Tag Archives: creativity

First Blog of 2020

Picks from 2019, the good, the not so good, and some things to share

I’ve been on hiatus for a while. The holiday season is a busy one and my blog got pushed aside. No promises yet on how regular my blogs will be in 2020, but this is a start.

Best new quote:  Vulnerability is the courage to be imperfect.  Brené Brown

Best sleep discovery: Calm, the app for sleep. Bedtime stories for adults—works like a charm! Listening to a story turns off my busy brain. I never manage to stay awake for the whole story, but that’s the point. Zzzzzz

Best memory: My artist residency at Studio Faire in  Nérac, France, was definitely the high point of my year. A special shout out to my hosts, Julia Douglas and Colin Usher for nourishing dreams. For those of you who wonder exactly what an artist residency is all about, read this testimonial from former resident, Miguel Guerrero Beccera:  “Julia and Colin have established a sanctuary, a wondrous village within a village where judgement is the only foreign word, and everything is connected by the same ligature of love, and urge for creation.” There are still a few openings available at Studio Faire for 2020. Make your dream a reality.

Low point of the year: The Kincaid fire. Once again flames devoured part of Sonoma County. I was only inconvenienced but many others were not so lucky—lives were disrupted, homes and businesses lost. Once, again, we proved we are Sonoma strong, but will this really be the new normal? Continue reading

Still the Inner Critic: Read Away Debilitating Self-Doubt

I am an artist. I am also a writer. Self-doubt arises in both arenas. Today’s blog focuses on my journey as a visual artist. The fear that I was only pretending to be an artist haunted me for years. It slowed the creative flow, and prevented me from showing my art in public. What if they felt sorry for me? (“Honestly…does she really think she can paint?”)

Despite my doubts, I never completely stopped creating art. Through failed romances, a divorce, physically and emotionally draining jobs, and the demands of raising two exceptional sons, I continued to create in dribs and drabs. I painted, wrote, took classes, learned new skills and hid my work away in case someone discovered that I was not a “real” artist.

I am past that now (mostly). Every artist has moments of self-doubt. I may never have an exhibit at a prestigious museum, earn accolades from the art establishment, or become a household name. Nevertheless, I am an artist. Whether or not you (whomever you may be) like my work or not, I am still an artist.

Kenny Minear recognized that fact in kindergarten. Every drawing and sculpture of mine that he could get his hands on, he mutilated. I still remember how proud I was of my clay elephant before Kenny turned it into a pancake. Jealousy is destructive, but I knew Kenny thought I was a great artist.

My mother believed I was an artist. Every Saturday morning, through sun and rain and snow, she drove me to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. I was ten when I started; twelve when we moved to the Midwest. But I still kept studying—at several universities and with various artists on the East Coast and here in the Bay Area. Why I chose not to get a degree in art is a personal matter. Degree or not, I am still an artist. Yet my self-doubt kept me from enjoying art for many years. A blank canvas gave me panic attacks. I couldn’t even take pleasure in visiting an art gallery. Comparing my art (unfavorably) to everything I saw, I told myself, “You suck,” and only produced two or three paintings a year. If I actually submitted a piece in a show and it was rejected, it was further proof that I had no talent.

self-doubtSo how did I heal my debilitating self-doubt? Enter Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. I started an artists’ support group. We immersed ourselves in Julia’s books. I faithfully did my morning pages, went on my weekly artist’s date, and completed the chapter assignments. It may sound simplistic, but it worked. The support of my fellow artists in the group helped as well. I get juried into shows now, and sometimes I don’t. But these days, I don’t take rejection so personally. I’m more likely to say, “That was one person’s opinion,” or “That just wasn’t what they were looking for.” I no longer buy into the elitist theory that only a gifted few are “real” artists—“them” versus the rest of us. I am an artist.

Today, I’m a resident artist at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery, have been juried into  American Art Collector for the past six years, sell some pieces here and there, and am producing art in greater quantities than ever before. More importantly, I’m enjoying myself. When I have moments of self-doubt—and who doesn’t—I pick up one of the following books. All are designed to minimize self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, procrastination and other inhibiting forces. The next time you fell compelled to do the laundry instead of picking up a paintbrush, brush up on your reading…

Pamela’s Picks for Unblocking Creativity:

 The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

“The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe.” – Goodreads

If her New Age approach doesn’t resonate with you, I urge you to still consider using her tools. There’s a reason this book has been a best seller for 25 years. The tools work. She expands her ideas in the following three books. Each is a 12-week program designed to enhance your creativity. I recommend a support group to keep you on track.

Walking In This World, The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron

Finding Water, the Art of Perseverance, Julia Cameron

The Vein of Gold, a Journey to Your Creative Heart, Julia Cameron

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 Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland

“Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. This is a book about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing free will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.” ©1993 David Bayles and Ted Orland

 Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon

“Engaging, inspiring and practical advice on becoming a successful artist, advice that applies well beyond artistic pursuits… This is a quick, easily digestible read that is particularly relevant in today’s digital world.”—School Library Journal

 

A Thanksgiving Remembrance of My Parents

myparentsrimmedAs I write, Thanksgiving is a mere three days away. There will be family and food, and we will eat until we can’t take one more bite, making resolutions to lose weight after the holidays. We will think of all the things for which we are, or ought to be, grateful.

I sometimes remember to give thanks for the things we tend to take for granted—like light at the touch of a switch, and the clean water that flows out of the kitchen tap on demand. I buy bottled water—just in case—but millions of people long for the stuff that runs freely down my drain.

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about my parents. I miss them, especially at this time of year.

Growing up I had no idea how really lucky I was—lucky to be loved, treasured, nurtured and appreciated. My parents taught me that education was important, and instilled in me the lifetime gift of a love of reading. I have a photo of myself nestled in my father’s arms. I am three months old (the writing on the photo says so), and he is reading me the Sunday comics.

Every night, before I fell asleep, one of my parents read me a story. It didn’t matter if they were busy, or if they had company. We read.

Recently, I attended a local production of Beauty and the Beast with two close friends. Turning to them when it was over, I said, “That was always my favorite fairy tale.”

“Really,” said one. I wasn’t familiar with it.”

“Didn’t your parents read to you?” I asked.

“My parents never read to me,” she replied, to which my other friend nodded solemnly.

I was aghast—one more thing I had taken for granted. How could I have known back then that I was blessed?

In addition to instilling in me a love of reading, my parents provided unflagging support to all my creative endeavors. There were dance lessons, tap and ballet, as well as art and drama lessons. If I had wanted music lessons, I would have gotten those too. Music was not one of my gifts. Writing was, and it was encouraged. Mother was especially thrilled with a love poem I wrote in the seventh grade. She thought I had written it for her. I was heartless enough to tell her the truth. It was written for my unrequited love, Tommy Grubb. He was a year older and didn’t know I was alive. Sorry, mom.

Those art lessons were a sacrifice of both time and money for my parents. When I was nine, and for several years thereafter, my mother drove me, every Saturday morning, to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. Boy, how I looked forward to those Saturdays! No one ever said, “Art is a waste of time; you’ll never make any money doing that.”

When I wanted to be an actress, my parents enrolled me in the Will-O-Way Apprentice Theater. The times I spent there are some of my happiest memories. Incredibly shy, I became someone brave and beautiful on stage. No one ever said, “Acting is stupid; you’ll never make any money doing that.” And, when I played Maria in West Side Story, my mother laboriously reproduced for me every costume that Natalie Wood wore in the movie. Thanks, mom.

So, today, I am grateful for George Wally Heck, a metallurgical engineer, and Louise Tremaine Heck, a housewife—my parents. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for affirming that I was gifted when I was full of doubt. You gave me the courage to dance, and paint, act and write—to send my work out into the world to face the critics (of which there are plenty). Thank you for nurturing my talents. After life itself, and unfailing love, it was your greatest gift.

My Mother, Once (a poem I actually wrote for my mother):

My mother, once, was just Louise,

who dreamed of love and wished that frogs

might morph into princes,

enabling love’s first true kiss

to make a Mrs. of a Miss.

 

She came of age in time of war,

and thought her sailor was a prince.

He asked, and she said, ”Yes.”

To be a mother and a wife

was all she ever begged of life.

 

I see her gaze with youthful eyes,

expecting good with confidence.

She smiles, for why despair?

It’s safe to think, as Life unfurls,

that good things come to pretty girls.

 

If she had seen the sorrow thrown

like dice across the coming years,

would she have run or stayed the course?

She loved, but at tremendous cost…

a husband and two children lost.

 

Those babes, long gone, both rest in peace,

my brothers, seldom seen, but missed.

Her first was here a brief three days,

the second never took a breath.

at birth his life was claimed by death.

 

I am the only hope that lived.

I am the daughter that survived.

All her dreams live in me.

It is a fearsome destiny

to be my mother’s legacy.

 

 

 

Aging, Creativity and Me

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?  — Satchel Paige (1906-1998)elderswI am no longer young. I deal with this fact very well on some levels—less so on others. On the positive side, I am more creative now than at any other time in my life.

I always had an interest in writing, but never had time to pursue it outside of my professional life. (I was an advertising copywriter for many years.) I wrote in no other capacity except for an occasional poem. Today I belong to a writer’s club and a critique group. I have won writing awards and honorable mentions in various contests, recently been published in three anthologies and a literary review, and have an agent “shopping” one of my children’s books. In addition, I am a resident artist at a local gallery where I am expected to produce new art on a regular basis—which I do. All this at a time when researchers are telling me my neurons are shutting down. However, Timothy A. Salthouse in his recent book, Major Issues in Cognitive Aging, suggests that “some of the assertions about cognitive aging may be influenced as much by the authors’ preconceptions and attitudes as by scientific evaluation and empirical research.”

I have long suspected that creative people tend to live longer, more productive lives. New research is proving that to be true. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201003/creativity-and-successful-brain-aging-going-the-flow Continue reading