Tag: inspiration

Herstories and How-To’s: Pamela Coleman Smith

Hello everyone!

This month we’re going into the dark and glittery world of La Belle Époque London, where mysticism, masonic secret societies, and Art Nouveau blended into a heady cocktail known as ‘All My Favorite Things.’

Enter if you dare, traveler! (The Cat by PCS, via)

At the heart of this world, lived an artist who made new and fantastical works, some of which went on to influence mystics for generations to come, only to die penniless, alone and relatively unknown. Well, no more I say!

Pamela “Pixie” Coleman-Smith was born in 1878 in London. She was the only child born to an American father and a Jamaican mother. For much of Pamela’s childhood, the family moved between London and Kingston, Jamaica. When she was just 16, she moved to Brooklyn to enroll in the still new Pratt Institute. Her time at Pratt wasn’t smooth sailing- according to many, she was sick throughout her time there, and in 1896 her mother died. Though Pamela left the school in 1897 without a degree, she did go on to become an illustrator (proving that going to school is what’s valuable, not necessarily the degree one obtains).

‘It’s been real, formal education, but now I’m off to Jolly Ol England to chill with Bram Stoker, draw for Suffrage and perform dark rites with Alastair Crowley.(via).

Just two years later, Smith’s father died. She returned to England where, it can be said, she had the richest moments of her career. In addition to her illustration work, she began to take on other jobs as well in theater design. She joined the Lyceum Theater group, led by the Lead Shakespearean Actress (and soon to be dear friend), Ellen Terry, along with Henry Irving and Bram Stoker. For five years, she toured with them, living what this Craft-loving, goth-lite, ex-theater kid can only imagine was a dark and exciting bohemian life. It was during this time that Ellen Terry is said to have given Pamela the nickname (for which she would be known for the rest of her life), “Pixie.” In 1901, Pamela opened a London studio, where she worked and where, once a week, she would hold an open house for all artists, writers (including WB Yeats and his brother Jack), musicians and other artistically minded folks. At these events, everyone would share what they were working on, and enjoy miniature paper-theater performances by Pamela which were often based on Jamaican folk-tales.

Or, as I like to imagine… (via)

The height of Pam’s career came in 1907, when she met Alfred Stieglitz, the famous New York photographer and gallery owner. Being independent, proactive and generally charming, Pamela stopped into his gallery to show him her work. He was impressed with her work, especially given her young age (28) and decided ‘what the heck- let’s have a show!’, making Pam the first painter to have a show at 291 which, until then, had been solely devoted to the photo avante garde. The show, though low-attended at first, eventually enjoyed a huge critical success.  A well-known critic of the time put her in the same category as Artist/Writer/Mystic William Blake, and said called one of her paintings “…absolutely nerve shattering,” that not even Edvard Munch “…could have succeeded better in arousing a profound disquiet.”

‘The Sea Creatures’ (via)

Perhaps Pamela’s best-known work, is that which she’s least known for: The “Rider Waite” Tarot Deck. In 1909, A. E. Waite, fellow member of the Golden Order of the Hermetic Dawn (a great wiki-rabbit hole if ever there was one), commissioned Smith to produce a tarot deck. While Waite is often credited as the co-creater of the deck, in truth he designed the 22 major cards through elaborate description, leaving Smith to interpret those and to design the remaining 56 cards with relative freedom- something which she took total advantage of. In just seven months, Pamela created 78 separate drawings, creating a deck which was the first since 1491 to have illustrations on every card and which was to be the first deck with mass-market appeal. Even decks produced today draw on Smith’s illustrations.

A selection of major cards (above) and minor cards (below) (via)

Sadly, Pamela received barely any money at all for the job (or in her words “I just completed a very big job for very little cash!”), and no royalties. What began as the Smith-Waite deck became the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (Rider being the name of the publisher) and eventually, the Rider-Waite deck. Pamela died in 1951, alone, relatively unknown and so penniless that her drawings and paintings had to all be sold to cover her debts. That the president of US Games believes that “She could have been a millionaire today” only adds salt to the wound.

Whether you believe in tarot cards and other “woo woo” things (as my aunt calls it all), I can only assume that in reading this blog you are not into short shrift given by the patriarchy. While I always love to highlight someone who may have been pushed into the margins, what really seals the deal on PCS for me, is similar to the praise that critic bestowed upon her during that first show: “Pamela Colman Smith is a young woman with that quality rare in either sex- imagination.” Imagination- the ability to conceive of what is not- is at the heart of my art/teaching/life philosophy. It is at the heart of innovation and, I truly believe, the quality most needed to find solutions to the ever-more complex problems we face as a species. So, for this month’s how to, we’re going to talk about how to practice, and strengthen your own imagination:

How to Use Images to Practice Using Your Imagination To Become A Smarter, Better, Less Boring Human.

For the sake of continuity (and because I’m a nerd who totally loves all this stuff), I’ll be using one of Pamela’s drawings, but these same prompts could be used with any image of your choice.



  1. First take stock of what you can see. Look closely- How close or how far are each of the elements? What expressions do you see? For now, try to suspend making any sort of judgement about the image.
  2. Once you’ve spent a good long while looking at the ‘what’ in the image, start to wonder ‘why- Why that expression? Who might it be directed at- someone in the image? Why are all these creatures gathered here? Where might they be (and why?) What do you believe is happening right at this moment in this image?
  3. Turn your attention now to the things you can’t see- What’s inside those towers? Or just beyond the mountains? Or under the water? Or in the mind of that weirdo lobster? If this is a moment in a story, what happened right before? What might happen right after? Or ten years later?
  4. Congratulations! You’re now using your imagination. Go forth and make the world a weirder, better place.










Herstories and How-to’s: Amarita Sher-Gil

Happy New Year!

For me, (and many others) the New Year is a time of reflection and planning. While this process starts by reflecting over the past, ultimately the fun part is looking forward and asking myself the important question- How can I better kick this year’s ass?  And if you’re looking for inspiration, the annals of Herstory have plenty of examples of people who basically won at life. For those times when I need a real kick in the pants, I look at those ladies who crammed as much life into the short time they had- ladies like the artist Amrita Sher-Gil.

Amrita Sher-Gil, looking slightly pissed that you interrupted her brief but influential career to take a photo of her. (via)

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in 1913, in Budapest, Hungary to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and scholar, and Marie Antoinette Gottesman. Almost from the very beginning, Amrita’s life seems full of interesting portmanteaus and romantic touches fit for a Wes Anderson movie. Not only were her parents from two different worlds, but both seemed to delight in art and experimentation of all kinds. Their house was filled with diplomats and music, and her father, Umrao, was fascinated by photography. In addition to their own artistic pursuits, Amrita’s parents were also supportive of her growing interest in art. She began painting informally at age 5, and at age 8, when the family moved from Budapest to Summer Hill Shimla in India, she began formal training.

Amrita (right) with her sister Indira, as photographed by their father Umrao. (via)

At age sixteen, she and her mother moved briefly to Italy so that she could study at an art school in Florence (pause to appreciate the likely badass that was her mother Marie.). Although the move lasted less than a year, it was Amrita’s first exposure to European-style painting. Her interest in this style continued through her early teens. At age 16, she left home to train as a painter in Paris. After three years of study, she painted Young Girls, considered by many to be her first “important work.” (Note: how the powers that be (read: dudes) determine the importance of a work is a discussion for another day…) The painting earned her an election as an Associate of the Grande Salon in Paris in 1933, simultaneously making her the youngest, and only person from Asia, to receive the award.

Young Girls, by Amrita Sher-Gil. What were you doing when you were 19? If you’re anything like me, it probably involved the Internet and thinking about how to get free food. (via)

But, and here’s why Amrita is awesome- Just as she was poised to become the darling of the Western Art world, she “…began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India,” which she did in 1934. When she returned, she began a quest to rediscover for herself the traditions of Indian art. Her aims were lofty- she didn’t want to just become a part of the establishment there either, but instead sought to create “a new technique, my own technique…this technique though not technically Indian, in the traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit.” Let’s pause to appreciate this moment, the chutzpah required to walk away from being good at something to invent something that feels more true to you. This, more than the accolades, is why Amrita wins at all the things.

Not just two girls now, but Three Girls, painted in 1935. These colors kill me. (via)

For nearly four years, Amrita toured Southern India, studying not only the Mughal and Pahari schools of painting, but also the poverty and the people she saw. Her subjects began to shift to depict the daily lives and struggles she saw. While a woman of some means and familial ties to the British Raj, she was a vocal Congress sympathizer. In other words, she was a painter of and for the people. She charmed the first Prime Minister of India, Nehru and was said to be attracted to Gandhi’s lifestyle. But lest you start to build an image of a saintly, humble artist, in her own words, she said “I can only paint in India. Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse, Braque.. India belongs only to me.” Not only does this declaration carry some pretty strong “MINE!”ness, it also speaks of an interest in comparing herself with the big greats in the Western world she left behind. Like our friend Walt, or the inscrutable bride in her 1937 painting, Amrita contained multitudes.

The Bride’s Toilet, 1937. (via)

In 1938, Amrita married her Hungarian cousin and childhood friend, Victor Egan. In 1941, the two moved to a house in Lahore. Days before opening her first solo show in Lahore, she became suddenly ill, slipping first into a coma and then into death. To this day, the cause is unknown (though hemorrhage as a result of a failed abortion has been suggested). At the time of her death, she was 28.

Hill Women. Again, I love how each woman seems a universe to herself, full of thoughts, ideas and absolutely uninterested in being an object for your gaze. (via)

Although her public career barely filled a decade, within that time, Amrita managed to become a master of the current styles, invent her own style and cast ripples of influence that continue to affect not just the world of art, but also literature. (Contemporary novelist, Salman Rushdie based the character, Aurora Zogoiby, off of Amrita in his book The Moor’s Last Sigh). Her approach to not just how she painted but also who inspired social justice for women in India and abroad for years after her death. Like my absolute home-girl Frida, Amrita was a fully-human with contradictions, and while people with all kinds of agendas have tried to claim her or define her, she continues to elude them. You go Amrita.

Get it. (via)

Okay, so changing the world by 28 might be a bit ambitious. Still, it’s never too late to start making a better use of one’s time. While there are as many different ways to organize and keep track of the things you need to get done, today I want to introduce you to my personal favorite method: the bullet journal. Bullet Journaling was invented by genius, Ryder Carroll. It’s totally analog, completely customizable to your needs AND you don’t have to buy anything to get started.*

How to Start Bullet Journaling to Get More S*** Done And Feel Like a Boss for Almost Zero Dollars

  1. Find a notebook you already have/like. Find a writing instrument.
  2. Watch the original video here to get the gist.
  3. Set aside an evening or afternoon to search #bulletjournal and #bulletjournalhacks on tumblr, pinterest or google. Know that at this stage of the journey, you will fall down the rabbithole of the internet and actually lose time, briefly. This is part of the process. Trust it.
  4. Get started! See what works for you and what doesn’t. Just like yoga, ‘keep that which you need, let go of what no longer serves you’. I, for example, have found the daily log to be a temptation to cram more things into a day than is actually possible and have switched to a weekly planning log:
    (Each day has a square, weekends have smaller rectangles and the big spaces at the top are for tasks/things to know about the week which don't have a specific daily deadline.)
    (Each day has a square, weekends have smaller rectangles and the big spaces at the top are for tasks/things to know about the week which don’t have a specific daily deadline.)
  5. Periodically check back in with the internet and fellow bullet journalists to see if there’s anything interesting or useful you might adopt in this week’s/month’s journal. The beauty of this method is you’re literally making it as you go. You are the master of your own destiny!!

* I am not sponsored by Bullet Journal, I am just a believer. HAIL BULLET JOURNAL!


  • sihk-heritage.co.uk
  • telegraph.co.uk
  • wikipedia.com
  • ngmaindia.gov.in
  • bulletjournal.com

Talking about color, calm, and clouds with CAW member Betsy DeFusco

Edited_Betsy_IMG_3901Betsy DeFusco has called a studio on Spring Street in downtown Columbus her artistic headquarters for over twenty years. Her colorful paintings evolve one thin layer at a time. Across all of her series, light emanates from within each work. Her careful application of the paint achieves this goal, as well as a sense of calm and serenity. This is especially apparent in her Light Crossings series which feature overlapping stripes. In some paintings within this series, a calligraphic line cuts across the canvas in a playful gesture. This push and pull between planning and spontaneity mirrors how she approaches a new painting. I recently visited Betsy at her studio while she was preparing for an upcoming studio sale. This was cause to revisit past work, providing a road map of her artistic journey.


Palancar by Betsy DeFusco
Palancar by Betsy DeFusco


After studying art education at the University of Dayton, you didn’t teach, but rather worked in fashion illustration and then started a business drawing house portraits. Do any of those endeavors play a residual role in your work today?

The residual effect is that I used pen, ink and transparent watercolor for that early work, and I still prefer working on a white background. I work on a gessoed, white background and try to let the light come through. I also really like line, and I am always trying to figure out how to get more line into the work, harkening back to those pen and ink sketches. I learned the line drawing at my first job at a department store doing fashion art. That was so much fun. Party job!

What pushed you to make the leap from illustrative drawings to painting?

I knew I could probably have a bigger business if I kept going with the house portraits and prints I was doing, but I wanted to progress further and learn how to oil paint. So I went to CCAD and enrolled in painting classes. I loved it because it was a brand new medium. I had used acrylics, but I had never used oil and I liked it so much more. When my friend Marti invited me to share studio space at 55 E. Spring Street I jumped at the chance. I had always worked at home when my children were young, but I was ready to have a studio away from my house.

What was the first subject matter that you painted?

When I was about nine I painted a beautiful tree that stood alone in a field behind my house. I remember thinking I had to get it down on paper, it was so lovely! Fast forward many years to when I started in my studio, I painted landscapes and clouds followed by a bit of collage, always two-dimensional. The first time I did anything three-dimensional was in graduate school when I cut openings into my paintings. Some openings were closed off in the back, and some were open. I also experimented with different depths.




What was the significance of opening up the panels in that way?

I wanted another element in there since my work was getting very minimal. At graduate school, anything we put in our paintings was questioned to death. We had to answer every question about why each element was there. I could never do that, so my work became very minimal and still is, in a way. I believe in ‘less is more.’ The challenge comes in making works that still have a certain complexity. I got the idea for the openings in part because I was studying Asian Art. I was thinking a lot about Buddhism and Taoism. In Taoism, there is a quote about how it is not the jar that is important, but the empty space inside the jar. “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” Also, “We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.” To me the opening represents our inner thoughts and dreams, and also refers to all the unanswered questions in our lives.

After you finished graduate school, you abandoned minimalism a little and returned to clouds. Why is that?

They had been forbidden in graduate school (”already done”) so I had to go back and do them. Which just shows you really have to do what you want to do. But then they became limiting. Any time I got too close to realism there was some structure I wanted to break out of. So I did the clouds in different colors, and then started my Pine Creek series that depicted reflections in water. Eventually I realized that it was more about the color than it was about the subject matter. That is when I started painting stripes and just playing with colors.

Yes, Yellow by Betsy DeFusco
Yes, Yellow by Betsy DeFusco
Crescent Beach by Betsy DeFusco
Crescent Beach by Betsy DeFusco



How would you define the category of painting your work adheres to most?

Landscape. Some of the big paintings in the Light Crossings series are more landscape-like. It is about the light in the sky and the earth. When I look at my painting I see sky, water and land, even if no one else does. I think many artists today try to straddle the line between abstraction and representation in an interesting way so that it’s not one or the other. That is kind of the big challenge for two-dimensional painters now. How do you refer to reality in a new and unique way that might be a little unexpected.

Your studio mates describe you as very orderly – with all of your brushes in a row. How would you describe your studio practice?

That is true! I cannot work if there is a mess around me. The ideal is that you come in every day and you put everything else out of your mind and just work with the paint. If things happen, they happen. I like to start early, but sometimes it is easier if I get things done at home first and come in with a clearer mind. I like to come in, put music on, fool around a bit, and just start working. I work on big things and little things at the same time. If I am getting ready for a show, I work on ten to twenty pieces at once. I find it helpful since I paint with oil. I like to use thin layers – so I do a thin layer, set it aside, and come back the following day and paint another thin layer.




How many layers do you think are on any given painting?

Probably at least forty to fifty. It seems like I work on some of them for a really long time, so it is hard to say exactly. I am a thin painter. I have tried to put the paint on thick, but I just can’t do it even though I love when other people do it. Maybe it is the whole minimalistic style of my work. I like calm and I don’t want that bumpiness. I also can’t paint fast. Just like the thick paint, I like it when people do, but I can’t seem to. I am reading a book called A Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. It about the painter Camille Pissarro and his mother and there is a quote I just love. “Jestine had told me never to rush something I was creating, but instead to let it come into being as if it had a soul of its own.” Not sure why the quote struck me so, except that I love to spend time with each piece, and take my time. And, I love looking at work where you know that time was spent making it.

What artists inspire you?

My favorite artist is Richard Diebenkorn. He had three distinct phases: abstraction with a lot of movement, figurative, and color fields. I was thinking I was getting tired of him, but then I saw his work again in Washington DC a few years ago and it was breathtaking. I find it very healing to see those large areas of color, and I love his use of line. There are a lot of grays in his work, like in the paintings of Matisse. I am just starting to learn about the different grays you can get by mixing oil paints. I still go back to him and look at the colors. His figurative and representational work is also really nice.

What makes you want to paint more?

Painting is always an unanswered question. It is an adventure.

Talking about process and portraiture with CAW member Barb Vogel

Barb_15Barbara Vogel is a champion for others, so it is no surprise that the faces that fill her portraits are close friends and family. Her artistic evolution is firmly rooted in photography, but her willingness to experiment with photographic processes and incorporate other media result in entirely original works. Barb’s studio is filled with these visual tangents, as well as a solid coat of wax encaustic. Most recently she has been “scanning” faces and flora, with a document wand and then coating the prints with encaustic. The results are ghostly images that cast their subjects in a whole new light. She was recently awarded an Ohio Arts Council Award at the Ohio State Fair’s Fine Arts Exhibition for her portrait, Ursula Dazing, made with this process.

When I visited her studio, Barb had just sent off a large body of work for her solo exhibition, Preserved, at the Southern Ohio Museum & Cultural Center in Portsmouth, Ohio. The exhibition runs from September 26 to December 5, 2015 and the opening reception will be September 26, 3:00-5:00 pm.


You studied painting for your BFA, fine art photography for your MFA, as well as working as a photographer for OSU’s Medical Center. Can you describe your career and creative trajectory?

I had to earn a living. I went to commercial photography school after my BFA and got a job at OSU. Technique and technical tied it all together – and a certain confidence with material. I combine both painting and photography in my work now.

You are attracted to mediums (photography and encaustic) that are very process –oriented. What about the rhythm or cycle of the processes draws you to these mediums?

I miss the photo co-op that a group of us started when I taught at Columbus State. Nothing was better than to turn on music in the dark room and think you’re productive as you just go through the motions of printing. It is the same with a process of fusing the wax. And if you like the process, art evolves.

After focusing on photography and painting, how did you come to encaustic?

Ellen Bazzoli has a studio downstairs from me and she was working in encaustic. She offered to do a mini workshop for me. When you are working in photography people say, if you’re stuck you should change formats. I liked the wax and I liked what Ellen was doing. She said, “Come down. I’ll show you some basics.” She spent a day with me – how to use photographs and paper with the encaustic. I started experimenting and I was doing everything wrong, until a recent workshop at the Cultural Arts Center. I had a lot of waste since I was using the wrong tools. I would scorch prints, but my new little pink heat gun is great!


You worked closely with a team at OSU and have shared a studio for over two decades with the artist Marti Steffy. How did those communities shape your work?

The writers that I worked for at OSU gave me words or thoughts. If you don’t say something in your own language it isn’t as obvious. It helped to be with writers and talk about things. We still get together. I also worked closely with the photographer, Kojo Kamau. We shared a darkroom, as opposed to being behind a computer, so we could hide and talk. I learned so much from our darkroom conversations. Working closely in the studio with Marti, we both have had visual training and when we are stuck we both know where we’ve been. Rather than spending a week trying to solve a problem, she can see it for me and I can see it for her! It helps to be with other people for another eye. And it helps if you have a history with them. Studio mates and CAW members, Betsy DeFusco and Sandra Aska, have been helpful too. Our history is a bit newer, but they are wonderful sounding boards.

People familiar with your work might know you for your altered photographs on wood. Can you describe the process for your high school class series?

I take a picture of a picture on film. After processing the film, I expose the image with an enlarger in my darkroom onto an emulsion-covered piece of wood. I then carve and paint. When I have multiple wood images like my high school classes, then the compositional nightmare begins trying to arrange wooden squares.

You are comfortable with both film and digital cameras. Within the past few years you began utilizing a document scanner in your work. How did you come to use this office supply scanning wand as a tool for fine art?

I bought the document scanner for $69.95, to experiment with for a Vermont residency. I thought, oh I might try some flat things. Prior to Vermont, I stopped at my sister’s house in Maine and started scanning dogs and hair and other seemingly flat things, but kept getting error messages. I thought, I could put glass in front of this, it would be smooth. With the glass, I started scanning people.

Esther by Barb Vogel
Esther by Barb Vogel
Cody by Barb Vogel
Cody by Barb Vogel


What about faces seemed to be so striking?

I have done many portraits for and outside the hospital. What makes a portrait dynamic is a certain unmasking – when you capture that person. Using the wand is a slower process. They have this eerie lighting quality that shocked me at first. I printed them as wide as the scanner, so it is full frame so to speak. There’s a haunting quality about them.

When you printed the scans, what necessitated the encaustic coating?

Before the wand scanner, I did a series where everything was out of focus, using my Hasselblad camera. I took images of people out of focus, because everything in my life was out of focus. Everything didn’t sync. I was stressed, tired, and depressed. I then scanned the color negatives, printed them, and covered them with wax. Once again I was in the studio, working on multiple projects and I was waxing up a painting and I waxed the photograph and I liked it. They were strange to begin with, but the wax added that other worldly quality. My work now is a little more in focus perhaps because my life is a little more in focus.

Do you think of your work more as documentary or commentary? Or some combination thereof?

Perhaps they are one in the same. I do bodies of work. Right now I am studying botanicals and the way the hand-held wand lights the plant. Whether you focus on feet or abandoned buildings, you explore that subject. So maybe the word should be exploratory. Good question, sometimes I just do, but need to be more reflective and verbal as to why.


When I think of botanicals I think of small, scientific renderings. How are you approaching the subject?

I photograph or scan my own little garden plot – tomatoes, cosmos and long-stem zinnias. Each process is interesting. The lighting is so strange with the scanner – I have to wait until sunset otherwise the image is so overexposed. The shooting process is also interesting. With the plants you don’t have to meet with anybody at a certain time. The plants aren’t demanding. They don’t talk to you.

When you were at OSU you studied folk art and material culture and you have a great collection of folk and outsider art. What attracts you to this work?

When I went to graduate school in the 90’s there was this whole movement against the mainstream acceptance of different things in our material culture. I’d always had traditional training in my undergraduate years by male artists and I never had any female instructors. In the 70’s art was about painting and all about abstract expressionism. So folk art was the antithesis of what you were supposed to produce – of what was accepted. Traditional art school had certain formulas and you didn’t do personal work. When I quoted “The personal is political.” some guy laughed at me. Folk art opened up this different view of what we made and why we made it. Leslie Constable, a writer, and I were going to grad school at the same time. We collaborated – I did portraits and she wrote about folk artists around Ohio for a book project. This project taught me there was more art outside of academic art programs.

Visit www.barbvogel.net to view more of Barb’s portfolio.

Light Clematis by Barb Vogel
Light Clematis by Barb Vogel
Money Tree Plant
Money Tree Plant by Barb Vogel

The Muse as Shapeshifter

Sometimes the simplest ideas have the largest impacts.  Likewise, a single just-right question can change everything.

Many years ago a creativity guru asked me:  “Are you punishing yourself by not making the time you need for your art?”  This simple question had a huge impact on my practice and the amount of pleasure and joy I took in art making.  Looking back, it’s easy to see the huge, positive ramifications of that pivotal conversation.

My mentor’s question helped me reframe my relationship with myself as an Artist.  This idea of reframing is often at the center of conversations I have with my creativity coaching clients.  One common source of creative frustration in artists of all kinds is with inspiration and creative flow.  It goes like this:  “The Muse is here and all is well – Huzzah!” Followed not long after by:  “The Muse is gone and everything sucks.  Everything. Sucks.”

Muse as Shapeshifter

The questions I like to ask to start a conversation about the Muse are another example of how simple can be powerful:

  1. What if – instead of being capricious and often absent – your Muse were always with you but always changing?
  2. What if she were a shapeshifter?
  3. Who was she today?
    • A bratty four-year-old – demanding that you drop everything and play with her when you have dinner to cook?
    • A wise old woman asking you to take a walk in the park when you really want to catch up on Outlander episodes?
    • Did she have magnificent dreadlocks and a mysterious smile?  Did you stop to talk to her?
    • Was she a crow cawing loudly from the tree outside your home?  What message did she bring?

Next time you’re feeling abandoned by your Muse, give the following exercise a try.

  1. Use the first question from above and pretend for a moment that your Muse is always with you and that she is never absent.
  2. Pretend that she wants your attention and that she needs you to recognize her as she changes form.  In return for your attention and recognition, know that she will gift you with inspiration and creative energy.
  3. Go for a 15 minute walk and let the natural world and the people you encounter be signs from you Muse.  The neighbor boy.  The purple flower.  The running squirrel.  The glowing moon.  Each has a message for you.  Relax and let your Muse (and the inspiration she has to offer) find you.
Science has proven that walking is a natural way to boost creativity.  When you combine walking with the extended metaphor of a scavenger hunt for messages from your Muse, it’s my hope that you will quickly discover the creative magic you need to get back to the work you love.

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”

– William Shakespeare

Melinda Eliza Sabo is a an Artist, Creativity Coach, and Lecturer who believes that life should be an artistic journey:  truly well-seen and well-lived.  Visit www.MelindaEliza.com for more inspiration.  This article was originally published in the April 2015 edition of Wild Sister Magazine.

Travel and Creativity – The Creative Wellspring

I believe that travel is a renewable creative resource.  From journeys within our own imaginations, to road trips, to epic adventures in far away lands – travel is a wellspring.

Working intentional travel into your day is a fun and potent way to heighten your curiosity and become more aware of and inspired by the world you live in.  For example, I rarely use highways and actually enjoy getting lost. I build time into my busy day for exploration.  Traveling the back roads wakes me up and helps me see the wonder of the world.

Do you always travel the same roads to the grocery story, the studio, and the gym? Do you primarily drive on highways?  The following exercise asks you to re-frame your idea of the daily commute and approach your day-to-day travels with the intent of exploring your world.

Travel and Creativity – The Creative Wellspring

Creativity Boosting Exercise: Travel one day per week without highways. 

  • Purpose:  Take the back roads.  See your neighborhood and town as you’ve never seen it before, or haven’t seen it in years.
    • Alternate:  If you are already traveling the back roads, try taking a different route one day a week.
  • Why #1:  When you travel unfamiliar roads you develop your ability to see and live in the moment.
  • Why #2:  Driving is the exact kind of focused inattention that puts you into a relaxed brain state conducive to creativity.
  • Why #3:  There are more stories on the back roads and good art is often built on good story.
  • Why #4:  Transform your “just another morning commute” into a creative adventure. Take back your life and see travel as a fun and interesting part of your day.
  • Bonus points #1:  Add in a day of pure public transportation.
  • Bonus points #2:  If you get so lost you have to ask for directions, ask the person who helps you find your way about their life.  Make a connection with a stranger.
  • Bonus points #3:  Take your camera and journal along with you to record your adventure.

Do you find inspiration, creative freedom, and joy in travel?  Leave a comment below about how travel has affected your art.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Melinda Eliza Sabo is a an Artist, Creativity Coach, and Lecturer who believes that life should be an artistic journey:  truly well-seen and well-lived.  Visit www.MelindaEliza.com for more inspiration.