Just Start

Have you ever had an experience where you need to take your own advice? For two years I’ve written about creativity and how to make time for creativity on a regular basis. The advice I give most often is to Just Start. I have found myself in need of this advice after my summer sabbatical. It was the right thing to focus on my family over this summer. However, I missed the regular creativity. After a while in the beginning of the summer, I stopped searching for new ideas for designs and color palette. I stopped thinking of ideas to share in these Studio Notes. These good creative habits were temporarily “out for lunch.” I need to get them back. 

I’m someone who needs the structure of getting into the studio at a certain time and working on a certain project. So I told myself I would start just hanging out my studio for an hour every day last week. Something always came up. Granted, some were family emergencies which I needed to help with. But I’m having a hard time being consistent. The ironic thing is I enjoyed being in the studio so much last week.

 Playtime in the studio, September 2018

Playtime in the studio, September 2018

When I was in the studio last week, I worked on a commission piece as well as an idea for a long-term project. So while it’s easy to say Just Start, it can be difficult to execute. We all have competing demands: jobs, children, extended family obligations, grocery store runs, errands and administrative things that just need to happen. I realized I need the structure of studio time on a regular basis to give my creativity equal weight with other competing demands. More importantly, what I really want is that habit of creativity back, that mindset of always looking for ideas to create art or to write about.  So the important thing is not just the time in the studio, but how it changes your thinking by always looking for new ideas to try.

So tomorrow I’m going to be in the studio again and start exercising that creative habit. 

Coral Reef Updates

  Coral Reefs,  2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

Coral Reefs, 2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

My last big series with a nature theme is my Coral Reefs piece. These last three series I wrote about inspired me to offer custom EcoMemory art for people to remind them of their favorite places in nature.  It is basically what I was creating for myself with the Clouds, Forest, and Coral Reef series.

Part of my studio time this Fall will be dedicated to creating custom EcoMemory art for the holiday season. As one of my customers said, a work of art that is designed specifically for you is a very personal gift for yourself or for a loved one. Click HERE to learn more about my EcoMemory process of interviewing the client, writing an EcoMemory report explaining the design and colors, and the final artworks.

My summer sabbatical is ending and I am getting back into the studio again. So look for updates next week.  

Here is the original article.  

Last week, I started a  new series called Coral Reef, Lizard island. The inspiration for this idea is a documentary on Netflix called Chasing Coral.

 

Collage of images taken by our daughter at Lizard Island, 2014. Turtles and cuttlefish are her favorites in the second row down.

The documentary tagline from their website is... "Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs."

I highly recommend this documentary. You can see a trailer in the link above. It is powerful. You see people who love and study coral reefs documenting the effects of warmer ocean temperatures. 

This documentary hits close to home. The last part of the documentary was filmed at Lizard Island, a research station on the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia. Our daughter spent 10 days on Lizard Island in 2014, the year before the coral bleaching events that occurred in just 30 days and are documented in this film. Watching her see the damage done to a place that she loves was heart breaking. A significant portion of the coral died, along with the ecosystem that relies on it.

When I decided to write about this series, I asked our daughter, "Why is Lizard Island one of your favorite places?" 

She said,

"Lizard Island is one of my favorite places because it is an isolated island that is very pristine. There are not a lot of humans who live on the island since the only people allowed are researchers that really care for the island. You can tell in how they take care of the island that it is a labor of love. Also it is a remarkable place for seeing unique coral, sea turtles and cuttlefish (two of her favorite animals in the world). There is a huge biodiversity of life. The island is a little oasis in the coral reef that isn’t plagued by eco tourism and is remote so you feel like you are exploring an ancient sea because there are no people. And, of course, it is also beautiful, very colorful."

How does it make you feel when you think of Lizard Island?

"I feel grateful for being able to see such a beautiful place. I also feel Inspired by the diversity of animals and plants that are there."

 Coral Reef, Lizard Island series. Day 227 of 2017. October 3, 2017. One of 25 six-inch squares sewn together for the final piece.

Coral Reef, Lizard Island series. Day 227 of 2017. October 3, 2017. One of 25 six-inch squares sewn together for the final piece.

So I wanted to do an ecosystem series and I knew after watching this documentary that coral reefs would be the first one. I researched the organization involving the Chasing Coral team, The Ocean Agency. I love how they describe themselves and their mission.

"The Ocean Agency (formerly known as Underwater Earth) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2010 by a group of ex-advertising execs and creatives. 

We believe, above all else, great communication is key to finding solutions. We've allowed the ocean to lose it's magic - we've allowed it to become irrelevant. That needs to change and it needs to change quickly.

People can be inspired to act - we're just missing that all important word... inspired. "

Then I found out they have an initiative called 50 Reefs where they are focusing on how to solve the problem. 

"The 50 Reefs initiative aims to rapidly bolster existing coral reef conservation efforts globally by catalyzing new targeted action and investment in key geographies. It will identify and protect coral reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change, that also have the greatest capacity to repopulate other reefs over time."

Now, I was fired up to help connect people to the coral reefs through my art. Art can be a powerful vehicle to tap into people's emotions and inspire them. I do this to honor our daughter and all the people who are inspired by our oceans and all of its inhabitants.

I went about planning this series in my usual way, deciding the color palette and the design parameters. My color palette is based off of images at Lizard Island. I have 3 different shades of blue for the water on the top row of the final piece, tan for the sand on the bottom row with various shades of purple, coral, orange  and yellow to depict the coral itself. To be true to the images, I held up my fabric to the images to match as closely as possible.

My design for this series is different in that I am providing a scene for a real place. Usually my work is more on the abstract side but I wanted to give the feeling of the water above and sand below which really struck me in all the images. The coral reef part in the middle will be vertical strips of the different corals colors. When seen all together, it will be like one large healthy coral reef full of diversity. 

I want this series to be a tribute to all the people who care about our oceans and the work that 50 Reefs is doing to protect our oceans and coral reefs.

 

Coral reef near Lizard island images from The Ocean Agency

Imagine Standing In a Forest Looking Up Updates

  Forest,  2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

Forest, 2017.  Available for purchase. CLICK photo above to learn more.

As I wrote about last week, this article is all about the Forest series.  It is still one of my favorites. I felt like I was able to capture the mood I was going for. Sometimes that can be an elusive thing, chasing an idea and making it visible in fabric sewn together.

Here is is the original article.

My current series the Forest has been getting some attention in my Instagram account. Even people who have followed me for years said there was something special about this series with the multiple greens and the varying compositions. When I was trying to describe it to one of the commenters the thought came to me I really imagine standing in the forest looking up at the trees with dappled light all around and seeing the blue sky peeking through. I captured the emotion that I use to create the Forest series into words. Sometimes it is hard for me to capture that essence into words and I am practicing doing it. This time I felt like I succeeded. I shared this with one of the commenters and they got it.

 The Forest using fabric. Day 207 of 2017.

The Forest using fabric. Day 207 of 2017.

Art evokes an emotion. Then what does this Forest series say? The calm greens and blues remind you of the peace you feel in nature as you are standing in the forest yourself.

Now people may say I had no idea it was about the woods since I never read the title of the series. This is the beauty of color. The colors themselves do the calming. You don't even need to have the image of the nature scene in your mind.

This series has been so fun to work in. But I say that about whatever series I am working on. In this case, I do feel that special connection having spent time in forests myself. That knowledge of time spent observing nature comes out in this series.

 The Forest using acrylic paint

The Forest using acrylic paint

Last week I was in a bit of a creative slump. As I was talking to one of my artist friends about this she suggested I just go and play around with acrylic paint and the palette knife like I wrote about in Studio Notes last week. I shared an incident last week that a piece of art I made in high school with a palette knife and acrylic paint is similar in composition to what I make to this day. Back then, I thought I couldn't be an artist because I could not draw so I never picked up a palette knife again until Wednesday. At first I hesitated and thought it would be a distraction. It's not my medium and it might muddy my creative waters. But then I said why not. Be adventurous. It sounded kind of fun to do. I found an old paint set that I bought a few years ago thinking it might help my creativity flow by trying a different medium. I guess this seemed to be the time. The odd thing is that the set actually had a palette knife. So I just started by setting up the supplies. But I didn't know what to paint.  I realized I had the Forest series color palette and design parameters from my current series. This would be a variation reinterpreted in paint instead of fabric. This experience got me thinking.

If art is about emotion, the medium of that art is just the support system.

The emotion comes from the art no matter the medium. This goes a long way to quelling the issue is fabric art like other art like oil painting or watercolors. Art is art if it is made of fabric or paint or colored pencils. Art is about the emotion evoked in the viewer.

 

Landscape Artist Updates

I decided to close this summer sabbatical session with articles about my three favorite series. For my long time Studio Notes readers, even if you have read these articles in the past, most likely you will find something different in the article this time around.  I have found I can read the same article a year later and it seems like I am learning something all new again. This week I will discuss the origins of the Clouds series. Next week, the process I used in the Forest and then the final week, the story behind the Coral Reef. These three series represent when I made the switch to the realization I am an abstract landscape artist. In mid-September, I will share a recap of what I’ve done and learned during this summer sabbatical. This year has been one of transition from going to daily creating in a series for more than 2 years to commission work. I needed this time to figure out how I can balance the two and what I want to do going forward. So look for some changes this Fall.😀

Here is the original article from last year.  

After spending time on lakes in the woods this summer, I decided to focus more on landscapes in my upcoming series. As an artist I have used the natural world for inspiration for many of my series over the past years. As I told one of my artist friends, I am really a landscape artist.

 Going Up North

Going Up North

For some reason, this was a very clarifying moment for me. So what does this mean and how will it change my creative practice?  I plan to focus on the geometric elements of the natural world that inspire me to help inspire others to see the beauty all around us.

In my article Lakes and Forests, I wrote about two new series ideas inspired by spending time on a lake in the woods. The first series will be titled Forest with green squares and rectangles to portray the layers of a healthy biologically diverse forest with some shapes of blue for the sky glimpsing through the tree branches. The second series is Reflections inspired by the mirror reflection of the trees on the shore of the lake making a double image. This series will have greens and blues but in horizontal strips radiating out from a central horizon.

As I headed up to another lake in the woods, I remembered the excitement of going up north to a lake we have visited since I was a teenager. I designed a series called Going Up North based on the great many photos I took from the passenger seat of the road in the middle with trees on either side and blue sky with clouds ahead of us. The execution of this design may be a little tricky but I always start with the vision first and then make it work.

 Clouds

Clouds

The fourth series idea is Clouds. Almost every time we drive up north we see the most beautiful clouds in the sky around dusk. This part of the country has some evening thunderstorms that only last for a while.  The evening sunlight angling through the large cotton ball towers of clouds for the thunderheads is striking to say the least. This will be my inspiration. Currently I envision using a similar design as the Forest construction but with greys, white, and yellows as my color palette.

I want to use my art to capture that feeling of when we see the beauty of the natural world all around us.

When we see this beauty and feel that connection, it enables us to see even more good in our lives that was just waiting for us to acknowledge.

Every time we focus on the good in our lives, we are lead to see even more good surrounding us.

My art practice feels reinvigorated after these vacation breaks to recharge.  My current series Skylines has been a joy to work on in the studio. My future series ideas are providing the perfect balance of challenge and a sense of ease as I sew one strip of fabric to another building the daily 6 inch square.

More on the Forest next week. 

Lakes and Forests Updates

I wrote this article last year and all the sentiments are still the same. Being out amongst the trees, prairie, forest and sky are where my mind clears and my heart rate settles down. I am trying to enjoy all the times I get to be outside, even the short periods during a busy day. 

Working with clients creating art to reflect their favorite place in nature over the past year has made me realize that I am not alone.

Here is the original article below.  

After spending a week on a small lake in the Northwoods, I realize that most of my inspiration for both color and design in my art comes from the natural world I see around me. I feel like a landscape artist even if my art may seem abstract to some. This vacation brought me new insights into the importance for me to be immersed in nature on a regular basis. I do some of my best thinking in nature.

 Trees reflected in a lake like a mirror

Trees reflected in a lake like a mirror

For example, the further north we got, the forest changed color with the addition of the deep greens of red and white pines. The forest also got more dense so it looks like a head of broccoli with minimal space in between the crowns of the trees. On the drive up north, I designed my next series called Forest with all different types of greens comprised of different squares and rectangles with at least one blue shape to signify the sky. I am already looking forward to making this series. I haven't worked with greens for a while and greens are some of my favorite colors. It seems appropriate in summer to focus on greens.

One morning I got up early to spend some quiet time in a kayak on the lake. The water was like a mirror. I kept thinking the lake should've been called Mirror Lake. As I looked around me, I saw the trees on the shore and their perfect reflection on the water. It almost looked like one of those kaleidoscopes where you have the doubles of the images spinning around. I just stared at the reflection amazed at its clarity and accuracy. Later on during the day, I looked to see the reflection but there were enough waves so the water surface never got that still again. My series after Forestwill be called Reflections. Again it will be based on nature colors of the forest, greens, but will include other colors to reflect the sunsets and the flowers in the water. We were fortunate enough to be there when the water lilies were in bloom.

So all in all, I was inspired to develop two themes for future series from this week vacation. 

Next week our family is going even further north on vacation into the woods staying in a cabin on a lake. There is a theme developing here. I hope to come up with more series designs there as well. Spending time on lakes surrounded by woods has really clarified for me that some of my most important inspirations for my past series are rooted in nature and landscape.

I think people have certain natural habitats that resonate with them. I grew up in a house surrounded by big trees. I spent part of the summers almost every year of my life on a lake boating and swimming. I guess it should be no surprise how much I love being on a lake in the woods. But I was taken aback about how comforting it was to spend time in a canoe or kayak just hanging out on a lake.

Sometimes the older you get you realize what things are important to you. Then you can make sure you make time for those things in your life.  

Possible Solutions Updates

As I wrote about last week, changing my question to ask for the #1 tip for helping with issues of time and focus got the conversation rolling again. It is so much easier to think of one answer than try to tap into many answers. Your thinking mind seems to say... OK, I can come up with just one answer.

Here is the original article.  

Last week I talked about the challenges of Time and Focus in my Studio Notes. The majority of the responses to my previous Friday Question ”What are your top two challenges?” revolves around these two issues, Time and Focus. Not enough time to do everything you want to do. Difficulty in finding your focus and maintaining that focus. Last week I listed some potential solutions I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try. As I wrote last week, if you solve the challenge of time by deciding upfront to do less things, then the focus issue becomes easier because there is less to distract you. In my Friday Question series last week, I asked, "What is one solution for your top two challenges?" I am looking for ideas from people to add to this Solutions list. The more potential solutions the merrier.  In this article, I add the responses I received last week from readers to the Solutions list.

Ideas to help with overwhelm and too many things to do…

Solutions.jpg
Define your priorities
Go through them again and limit to a certain arbitrary number like 5 or 3
Say no to non-priorities
Use your creative time as one of relaxation like a creative meditation practice, not a source of more tension (This was key for me to set up systems to make this one work for me.)
Build in transition times between activities to slow yourself down
Seriously consider your use of technology as a tool not a distraction
Consider a minimalist approach
Just show up
Trust your instincts
Mindset modification
Meditation (the sitting or the moving kind)
Solutions based on Readers Responses
Organize your Work Space.
Minimize Distractions
Enjoy the Process
Be Mindful of your Daily Energy Levels
Clearly Define your Weekly Tasks

 

One reader suggested the Just Show Up option is helpful. Start on something. Just progressing on one thing can cause the momentum to shift.

Another reader suggested the best way to get out of the thinking/overwhelm part and move to the action part was to Organize your Work Space. The beautiful part is she says this always works for her and gives her the momentum needed to carry out the rest of the task at hand. Movement begets movement. She also keeps all technology out of the studio with her phone across the room to Minimize Distractions.

Adding it to the list. Organize your Work Space. For some reason this helps so much. It is like a metaphorical mental housekeeping as well. I always clean up before I leave the studio because the last thing I want is resistance to go into the studio the next day because of the mess.

Also adding Minimize Distractions (meaning access to your cell phone). This reader suggests that quick access to social media or the internet in general "interrupts the flow of creativity."  Absolutely agree.

Another reader said Trust your Instincts and Mindset Modification were "spot on." She took her power back as an artist and said no to the self doubt that can plague so many artists. She trusts that her art will come together with her designs and her color palette. She relaxes into the creative process and enjoys the creative meditation time. Now she feels free to express her creativity. Such joy and power in her words.

So adding Enjoy the Process to the list.

Another great response came from a reader involving Be Mindful of your Daily Energy Levels. Do more difficult task when energy levels are high and mindless things when energy is lower.  I am grateful I found I have a morning burst of activity.  I always do my Studio Notes writing first thing in the morning when everything seems easier.  I do studio work in the afternoon as it is more relaxing for me and offers a good break from the thinking/writing part of my day.

Adding this great tip to the list.

One reader suggested Clearly Define your Weekly Tasks.  It may be hard to decide what those are but once you got a list, Just Do the List.

Adding in Clearly Define your Weekly TasksClarity ignites action.

The list of practical tips this week is awesome. Thanks to all the readers who responded. Keep them coming! I hope that this article inspires you to try one thing to help with your Time and Focus challenges.


Challenges and Solutions Updates

Last summer, I decided to ask my Instagram followers and Studio Note readers some questions to get to know them better. I found out we had many issues in common, mostly concerns about time and focus. Nice to know I am not alone.

Here is the original article.

Top+two+challenges.jpg

One of my questions for my Friday Questions series on Instagram was, ”What are your top two challenges?" The responses came in quickly. It occurred to me that these challenges are issues that are "top of the mind" issues. It was easy to respond because everyone knew exactly what their challenges are because it runs like a loop in the background of your thinking on a daily basis.

There was plenty of overlap on the top two challenges by many of the commentors. People said it in different ways but it boiled down to time and focus. 

Time and Focus were the top two challenges...too many things to do and not enough time to do them and difficulty in deciding what to focus on and maintaining focus on what you eventually decided to do.

People said things like self care and choosing how to spend my time, wandering eye for new art forms, filtering ideas to get to the best ones, planning too much for one day, making a decision on a direction and then following through. Time and Focus are really related sequential topics.  One causes the other one. When we feel overwhelmed by too much to do, by definition it is hard to focus. Just like it is hard to be kind when you are angry or feel grateful when you are complaining. So the one thing that would help is to not feel overwhelmed.  Easily said, but hard to do.

One of my strengths is I am a problem solver.  But, this only kicks in when I clearly define what the actual problem is. This exercise of asking what are your top two challenges gives us all the opportunity to be clear with ourselves and kick in this "problem solving self" we all have to some degree.

You may not have even articulated your top two challenges very clearly before. But then once you start thinking about it, you realize you may be ruminating about something in your mind many hours of the day, like a recording on a loop.  

First step. Identify the challenge.
Second step. Think of one idea that may help.
Third step. Try it. Repeat if necessary.

So if the problem is overwhelm, too many things to do and all the other challenges stem from this cause, then it is important to focus efforts on this and it will solve other challenges at the same time, like a double problem solved. I have read books about time and focus productivity hacks for years. I am throwing out some ideas I have tried and ones I have been meaning to try.

Ideas to help with overwhelm and too many things to do…

Define your priorities
Go through them again and limit to a certain arbitrary number like 5 or 3
Say no to non-priorities
Use your creative time as one of relaxation like a creative meditation practice, not a source of more tension (This was key for me to set up systems to make this one work for me.)
Build in transition times between activities to slow yourself down
Seriously consider your use of technology as a tool not a distraction
Consider a minimalist approach
Just show up
Trust your instincts
Mindset modification
Meditation (the sitting or the moving kind)

I am looking for more ideas from people to add to this list. Many ideas may help spur a creative idea which just might help you with these challenges.

So my Thursday question last week was “What has helped the most with your top two challenges?" I got less responses, like I could "hear the crickets" kind of silence. First of all, I changed the Friday questions series to Thursday. As my husband pointed out, Friday is the end of the work week and people are more chatty than on a weeknight like Thursday. So, lesson learned and moving the series back to Friday Questions. But I also think that it is easier sometimes to focus on the challenges because they are top of the mind, like I said earlier it is the recording playing in your head… Too much to do..AHHHHH.  Sometimes there is inertia when trying to move to the solutions side.

So I am going to reword the question since it is easier to come up with one thing rather than a whole bunch of things. I will ask people to focus on one possible solution and try asking again this week on a Friday.

A brave soul answered last week and said just do it. She found that just the active working on something can even help with other projects that she was not even working on at the time. I thought this was very wise because it really shows just doing something helps. I shared with her a quote from the author Isabel Allende used in the 100 day project that helped me to decide to do the 100 day project in 2015. I have a deep respect for Isabel Allende and all of her work.

The quote from Isabel Allende is, “Show up. Show up. Show up and after a while the Muse shows up too.” Yep. That about sums it up.

What are your top two challenges? What is one solution you want to try to help with your #1 challenge?

100 Day Project 2017 Artwork Updates

This year of 2018 has brought some changes. I have shifted my art practice from creating Every Day art series to EcoMemory commission art for clients. I also did not participate in the 100 Day challenge after completing the challenge the past three years (and even continuing in between). I miss the past daily rituals in the studio but I love the interaction with my clients, discussing their memories of their favorite places in nature, and creating art to reflect those memories. As I look back at the 100 day projects, I am reminded of the amount of focus and hard work needed to pull it off.

Here is the original article I wrote about 2017’s 100 Day Project.

In the past two 100 Day Projects, I have created a four part series around a theme. In 2016, my theme was the Four Elements. I created a 25 day piece sewing together 25 daily squares for each of the elements; Fire, Sky, Water and Earth. This year's theme was Trees and Windows. Since I just finished the 100 Day Project last week, I decided to give some insight into my creative process by sharing, and maybe rambling a bit, about what I was thinking for each piece in this four part series.

  Trees and Windows  Four Part series for 100 Day Project, April 4-July 12, 2017.  Upper Right:  Trees   Upper Left:  Windows   Lower Left:  Inverse Windows   Lower Right:  Inverse Trees

Trees and Windows Four Part series for 100 Day Project, April 4-July 12, 2017.  Upper Right: Trees  Upper Left: Windows  Lower Left: Inverse Windows  Lower Right: Inverse Trees

This year I was inspired by the art of Elizabeth Gourlay. In particular, I was drawn to her geometric art with color strips around the outside of a square and pieces with vertical and horizontal lines made up of small strips of color within the line. I envisioned the vertical strips as trees and the square piece as a window frame. Hence the name of the series is Trees and Windows. I knew I could have these two pieces compliment each other with the design. For the other two pieces in the series, I thought I could just reverse the design concept and call them Inverse Trees and Inverse Windows. Instead of color strips on the edges of a square like a window frame, the second piece would be full of color strips on the inside of the window and then grey as the window frame. For the tree series, the inverse would be a grey vertical strip amongst strips of fabric as the background.

The color palette for the entire series is a play between warm and cool colors. The Trees and Inverse Trees series use cool colors like blue, green and purple in varied color intensities. I added in a very light green color to contrast with the dark grey background. These light green pieces really stand out and I am glad I added them. To vary the design, I used different widths for the trees for the straight lines. Later in the series, I decided to deviate from straight lines because when I thought of real trees, they are rarely straight. I added in some conical shaped trees. The different grays for the background give an added texture like varying shades due to sun filtering through the trees. The neutral grays are darker in the Tree series. For contrast I used lighter grays for the Inverse Trees. I was looking for more contrast so the trees would really stand out in the Inverse Trees series against the bold colors in the striped sections.. 

For the Windows series, I used a wide range of warm colors like yellow, orange, and red in various intensities. I used different size rectangles and squares in warm colors surrounding the gray square. Things got really chaotic in the Windows series. And I really like it. One of my favorite ways to work is piecing intricate designs which radiate lots of movement even in a small 6 inch square. Then when these 6 inch squares are lined up in 5 rows or 5 squares, there is an explosion of color and movement.

I have always been partial to the cool colors of green blues and purples. However, this Windows piece has helped me see the value of warm colors.  Now I can say I like all colors, even pink. I used pink in the Inverse Windows piece because I envisioned the striped internal square to be a view from a window looking out at the sunrise or sunset. I relented and decided to use some pink to make it look more like a sunrise. The medium bright pink added a good contrast with some of the darker purples and reds. The Inverse Windows piece reminds me of 25 small Mark Rothko type of images. I tried to keep the striped inner squares simple and horizontal. But I couldn't help but add some angled stripes and then I couldn't help but add some more complicated designs in the last two rows. 

In other past series as a nod to my favorite way to design with intricate interlocking small pieces, I save the most complicated design for the last square, which is the one in the last row on the right corner. 

If you look at each 25 day piece in the lower right, you will see that I try to outdo myself each time on the final square and challenge myself to make something totally different than all the previous 24 squares. The Inverse Windows' last square includes my favorite purple fabric as a mini frame around an intricately pieced square as a fitting conclusion to this fun Four Part series, Trees and Windows.  

Daily Rituals Updates

 Fractured Blue Sky No. 2. 

Fractured Blue Sky No. 2. 

Even though I am on a summer hiatus from making daily art, I still daydream about different series ideas or jot down ideas like “dappled sun among leaves.” You really can’t just turn off your imagination. There are certain people I have followed for years listening to or reading anything they create. Jonathan Fields is one of those people. Twyla Tharp is another.

Here is the original article I wrote about Jonathan Fields and Twyla Tharp.  

I'm always on the lookout for articles, books or podcasts about creative habits and daily rituals. Recently, I came across a podcast, Good Life Project devoted to this topic dear to my heart. This episode is called Uncertainty Anchors and was posted just last month in March 2017. I've listened to Jonathan Fields for several years and highly recommend anything he is involved with. He is just that good, wise and articulate. Click the highlighted episode link above to take a listen and find out for yourself. He mentions most of my favorite authors on the topic of creative habits, Twyla Tharp and her book Creative Habits and Steven Pressfield and the War of Art. All in an 11 minute podcast. Most of Fields' podcasts are interviews about an hour long but he disperses in shorter length podcasts with just him talking once in a while.

In this podcast episode, Field's talks about his book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance from 2012.

Uncertainty can take on many forms, be it political or otherwise.  He discusses how rituals can give you a foundation to come back to, a support system. My Every Day Project has given me this creative habit, a daily ritual that provides a form of solace, an entry point into my form of self expression.

In one of my first ever newsletters, I wrote about the white canvas metaphor in Twyla Tharp's book, Creative Habits. I provided an excerpt below.

I love learning about creativity. I am reading a book by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer, called " The Creative Habit. Learn it and Use it for Life. "
The first few pages resonated with me...
”I walk into a large white room. It’s a dance studio...the room is empty... I’m in a room with the obligation to create a major dance piece...To some people, this empty room symbolizes something profound, mysterious, and terrifying: the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying...Some people find this moment - the moment before creativity begins - so painful that they simply cannot deal with it. They get up and walk away from the computer, the canvas, the keyboard...They procrastinate.” -Twyla Tharp
Obviously, I have not been in this exact situation. I am not a world famous choreographer. I am a fabric artist who has been creating art for the past 15 years. However, I have experienced the metaphorical “empty white room.” 
I believe we are all creators. We have all faced the “empty white room.” Every day is filled with acts of creation, how we spend our time, what we cook for dinner, how we connect with others, how we view our life purpose, and how we express ourselves through art. Sometimes starting to create anything, an email, a sketch, any piece of art can seem difficult and even overwhelming. Why do people resist creative pursuits and the joys they offer? Basically fear. We all want to express more creativity in our lives. By its very nature, self expression offers a sense of peace and a path to more mindful lives. I see creativity as a tool for mindful living. But, how do we overcome the resistance and the fear to just start creating? 
This is what motivates me to teach...(and now write my weekly Studio Notes)
Our challenge is to fill the “empty white room,” the blank canvas, with our creative expressions.

There is a huge uncertainty in the life of someone who wants to create. And let's face it. As I said several years ago in the quote above, all of us are creators. As an artist, you're constantly asking what now? The daily practice foundation can gently encourage you or it can drag you kicking and screaming to get to the studio to create, to the desk to write, to the chair to knit, to the park to photograph. You do it because you told yourself you would do it.

With all this in mind, I am getting off to another 100 day adventure with the #The100DayProject and Elle Luna on Instagram. My current design plan is to have four 25 Day pieces that interact with each other. My working title is Trees and Windows. The overall idea is to have contrasting designs that play off of each other in an inverse relationship.

There is still time to join in the 100 Day Project. Do not let a start date be the thing that makes you take a pass. You can start anytime. The support of the 100 Day Project community is worth the trouble of doing it now. It is worth it.

 

Revisiting the Four Elements Updates

As I showcase my past Every Day Project series, I wanted to include all the projects I created during the 100 day Projects I participated in over the years. 2016 was the year I did the Four Elements: Sky, Water, Earth and Fire. I displayed these four pieces in the Abstract Ecology show I did with my talented daughter Maggie @maggiewarrenstudio. Read HERE to learn more about it and HERE where we interview each other about the show.

Here is the original article (which is an update on a previous article)...

Mid-March finds me steadily busy completing my 25 Day pieces for our upcoming Abstract Ecology art show with my talented daughter Maggie Warren. My mind is full of details of rod pockets, fusing on quilt labels, etc. The best Studio Notes I can offer with my cluttered mind today is an article from last spring about my Four Elements series. These  four 25 Day pieces have been on my mind since I am busy getting them ready for the upcoming art show.  The article talks a bit about my thought process behind the designs. At the end of the article I talk about one of my favorite design elements of adding small pieces of fabric into the daily square design for visual interest and texture. I am including a photo of my favorite 25 Day piece in the series that I just completed, Sky. More photos will follow after the show. 

The Four Elements

When I participated in the 100 day project in 2015, I made four 30 inch quilts that encompassed all the daily squares from the entire project sewn in the daily consecutive order.  I display them in my house as one large square with just a few inches of space between them.  I like that style of hanging four pieces together so much that when I contemplated participating in the 100 day project for 2016, I decided I wanted to have four pieces that went together well so I could hang them also as one larger square.

When I was thinking about the number 4 for four pieces, the idea of the Four Elements just popped into my thinking.  I must admit when my children were little we watched the Avatar cartoon series which divided their culture into people with special powers over the four elements:  Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  I wanted to mix it up and use my own terminology so I decided on Fire, Sky, Water and Earth.  I guess I wanted Sky because it's really hard to think about colors of the Air.  The vision of sky opened up all sorts of colors of the sunrise, sunset, and blue skies. 

Normally, I come up with a design idea and a color idea, and I just let it unfold each day without too much thought of what the final piece will look like all together.  I just let it happen.  My main concern is to have enough variations available in the design and in the colors to make it interesting for me each day in the studio.  However, this time for the Four Elements series I actually got out my colored pencils and graph paper to draw my design ideas with color to see how the 4 pieces would look together when I hung them as a square all together. 

 

 My favorite daily squares of each of the Four Elements series, 2016.  Upper left: Earth Upper right: Water Lower left: Sky Lower right: Fire

My favorite daily squares of each of the Four Elements series, 2016.  Upper left: Earth Upper right: Water Lower left: Sky Lower right: Fire

This process of seeing all the designs together helped me balance the design elements in all four individual series.  For the Fire series, I used hot colors of reds, oranges and yellows for the flames.  I added blue for contrast and to represent blue flames.  For the design, my only parameter was three radiating lines from the bottom of the square.  For the Sky series I am currently working on, I am using blues for the sky and purples and oranges for the sunrise and sunsets.  The design parameters are horizontal trending lines with one white line in each square to represent clouds.  I knew I needed a different design for the Water series besides horizontal lines.  I decided to go with a diagonal line design in half of the square and a solid color for the other half for the Water series.  For the Earth series, I plan on having a green horizontal line for a base representing the green surface of earth with many colored vertical strips to represent trees and flowers.  I wanted to balance the cool colors of the Sky and Water series equally amongst the Fire and Earth series. So I will have the cool color series diagonal from each other in the 4 square layout.

When I work in a series, I always like to have one or two cohesive elements.  I'm always trying to allow for my art to be spontaneous in the moment each day. One way I have been able to do that in the Fire series and in the current Sky series is by using strips of very small pieces interspersed with the solid strips. I'm finding that is my most exciting part of the design process. I plan to continue this design element through the entire four elements series as one of these cohesive elements.

By making the detailed drawing of the design on the graph paper, I learned that I can have a plan but still keep things spontaneous.  Consider doing some preliminary planning for your next project but allow room for spontaneous inspiration and go with the flow.