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.
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.
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 deepening layers
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,
Throughout this year, I’ve been developing a new series of paintings. Earlier this year I wrote about the very beginning phases of this new series. I have continued working through additional pieces in the series focused on the visual symbol of the sphere. The sphere (or circle) has been a fascinating vehicle for so many ideas running through my thoughts and for translating experiences from real life. The spheres I have painted have been containers of color, thought, pattern, brush strokes, design, and internal processes.
A few weeks ago I finished “Spheres of Connection”. It seems appropriately titled since we just celebrated one year in our new home and new community. So much has been brought full circle in our lives and for that I am deeply grateful.
Next week at the art fair in Lake Geneva, WI, I’ll be debuting the newest piece in my ongoing spheres series entitled “Spheres of Diversity”. The news stories of the summer have highlighted again the diversity of struggles still facing our culture in so many arenas. One question that strikes me is how different would our world be if we would look more for the beauty in our diversity instead of the divide? My sense is that the time has come to focus on uncovering the beauty in our complex stories and unique experiences so that together we can be voices who bring a new focus, a fresh hope and eyes of wisdom to the deep hurt and divide in our culture.
Dear Creative Heart,
What are your creative influences?
Are you influenced by…
- where you live?
- the people you live with?
- the physical surroundings in your home or workplace?
- classes or professional studies in a particular area?
- past work experiences?
- past life experiences?
- the books you’ve read?
- the places you’ve visited?
- the things you have chosen to do or not to do?
- places you visit on a frequent basis?
- once in a lifetime experiences?
- things you value?
- your life priorities?
- your tradition and culture?
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…