Friday, December 17, 2010

Enjoy the Process

In a perfect example of synchronicity, I recently had the privilege of watching Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India conduct the opening ceremonies and initial chalk drawing of a sand mandala. I didn't really know that much about mandalas before that, other than that they were works of art with some spiritual meaning behind them. I was aware you could take classes to learn how to make your own, but I never really investigated it. Intrigued as I am by new things, different cultures, and various interpretations of personal spirituality, I was drawn to this event hosted a few weeks ago by one of our local technical colleges.

For those of you who are not familiar with sand mandalas, they are intricate colored sand "paintings" that take hours or even days to create. After they are finished, the sands are swept up by the Buddhist monks and placed in an urn. Some of that sand is given to those watching the closing ceremony and the rest is released into a nearby water body. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing. There are a number of videos on You Tube showing this process, including this one of the same Tibetan monks that I saw at Fox Valley Technical College. (photos courtesy of FVTC)

Going back to Chapter 2 of The Artist Way, I pondered what I would write my blog entry about. This chapter didn't speak to me as much as many of the others (I've read ahead!) and I struggled to find a good theme. However, after re-browsing the chapter I noticed that I had made a mark next to one paragraph, "You will learn to enjoy the process of being a creative channel and to surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practicing your creativity. The process, not the product, will become the final result." The Tibetan monk sand mandala immediately popped into my mind. Mandalas are a PERFECT example of this principle. The Tibetan monks have had to train their minds to concentrate on and to enjoy the process of making their artistic masterpieces, because as soon as they are completed, they are destroyed. This is meant to symbolically represent the impermanence of life.

How many of us are so goal-oriented that we fail to enjoy the process of learning and creating?We want to be perfect artists immediately. We expect our first attempts to be masterpieces. Maybe we shouldn't place unrealistic expectations on our finished products. Goodness knows many of us are so paralyzed by the prospect of the finished product and what is going to become of it that we never even start it in the first place. We need to learn to play, to experiment, to practice and to appreciate the moment, and not focus on the goal line. Do you think these Tibetan monks will look back and say their life was wasted because all they did was make art with no permanence? I think not. We can learn a lot from them.

More about synchronicity in a future post...

****For those of you who make jewelry, here's a really cool demonstration by Camille Sharon on how to make a wire mandala that can be manipulated into different forms.*****

Friday, November 12, 2010

Are you an "Artist?"

"One of our chief needs as creative beings is support", writes Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. Are you an artist that never got the encouragement necessary to pursue your dream? That's what happened to me. I didn't realize that I had the makings of an artist until I got into graphic design and marketing in high school. I won numerous awards for my advertising layout and design, winning 1st place in the state DECA competition, and was the first student in my high school to earn a trip to Nationals in Miami. I thought my future was made, so I enrolled in college to earn a B.A. in Marketing & Management with a Minor in Graphic Communication (art). When I graduated, I was going to get a job as an Account Executive in an advertising agency.

Or so I thought. The perfect storm of negative people/situations smacked me right in the face (or should I say, infiltrated my mind). In the Artist's Way, Julia encourages people to write about these negative influences, or "Monsters" and turn the negatives into positives.

In my case, it was my college graphics art teacher. She said to me at one critique, "Your drawings have a child-like quality " (meaning they looked like they were drawn by a 6 year old). Gee, thanks. Add to that we had a very talented artist in that class that did make my work look like it was done by a child. No matter what grades I got in my other art classes (mostly A's to my surprise, since I really still didn't think I was an artist), that negative comment really stuck with me, as did my personal comparison against "Joe" the REAL artist.

Graduating in the midst of the recession of the mid-1980's was another negative blow to my art career. Every job outlook I looked at for Advertising Execs stated how highly competitive the hiring situation was. I would be competing for jobs against REAL artists. I didn't have a chance. Due to the bad economy, I couldn't even get a graphics job in the local copy shop without any work experience. Eventually I ended up in retail management and other career pursuits and gave up completely on creating art.

It was 20 long years before I considered being an artist again. But in the meantime, I was a shadow artist. I would watch TV commercials or look at art in galleries and say, "I could do better than that!" "How did they get a job in some prestigious ad agency, only to turn out those boring, non-creative commercials?" Even worse, some company was paying that ad agency for those crappy commercials and passing the costs on to me, the consumer! It was a double insult.

Eventually, the anger turned into action. I went back to art. I started taking lessons and workshops to build up my skills. I recently ran into several positive and supportive people, who encourage my painting and jewelry making endeavors. I no longer want to be an ad exec, just an artist who makes attractive art that other people can enjoy and possibly purchase.

Who were some of the people who discouraged your growth as an artist? Write about it and mentally rid yourself of those "monsters" so you can focus on creating art NOW. Sharing your stories with other artists can help others in the same boat, so please leave a comment and become a part of this support network.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Artist's Way" - Come Journey Along With Me

A good friend of mine, who is also a wonderful watercolorist, recently recommended this book by Julia Cameron. I had asked her if she could mentor me in my budding watercolor career and this book was her first suggestion. WOW. This book has immensely helped me already and I've only had it a week. It is a twelve week program designed to jump start or restart your creativity. You can learn more about it at The Artist's Way website. Someone on their forum suggested blogging about your journey, and I thought, what a perfect fit for my Artist Motivation Blog! I hope you will join with me in going through this process and let me and others know how your creativity has benefitted from this experience.

The Artist's Way is not new, it was first published in 1992, but at the time I was a newlywed and had strayed away from any artistic pursuits. It was not until 2003 that I began to feel the creative urge to paint again (and in 2006 to start making jewelry). So to those that have been artists a long time this may be nothing new. But a lot of people like me are just discovering this treasure now.

She suggests 2 main ways to get your creative juices flowing: morning pages and artist's dates. Since she is a writer, her focus is on writing or journaling every day. I easily did my morning pages last Monday and said to myself, "writing is NOT my problem", gaining skills in drawing and painting is my roadblock. So instead of morning pages, I will be doodling and drawing whatever comes to mind. The creative ideas I come up with will then be present on paper for later reference instead of filed away in my brain never to be retrieved again. Anyone who is an artist knows it takes PRACTICE to be really good at something (see my post titled Practice, Practice, Practice from July 7, 2009). The artist dates will be no problem for me, as I do them already. I love to go to museums and view artwork, I like experiencing new things and trying out new skills. But maybe these "dates" will be something new for you, and I want to be the first one to encourage you to start "dating" again.

I will begin posting weekly blogs in conjunction with the chapters of the book starting in early November. I know this is a busy time of year, but I encourage you to pick up the book and join me on the journey. It would be great to have some artist friends to compare notes with. The paperback book can be purchased on for less than $12. I bought the workbook to go with it, so I'd have some place to record my activities and experiments, and to get my free shipping from Amazon. I actually bought the Complete Artist's Way which is a very nice hardcover book that also includes two of her other books, Walking in this World, and Finding Water, and it costs less than $20, and is printed in the USA!

FYI: I do not receive any compensation for mentioning these books or for providing links to Amazon. This is purely for my creative benefit and yours.

So get your books and I'll see you in November!


As promised, here is the finished pendant. The photo does not do it justice. The irridescent patina on the fine silver is so colorful- pinks and golds and blues. One of the eyes changed color from orange to gold when I fired it in the kiln. What are you gonna do? :^) Sometimes things are out of your control despite your best efforts.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dragonfly Pendant Deadline

Top: Fired & Polished PMC pendant. Middle: Fired PMC pendant. Bottom: Unfired PMC pendant

Sometimes it just takes a deadline to put a fire under your butt and get something finished. Such was the case with this Precious Metal Clay (PMC) Fine Silver dragonfly pin, still in progress, that I promised as a silent auction item to our local Alzheimer's Association fundraiser. Because the PMC is so fragile before it is fired, I accidentally broke off one or more wings and finally succeeded on the FOURTH version. Version one, in the middle with the blue eyes, also turned out all right, but I thought it was too big. Little did I know the smaller wings would cause me so much trouble.

Well, what did I learn through this? For one thing, perseverance, since I had promised this to a fundraiser, I had to finish it. I couldn't just get frustrated and quit. I just had to keep on keeping on. What else? Well, I took all the broken off wings, "glued" them together with syringe clay, and I'm going to fire them first THEN attach them to the bodies. If this works, I'm much more likely to make more of these in the future.

As long as you learn something from your mistakes, nothing is lost but a little time.

I'll post a photo of the finished dragonfly pendant in my next blog. This project taken from Irina Miech's book, "Inventive Metal Clay for Beaders".

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stop and then get to work!

(Another great post from Alyson Stanfield's blog)

Do you ever find yourself looking for more information than you need?

Do you catch yourself reading and reading (and clicking and clicking) and never taking action?

Are you looking for the magic bullet--that one thing (as if there were one thing) that will propel your art career forward faster than you could have imagined?


Stop gathering information, stop looking for something that doesn't exist, and start doing. 

There is no single thing you can do to "make it" in the art world. A successful career is the result of years of labor--both in and out of the studio. It is the sum of hundreds and thousands of actions, regardless of how small the actions seem at the moment. 

It's easy to get lost in the quest for knowledge. You search on the Internet, and one link leads to another. Before you know it, you can't remember what you were looking for. This is a sign that you're either procrastinating on taking action, or you aren't focused on your goal. It's also an indication that it's time to stop gathering information and start taking action.

There are two other signs that you have the know-how you need.

1) Messages start repeating themselves. It never hurts to hear something multiple times in order to learn it, but it does hurt to hear something multiple times and not act on or benefit from the knowledge.

2) You have consumed multiple viewpoints and maybe even conflicting advice. It's useful to have more than one opinion about how to do something. Sure, this might create confusion, but it will also force you to make a decision about what's best for you.

Don't stop gathering knowledge forever, but catch yourself. If you find yourself getting lost in a sea of information and advice, it's time to call forth your wise inner self and give it a voice: "I have the knowledge I need. I can get to work now."

Know This . . .
You have the knowledge you need to accomplish a great deal.

Think About This . . . 
Have the messages been repeating themselves? Are you hearing the same thing over and over again?

Do This . . . 
Stop looking for knowledge that you already have and then get to work. Listen to your wise inner self. If you get stuck, you can return to your information bank and review what you know.

© 2009 Alyson B. Stanfield. Alyson takes the mystery out of marketing your art and making more money as an artist. Visit to get articles just like this one delivered to your inbox.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You've got to read this blog link!

Sometimes you run across someone else's blog post which smacks you alongside the head and snaps you out of your comfort zone. Patti Digh's post from March 11th is one of them. Here are a few of my favorite snippets:

(substitute "make art" for writing or whatever it is that you want to do)

"sit back down and stay in the room. SURE, I know the laundry just got fascinating, but sit the hell down and write (make art)."

“I haven’t been able to write,” people say to me all the time. “No, actually,” I respond, “You have been able to write, but you have chosen not to.”

"sit the hell down and write. Sit alone with yourself and a piece of paper without thinking about an audience, your database, the best way to market using social media."

"Sit with yourself and your unique place in the world and write it all down. Write it all down. Speak your voice. So many people say they need to find their voice. You have a voice, now use it, damn it."

"Can’t say what you want because people won’t understand or like it? Who are you living for? Yourself or people with wallets? Yourself or applause? Yourself or validation?"

“People won’t like what I’ve written. They won’t buy it. It’ll never get published.” WHO CARES? Who cares."

For the full impact of the blog, please read the entire blog post at this link:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


There is nothing I find more energizing than taking a workshop with an artist whose style I absolutely love. I decided last fall I wanted to pursue the art of precious metal clay (PMC). I went through all the articles, recommendations for tools and materials, made an Excel sheet of what the vendors carried and their prices, and chose the kiln and tools that I would order. I bought a book or two on PMC jewelry and read tutorials and watched videos.

I even tried making a few pieces. One I am very proud of, as it was not a beginner project, is my 5 peas in a pod. Yet I still had doubts about my ability to remember everything I’d learned and put it into practice. And I certainly didn’t want to waste PMC on practices or failures, given its not inexpensive price.

So, after being in the energetic doldrums for what seemed like forever (I think they call it “winter”), I went to a PMC Certification class in mid-March, conveniently located in my home state of Wisconsin. But not just any class, though. This one was being taught by my very favorite PMC artist, Irina Miech.

We made earrings out of sheet clay using scrapbooking stamp cutters. Other projects included a leaf-shaped pendant with a dichroic glass bead, a filigree style leaf made out of syringe clay, a pendant with a prong-set faceted stone, a band style ring, a hollow metal bead, and a pod bead made from a dried flower pod.

I left this class so energized, I immediately registered for the PMC Level 2 class next weekend. What did I learn from this experience? Find an artist whose work you love and take a workshop from them. Having someone there to demonstrate the techniques in person and to answer questions is invaluable! The encouragement from the instructor is uplifting and energizing. Interacting with other artists is stimulating.

I have found that this is what works best for me.

What works best for you in inspiring your creative energy? Comments?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2010. It’s hard to believe we’ve lived through a whole decade in the 2000’s already. Time sure does fly. Its that time of year when everyone thinks about what they did or didn’t accomplish in the past year. How did you do on your home business goals? I found a very helpful post on Alyson Stanfield’s website, ArtBizBlog. She suggests focusing on your ACCOMPLISHMENTS and gives you several good questions to think about. I went through, listed my accomplishments, and read them over. It made me feel really good. Good progress was made in many areas in 2009, including trying new sales venues, like an outdoor show and placing my jewelry in businesses, such as a salon, an art gallery, and a winery. I even took my own advice and got a job teaching jewelry making at our local technical college. I got interested in Precious Metal Clay and threw myself wholeheartedly into learning this fairly new metal media, buying all the tools and equipment required to create fine silver jewelry. I even cleaned a space on the counter in my laundry room so I could work on it there without having to go down into the dark and cold basement. In March I plan to take the Level 1 PMC certification class. Now there is some positive motivation!

What was the most glaring thing I didn’t do in 2009? Enter my art work in shows and competitions. I really would have liked to have increased my body of work more. That is my goal for 2010: create and make more jewelry and get it out there and noticed. Isn’t that supposed to be the fun part, anyway?

What major goal did YOU accomplish in 2009? What’s YOUR big goal for 2010? Let us know!