Posts in Category: creativity

Deep Focus

Illumination #3 36×36 2017©Melynda Van Zee

In this new year I’ve been thinking about deep focus- how sometimes I achieve it and sometimes I wander so far from the path. I accomplished some big tasks over the last season of creating art and sharing my work at art fairs and exhibits. Some of my work is more visible from the outside and some of it is unground and deeper quiet work that is much harder to detect. I was so struck by the words of Carol Green who so eloquently said, “Ultimately, what takes an artist to the next level is the integrity and presence of the art they make.” (Carol Green of Green Naftali Gallery in NY) She captures in succinct language the type of art that I believe flows out of periods of deep concentration and focus.

Deep focus is an all too rare commodity in our culture today. We are well aware of the many distractions that can so easily pull us out of places of flow and concentration no matter the type of work we do. I’ll admit that over the past two months I have experienced competing forces pulling for my time and attention and I allowed some things to fall off my schedule. It is easy for creatives to battle feelings of guilt when they drop out of activities for periods of time instead of celebrating focused attention to the large work at hand. The message our culture sends is that you have to be more, share more, do it all…when in reality these activities may be in direct opposition to the activities that will actually help you create the deep and meaningful work you long to produce. I don’t think the works of presence and integrity that our society so desperately needs in so many fields of study can occur without this ongoing deep focus of mind, spirit and heart.

The Battle of Creative Courage

Dear Creative Heart,

This is the time of year that I am spending hours in the studio fighting the battle of creative courage. It is the time of year when all the time spent dreaming and reflecting about what I will be creating in 2017 starts to unfold.

When the sun is shining and light is pouring through the windows of my upstairs sunroom studio, it helps me to find the inspiration to put the brush to canvas.

You can also find me this time of the year in my basement studio. This is a much bigger space so I have room for canvases in various stages from beginning to end. Some are drying from a layer of gesso which is the very first layer I apply to canvas. Some canvases have just had the clear line work laid down, and some have reached the finishing stages-ready for the sides to be painted and the multiple protective layers of isolation coat and varnish to be applied. 

So many pieces are in progress right now…but still I work from this place of not knowing. It is in this place of not knowing where the battle of creative courage intensifies on an hourly and daily basis.

This is the place where I have to remind myself time and again that listening to what is in my heart is the way to taking the next step.

This is the place where I am deeply grateful that I have to opportunity to wrestle with translating thought, feeling and experience to the canvas in vibrant color.

Keep creating friends.

Keep ushering art into your life in all its various forms.

Look for the light, it is waiting to be found.

With Passion,

Melynda

Why all the swirls?

Emerging Through 36 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Emerging Through
36 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

One of the most frequent questions I get asked in my art booth is some version of “Why all the swirls?” I love this question! I’ve always sketched and doodled swirls, spirals, waves and circles. My notebooks/diaries/journals have been full of spirals since a young age. I even have my childhood Spirograph sitting in my studio. However, it wasn’t until several years ago when I was exploring creating a body of work involving spirals, that I began to connect the dots in my own visual language journey. I started to research the deep symbolism of the spiral (and by “research” I mean standing in the Minneapolis Institute of Art book store browsing a book on symbolism in art) where I discovered two interesting things. First, the spiral is the most commonly found form in nature-I had NO IDEA!?! Really, the most common??? I also read that for centuries the spiral has been the visual symbol for growth and transformation.

This idea connected with me- it made sense at very deep personal level. I have a background in education and art. For years, I’ve been teaching and encouraging the processes of growth and change. I love to read books about the creative process and how it helps to facilitate openness to change. I discovered in that moment for the first time that these things that I was creating intuitively, made sense to me on intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels as well. Basically, my head was catching up with my heart.

emerging-through-2

I also think on some level this research somehow internally gave validity to my visual pursuit of this series of work. It makes me feel so “human” to admit that I had to wrestle internally and for years to find the value in my own creative processes. I’m still on this growth curve, but I have learned to be more aware of what my art is teaching me about my own life and moving through life with those around me.

emerging-through-3

We are all swirling and spiraling through stages and phases. Some are more colorful that others. Some come with more pain, some with more joy and they are all a part of this process called life. So, I paint the spirals and loops and movement capturing bits of emotion and life experiences on the canvas as I go. Each stroke a brief glimpse into this human experience- full of movement, transitions, transformations, and change.

Noticing the colors,

the drips,

the surprises,

the intersections,

the overlapping,

the deepening layers

emerging through.

The Rollercoaster of Creativity

Pathway of Life 30 x 40  Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Pathway of Life
30 x 40
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

This summer we joined our extended family on a day trip to the local amusement park. Of course, the older kids wanted to head to the brand new roller coaster the minute they entered the park. As they sprinted across the park to be first in line to try out the multiple upside down twisting “Monster”, so aptly named, I somehow thought I should be the “adult” and safely accompany them on the roller coaster ride. The line was short early in the morning, but once safely strapped in the ride…the anticipation was long…what was I thinking?!? Trying to booster the enthusiasm of my fellow riders, I was all confidence, but inside…I was seriously wondering if I was thinking straight by putting myself in such a situation. The ride took us straight up-and then straight down and head long into a series of upside down twists which resulted in us hanging in mid air only secured in place by the heavy lap brace.

the-monster-1

The sense of weightlessness, which seemed to hang on and on, is what got to me the most, a sense of such powerlessness while being flung through the air- really wondering if we were going to be hanging like that for a lifetime. I survived the ride. I even kind of liked it, but to be honest, I let the kids take another aunt along for the next ride and decided to keep my feet on the ground for the rest of the day.

the-monster-2

Here in the studio, I just finished a couple of BIG creative goals. The kind of goals that were totally out of my comfort zone with possibly big ramifications for my creative work. They were “next level commitment” kinds of goals-incredible opportunities, but each one took me for its own internal emotional and creative roller coaster ride through the waiting to start, fretting, and repeatedly putting myself physically in the seat in front of my computer. Completing the goals meant multiple times at my studio work space over a series of months- battling out individual steps that were uncomfortable, forcing me to make creative decisions, causing me to ask for help, and making me commit in specific directions.

If you asked me if I was glad I did it, the answer would be YES on all accounts (riding the Monster and completing my creative goals), but they weren’t comfortable processes and they pushed my limits. The process of creativity can throw us for a loop-sending us through a roller coaster of emotions as we complete our creative goals-causing us to face the unknown, our numerous fears and our own perfectionism. I’m quite sure my finished projects aren’t perfect. I’m quite sure they could even be a bit stronger, but this is where I am today and for today all that is required is that I took the ride and said YES to the next step in this adventure called life.