Friday, January 9, 2009

Theory and Practice

Right and left brain pages in my journal

I've been inspired lately by a book by Lisa Sonora Beam, called "The Creative Entrepreneur." The book guides the reader through a visual journaling process focused on making your creative business a success. If you work for yourself in any creative field, I recommend this book! It's made me think, given me useful tools, and has gotten me to work in my journal even when I didn't think I felt like it. Lisa really nails down ways to give ourselves credit for our strengths and to work with the areas that we could improve.

Part of being a creative person is that the process involves emotional highs and lows. One minute we think we rock and the next we feel like a worm. This book is helpful because it encourages us to use visual means to explore these emotions and beliefs, and also offers tools to identify and combat destructive tendencies and turn them around. Above are pages that illustrate my brain process, which is to see a vision of the forest first, and then break it down into trees. Sometimes that's a lot of trees!

The pages in this post were done with a few paints, a pen, images from three magazines, and the contents of a bag of papers to throw out. Sometimes when I don't feel inspired, having limits helps me focus. Lisa Sonora Beam emphasizes that we're not doing the journal as a work of art, but as a tool to help us grow. I struggle with self-expressive art sometimes, because I want it to look good. A couple of nights ago I did these pages (mostly) without needing them to be "art."

Destructive feelings and beliefs page
Having fun with our "monsters" always lessens their power

After I contained the destructive stuff on the page, I felt a positive shift in my emotions and thoughts that allowed me to create the constructive pages.

My positive pages--the images and text all mean something to me personally

Sometimes it helps me to look at work I've done in the past, just to remind me I did it before and I can do it again, in many venues and many ways.

Lavinia reminds me I'm cool

The hardest question the book has asked me so far is how some of my current business limitations could be turned to opportunities. I left the question unanswered in my journal for several weeks. Now I feel ideas percolating and it will be essential not to interrupt this process with my own judgments. My partner and I have often discussed how early conditioning can lead us to reject what might be wonderful ideas, by labeling these ideas impractical or even stupid. We've come up with a term for our new ideas: "Urinetown ideas", based on the hugely successful Broadway show Urinetown: The Musical.

Who would ever write a show called Urinetown? If I'd thought of that I'd have dismissed it as a dumb idea. It wasn't a dumb idea. The show was a great success and has been performed all over the country. My friend Lori even won a "Drammy" award for her role as the evil controller of the public toilets. (The Drammy is an award for outstanding work in Portland theater.) Using the term Urinetown Idea gives me permission to brainstorm an inspiration without deciding it's a terrible idea that should never see the light of day. It also signals my partner and me to listen and not judge the ideas one of us is sharing.

One of my all time favorite books is called Art and Fear. The authors, Ted Orland and David Bayles, explore in a humorous and compassionate way the link between the two emotions of the title. They note that "Artmaking can feel dangerous and revealing. Art making is dangerous and revealing." Combine that with the dangerous and revealing process of making one's livelihood revolve around artmaking and it's no wonder we creative entrepreneurs get the heebie-jeebies sometimes! We need the support of writer/artists like Beam, Bayles, and Orland and we need to have our local support networks too, to remind us that we can do it. We are doing it.


The Art of Life group played around with encaustic last week. Some members had explored encaustic processes before and others hadn't. Jodi contributed some fascinating ideas that were new to me. She brought dried and opened large teabags which had great texture and a lovely aged appearance. I can think of lots of uses for these! Another technique she introduced was using roofing tar in incised areas of the wax to accentuate them.

Sarah's warm and wonderful encaustic collage--her first!

Cindy used the teabag and the roofing tar techniques in her encaustic collage, creating a sense of mystery and depth. You can see the effects of the teabags in the left and right sides of the piece.

Jodi decided a few weeks ago that she wanted to use the reverse side of this wood panel. She used it to make this encaustic assemblage. What a great idea!

Emma made this textured collage by embedding faux stones in wax and incising and filling the incisions with roofing tar. She wasn't sure how to make it work at first, but she kept at it. Good thing!

Jodi used the roofing tar to add depth and interest to this encaustic collage. After applying the tar, she cleaned off the extra tar with linseed oil.

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