Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


4 Comments

Grabbing the Brass Ring

During the winter, my local art guild had a creativity challenge for members. We’ve had these “exercises” before and it’s always fun to see what people create when challenged to think out of the box, out of their comfort zone, and/or out of their usual medium.

In this particular challenge we were asked to create something inspired by, or with, a found object. But not just any ol’ found object.  Nope. This time members brought a found object from their home, placed in a paper bag, to our monthly meeting. All the bags were put in the middle of the table. Then we took turns, kind of, choosing a bag from the pile. No peeking. Off each of us went with our little found object of inspiration. The deadline for revealing our found object creation would be the next month’s meeting.

What was my found object? Two brass rings about 1″ in diameter. They look like rings you might find on an apron or a belt. My first reaction? What the heck am I going to do with these?

My Creative Process

I looked at those rings and my brain came back instantly with a big blank. Kind of like a sheet of white paper or an empty canvas. Absolutely NOTHING. I put the brass rings on one of my work tables and let them sit there for a few days.

Finally, feeling a bit like Pooh Bear when he starts to think, I decided to use a word association game to stimulate some creative ideas.

poohbear_think-1

I looked at the brass rings, held them in my hand, and started writing in my sketch book. I wrote down anything that came to mind when I looked at the rings. Things like “One ring to rule the world” and “Circle of Life” and “Two rings for marriage.” Even completely unrelated phrases such as “Cool runnings” and “Square peg in a round hole” were fair game.

Then I let the list sit for a few more days. Because no ideas were coming to me. Yet. I believe you can’t force the process.

Breakthrough

This challenge came during the time I was taking Flora’s class. That meant I had several canvases strewn about the studio in different phases of creation.  A few of them were used to collect excess paint. If I had extra paint on my brushes or on my main palette at the end of a painting session, I would swipe the brushes clean on a blank canvas. This is when my breakthrough happened.

I remembered Flora telling us that one way to create an intuitive painting is to work with shapes. Repeating shapes. Abstract shapes. It didn’t have to be complicated. KISS, I say. Keep it simple, stoopid.

I picked up one of the excess paint canvases and a Sharpie marker. I started to write all the phrases from my sketch book, the ones from my word association game, onto the canvas. I started writing on the long side of the canvas, turned it 90 degrees, and continued writing on the short side. Turned it 90 degrees again and kept writing on the long side. As I wrote, even more words came to mind. I did this until all the phrases were written on the canvas in a continuous square-circle shape. It ended when I was almost near the center of the canvas.

Somewhere along the way I had an idea to paint the brass rings white and where I would put them on the canvas. I would use the circle shape as my inspiration.

Result

I don’t have a lot of process pictures. You know how it is when you get into the flow and just keep working. Who has time to think about stopping and taking pictures along the way?

This is the canvas at a very early stage when it was used to collect excess paint.

BeforeBrassRingBy the time I started writing words all over it, several more layers had been applied to the canvas. The face disappeared quickly.

The picture below is one of the few in-process pictures I found. The brass rings that started this whole piece are in the lower right corner. I attached them to the canvas with heavy gel medium.

Brass Rings In Process

Brass Rings In Process

The remaining pictures show the finished canvas.

Brass Ring Detail

Brass Rings Detail

Brass Rings Circle Detail

Brass Rings Circle Detail

Brass Rings Full Length Detail

Brass Rings Full Length Detail

"Brass Rings"  Amy A. Crawley, 2014

“Brass Rings”
11″x14″
Acrylic, Sharpie marker, found objects
Amy A. Crawley, 2014

Most of the words I wrote on the canvas were covered by paint. Though if you look at it real close, you may see a few words or letters peeking through the paint.

This piece taught me how to work with a limited color palette, repetition of shapes, and creating movement in the piece so your eye travels around the canvas.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 


4 Comments

Imbolc and Feast of St. Brigid

Imbolc, also known as Candlemas, begins at sundown on February 1 and ends at sundown on February 2. It also runs concurrently with the feast of St. Brigid.

There is much to read about Imbolc and the feast of St. Brigid, so I won’t add more to that. Except to point you to one of my favorite descriptions about this holiday by Waverly Fitzgerald on her School of the Seasons website. And a post I wrote on Imbolc back in 2008.

I also came across this lovely song about St. Brigid by Celia, which prompted me to put together this post.

I listened to this song a couple of times and danced around the studio while it played. Moving the body is a great way to invite the creative muse to come and play. It also seemed appropriate because Brigid is also associated with creativity and creative ideas.

After dancing around the studio, I created this watercolor painting of St. Brigid in honor of her feast day.

St. Brigid Keeper of the Flame

St. Brigid
Keeper of the Flame

Working intuitively, this painting came together in less than 2 hours. I love when I can dive in and let the creative flow happen. Sketching comes easily. Choosing colors of paint is less stressful. The negative voice becomes quieter when it knows I’m not listening to it.

If you enjoyed Brigid’s song above and want to sing along, the version below includes the words.

Brigid so beautiful. Brigid so powerful.

Goddess Brigid, peace weaver, healer, poet, queen. Melt the snow and bring the spring.


3 Comments

Art I Created This Summer

I’m embarrassed to see that I haven’t posted an update since the beginning of August. The month passed quicker than I expected. And though I thought about posting something here or there, my priorities were focused elsewhere. So, much like that first essay the teachers used to make us write in grade school, here are some pictures of art that I worked on this summer.

Anemia

Anemia is an art doll that I first wrote about in June. Here are a few pictures of the finished piece. I hope to some day share more about the process of Anemia’s creation.

Anemia-Detail

Anemia-Detail

Anemia-Detail 2

Anemia-Detail 2

Anemia

Anemia

Trees Through The Forest

This piece was first introduced to you during the month of July.

More progress was shared in the early part of August

This piece now hangs at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA in the Bolton Artisans Guild’s display “Themes From Our Town” as part of Bolton’s 275th anniversary celebration. A few pictures of the finished piece is below. (Click on the first photo to start the slide show.)

Inspiration From Nature

As summer moves forward in our garden, I often find interesting mold and fungus sprouting on the mulch. Some of it can be both intriguing and repulsive. For a long time I’ve wanted to make something inspired by these molds and fungi. And this summer, a technique I found in Cynthia Tinapple’s new book, Polymer Clay Global Perspectives, made creating these fungi pods a lot easier.

For lack of a better phrase, as this work in progress as no formal name, this piece is simply inspired by nature.

The Inspiration-Pod Fungus

The Inspiration-Pod Fungus

Creating Hollow Pods

Creating Hollow Pods

A Few Pods with Texture

A Few Pods with Texture

What did you create this summer?


4 Comments

“Trees Through The Forest”-New Wall Art Work in Progress

This year marks the 275th anniversary of the town I live in. The celebrations and commemorations started a few weeks ago with a parade, historical tours, hikes on conservation land, bike tours, and a pipe organ dedication at the First Parish Church.

As part of the celebration, members of the Bolton Artisans Guild decided to create artwork inspired by the town’s history. I loved the idea but came up with a big blank slate in the idea department. I thought, “What can I create using polymer clay and mixed media that is inspired by our little town?”

(Why the conundrum? The art is being displayed at the Nashoba Valley Winery and the display space is one wall in the shop. An art doll didn’t seem to be a good match and, the way I sometimes work, it would probably take too long to create.)

Then an idea came to me the other night. I could make a piece of wall art and use pre-stretched canvas as my substrate. Using a design concept that I saw in a Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine over a year ago, plus my love of circles and disks, I drew my idea in my sketchbook.

Trees thru the Forest Sketch

Trees thru the Forest Sketch

One quality that Bolton is known for is preservation of land. We have a lot of conservation land with many hiking trails. That is the inspiration for this work in progress.

My intent is to depict trees through the four seasons. In order to get the colors I want, I’ve had to break out my color blending notes from the workshop I took with Lindly Haunani several years ago. It has been a good way to get the creative juices flowing too.

This is where I’m at so far in creating the trees:

TreesThruForest_Day1Progress

The “spring” tree will have three different shades of green in flat and concave circles, plus a small bird. “Summer” is represented with similar colors, two birds and baby birds, “Fall” has a Skinner blend convex circle and tiny concave circles representing apples. (Bolton also has several apple orchards.) “Winter” tree will be interpreted with varying shades of green in a scribble cane.

This piece is more contemporary that my usual work. Another good way to stretch that creative muscle. Of course, since I’m doing something that I don’t do all the time, construction of the piece is moving along a little slower than I envisioned. (Isn’t that always the case?)

How much longer? Well, I spent the better part of two hours trying to recreate a particular color for the scribble cane that will become the “winter” tree.

I have no idea what I’ll do with the canvas. Right now I’m thinking a light wash of paint may be enough. I don’t want the background to clash with the trees.

What are you working on these days?


9 Comments

24 Tips on Sparking the Creative Muse

I’m sure you’ve been here. You have a deadline to meet. You’re knee-deep in a flurry of activity. Ideas seem to ooze from your brain. Maybe you write them down. Maybe you don’t and later forget them. And then it happens. That big, bad vacuum of black emptiness opens up. No ideas come to mind. You have no clue what to do next in the studio. You stare at the white canvas. No words come to mind and your fingers are frozen on the keyboard.

You have hit the proverbial wall in the creativity department.

My friends and I often talk about how we keep our creative muses active, especially when our muse decides to take an extended vacation. It seems to be a common topic that we re-hash over and over.

This time, instead of just talking about it, I decided to ask my friends and cohorts to send me their tips for sparking the creative muse. What follows is a collection of 24 tips to jump-start the muse.

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" by Frank Thompson)

Dr. Finkelstein (image from the book “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas” by Frank Thompson)

Tips to Spark the Creative Muse

1. Keep a notebook: Jan Warren of Broadbrook Art recommends keeping a notebook handy at all times. Jan keeps her notebook next to her painting area. When she rinses her brushes or changes a paint color, Jan uses the pages of the notebook to remove all the color from the brush. Then, Jan says, “When I am feeling particularly bereft of creativity I open up the notebook and use whatever I have on hand to layer images or color over those paint blotches. This mixed media notebook then serves as color studies, technique trials…some even become final pieces for sale.”

2. Music & nature: Pat Krachune shares “When I need some inspiration, I listen to classical music and that usually gets my juices flowing to create.  I also sit in my courtyard and look at my fountains and watch the birds….nature relaxes and inspires me! ” Pat also finds inspiration watching other artist’s videos on YouTube. Check out Pat’s work on her blog, Art 4 Liberty.

3. Schedule the time: Judy Warner tells us, “I go in my “studio” at the scheduled time and start something, or work on something that needs improvement whether I feel “creative” or not—and that usually seems to get me going.” Check out Judy’s paintings on her Facebook page

4. Take an adventure drive: Photographer Roxanne Marshal takes what she calls an  “adventure drive”.  “I just pick a direction and go.  I usually come across landscapes and water vistas perfect to photograph and sometimes even some other interesting items as well.  This really gets my brain cranking ideas for framed images – possibly even 3D or a mixed media piece.” See Roxanne’s photography on her site, A Picture’s Worth

5. Take a break: Deb Wolf of Deb Wolf Designs recommends taking a break for a change in perspective. “Step away from the painting with your hands behind your back. Taking a break and viewing your work with a fresh pair of eyes can really give you a new and fresh perspective on your work.” Deb also shared “Stress breeds Creativity, at least for me it does.  While our work can be a stress inducer when we hit the proverbial wall, it also acts as a stress release sometimes producing good results on a piece.”

6. Observe: Paula Berry suggests observing everything in your environment. “While hiking, gardening or at the beach, I look really hard at some things.  Texture and shape get my attention, whether it’s a natural item, waves, clouds, greenery.  A plant from the time it emerges from the earth, grows, flowers and seeds intrigue me.”

7. Distraction: On the other hand, ideas often happen while working on another project. Again, Paula Barry shares “Drawing in my mind and problem solving while working on other clay work or while in the garden, walking or even driving in the car, when I least expect it, an idea comes to mind.  I then find myself obsessing about the new idea until I can put in into action.  Of course, at the time I tend to think it was a great solution to a problem or a great new idea.  Sometimes, the idea is good. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as intended, but the whole process is exciting.” You can see Paula’s ceramic art at Paula Barry Ceramics.

8. Drive, she said: Gina Belio of The Color Blue, also likes to take a drive to spark the creative muse. “Whenever I need inspiration, I drive.  Sometimes I drive to the ocean or the mountains and sometimes I drive to a nearby store like Barnes & Noble.  Partly this works for me because the art of driving frees up my mind from thinking and then it’s recess for my brain (and subsequently my muse!)  The other reason why driving works for me is because I am mostly inspired by color and I can find color in any of these places – nature, books, cards, even in a cup of java! “

9. Go shopping! Seriously. Ritva Ojanen, jewelery designer, tells us that while many girls like to shop for shoes, for Ritva it is beads. “I have the same passion for beads. I shop on-line and go to bead stores and supply shows. I have to see with my own eyes and touch with my hands to make my choices from the seemingly endless array of colors, finishes, textures and shapes. I will buy whatever catches my eye even though I may not have a planned design in mind at that moment. I leaf through magazines, whether it be on art, nature, or fashion and these images will spark ideas for trying new color combinations. When I have a supply of beads handy it’s easy to just play and see what happens. This is the intuitive process I’ve developed and trust that something new will always come of it, just keep working.” This definitely results in beautiful pieces of jewelry. Visit Ritva’s website, Ritvaliisa Ojanen to see her eye candy.

10. Put your butt in the chair: For mixed media artist Sue Landsman, sparking the muse begins by putting your butt in the chair. “If you wait around for the muse to come, not only are you holding yourself hostage, but you’re also not doing your part to meet her half way. If you train yourself to just sit down and work, regardless of how you feel, more often than not you’ll find yourself getting into the groove. And anyway, something is better than nothing.” To see Sue’s imaginative work, visit Landsmania

11. Get back to nature: Art and tea enthusiast Karen Park recommends getting back to nature. According to Karen, “spending time in nature – watching a sunset, walking in the woods, working/puttering around in my garden – always helps me reconnect with my creative soul.  You’ve probably noticed that some of my jewelry pieces are named after a nature experience – “Albuquerque Sky” or “A Winter Walk in the Woods under a Full Moon“, for example.  Those are the moments that truly inspire me.  My creative voice speaks in beads!”

12. Looks to her son: Dannylion tells us her son is her source of inspiration. “My son – who loves to work with his hands. He strings beads and when I see how hard he works for something vs. person who does not have autism or mental retardation doing that same task, it fills me with such emotion that I could do a bit of everything – I could write, I could work with polymer clay (my favorite), I could work with wire, I could make different things[knit or crochet], (cannot sew); but more importantly – I reinvest my time back into my son – reteaching him another creative method or project… He is my best teacher in life.”

13. Make some noise: Monotype & pastel artist Ann Gillespie suggest making some noise to wake up the creative muse. “I DO bang on a drum, shake a shaker, take a walk in the woods, sketch, do meditative collages etc, These things all help put me in a more intuitive mood for art. But sometimes they are also just creative ways to avoid getting in the studio to do the work I really want to! So for me these practices are best combined with my regular studio work. In general getting into the studio first thing in the morning is best, but I have also been trying to get used to working at any time of day. Short periods of time on a regular basis are infinitely better for me than no time at all, but also much better than long days just once in a while.”

14. Change the beat: Needle felt artist Lyn Slade recommends changing the beat to tempt the creative muse. “I’ll shake up the music in the studio, putting on a completely different style of music sometimes gives me a jump start.” Check out Lyn’s needle felt pieces on her website, Lyn Slade.

15. It’s a puzzle: Lyn also owns a bed and breakfast. Recently some B&B guests, who are also artists, suggested pulling out a jigsaw puzzle for sparking the creative muse. They commented that when they get stuck some times they pull out a jig saw puzzle…something about the different parts of your brain used in assembling a puzzle helps them. Oh, to read more about Lyn’s B&B, visit Charlotte’s House B&B

16. Listen: Watercolor artist Brenda Evans offers this advice. “I think the creative muse is always there and we have to learn to listen to it. I think it is a persuasive voice in our heads, not an imperative voice. Often we are too busy, maybe working to a deadline, but the inside voice is always there saying things like, “is that right?”, “stop and think about that”. I think when we are hands on being creative, the voice gets stronger and says things like, “but you could do this”, “look at it from this angle”, “there is something more exciting, you could do”, “stop now and do this”. It’s a wonderful voice, always looking out for your best interests, a bff if ever there was one.”

17. Shake it up: Karen McMillan, a Master Certified Retreat Coach, suggests variety when it comes to motivating the muse. A walk in nature, looking outside at trees and birds, listening to music, or breath and meditation.

18. Make a bargain: Jody Arthur, a Children’s Clothing Designer, suggests making a bargain with yourself. Look at your to-do list then make a bargain. “I’ll give myself permission to do this or that creative thing in return for getting this or that other thing done.”

19. Move it: Shelley West, a User Experience Specialist, suggests getting up and moving. Make a dance play list on Spotify or your music device of choice. When the muse is low, put on the play list and take a dance break. Exercise also works in the same way.

20. Rinse: You know how our minds seem so clear in the morning? Shelley also shares that the morning shower and humming while washing and rinsing her hair sparks new ideas.

21. Daydream: Barbara J Bolls-Guillory, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and jewelry artist, reminds us that it is good to take time to daydream. She tells us that “going within to journey or indulging in daydreaming to open myself up to other ways of seeing/feeling/thinking.”

22. Delight the inner child: In addition to daydreams, Barbara also suggest delighting the inner child by “playing a game, drawing or coloring, or whatever fun activity that delights the kid in me.”

23. Eye-candy: With Internet bursting at the seams, eye-candy inspiration abounds. Pinterest. Flickr. Blogs and websites. Don’t forget the more traditional venues either-local art museums and art galleries-to spark the creative muse. Some museums also offer free drawing days where you can sketch inspiring images in the different galleries.

24. Clean it: One of my trusted approaches to waking the creative muse is to clean the studio. When work tables and the floor get too cluttered, the muse can’t breath. Taking time to clear the clutter opens up that breathing space and soon new ideas flow again.

How about you? How do you spark the creative muse? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.


2 Comments

Contemplative Photography: A Walk Thru Bowers Springs

Another task in Christine Valters Paintner’s book, Eyes of the Heart, is to go on a meditative walk with your camera in hand. While on the walk, ask to “receive” images. So beyond just “looking” for pictures to take, the task is to really “see” what is around you.

In this post, I share with you some of my favorite images from my walk through Bowers Springs.

Come join me on my walk.

BowersSprings_Walkway

BowersSprings_PeelingBirchBark

BowersSprings_UnfurlingFerns

BowersSprings_SingleUnfurlingFern

BowersSprings_GreenHosta

BowersSprings_TwistyTreeBranches

BowersSprings_TreeFlowerBud

BowersSprings_BeaverTreeCut

BowersSprings_TreeLeafShadow

BowersSprings_DriedWeed

BowersSprings_PondSurface


4 Comments

15 Minutes With A Tea Mug: A Photo Essay

I recently started reading Christine Valters Paintner’s new book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Photography has been one of my pastimes for many years. What drew me to this book was two-fold: Christine’s photography and my desire to learn again how to “see” images and not just “look” for images.

The online class that accompanies Christine’s book started this week. You might be able to still sign up for the class here.

I am working through the book at my own pace. The first assignment is a wonderful lesson in seeing a rather mundane object as something fresh and new. For me, this meant seeing my tea mug, which I use almost every day, in a new way. I set the timer for 15 minutes and received over 40 images in this short amount of time. Here are some of my favorites. (NOTE: Click on the first image in each set and you can see each picture in a slideshow.)

Tea Mug in the Kitchen

Tea Mug in the Dining Room

Tea Mug in the Family Room

Tea Mug on the Deck

Tea Mug on the Grass

Tea Mug on the Rocks

What is fun about this task is that once you open your eyes and heart to the object, you truly start to see it in a new light.

What every day, mundane object in your life could you look at in a new light?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 333 other followers