“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.” – Barbara De Algelis
I’m re-reading Flora Bowley’s book, Brave Intuitive Painting and have decided to try and follow the guidelines she offers to (hopefully) alleviate some of my acrylic painting phobias – i.e. color mixing.
One of the things she suggests is working with either warm or cool colors separately on each layer/canvas to avoid making mud. It makes perfect sense of course and I’m not sure why I haven’t done this before but at least I’m finally doing it now.
The other thing…she encourages working large. REALLY LARGE. The above photo is kind of deceiving (since it is a ‘Polaroid-esque’ image) – because the canvas in the photo is 36″x36″ – the largest I’ve worked on to-date – mainly because I’m working in a limited space and also because putting more than a couple of these in my car would be problematic!
However, that said, working large is great! I can totally understand the thought process on this. I’d often thought that large canvases were only for those who REALLY knew what they were doing – and not for people like me – who tend to make mud on a regular basis. But it is very freeing and a great tool for experimentation. And since there is so much more real estate – one little ‘mistake’ (even though there is no such thing in art, really) is hardly noticed and, my favorite part, working large is a very tactile experience – it’s a relationship. So far, there are about 5 layers on this canvas already and I’m not even close to being done with it yet!
I find that working large tends to slow the whole artistic process down (for me anyway) whereas when I worked on smaller canvases, it seemed I was rushing through, hurrying to completion for some reason. I seem to pause more to reflect on what I’m doing but that could be simply because there is so much more going on. On the other hand…I also find I’m reacting in a much more spontaneous manner…
kind of like you would with a dance partner when the music changes.
“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.”
While waiting for the encaustic medium to ‘melt’ I got distracted by the tubes and bottles of acrylic paints nearby. Three hours later…
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There, there where those black spruces crowd
To the edge of the precipitous cliff,
Above your boat, under the eastern wall of the island;
And no wave breaks; as if
All had been done, and long ago, that needed
Doing; and the cold tide, unimpeded
By shoal or shelving ledge, moves up and down,
Instead of in and out;
And there is no driftwood there, because there is no beach;
Clean cliff going down as deep as clear water can reach;
No driftwood, such as abounds on the roaring shingle,
To be hefted home, for fires in the kitchen stove;
Barrels, banged ashore about the boiling outer harbour;
Lobster-buoys, on the eel-grass of the sheltered cove:
There, thought unbraids itself, and the mind becomes single.
There you row with tranquil oars, and the ocean
Shows no scar from the cutting of your placid keel;
Care becomes senseless there; pride and promotion
Remote; you only look; you scarcely feel.
Even adventure, with its vital uses,
Is aimless ardour now; and thrift is waste.
Oh, to be there, under the silent spruces,
Where the wide, quiet evening darkens without haste
Over a sea with death acquainted, yet forever chaste.
Ragged Island – a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Island Stroll – Encaustic art on panel by me.
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The practice of creation is not limited to the artist’s studio.
This doesn’t come as a surprise – we’re all aware creativity can strike just about anywhere. And it does. Because its all about perception.
And when you think about how much time we spend at work – all those hours we’re awake (being perceptive)…the workplace suddenly has unexplored potential.
This is the thought process explained in one of the chapters of the book, Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, by Shaun McNiff. I mentioned this book the other day (in my post, “Reframing”) and this chapter held my attention even more so. I can always tell when something I’m reading gets me excited – I start highlighting like crazy. Its when I read things like this that I’m reminded why I started a blog in the first place. People need to know this stuff!!!
So here is what the author says about creativity and the workplace:
When we find ourselves complaining about being stuck at work instead of being free to play in the studio, we need to realize that the office worker, like the artist, needs repetition as a familiar base that enables something new to spring forth at the right time. If repetition is annoying to you, try to surrender to it and let it carry you to a new place. Give the repetition the same aesthetic value as the repetitive art exercises we do to stay flexible in the studio.
When someone interrupts your concentration, think of the ancient traditions of hospitality and welcome the unexpected guests as ‘visitations of the gods’. Whatever crosses our paths unexpectedly can be viewed as an infusion of the creative spirit in our lives.
Contemplate the workplace in new ways. Use the energy of the environment as fuel for creation. The imagination flourishes through the use of all its faculties and languishes in compartmentalization.
Creating is a circulation of energy – it is always pulling things into new relationships within a continuously interactive process. And the workplace offers yet another paradox of creative expression.
When we are overwhelmed by the demands of the workplace we long for more free time to create. We assume we will be more creative when we are dislodged from the daily regimens that ask so much of our time. But creativity is often viewed through the lens of romantic isolation – we still see creativity as something that exists exclusively within ourselves rather than within the activity of our environment.
Recent trends in retirement show that people choose to return to productive and creative work environments even when they are under no pressure for subsistence.
We need daily structure and purpose, the social interactions with others, the sense of mutual accomplishments and the knowledge that we are contributing to useful activities that are benefiting others. The workplace becomes a very different place when we become the observer in a collective creation that expresses itself like a chorus or a pageant.
Too often we think of work as a job, simply a way to make a living. If we take the economic necessity out of the equation we may discover that we need the workplace for survivial of a different kind.
We need to be inspired and influenced by others on a regular basis.
We need to be part of a collective and creative purpose in order to persist with full vitality.
Elevate the significance and the value of your work environment and you will find yourself and your imagination rising with them.
Trust the Process: The Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, by Shaun McNIff.
Leaky Aquarium, Encaustic Art by me.
9 Rules for a Simpler Day (by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)
Our days fill up so fast, and are so rushed and filled with distractions, that they seem to be bursting.
It’s a huge source of stress for most people, and stress is perhaps the most important factor determining whether we’re healthy or sick.
So how can we simplify our days? It’s not incredibly hard, but I’ve found it’s best done in steps.
These are the steps I followed, though of course calling them “rules” means we should test them and break them as needed. No rules should be followed blindly. I’ve found these to work really well, though.
9 Rules for a Simpler Day
These are the rules I suggest:
Know What’s Important. The simple version of simplifying is “Identify what’s important, and eliminate the rest.” So take time to identify the most important things in your life (4-5 things), and then see what activities, tasks, projects, meeting and commitments fit in with that list. Also take time each day to identify 1-3 Most Important Tasks (MITs), at the beginning of your day. Or the night before, for the next day.
Visualize Your Perfect Day. This is not so much because this “perfect day” will come true, as it is to understand what a simple day means to you. It’s different for each person — for me, it might mean some meditation and writing and spending time with my wife and kids. For others, it’s yoga and painting and a hot bath. For others, it’s time to focus on the important work, but still get other things done later in the day. Take a minute to visualize what it means to you.
Say No to Extra Commitments. Now that you’ve identified what’s important, along with the “perfect day”, you need to start saying “No” to things that aren’t on your important list, and that are standing in the way of the perfect day. The biggest thing you can say No to is a commitment — membership on a committee, involvement in a project, coaching or participating in a team, going to an event, being a partner in a business, etc. List and evaluate your commitments (professional, civic and personal), and say No to at least one. It just takes a call or email.
Limit Tasks. Each morning, list your 1-3 most important tasks. List other tasks you’d like to do. Say no to some of them. See if you can limit your list to 5-7 tasks per day (not counting little things, which you’ll batch). Limiting your tasks helps you focus, and acknowledges you’re not going to get everything done in one day.
Carve Out Un-distraction Time. When are you going to do your most important work? Schedule it with a block of time (1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, whatever works for you). Make this your most sacred appointment. Become incommunicado. Close the Internet, all notifications, hold all calls. Just do the most important task, then the next one if you have time.
Slow Down. We rush through our days, almost in a single frenetic anxiety-filled non-stop movement. Instead, slow down. Life won’t collapse if you aren’t rushing from task to task, email to email. You can pause, take a moment to reflect, smile, enjoy the current task before moving on.
Mindfully Single-task. Stop multi-tasking. One task at a time, with full focus on that task. Practice mindfulness as you do the task — it’s a form of meditation. Watch your thoughts wander to what you need to do later, but then return to the task at hand. Your day will be much simpler, and much more enjoyable, when you practice being present with your current task.
Batch Smaller Tasks, Then Let go. Email, paperwork, little things at the bottom of your task list (create a “small tasks” section at the bottom), minor phone calls, etc. … these shouldn’t get in the way of your important tasks. But they still need to be done sometime (unless you can let them go, which is best whenever possible). If you need to do them, batch them and do them in one go. It’s best to do these later in the day, when your energy is lower and you’ve done the important tasks for the day. Don’t let the small tasks get in the way of the big ones. When you’ve done a batch of small tasks (including processing email), let them go, and get out. You don’t want to do this all day, or even half a day.
Create Space Between. We cram our tasks and meetings together, and leave no spaces between them. The space between things is just as important as the things themselves. Leave a little space between meetings, even tasks. Take a break to stretch, walk around, get a glass of water, perhaps do some simple breathing meditation for a minute or two. Enjoy the space.
The attached image “Flash Flood” (Encaustic, 8×8 on cradled panel) – inspired by the weather reports over the weekend.
I have a couple more too…tomorrow.
<div style=”text-align:left; width:450px”><div style=”display:block;”><a href=”http://www.blurb.com/b/1776448-the-strange-ones-photos-by-lee-spangler-she-thinks?ce=blurb_ew&utm_source=widget” target=”_blank” style=”margin:12px 3px;”>the strange ones. photos by lee spangler (she thinks they’re cool)</a> | <a href=”http://www.blurb.com/landing_pages/bookshow?ce=blurb_ew&utm_source=widget” target=”_blank” style=”margin:12px 3px;”>Make Your Own Book</a></div></div>
Books are wonderful.
Even though I’m a huge Kindle fan (I’m on my third version already) there’s just something nice about holding an actual, printed book in your hand that you just can’t get from the digital version.
And as a photographer (who’s spent some time in the darkroom), I can really appreciate holding a photograph in my hands as well. It seems to solidify the effort of what goes into the making of an image.
I have a cedar chest full of old family photographs. There is such variety in those images – the papers they were printed on, their shapes and sizes, the unique edges, and the chemistry used to print them. And each comes with its own bit of history printed right on the back.
I suppose boxes of old photographs will soon be a thing of the past.
Digital photographs are great though. They’re fantastic, actually. Believe me – I LOVE the technology. But I worry that all the digitized images made today won’t be compatible with the technology to read them in the future.
Will there be card readers capable of reading antiquated memory cards full of our family memories if we failed to back them up, upload them or download them to the cloud or the sky or whatever it will be called by then? Or will they be like the VHS tapes we have boxed up in the attic?
Its kinda scary when you think about it. Technology changes so fast – all could be lost if we’re not careful!
But I digress.
The reason for this post…books. Printed books. Books of words or picture books. Its such a great way to preserve what ever it is you do.
I’ve made a couple of books of some of my photographs (the first attempt is attached) and I found it really easy and fun to do and relatively inexpensive. I used ‘Blurb’ and the tutorial on the site is ‘step by step’. You can make books of your poetry, books of your photography, your art, non-fiction books, fiction books, cookbooks, children’s books, etc., etc. etc. You’re only limited by your own imagination.
And if all else fails…there will always be books!
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I’m currently reading the book, Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, by Shaun McNiff.
One of the chapters, Reframing, talks about an exercise to enable you to transform annoyances/problems, etc. into more positive sources of creative energy. One way, the author says, is to gather artifacts, photographs, colors, materials, other things/any thing, connected to the situation (a situation that you’d like to change) and place the items into aesthetic environments. Boxes.
This activity is an intimate one because it involves careful placement within the environment. By doing this, you are ‘reframing’ discontents into something new and creative. The act of placing an anxiety or troublesome experience or thought into a creative space (a space we’ve created) literally changes its place within our lives. And the artistic act will often have a corresponding effect on our overall relationship to the disturbance.
The use of boxes may help to keep the disturbance ‘enclosed’ and ‘framed’ as we work on the process of transforming its place within our lives. The glue we use keeps it in place (controlled).
And I love what the author says here: When we use our disturbances as materials of expression we see that everything in life is fuel for the creative process. Creativity puts toxins to good use.
The book is full of other good advice too…you might want to check it out.
As you can see, I’m a collector of boxes. I have quite a few of them.
And they’re all empty.