In October 1971, I was a public school kindergarten teacher supervising the playground when one of my students came up to me with his older sister to ask a question: “Do you want a puppy?”
Without thinking, I responded with, “I don’t know, why?”
Their dog had recently given birth and they were looking for good homes for her puppies. They asked if I wanted to see one. “Sure, I said, ever polite, again not thinking.
A few minutes later they were back with an adorable black and white bundle with long flappy ears that was placed into the cradle of my arms. As the two kids quickly backed away, they called over their shoulders, “Mommy said if you hold her, you own her.” Off they went.
What a surprise ending of the day for me – and my unsuspecting husband when I carried the bundle into his downtown law office.
Brandy was a joy for years, the subject of all kinds of stories. She came into our life before our kids. Here are two ink line drawings I created while she slept:
How did your pet come into your life?
I can’t stop thinking about it…
The other day, some of our kids and grandkids came for a visit. Among them was our youngest grandchild, the cause of my curiosity.
Next month, she will be just 2½. She’s quite a character. She tries to be fiercely independent and walks with great confidence. Resolute in her opinions, last year she was going through that typical toddler stage at which she replied to every and any request with a determined “No!!!” When our son/her dad tried to urge her to say yes, she looked at him squarely in the eye, and insisted, “NO ‘yes’ daddy!”
She loves to draw, colour, and paint…
So, back to what happened the other day…
While everyone was interacting, I was busy laying out the food I’d prepared earlier in the day for a buffet. I noticed this little girl walk into the space between our dining room table and kitchen island, stop in her tracks, and stare at the painting resting on an easel in the corner of the dining room.
Fascinated to see such a young child study the painting so carefully, I stopped what I was doing to watch her. Just as I began wondering what thoughts were going through her head she turned to me, and declared,
“I don’t like it.”
I almost fell over.
“What?” I asked, not sure I heard her words correctly. “What did you say?”
“I don’t like it,” she repeated.
Now I was really fascinated, so I asked her, “Why don’t you like it?”
Her answer, “Because.”
No explanation. So, now, like a fool, I began pleading my case to this two year old. I told her I was the one who painted it and that I’d also painted the artwork behind her.
She turned to look, and immediately turned back to the first one. I mumbled on, pointing out again that I was the painter, that the subject was only flowers – and ended with the grand, “Who asked your opinion anyhow?”
I’d argued in vain. Unmoved, she barely glanced at me as she went off to continue playing with her cousins…
Later in the evening after everyone had left, I repeated the exchange with my husband Paul. He asked why I was feeling so sensitive.
On the contrary, I told him, I was fascinated. What about the painting prompted this two year old to stop, look and give an unasked for opinion? Why would she say she didn’t like it? What did she find disagreeable? I wished aloud that she could have had the ability to articulate the reason for her reaction. My musings led to the bigger picture, the question of criticism overall: understanding where it comes from, the person’s agenda, expertise, background, knowledge, our reaction to it, our own tendencies to be critical, etc.
I had conversations about it with others. “Out of the mouths of babes” and “She’s pure of heart” and “She knows what she likes” were some of their responses. Those discussions became deeper, leading to provocative debate over the definition of criticism, why people criticize, and whether there can be any value to critics generally.
See below for comments to this post…
Creativity and creative solutions can often come from setting very specific or restrictive parameters. Believe it.
Here’s an example…
While searching through my art portfolio, I found an art pad which included preliminary drawings for a painting challenge our class had been assigned. The object was to choose a subject while emphasizing in it something indicating or starting with the letters from A to L.
I decided to create a painting entitled Birds, From A to L, while adding another restriction: limiting the color/colour palette.
After extensive research and consideration, I carefully planned a draft on the sketch pad, dividing the proposed painting into sections:
A: Air > Thinking about how to depict the idea of air, I decided to show in the upper left corner a bird souring along with air balloons rising.
A: Air Study on left photo; Finished section on right
B: Beak > I chose to draw the profile of an eagle’s beak.
C: Claw > The claw, or talon, had to indicate power and strength. Again, I chose the eagle as the example.
D: Ducks > I wanted to show them taking off and flying.
E: Eggs > As I tend to do, I wanted something different and mysterious in the painting, I chose to include wry humour with a dozen eggs in a box, some of them broken. I didn’t have that many eggs, so kept moving them. It took a day of sketching to get them and the broken ones right, in my opinion.
F: Feather > Years ago, my husband brought back home a large, gorgeous eagle’s feather he found while visiting Canadian country singer icon Ian Tyson’s Alberta ranch. That feather, still on display at our Muskoka cottage, became the anchor of the painting.
G: Geese/Grass > Have you seen geese landing on fields and beaches to take a rest and replenish during their long flight? Their V formations are a sight to behold.
H: House/Home > I wanted to incorporate many aspects of birds, such as their variety, appearance, environment (wild and tame), etc. Hence, the bird house…
I: Infants > Baby birds nestled together seemed to be an endearing way to depict this letter, and demonstrated the life cycle (from egg to soaring birds to eggs for consumption) …
J: Jungle > I enjoy the beauty and personality of parrots, and wanted to indicate possibly mated birds, too.
K: Kingfisher > I looked through magazines to find the prototype for this one.
L: Loons > We have loons on Lake Muskoka. Their distinct cries across the water are so hauntingly beautiful. A visitor pointed out that the loons are prehistoric and that the eagle is more recent development, so the painting is full circle. I don’t know if the information is true. I like to think it is.
Below is the completed painting, purchased as a gift for a bird lover who has a Masters degree that included studying bird species. It hangs in a place of honor, lighted up for family and guests to admire.
- Creativity is
- can be enjoyed by, and shared with others.
- Restrictions imposed can lead to something you would never have considered.
- Choices you make as a result won’t necessarily be replicated by anyone else.
- There is no right or wrong.
What are your thoughts and experiences in regards to the points made in this posting? Share in the comments section below….
I had just completed the painting and wanted to share the process. So yesterday I posted photos and this text on Facebook:
“Parts of the completed reworked painting …Please help me give it a title…“
I have included throughout this article photos of various sections of this unnamed art piece. The complete painting is posted at the end…
Elaine Rose immediately suggested ‘Floral Fantasy’, which I like.
Then I got a heartwarming, validating comment from acquaintance and Facebook friend Andreea Negrea:
“This is just beautiful Nellie ! I’ve come back to this post 3-4 times today just to take another look, there is something in this painting that’s hidden… I don’t know how to explain it. There are so many elements in it that give me a different emotion every time I come back to look at it. For some reason I want to call it “The longing”, that’s what came to me every time. I love it. You are very talented.
I find painting to be a unique way of expressing oneself and I wish I had that talent. It must be an amazing way to release emotion and energy.”
Andreea’s comment inspired this blog post …Read on…
I am just getting back into creating art after a very long break, in spite of the fact that – as with any creator – when I’m fully into it, the process of art creation takes me to a high, a place that’s beyond this world, to feeling that is almost indescribable, at least on a public site as this.
I want to share with you information about the painting’s years’ long development and the creative truths verified along the way …
Years ago, I framed what I thought was a completed painting as a triptych, and hung it on a wall. Here is the original:
Over time, however, whenever I looked at it – except for certain elements – I came to hate it.
I felt it was too busy, too dull, too much of an experiment in too many areas that didn’t really work as a whole. Two years ago, I took it down and turned it to face a wall.
Every time I walked by, I’d glance at the back of the frame, and wonder what to do with it.
Two weeks ago, I spontaneously began dismantling the frame layer by layer.
First off were the screws holding the support wire, then the glued wrapping paper protecting the back, followed by the heavy cardboard backing held in place by dozens of staples, and finally, the white matte. It took almost an hour of careful removal to free the painting.
I placed it on a table, ready for something, but what? I’d stop, stare at it and wonder, “What should I do to improve it? What if I mess it up?” And then, after a few days, asked myself, “Who am I answering to …and, really, who cares?” I decided to let go of the “should” and instead embrace the “could”. What could be done to make this painting more exciting, cohesive and, even, mysterious?
Out came pastel crayons, liquid acrylics, and magic markers. The colour red became my friend. Each day, I eliminated the busy-ness, added a bit of colour here, a brush stroke there. And then, yesterday I was done!
Not only did I enjoy the process, not only did I love the changes, but the fact that someone else expressed her emotional reactions to it was really an unexpected icing on the cake.
I wrote a note of appreciation, “Thanks again, Andreea. Your response is very meaningful to me.”
To which she replied,
“Thank YOU for sharing something so beautiful, something made by your hands and driven by emotions and soul. This was truly a breath of fresh air in this social media world that’s full of disturbing and draining drama … Keep doing all you do, it’s inspirational!”
Here’s the completed painting, needing a title… (I LOVE the red!)
After posting on Facebook, my friend and fine artist Elaine Clarfield Gitalis, who taught a few of my art courses (see my next article for her A to L assignment), wrote, “…the red was a bold move!……you made great painting out of a good painting!”
My reply, not a word of a lie? ” Red just came to me like a bolt out of the sky. Who can explain those moments, Elaine? There are no words.”
So, I suggest anyone looking for creative solutions:
- Let go of restrictions caused by
- traditional practices,
- preconceived ideas,
- concern of what others expect or think, or
- striving for imaginary perfection (who is the judge?).
- Experiment with new elements and fresh ideas.
- Access limitless creativity and problem solving change your thinking from “should” to “could.”
What are your thoughts and experiences in regards to the points made in this posting? Share in the comments section below….
I was fortunate to visit the remarkable, thought-provoking Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
I came away with my mind spinning with all sorts of thoughts/inspiration/ideas. However, the particularly burning question that consumed me was how Van Gogh-who barely sold a painting in his lifetime-without current influence of social media became so famous in the years following his untimely death.
Curiosity overtook. I conducted intensive research (simply Googling “How did Van Gogh become famous?”) and, to my surprise, I discovered two sites that begin to answer the question:
Barely a year after Vincent’s death, his own brother and steadfast supporter Theo died. Theo’s wife Joanna was left a widow with a baby, an art gallery – and an entire catalogue of her brother-in-law’s paintings. Relying on her late husband’s advice to keep the collection together, as well as the experience and support of trusted friends and experts in business, she set out to create a buzz….
Johanna’s strategies were so successful over time they became what we would now refer to as viral.
Always curious about the road people travel towards their successes, I would love to know exactly how YOU created a buzz for your products and services? Share with readers your experiences, viewpoints, and suggestions in the comment section below.
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This is the eighth in an ongoing series featuring worldwide creative-thinkers’ responses to questions about creativity posted previously on this site.
Please welcome artist Violette Clark who years ago shared her personal story on my Creativity-Bites blog. Violette is a fabulous marketer of her products and services, and generously offers her tactics below. (Click on any image to enlarge)
What you do and what product(s) and/or service(s) you offer that developed as a result of your passion.
I am an artist and creative spirit. My passion is to inspire people to embrace who they are through the vehicle of their creativity. I have had a book published – Journal Bliss: Creative Prompts to Unleash Your Inner Eccentric (North Light Books). From there I created a couple of online classes on Visual Journaling. I’m in the process of creating self-esteem kits for teens. I also teach visual Journaling to teens and women. I have been teaching workshops – in different art forms for 30 years. Right now I’m focusing on teaching Visual Journaling/mixed media to teens and women.
How you came about to create it or them?
How did I come to create them?
Well the path to my book Journal Bliss was not an easy or quick one. First I had my art and projects published on online zines, and then on physical magazines. Then from there to paper arts magazines like Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset, Altered Couture, Haute Handbags, etc. The book opened doors which led me to create online classes.
As for teaching workshops I have been doing this for 30 years in some shape or form artistically. Regarding my online classes I had to teach myself how to shoot video and how to work in Indesign (so I could create PDF files).
It’s been a big learning curve for me. I am fortunate to have a partner who is a techie so he can help me along the way.
Your target market
My target market is women between the ages of 40 and 65. However, I’ve had folks as young as teens interested in my work (as is evidence from the workshops I am teaching) and women into their 70’s.
How do you market?
- have an e-zine
- blog 5 days a week (and have done so for 5 years)
- took out ads in a paper arts magazine
- article market (e-zine articles)
- do online interviews/podcasts
- have had virtual book tours
- create YouTube videos
- have been on TV locally and internationally (HGTV Weird Homes and numerous Local TV shows)
- do art demos in local craft and art stores/galleries
- been in the newspapers promoting my book and classes
- have a Ning site, Flickr site, Cafepress store
- recently had a table at the B.C. Art Teachers Conference with my books and promoting classes
- had my website on the back of my van (it’s now sitting idle in the driveway)
- wear my art – literally – my soldered art prints, painted purses (which cause people to ask me about it and then I tell them what I do)
- had projects in magazines with my contact info on the bottom of the article
- create colourful bookmarks with my information on the back and give these out freely to folk
- had contests on my blog and given away art and books
- am on Facebook and Twitter and talk about art and blog posts on there
- am a designer for The Art Glitter Institute, so create projects online for them at http://artglitterblog.blogspot.com/
- call local women’s centers and also neighbourhood houses to see if they would like me to teach a class – and am teaching Visual journaling to teens as a result
- recently called my therapist (from the past) and given her my self-esteem kit to see what she thought of it – she now might have me teach a class on self-esteem using art.
- joined Toastmasters so that I can go out and do some public speaking on creativity which will enable me to sell my books and products after the talks.
- created short YouTube videos to promote my book and 2 online classes (I also have a third class) I am sure I’m missing something.
As you can see I try many different things to get the word out there. You can find some articles and projects here:
Your comments and feedback to this posting are more than welcome.
If you would like to send your own opinions, ideas and experiences, click here for the questions. When you’ve completed them, click here to send your responses and contact details.
You and your story may be mentioned in my book-in-progress about mining creativity, with acknowledgement and reference to you and your contact information.
Please forward the link to this site to anyone in your network who might be interested in reading them and/or participating.
All the best.
To listen to archived Igniting Imagination with Nellie Jacobs broadcasts, click here.
Do you want to share your creative story? Click here to send your answers to the above questions.
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