Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Artwork Published! Creative is a Verb

Creative Is a Verb Cover

I am honored to announce that one of my mixed media pieces was chosen for inclusion in Patti Digh’s newest book Creative is a Verb: If You’re Alive, You’re Creative In this book, Patti “leads you by both heart and head to acknowledge, reinforce, and use your own creative spirit by teaching six creative commitments.” Creative is a Verb is the follow-up to Patti’s successful 2008 book Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally.

Way back in January I received a request to submit two pieces of artwork for Creative is a Verb. Each participating artist was sent one, two, or three essays that would become chapters in the book. We were asked to read our assigned essays and create artwork inspired by the essay. As with previous art submission requests, we had about two weeks to create artwork inspired by the essay.

I received two essays. One was titled “Leave Your Base Camp” the other was “Blow Bubbles Everyday.” My submission for “Blow Bubbles Everyday” was chosen and is featured in Chapter 6: Get Present: Show Up Like Magic.

Blow Bubbles Everyday

The substrate for this piece is a painted and textured magazine page. The horns were inspired by the bubble wands we used as kids (and might still play with as adults…though I’m not saying which adult, ahem.) The little characters inside the bubbles are smiling, dancing, reading, hanging out, hanging on, and waving. I think I channeled a bit of Tim Burton for this piece.

Thanks again to Patti Digh for this wonderful opportunity. You can purchase a signed copy of Creative is a Verb on Patti’s website or on Amazon (unsigned copies).

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Confronting a Wall

As the month of August came to a close, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all that lay ahead of me this fall. This sense of overwhelm squashed my desire to write on this blog, hence my couple of weeks of absence.

In late August and into September, the Vuelta a Espana traverses the roads and mountains of Spain. This is the final 3 week race in the professional cycling calendar. While all three grand tours (the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta) are grueling events, the Vuelta has to be the hardest. In this race the cyclists will climb mountain roads with gradients of 9%, 11%, and 13%. In some stages, roads have a 22% gradient climb.

You might be able to walk slightly faster on roads that steep than someone on a bike.

Or maybe not.

Hitting a Wall

It was this feeling of overwhelm that hit me a couple weeks ago that reminded me of the riders in the Vuelta. In cycling, it is common to refer to huge, steep mountain climbs as walls.

I realized that I had hit my own wall.

The realization of “hitting the wall” came with both relief and anxiety. It explained why I was feeling this way (the relief.) It also made me confront all the stuff bouncing around in my head (the anxiety.)

Armed with this realization, I decided there was only one thing to do if I hoped to get a grip on the situation. And that was to do a Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump

When I think of doing a Brain Dump, I’m reminded of a scene in Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” In this scene, Dr. Finkelstein, the Evil Scientist, throws open his head to scratch his brain and ponder his next move.

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

Ah, how nice it would be to lift open our skulls, scratch our brains, pick out all those anxious thoughts, and pop everything back together.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have that ability.

So the next best thing for me to do was to write a list of all the things coming up for the month of September.

Brain Dump

September Brain Dump

Once I wrote it all down, I felt much better. I actually thought “hmm, it isn’t as bad as my sometimes over-active imagination leads me to believe.”

At the top of the list is working in the studio 20-24 hours a week. My intent is to have that time dedicated specifically to making art, though there will be situations where some of those hours will be spent on the business side, such as entering art challenges, photography, e-newsletters, websites, etc. And of course there are other appointments and activities that influence how a week will play out.

Next was listing all those to-dos for the month based on my goals and what I’d already written on my calendar. In trying to get a jump on the upcoming holiday season, I’ve decided to spend 1-2 days on production based artwork. I figure it is better to get this task out of the way first, then I can spend the rest of the time on sculpting heads, making new Spirit Messengers, and learning digital art techniques.

For several items, I have to list out the smaller steps that will help me get to the overall goal. Listing the small steps is something I can easily forget to do. And that makes for more anxiety. It is so easy to say “I have to get X done” and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of ‘X’ until you list the small steps.

Other items on this Brain Dump are weekly tasks that have become too easy to overlook these last few months as I’ve focused on new areas for my business. Example: updating the books in Quickbooks once a week now will save me time and trouble later on.

I’m also specifying on my daily priority and to-do list how much time I’ll allot for specific tasks, such as replying to or sending emails, working on my website, and writing on this blog.

I admit that this left brain approach is not always easy to implement when you spend more time living with a right brain focus. Perhaps I could be more creative in how I create my list or my daily priority & to-do list (though sometimes I use different color pens!) More important was to just get it all down on paper.



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New York, New York-Tim Burton Exhibit

This past weekend we took a quick trip to New York. We visited MOMA for the Tim Burton exhibit, caught the theatre production of “Fela! The Musical,” and visited The Frick Collection.

The exterior entrance to the Tim Burton exhibit included a time line of his work written on the wall and his name on the wall in big black letters with giant black and white arrows pointing you to the exhibit….

…where, after they took your tickets, you walked through this facade:

The first room inside the exhibit was all black with black lighting. On display were some of Tim Burton’s paintings on black canvas, a merry-go-round like sculpture that reminded me of “Beetlejuice” and the infamous Oogie Boogie in a glass display case.

The exhibit featured costumes worn in “Edward Scissorhands” (on a Johnny Depp-like mannequin), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Batman,” and “Planet of the Apes.” Several of the claymation characters from the Oyster Boy series, Corpse Bride, Nightmare Before Christmas and Mars Attack are also on display. I had great fun looking at these pieces for their materials, construction, and size. It was stunning to see Jack Skellington and all the heads that were sculpted for each facial movement and expression seen in the movie.

The exhibit also includes a lot of Burton’s early work, including super 8 films from high school and college, a composition assignment from his early years (really, who keeps schoolwork from junior high and high school?), lots of sketches that lead to formal ideas for movies, work from his time at Disney, and even a handwritten note to Johnny Depp regarding the character development of Edward Scissorhands.

And, of course, where any music was playing, it was by Danny Elfman, Burton’s longtime music partner.

Outside the exhibit on the basement level were posters from many of Burton’s movies, his large Polaroid prints, and a theatre showing select movies. On the main floor, we were greeted by this blue, bulbous character:

One of my favorite series of drawings, however, was a study Burton did using the numbers 1-10. Using ink and watercolor, he created 11″x15″ drawings for each number and included a little poem or verse about each number. For example, in his drawing for the number one, one is lonely and sad, but by the time Burton drew number 10, number one was happily paired with zero and now one was two.

Burton also has a great way of taking simple phrases, idioms, and interpreting them in his drawings.

It was great fun to witness to Burton’s creative process and to see the development of his work over all these years. What struck me was how he creates these complex looking characters from very simple shapes that become distorted or inverted or stretched. It was also great to see the number of young adults and school age kids attending the exhibit. Remember how you felt as the “odd ball” in school? The kid who was different in dress, interests, or perhaps just not the social butterfly? Burton’s work and his background seems to reach all of us “odd balls” on some level.

Other sites at the MOMA:

Performance Art by Marina Abramovic

I admit that performance art is one form of art that I usually don’t get. I’d love to see the grants people write to get funding for these events. But that is the beauty of art; all the forms and the freedom to enjoy or not. Below is one of the live “performances” Abramovic was doing during our visit to MOMA.

Abramovic is in red. The other woman is a visitor to MOMA. Apparently the “performance” was to sit across from Abramovic and to stare at each other silently. On the 6th floor was another live installation that included naked people sitting on chairs. We didn’t get to the 6th floor.

We did visit the 4th and 5th floors which house some wonderful paintings and sculptures, including “Starry Night” by Van Gogh, the American Flag by Jasper Johns, Rothkos, famous splatter paintings by Jackson Pollock, a wheel sculpture by Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can series, and these bronze sculptures by Henri Matisse

The first two sculptures at the far end, created over three years, were realistic representations of “Jeanette.” Here Matisse worked with a live model. The three remaining sculptures were broken down into more abstract components as a representation of the face. Matisse said he was organizing the head into simplified chunks to “reveal the essential qualities” of his model.

It is hard to tell from this picture but the line of large noses made me laugh. I also felt good knowing that even Matisse had an appreciation for large noses and that my sculptures shouldn’t feel too embarrassed by their large proboscis.