not of boredom with what we are used to doing but a challenge to ourselves to accomplish a whole new look and make it sing, as if we had been doing it forever, just to prove we can. Every once in a while I give it a try. I usually paint with a confetti riot of color, and so my reaction against that tendency is to paint with a greatly subdued palette and far less action. That does not truly represent my normal joyful state of mind, (happy!) but I do have more subdued reflective moments of silence (yawn…) when I become rather meditative (almost asleep). If I can tap into that while I am standing upright painting, occasionally I get some fine results. If I try to do it twice,  I can, but I don’t necessarily like to, and I fall back into the fun stuff of going bananas with color; it seems to be the authentic me.

The second painting is subdued, for me. My version of restraint. (perhaps you are laughing now, at my version of restraint) but I kept it simple, the colors are there but not so plentiful and/or not so in your face. I wanted to do more, but I decided to eat lunch instead and let it go for a while and see if I can live with it the way it is.

With this blog I have two photos, the first abstract painting is a new one displaying my customary  expressionistic (controlled color pattern texture chaos) type of composition, and the next a much more toned down piece where as I worked I kept a lid on it. Over the holidays when I had some fun relatives over for lunch, my six year old niece, Finley, (with whom I  sometimes paint, and who calls me Great Jo because I am her great aunt) walked into my studio, saw the toned down painting on my work table and said to me, “Great Jo, this one is not finished – can I finish it for you?” Believe me, it was tempting to see what might have happened. I will file that idea away; and another time I will start something and let her finish it. It has to be a cut above elephants who paint, right?

By the way, yes it is a new year and I have not forgotten about the YEAR LONG CANVAS – she is looking longingly in my direction as we speak, jealous of my other work. She needs a fix, another session, and I will get to her soon. She reaches her one year “time up” about March 1st, and here we are in mid-January already. I have plans for the entire month of February, so my time is becoming scarce leading into her birthday. My next post will be for her, as she nears completion.

 

 

September Report on the Year Long Canvas

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New September YLC copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

An eye is meant to see things. The soul is here for its own joy. I am not contained by this universe. – RUMI

If you remember, the last time I posted a blog about the Year Long Canvas my intention was to enter the piece, as it was then, in a juried show at the cooperative CORE GALLERY on S. Santa Fe Drive in Denver. You can see the type of art they show at http://www.corenewartspace.com

My decision was made on impulse, just because I was curious to see what would happen. The gallery is well respected and they had over 135 entries into the open show. The sole juror of the show, Jt Urband, is a well-credentialed professor with degrees from the U. of Penn who now teaches plein air painting at Denver’s Arapahoe Community College. He did not choose to accept either of my abstract entries into the show, but I was rather impressed with most of the 30 paintings that were accepted, with the exception of a couple pieces.

The lesson here is that there is no lesson – usually not a tangible reason can ever be revealed as to why you were accepted or not accepted into juried art shows. I know of shows where the judge’s personal art experience had nothing whatsoever to do with the type of art that he was asked to judge for the show. Some art experts who admit to having no understanding of abstract art or taste for it might be included on the jury panel for a show heavy leaned toward the abstract. Or conversely, abstractly inclined jurors might be asked to judge a representational show. As an artist I find this rather frustrating and I would go so far as to say that I think it is just wrong, or at the very least, pointless. But that’s just me. Actually it is not just me – other artists feel the same way.

One of the primary requirements of being an artist is to develop a thick skin. You will be faced with a lot of rejection as your work evolves and matures. If you are willing to put it out there, get ready to hear what people really think about it. Listen and learn. But very seldom do you have access to why a juror did not select your work for a show – you are left wondering and wondering.

Since then I have slightly altered the YLC and if you are detail oriented you will notice the changes in the above photo. Just a few subtle additions of turquoise green inside the large black area so that it is not so much flat black, then a row of dots descending out of the yellow, and finally a few small geometric areas of the same color of turquoise green added on the right side of the orange ball and in other tiny areas. That’s it for now. I really do like the YLC painting at this very moment in time. It makes me happy to look at it and I think it is full of positive energy,  movement and drama. I see no negativity in it, and most of its areas work singly as well as enhancing the greater whole, as I see it. You can zoom in for details.

The summer has been a significant and important one for me with many exciting new experiences with friends and family, and the good karma of that has been manifested in this painting and others I have done. My paintings have been strong but joyful, powerful yet inviting, poetic and revealing of my happiness. Those of you who know me well understand exactly why and where this energy came from….and I am proud of the resulting artwork. I believe the art Buddha would be proud to hear about that, whether or not the YLC made it into a show. I am smiling as I say all this and all is well here with me. I wish the same for all of you creative ones.

Namaste.

 

 

 

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?