Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Portrait of the Artist: A Creative Identity Crisis


Yesterday I wrote about how I haven't created art for months now, which got me thinking....can I actually call myself an artist if I'm not currently creating art? Am I pretending to be something I'm not? Often when I tell people I'm an artist, they ask me what type of work I do. What happens when the answer to that question is "I don't actually create art, at least not right now?"

So, is being an artist something I AM or something I DO? I've been contemplating this question all day, and I've decided that yes, darn it, I am an artist 24/7 whether I pick up a pencil or not. Being an artist doesn't just affect what I create with pigment and paper, it affects the way I see the world, the way I approach all aspects of my daily life.

When I pick out my clothing in the morning and I'm selecting items with different colors and textures and patterns, I'm looking at the ensemble like an artist. When I apply my makeup with assorted brushes I'm painting my face just like I would paint a canvas. When I plate the meals I've made for my family, I add garnishes to increase their beauty, just like an artist adds final details to a sculpture. When I take long walks with my son, I look at my surroundings through a photographer's eyes.

And even if I'm not currently creating a work of art, I'm constantly looking for sources of artistic inspiration, admiring the beauty in the world, the amazing conglomeration of color and value, balance and contrast, shape and texture, pattern and line.







Monday, October 22, 2012

Lori's Lovely Lists: 10 Steps to Awaken Your Inner Muse

I have a confession to make. I haven't created any art for months now....I haven't picked up a pencil or paintbrush, I haven't made my mark on paper or canvas, I haven't thrown myself into the world of line and color and texture. I haven't been living like an artist, I haven't been acting like myself.

It can happen to the best of us creative folk. Sometimes our muses are silenced by the requirements of the non-artistic parts of our lives. For me, art has been put on the back burner (actually been taken off the stove altogether) while I've been focusing on the amazing transition my son Dylan has gone through from being a slowly crawling baby to a rapidly running toddler.

He's changing so much every day, and because of it my life has been transitioning too. Luckily we seem to have made it to a new stage where he's on a somewhat predictable schedule, which means I now can set aside time to be an artist again.

So I have the time, but what I'm lacking is the inspiration to pick up where I left off months ago. Fortunately I've dealt with creative blocks before and have a list of almost fool-proof steps to help awaken my inner muse:

1. Take out the Trash - Get rid of the "stuff" that's cluttering up your head - your past regrets, your worries about the future, your never-ending mental task-lists. Get them out of your head and write them down. I first learned about the importance of mental decluttering while reading "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. Cameron recommends starting your day with "Morning Pages," 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. I use 750 Words, a fantastic website based on the concept of "Morning Pages." I write every day, and let me tell you, it helps...a lot.


2. Organize your Life - It's hard to find the time to focus on your creative pursuits when the rest of your life is a mess. I know routines and organization don't sound very "artistic" but these tools are as essential to me as my pencils and paper are. I highly recommend Mint.com for organizing your finances, FlyLady for organizing your home and Buttoned Up for organizing your life.


3. Go for a Walk (and Bring your Camera) - I try to go for one long walk every day, often two, sometimes three. Getting out of my own little world and into the universe always gives me something new and exciting to think about. Bringing a camera (in my case my iPhone) reminds me to stop and capture inspiring images along the way.


4. Join a Community - Find some folks that are just as passionate about creating art (or music, or poetry) as you are. Make sure you connect with experts who can help you to learn new things about your craft, and beginners who remind you of just how far you've already come. I feel blessed to have found an incredible group of colored pencil artists on facebook...these folks inspire me every day.


5. Find your Heroes - Whose work takes your breath away? Whose work fills you with awe and more emotions than you can possibly imagine feeling? Who would you love to meet? Study their work, and think about how you can use it to inspire your own art. For me, the artists at the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) are a constant source inspiration. I may never reach the level of expertise required to join this society of artists, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try!


6. Visit your Past - Take a look at what you've already created, remind yourself of your past successes, review your past failures, take stock of the skills you've learned and the materials you've already purchased. Just taking out my art supplies and looking at my previous works reminds me that I have what it takes to create beauty.


7. Imagine your Future - Think big, don't be timid here. Think about why your art form is important to you and where you want it to take you. I have some pretty darn big aspirations for my own art career...you'll just have to wait and see what those are!


8. Make a Plan - It's one thing to have a dream, it's another to have a goal. Goals are concrete. Goals are specific. Goals require careful planning, thorough research, and unwavering tenacity. I know that if I want to succeed as an artist, I need to treat the creative process like a legitimate job (even long before I'm getting paid for it). That means working for several scheduled hours every week, creating art every day, constantly studying and learning new skills, and spending as much time on business and marketing as I do working on art.

9. Set the Stage - Listen to music that's inspired you in the past (for me Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell always do the trick), light some candles or incense, make yourself a perfect cup of coffee or tea, create a special atmosphere that appeals to all of your senses. Just because you don't have your own studio doesn't mean you can't have a special place to work on your art.


10. Pick up Your Pencil - Get out your creative supplies (whether they're paints and canvas, a typewriter and paper, or a guitar and pick) and spend 15 minutes with them. It really doesn't matter what you do in those 15 minutes...you don't have to create a masterpiece, you just have to do SOMETHING. This is your time to get warmed up, to fool around, to make mistakes. When your 15 minutes are up feel free to put your supplies away and be proud of yourself for creating something. My guess is that you'll want to keep going after those 15 minutes are up!

I hope this list helps some of you out there to find inspiration...I'll be working my way through these steps this week!

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