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Archive for March, 2012

Carmen Torbus: The Artist Unique

Long-time readers of this blog — as well as those who are hooked up to the creative blogosphere at large — are likely acquainted with artist and mother Carmen Torbus. Last year, Carmen’s book, The Artist Unique, was published. It’s apparent — just a few pages in — that Carmen’s book is different from other hands-on guides in the “use creativity to express yourself” category. (If you don’t have a copy already, I highly recommend that you add this book to your creative toolkit.) I asked Carmen to join us for a belated stop on her book tour. Enjoy!

Q: What inspired your book? How did you develop your clear message?

The Artist Unique was inspired by the realization that something was missing in my artwork… me.

I was spending a ton of time creating. I was in awe of many of the mixed-media artists I was seeing in books and magazines and I was giddy about the art projects I was completing. I was so excited when my work came out looking as good as theirs, but they never really felt like they were mine. They were replicas. Knock-offs.

When I realized something was missing, I started exploring. I wanted to take inventory of all the little things that make me unique and then incorporate them into my work. I like to describe signature style as, “You, on canvas.” Soon after I felt my style was emerging, I developed an online workshop called Spill It. The class description was as follows:

Emotion.
Ink.
Thoughts.
Paint.
Words.
Sketches.
Poetry.
Writing.
Photography.
Intuition.

All the little things that makes you unique
will make your creative endeavors unique.
And in this workshop,
you will put all of those little things
that make you, you
on your palette
and Spill It onto canvas.
We will explore Mixed Media technique combinations to help you
discover and project personal creative style.

While teaching that workshop, I realized that there was more to this idea than a small online workshop and so the idea for a book was born. I wanted to stick to inspiration and techniques and encourage exploration. I did not want to write a book with step-by-step projects because I wanted to empower creative play and allow room for improvising, brainstorming, and light-bulb moments.

Q: What was the process of writing a book — expanding your workshop framework into a full-on manuscript — like for you?

It was interesting because I didn’t just pull from my own experiences. I really wanted the book to focus on the reader and empowering them to play and try new things so their signature style can emerge. To do that, I asked 15 artists who I feel have a distinct style to share one of their favorite techniques. I shared their artwork and the steps for using the technique. Then I used the technique in my artwork to illustrate the different outcomes that came come from using the same technique.

I also wanted to inspire the reader and give them hope that regardless of their skill level or where they are in their artistic journey, they are becoming a unique artist — just like the contributing artists. The stories of each contributor were a joy to share.

The process of writing and pulling all of the information together was a bit of a challenge for me. Truth be told, I don’t do well with deadlines. They paralyze me. Especially when they are months away. Once you have a contract to write a book, there are several deadlines set. There have to be. It feels like you have all the time in the world when a deadline is months or even a year out.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator. (Who am I kidding, I’m a complete procrastinator!) I do my best work when time is crunched. I prefer shorter deadlines if I have to have them at all. I did most of the writing literally a week or two before each deadline.

My publisher and editor were wonderful to work with. I highly recommend Northlight for any creative folks that dream of writing a creative book.

Q: What do you most want your readers to take away from your book?

Inspiration and the belief that they can develop their own style as a creative person or artist. My hope is that readers will take inspiration from the contributors and explore their creative desires.

Q: What’s on deck?

I’m not sure what’s in my future. I’m exploring a few options right now. And to be completely honest, the unsureness (is that even a word?) is leaving me feeling a little vulnerable and uneasy, but sort of free at the same time.

My dream is to encourage, inspire, and empower big dreamers to actively pursue their wildest dreams. I’m not 100% sure what the best avenue is for me to support my tribe, but I’m bound and determined to keep trying until I figure it out. I’m about to begin formal life coach training and I’m currently working with a limited number of coaching clients.

I’ve spent the last three months focusing inward, specifically on my health and happiness. Which has taken the form of regular exercise and a better diet, resulting in weight loss, feeling better, more self-confidence and an overall healthier, happier me. The best ripple effect of this happier healthier me is improvement in my most important relationships. I love it and it’s inspiring me to expand my vision and dream a little bigger — even to the point of incorporating health and wellness into my coaching practice along with a healthy dose of creativity.

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Please join me in wishing Carmen the very best in her future adventures. You can stay in the loop at www.carmentorbus.com.

Monday Post ~ March 26, 2012

“Nobody whispers it in your ear. It is like something you memorized once and forgot. Now it comes back and rips away your breath. You find and finger a phrase at a time; you lay it down cautiously, as if with tongs, and wait suspended until the next one finds you.” ~Annie Dillard



This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Ellen: Play

The piece below, which originally appeared at the Open Studio Groton blog, was written by my brilliantly creative business partner, Ellen Olson-Brown. Enjoy!

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music noteIt’s Monday evening, and I’m writing this post from Indian Hill Music in Littleton, Mass., where my sons take music lessons. I love it here.

I’ve settled into a deep leather couch in the lobby, a bright, wood-beamed room ringed by practice rooms. From one room on my right, I can faintly hear the piano pieces my son has been working on all week. On my left, someone plucks the low strings of a standing bass, and from other rooms piano scales and the reedy hum of a saxophone stream out, slightly muffled. I’m so happy in this space, soaking in a sound soup that’s a lot like the pleasant cacophony of an orchestra tuning up.

The woman in the voice lesson directly behind me is working on a short passage, and after 12, 13, 14 tries, she hits the high note. It’s no longer a strained squeak, but a warm brilliant color arcing through the air and into my heart. I want to applaud. Or cry. Or something.

Actually, I know exactly what that something is. I want to go home and play the piano.

Every time I go to Indian Hill, I feel the itch to make music. I want to take cello lessons and bang on a drumset and sing really loud.

I was a band dork as an adolescent. I played in the concert band, the stage band, the pit orchestra, and, yes, the marching band. I had neither the natural talent nor the discipline for excellence, but I loved making music, on my own in a tiny little practice room or within a wall of sound high-stepping across a football field. Music was a joyful part of my daily life.

And then it wasn’t. Grad school and work and raising a family and adult responsibilities took up time and space. The love of making music never went away. Just the making part.

There’s a piano at home, a piano I walk by many times each day, a piano I sit at 5 days a week with my son while he practices.

A piano I dust more often than play.

But when I go home tonight, before I fire up the grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner, before I open my laptop, maybe even before I take off my coat, I’m making a beeline for that piano. I’ve been chiseling away at Mozart’s Sonata in C major for 3 years now, and while I’m not quite at the point that Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philarmonic calls “one buttock playing” (oh, that video is a goody, embedded below, I think you should watch it!), playing the first, nearly mastered page of that piece gives me such joy.

Whenever I play, I walk away from the piano calmer, happier, more energized, thinking, “Why don’t I do that every single day?”

Is there a source of potential joy that you’re walking by every day? A set of paints? A box of yarn? Woodworking tools? Notebooks and pens? Clay? A cookbook and exotic spices? That guitar you haven’t touched in years? Your sewing machine? The Garage Band app on your new iPad?

Maybe tonight, before you start chopping onions, before you open the mail, you could play a little. Or play a lot.

But don’t forget to play.

Monday Post ~ March 19, 2012

“You finally do have to give something terribly intimate and secret of yourself to the world and not care, because you have to believe that what you have to say is important enough.” ~May Sarton



This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Kathy: Simply Sick

Normally the kids are like me, strong like ox, but a nasty bug has been making its way around the community and they are stricken like chicken. They’re on the mend but it’s been almost a week of being completely off our schedule and normal daily rhythm. Like, not even getting outside. Kale’s looking a little grey around the edges but his cough is unsettling so inside it is for a couple more days.

Though it’s weird to see my normally screen-free kids veg out in front of with that glazed ‘sicky’ stare, I decided to surrender to the novelty of it; letting them do nothing at all other than quiet activities and naps while I dove into my projects in my studio while stopping every few moments to warm up soup, make more tea, and assist with many, many tea pees.

I have to admit I fought it at first and was grumpy, a little anxious even and concerned about the effect of not doing anything would have on the kids. But then I heard the sultry voice of Danielle Laporte say how life balance is a myth. The essence of life is fluid so it’s only natural that shifts in what needs to be tended to will unabashedly morph constantly. The best thing to do is to see these as opportunities for growth and to reassess what is important and needed in the family right now.

In the meantime I made sure the kids were lubed up with lots of liquids and did implement the bare essential rhythms; mealtimes and bedtimes and our Smokey Sunday pancakes (whipping them up smokes up the whole house — just to explain). I surrendered to life that happens, was reminded of the balance myth (which was a catalyst for reviewing some major life decisions), and saw an opportunity to tend to my own needs at a pivotal time in my career while the children’s growing bodies took on the necessary challenge to strengthen.

Do you want to share your bare minimum rhythm you adhere to even in times of crisis, transition or upheaval? Perhaps a little ritual? Please share in the comments if you feel inspired.

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Editor’s Note: Kathy Stowell is a homeschooling, simplicity parenting mother of two small kids, and a hobby farmer’s wife who blogs and offers Backwoods Mama Sew Camps over at Bliss Beyond Naptime, from which the post above is generously cross-posted. Kathy recently released The Bliss Filled Mama: Self-Care for Soulful Mothering, an e-book and audio recording on proper crafty mama care.

Monday Post ~ March 12, 2012

“Regardless of where and how you show your creativity, the most important and rewarding thing is to let it flow. Insert creativity in all aspects of your life from how you dress in the morning to what you dream of at night. And remind yourself over and again that creativity is your birthright, a natural part of who you are: A living entity on this Earth.” ~Danny Gregory



This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

Please Show Some Love for Studio Mothers!

This is an obnoxious post where I ask you to vote for Studio Mothers in a decently high-profile popularity content. OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way:

Help! Please take a moment to vote for Studio Mothers at the Circle of Moms Top 25 Creative Blogs Contest. You can vote once every 24 hours, and you don’t need to supply your e-mail address or anything else in order to vote. Voting ends on March 15, 2012, at 4:00 pm PST. We’re at about #25 right now — every vote counts! Thanks! http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Creative-Moms-2012-2012

Monday Post ~ March 5, 2012

“I believe in guided spontaneity. For this, the poet must always have some reserves…of words, sounds, or images, the ones that buzz right past us like bees. They must be caught quickly and put away in one’s pocket.” ~Pablo Neruda



This is the moment to deepen, or commit to, your regular creativity practice. Regularity — a daily practice, if at all possible — is key.

So what are your plans for creative practice this week? Given the specifics of your schedule, decide on a realistic intention, goal, or a milestone to reach for — and plan that time in your calendar. An intention as simple as “I will be creative for 10 minutes every day” or “I will gesso three canvases on Wednesday” is what it’s all about.

Share your intentions or goals as a comment to this post, and let us know how things went with your creative plans for last week, if you posted to last week’s Monday Post.

No Laughing Matter

Image

In her terrific book The Joy Diet: 10 Practices for a Happier Life, life coach and well-being guru Martha Beck instructs readers to laugh on a daily basis. And not just a couple of guffaws; Beck prescribes a minimum of thirty laughs a day. Clicked off on a pocket counter, if necessary.

So, maybe I won’t ever be ready to join a laughter club, but I have to confess — I’m not laughing anywhere close to thirty times a day. It’s time to up the ante on the funny. And what do I find funny? My children’s antics. Monty Python. Anything John Cleese. Will Ferrell. Seinfeld, of course. The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert. William Shatner. Zach Galifianakis. Jack Black. Sometimes stand-up comedy can get me: Chris Rock, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Eddie Izzard. The Princess Bride. Airplane. Napoleon Dynamite. Writers often make me laugh out loud: Anne Lamott, Shirley Jackson, Armistead Maupin. Old (as in, from decades ago) Garfield comics. Without fail, every time I watch J-T and Andy Samberg’s Dick in a Box and Motherlover I can’t help myself. I should really watch those two every day.

In whatever form it comes, I definitely need to start laughing more. How about you? What makes you laugh?

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