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 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.
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.
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.