Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Nurturing the artist within

I love art.

I look for it everywhere I go, and it's pretty easy to find. When I used to teach elementary school children art appreciation workshops, I told my students, "Art is everywhere you look--in the fabric and design of your clothes, on the furniture at home, in the architecture of buildings, in the design of the cars your parents drive, in the food that you eat." And, of course, art was also in the prints I took with me into their classrooms. We'd talk about the artists, the works of art, and then we'd do an art project together.

Once, when I taught them about Jackson Pollock, I filled several dozen water guns with water-based paint, and we went outside to squirt multiple colors onto large stretches of butcher paper to create our own interpretations of a Jackson Pollock painting. (For fun, try it online.) This uninhibited break from their normal routine helped them grasp their own ability to be creative. The students looked forward to my visits--to see what me might do next--and I looked forward to crafting new ideas to make my visits enlightening and fun for them.

Part of my interest in working with the children stemmed from my natural love of art. I've always been attracted to color, texture, fibers, buildings and design. I took art classes in college. I write about art and design for various magazines. And I do look for art everywhere I go. I've even tried my hand at practicing different art forms...drawing, painting, working with water colors and markers. I play around with photography. I'll do anything to nurture the artist within and help others do the same. But lately, I haven't designated enough time for this.

That occured to me at the end of October, when I attended a writers' conference in Tampa, Fla. On our last night together, a small group of writers, including Barb Freda and I, went out to dinner at a restaurant called Fly, known for its tapas and live jazz. On the walls were these amazing paintings (part of one pictured above) of jazz musicians. And I just had to walk around and look at them. I took my digital camera with me and snapped a few photos of the vibrantly painted murals. I wanted to bring the color home with me. At the time, I didn't know who the artist was, but I've since discovered he's Sean Spoto, a Tampa-based artist popular for his surfboard art. I really love the energy of this painting above; it looks as though you can hear it.

To notice the way art speaks to you is to nurture your artist within, that is, to tap into your own creativity. The more you practice it, the more tuned in you become. I learned to appreciate this when studying Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a book which teaches a "spiritual path to higher creativity." In 1999, when I needed to grow my freelance business, a writer I met online at the Poets & Writers Speakeasy introducted me to it. Since then, I must have read her book and done the work in it three or four times. Each time I did, I became more empowered as an "artist." And I've noticed it's time for another dose of Cameron, as I'm in need of nurturing my artist within.

I actually give Cameron credit for fueling the work I've done here. I give her credit for inspiring me, for showing me that to produce art or anything else creative is an act of faith. And faith takes practice, too.

To nurture the artist within, Cameron suggests keeping a daily journal, but you must write in it first thing in the morning. She calls them the Morning Pages. Her book includes weekly exercises and questions to answer. She also suggests weekly artist dates that you must take alone. You can do anything creative, anything at all, including visit a museum, color in a coloring book, make a homemade necklace out of dried macaroni, attend a concert or theatrical production, whatever you might be interested in. Her point is that you must schedule the dates and the work on your calendar because nurturing the artist within takes time, practice and dedication.

If you're like me right now and feel as though your work isn't quite what you think it could be, if you're in need of inspiration or motivation, if you just need a kick in the pants on a particular project that seems stalled, nurturing your artist within might help.

You'll find yourself on a spiritual path of empowerment that will grow something very important to your success--faith.

I like the sound of that. Don't you?

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