Category Archives: The Creative Process

Messages to myself about how to navigate impediments which hinder the creative flow in hopes my answers may be a beacon to others.

Explaining the Importance of Positive Feedback

It happened again last night. I shared an artistic idea that was just in it’s beginning stages, still delicate and budding. I was hoping for a grand “go for it!” kind of response—something juicy and supportive that would inspire me to dive deeper into the project.

Well, that backfired. Instead, I received a critique of what was wrong with the idea. Instantly, my energy deflated. Now, it will take a concerted effort for me to muster enough “oomph” to just get to the headspace I was in before I opened my big mouth.

I recognize it as my fault. I broke my own first cardinal rule to NEVER reveal or talk about a project before it is completed. It’s far too likely to get the result I just mentioned. Do people think artists are unaware of our own artistic challenges? When an uninvited critic takes a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, it seldom results in the artist becoming more inspired.

The second thing I’m wondering is why, oh why, do people feel the need to be critical when an artist freshly shares their work. We usually want kudos for our artistic effort, at least initially (btw–I’m not referring to gallery shows where this behavior is expected).

Also, in the case of delivering commissioned art, some business people must be under the impression that it is unprofessional to tell an artist you really like the result. Are they afraid the artist will charge more if compliments are freely given? I’m reminded of something my mother always said, “If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” To receive no response to delivered artwork is also very disheartening for a sensitive artist. What they are not saying can be construed as the receiver’s disappointment

Well, last night, I was ornery enough to stop the conversation long enough to inquire of my friend if there was anything he liked about my share. He seemed puzzled until I explained that I only heard negative things … were there not also positive things to balance out the negative? There was, but the positive stuff didn’t seem to require mentioning. What? Then he became embarrassed that I called him out and he back-petalled, trying to defend his reaction.

Anyway… I want people to realize the etiquette: unless specifically asked to provide an artistic critique, keep your mouth shut. However well-meaning, it is just as rude to give unsolicited criticism as it is to give unsolicited advice. When artists are ready, they will ask for honest feedback, but until then, assume they want some feel-good energy for their efforts. Often, for me, this energy is just as important as money.

Yes, I recognize my true motive in sharing was to receive emotional and energetic support so I could continue my artistic exploration with a renewed sense of vigor. But even a simple request like this can also backfire. In the past, when I expressed wanting to receive only positive feedback about some artwork I had in progress, my husband would often say, “What? You don’t want me to be honest?”

Sigh. That disempowering response always stopped me in my tracks, leaving in its wake many unfinished artistic starts, abandoned as unworthy.

Today, I’m strong enough to have responded with, “No. I only want you to be supportive. My work is in a delicate (or difficult) stage at the moment and I really need some positive energy to get through this. Are you willing to kindly do me this favor?”

It’s all about the energy.

The Power of Play

The Power of Play

The benefits of play are so far-reaching. In childhood, play allows us to learn how to be creative, helps to nurture critical thinking, personality development and creates adaptive neural pathways.

In our stress-inducing lives, play for adults is absolutely essential. Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, as well as boost creativity. According to recent studies, play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex by triggering the release of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells.

According to psychiatrist Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, in Carmel Valley, CA, “Play is a basic human need—as essential to our well-being as sleep. So when we are low on play, our minds and bodies notice… Play deprivation can reveal itself in certain patterns of behavior: we might feel cranky, rigid, feel stuck in a rut or feel victimized by life. To benefit most from the rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to incorporate it into our everyday lives.”

A lot of research backs up the theory that play is therapeutic. At work, play speeds up learning, enhances productivity, and increases job satisfaction; at home, playing together enhances bonding and communication.

Above is an excerpt from something in the works I’m writing.

 

Dancing The Enneagram

I’m very excited to announce our PlayBook,* Dancing the Enneagram, by Kate Finlayson and yours truly is now being printed for a June 1st launch.

Last August (2018), I was at my friend, Kate Finlayson’s “Dancing The Enneagram’s” PlayShop in Charlotte. The experience with Kate’s effervescent energy was inspiring. I was so stunned and impressed with its power, on my drive back home, a vision to have her material developed in written form appeared to me.

That night, I furiously wrote. Within a short time, I created an outline for her book. I telephoned Kate and relayed to her my excitement. She asked me to present her with a sample chapter, which I did in short order. It seemed to me the book REALLY wanted to be birthed. And here it is: nine months later our baby is born.

The premise for “Dancing the Enneagram” is unique and ground-breaking. Kate, who is Nia-trained and certified, moves through each of the nine personality types. Her idea is to add a somatic component to an intellectual process, grounding one’s knowing into embodiment. Kate’s work is powerful and integrative.

Originally, I intended to present only Kate’s material, but an idea popped into my head to include the component of “coloring” into the mix because each of the nine personality types is also associated with a color. I’ve been working for a couple of years creating coloring books with positive images of maidens in their power to inspire “girls of all ages.” It seemed only natural to include what I know about coloring as a further means of integration, especially for those who have not experienced Kate’s energy in person.

I’m at my first “Dancing The Enneagram” PlayShop, August 2018.

Thus, in “Dancing The Enneagram,” I present the symbology of color, explain the difference between Light (RGB) and Pigment-based (CYMK) color models, and also offer a “Conscious Coloring” technique.

So the nine full-page illustrations I created for our PlayBook can be colored in or enjoyed as is. I’m also really happy to use one of my own font designs in the PlayBook. The design of the book exemplifies Beauty as is one of my best efforts.  It’s epic!

Dancing The Enneagram

*PlayBook and Playshop are Kate’s preferred terms over Workbook and Workshop. Learning shouldn’t be work.

Tips For Artists: To Freelance or Find a Job?

My Maya

My inside cat looked out the window this morning and spotted a large shadowy figure sleeking through the open area between some bushes. Maya’s tail switches; she’s rapt, excited, attentive, and follows its every move. The outside cat stops to sense the air.  He’s a very large, beautiful calico cat. He feels eyes on him.

He knows he’s been spotted, but cannot detect the source. So he nonchalantly turns in another direction and trapezes off. He does not run, in complete confidence, he just picks up his pace and slips away into the distance.

I wonder if my Maya wishes to be an outside cat, free to roam wherever she wants; or if the dark male wishes to have steady meals and be loved. There are trade offs to both. For the privilege of freedom, a stray lives on the edge. Life is uncertain, often violent and short.

For the privilege of being kept, there are many trade-offs. Rules must be obeyed. There’s neutering and worse, de-clawing. There are borders never to be crossed, and sometimes imprisonment within a small space. Some suffer the indignity of the play of little children. Everything depends on the luck of getting the right human master.

There are many stories where an outside kitty “chooses” their human. And if the cat chooses well, the result is happy for all concerned.

What does this have to do with art? The outside cat is a metaphor for making a living solely on your art. Be prepared to live on the edge. There will be times of feast and meager times of famine. Everything teeters on uncertainty. Society preys on artists. They are easy pickings. With little bargaining power, it’s difficult for freelance artists to get a fair price for their talents.

The inside cat represents those artists who have agreed to be at the disposal of an employer. For the sake of steady income, they often give up their rights and their original works. Or they are squeezed and wrung until they can produce no more. Thus, burnt out, they are then discarded in favor of the eager young college graduate, who will work at entry level pay scales. Or they may land into happier circumstances — everything depends upon finding the right master.

This is the dilemma for those cats thinking about freelancing their artistic talents. It’s possible for some alley cats to find steady work in the right situation. A lot of this depends upon luck. Often, being talented is not the deciding factor, but how well you begged. To get fed, the alley cat has to show it is friendly and deserving enough to receive food.

This shakes out as being flexible (with illogical changes), being able to read minds, always meeting deadlines, always being available on demand, able to work for cheap and (believe it or not) grateful for the work. This describes an employer’s dream freelancer.

Of course, the very same criteria can equally be applied to the pet on the inside. Linear thinkers in management positions cannot fathom the process of creative thinking. They wonder: why can’t the artist conform to a schedule like everyone else? It’s sad, but chances are, the employed artist will always be misunderstood and marginalized by those who did the hiring.

There are other cats who are employed in other sectors but choose to do their art solely on their own time. With so little time left at the end of their day, hobbyists risk the energy needed to create. Being able to make a living is the freelancer’s motivation. What is the hobbyist’s motivation when money is not a factor? The hobbyist has to have the discipline to be self-motivated.

That’s pretty much the territory. Me? I’ve run the gamut from being an alley cat to being kept cat. A corporate reorganization pushed me back out on the street. So this li’l ole cat is back to freelancing again.

What kind of cat do you want to be?

Jasmine Snippet #11

This is a continuation of notes for The Story of Jasmine that were written on Italian Stationery in Cortona, Italy:

Rogan hesitated for a moment, then surrendered his weapon to whom he supposed was the Guardian of the Temple. For the first time, he felt the same frustration Thorne described. He felt naked without his sword.

“Come.” Rogan followed the dwarf, and his sword, inside inner sanctum of the temple. He immediately noticed that the light became brighter as they progressed past many columns and down many steps.

Presently, they stood in front of a small, open room. With a nod, the dwarf bid him enter. He kept Rogan’s sword at the ready.

Almost without thinking, he sank to his knees when he first beheld the maiden in white. She stood, trance-like on an elevated platform of stone. There were many white flower petals  stuck on her glistening-wet skin. Wet petals also crowned her head, the water flowing down from her head like tears upon her face.

Before her was an oblong trough. Although Rogan could not see its contents, from the diamond-ripple reflections dancing upon the maiden’s ecstatic face and the wall behind her, he knew it contained water. But there was something more.

Submerged in the sparkling waters was the source of a brilliant white light.

© 2018 DARLENE

Note: This is another alternative version of events. The above must be among the first drafts.

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Jasmine Snippet #110

These notes for The Story of Jasmine were written in Cortona, Italy because they are written on Italian Stationery:

Rogan judged it to be well after mid-night by the time he reached the temple. On his way, he passed many stone statues of soldiers. Although it occurred to him that these statues seemed too new for an ancient temple, he wasted no more thought as to how this came to be.

The closer he got to the ancient building, the more numerous the statues became until the statuary cover the entire temple grounds. Rogan then noticed the look of surprise, which appeared on each stone face. For the first time, Rogan grew concerned, “Were these statues once men?”

“Heigh Ho! Are you friend or foe?” called a voice from within one of the chambers. Rogan whirled around in the direction of the call.

“Friend!” He answered quickly, then shielded his eyes in anticipation of some dreadful sorcery. He heard some bustle within the chamber and the slow approach of footsteps.

“Nothing will happen to you if you are indeed a friend,” a voice told him.Rogan looked up and noticed the stocky figure of a dwarf approaching him. He was a mature dwarf, with a graying beard and piercingly clear grey eyes. He wore several daggers and a battle-axe hung at his side as was the custom of mercenary dwarf-warriors, the like he had only heard about. Rogan duly noted the proud bearing of this man, not unusual in a warrior-for-hire.

Remembering the stone statues, Rogan thought it most prudent to kneel before him. This was not the doing of an ordinary mortal. The dwarf touched him on the shoulder and said, “it is good you humble yourself to the maker of miracles. But friend, it is not I. Give me your sword and I will guide you to a marvel.”

© 2018 DARLENE

Note: This is another alternative version of events. The above must be among the first drafts.

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Jasmine Snippet #109

The note for The Story of Jasmine is from a scrap of paper, which mostly had crossed out words:

“What did you do?” Glynn shouted as he touched the stone statuary of the soldiers, which just a moment before had been men.

“It was not my doing!” Jasmine cried, turning pale, “it just happened — it’s the power of this place!”

The red-haired companion of Glynn’s began a hearty laugh, “And we thought she needed help!”

“But I do.” Jasmine replied softly.

© 2018 DARLENE

Note: This is another alternative version of events. The above must be among the first drafts.

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Jasmine snippet #107

New notes for The Story of Jasmine continue:

To Ahearn’s relief, Jasmine insisted she be alone in her visit to the Ancient Hollow. Her white stallion pranced lightly and safely across an old and delicate stone and wooden structure, a rickety bridge between two mountains.

Ahearn’s steed bounded hard and quick behind her, causing the weakened wood and stone to crumble underneath him. His horse reacted expertly. By the time Ahearn reached the other side, the link between Jasmine and her protectors had fallen in pieces to the bottom of a deep chasm.

Although this maneuver was a marvel to all that witnessed it, Glynn recognized Ahearn’s excellent horsemanship and suspected his purpose was to deliberately separate them. But without concern, Jasmine called to her companions left on the other side, reassuring them that they would be reunited after she completed her visit to the Ancient Hollow.

Jasmine then urged her stallion onward towards her goal.

Ahearn hesitated. The half-elf’s horse was still for a moment, as Ahearn regarded the temper of the companions he left behind. He snickered when he saw Glynn’s livid expression. In an air of victory, he lightly galloped his horse after Jasmine.

© 2018 DARLENE

***Note: This is definitely an alternative version from what I posted earlier, where Jasmine alone escapes an attack and her entire party gets captured, while she, on the next mountain, watches helplessly…

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Jasmine Snippet #106

More Newly-found Notes for The Story of Jasmine Continue:

Although an autumn nip is in the air, she finds the water surprisingly warm. With a delightful sense of abandon, Jasmine swims carelessly about, rejoicing in a freedom she’d never known. She quickly composes herself as she senses another presence. She darts underwater and hides among the reeds. Slowly, she acknowledges the calling of her name.

“It is I.” the voice moans through the reeds.

“Where are you–show yourself.”

“There is little time–and I have so much to say. I no longer have a body–these reeds serve as my mouthpiece. I had hoped to fully reincarnate, but i cannot. There is a great danger for everyone — the witch Melantha is a far greater adversary than the dark prince. Make haste to the north and enlist the aid of the Ice King. Although his heart is cold, he can still be reached. Go to the council of the winds as soon as you acquire a trustworthy escort. I will guide you there. You are now baptized in the holy water of this ancient temple. By the time you leave, you will know where to find new raiment and my staff–use them with pride.”

© 2018 DARLENE

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Jasmine Snippet #105

More Newly-found Notes for The Story of Jasmine Continue:

“Think it over, Thorne. It is the best opportunity we have! The King of UR can no longer help you or your people! Why go back empty-handed when we can appeal to the Ice king in the North?”

“We’ve discussed that before. It is said his heart is as cold as the land he rules. He has no compassion!” The violet-eyed maiden snapped, brushing her dark locks from her brow.

Rogan pleaded, “There is still a chance—but only if we join the Wizard-woman and her protector Glynn. We can only make this journey together.”

Tjhorne smiled impishly, “Alright, I consent. Make the necessary arrangements with this wizard-woman…but first tell me she hasn’t enchanted you…”

© 2018 DARLENE

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