It started with a sticker

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I get inspiration from all sorts of places; beautiful scenery, songs on the radio, inspiring art, magazines, catalogs, etc, etc…and today it was a sticker.

One of my stickers ended up on this painting.

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But when I moved the painting aside to let it dry – I noticed the blotter sheet had some interesting marks and paint strokes on it.

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Unfortunately the interesting compositions were in the middle of some not-so-great compositions. I wanted to explore it further but was distracted by all the surrounding marks. But I had an idea…

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I made a frame with an opening the size of a 4×4 cradled panel.
It became a viewfinder and made it much easier to find the compositions I wanted amid all the distractions.

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Mounting these small “paintings” onto cradled panels will elevate them to star status instantly!

Just remember to use light pencil marks when framing your compositions and add about an eighth of an inch extra around the perimeter of your painting when cutting them out – to allow for trimming and positioning ease when mounting them onto the panels. Of course you’re not limited to 4×4 size – you may have a much larger sheet that you’re finding interesting arrangements on – this is just a starting suggestion.

The point is to keep our eyes open for the unexpected – sometimes it’s right there in front of us!

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a real vacation

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Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain
By DANIEL J. LEVITIN AUG. 9, 2014

THIS month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

A third component of the attentional system, the attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. This undoubtedly evolved to alert us to predators and other dangerous situations. The constant flow of information from Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, text messages and the like engages that system, and we find ourselves not sustaining attention on any one thing for very long — the curse of the information age.

My collaborator Vinod Menon, a professor of neuroscience at Stanford, and I showed that the switch between daydreaming and attention is controlled in a part of the brain called the insula, an important structure about an inch or so beneath the surface of the top of your skull. Switching between two external objects involves the temporal-parietal junction. If the relationship between the central executive system and the mind-wandering system is like a seesaw, then the insula — the attentional switch — is like an adult holding one side down so that the other stays up in the air. The efficacy of this switch varies from person to person, in some functioning smoothly, in others rather rusty. But switch it does, and if it is called upon to switch too often, we feel tired and a bit dizzy, as though we were seesawing too rapidly.

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.

Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.

Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy. Consider this: By some estimates, preventable medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. You want your diagnostician to give the right answer, not always the quickest one. Zoning out is not always bad. You don’t want your airline pilot or air traffic controller to do it while they’re on the job, but you do want them to have opportunities to reset — this is why air traffic control and other high-attention jobs typically require frequent breaks. Several studies have shown that people who work overtime reach a point of diminishing returns.

Taking breaks is biologically restorative. Naps are even better. In several studies, a nap of even 10 minutes improved cognitive function and vigor, and decreased sleepiness and fatigue. If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.

Daniel J. Levitin is the director of the Laboratory for Music, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University and the author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.”

I subscribe to AustinKleon.com (Austin Kleon is the author of ‘Show Your Work’ and ‘Steal Like an Artist’) – this article was included in his newsletter this week.

And how perfect to arrive home from a real vacation to find an article singing the praises of the importance of taking a ‘real vacation’; no work emails, no computer, no cell service at all, just a chance to enjoy the away-from-it-ness of it all.

Vacations like this used to be the norm but now are considered luxuries – and this needs to change.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience this type of vacation in awhile – do yourself a favor and plan one soon.

The attached is an iPhone image I feel describes that vacation state of mind perfectly – rural Vermont.

Just beautiful!

“I guess we’re all two people. One daylight, and the one we keep in shadow” Bruce Wayne

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Reading an interesting book…”The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes: Harnessing our Power to Change the World” – Deepak Chopra – decoding the laws that govern the realm of superheroes, our fascination with, their relevance, and perhaps most important – how to apply them to our daily lives.
An interesting and entertaining perspective!

Digital composite of two infrared photographs.

Almost Something. Almost Nothing.

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We talk all the time about how creating art is good for us and how it relieves stress – but sometimes when we’re not feeling so creative; the very thought of putting pen to paper is stressful in and of itself.

If you’re like most creative types, though – you have a stash of unfinished/unloved pieces hidden away somewhere. Think about the pages of your sketchbook or that cabinet where you throw all those disposable paint palettes (it’s ok, I save them too) whatever it is that caused you to tuck it away can be put to good use if you look at it as simply repurposing what you already have. And, as a bonus, you’re not staring into that big, blank, scary white hole of a canvas/paper/panel, etc.

I had fun with this one tonight.

It started as a sketch except she had no ears or hair. And I just could NOT make myself attempt to draw any either. I suppose she would have stayed that way indefinitely.

I remember one Christmas painting a Nativity set for my mom without a face on any of the figures – animals included! I didn’t want to risk messing the whole thing up after working so long on the rest of it.

For tonight’s art session I photographed the sketch (so, technically I guess she will remain bald and earless indefinitely), imported the image into iColorama, added the ‘hair’ with the cool art brushes in that program, saved it and opened it into Procreate and did some detail work with the sketch and small paintbrush tools in that program. Reminder: these are both apps.

It was a very stress-free and enjoyable time that came together rather quickly since I started with something rather than nothing.

A beautiful thing

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How to Master the Art of Living
Posted: 30 Jul 2014 12:09 PM PDT
By Leo Babauta

Imagine you had a gorgeous blueberry sitting on the otherwise empty plate in front of you. You pick it up gently, place it on your tongue, and begin to taste it.
You already know how a blueberry tastes, and so when this one is a bit riper than you’d like, you make a face, feel the disappointment, swallow it with displeasure.
Or perhaps it tastes exactly as you’d expected: no big deal. You swallow, and move on with your day.
In the first case, the blueberry was disappointing because it didn’t meet expectations. In the second, it was boring because it met expectations.
Now try this: have no expectations of how the blueberry will taste. You don’t know because you haven’t tried it yet. You’re curious, open to a variety of tastes.
You taste it, and really pay attention. You notice the tanginess, the firmness of the skin, the sweet mushiness of the center, the complex flavors that emerge as you eat it. You didn’t know how it would taste, but this is brilliant! It’s new, because you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.
This is sometimes called the Beginner’s Mind, but I think of it as a mind free of expectations.
The blueberry, of course, can be anything in life: any experience, any person you meet, any cup of tea, any task before you, any interaction with a loved one, any thought that enters your head, any moment of the day.
If you approach any of these with expectations, they will often disappoint or frustrate you … or be bland, blah, usual. And you move on to the next disappointing or frustration or usual experience, and so on, so that life is nothing but a series of things you barely like and barely notice.
If you approach each moment, each task, each person, without expectations … and just see that moment or person as they are … then you will really see that moment. Really appreciate it. Experience it like you’ve never experienced anything before, because you haven’t.
This is the Art of Living.

The Worlds That Open Up
When you learn to approach each person and moment and task without expectations, it transforms everything. New worlds open up to you.

A handful of examples:
• Procrastination: Let’s say you have been putting off a big task at work because you’re dreading doing it. Maybe it’s a big project, and you have this feeling of overwhelm. It’s a lot of work! You are expecting to have to do hard work you’re perhaps not good at, expecting failure or difficulty. But letting go of the expectations means you don’t know how this task will go … you go into it with an open mind. You try it and see how it goes. You learn from the experience no matter how it goes.
• Habits: You enter a new habit with the expectation that it will be amazing, change your life, and you’ll do great. And when it is inevitably harder than you thought it would be, and you’re less successful at it, you’re disappointed, discouraged, frustrated. So you lose motivation, and give up. If instead, you let go of the fantasy of how this habit will go, and just be open to what emerges … you can just do the habit. Just be in the moment with it. Then, no matter how it turns out, you’ll learn something.
• Frustrating person: This guy at work is frustrating you because he’s not doing the work the way he should, or maybe he’s being inconsiderate somehow. Your frustration stems from an expectation of how this person should act. They don’t act according to this ideal, and so you suffer. Instead, you can put aside this expectation that people will live up to your ideals … and just be open to them. They will behave imperfectly, just as you will. Accepting the person as they are doesn’t mean you do nothing … you can let go of the frustration, and see how they’re having difficulty, and it as a teaching opportunity or an opportunity to help them … with no expectation that they’ll love your lesson or follow it, but just with the intention of helping someone.
• Kids don’t behave: When your kids behave badly, it’s the same problem — they aren’t acting according to your ideal. But of course they’re not! No kid behaves ideally, just as no adult behaves ideally. Do you behave ideally? I certainly don’t. I’m rude when I’m in a bad mood or tired. I’m not proud of that, but I struggle to be considerate or cheerful sometimes. Everyone does. Your kids are struggling, and you can be compassionate and help them. Kindly. That is, if you can let go of your expectations that they’ll behave perfectly, and accept them as struggling, beautiful people who just want to be happy, just like you.
• Your body: You aren’t happy with your body, because it’s not perfect. It doesn’t meet your ideal, your expectation, and so you dislike it. That’s not good, because this self-discontent means that you’re less likely to do healthy things. Often we think that dissatisfaction with ourselves motivates us to change, but in my experience this discontent means that you don’t really trust yourself to stick to changes and so you make excuses when things get hard, and quit. I’ve done that a lot. When I am content with myself, I trust myself more, and I stick to things more. So let go of expectations that your body will be perfect, and just see your body as it is, for the beautiful thing it is, independent of society’s ideals of perfection. You’re great!
• Each moment: As we enter each new moment, we expect things from it. We want it to be fun, amazing, productive, according to plan. And of course each moment has its own plan, and will be its own thing. So we are not happy with it. Instead, we can drop the expectations and just see the moment as it is. Just experience it, noticing, appreciating, being grateful. This is mastery.
This is just the start. We can learn that plans, goals, ideals … these are all fantasies of what we’d like life to be like, and they’re not real. We can learn to let go of the fantasies that inevitably occur, and just experience life as it is, as it happens.

This is the Art of Living.

How to Master the Art
Mastering the Art of Living is not as easy as you’d expect, as you’d fantasize. It takes practice. It means learning to be mindful of when you have these ideals, expectations, fantasies. It means learning to see the frustrations, anger, sadness, loneliness, and irritations as signals of the expectations you have and didn’t notice.
It means practicing that, and then practicing letting them go.
That means a lot of practice, and a lot of remembering to practice.
But that’s the fun of it. You drop the expectation that you’ll be perfect at this practice, and just try it. You learn from the trying. You get better. You learn some more. And each moment, along the way, is a miracle to be appreciated and enjoyed, so the process of mastery is a succession of miracle moments.

That’s a beautiful thing.

Words of wisdom from Zen Habits.
Photo by me.

Ooh Baby

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First, let me tell you about the new hard drive I got this weekend. It’s a Seagate Wireless Plus. It’s about the size of a smart phone – just a little thicker – and its for mobile device storage. It also works as a hot spot which is really a nice plus (probably where the name came from) when you like sitting in your car or at a restaurant whiling away the hours learning new iPhoneography tricks like I do.

Which reminds me…found a great new resource for that as well…www.thetheatreprofessor.com (definitely worth a visit!).

The hard drive is 1TB. And so far I’ve uploaded 19,438 images.

I didn’t have that many images on my cell phone or iPad – it also lets you upload from your computer too – which is great if you’re like me and have a few images stashed here and there.

I have no idea how many images a terabyte will hold (it’s one level up from a gigabyte, if that helps at all) but I have several more places to pull images from yet- so I guess I’ll find out sooner or later – hopefully much later.

One slight problem though – it doesn’t seem to like Raw images – so either I will have to revert the Raw images and re-upload or try and figure out a way around it.

So anyway….while I was at the restaurant whiling away the hours tonight, I stumbled on some of my Lensbaby images. I’d forgotten how much I love looking at them. This image is straight out of the camera – no post production work here at all.

Is this not the most delicious looking light OR WHAT?!?

I made this photograph in Colorado – the birthplace of delicious light.

Yum.