Thursday, December 22, 2005

What a concept

If you google "creativity coaching" you'll bring up more than 24,000 pages.

"Coaching" is a concept that originated in the corporate world of human resources, team building & leadership, and has developed a wider application in the realms of personal growth, job transition or new venture startup, & creativity.

Of course, many artists hum along very well on their own, finding their muse and their audience, never missing a beat. But there are critical phases (new beginnings, transitions, inquiry) where a coach can help things along more effectively than a new class, a gallery, a cohort or counselor.
A coach's only agenda is your progress, your discoveries, your decisions, your goals and your clear sailing towards them. They home in on your most heartfelt ambition and say things like, "Let's take a closer look at this thought that's stopping you," or, "What if we did some laser surgery on these obstacles in your way?" or "What would it look like if you were to think really, really big?" and "How can we manage the anxiety this will cause?" They challenge you, provide tech support & feedback, and leave you completely in charge.

I think coaching is well-suited to artists and other creative people because there's never an "off the shelf" solution. Each session is tailor-made to your own circumstances.

Comadre Coaching is the website of Nancy Marmolejo, who's fun, breezy & well-educated at the same time. She coaches women.
Eric Maisel is a well-known coach and author of books on creativity coaching.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Friendly Chaos


This notion is a direct affront to the German & Swiss DNA that I have, but it's true that chaos is always there, lurking just beneath the surface, so we might as well make friends with it.

When you think about it, isn't chaos the wellspring for all our bold, mysteriously beautiful creations?

Granted, a finished painting is usually considered to be the antithesis of chaos. Composition, color scheme, perspective, proportion, you know the drill. Trouble is, after you've worked hard to get all of those things right, you might still have a spiritless painting. Very pat. The kind of painting where you look at it once and say, "Wow, that's really good," and walk away, dismissing it from your mind & memory.

Watercolor has a special affinity for chaos. It tempts you to improvise.

Pick up a wild card, give a nod to the personal, unverifiable and unpredictable. Designate a "Chaos Appreciation Day" (or two, or more).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Here's something fun


Here's a link to an artist's statement that is a work of art in itself.
My friend Diane Findley has always done wonderful painting and pottery.

Even the paintings that she does "on-the-spot" are fanciful and overflowing with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Planet Vibes

Last Sunday we watched Can Animals Predict Disaster? on PBS.

When the tsunami hit Thailand & Sri Lanka last December, the only animals who died in the huge wave were the ones who were caged or chained. All the wildlife, including nocturnal bats, fled to higher ground, and chained elephants broke free. One man's life was saved when his dogs refused to go for their usual run on the beach that morning.

This phenomenon can be explained partly by the acute hearing that many animals are blessed with, and partly by the fact that many can sense "infrasound," low-frequency sound waves that can travel vast distances through water, earth or air.

It's well known that elephants in Africa will "freeze" with their trunks touching the ground, "listening". Their feet & trunks are sensitive to vibrations, and their awareness can extend to events up to 25 miles away. Predators like lions also have many nerve endings in their feet (Hmmm...maybe reflexologists know something about this.)

What does this have to do with painting outdoors? Like the elephants, we pay attention. We spend time in the open air observing the light, the weather, the colors and how they interact. The most important part of any painting is the quality and scope of our awareness, and the way we create meaning out of it.

When we go painting, our life isn't on the line, but it might feel like it sometimes!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Muses & critics

It’s all very well to proclaim (as in the previous post) that you don’t care what the critics say. But what standards *do* you have, what about the inner critic, or the people whose opinion you really do value? I asked the Guerrilla Painter what criteria he used to judge if a painting was successful, and he said, “Like the Supreme Court, I know it when I see it.” This reminded me of the wonderful book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. It revolves around the Socratic question: “And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good – need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

In the case of Giovanna Morganti (mentioned below), she follows the age-old tenets (decant only when necessary, keep the cellar clean, start with beautiful grapes, and taste often). In painting, there are tried-and-true techniques to practice as well. But who knows where our muse will take us? We have to follow, if we want to make our own paintings and not someone else's. Maybe your painting is good because your eye is like no other in discerning the mood of a scene. Maybe your brush can describe a lively energy, a graceful passage, a poignant combination of colors, a rich soulfullness or eloquent simplicity. Or, maybe the painting was fun to do or captured a memory for you, or was given away to someone, or taught you something about yourself or the world. Politely tell the critic (inner or otherwise) that "I appreciate your concern, but I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for the...(fill in the blank. For the practice, for the fun of it, for the blue herons, for the stars.)".

When I was starting out in college, getting serious about art, I read an interview with Bob Dylan where he said he didn’t have time to read what people wrote about him. At the time, I thought it strange, because I was involved in the left-brain study of ideas, opinions, philosophies,styles & techniques. Why wouldn't you participate in that? But it’s so true that the muses live in a completely different universe from the critics.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My sentiments exactly!

Did you hear the spot on NPR this morning by Sylvia Poggioli about traditional Italian wines? Reminded me so much of why we paint outdoors.

There is an untranslatable French word, "terroir," which means not just territory (they have another word for that) but the whole combination of soil, climate, and the work of the farmer. The synthesis of these three things produces something unique to a certain place & time.

Italy, of course, has a centuries-old tradition of winemaking. The past few decades, though, have seen winemakers in Italy catering to American wine critics, who determine the value of wines in this new global economy. The trend is toward "designer wines" and "individual works of art" with invented names, created for the American palate. What does this remind me of?

Enter the "Joan of Arc of wine," a woman named Giovanna Morganti, who is doing it the old way with traditional grapes. Here is a direct quote: "I don't send my wine to the big American critics; I don't care about their ratings; I don't want them to write about my wine."

Just insert "paintings" for "wine," and you have the perfect manifesto for a Guerrilla Painter.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Greetings, plein-air painters. Lady guerrilla here,

I'm interested in unconventional, non-competitive uses of painting. You might call it amateur painting, but only in the best sense of the word - doing something for the love of it. Dream-driven. This might include such things as:
~ painting as journaling; making a record of the season, a certain place, or a trip.
~ therapy for stress & overwork (what's that, you may ask...)
~ learning about the world by paying special attention to colors, shadows, proportion, etc. in whatever environment you might find yourself.
~ celebration, when you find yourself witnessing a unique event or creature, slant of light, color combination, etc.
~ playfulness or expressiveness (sometimes you just need to let loose) This might include painting on the walls, woodwork or furniture. What the heck.
~ how can you study the cause-and-effect that takes place on your palette & panel and NOT have insight into everyday interactions...?

This blog will cover the wide territory of painting outdoors (or on-site, wherever you might be). You may send questions & comments to my compatriot: sarah@phantomcanyonranch.com