Happiness = Our Nature Playground

I am back in the studio after a month break. My current project is an EcoMemory artwork commissioned by three families for a local Montessori school. This EcoMemory project was offered as a fundraising opportunity for families to donate money to the school and purchase a custom piece of art that will remain in the school. The subject matter of this EcoMemory project is to capture these 5 children’s favorite places in their nature playground. This school is fortunate enough to have a wooded area, a creek, wetlands and a prairie area. This is the last phase of my Artist-in-Residence at this same local Montessori school. You can read more about it HERE and HERE. It has been a great adventure working with the staff and students at the school.

Phase 1 of this EcoMemory project was to meet the five children whose families bought the commission. It was truly a magical visit because they took me on a tour of their nature playground favorite places and shared fabulous details of what it’s like to be a child at recess at the school. I got to see it through their eyes. I felt like I was 10 years old again.

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Revisiting Lessons from a Kitten

So our cat Koa is now two years old. As an update to my article Lessons from a Kitten, I can add another lesson, letting go of perfectionism. There are many sweet things about our two cats. But there are some annoying things too. I can handle these imperfections because of all the good they bring to our family. I can focus on the good qualities. It is ok that they are not perfectly behaved cats. Here is the original article.

Lessons from a Kitten

We got a new Siberian kitten last Saturday. He is 11 weeks old and, of course, absolutely adorable. His name is Koa. We named him after the native Hawaiian wood Koa because he's an orange tabby and looks like the Koa wood's grain pattern. Needless to say, I have been spending a lot of time with him because he pretty much needs constant attention and supervision unless he is sleeping.

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Why Is Creativity so Fascinating?

Partridge Point in Lake Superior, 2017.

My geology professor from college, Dr Palmquist (who I have written about before HERE) signed up as a subscriber to my weekly Studio Notes after I gave him one of my first EcoMemory prototypes as a gift. My EcoMemory is based on a rocky island in Lake Superior where I did field work with Dr. Palmquist for my senior project.  

He recently emailed me saying, "How did this interest in creativity start?"

The rocks on Partridge Point. How cool are they?!

It got me thinking because when he knew me as a college student, I was all about the math and science. I wanted to be an environmentalist and geology, the study of the earth, seemed to be the closest major I could find. Later I realized I like knowing how things were formed. That’s what a lot of geology is about; how the earth formed, how rocks were formed.  You tell a story based on the available science at the time of what happened, just like the volcanic action going on in Hawaii right now. Every geological event tells the story of what is happening in the earth.

What I really like the most about geology are the minerals, the colors and the shapes of igneous rocks and metamorphic rocks. It really was the starting point of me noticing color and shapes. I had told myself I wasn’t creative because I was a scientist and good at math. My creative friends were the real artists who could draw. Now I know this is a ridiculous statement. Everyone is creative in their own way. The definition of what creativity looks like is expanding. I am not the only one fascinated by creativity. More and more people are seeing themselves as creative. Even though I was fascinated by colors and shapes and would spend hours looking at the mineralogy specimens in our large drawers at my college and local rock shop and gem store, I didn’t put it all together until much later.

I started quilting 10 years after college as it was an activity that needed precise measurements and accurate sewing. It seems like a natural fit for me. Once I learned the basics, I started doing my own thing using color and shapes. This progressed to my current custom EcoMemory process where I help people reconnect to how they feel in nature through my art. To learn more, click HERE.

Like a lot of things that people become super interested in, my interest in creativity was a nagging feeling of trying to answer a question I have been pondering for years, "Why did I think I wasn’t creative when I was younger? Why did I think I needed to go to art school to be an artist?" So I decided I would just teach myself about creativity and it never ceases to fascinate me still 20 years later.

I’ve had the good fortune to be living in a time when other people are just as fascinated in creativity. Lessons about creativity are not specific to one media. This was the biggest surprise to me. I have learned from authors, painters and musicians. There are many books, TED Talks, and podcasts to listen to. I recently found a new book I just started to read. The book is called Creative Quest and is written by Questlove, the band director for the Roots band on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I already read the first chapter and can't wait to read the rest.

Why do I continue to learn about creativity? Creativity can be elusive. The more you try to force it, the more it skitters away from you just out of reach. It can be a mental minefield out there looking for creative inspiration and deciding which lead to follow. Learning from other generous souls who have written about their experiences makes you realize you are not alone. These writers/speakers provide markers on the trail of where to go and how to navigate the hazards along the trail. I am grateful for the support and keep reading/listening to people who are fascinated with creativity in all its forms. 

Lazy Sundays

For the first time in many months (sometimes it feels like years), my family and I had a Lazy Sunday this week. We woke up whenever we wanted to. We had no commitments. We did not need to be someplace at a certain time. We decided to go to our local Botanic Garden and see the blooming Corpse flower. This has been a big event at our Botanic Garden in Chicago when these things bloom because they are very rare, very weird-looking and very smelly. Hence the name Corpse flower. Then we just walked around to see some of the Bulb garden which was filled with daffodils. We had a leisurely lunch. It was fantastic. My goal for years has been to have a day like this once a week, a Lazy Sunday. For families sometimes this is impossible especially if the children are in sports. Coaches do not care about rest and relaxation. Our culture does not seem to value relaxation anymore. I’m not quite sure why because I think it is one of the most important things you can do to boost your creativity.

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Revisiting Very Relaxed

These past two weeks I have found my artistic motivation very low and I have not felt well enough to continue my 100 day project. After a much needed pep talk with myself, I remembered the first article I ever wrote for this blog, Very Relaxed. Being frustrated about not feeling well is frankly not a way to be very creative. The secret is to be very relaxed. I will continue my 100 day project when I am feeling well enough to be very relaxed and enjoy the process again. I thought I would share my first article below as a reminder of Bill Murray’s advice.

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David Hockney Again

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art just opened a David Hockney exhibit entitled 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life. Each person is someone he knows personally, like his dentist, Museum curators, etc,  Each person sat for a "20 hour exposure" as Hockney says which can be rather intimidating having someone study you for that long of a time.I heard about the exhibit through an interview with Hockney on the PBS Newshour. Read more about the interview HERE. The following exchange jumped out at me as I listened to the interview.

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100 Days of Watercolors on Fabric

As I wrote about last week, I decided to do the 100 Day Project at the very last minute. I decided I  would use some of the lessons I’ve learned from the 100 Day Project over the past few years, basically that a daily challenge gets you to create stuff you may not otherwise create without that structure. So I thought about a project I had hidden away in my “do this sometime in the future” mental file. I’m always fascinated by transparent colors and overlays of different colors using watercolors probably because that is one thing I can not do with solid colors of fabric sewn together.

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The 100 Day Project Again?

I decided yesterday, the day before the 100 Day Project of 2018 starts, that “ I am in!” In December of 2017, I stopped my Every Day Project that had continued for two and a half years since the 100 Day Project I started in 2015. To be honest, I have really missed the every day creative practice. So I thought I can do a project this year learning a new creative technique I have been dreaming about for quite a while. The beauty of the 100 Day Project is that it gives you an excuse to do something you have been thinking about doing anyway and it gives you the necessary structure to actually just start. 

Spring break vacation is this week so I am including an article I wrote about the 100 Day Project in 2016. If you are struggling to just create something because you know you feel happier with a creative outlet in your life, this article may be helpful to you if you want to do a 100 day challenge or even a 7 day challenge. How you set up the parameters of the challenge are key to the success of the challenge. More about this year’s topic next week.

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My Version of the Haystacks Series

I have been thinking about starting a new weekly series later this spring in May or June. April is dedicated to three upcoming EcoMemory commissions. However, I do miss the regular routine of working on a series. So I am daydreaming about what to do. We have this one oak tree in our backyard which I’m fascinated with because we planted it a few years ago smack dab in the middle of the prairie in our backyard. From our house we look east and see the sunrise over the prairie. Every day is different. Every season is different.  My idea is to create a weekly series of pieces similar to Monet’s Haystacks series where the subject matter is the same but the lighting and seasons change. The focal point is my favorite oak tree surrounded by the prairie grasses and flowers with the trees surrounding the prairie further away.

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Reader Appreciation Week

For me, spring is a time of renewal and gratitude. I am so looking forward to all the colors of spring flowers and green vegetation. As I write this article, today is the first day of spring and it got me thinking about my gratitude for you readers. Thank you for reading my Studio Notes😁 I am blown away by the thoughtful comments and emails that I receive from you readers. It really is why I keep writing. Every writer needs those readers to make it all worth while.

Spring has got me thinking about renewal and fresh ideas. I am curious about what my readers are thinking? What motivates you to read my Studio Notes? What value do you take away after you read it? What topics are you interested in learning more about? After writing over 100 weekly Studio Notes, I would like to focus on what really resonates with my readers.

Readers have shared productivity app tips, businesses to follow, their connection to nature, being vulnerable and talking about struggles to keep creating on a regular basis and more. This desire to share makes me feel very humbled and grateful for the trust you have given me.

In a reflective mood, I wondered what can I do to show my appreciation. My answer was offering to share what I have learned over these 20 years of creating.

So this week is a CALL FOR QUESTIONS!

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