Dear Creative Heart,
What are your creative influences?
Are you influenced by…
No matter what type of creative activities you pursue, whether that is creative thinking on the job, creative parenting, creative pursuits such as painting, writing, sculpting, photography, you are using your creative muscles multiple times a day as you solve the problems you encounter in the many aspects of your life both personally and professionally.
I’ve been thinking lately about what are the key things that influence my own creative work. I find some things are easier to discern and recognize in my own work than other things. I also am keenly aware that sometimes we are so close to our own influences and personal stories that it is easy to underestimate the ways that they seep into our work and creative solutions. I know I’m influenced by where I live-I am a creative living in the heart of the prairie in central Iowa. I know my relationships with the people who surround me in my personal life show up in the emotions and colors I create with on canvas. I’m becoming more aware of how my past experiences as a professional educator color the way I approach my creative work and the business of being a creative. I am certain that my love of reading and books challenges and grows the way I think and experience the world.
In a recent painting I was surprised to find one of my past explorations into the world of science creep into my work. When I was in college I was faced with the decision to choose a science class and studying the stars seemed a better choice than all the other options, so I signed up for a year of astronomy. I had no idea the amount of actual math and science (!?!!!) that would be involved in the course, but lab time spent gazing through the huge telescope in the observatory at our professor’s house more than captured my active imagination. And so at random interactions in my life, my interest in astronomy is peeked-a visit to NASA in Florida, solar eclipses, red moons, and now… gravitational waves. I’ve been a bit mesmerized by the recent scientific news this year scientists have been able to measure gravitational waves, which are ripples in the fabric of space time that are created when black holes collide. Predicted by Einstein in 1915-1916, studied for decades and now the year 2016 will be going down in history as the year that successful detection of gravitational waves occurred. I really am the farthest thing from a science junky, but thoughts like “What would it be like to experience the energy created when black holes collide?” and “What would the collision of black holes really look like?” have fascinated my mind.
And, as these thoughts and random scientific articles floated through my mind, I designed a painting. When I looked back at the line work several weeks later-I wondered if this might be a mere imperfect impression-a bit of intuitive artistic imagination on my part colliding with my scientific reading…I’m still pondering about it, but I do know that this painting experience stirred something deep within me.
Dear Creative Heart, my encouragement for you to today is to reflect on your unique life and study how these influences maybe showing up in your creative work. Repeat again and again…
We are so pleased to announce that Melynda Van Zee’s original paintings are now being showcased at Boat’s Home Furnishings in their Showrooms. You may visit Boats Home Furnishings at 620 Franklin Street in Pella, IA. Their gorgeous front windows are a treat as you stroll down the downtown streets of Pella and once you step inside there are so many more beautiful things to see in their expansive showrooms.
Dear Creative Heart,
I’m sending out this letter a couple of days later in the month than I usually write. We just got back from our summer vacation.
This is what I did on my summer vacation…
Yes, we fish. We go to a beautiful cabin by lake in Canada and fish. Fish for “monster walleye” as my boys like to say. What you see here is me with one of my monster walleyes (I caught a few and a nice big pike too). Check out that huge fish in my hand and my big smile of accomplishment, but what I want to point out is what you don’t see in this photo…
What you don’t see is all the hard work to get to this point…all the steps involved in getting this smiling photo with a big fish from a fishing trip…
And so it is with creativity and making…
When someone walks into my art booth and admires a finished work, they don’t necessarily grasp all the steps required for that piece to hang before their eyes. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How long does it take you to finish a painting like that?” That is an extremely difficult question for artists to answer. How do you account for all the of the labor involved in each piece from conception, beginning sketches, gathering supplies, multiple layers of paint and dry time, to stopping and starting and analyzing along the way, to finishing details like final layers of isolation coat, painting sides black, two protective coats of varnish, titles, and hanging wires? How do you factor in the care and feeding of the artist-emotionally, physically, spiritually? What about the sacrifices of others who help and support our creative processes? (Not only did my grandparents teach me to fish as a child, but they also helped me order my first paintbrushes from an art catalog). All of these tasks and steps are hidden inside each of the paintings on the wall and behind each snapshot of a smiling fisherman with a prize fish in hand.
Dear Creative Heart-don’t underestimate the system of tasks and steps that support your creativity. Dedicate time to finding your own “monster walleye” and please share the big smile with us all.
Dear Creative Heart,
Last summer we moved to new community due to my husband’s new job. A part of that journey was moving away from a community that my husband and I had been a part of for over twenty years. Now, one of the great things about our move is that we did not move terribly far away so we are able to go back frequently to see friends and family. One of the other great things about our move has been my new spaces. The last few months have found me not only settling into our new home, but setting up new places to create and store my artwork. In the photo above, you see a peek inside what I like to call my “color studio”. This is where I do most of my actual painting. The natural light is fabulous for doing all my vibrant color work.
When I was a child I used to spend Sunday afternoons curled up in front of our sliding glass door reading a book. I loved soaking up the warmth of the light streaming through the huge pane of glass-I guess I’ve never outgrown that love of light. This room is definitely one of my happy places. Just opening the door, walking in, and soaking up the sunshine inspires me. Of course, I’m not quite as motivated when the sun is not shining or the Iowa temperatures have dipped into the freezing zones. One of the other challenges of this room was…the beautiful, spotless carpet…who could think about painting on that?!? So this fall, after thinking about it for quite awhile, I purchased a large canvas style drop cloth (complete with plastic liner on the reverse side). At some point quite a while ago, I had seen a photo of an artist who created a floor cloth covered with squares. In the squares she added favorite quotes. I loved this idea, but I’m not much of a “square” girl, so I decided to grab a Sharpie and fill my floor cloth with circles. (I promise this train of thought is going somewhere…)
And, now from that one random act of creativity, has unexpectedly grown a brand new series of work. After painting for months with these circles underfoot, I guess they started to sink deep into me. One day I picked up my cell phone and photographed small interesting compositions within the floor cloth…I studied the photos…and designed a 20 x 20 painting which I then exhibited this February at the Des Moines Women’s Club art show.
I played some more with the compositions and began designing small sets of paintings with this circle theme. I researched in more depth the symbolism of circles…they signify wholeness, completion, energy, eternity, the self, focus, centering, mobility, the sacred, the divine, protective boundaries. The lists go on and on about the deep and profound symbolism of the circle. And, while I am still reflecting personally on what the symbolism of the circle means to me at this point in my journey, I do know that for whatever reason, I have been intimately drawn to create them during the last few months-they seem to be such a natural continuum in my work.
Dear Creative Heart– all that being said, I’ve reminded myself once again that sometimes what seems like a small “side project” (taking a Sharpie and drawing circles on a drop cloth) can actually turn into “the project”…the next step. Remember to look closely under your feet- your next creative project may indeed be just that close.
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