What’s Your Story?

  

The other day I received what I consider to be my first ‘negative’ comment on my Instagram feed. It wasn’t necessarily a bad comment but one I felt definitely had negative intentions.  

I can honestly say, though, the comment was eye opening – in more ways than one.  

The comment came after I’d received several complimentary comments about a particular (abstract) image I had posted.  

This commenter wanted to know: ‘What is abstract art?’, ‘Where is the talent??’ and ‘Would someone please explain this to me!!’

For some reason I felt compelled to give an explanation even though I had doubts as to the sincerity of the question. Wouldn’t an ‘artist’ know what ‘abstract art’ was? Especially an artist with such ‘confidence’?

And when I said the comment was eye-opening I did mean it in a good way!

First of all it caused me to stop and think what ‘having talent’ actually means.

How is talent defined? Who gets to decide who is talented and who is not? And, more importantly, why did this person even care? Did my ‘lack of talent’ offend him? Did it take away from his ability to make art? It may sound as if his comment really bothered me but I assure you it did not.

It made me think

Why do I create the art I create? 

Why in this style, in this way? With these subjects and these colors?

Why?

I realized his comments made me want to defend my art but not in a defensive way at all. (And no one could have been any more surprised by this fact than me!)

‘Abstract art’, I informed him, ‘is a visual language that does not attempt to represent an accurate reality but instead uses shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. If it engages the viewer it is considered successful. All art is ultimately valuable for its effect on the viewer and (in most cases involving true artists) for the effect is has on the artist who creates it. Whether or not the artist is viewed as ‘having talent’ is a non-issue for it is far more important for the artist to be able to tell their story through their art. Thanks for asking!”

And here it was.

The answer to the question I did not know I needed an answer to.  

I do what I do because this is my story to tell. And this is how I choose to tell it. I hope you enjoy it but its ok if you don’t. I share it because I can only hope you might benefit from it in some small way (or even in a large way) that it might change your day for the better or simply serve as inspiration. I create this art because I can’t NOT create it. If it helps you too then it’s a good day – whether talent is involved or not!
You can see my stories unfold at: http://www.instagram.com/AKALIGHTBLUE

call it wonder

  

Feeling Trapped? Step into the Unknown and Set Yourself Free

An article by Lucie Wilk (posted on tinybuddha.com)

“Don’t call it uncertainty—call it wonder. Don’t call it insecurity—call it freedom.” ~Osho

My daughter loves birds. So, as a treat, we all went to a Bird of Prey center near to where we live. Here in the UK, there is a long tradition of keeping these birds. As stated on one hawking site, falconry is “the noble sporting art of flying trained birds of prey.”

Noble or not, I have an issue with keeping birds captive. I had hoped that, in the center we would be visiting, these would be rescue birds.

They weren’t.

They were raised in captivity, slightly better than being caught in the wild, but only slightly. There was one area I referred to as Prisoner’s Row. Big, powerful and noble birds like falcons and kestrel chained to a post. A long row of them stuck there for visitors to gawk at.

Yes, they are beautiful, and amazing to see up close, but they are much more beautiful to see flying up there in the wild expanse of sky.

In any case, we were there for the Owl Experience. One by one, they brought out owls, starting with the smallest burrowing owls and getting bigger until the huge and majestic European eagle owl was brought out.

The birds were coaxed over to the leather gauntlet our kids were given to wear. They were stunning and tolerant of us, but it was clear they were doing something against their nature. Owls are not meant to perch on human arms. These owls have been trained to do so, but trained against all natural inclinations.

Then we went out to the flying arena where our children fed them. Chopped up bits of baby chick feet were dangled temptingly in the air then placed on a gauntlet, and eventually and very reluctantly the owl swooped down and picked up the morsel.

They weren’t good flyers, these birds. They knew how to fly but their muscles were weak. They flew short distances and preferred to hop.

It all left me feeling uncomfortable. It was a privilege to see these beautiful creatures up close, but at what cost?

Perhaps it makes me uncomfortable because it is uncomfortably close to our own limited experience of life.

As I watched the owls soar within the flying arena, I wondered why they didn’t simply soar off to freedom. They weren’t chained. Their wings were not clipped. They could do it, if they chose to.

But they stayed. They hopped and half-flew to each wiggly bit of chick foot and hop-flew back to their post, with thinly veiled resentment. But they stayed. And then, after the show, they allowed themselves to be carried back to their cage.

Why?

Perhaps the birds are as susceptible to the lure of certainty as we are.

There is the certain provision of chick feet if they fly to their keeper’s arms and back to a post within a small outdoor arena. After all, having been raised in captivity, that’s all they’ve known.

And then there is the great, wild uncertainty that exists beyond the arena. Will there be food there? Will they be able to catch it? Are there unknown dangers lurking in that great blue expanse of sky?

And here’s the clunky metaphor. My husband and I are in our own sort of flying arena at the moment. We’re both in regular jobs, jobs that more often frustrate than inspire, getting regular paychecks.

We’re eating with these paychecks. It may be our own version of chick feet, but, hey, we’re eating. We are testing our wings, though. Flying a bit further. But, for the moment, we are returning to our keeper’s arms.

We gaze out at that broad blue expanse. We know we’re capable of more. We know we haven’t really tested ourselves; we haven’t really indulged our deeper passions. It seems to me that we’ve all been trained to do things against our true nature, and have grown up in this limited, but safe, way.

The few times I’ve flown into uncertain territory have been terrifying but thrilling.

As it has been said, uncertainty is the only certainly. To resist it is to resist our true nature. To resist it is to stay trapped, to accept the cage, the gauntlet, the chick foot for supper. To embrace the uncertain is to fly beyond the arena into that beautiful blue expanse of freedom.

We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the owls can do it. Not just can, we all intuitively know that they should do it. To live in the freedom of uncertainty is infinitely better than to live in the security of captivity.

We know this and wish this better life for the owls. Why, then, can’t we know it and create it for ourselves?

So this is my challenge, to myself, and to you, should you choose to accept it: try something you’ve never done before. Taste something you’ve never tasted before. Read someone you’ve never read before. Say something you’ve never said before. Write something you’ve never written before and then share it.

Step into the unknown and feel it—that ground dropping away, breath-catching feeling. That’s the feeling of the limitless expanse of creative potential. That’s life as it’s meant to be lived.

Productive Procrastination

  
Do you follow Austin Kleon?

He’s a writer and artist who’s work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS NewsHour, The Wall Street Journal and the art website 20×200.com.

He’s also published a couple of books and I want to share something from his (New York Times Bestseller) ‘Steal Like an Artist’. He talks about the importance of artist’s ‘side projects’; the stuff that we do for fun. He says that these side projects are actually “the good stuff” – and that this is when the magic happens. 

That’s pretty interesting information and something to think about. 

It reminds me of the quote (which he also includes in the chapter):  “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” – Jessica Hische.

Now that really is something to think about!

If you’d like to see what procrastination looks like…check out my Instagram feed at: http://www.instagram.com/akalightblue

You can sign up for a weekly newsletter with lots of great information from Austin Kleon at: http://www.austinkleon.com

And you can see what Jessica Hische is up to at: http://www.jessicahische.is

Make More Art

  

Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity

By James Clear

In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health. 

In that article, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies about the impact of art on your health and your ability to heal yourself. The studies included everything from music and writing to dance and the visual arts.

As an example, here are the findings from five visual arts studies mentioned in that review (visual arts includes things like painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles). Each study examined more than 30 patients who were battling chronic illness and cancer.

Here’s how the researchers described the impact that visual art activities had on the patients…

· “Art filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness”

· “Improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”

· “Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”

· “Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”

· “Reductions in distress and negative emotions”

· “Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”

I don’t know about you, but I think the benefits listed above sound like they would be great not just for patients in hospitals, but for everyone. Who wouldn’t want to reduce stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, and reduce the likelihood of depression?

Furthermore, the benefits of art aren’t merely “in your head.”

The impact of art, music, and writing can be seen in your physical body as well. In fact, this study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients found that writing resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.”

That’s the fancy way of saying: the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system.

In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better; it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.

Create More Than You Consume

The moral of this story is that the process of making art — whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or anything in between — is good for you.

There are both physical and mental benefits from creating art, expressing yourself in a tangible way, and sharing something with the world. I’m trying to do more of it each week, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

In our always–on, always–connected world of television, social media, and on–demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.

Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.

Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.

Build something. Share something. Craft something. Make more art. Your health and happiness will improve and we’ll all be better off for it.

—-

I found this article online and copied it with the links but can’t seem to figure out how to show them now. I used to be able to create posts fairly easily but now that the process has been ‘simplified’ – well…not so much. 

I’ll just include it here – unfortunately you may have to type it in the old fashioned way – sorry about that!

http://www.jamesclear.com

Improbable

image

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.  I want to be light and frolicsome.  I want to be improbable, beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.” – Mary Oliver

Twilight Twinkle

  Did you know…

That in only two places in the entire world there is a phenomenon called ‘simultaneous bioluminescence’ where fireflies in the area sync up their flashes so they all light up at the same time repeatedly all night long. This happens (apparently) in Southeast Asia and Smoky Mountain National Park.

I had no idea!

Found on ‘The Magic & Folklore of Fireflies’

This image is another one of my iPad creations.

Food for Thought

 

 A few months ago I made the decision to get a personal trainer to help with my healthy lifestyle goals.  As is typical, we had a discussion about nutrition and exercise at our first meeting.  One thing we discussed that I wasn’t familiar with was learning my ‘Calorie Maintenance Level’.


It didn’t sound that important at first (just more diet and nutrition stuff) but for some reason I was paying attention, made note and decided to investigate further when I got home.   Thanks, Google!  You can read more about it at:  www.acaloriecounter.com.  


But if you’re not into the research thing like I am – here is a (very) brief summary:

In order to reach your goal; whether the goal is weight loss, fat loss or muscle building it’s important to know where you are starting from.   Your calorie maintenance level will tell you that.  Once you know this number it will be much easier to calculate and successfully reach your goal –and in the most efficient manner possible.


Think about it this way.  If you were about to embark on a road trip, you wouldn’t just jump in the car, start driving and hope to get there.  Yes, you might end up at your destination but it might also take you a really long time to get there.  Enough said!    


The key take-away point to all of this is: whenever we’re trying to eat healthy, or get into better shape there is a tendency to WAY over estimate the value of our efforts assuming that EVERY effort is a MAJOR one on our part; when in fact, this is (usually) never the case.   And, as expected, this will only lead to disappointment and disillusionment when our goals are not immediately met.   


So, if you’re really serious about achieving a new healthy lifestyle goal – do yourself a favor and find out what your ‘calorie maintenance level’ is – trust me, it will be an eye-opener  – and will save you a lot of angst in the long run!

Now, believe it or not this blog post really isn’t about how to lose weight or gain muscle…it’s really about how this information can be applied elsewhere – with any goal.


It’s really easy to set goals.  We get a great idea in our head about how wonderful it would be to accomplish A, B or C. We get excited and we plan.  We’re confident we can achieve anything at this point. 


And then reality hits.  


But I don’t think it’s so much a problem of not following through as it is improper planning.  


I think we set ourselves up for defeat from the beginning because we’re not honest about our starting point. 


We tend to do the opposite of sandbagging – we exaggerate our credentials.  Just like when we’re ‘calculating’ how many calories that Turkey-Melt sandwich has.


I think being honest with who we are and what we want to achieve in a reasonable time frame would help us more in the long run.  No matter what the goal is. 


Just something to think about.