Spring: The Season of Rebirth

Don’t let anything hold you back…especially yourself.

Spring has sprung my dear readers!  And so must we.  It’s time to hatch, come out of the cocoon, wake up from hibernation, reinvent ourselves for the year.  What better way to do that then through art.

I’m here to share another one of my recent homemade card creations.  It’s been awhile since I made a brain painting, but let’s just say I was inspired!  This time I’ve included the card’s message, which is posted in the above caption.

I think many times we focus on what holds us back in life– work, family responsibilities, money, health, etc.  But at the end of the day, we make our own choices and decide how our day and our life will be.

It’s a mind game that we’ve created, setting our own limitations, but we can always choose not to play.  If you could step outside yourself, or who you think of as yourself, for one day, who would you choose to be?  What would you accomplish?  Would you take time to just BE?

Well, guess what?  The time is now.  I’m giving you permission to set yourself free.  Now go fly!

Drawing Your Way to Your Dreams

As a lifelong insomniac, I decided to make a sketch of me sleeping peacefully in the future 🙂

What if I told you your ideal future starts with a single drawing?

That’s exactly what Patti Dobrowolski suggests in her TED talk “Draw Your Future.”  She says that if you draw the reality that you want, your brain will find a way to make it happen.

Don’t worry about whether you are good at drawing.  Just make the sketch specific to exactly what you want your future to look like.  Remember to draw yourself happy 🙂  And then color your drawing in with vibrant colors.  Because the more vivid the picture, the better your brain will respond.

The key is to follow these three steps: see it, believe it, and then act on it.

This technique isn’t just for individuals, like artists and entrepreneurs, either.  Big name companies are using this method to get their employees motivated to find solutions for team projects.  It brings new meaning to the phrase “Two heads are better than one.”

What does your future look like?  Draw it and find out!

Notebooks of the Mind

I came across an interesting concept while reading an article in the SCBWI Bulletin called “Jotting Things Down” by Anne Sibley O’Brien.  She referenced a term called “Notebooks of the Mind,” which I just thought sounded so cool!  And mysterious.  But what does it mean?  Did you ever keep a journal or diary growing up?  Or what about when you had that great thought or idea while standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at a restaurant and you had to scribble it down on a napkin so you didn’t forget it.  All of these scribbles and sketches cumulate into “Notebooks of the Mind” or windows into our soul.  A lot of it seems meaningless at the time, and truthfully, much of it may never amount to anything tangible.  But it’s fodder.  Fuel for that project you’re envisioning or maybe something else yet to be discovered.  And when you go back to it, it’s like walking through a museum of memories, which is also fun.

If you’re not convinced of the importance of jotting things down, remember this:  “Creativity did not descend like a bolt of lightning that lit up the world in a single brilliant flash.  It came in tiny steps, bits of insight, and incremental changes.  Zigs and zags.  When people followed those zigs and zags, ideas and revelations started flowing.”  -Keith Sawyer, author of Zig Zag

Benjamin Franklin didn’t just get hit by lightning.  He kept notebooks, too.

I have my own journals at home.  20 or so of them, actually, collected over the years–consisting of poem fragments, stray thoughts, jumbled up text, old ticket stubs, magazine collages, scratches, and sketches.  Some of it will never see the light of day, but it’s useful nonetheless.  My small treasures.  The Notebooks of MY Mind.

What’s going on in my brain?  Here’s a sneak peek, circa 2003.

notebook of my mind

Now, I want to know, what’s going on in yours?

 

Mind Worm

When I attended the Midwest SCBWI conference last spring, I had the chance to hear author Franny Billingsley speak.  She talked about the power of fear and how important it is to understand what scares your main character the most and then exploit it.

To explain this, she started out by introducing the term “Mind Worm.”  Yes, it really exists (at least metaphorically speaking)!  The Mind Worm burrows into the brain and in so doing discovers an individual’s dreams and fears.  The Mind Worm then has the power to create an event that forces the person to go on a unique adventure designed to help the person learn something deeper about him or herself.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  The writer is a Mind Worm!

How can you be a Mind Worm for your main character?  Start by pushing your character out of his or her comfort zone.  Push your character to her limits.  Make him squirm.  Make her jump right out of her skin!  A powerful antagonist can help with this.  So can an unforeseen event or tragedy.

Then see what happens.  Guaranteed the character will be forced to grow and change.  Which is what we want, isn’t it?  That’s how we create someone to root for and maybe even identify with.  Someone to believe in.  And once your readers are invested in your main character, they’re ten times more likely to follow him or her until the end.

So my advice to you today is:  Be a Mind Worm.  See where it takes you.  More importantly, see where it takes your character.

Tour of My Mindwork Art Exhibition

Greetings 🙂  Can you believe it’s the end of October already?  I hope many of you had a chance to see my recent art exhibit at the Troy Public Library.  But if you didn’t, don’t fret!  You can still take the virtual tour now.  Enjoy!  (Don’t forget to let your mind wander…)

Mindwork honors the mind as both creator and creation.

That’s all for now…  Until next time!

Out of My Mind: A Lesson in Mindfulness

The other day I came across some photographs taken on an old cell phone.  This treasure was one of them.  It’s a photo of my first brain painting, which was a gift to an artist friend.  She and I were having a discussion about “growing old” (whatever that means) and death.  I thought perhaps a meditation on illness and the body/organs through art might bring out the humor of the situation.  We often expect art to be aesthetically pleasing.  As a culture, we have a certain idea of what is beautiful, namely youth and perfection.  But what makes art beautiful and people beautiful are the imperfections.

When deciding on a title for this piece, a lot of different ideas came to mind: I’m Coming Out!, Departure, and The Final Frontier.  After I came up with the current title, Out of My Mind, I had to pause for a moment to consider its implications:  This phrase literally refers to the mental state of being “crazy.”  But what does it really mean to be crazy anyway?  It has such a negative connotation…just like disease and death…and art that is not “beautiful.”  I realized that this title was then quite fitting for this piece which honors the beauty in illness and imperfection.

Actually, the zen practice of “mindfulness” requires being in the present moment and stepping out of your thoughts.  Letting them pass by you like swimming fish.  You can notice them, but you don’t become consumed by them.  One of my favorite mantras comes from my yoga teacher.  Practice saying, “I am not a body.  I am not a mind,” as you breath in and out.  Do that a few times and see how different you feel about yourself and your current situation.  It’s guaranteed to lower your stress levels.  And if you’re an artist like me, it’s a great method to use when you notice you’re stuck in your work.  Mindfulness implies mental focus, but it is just the opposite.  Often when we think we’re stuck in our writing or art, we’re simply too close to it or overly focused on the minutia of it.

So let’s all practice stepping out of our minds.  Take my advice.  Get a little bit crazy!  Enjoy the view from the final frontier.  It’s beautiful out here 🙂

To read more about my brain paintings, click here.

“Wombifest”

There’s a great article in the Nov. 2012 issue of EXPERIENCE L!FE magazine.  Maternity lifestyle expert Latham Thomas was interviewed about how women can get the most out of their pregnancy.  Check out Mama Glow, which features her new book with the same name.

As a writer, what I found most interesting was her comparison  of babies to ideas and how we, in a sense, give birth to them.  She likens the creative process to “wombifesting.”

LT– “It’s focusing on the womb, the place in the body that’s connected with everything we create, and understanding that everything is born from darkness…The energy here is always fluid and flowing; all you have to do is show up and lend yourself to the process…Womb-ifestation happens inside of you and then moves out into the world. The growth is not necessarily witnessed by others.”

Continuing with the brain paintings, here is my interpretation of this concept.

Calligraphy Ink on Mixed Media Paper

I call it: Incubation.  I feel a little like Victor in Frankenstein when I say that 😉  The interesting part about the process is that I used chopsticks with calligraphy ink to create this piece.  As you probably guessed, ink is quite permanent and chopsticks are not very precise.  It was very scary because I knew there wasn’t much I could do if I made a mistake.  At the same time, it was liberating to just create without relying too much on a given outcome.  What would be would be.  And that is at the heart of incubating an idea.  ❤

Brain Still Life

brain series; acrylic

So, let’s all breathe a sigh of relief now that we are at the end of the brain paintings… for now.  I saved the comic relief for last.  This painting calls to mind another visit to the Toledo Museum of Art.  I remarked to my friend that I was not fond of “still life” paintings.  In a word, I found them boring.  Nothing is happening.  No action.  They usually contain fruit.  I’m a writer.  I like a story.

I hope that you can imagine a story when you look at this painting.  I hope it at least arouses suspicion, a question or two.  Unless you are like me and didn’t study the painting much because as soon as you saw it was another still life, you yawned and moved on.

I guess I’m a hypocrite, too, because I’ve always been fond of drawing bottles.  I like working with shadows.  Now I’m also learning to work with light.

What if we served our mind up on a platter?  Like the piece of meat that it is.  Letting go of our thoughts like drifting clouds.  How would we feel?  Empty?  Free?  Think about that, then let it go.  Bon appetit!

Heart Mind

brain series; acrylic

I hope I can do this piece justice in my explanation.  I will first talk about how the idea came about.  I had seen an Egyptian exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art.  I remember reading about how past civilizations believed the brain was just a useless mass, so they removed it and did not retain it in a sacred jar like other organs.  The heart was believed to be where mental function took place and was left intact.  I started thinking about how we now know the brain to be the center of thought and emotion, yet we still refer to our hearts in terms of love and feelings.  What does this mean?

I decided to research the heart further.  As it turns out, the heart has many nerves running through it, not just blood vessels.  This suggests that perhaps the brain and heart are connected on a deeper level.  Perhaps they are even mirrors of each other.  Twins working independently and simultaneously.  But in the end, which is which?  Do they influence each other?

I came across another term in my research: Bodhicitta.  This is part of Buddhism.  It is a term denoting an awakening of the mind that unites compassion and wisdom (the heart and the mind).  It basically refers to the idea of enlightenment whereby you see your connection to the universe and all beings and let go of the sense of self and ego.  I especially liked the idea that a person can still follow his or her vocation as long as he or she is motivated to help others in the process.

Some other interesting words to note: “Kokoro,” is a Japanese word referring to the heart AND mind.  The Chinese word would be “xin.”  Imagine if we all used our collective “heart mind,” which is essentially one in the same!

So getting back to the painting, I wanted to convey the idea of the heart and mind connection.  I wondered what would happen if I painted a heart where the brain (or head) would be and a brain where the heart would be.  I made the heart purple with gold light reflections because the crown chakra is represented by these colors.  I made the brain green with pink arteries because the heart chakra is represented by these colors.  I decided the heart should resemble the brain and vise versa.

How will you use your “heart mind” to help the world today?

The Fruit of Knowledge

brain series; acrylic

This piece is very special to me, partly because it took awhile to complete.  I had a struggle with it.  It is a reminder to the human spirit.  How we want to give up on something.  But to give up on it would be like giving up on ourselves, so we persist.  That is when the magic happens.

This piece has a lot of layers.  I’m always drawn to the story of Adam and Eve and particularly the garden.  The idea of knowledge.  The moment we received it.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to who is holding the apple and who is receiving it.

If you look closely, you might see another image in the painting.  The eye of the serpent.

The ultimate question: Is this knowledge a gift or a burden?

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