Imagination, Not-Imagination

“What do you think is going to happen?!” my daughter asks me when I express anxiety about her traveling alone in Europe.

“I’m not even going to begin to tell you the things my imagination can come up with, ” I answer.

Today I have changed my mind. It is not my imagination that provides terrifying scenarios. It is the news, movies I’ve seen, fears expressed by other people. These things fill my head when I start to worry.

Imagination, on the other hand, is a positive. It’s what creates solutions to problems. When fears make your heart thump, your shoulders stiffen and your breath stop, a little imagination can ease the pain. First, you imagine angels and allies all around. You imagine everyone safe and sound. If you must, you imagine heroic and clever escapes. You imagine the day you see each other at the airport after months apart. You imagine eating breakfast together when you’re 10 years older.

Imagination, Not-Imagination

Knowing when to stop —and when not to

How to know when a piece of art is done, that is a question I’ve had in my mind off and on for a very long time. On one hand, I’ve made some artwork that I finished quickly and I liked it. Other times I try to put more time into it and it gets to a point where I wish I had stopped earlier. But is it right to stop at the first point of being pretty happy with it? With design, it’s rarely a good idea to go with the first draft. And when I look at other artists’ work—artists I particularly admire, I get the feeling that they have worked much longer and more intentionally than I ever do.

So how to go forward? This is a time that I feel the need for a mentor. I’m not sure where to find one, so I guess I will just make a commitment to force myself to work past the moment I would otherwise stop, even if it means I’m “ruining” what I’ve done. I know I can do better. (Can’t I?)

This blog idea came to me through looking at a book of Illustration. I’ve just discovered an Illustrator whose work I absolutely love: Bernard Buffet. Wow! How have I missed this work? I predict a fair amount of my time in the near future will be spent on the site! Check it out! (I’ve added the link to the Inspiring Artists links on the right.)

PS. Sorry —no image this blog. Next time, I promise.

Thoughts about What Should Be vs What Is

Two things: writing like you think writing is supposed to be and creating artwork like you think it’s supposed to look. It is very hard to catch yourself being inauthentic, because really, where is the line between trying to make it good and making it in your own way? I suppose some people call this your voice or, in the case of visuals, your style. That is a very complicated thing, isn’t it? Because when we share what really sounds like us, or what really comes from us visually, it is imperfect, just like we are. Who wants to show how imperfect they are? And yet, I’m just beginning to see that those imperfections are what makes it interesting and unique and here we are struggling and struggling to make things perfect before we share our work with others.

I don’t have an answer as to when to share. I mean, there is that quote —who said it?— about a painting never actually being finished, but just stopping in interesting places. I’m beginning to understand this.

Now design —that’s a different thing. Or is it?


Stuff I Like

I’m adding this post now because I’ve given the URL to a friend and I want her to see something I’ve done recently that I like. Plus, I should really post again now anyway. (Looks like I’d better renew my commitment to adding a new post each week.)

So here are a couple of shirts I’ve recently stamped for a friend of mine. I’m now adding stencils to the stamps. A little more work to make, but pretty cool effect. I like it! (Stencil, stamps, and actual stamping done by yours truly.)



Frustrated Dreamer

My inclination at this moment is to feel guilty and terrible about not having added a new post to my blog in six weeks. But I’ve recently learned (through a book on meditation —Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg) that starting over is not necessarily a bad thing. This advice comes as a response to those who want to beat themselves up for losing focus during meditation.

But this is great advice because I’ve just been confronted with the idea that maybe I’m not as good at time management as I thought I was. In a video called “Five ways that people live their lives” in a course on called “Happiness Tips,” I identified with the description of the “frustrated dreamer” —a person that has goals, but needs to work on time management. Maybe you don’t see time management as related to focus, but I’m pretty sure it’s true at least for me. And therefore —thank you, Sharon Salzberg— all I have to do is start again.

So let’s hope that my new meditation practice and this insight into my time management and focus challenges helps me move in the right direction.

In the meantime, here are a few photos I took this morning during a short walking break.

dewonflowersonewayabstraction2 onewayabstractiononewayabstraction3

Impossible Things

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

This was said by the White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. I’m not sure if it was this directly, or if I read something by someone else that referred to this quote when recommending the following practice: to write a list of impossible things.

When I sit down to write because I want to be creative, but then I can’t think of anything to write, I often start with this practice. I’ll write the heading “Five Impossible Things” and then I’ll try to come up with something. The first one or two aren’t so hard, but after that it’s remarkably difficult for me. Which I assume, like the White Queen says, is because I just don’t have enough practice doing it.

This makes me think of the memory palace method of remembering things. That is, in order to remember a list of items, pick a familiar place, then put your object (or whatever you are trying to remember) into a relationship of some sort with a surprising or unexpected thing/person in that place. So if I wanted to remember my grocery list without writing it down, I might visualize my house, then in my mind I’d walk into the foyer and picture Dolly Parton holding a gallon of milk, then walk into the hallway and see a horse grazing on raisins on the floor, and then walk into the kitchen and see Buzz Lightyear trying to eat crackers with his space helmet in place, etc.

Try this if you haven’t before, and tell me, is it hard for you to come up with those weird, out-of-place characters? I can come up with them, but not that fast. And I’m curious as to how quickly a memory pro, who needs to remember the order of cards in a deck for example, can produce all of these unexpected associations. Does one get better at it with practice?

Found Texture

I finally got a picture of this gorgeous stop sign. For the record, this is not my handiwork! I do love it, though, and I wonder if the person who did it was aiming for beauty, or just aiming to vandalize.

Stop Sign

I’m sad to see how long it’s been since I added a new post —and also sad not to have any new artwork (of my own) to share. The good news is that I’ve been doing more writing, and that is how it usually goes in my life: either writing or art, but not both at once. So for now, I’m in a writing phase. Perhaps next time I’ll share a bit of that.

Staying Tuned In

Maybe I was tuned in because I needed to tune out from work. When I was out walking one day, I came across this piece of yarn on the sidewalk. Isn’t it beautiful?


Actually, when I first saw it, I thought, “ew, gross!” It reminded me of the yuckiest, cheapest yarn we were given back in the day for elementary school projects. Then I stopped and looked more carefully at it. It was a bright spot in the otherwise brown winter landscape. And when I bent down to look at it more closely, its texture contrasted wonderfully with the pavement. I surprised myself when I took out my phone to get a picture of it.

Now I’ve come across it in my photos folder, and it’s wonderful to me: the texture, the shape, the light, the color. Not sure what I’ll do with it, but it’s a simple pleasure to me right now.

I can’t post something like this without thinking of How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith. And I will link you to it through another favorite website, BrainPickings. Make sure you read the rules. Then follow them.

Iron Pour

Now is summertime and all that comes with it, including travel, humidity and iron pours. This was only my second time out to Solsberry, Indiana where there are sculpture trails, as well as labor- and heat-intensive creativity going on.

My friends and I went out to last night’s iron pour, and it was quite a sight. If you happened upon the scene unwittingly, I’m sure it would be quite surreal. It is a very remote location and the work going on is like something from The Lord of the Rings. (Think dwarves working at their fires.)

Iron Pour

When you attend the iron (or aluminum) pour, you can buy a sand/resin mold to carve your own design to have made into a lovely iron (aluminum) cast. My family and I did this once before, and it’s a lot of fun to sit and talk at the tables with other visitors and see what everyone is doing. This visit I knew to bring paper and pencils to plan my design, and I also brought some tools. I shared paper with kids, teenagers and adults.

I spent at least an hour carving a smooth-surfaced abstract design, playing with varying depths to see how it would cast.

Rough Sketch for my Design

Much to my surprise, the end product looked nothing like my design, in fact it was barely recognizable as mine.

Failed Casting

Now there were plenty of other pieces that had smooth surfaces, so it was a puzzle to me why mine had turned into this.

I returned to ask one of the workers there if they could explain what had happened. The piece was passed from hand to hand, and at last enough people had seen it and put the story together: earlier in the day, someone had spilled water on a few of the molds. Mine had obviously still been wet, so when the hot iron was poured into it, it bubbled and spit and this is what emerged in the end.

I understand that the process of making art is often unpredictable and these things happen, but it was a disappointment. My consolation is that it happened to mine and not to one that belonged to a child that had sat and worked so hard to carve the letters of his name backward into the mold.

And next time I’ll know to make sure my sand/resin mold is dry.