Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 Things

The great "fly episode" has led to the "even greater purging episode" in my basement. It's forced me to do some very deep soul searching because although I think of myself as being in touch with my creative self, I keep coming across things I once loved to do and had completely forgotten about. With many things I'm not sure when I stopped or even why I stopped. One of the things I re-discovered was Deborah Koff-Chapin's book, Drawing out the Soul. I actually danced around the basement when I found it squealing "I loved doing this, I LOVED doing this." So, it's first on my list.

1. Drawing out the Soul by Deborah Koff-Chapin gives a step-by-step explanation of "touch drawing," an intuitive painting process where your fingers take the place of a pen or paintbrush. You can learn more about it at the Touch Drawing website and see more of Deborah's beautiful paintings.

2. If you haven't seen Frozen River yet, you should. It takes place in upstate New York at the Canadian border and deals with illegal immigration, smuggling, ethnic tension, poverty and the desperation and resiliency of two women. It is a gritty, realistic film that garnered Oscar noms for Courtney Hunt (Original Screenplay) and Melissa Leo (Actress in a Leading Role).

3. I always have a book or five going and last week I read one that has stayed with me. Without a Map a memoir by Meridith Hall tells a tale of exile, isolation, loss, joy and redemption. It begins with 16 yr old Meredy pregnant at 16 in 1965 and follows her as she searches for herself while exploring the world. Her writing is unflinchingly honest and she reminds me of Annie Dillard and Mary Oliver in that she is an observer in tune with the world and sees the macrocosm in the microcosm.

4. I've always liked the poetry of Lucille Clifton with The Book of Light being a personal favorite collection. This week I read The Terrible Stories and found this small collection a wonderful reminder of why she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice.

5. And because they are good and hysterically funny, The Weird Sisters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As Yet Udaunted

Just 15 Minutes

Once upon a time I was an opera singer. I think a part of me still is. I've had many stops and starts. One re-start occurred in the middle of an abusive relationship. I'd stopped because the drama of the relationship had overwhelmed my life. But, my undying creative heart made me start again.

Although I knew I had to sing, it was also daunting. It was going to take a great deal of work to re-build my technique and I had to re-find my game face in order to start hitting the audition scene again. Frankly, it seemed a little impossible. Luckily, I had a very wise teacher at the time. Without even asking the details of my life, he sensed my mental state. He knew I was staring up a very large hill. He told me that although in the past I'd been practicing for 2-3 hours a day, he didn't want me to do that now. He told me I wasn't in shape enough for that yet. "Just 15 minutes of singing. 15 minutes of absolute concentration. I want you to set your timer and only sing for 15 minutes." So, I did. The next day when I arrived home from my boring, soul killing temp job, I just wanted to flop on the couch and veg-out. Then I thought, "Just 15 minutes. All I have to do is practice for 15 and then I'm done." It flew by. Things continued on in this fashion. Whenever I felt the dread and panic of trying to get back into vocal shape I'd remind myself I had permission to only practice for 15 minutes - then the weight lifted. Soon, I'd be so deep into my practice I wouldn't even hear the timer go off. I started to get excited about singing again, pulling out favorite arias, trying new ones, listening to tapes of past lessons and coachings. My singing-heart was healing and soon I was back in the game.

Several years later after I had my daughter and was in a similar position (BUT for a much happier reason!!) I used the same technique again. When it seemed as if my day was escaping from me I say, "Just 15 minutes, all I have to do is sing for 15 minutes." Some days that would be all I could squeeze in before a diaper needed changing or a cry needed answering. But other days I'd sing for 30 minutes, 45 or the unheard of hour.

I use this little trick on myself all the time now. I frequently have a hard time sitting down to learn lines, I still find it hard to make time to sing, all these little things that are a part of my creative spirit but are also a part of my job. So, I tell myself, "Just 15 minutes" and the weight lifts and 9 times out of 10 I play for much longer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fly's Message

If you’re eating something as you’re reading this -STOP! This is gross and you won’t want to be eating while you read it. I have a fly infestation in my basement. At first I thought, “Hmm, there are a couple of flies down here - how’d they get here.” Then it went to, “Wow, this is weird - seems like a lot of flies.” To “WHAT is going on here and how do I stop it?” Bottom line is I have an old house, an animal apparently got caught between the walls and died there - and then came the flies.

I always ponder the meaning of things like this. A couple of flies - that’s life. Hundred of them - that’s a message. But, I couldn't wrap my brain around what the message might be. (I also wonder why other people get butterflies bringing them messages, and I get the flies?) Part of me is grossed out and a little afraid of their primal energy. Another part of me feels sorry for these poor misguided flies that that just made the wrong choice. The wrong choice - that’s when it hit me. The flies are instinctively, desperately , obsessively drawn to the light - any light. They cling to the sealed glass trying to get out or cling to the overhead lighting. I’ve tried everything to get them to MOVE, to go to the side door so they can get out. They won’t budge. All they want is the light - and any light will do. One poor instinctive choice is going to lead to the death of nearly all of them.

Are we like them? Can one poor instinctive choice keep us from the light? Are we desperately clinging to a florescent light and not seeing the true source? Is our obsessive single mindedness with the light keeping us from seeing that the way to true light is often through the dark? They are good questions to ponder. Thank you flies for your message and I walk away with this: I want to be one of the renegade flies that’s willing to brave going through the dark, hoping that other’s will follow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wreck This Journal

Let Your Imagination Take Flight
My wrecking continues to be at a rather slow pace. I'm following Ana's lead and allowing it to be "gentle and intuitive." This whole expereience has opened me up to a whole new world of exciting and inspiring people and infomation. So, frequently I've become sidetracked - off on to another adventure I've discovered and want to try or other times I'm just walking around with my head spinning from all the stimulation.
My journal has morphed yet again. Due to the fact that I ripped all of my pages out to make my skirt, I now have two books: one of completed pages and one of uncompleted pages. The completed pages are loose and I will eventually bind it all back together, I think.

I received Sharon's circle page (I was hoping I would get that one). I'm so delighted to have it and it looks very happy here in it's new home. In passing address info back and forth Sharon & I have also had a couple "Wow, small world" moments. I always like being remind that we are all connected.

I thought maybe this week as we near the end of our wrecking journey, I'd gather some of my thoughts about what I've learned during this adventure.


1. Don't save your art supplies. Use them up. Use them with abandon.

2. Wrecking happens - you can either stay stagnant or you can move forward and create from the wreckage

3. Just show up and stuff with happen.

4. Try enough stuff and eventually you'll like something.

5. Not everything has to be good

6. In fact, it's OK for some things to suck because you might just learn something from that.

7. If you don't learn anything - that's OK, too.

8. Breaking down barriers in one area of your life will open doors in other parts of your life.

9. There is a big, wonderful, inspiring community of creative people on the internet - WOW!!!

10. Anything & everything can be used to make art.

11. Sometimes working with friends can really spark your creativity

12. Sometimes working alone can.

13. And the biggie - lucky number 13 is...TRUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Things

1. Zentangles - I am apparently the last to know almost everything. I've seen this on so many other blogs I don't know where I first saw it. Must be because it's so much fun. Mine is pretty rudimentary, I know, but I still had a great time and it was so relaxing. A real right brain activity. I enjoyed watching this video with Milliande of how to make a zendala (zentangle/mandala).

2. Since becoming a Mom I rarely get to see films in the theatre anymore and have to try to play catch-up once they hit dvd stage. This week I watched one of the best films I've seen in a long while, The Visitor . It's a film about living an authentic life and how one person can change your life. Richard Jenkins received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in this film but every single actor in The Visitor does a top notch job.

3. This week when I was at the library Laure Anne Bosselaar's poetry collection,A New Hunger, was out of place. There it sat off to the side on the shelf just like it was waiting for me. I have poured over her poems the last few days awed by the vivid imagery, the mastery of form, the intimacy, and the musicality of the words.

4. Check out Gretchen Wegner's one hand dance. Learn a little about the body/mind connection and put a smile on your face.

5. I'm a huge fan of Patrica Barber and though I'm no jazz expert I think her Mythologies is one fo the most innovative recordings I've heard. Listen to this and do a Zentangle & blow your mind a little!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sending Healing

Learned that our poor, beautiful pin oak is fatally ill.
So I'm sending it healing and love.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moving On

I'm over my art journal angst a bit now. Thanks to WTJ I know how to dry out a journal. For now I've decided to just plow forward. I thought about scrapping it and using it as fodder for future journals or putting it aside for now. However, I've decided to just embrace it the way it is and move ahead.

And speaking of journals, my journal workshop was interesting (as always) yesterday. A nice bunch of kids and even the older group (4th-8th grade) managed to find themselves "in the flow" several times. It's so gratifying to me to see a group of 22 kids silently engaged in their thoughts and creativity. I can almost hear them give a sigh of relief. For the most part, their worlds only allow them about three ways to "be" - locked into their left brains, acting out, or zoned out in front of some blinking screen. Once the door is open for them to cross over into their right brains they settle into it and you can even see their body posture change, the muscles in their faces relax.

A former student of mine who is now a student in the NYU film department was there with a friend doing a mini-documentary on the camp. Molly and her colleague both noticed the abrupt change in attitude that happens right around 4th grade. She said, "Wow, when you asked the younger kids who thought of themselves as a good drawer every hand in the place went up but when you asked the older kids - only one hand meekly went up." She mentioned that the younger kids were also so engrossed in the workshop right from the beginning they didn't even notice that they were being filmed & photographed but the older kids noticed right away.

Molly had some great questions for me, too. What did I hope the students would gain from this experience. I hope they come to claim a space for themselves - even if it is only an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. I hope they can carve out that little rectangle and say "Here it's OK to be me, to experiment, to create, to make mistakes, to laugh, to cry, to dream, to explore, to hope." And I hope that 8 1/2 x 11 rectangle grows to include the world.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Unplanned Wrecking

My "real" art journal was wrecked today and I am heart sick. I took it with me to show the kids in my journaling workshop. The funny thing is, I chose not to share it with them because I thought I should focus on them and not on myself. But, in the course of toting it from home to the theatre - tea spilled all over it. Inks ran, pages bled together, some are tea stained. Things are ruined, wrecked and all my work with Wreck This Journal hasn't made me feel much better. I know eventually I will have the choice to create something out of this "destruction" but at the moment I'm just feeling sad and angry. I guess this is one of the points of the WTJ exercise. At the terrible moment of destruction stands this choice, stay stuck in the sorrow or move forward to create.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Let Them Fly

Tomorrow I'm off to do a quick journaling workshop at the Ritz Theatre's summer camp. I've done this for a couple of years now and it amazes me each time how programmed the kids already are in elementary school. When I invite them to "drop the rules - don't worry about spelling!" they will without fail spend the majority of their time asking me or someone else how to spell things. Most of them also already have ideas about who can and can't draw. Even the ones dubbed the "artists" are inhibited about drawing. It's very hard for them to lose themselves. I see it all - the sudden focus on proper spelling, the claims of the inability to draw -as diversion tactics. I do the same thing in my own "grown up" way. It keeps me safe and gives me an excuse not to risk. But, risk we must if we want to fly. My job is to push these little birdies out of their nests and show them that their wings really do work.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wreck This Journal

I am always in danger of taking a creative project I love and am passionate about and turning it into a job that I suddenly resent and dread. I felt this happening with WTJ this week so I took a little break. I think it perhaps comes from making my living at something that is a part of my creative soul. I am eternally in search of balance. I did do this page though because it came spontaneously and was filled with laughter and joy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I know I am running the risk of sounding like "sour grapes" here but I have had it with critics (professional and non) and I vow never to read or listen to one again. I don't understand why we give this such value. It seems that in our culture deconstruction is more revered than creation. That seems backward to me. I have heard the argument that critics are there to lead the art form to its highest level but that's almost never true. Most critics are self serving. They are there to be be clever and bitchy and to gain an audience for their review not the art form they are critiquing. It seems odd that we should need to rely on someone who watches from a safe distance to guide art rather than the people who are passionately in it up to their eyeballs. Frankly, I don't even care if my "art" is good, bad or indifferent. I am compelled to create it and if it touches someone, anyone - even if it's just me then it has served its purpose and it is worthy. I don't need someone else to declare it so for me.
5 Things

This week I'm highlighting films, films that inspire me and remind me why I do what I do. Here, in no particular order, are 5 of my favs.

1. Immortal Beloved features Gary Oldman in a wonderful performance as Beethoven. This film includes one of my all time favorite scenes depicting the power of music.

2. Babette's Feast is a beautifully done film that won the 1987 Academy Award for best foreign film. It is a story of choices, love, change, gratitude and a sensual, sumptuous feast.

3. The Red Violin, the score is phenomenal and expertly executed, the cinematography is gorgeous and the story of a violin and the people who make music with it shows how passion drives an artist's life.

4. Frida tells the story of the artist, Frida Kahlo. Selma Hyeck gives a powerful performance and director Julie Taymor's work is visually stunning.

5. Akira Kurosawa's Dreams is perhaps his most personal work based on his actual dreams. It is a powerful visual treat with some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. Color and light are treated with a painter's eye and it's seems very fitting that Van Gogh is featured in one of the dreams, Crows.

I can see I will have to continue this list because there are many more, but this will do for a start.

Friday, July 10, 2009


The squirrel
buries bright green berries in my impatiens
Like buying school supplies
in the middle of July.

Wreck This Journal Week Six

With the 4th of July weekend and an impromptu stay at the shore - I didn't get much wrecking done. I kept trying to think of a way to incorporate firecrackers & the journal and although it sounded fun - it also sounded highly illegal, dangerously unsafe and nothing I would ever document even if I was dumb enough to do it.

So, I settled for wearing the journal as you can see. This was a last minute endeavor. I ran out of tape in the middle of the project (WHY do all the craft, art and fabric stores close at 9:00pm - that's usually when I'm starting my projects). Luckily I had some spike tape (for those of you that don't know, spike tape is used on the stage to mark where the set pieces will go). It worked pretty well and best of all I think I will be able to remove it.

I also "Lost a Page." I was inspired by one of Keri Smith's other books,The Guerilla Art Kit. I doodled on the back and used one of my favorite quotes (although I did invert the words "is" and "it" - apologies to Mary Oliver). I stuck it in a book I returned to the library.

Thanks to my trip to the shore I'm starting to get a nice seaweed collection on one of the pages - but it's not quite finished yet.

That's it for this week!

Happy Wrecking to all!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

5 Things

1. I just finished Ellen Burstyn's autobiography Lessons In Becoming Myself and not only was it a darn good read, it was rich with information on the film industry, theatre, acting technique, Lee Strasburg, Sufism and women's wisdom.

2. What? A radio station that caters to MY taste in music? Pandora - I couldn't have dreamt it better!

3. As a rule, I don't eat refined sugar but one of the things I make an exception for are Vosges truffles. They are little chocolate zen moments. Mmmm! I'm getting a craving just writing about it. My personal favorite is the Black Pearl: wasabi, ginger and dark chocolate topped with black sesame seeds.

4. My latest musical obsession is Regina Spector's latest album, Far. Thoughtful lyrics, intricate melodies and not a carbon copy of her other albums.

5. I am loving the designs at Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching. I haven't done any embroidery since I was a kid but these patterns which "ain't your gramma's embroidery" are inspiring me to try a new project.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wreck This Journal Week Five


WOW - that went by fast. This week I felt much like Sherri felt last week after she had played baseball with her journal - now what? Throwing the book in the ocean had been such an act of spontaneity and I just wasn't feeling any thing after that. So, I followed Sherri's lead and went back to the prompts trusting that another outburst of creative wreckage will eventually emerge. And it will - I feel it a-brewin'! In the meantime here's what I've been up to this week. I finally put food in the journal. black molasses, rice syrup and strawberry jam. WHAT a sticky, icky mess that bled through several pages - I'm afraid they might indeed be wrecked. I'm also a little concerned that ants might discover my sticky sweet journal and have a party - ICK!

PS: This week I kept hearing a little voice rebelling against the prompts. There is a BIG part of me that doesn't like being told what to do.
5 Things

1. Libraries!! I love libraries. I have been able to find almost every book I've ever wanted to read on a variety of subjects and all for free. I get to try out new authors without plunking down $20, I get to read all about film making or how to play the violin or gorge myself on poetry or even try new music & movies. I write down "libraries" in my gratitude journal at least one a month. I can't believe more people don't take advantage of them.

2. Thanks to
Skype I have been able to chat with my family and see their smiling faces. I've been able to watch my little nephew as he acts out a story for me and see the new things my brother has purchased for his apartment. And again - FREE.

3. I use these inexpensive
Mead sketchbooks for my everyday journal. I can write in it, sketch or even paint. I also like that the cover isn't plastic so I can gesso over it and make my own design. I see they are temporarily out of stock - I hope that doesn't mean they are going to discontinue them.

4. This probably isn't for everyone but this little byte called
"The Dream" featuring Wanda Sykes makes me laugh every time. As does this clip of from Friends of Ross doing his impression of a valociraptor. We all need a giggle every now and then and these are sure fire for me and my warped sense of humor.

5. I get an email sent to me everyday from the
Daily OM so each day I get an inspirational message about how to live a more conscious and compassionate life. It's a free and simple way to remind myself of the life I want to be living.

My own little place to explore my creativity and imagination