Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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My 2014 Word of the Year-Transform

Most years I choose a word to guide me through the year. Sometimes the word is a good choice. Sometimes not so much.  The process for choosing a word isn’t terribly scientific.  I’ve used Christine Kane’s approach to chose a word. I chosen from random words that pop in my head.

This year I was guided by a more spiritual-intuitive process from Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts. This was a 12-day mini-retreat which included daily emails that provided a daily practice to help you contemplate potential words. What was different with this process, for me, is that it wasn’t about ME CHOOSING a word. Rather, it was about a word CHOOSING ME.

There is a difference.

When we choose a word, we’re looking and striving for THE word. We want it to be perfect. We obsess. Our little noggins say “this is the word that I want.”

When we allow time for a word to choose us, we, hopefully, let go of ego and let our intuition guide the process. We must let go of expectations (the perfect word) and listen to what stirs internally. Words that excite. Words that make us uncomfortable. Words that call us to grow.

So, for 12 days, I paid attention to words & phrases that appeared frequently in readings. I wrote down words that resonated with me. Words that made me uncomfortable. I made note of synchronicities.

At first, I thought my word would be “possibilities” or “possible” as in “With you all things are possible.” After surviving several losses over the past 18 months, I was feeling that in 2014 anything is possible, both good and not so good.

Then I paid more attention to other words that appeared and resonated with me. And the one word that appeared over and over was transform.

Transform means to change markedly the form or appearance of; to change the nature, function or condition of. It comes from the Old French “transformer” and Latin “transformare.” The prefix trans means “across.” So trans-form would be taking the normal mode of behavior “across” into a whole new form.

The word is quite fitting. During that 18 month period with one loss after the other, I started to question many things, from the meaning of life to the meaning of my work. I turned inward and gradually began working on my spiritual development. I thought more about what really makes me happy in life.

Now that we have started a new year, it truly is a time of new beginnings. It may sound cliche but I think of the caterpillar who cocoons and turns into a butterfly. Much work is being done internally in that cocoon. And when the butterfly emerges a wonderful transformation has occurred.

I feel I am gradually emerging from my cocoon. I have made changes in my business plan for 2014, such as not doing any art shows and closing my ArtFire Online Studio account. I’m looking forward to spending more time on personal & spiritual development. And I’m gradually starting to paint again.

So here is to 2014. A year to transform. A year of transformation.

Hanging Around in Sedona

Hanging Around in Sedona


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Welcome 2014

SunThruTreesI have been spending the past week reflecting on the past year, waiting for my word for the year to find me, and setting new intentions for 2014.

Below, I share with you two questions that were posed during my meditation today. They are good questions to consider as we begin again in 2014.

What was the most life giving for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember them with gratitude.

What was the most life draining for you in 2013? Where in your body do you feel these memories? As you recall these memories, remember to forgive.

If you are so inclined, feel free to share your answers in the comments below.


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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?


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“Trees Through The Forest”-Part 2, The Progress Continues

Though I had all good intentions of posting more frequent updates on the progress of my new wall art, I just wasn’t feeling it. My goal is to write one post a week that is published on Wednesdays. But, to be honest, when I don’t have anything to say, I stay quiet. To paraphrase that old saying “if you don’t have anything new/interesting/inspiring to say…”

In my absence here, I’ve been busy planning a new teaching gig, writing the content for a free tutorial, and videotaping another tutorial. Writing the free tutorial is a whole new experience. Develop the idea, write out the process, take pictures of the steps, edit the pictures, write the process in Keynote (that is what I’ll use to convert the tute into a PDF), proof read, publish. I’ve set a date of August 15 as my deadline and have been working backwards from there to manage the various steps in the process.

Makes my brain ache some days.

BUT! In between all that I have made progress on “Trees Through The Forest.” You can read about the origins of this piece and see its beginnings here.

Part 2: Progress Continues

After I created the disk shapes and added texture to them, I baked them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then I had to decide what paint colors to use as a patina. This helps make the texture marks pop on the clay. For some unknown reason this felt like an agonizing process. Is this what they mean by “suffering” for your art?  No, I didn’t think so.

After the patina process was completed, I used liquid polymer clay to secure any piece that had multiple disks or other components. I let all the pieces sit for several hours while the liquid clay set up. Then everything went back in the oven for one more baking.

Here are the polymer clay disks placed on a blank canvas. The popsicle sticks mark where the tree trunks will eventually be painted.

3TreesThruForest_Polymer Disks

And some detail shots of the disks. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Now the fun begins with creating the background for this piece. I decided to use a 10″x8″ canvas.

Preparing and Painting the Canvas

First, I applied two coats of Gesso to smooth the surface of the canvas.

10Ready to Gesso the Canvas

While that dried, I picked out the colors for the background. Here I tested them out in my sketchbook so I know they’ll look nice together.

11Color choices for the canvas

Once the Gesso completely dried, I held my breath and applied the paint colors. I’m working intuitively here but still felt a little nervous.

12The painted canvas

Before even painting the colors onto the canvas, I looked at several surface techniques in the book Surface Treatment Workshop by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.

I decided upon the plastic wrap resist technique. With this technique, you place a sheet of plastic wrap over the wet paint. You can stretch the plastic into linear patterns or pat it smooth.

Plastic wrap over canvas

Plastic wrap over canvas

Plastic wrap over canvas-detail

Plastic wrap over canvas-detail

See all those lines and bumps? The trick with this technique is to let the paint dry before removing the plastic wrap. The drier the paint, the crisper the texture.

And now the big reveal…..

Paint texture

Paint texture

And a detail shot of the texture:

16Paint texture detail

I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the texture came out.

I’ll leave you with this piece, “Trees Through the Forest,” almost finished.

Almost finished

Almost finished

The edges of the canvas have been painted. Since I took the above picture I removed the popsicle sticks and painted in tree trunks. I’m not sure if I need to add anything else to the canvas, so I’ll let things sit for a day or so. If the muse tells me the piece is done, I’ll put a hanger on the back and attach the polymer disks to the canvas.

I’m going to install this piece on Monday, August 5 so there isn’t much more time to agonize think about it. I’m meeting my deadline which was most important.


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“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?


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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.


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Anemia: An Art Doll Work in Progress

I’m often asked about my process for creating my art dolls. While the first step is sculpting the head, putting together the body varies. It mainly depends on whether the art doll will hang on the wall or stand freely. Then I have to decide what type of armature I will use for the art doll’s body. Will it be a hollow form, solid form, wire, cloth, or a combination.

In the video below, I share the process that I’m using for my most recent art doll, tentatively known as “Anemia.”

Enjoy!

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