Tagged: Visual arts

January is the Time to Rev Your Creative Engine

Seek it out!

Seek it out!

Winter can be a great time to jump start your creativity and your sense of artistry. Though it can be tempting to crawl under a blanket until Spring, you will later be glad you put this extra time to good use. We tend to have more time indoors than usual in the winter months and that can offer some great opportunities to exercise your creativity.

The first thing you can do to get those creative juices flowing is to do what Julia Cameron calls artist dates. Just because you have to be indoors in the winter doesn’t mean that you have to be in your indoors. Get up, get dressed, and get out of your habitat for the soul purpose of having and artistic experience. You could see a show, listen to a live performance of the symphony, see a ballet, visit a gallery, or loose yourself in an art museum. Do the first thing that pops into your head. But there’s one catch. You need to go have your artist date alone. I really like Cameron’s concept that on this artistic field trip, you are taking your I inner artist on a date. You are there to do what your inner artist wants to do, to spend time with he/she alone— just like on a date with a romantic partner, you will want to listen carefully and pay attention to whatever he/she tells you.

You may be saying “That sounds crazy— take yourself on a date… Who the f#%&@ has time to do that?!” Well, I felt the same way at first, but this little action of self care can really get those creative wheels turning. This is a good time for all those little ideas that have been floating around your subconscious to finally get the chance to break through to your awareness.

It’s also a good time for you to be quiet, be alone with your thoughts and become aware of how you are feeling. It is good to know yourself and doing so will put you in touch with the artistic side you that wants to express how you feel. If your music, your dance, your words, or your song doesn’t reflect how you are feeling, then it can’t be an authentic creation. Without self-awareness, our ability to work in our given art form may feel forced, contrived, restricted, or the worst of all— like we are faking it. These thoughts and feelings we have are subtle and can change in one direction or another in very small increments. On your artist date, you may find that now that you are finally alone with your thoughts that someone or something has really brought you down. You might have known that person was getting to you, but not until you are alone can you be truly honest about how much so. Or, in this better scenario, the experiences you encounter on your artist date might illuminate in your mind all the beauty that is in the world. From a grand painting hanging in the MET Museum, to the smile of a newborn baby you happen to glimpse on your train ride to the MET— your artist date can help you to seek out beauty and inspiration in things from that which is most grand to that which is most simple.

I like to think of the early winter like a blank notebook, and the artist dates I take are like the bits of pictures and ephemera I cut out of here and there to glue into that notebook. Once you’ve woken up your inner artist and treated he/she with special attention, you might begin to notice trends forming. “Why did I go see the same exhibit of still life paintings three times in a row?” Or you might ask yourself, “What is it about that orchestra that keeps me going back time and time again?” These simple questions which are posed to your inner artist can become creative inquiries that lead to the production of new work or projects. They can jump start your sense of intrigue and discovery.

I encourage you to make time for yourself, get out there, and pay attention to your creative self. Be still– and listen closely. Write down what you feel, think about it, dissect it, analyze it, research it– think about how you can express it in your art form. I guarantee that you once you start connecting your art form to the thoughts and emotions in your experience, as an artist, you will be compelled (and motivated) to express them!

Now get out there and go!

Stay tuned,


Let go of practicality… who said music is practical?

In a recent blog post on the Savvy Musicianwebsite, David Cutler talks about the importance of having big dreams for your career and your life in general. He also makes another great point– that our big dreams are often educated out of us.I have spent my whole life trying to outdream everyone else. Maybe it is my natural tendency to favor dissent, but I always tend to reject being made to conform, or someone else’s practicality. I think you should try it.

Without being too esoteric, ask yourself the following question: why do we let other people set the parameters of what we are capable of achieving as artists? Think about that. The performing arts seem to be rife with people who seemingly think that they have the authority to grant “permission” for someone to be successful. I don’t think that the other fine arts are quite as afflicted as we are.

It seems to me that the visual arts have more opportunity to break past these sentinels of opportunity than any other form of art. Perhaps the respect for the visual artist’s creation as a direct extension of his or her imagination often overrides concerns about technical ability, or thought process. Even in my atelier style watercolor classes at the Student Art League of New York, there is a respect for everyone’s work, even my humble beginning pieces.  Art is considered to be so diverse and divergent that we are educated to keep our minds open and accepting of new art we may encounter– regardless of how “practical” we may deem it to be.

In the performing arts, open minds and varied viewpoints often come few and far between.
There are our colleagues, professors, teachers, and often ourselves who keep us from taking the creative high-road because we have been educated that risk taking is well— too risky for us.

Somewhere in a studio in a city, there is a musician studying with an amazing teacher who will encourage the student to take extraordinary risks with music. Odd and unconventional repertoire choices, traditional and improvisational training, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit, re-imagining where and how music can be performed— the teacher coaches the student with a spirit of creativity and imagination. But sadly, this is not often the case.

We are often told that unless we only choose to play “good” music, or in the “right” venues, we won’t have a “successful” and “fulfilling” career and that “our audience” won’t “like” us. Did I use enough“ quotations” for you? Don’t worry, I’m not grammatically inept! I wanted to show you that each of these words may have an entirely different meaning depending on who is saying it.

I encourage you to never take just one definition of these words as gospel. You are the one who decides what is good, what successful means to you, what fulfills your wildest dreams, and who your audience is.  It doesn’t have to be practical to be awesome.

You have the power to define your life and your career on your own terms. Sometimes what is the practical and well-beaten path is not always what is right for you– and that is okay. Embrace your rebellious nature. For me, when I have that little nagging voice on the inside that says NO!, that usually means I am on the trail of something worth following.

Keep up the good work! I want to hear about when you have revolted against convention and practicality!