Monthly Archives: June 2009

Change of Scenery

IMG_0110   One thing that I find always gets my creative juices going is a change of scenery. Now it’s not always convenient to run away to a Vermont inn or fly off for a week to explore Tuscany.  However, there are ways to change the scenery right where you are. My mom and my sisters all rearrange their furniture every few months. Honestly, I don’t have that kind of energy and I know my way around in the dark too well to change my sleep walking pattern. But, I do have to say how refreshing it is when I go into one of their homes to find things changed. I notice things I’ve never seen before. Things that have been in that room all the time, just in a different corner. Often I see what I think are new objects of art that look great at my sister’s, only to find out that I made them myself years ago, but wasn’t happy with them then. My sister had enough sense to fish them out of my trash. A change of scenery sure does have an impact on how we appreciate things. And no, she won’t give them back.

   Changing scenery can be an adventure. Go for a walk in someone’s garden, look in an antique store you’ve never been in, try a different coffee shop or drive an alternate route to work. Actually, sometimes when I do that, I get lost in thought and forget where I’m going.  Make sure you have enough time to reorient and back track if that happens.  It’s worth the extra few minutes, as I get to see apple orchards blooming in the Spring and pumpkin patches  in the Fall if I go a different route.

  Of course, I have intended destinations on my list that are sure to refresh my creativity, but they require planning. Some changes of scenery are down  Memory Lane and can be spontaneous, like today I spent a few minutes  discussing my trip to China with a friend who had also been there.  I had such clear images of my experiences and I felt so happy describing things to him. As I listened intently to what he shared, I was able to be there, if only in my head.

   So, until I can be where I want to go, my other source of changing the scenery is my imagination.  One thing that is great about imagination is that you can go places and still be where you are.  

   Where do you want to go? Make a journal or collage of places you’d like to see .Find pictures and put them on each page with all the things about it that intrigue you. Write the names of cities, museums, beaches, landmarks or people that make it the unique place that it is. As you imagine what it is like there, create a poem, a work of art, special food to put you there in that moment. Make it an intention that you might be really be there some day. It’s funny what happens when you put your intentions on paper. Just imagine.          

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Visiting Museums

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One of the most uplifting experiences a person can have is to go to an art museum. A lot of people take advantage of museums in cities all over the world, and aren’t we fortunate that there are great collections of art. Artists remind us who we are as a human society and of the various cultures that exist and where we all come from in history. Art provides a document of humanity. I’ve always felt that artist have a huge responsibility to record and interpret the human condition and to elevate human spirit.  A museum experience is always an opportunity to learn and reflect.

   I learned from a friend how to look at art. It was her first visit to an art museum. She explained that she had no idea how to appreciate it, but noticed that when I went into each gallery of the museum I would scan the room and then go directly to one or two  works of art, study it and then move on.  She figured that with all the art in the place, there was not enough time to see everything, so I must be practicing time allotment. Actually, I realized that I do experience museums that way. Not so much to manage my time, but my mind.

   I feel attracted to a work of art for some reason and want to spend my time figuring out why it’s calling to me. It may be the color or composition that draws me. Perhaps the style (I love Pre-Raphaelite paintings) has an appeal to my essential self. It might be the expression on a face in a painting or the joy of form in a sculpture (Degas- Little Dancer Age Fourteen). But the connection that has been made between the artist and me is worth exploring.

   I offer a simple process for any one to enjoy viewing art. When you look at a work of art, be aware of how it makes you feel. The artist may have had an intention, but once it is put out for the world to see, it is open to interpretation.

First- Facts. What are the facts of the piece? What do actually you see?  Title? Study those details.

Second- Design Structure. What design elements and principles is the artist using to communicate more about the facts. Color may set the mood for an underlying story, pattern may be evident to show an ethnic culture, value would certainly determine how light effects the image.

Third- Interpretation. Once you see what the facts are you can analyze the use of design and then you can interpret what you see. Interpretation might be – what is the story or message. It might be why does it make me feel this way?Remember I mentioned tapping in to how the art makes you feel earlier.

   What is so wonderful, even if you completely miss the artist’s intention, is that you can still have a meaningful experience based on what your knowledge and life experience brings into play. Of course, you can always ask a docent (museum guide) or read the information available on the wall to help you learn more about what the artist intended. Either outcome, you will benefit from what you see. 

Visit an art museum. Most museums have restaurants and I always enjoy lunch in that environment. Plan an afternoon. I’ll share a few of my favorite museums later on.

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Risk Sharing your Creative Work

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The appeal of showing in an Art Museum is exciting and daunting at the same time. One can’t help go through the self doubt about ‘is my work good enough’, especially when you see work by other artists at drop off. Those doubts creep up on the most experienced artists who submit their art to juried shows regularly. My thoughts about it over the years, especially after witnessing and participating in the jury process, are always about why the piece wasn’t accepted. That doesn’t in any way mean that it wasn’t good enough. Many jurors review the entries and then look for a cohesive assemblage of pieces that make a great show.  There is often talk among artists about upcoming shows and the juror(s) may have a particular reputation for a genre that would deter some from entering.

I think that the risk factor always appears bigger than it is.

   First, there is only so much room to exhibit, so there has to be a selection process simply to accommodate the space.

   Second, read the rules. If there is a size limitation, adhere to it. If it says no photography, don’t send it. If there is a deadline, don’t bother being late. Not all rules are made to be broken. Often, artists eliminate themselves because they don’t read the rules.

   Third, there are many competitions that build reputations, however don’t overlook the local opportunities. It’s still exposure and fun.

   If you are new to submitting work to juried exhibits, my message is don’t be afraid. Put it out there and let it be seen. Sometimes you won’t get your work in. Often you will.

   One group of local artists responded to having their work ‘not accepted’ to a major juried exhibit. They banded together and in homage to the early French painters had their own Salon of Rejects. In the spirit of self mocking and self adoration it was a wonderful exhibit. 

   In the movie Chariots of Fire, the Olympic marathon runner who trained his whole life for the race is faced with a worthy opponent, so his victory is not such a sure thing.

 He says to his lady, “I won’t run if I can’t win.”

She replies, “You can’t win if you don’t run.” 

 ***Above you will see an oil painting (4” x 4”). I baked blueberry muffins that looked so tasty, I had to paint them while they were still steaming. I did it all in twenty minutes. When I considered putting the little gem into a regional art exhibit I hesitated. Of course, self doubt. It’s too small, it’s just blueberry muffins, who is going to take it seriously?

   I even assisted on receiving day and left it in my car while I sat there encouraging others to submit. It finally dawned on me that I should submit the piece and pay the fee for the simple purpose of supporting the art league. If it doesn’t get in, so what.  The following week the jury slip arrived in the mail, which was  humorously confusing as it had both Accepted and Not Accepted checked off. Yeah, huh?

   I went to the opening reception with no idea if it would be hanging on the wall. The President of the art league approached me and said, “Oh, good, you’re here. I left you a message on your answering machine.”

   Well, actually she didn’t. She left a message at a wrong number. As it turned out,  I did get my little blueberry muffins into the show.  The painting also won a prize. So, maybe the key is not to take it so seriously. Once I let go of feeling desperate about getting the piece  in, I left room for the opportunity for something good to happen.

   You r assignment- submit your creative work to a competition. Poetry, music, art, cooking, whatever. The most amazing part of the competition is usually the process of taking a risk. If your work is not selected, so what? I’ve had the same piece rejected from one show only to get a top prize in another. So what if it doesn’t get in. This is not an assignment of winning and losing. It really is about the practice of risk taking and at the same time making connections with other creative people. So many opportunities come from participating. There is always something new to learn. The bonus, if you are selected it’s an opportunity to celebrate.

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