Notes on Tidying Up

Life-changing magic of tidying up - KonMariLike many people, I’m working my way through “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…” by Marie Kondo, also called the “KonMari” process. It’s about decluttering, and surrounding yourself only with things that bring you joy.

The process has been astonishing, and I’m still early in the process.

The following is this morning’s observation, which I shared elsewhere (in social media), but… well, you may enjoy this, too.

Clearing out, I keep stumbling onto things I’ll like but I know I’ll never use.

Or, an item that’s long past its “use by” date in the real world, but I’ve had the idea that “I might need this someday.”

Or, the reason I bought it…? Now, it’s LIGHT YEARS off my current and projected creative trajectory.

But, I’ll be honest. Letting go of the item is, on a small scale, kinda-sorta like a divorce.

The breakup itself can be difficult (or not), but the REALLY excruciating part is: letting go of the original dream.

You know… that “ooh, shiny” moment when I acquired whatever-it-is. The idea that it would be the coolest thing EVER, when I used it for… something. Often, that was some specific event or project that was part of an even larger, future vision.

And then, my life swerved in a different direction. A direction that made more sense and turned out pretty darned cool, and I do NOT regret it.

But each new adventure on that path took me even further from the earlier vision.

So, a lot of the stuff I’m letting go of now… it was part of a rosy, “what if..?” dream. But that’s in the past.

Often, the swerve in my life happened for an external reason. It’s WAY too easy to blame it on someone who really DID stand as an obstacle in my path, at that point. And he or she really WAS a jerk.

But, jerk or not, my life went in a different direction. And I had fun anyway. Probably a LOT more fun than I might have had, on the previous path.

Still, some of this process is like a divorce. And it’s FAR to easy to want to hold onto that old dream (and that related, old grudge)… IF I let myself do that.

The process isn’t easy, but it’s healthy. And, by releasing those mini-anchors to the past, I’m allowing myself to move forward with less holding me back.

For me, THAT’s what this is about.

Merging, Moving, and More

Quick update: By the end of February, this site will move to new hosting. To most visitors, nothing will look different. The site might appear to be offline for a few hours, during the move, but that’s all. (Site is now at new hosting. Whee!)

I’m also continuing to merge most of my art-related websites. All of them will become part of Aisling.net.

Update, 21 Feb 2016: Everything is here (except some of the really old articles). However, I need to fix the illustrations, recordings, & links in the articles that moved here from ArtistsJournals.com. (I’m keeping the old ArtistsJournals.com site online, until I fix these issues.)

At the start of March 2016, this site should be a one-stop resource for mixed media artists and artists who keep visual journals.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the updates list — receiving emails every time I add something to this website — I appreciate your patience. You may see a flurry of updates as lots (and lots) of articles are added to this site.

Coming Next – Mailart and More

moving boxesIn the continuing re-integration of articles from my original website (started around 1995, back in the GeoCities days), my next project is to restore mailart-related articles to this site.  Those (very dated) posts are still at my old, dusty, HTML site, and need to be revamped, rewritten, and moved here.

Meanwhile, yes, the coloring books continue. I’ve created 20 of them, so far. My top-selling coloring book is Bold and Easy Coloring Pages 1, with a new book being released about every two weeks.

I’m absolutely loving this. Most of my coloring books are hand-drawn (yep, ol’ fashioned pen & paper), so they take a lot of time… but the feedback from them has been very worthwhile.

In the immediate future: To improve navigation and load time at this site, I’ll be changing its design and some of its features… but only slightly. When that’s underway, this site may look rather untidy. If you land here during that time, I apologize; keep in mind that it’s a major milestone as I re-energize this site.

Thanks!

Wild Art Dolls Have Arrived!

As of this morning, all of the Wild Art Dolls articles have moved back to this website. Whew! That includes the free doll patterns.

(I will update the GIFs as full-size PDFs, later. Meanwhile, you can rescale GIFs to print, full-size. In most cases, my cloth doll patterns were designed to fill an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper.)

If you find any broken links, broken images, or text that doesn’t make sense, let me know in a comment at the broken page (or wherever things seemed to break).

I have temporarily removed the voice recordings from the doll art pages. They were in an old format that most computers can’t recognize. I plan to update those recordings, later.

I’ve restored the site’s Search form and the Categories list to the sidebar of this website. That should help you find anything you’re looking for.

Also, I’ve removed old “featured images.” That should resolve the problem where stray graphics were turning up in odd places.

Next, I’m planning to move all of my mailart-related articles back to Aisling.net.  Those articles were at Mailartists.com, and they’re even more outdated than the wild art dolls articles were. (It’s difficult to believe I’ve been online about 20 years…)

So, this next part of the “back to the garden” project (as I’m calling it… a Woodstock reference) may take considerably longer.

Meanwhile, I appreciate your patience as I shuffle files, fix broken code, and all that non-art technical stuff. It will be worth it, when this is completed! (<– That’s become my mantra. LOL )

And, one more thing… you can download free, printable coloring pages by Coloring Group members — including me — at the Free Coloring Pages page at ColoringGroup.com.

Construction – or reconstruction – in progress!

The site update project…? It’s now at the Totally Messy stage of things, and it may be like this all summer. I’m merging some of my other art sites with this one.

For the moment, SantaFlamingo.com is offline.

WildArtDolls.com is online for the moment, but I’ve just imported all of its articles. This means some of my categories are duplicated, garbled, or otherwise weird. A few articles may be, as well.

Update: The files have been moved and updated. If you see a broken link on any of my doll-related webpages, let me know in a comment. Thanks!

And, of course, I’m working on this (again) in the middle of major changes in my life… including a move. As of this morning, HT and I aren’t sure if we’re staying in Florida, heading back to New Hampshire, or doing something else altogether. (The marriage is fine. The question is about the best location for our respective careers… at least until winter.)

So, I appreciate your patience as I reorganize, restructure, and generally tweak this site (and others) and make Aisling.net a one-stop resource for mixed media art… and a whole lot more.

Disneyland Tribute for My Mom (Fantasyland game)

Disneyland is celebrating its 55th anniversary.  I’m commemorating it with an artistamp design featuring art by my mother, Muriel Joan Bernier (1919 – 2010).

The artwork at left, which was also on the Fantasyland board game, was based on my mother’s art.

She freelanced for Disney in the 1950s. I remember her drawing lots & lots of versions of the castle, for Walt Disney and Parker Brothers (the game manufacturer) to approve.  Some versions were tall & skinny. Others were very broad and sturdy, like castles in England and Wales.

My mother’s drawing style was distinctive. I’d recognize it anywhere. She’d start with very simple shapes — ovals, cylinders, squares, and circles — and then adjust the lines.

She did a lot with shading, to get the effects she wanted. She liked contrast in her work. (That wasn’t always possible when she freelanced for Rust Craft, creating greeting cards & wrapping paper designs.)

The next photo shows the final version of the game artwork. (Yes, Bugs Bunny was among the characters entering the castle. I’m not sure if Mum did that deliberately, or if it was a whim of hers, just for fun.)

Disney Fantasyland board game 1956 Muriel
Fantasyland board game (1956), artwork by Muriel Bernier

My mother passed away earlier this year, and — I’m not sure why — she didn’t want me to post her artwork online.  (My mother’s always been eccentric.  Once she decides something, she rarely changes her mind.  Questioning her was pointless.)

This, however, gets around that.  The images were already online… just not credited to her.

So, I created the artistamp at the top of this article, as a tribute.  Ordinarily, I add my artistamp postal name — Ballynafae — and a postage amount (usually 3p) to make my artistamps look more stamp-like.  In this case, it didn’t seem right, so I added the basic text and here it is, as-is.

You can download it as a stamp-sized image (PDF), either with a stamp-like edge (as a graphic), or as shown above.

Creative Inspirations – Quotations

Quotations inspire me.  They always have.  When a quotation sparks my creativity or makes me smile, it’s like the person is at my side saying, “You can do it! Go for it!”

So, as I’m taking a course in online videos, I created this video with some of my favorite quotations as well as some photos that seem to highlight what they mean to me.

The photographs

The following photographers’ pictures appear in this video.

Ali Taylor, UK – Rushing water

Ariel da Silva Parreira, Mexico – Iceberg; lights on road (Rauschenberg quote)

Asif Akbar, India – Brick wall; old (green) building (Anne Maybe quote); Temple (Picasso quote); bicycle photo (Jeff Beck quote); opening and closing graphics

Christophe Libert, France – Runners leaping hurdles

Flavio Takemoto, Brazil – Spectrum of colors (Thurman quote)

Justyna Furmanczyk, Poland – Poppy in field

Leonardini, Ukraine – Butterfly photo

Remiguisz Szczerbak, Poland – Open window (Ebert quote)

Zanetta Hardy, USA – Autumn leaves

The quotations

“The voice our our original self is often muffled, overwhelmed, even strangled by the voices of other people’s expectations.” — Julia Cameron

“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” — Martha Graham

“I don’t think you have to do anything to make your life into a work of art — it is one. What you have to do is observe it, be aware of the weirdness, beauty and artistry that occurs every day.” — Anne Maybe

“What you do instead of your work is your real work.” — Roger Ebert

“When you are doing what is right, it all starts to click and fits into place. It is not that you don’t have challenges, but you have the tools to meet the challenges.” — from ‘Manifesting Your Heart’s Desire’ by Fengler & Varnum

“Taste is the enemy of creativeness.” — Pablo Picasso

“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.” — David Bayles & Ted Orland, in ‘Art and Fear’

“As long as there’s something original going on, that’s all that really matters.” — Jeff Beck

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” — Robert Hughes

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” — Henry David Thoreau

“Don’t ask what the world needs. As what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

Music (sound track)

The music in this video is ‘Back to Back’ by Father Rock.

Elsewhere online

You can see this video (or share it with others) at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH0vSSttzBU

I’ve also created a Squidoo lens for this video:  Creative Inspirations – Quotations

The Art of Making Art

One of my recent oil sketchesRecently, someone asked if the art of making art is putting it together.

That’s a good question… with two different answers.

Oh, I could say, “Art is what you make it,” or “Art is where you find it.”  That’d be the flippant reply.

However, the genus — the germ of the inspiration — of the art isn’t quite that easy to find.

Process v. Product

For some people, art is in the finished product. They aren’t thrilled with what it takes to get there, but they become experts at technique just so they can see the original idea manifested as a finished work of art.

For others, art is in the process.  They find delight in every step of creating the art, or at least in the happy discoveries.

When their art is finished, maybe they keep it, maybe they don’t.  For them, the joy of the creative process was the real reward.

And, some artists enjoy both the process and the delight of seeing the completed work.

It’s a “shades of grey” kind of deal.

How I work

I’m a process person.  For me, nearly half of the creative process is how different the world looks to me, as I’m working on any related to art.

I notice more colors. I appreciate the light and shadow in the landscape.  Even if I’m watching a movie, I’ll notice how the director used color or lighting to emphasize something in the plot.

Older movies such as Dr. Zhivago and Queen of the Damned did that very deliberately.

Zhivago is quite stark and an interesting history.  Look at how the scenes favored black and white, until something emotional and/or dramatic was about to happen, and the color red is used.

Queen is over-the-top and gruesome, but the colors made it worth watching.  Notice the limited palette of colors at the beginning, and how each plot step adds another color to the scenery.  There are some exceptions to that rule, as you’d expect from the quality of the film.  I saw that movie twice, just to study the use of color in it. (If you know me in real life, I do not usually watch gruesome/vampire movies.)

As an artist, I’m less interested in the mechanics of a technique than in how that technique inspires me to try something new.

So, I might work with materials in ways that’d make a purist turn pale.  For me, it’s about the energy and inspiration, not the technical details.  I’m only interested in the technical aspects as far as they’re absolutely necessary to achieve my goals.

Generally, those goals include:

  • Creative exploration,
  • The expression of the initial creative vision, and
  • Achieving that “in flow” experience that accompanies moments in which my entire focus is on art and beauty.

Keep going

If I pause to contrast the work in progress with some precise finished image, I’m lost.  That’s where the inner critic rages forth, ready to rip my efforts to shreds, point out my shortcomings, and convince me that I’m not really a very good artist, after all.  (That’s when I re-read The War of Art, and recover my sense of creativity.)

However, that’s me. That’s what it means to be process-oriented.

Others’ opinions

I’ve talked with other artists who always have to hold that precise, finished image in their minds, and work steadfastly towards it.  For them, the process is a sometimes-inconvenient means of achieving what they want to create.

So, for me, the art is in putting the art together.  It’s in the process.

That doesn’t make me more or less of an artist than the person whose entire focus — and joy — is in the finished work… or someone in-between those two extremes.

Vital reading if you’re an uncertain artist:
[ASA]0446691437[/ASA]

Art as emotional education

This morning, I read an interesting quote from David Brooks, “While our scholastic education is formal and supervised, our emotional education, the one we glean on our own from artists and musicians, is more important to our long-term happiness.”

I had never thought about art (and music, which I include in “the arts”) as emotional education. It’s an appropriate concept, and especially important and vital in an era when values are shifting away from merit-as-price-tag and status-based evaluation.

It’s also important as we consider even more budget cuts in our schools, and how we can resolve deficit-related issues that are (or will be) affecting our daily lives… such as what our children are taught in school.

Unless we ensure that art remains in people’s educations — particularly future generations’ — they may lose sight of the importance of the arts.

Vatican-ColumnsThat’s already happened, and it’s one reason why so many artists struggle to survive as full-time artists.

We’ve fallen far from the time when influential families (such as the Medicis) made certain that their communities had access to the very best art possible.

Then again, a quick glance at the actual art incorporated in architecture confirms that this has been a growing issue for centuries. When we have to mandate 1% for art, and similar programs, and compare that with the amount of visible, permanent art in the buildings we revere from the past… well, the contrast is startling.

petroglyphs_venezuelaWhether we’re talking about the pyramids, cathedrals, or caves in France, the conversations almost always return to the art that’s part of them.  In structures such as the pyramids and cathedrals, that art was permanent.  It wasn’t entirely art — such as paintings and free-standing sculptures — displayed there, it was an integral part of the structure.

That’s an appropriate analogy for what’s happened to art in our society, and our values.

What will people spend money on, as an innate, knee-jerk reaction? A quick survey of the “impulse items” at the grocery store check-out line reveals what appeals to us as a society: Candy, and publications featuring unhappy gossip.

sketching-monalisaIn most households, “original art” is grade-school work temporarily housed on the front of the refrigerator.

Commercial reproductions of art (paintings and photos) aren’t the same as original art, but they’re better than nothing.

I’m not sure what it will take to restore original art — in general — as a valuable part of our everyday lives.

Yes, one can argue that some art sells for astronomically high prices, particularly at auction.   However, that art is generally purchased by people whose educations — at the finest schools money can buy — as well as their home environments, taught them the value of art.

In today’s economy, when we propose additional art education in our schools, the retort is, “Yes, but who’s going to pay for it?”

My flippant response might be: The arts need a bailout (or a resurgence) more than companies realizing the logical consequences of mismanagement.

In fact, we don’t just need a resurgence of the arts… they may be vital to our future survival.

When we look at world and local headlines, the emotional toll of violence is clear.  The logical (and very emotional) response to violence is, “How could anyone do that…?”

Perhaps some of those acts of violence are committed as carelessly as some people — oblivious to the love and care of a gardener — trample plants and flowers to create a “shortcut” to where they’re going.

It gets back to education.  It’s not just telling people that art is valuable, it’s showing them its emotional value.  And, it goes beyond a one-hour-a-week class.  This kind of appreciation for art must begin in the home.

However, I’m also mindful of what’s practical. This won’t be achieved overnight, and probably not in one generation.

newgrange-250w-pdphotoWe have to start somewhere.

In an economy defaulting to one-income households — which were the norm when I was growing up — perhaps we can take the time to volunteer as artists in the schools.

I’m aware that this sets a dangerous precedent, and school administrators may then expect art and art instruction to be provided, free of charge.

I’d counter that argument with the popularity of concerts.  Because we are exposed to popular music daily on radio and TV — free of charge — people continue to place a high value on concerts.

My point is: To recover the perceived value of art, particularly the visual arts, we have to begin somewhere.  We need to educate people — starting with children — about the importance of art, not just as art but as Brooks’ said, “emotional education.”

It may take a generation or two to even begin this project.  However, it’s a vital project not just for artists but for our society.

You could volunteer at

  • a Scout troop,
  • a community center,
  • a daycare center,
  • a church, or
  • a school.

It could be a weekly or monthly commitment — for as long as you’re able to — or a one-time event.

Whether you teach others to create art or about the arts, or take a child (your own or neighbors’) to an art gallery or museum, or read a book about art with your book club or your family, start now.

It’s not just about art, it’s about emotional education.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Teddy Roosevelt.

Photo credits:
Vatican columns – Sorina Bindea, Romania
Petroglyphs in Venezuela – Franklin Carrera, Venezuela
Street artist – Valentina Jori, Italy
Newgrange carvings – Jon Sullivan, US (PDPhoto.org)

You can reprint this article (and its illustrations) on your own website if you like, as long as the article remains intact and has a link back to Aisling.net.