Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

One Day Everything Shifted…

All through high school I wrote in my journal, “I want to be an artist.”

I kept writing it through my first several jobs after high school  Somewhere in the midst of becoming the Director of Public Relations at a private high school and coordinating all the graphics and newsletter and visual lay out work for the school I transitioned to saying, “I am an artist.”  One day everything shifted…

I asked Carmen Torbus about her experience identifying herself as an artist.  I’ll share her heartfelt reply with you.  Carmen’s book, THE ARTIST UNIQUE, is the subject of a series of ongoing posts.  I hope you are enjoying them…

Here’s Carmen’s answer and a piece of her current work…
I asked, “When did you first assert to the world at large, without qualification, “I am an artist?”  And she answered…

The truth is, I’m not sure I have without qualifying it.  (Suddenly feels the urge to hang head in shame.)  I still feel a little funny in my stomach when I say out loud that I am an artist.  I feel like an artist.  I paint and create and play with art supplies,  (and here comes the “but”) but what I love more than anything is the process.  I love painting.  I love making a ginormous mess with paint.  I love adding words and doodles and images and text.  I love learning new techniques, playing with texture tools and experimenting with color.

But does that make me an artist?  My heart tells me it does.  But my gremlins ask me questions like, “Who do you think you are anyway?” and then I question if I’m really an artist at all, and I compare myself to others and start the measure up game that never ends well.  Then something else happens.

I get the urge to go sit in my studio.  When that urge strikes and I lean into it, something deeper starts to stir.  I sit there in my chair at my art desk and I look at my art supplies and my art journals and my in-progress canvases and my blank canvases and my paint brushes…. and I instinctively reach for a tube of transparent yellow iron oxide paint and squeeze a little onto my palette and dip my finger in the paint and start painting.  And in that moment, I know, unequivocally, that I am an artist.

I may not always be fully prepared to assert it to the world at large, but if I assert it to myself often enough, and if I lean into my instincts enough, I’ll get there.

I think more than anything, my calling is to encourage, inspire and believe in other creative women on the verge – to empower them to lean into their own urges and instincts, until they are ready to believe in themselves.  That to me is another form of art – and that is the artist I am – to my core. 

 

More from Carmen and my ongoing exploration with Polymer Clay next week.

 

In the meantime…remember the words of Benjamin Franklin (although it is sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson)  as you creatively head into your own celebration of Independence Day…

 

Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

 

 

The LEARNING Part of the Curve

I’ve addressed the unseen nature of the “curve.”  Now I’ll share about the learning part.  What Jenn did with her content on polymer clay and what Carmen did by offering it in a beautiful book was to get me curious.  Inspired.  Empowered.  The experiments each were important to my learning and each effort had different outcomes.

Now came the days of gathering information.  I talked to friends and found out what they knew about the material.  I started doing searches on the internet and enjoyed discovering tutorials: written and video.  In this process it became clear to me that I lacked the fundamental tools to really take advantage of this particular artistic expression.  I made some financial investments in this discovery processes. And I shared with some of my closest friends that I was exploring something that I’d been mightily poor at all my life.  I was surprised to receive an outpouring of enthusiastic support:  supplies, a special polymer clay baking oven (an early birthday gift) and numerous internet idea sites.

I ordered a hand crank pasta machine.  I learned that this saves the wear and tear on my hands when trying to mix and blend colors.  And! it produces a more even working surface than a rolling pin does.  I got some clay tools. I put in a brand new blade in my exact-o knife.   Some of you reading this who are not inclined toward art exploration may be wondering what this had to do with you?

Learning is learning.  Whether its physics, physical education or polymer clay.   So I’ll summarize a broadly applicable summary in this way:

1)   I declared I wanted to and I started to explore.

2)   I invited friends to explore and experiment with me and share their results (Carmen Torbus, Christine Mason Miller, Liz Kalloch, Christen Olivarez).

2a)   I dared to share with some of my closest friends what I was doing and they surprised me by providing a litany of resources, ideas and physical support.

3)   I experimented.

4)   I informed my experimentation with study (research & subsequent learning).

5)   I supported my learning by acquring the needed tools to manifest the knowledge I had just acquired.

I kept studying, researching and learning while I waited for all the tools to arrive.

Tomorrow I’ll show you what happened once that pasta machine arrived!  And, just to refresh your memory, here’s a picture of the book that kicked all this into gear. THE ARTIST UNIQUE by Carmen Torbus.  My polymer clay section was led by Jenn McGlon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.  – Mary Jo Putney

 

That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.  – Doris Lessing -

Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to what was believed before. – Margaret Lee Runbeck -

That’s the way things come clear.  All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along. _ Madeleine L’Engle

The excitement of learning separates youth from old age.  As long as you’re learning you’re not old. -  Rosalyn W. Yalow -

How Do You HONOR the Learning Curve?

There is a period of time for everyone that is called the learning curve.  Curve.  You can’t see around the edge of a curve, but you do know something is there.  Something just waiting for you to round that bend.

So it went on my journey of exploring Polymer Clay.  After the lump incident I learned quite a bit about the way the stuff felt.  I learned that the baking time is really important.  I learned to let it the varnish dry before writing on it.  And, the important model here is that I tool note of what I learned so I could make NEW mistakes instead of repeating the ones I had already made.

I referenced, again, the section in Carmen Torbus’s book dealing with clay.  It was whimsically presented by Jenn McGlon.  I knew, looking at those pictures, that working with Polymer Clay was a lot like ballet.  The best dancers make ballet look so easy. And Jenn’s articles looked so accessible.  Ha! I soldiered on.  I started to get a feel for the place in which the clay was “ready” to be formed.  I grabbed an old rolling pin at my local thrift shop and used that to flatten my clay.  I wanted to experiment with how the clay would accept marks….and how it would deal with paint.

I almost went in search of tutorials but I held myself back.  I was still in the exploration phase and I wanted to just act with the information that Carmen and Jenn provided.  Additional tutors could come later.  I formed one of my favorite shapes: hearts.  And I learned what I wanted, plus a whole bunch more. I learned about adhesives, time to dry, and how the clay would accept collage pieces.  And somewhere in the midst of it all, I stop furrowing my eyebrows into a single unit and started having fun.

I made dozens and dozens of different hearts.  And true to the process – I’ve been giving them all away.  Spontaneously.  At speaking engagements, Included in little packages to friends.  In fact, a friend of mine is recovering from a serious procedure and she’ll be in the hospital all week.  She’ll get a polymer clay heart, too.  Hers says on the back, “Take care of yourself.”

Today it’s not so difficult to show you a photo of my process.  I’m happier with the outcome.  But still! the lumps I turned out on my first effort served a very important purpose.  Those lumps were part of my learning curve.  At this stage in my discovery, I STILL couldn’t see what was around the curve…but I kept on going anyway.

One of the artists in this circle of discovery has begun sharing the steps on her curve.  If you are curious you can read about Christine Mason Miller’s journey here:  http://christinemasonmiller.com/2011/06/29/creative-tools/

I’m hoping the detail of this creative journey inspires you to be patient with your own learning curves…and maybe, just might be the impetus to pick up a creative expression that is unfamiliar to you.   Now, have a heart or two…

And here’s the cover of the book that started the journey:

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.  – Paul Klee -

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those  which love color the most.  – John Ruskin -

Green is the fresh emblem of well-founded hopes. In blue the spirit can wander, but in green it can rest. – Mary Webb -

What an artist is for is to tell us what we see but do not know we see.  – Edith Stillwell -

No artist is ahead of his time.  He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times. – Martha Graham -

When you make any kind of artwork, you have to serve it.  You could easily call the artist a servant. – M.B Goffstein

The first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself. – Pauline Kael -

 

 

 

LOOK What I Made! Ugly Lumps! Yay.

These are pictures of Carmen Torbus! She’s the author of the book I’m writing about this week.

Carmen Torbus is a self-taught mixed media artist and workshop leader from Port St. Lucie, FL.  Self proclaimed bliss follower, big dreamer and lover of the words, “I’m so inspired right now!”, she is passionate about creating art that encourages connection, validates emotion and nourishes the soul.  Her workshops focus on combining mixed-media techniques with enthusiasm, passion and participant perspective.  Her blog and artwork can be seen in the winter 2010 issue of Stamptinton’s Artful Blogging and the May/June issue of Somerset Studios. Her new book, The Artist Unique, Discovering Your Creative Signature Through Inspiration and Techniques was released in April 2011.

 

 

I was just talking to a dear friend in the industry about self-promotion.  One of the unique challenges for independent artists.  We get to make the art and hit the drum so people will notice what we have made.  I’m always excited to show people what I have made when it is lovely.  When I like it.  But what about when I don’t like what I’ve made.  No, it’s not my habit to show it around.  Except this time.  Because this was an experiment in challenging myself.  An opportunity to dive in to something that I knew virtually nothing about.  By design!   I’ve repeated something that I don’t celebrate and I am not proud to share.  I’ve consistently declared, “I’m just not good at …. dimensional design.”  Ever since I ruined  a perfectly good bag of potatoes trying to carve potato prints (key word?  trying) I’ve steered clear of any thing much beyond layers of paper.  And, if today’s photograph was the end of story you might think that it was all well and good that I steered miles clear!  So after my trip to the craft store, prompted by the polymer clay section of THE ARTIST UNIQUE, I came home and started…making stuff.  Folding it around.  Working it so it was more pliable.  And LOOK!  Look what I made!  These perfectly ugly, misshappen little lumps that I then experimented with writing – and smeared it.  Oh.  Well.  I suppose this is when I have to post the picture?  Okay.  There.

It’s not that the photo is blurry.  The Little Polymer Lumps were simply that bad.  Part of the process was that we were supposed to give away what we made. Which, after swallowing my pride, I did.  And it would be quite candid to tell you that was one mouthful of pride I had to swallow.  I gave them to a group of dozens of women I taught last month.  I was talking about acceptance and discovery.  And being willing to step away from the impulse toward perfection and “getting every thing right.”  And boy howdy – if ever I made the “perfect” demonstration piece on that topic…it was these little polymer clay medallions.  I learned a lot in this first go around.  “Round One,” with polymer clay. And I was still willing to get back in the ring for Round Two.

This is only the middle of the story.  So keep checking back.  More and different pictures will appear each day this week.  quotes by mary anne radmacher:

live closer, every moment, to that thing that makes you sing.

begin as if you will finish. let the story be told that you had the courage to begin.

joy moves at the speed of acceptance.

don’t limit yourself with studied successes: failure is vastly underrated.  failure’s where some of the finest perspective comes from.

don’t fire your inner critic – send her to human resources and get her reassigned.

inspiration is knowing what time of day and in what part of the world to stand, with an open bag, and catch all the stars that fall.

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