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

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

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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

Exciting Artistic Opportunity

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Original mixed media collage titled My Dragonfly by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2015, $900
Have you ever seen an original painting and wished you could afford it?
I certainly have.
And I can’t tell you how many times I have done a painting that strikes a cord with dozens of people all wishing they could own it. When that happens it is both exciting and heart-wrenching because you can only sell the original once.
I am happy to announce that I have just recently become affiliated with an online website, Fine Art America that offers the service of selling quality, professional, full-color prints of my original artwork. I have wanted to do this for years and now it is simple and easy and the quality is excellent. Anyone can shop from his/her own personal computer at my Fine Art America gallery or even request that another image of mine that you have seen before be uploaded and made available for printing in less than a day.
Visit me at Fine Art America at this link – http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com
Have a look around and you will see all of the products they offer using fine art images.
Various print sizes are available, printed on either paper or canvas. You can choose framing if you wish. Greeting cards and posters are also available with any of my images. The prices are quite reasonable and I retain the copyright of course.
Soon I will be placing the YEAR LONG CANVAS, a painting I have been working on, writing about and picturing on this blog since a year ago on this Fine Art America website, for the possibility of ordering prints….see my Archives if you’d like to know what I am talking about when I mention the YLC, a challenge offered to me by my instructor for advanced abstract expressionism. It has proved to be quite a project and I am nearing its end this month of March.
This is a fun and easy way to own fine art; and since many of you have asked me about prints it is time for me to take advantage of this opportunity. This will increase my exposure nation and worldwide and allow me to offer my most popular images to people who could not buy the original, in a quality print for as little as a hundred dollars or less…..
and if you are an artist, heads up! – this is a valuable opportunity!

On Writing…

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This is not the Year Long Canvas but it is by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2012

Well ok, yes I have been doing some writing elsewhere, being unfaithful to my blog, seeking gratification with a more exciting venue and actually honest enough to admit that I love it and it completes me. I still love you blog, but this other exotic creature has got me by the scruff of my neck and it is choking the life out of me for more. More writing. Because it knows I am addicted.

I am writing a book, my third book, but the first two were just for practice, it seems to me now. This one is a novel and it is so much more fun that it surpasses doing either book and this blog, too, sorry to say. I am a woman possessed and I can’t stay away from the computer, which calls to me, coos to me, hoots and yells at me all hours of the day and night to write more. Ideas come to me in dozens, I have to carry a pocket tablet everywhere lest I lose some valuable tidbit. Because I do lose stuff – really great stuff – it just falls out of my mind sometimes in the time it tales to pour myself a glass of ice water, sometimes walking ten feet into the next room, or out to the car. I have the attention span of a gnat but it is because the ideas I have are coming at me like balls out of a batting machine and I can’t keep up. I guess it’s good problem to have, but it’s exhausting and I am all bruised up.

I have written so many computer pages in the last 3 months that it is pretty ridiculous. No one sits down and writes for 12 hours without batting an eye, 5 days a week. I don’t think it’s normal. I think I might have a problem.

You know how I love to paint – but I have forgotten what painting is, almost, except today I did some work on the year long canvas just because I felt so sorry for it. And it looks really good – I’ll send the latest and greatest changes soon. They only took me 20 minutes and now I can’t wait to write again.

I self-published my first 2 books with Amazon’s self-publishing division called CreateSpace and it was a very pleasant experience – I got listed automatically on Amazon, bought some marketing materials, used some other services from their menu of choices and it got done quite efficiently. I would recommend it to anyone.

This time I would like to approach agents or publishers and give that a chance, so I am hoping that if any of you have a connection, maybe you would let me know, because I do believe in 6 degrees of separation and the magic of networking. I was going to keep this a big secret but then I wondered what the point of that was. What would that accomplish? Certainly not a publishing deal. So please help me out if you can. I would provide a brief summary to anyone who might want to help me providing I can trust that whole thing.

Sorry I had to break this news to you that hard way – on the internet – rather than a personal note to everyone or even better, in person. But I have trouble tracking you down, all over the globe. Doesn’t mean I don’t love you, though. I still really, really love you, and I am going to break it off with the novel once I get her published. She seems a little fickle to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

The Second Knowing of Art

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Mosaic from the Grand Palace in Bangkok copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

Rumi, the 12th century scholar and poet, is my favorite source of wisdom – as you know I often include Rumi quotes because his words are ageless; he is relevant even now in the chaotic 21st century. Every single time I browse through my Rumi books I am stunned to find quotes that jump off the pages to me exactly when I need them.

Today as I read his words, in speaking of knowledge and practical education, he says:

There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside of you.

A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through the conduits of learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you, moving out.

And so it goes with painting. Although the artist might be a realistic plein air artist, a painter of photographic realism, portraits, or even a photographic artist, he or she must always call upon something from inside in order to decide upon and create an image. In abstracted art you must pull from an even deeper place, and you must define your own personal language of art.

Some people do that quite well; others struggle with finding the particular art language that is true to their soul. If you, as an artist, try to speak artistically from a place that is not genuine, I believe your art will be soul-less and uninspired. You can spot art that has no soul – there is a lot of it out there. It is gutless, bland and forgettable.

Rumi also said to me today:

Do you know why your soul-mirror

does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.

It needs to be cleaned.

Whatever makes your soul sing, seek that. If you know  the secret of where to go, either deep inside yourself or outside in the real world, and what to look for in gathering mental material for your own artistic soul to become inspired and thrive, you are fortunate indeed. We must all find the source of the food that feeds our creativity.

The Artful Grace of Gratitude

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The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

Friedrich Nietzsche  Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/friedrichn100896.html#Xjd7rOQCkWQr6kYC.99

I am reminding us all today what Nietzsche had to say on the subject of art. And I so agree with him. Furthermore, you have all heard the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I.” from John Bradford. John Bradford was a prebendary of St. Paul’s. He was an English Reformer and martyr. Bradford was in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor for his Protestant faith. Bradford was burned at the stake on 1 July 1555. Life’s adversity finally caught up with him, apparently. But he left us with a quote we all remembered. en.wikipedia.org

My Archives contain a blog I wrote titled “This being human is a guest house…..” That is a great quote by Rumi, used for the title in a post where I discuss the experience of being creative and how that gift might be affected by basic human daily moods, life’s worst traumas and all points in between. For some reason or another this blog is recently receiving a lot of attention. People can relate to it – probably because we know that none of what life offers us ever comes our way without meaning attached and/or an implied message that can be learned from it. Nothing is wasted in the universal plan. Everyone has a story and yet what you do with that story is what defines you and your creative work. Where and how do you place a creative reference to the joys of your life and also the troubles you have seen? Have you learned to put the passion from your life experiences to good work? Will you share? Can you reveal yourself for the sake of creativity? Are you a card-carrying member of the human race, having paid your dues of life out in the muddy trenches, or are you merely a side-line observer?

My recommendation in that blog is to use these swings in spirit – these normal and/or difficult human experiences – these ups and downs. Use them to your advantage, be influenced by them, acquire depth in your creative efforts from them and milk them for all they are worth. The gifts that life’s experiences bring to you are the unexpected dividends that feed your creative soul. The best writers, artists, poets, actors, composers, photographers, inventors don’t live in blissful bubbles. They allow themselves to FEEL. They offer themselves up to the universe as vulnerable human sponges, able to absorb and learn and express. If you are going to be blowing in the wind at the mercy of one day’s terrible misfortunes or another day’s earthly delights, then walk directly through the chaos and let the pain or the pleasure wash over you and allow it to bring depth and understanding to your creativity. Paint right through it, write about it, speak or sing or photograph it. For God’s sake express yourself. If you will just feel things, deeply, truly feel them rather than attempting to deny or escape their weight on your shoulders, your creative work will shine as a result, because people recognize soul when they see it.

People who drink to excess out of denial, use drugs for painkillers and to escape, while becoming experts in dodging life’s greater challenges are forever frozen in the hollow status quo of being pitifully without the degree of character development and depth that is earned by feeling deeply. If you want to experience the passion for life we are all meant to enjoy then do not shrink from adversity. And on the flip side, when you are high on life and all it has to offer, decide what you are going to do with that intensity of joy. Even goodness holds responsibility for expression and thanks……display your healthy soul so others might learn.

A kind of gratitude is born in walking directly into the fire and coming out OK on the other side. Someone told me the other day that I seemed to be quite happy now. This was a person who knows my history – and is aware what I have been through….the before, the walking through it, and the after. My art and my writing have become enlightened and enhanced as a result of all of it – they are the total sum of all my parts, because I figured out how to use adversity to go deep. And I know whereof I speak.