Thursday, December 31, 2009

"You know incredible things happen when we are open to possibilities!"

Collage by Lani

Adela sent me the link to this lovely video, a perfect way to say good night to 2009 and good morning to 2010. It's simple, and full of great kindness and stillness. A perfect little revolution on film!
Thank you Dewitt Jones, you give me courage to soar! Happy new year everyone! And remember to celebrate what's right with the world! (If the video looks a little cut off, click on the blog title and it will take you to Yahoo videos where you can see it in full)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Simplicity

Simple collage by Lani

Voluntary simplicity is "a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living..." Duane Elgin

And what artist in their right mind would want to live any other way than authentic and conscious with inner riches? I can't imagine. I guess the trick would be to remember that I have a choice when complex situations arise.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Stillness

Create Stillness Collage by Lani

I can feel this process of evocative words combined with collage creating "revolutionary" rumbles below the surface. I tried one of Simone Alter-Muri's Post Modernist Art Therapy leads, and explored Jenny Holzer's Truisms to see if I could find a truism related to stillness. I found "all things are delicately interconnected" and worked a collage around that and stillness.

Morning pages collage by Lani

On a related topic, in a kind of "all things are delicately interconnected" kind of way, Simone Alter-Muri has a dear friend, a professor of Transpersonal psychology, who is living with terminal cancer as a “sick well person”. Now that is one of the biggest tests for creating stillness that a person can face. Simone shared Aric's story with us during her Positive Psychology workshop at the American Art Therapy Association Conference in Dallas last month. Simone had given him a call, and he told her he has blissful ignorance about his cancer. “I go to the MD but I am not interested in watching my cancer go up and down. Cancer is just a label that the doctors gave me, I experience physical sensations and the doctor labels it as cancer. Actually the creative force is my healing” He is writing a book that includes art, poetry and his journals. He does not accept the idea that cancer is a death sentence. It is just cancer. He goes to the doctor and listens but feels that there is something beyond the canvas. Something is so beautiful that he does not feel the darkness of death but the beauty of living moment to moment.
“Living with cancer is beyond the canvas, I am put to the test what stroke to put on, and it’s a journey I am in the moment. I am not talking to you in humbleness I am not invested in the cancer nor am I in a battle with it. I know I will not survive but who really knows when they will go? I am practicing blissful ignorance not watching the cancer numbers go up and down. I am moving ahead in my life the best I can perhaps not positive psychology but choicelessness. I surrender to the greater appreciation of the moment. Practicing quality of life is a choice.”
(Aric's personal communication to Simone Alter-Muri, October 30, 2009)
I love this. It gives me such a still, happy feeling to think of living in this moment-to-moment way, beyond the canvas. Thank you Simone and thank you Aric!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Friendship

Collage about friendship and looking within by Lani

Continuing to work on my new year's Rev O' Lution, I play with this idea of friendship. Do we offer friendship to those who are most similar to us, or does offering friendship to others pull down walls of difference? What about those internal walls? Would offering friendship to the parts of ourselves we feel to be unlovable create a greater feeling of integration? Harold Kushner says "When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world." And when you are kind to yourself? I imagine that must change everything!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gretchen's Rev O' Lution

Over on Creativity in Motion, Gretchen's highly creative, delightful blog, there's a revolution brewing. Instead of coming up with a list of new years resolutions, last year she had a list of qualities which she wanted to reflect on and attract more of in the new year. So now she's looking over that list and thinking about what she has learned in the past year. So I'm thinking I need to create a Rev O' Lution for myself. What qualities would I like to create more of in my life and what art work would I pair up with that?

Altered photo by Lani

Friendship - I'd like to learn more about friendship. I'd like to study what it takes to be a good friend to others and to myself. I suspect loving kindness and gentleness and goodness might be qualities that are related to friendship.

Stillness Collage by Lani

Stillness - I'd love to learn more about stillness, that quiet centering that helps us be here now, that helps us appreciate this moment right now. It's the stillness that allows what is to be, and in that stillness we find flow. Peace, flow, and a quiet joy are qualities connected to stillness.

Simplicity by Lani

Simplicity - I'd really like to learn more about simplicity and how to live a sustainable life. I have a feeling that simplicity and sustainability are deeply connected. What has struck me most about this past year is how the more complex things get, the more rushed and pressured I feel; and of course then I am more likely to react mindlessly rather than act with awareness. So paying more attention to simplicity should be a good antidote to rushing and pressure.

In keeping with the quality of simplicity, I think I will leave it at these three qualities. I think by approaching these qualities with interest and wanting to learn more, they should grow in my attention and experience.

Collage by Lani

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. "
~ Helen Keller

Monday, December 14, 2009

May your holidays be simple and good!

Just in case the whirlwind of the holidays get away from me, here are my holiday wishes for you. I've been watching the dog whisperer, Cesar Milan, and the antics of our Bergamasco's and I believe a very happy life is possible with a few simple basics. Here they are: May you have a warm hearth, good friends, and good treats in your food bowl. Of course I might throw in a little artistic inspiration and art challenges as part of my holiday wish for you. If you click here you will find a freebie from Gale over at Paper Whimsy. Use it to create a card or ATC. Have fun and have a safe and warm holiday!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A couple of wonderful "Make Art" links

"Make Art" Collage by Lani

Art is magic... But how is it magic? In its metaphysical development? Or does some final transformation culminate in a magic reality? In truth, the latter is impossible without the former. If creation is not magic, the outcome cannot be magic. (Hans Hofmann)

#1 wonderful "Make Art" link: For all kinds of artistic inspiration, advice, tips, and community, visit The Painter's Keys.

#2 wonderful "Make Art" link: Seth's posted his next Secret Sunday along with a new "inspiration link" so do take a look! (I particularly liked jaihn's link to 2nd Grade Visual Journals gallery on Dispatch from LA, most excellent!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Culture, Assumptions, and Art

Collage by Lani

Another interesting event at the American Art Therapy Conference was a focus group "Understanding Cultural Identity and Difference" with Savneet Talwar, Shelly (E.M.) Goebl-Parker, and Megan Robb. Their goal for this focus group was "to examine how individuals negotiate hybrid cultural and social identities in everyday life and its impact on art therapy practice." Some discussion was raised about war zones and inner cities and the chronic nature of stress and trauma in those settings. This got me thinking about assumptions I might be making about trauma, culture, and recovery. I suspect that for me art therapy has been something that is brought in after a traumatic event, trauma recovery being something separate from the "event" and occurring after the event. But art therapists working in war zones and inner cities described situations where the therapist and the people they work with live in continual threat and chaos. How do you do trauma recovery work in the middle of trauma?

Collage by Lani

Assumptions are such tricky things. One woman wanted to talk about the assumptions of a particular group from which she was experiencing oppression in her normally oppression-free life, and a bit of exclusion from those she felt she should not be excluded from. I found this very interesting. It is so much easier to see the misguided assumptions of others and to try to address these with a list of "should's" and "ought-to's" than it is to examine our own assumptions. She was wanting to correct her oppressors and of course I was wanting to correct her! But what if correcting others is really not as helpful as we would like it to be? What if correcting our own biases is also somewhat counter productive? Could it be that we create resistance to being corrected?

One thing that I have found helpful for my own self inquiry, is to take an artist's approach, looking at the layers of history and cultural baggage as potentially interesting layers of texture and color. Then I'm able to accept what is, without resistance, and to alter, transform, or just make some interesting art with it. This may be related to having explored and been influenced by the realms of positive psychology and the associated search for resilience.

What if instead of looking for the cultural weaknesses in others, we begin to see the strengths and beauty within our histories? Wouldn't that help us see the strengths and beauty of others? Wouldn't that create a welcoming and inclusive environment? I believe I will try this approach from now on.

"Vinnie and Ganesha" collage by Lani

Photoshop surprise and fun!

Diane Cook has posted our collaboration for the Echo prompt "Surprise" from Chrysti and Susan. Diane's shot was taken of a South Texas wildflower, with an added layer of burned texture from les brumes. My image is on the left. It's a combination of two images, one of a puppet-making workshop participant and the other was an attempt to create an interesting layer for texture by shooting towards the light through an antique bottle (which I really like doing!).

"My puppet can sing!"

For major photoshop layers and textures fun, Adela sent me these links! Great stuff here, lots to learn!

I've also been enjoying Get Totally Rad's website (although they are pricey, just visting will give you ideas!) and Oscraps Altered Art/Collage items in their shop for digital scrapbookers. You can find some interesting textures, overlays, and actions from digital scrapbooking websites for a lot less money than from photographers. Have fun and let me know what you find!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nurture New Beginnings

"Nurture New Beginnings" Collage by Lani

Another great thing I learned at the American Art Therapy Association Conference in Dallas was from a great panel on making mistakes. "Transforming Past Mistakes into Future Lessons..." by Nicole Brandstrup, Gretchen Miller, and Jordan Potash, in which each presenter talked about a mistake they had made, and how when they were willing to examine and learn from this mistake they discovered a gold mine of learning. Although each presentation had so much to offer, what my mind jumped on in particular was from Gretchen's piece. I think it explains so much of why art making can be so helpful, in a very basic level which I may loose sight of at times.

Gretchen said that she believed the main reason for her "failure" with a particular art intervention was...

... because I was focusing too much on “the thinking brain” and relying on assumption of need connected to this, rather than staying with the needs of “the emotional brain” related to trauma.

I needed to become more equipped to not only treat trauma, but become a voice for trauma informed care in future milieus I would work in and to advocate for youth facing these issues. As a result, I have spent the last few years working on trauma certification and becoming a Certified Trauma Consultant through the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. This specialized training has provided me with the tools and knowledge to approach my art therapy work from the brain stem up and to be more thoughtful in understanding how to implement sensory-based art interventions before jumping right into cognitive processing.

How perfect, working from the brain stem up, giving that most primitive aspect of the brain its due. I think this is excellent advice for all of us, whether we are working with others of working alone in our studios, we can always provide our brain stems with positive experiences as we work. I suspect this is why my favorite spa is so popular, they know how to provide our brain stems with very positive experiences. Now to build more of these experiences into my life and art! Thanks Gretchen!

One of the many mistakes I made as an art therapist was one of omission. I had been working for many years with a dissociative patient, using clay, paint, cloth, fibers, dolls and puppets, and she had given me some hints about how her work might have become more ethnically and culturally syntonic. I wasn't paying attention at the time, but when I thought more carefully about this mistake, it actually informed the happy direction that much of my work has taken, so in some sense I was also able to transform and learn from the mistake. More from Dallas and on the multicultural possibilities of art therapy soon. Stay tuned.

Altered antique photo by Lani

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More links, inspiration, & ideas!

"Psychosynthesis Exercise: Evocative Words" Collage by Lani

One of the most enjoyable and evocative art experiences I had in Dallas was Simone Alter-Muri's art-making workshop using concepts from positive psychologists like Martin E.P. Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as well as Roberto Assagioli's principles of Psychosynthesis. We worked with matchboxes and glass globs, collage materials and evocative words from one of the many psychosynthesis web sites. Three short lectures on positive psychology filled our minds with good intellectual fare and the generous art materials and lists of words evoked a lot of very positive objects that we could use as personal reminders of (as Simone put it) "...hope, enjoyment, and trust ...the very conditions that allow us to go on living." What a generous workshop!

Here's my little matchbox and here's a list of evocative words which I will keep in my little box.

My sweet friend Nicole Brandstrup sent me a great link today, to Dirty Footprints Studio where Connie Hozvicka plays and inspires. Here's her definition of a Creative Juicy Life:
Dreaming in full color.
Breathing deep and feeling alive.
Laughing so loud it scatters all fear.
Loving so large there is no room for doubt.
Creating each day into your best one yet.

It fits right in with where I seem to be at the moment, with the whole positive psychology and art theme going on here. So I explored a bit. She's got some wonderful interviews, podcasts, links and a terrific question or perhaps it's two questions. What does living a Creative Juicy Life look and feel like to you? or "What makes your life CREATIVE?" and "What makes your life JUICY?"

I like nothing better than giving some thought to these questions so of course I answered them:

What makes my life creative today is having my own art room and creative space and time to play with images, ideas, and 3-D stuff. Having the freedom to play, really. That's what makes my life creative.

What makes my life juicy and rich in ideas and images is being able to connect to other artists and all their juiciness so easily! Using the internet for a great big art museum/artist's cafe/gallery is really key to having an artistically juicy life.

Thanks for asking this delightful question!
Try any of the above links, inspiration, and ideas. Try answering the question "What does living a Creative Juicy Life look and feel like to you?" and let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More on Abundance

Collage by Lani

Still thinking about Dr. Dirt and this idea of abundance (see previous post). At first sight this little town of Edwards is not a place you to which you would associate the word abundance. But if I've learned anything in this funny old life, it's that assumptions serve no one and if you dig below the surface of where ever you may be, there's treasure right here, right now! Abundance is here and in Dr. Dirt's garden. He had traveled far from his home and then returned to care for his ailing mother Millie and began to care for the acre of land that was attached to his home. And in the caring for the land and all that grew there, he found abundant treasure.

Maira Kalman tells a similar story in her most recent "And the Pursuit of Happiness" column in the New York Times. She wrote, drew, and photographed a lovely essay about abundance, Alice Waters, the Edible Schoolyard program, and other particularly culinary delights in her colorful, animated way. She describes school children caring for the crops in their school yard, harvesting, cooking, and eating together while sharing philosophical ideas with each other. Read Maria's column but don't stop there! Visit the on-line Edible Schoolyard, see how an abandoned school yard was turned into a very rich source of edible treasure! If you live in Nova Scotia you can see what the province is working on here. And here's a lovely website, a Canadian resource page full of school gardens and useful links.

Finally there's an abundance of art related links over on Seth Apter's blog, the Altered Page! Oh, my word, I hope you have some free time, because he's got the links for every kind of art inspiration that you can imagine. Sundays are now Secret Sundays and don't forget to check the previous Sunday here. He's got an inspiration button on the right hand column of his blog which will take you to Robyn Gordon's blog, Art Propelled, and specifically to the posting Tied Up with String. Whew, it took my breath away! Such abundance and treasure and inspiration! And since we started this with a garden I had to take a peek at the Art Propelled link to the gardens of Saint Verde, both the inspiring film and theses gorgeous images. About the images, Neville Trickett says:
Look to the natural world for inspiration. But look closely. Individual composition that takes away all the preconceptions of what is right or wrong has its roots in ethnicity. Welcome to Africa my friends.
Isn't that perfect? Look closely at the natural world and release all those completely useless preconceptions... Quite an abundance of things to think about here!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On the road trip to Dallas and what I learned...

Abundant light in Mississippi

The adventure began with a search for a response to Diane's response "light" to Chrysti and Susan's {Echo} prompt Abundance. What a lovely way to begin a new adventure, looking for the perfect expression of abundant light. And then once that was found to continue to look for expressions of abundance.

As Susan Anand and I headed to Dallas for the 40th annual conference of the American Art Therapy Association we found Leon Goldsberry, better known as Dr. Dirt, of Edwards, Mississippi, a delightful gardener/artist with abundant plants, humor, history, plant lore, and kindness. Pictures of his garden can be viewed here and here. Steve Bender had this to say about Dr. Dirt in Southern Living:

Doctor Dirt's influence is literally growing. Seeds and plants shared from his garden are popping up all over town. Folks in Edwards are rediscovering the joys of a garden, which, to Leon's way of thinking, is a journey home.

"In the beginning, God put us in a garden," he observes. "That is where we all come from."

I loved this little side trip in Edwards. You can read more about Dr. Dirt on his website but better yet, if you are in Mississippi, do visit Millie's Gardens and Leon Goldsberry. I intend to go back one day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Puppet & Story-making Workshops...

Photo of Glenda "the very good!" by Susan Anand

For those of you attending puppet and story-making workshops with Susan Anand and myself, there are some useful links here. For an interesting collection simple book structures to use with puppet making, you can see Susan Gaylord's work on her blog and also her "Lulu Storefront". She's also got a wonderful instructional video on how to make a Word A Day Journal (among other videos) here.

And if you are interested in a delightful series of simple animation and puppetry techniques then check the 14 Secrets Blog! Very cool stuff here! For free 'zines and downloads see this page of my website. Any questions, you can contact me any time at lanipuppetmaker at mac dot com!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Creativity takes courage... and some other stuff!

Collage by Lani

"Creativity takes courage..." - Henri Matisse

I'm working on some new art challenges, trying to find artful ways to be here now (more often), to create the recuperative flow state that is so essential to art and life, and of course ways to create art retreats for my inner artist. I'm liking what I'm reading in the realm of developmental psychology as well as positive psychology and of course neuroscience. Blend those three fields with a lot of art making and you have some major restorative "be here now" activities.

So I was looking at the Greater Good Magazine (WINTER 2009 Volume V, Issue 3) and I came across this article which I include here as it's short and to which I added live links to the various researchers mentioned because I had some real coffee this morning and it seemed like a great idea!:
Everyday Art
Christine Carter reveals six steps for boosting kids' creativity.
A lot of parents believe that their children are either born with artistic talent or they're not. But research suggests that artistic creativity, along with other kinds of creativity, is more of a skill than an inborn talent, and it's a skill parents can help their kids develop.
Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies provide an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props, and plotlines that allow kids to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to pretend a stick is a sword in a game or story they've imagined; they can play Star Wars with a readymade light-saber, in costumes designed for the specific role they're playing.
But researchers have also identified steps we can take to help kids tap into their own creative potential. Drawing on that research, here are some ideas for fostering creativity in kids.

  1. Provide the resources for creative expression. The key resource here is time. Kids need a lot of time for unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play—unencumbered by adult direction, and independent of a lot of commercial stuff. Research by Kathy Hirsch-Pasek of Temple University, among others, has found that children attending academic preschools show no advantage in reading or math achievement over kids who go to play-based preschools. But they do tend to have higher levels of test anxiety, exhibit less creativity, and have more negative attitudes toward school.
    Look for resources that help kids create but that don't tell them what to create. I've been amazed by some of the things my kids do with art supplies, cheap cameras, old costumes, and building materials.

  2. Make your home a Petri dish for creativity. At dinnertime, for example, brainstorm activities for the upcoming weekend, encouraging the kids to come up with things they've never done before. Resist pointing out which ideas aren't possible, or deciding which ideas are best. The focus of creative activities should be on the process—generating (vs. evaluating) new ideas.
    Another way to nurture a creative atmosphere at home is to encourage kids to take risks, make mistakes, and fail. Yes, fail: In her book Mindset, Stanford researcher Carol Dweck shows that kids who are afraid of failure and judgment will curb their own creative thought. Share the mistakes you've made recently, so they get the idea that it's okay to flub up.

  3. Allow kids the freedom and autonomy to explore their ideas. For me, this means not always being so bossy! External constraints—making kids color within the lines, so to speak—can reduce creativity in thinking. In one study, when researchers first showed kids how to make a plane or truck with Legos, kids showed less creativity in their own building than when they were just let loose to make whatever they wanted with the same Lego set.

  4. Encourage kids to read for pleasure and participate in the arts, rather than watch TV. Studies by children's health researcher Dimitri Christakis have found that TV viewing before the age of three can harm kids' language development and attention spans later in life. Studies by Dutch researcher T.H. van der Voort suggest that watching TV might reduce kids' creative imagination, and violent TV shows are associated with a decrease in kids' fantasy play and an increase in aggressiveness. Less screen time means more time for creative activities, like rehearsing a play, learning to draw, or reading every book by a favorite author.

  5. Resist the temptation to reward kids for their creativity. A study led by child development researcher Melissa Groves has found that incentives interfere with the creative process, reducing the flexibility of children's thinking.
    Instead of trying to motivate kids with rewards and incentives, we parents sometimes need to back off so that kids can work on the creative activities that they're intrinsically motivated to do. Instead of rewarding a child for practicing the piano, for example, we can encourage her to do something she enjoys more—maybe draw at the kitchen table or dance around the living room.

  6. Try to stop caring what your kids achieve. I think this is one of the greatest challenges we parents face in today's ultra-competitive world. But Dweck's research is very clear that kids gain confidence from an emphasis on process rather than product. This can be hard advice to follow when our kids come home from school with just the end product of an art project. But whether they're working at home or at school, we can emphasize the creative process by asking questions: Are you finished? What did you like about that activity? Did you have fun?
Perhaps most importantly, research shows that fostering creativity in our kids will help them with more than art: Creativity is essential to science, math, and even emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and more successful problem solvers, making them better poised to take advantage of new opportunities. So when we nurture the artistic lives of our children, we give them the tools they need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.
Christine Carter, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center. For more parenting tips, visit her blog, Half Full, at
Now what would all this have to do with me, you might ask, who's kids are all the four legged type. Well, I'm thinking that what is good for helping your children develop and their creative skills must be good for me developing and encouraging my creative skills. So here's what I propose to provide myself:
1. More resources for creative expression, like time! Have I given myself 20 - 23 min. of creative time today? I will be sure to take workshops that give me creative tools, but that don't tell me what to create. (Excellent!)
2. I will make my home a creative Petri dish and try brainstorming more often. Use my Mondo Beyond skills here, write wildly creative, marvelous wish lists, the wilder the better.
3. I will allow myself freedom and creativity in my work, and try not to boss myself too much with should's and ought-to's. (Even thinking about this makes me smile!)
4. No TV. That one is pretty easy since we have no cable and no reception!
5. I'll do more of the things that have intrinsic rewards for me, the things I love to do!
6. I will focus more on the process and less on the product. I will ask myself if I'm "having fun yet" more often!

There, that's a very short, satisfying, creative and doable to-do list! Just reading it over feels nurturing of the creative process, and best thing about that is when we nurture our artistic lives, we are give ourselves the tools we need to thrive in our rapidly changing world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What I like about Clarissa Pinkola Estés...

Morning Pages Collage

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~ Christopher to Pooh, A.A.Milne

Listening to another installment of Clarissa Pinkola Estés' story-telling event over at Sounds True, around the virtual camp fire, there is so much to think about. First of all it's lovely to have this virtual camp fire, it feels so accepting and warm. Clarissa has a way of creating a space in which we can be comfortable with ourselves and with our virtual friends around this campfire.

But she also describes quite clearly how easy it is to create the opposite sort of feeling, when people start to feel wrong and alienated, when we feel at odds within our family or the dominant culture. She told us a story about a childhood event where she saw a vision of a beautiful lady that made her feel so good she wanted to wade through the waves of Lake Michigan to be with her. Although it really sounded like it must have been a lovely vision, at some point she was in a bit of danger. Her family had a very stern reaction, understandably. They were probably frightened to see their child wading in the freezing water in midwinter. They told her there was no beautiful lady, that she was dreaming and that she should forget about it. Of course she didn't forget, she still cherishes the memory, and part of her memory is of being made to feel wrong within her family. (I'm thinking there must be other ways to tell children that we just want them to be safe and stay with us for a while longer, without making them feel that their dreams, visions, and selves are wrong.)

So that's what I like about Clarissa Pinkola Estés, how she creates an inclusive environment where many points of view are welcome, including my own. After all if you are sitting around a camp fire, is there only one direction from which to view the fire? Is there only one point of view? Last I checked on the world population we are creeping up to 7 billion, so I figure 7 billion points of view around the campfire. Why should my point of view be any more or less right than any other point of view?

Campfire collage by Lani

Monday, November 02, 2009

Decoration: Offering

Decoration: Offering
So here's Diane Cook's and my response to Susan Tuttle's and Chrysti Hydek's prompt {Echo} Decoration. Diane's is the left side, a picture taken in Santa Fe, N.M. layered with offering candles taken in the Loreto Chapel. Layered with texture from les brumes. Don't you love it?

Mine is Ganesha (on the right) dancing. At first I was stumped with "decoration". My house (like Chrysti's) can be a bit of a disaster, mostly with my little disheveled zoo dominating (2 cats, 2 largish dogs). Not too many froo froo decorations survive here, I can tell you.

But then I thought of the use of decoration in spiritual practices in my Asian background, decoration as offering to the spirits, gods, or that which is greater than us. I looked around my house for that kind of thing and sure enough, larger than life, there's plenty of decoration as offering. So Ganesha dances happily with his flowers and squash.

How would your "decoration: offering" look?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Simple Book Structure Instruction and Inspiration

Collage by Lani

I got an email question this past week about making simple book structures for art therapists and art educators, so here's my list of favorite instructional videos and inspiring artists.

Top of my list is Teesha Moore who even runs an Art Journaling Retreat out on the left coast. (Wow, would I ever love to attend!) Her blog will be featuring more videos now, because she's purchased a video camera! I can't wait.

I've also uploaded the entire series onto the 14 Secrets Blog so head on over there if you would like to see them in order.

Here's Samantha Kira's Easy-Peasy Journal part one and two. These are really easy to follow instructions. Very nice, simple and cheap. I followed these directions with dollar store items (Under $5).

And here's Rice Freeman-Zachery's easy Kinko solution to creating an art journal. She's a little manic here, but her ideas are great.

And here's Suzi Blu altering a child's board book.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

A cat may kiss a pumpkin on Halloween.
Hope your treats were lovely.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More marvelous art mischief here.

Emerge: Now

So here's a little mischief of an artistic and harmless variety which my friend Diane Cook invited me to participate in. Our splendid Visual Poetry teacher, Susan Tuttle, and her likewise talented friend, Chrysti Hydek, have begun a collaborative art challenge for each other which they then opened up for all of us (do take a look). They are creating bi-weekly prompts (every other Wednesday) like this first one that you can see here. Visit Chrysti's blog to see their second.

So here's how it worked, Diane sent me "Emerge: Beyond" to which I contributed the hanging squash and squash blossom, and I sent her "Emerge: Now" to which she contributed the spider web.

I love this. I can't wait to see the second prompt and what everyone comes up with! Visit Susan and Chrysti's blogs and see who else is playing and get inspired. (Emerge Now!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your existence gives me hope... Inspiration and Links

Collage by Lani, with elements from Gale Blair's Paper Whimsy

Positive psychologists suggest that if we are feeling slightly blue, that we should think of 3 good things. This may sound a bit like poor Pollyanna (the most misunderstood heroine of our culture) but the rational is that our minds often get locked into very negative cycles and we need to take drastic measures to unlock them. So thinking about, listing, or naming 3 good things is one way to unlock our minds. Now I'm not particularly blue but I have to admit I'm not feeling particularly jazzed up about the darkening days, impending snow and ice, and cold winds that are beginning to blow through Nova Scotia. So I thought it would be a good idea to practice a little bit of positive psychology and let you know about 3 good things that you can enjoy as well!

My first good thing is Gale Blair's blog. Gale owns Paper Whimsy, the most amazing source of collage material, but on her blog you will find blog challenges! She provides a photographic element for you to play with and then you post the results on your own blog. The above image is for her blog challenge. I'm filled with a sense of hope and joy when I look at it. Positive psychology at work here!

My second good thing is Clarissa Pinkola Estés who is being inspiring in a very hopeful way just lately. Over at Sounds True, she's giving an on-line workshop, a kind of story-telling event which is unfolding around a virtual camp fire on Wednesday evenings. Lovely! Have you ever felt that as an artist you are often at odds with the dominant culture, that many of the values held by the dominant culture seem slightly irrelevant and even mind numbing? Well Clarissa Pinkola Estés has many words of comfort and encouragement. She believes that cultures need their artists to be there at the edge exploring new ideas and new ways of doing things, that without us doing just that, the culture will die. We shouldn't feel alone though, she suggests, because we actually belong to a very large tribe. (I imagine our culture as being a bit like an amoeba with us artists play at the edges. Being at the forefront like that we are unable to get a proper sense of the numbers in our tribe.) Well, sitting around this virtual camp fire at Sounds True on Wednesday nights has certainly made me very glad to be a part of this exciting and creative tribe!

My third good thing is the Mixed Media Art group, another great source for art challenges! I was a part of the Scavenger Hunt Challenge, we sent and received little bits of found stuff, and we were to find our own bits as well. The final piece came together seemingly all by itself. Here it is, Rust and Lace.

Rust and Lace mixed media piece by Lani shot as the sun set in Prospect, Nova Scotia.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friendship & Art

Collage by Lani

"To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship." ~ Thomas Moore

Unless it's art! Try combining the two and see what happens. Create a yahoo group for your art making buddies or join one of the many art exchange groups available on the internet! There's a lot of healing going on out there!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Manipulating layers of images and emotions

Digital collage of child in Prospect with Susan Tuttle's visual manipulation techniques.

Wow, what an inspiring class this "Visual Poetry" class has been! Only 4 weeks and it really goes quickly. Probably because Susan Tuttle is teaching so much and the things she is teaching can be layered and played with in the most fascinating ways. I am really sorry the class is finished. (Don't worry, she's running the course again. Registration will begin Sunday, October 25th, 7 PM EST. Sign up or find information here.)

Edward's straw flowers (grown in our garden) with Susan Tuttle's visual manipulation techniques.

I think the layering really resonates with me. It seems to resemble layered images and stories that fill our lives and memories. Why not play with them? If photoshop is visual manipulation to create art, why not create a parallel process with memories, emotions, and stories, manipulating and playing with them until you have a happy artful life?

One of the links I've been looking at for this idea of life manipulation is the UrbanMonk.Net website. The Oct. 10 posting is wonderful. I've always wondered why it is we can get so hooked into negative feelings about others against our own will and certainly against our better judgment. The urban monk has discovered the reason. There was a man who took up a lot of his mental space, he thought, because the man had persuaded him to do some free design work for him, and then proceeded to criticize him in a verbally abusive manner for this free work that had taken hours to do. The urban monk hated this man, constantly relived the abuse, and fantasized about revenge.

But he felt it made no sense. Others had done worse, and yet he was not stuck in this way by them. Why did he get stuck in his hatred for this man? After a lot of work over several years the urban monk was feeling a little relief, but still there were a lot of negative feelings remaining. The actual answer to the mystery was quite simple. He felt his hatred was actually inauthentic – the real hatred he had felt for this man had been healed a long time ago; what remained was a cover for a layer of hidden feelings underneath.

What the monk really had to heal was his own feeling of worthlessness. These thoughts had actually come into his head, but he found them too painful so he projected them onto the abusive man and proceeded to keep the hatred alive so that he wouldn't see that the feelings were coming from within himself. Brilliant! The trouble with this is that we become imprisoned in our negative feelings, we are trapped, unable to release the real feelings because we can't see them for all the bluster of the false,projected, negative feelings.

The urban monk has some good suggestions for further reading, and for my part, I'm going to play with some metaphoric layered photoshop imagery and see if I can't turn this idea into art.

Week 4, Lesson 2 Portrait with added layers for texture. ( Susan Tuttle provided the flower layer)

Friday, October 09, 2009

A heads-up for all you photographers/artists/photoshoppers.

Collage by Lani
Just to let you all know that Susan Tuttle is almost ready to offer "Workshop 1: Digital Photomanipulation" again. The four week class will be held from November 1st through November 29th. Registration will begin Sunday, October 25th, 7 PM EST. Spots are limited, so be sure to register promptly at that time. It is an amazing course, "Visual Poetry" is a great name for it, but it's so much more than visual poetry. It's filled with visual delights, wonderful gifts and magical learnings! I've had such a wonderful time learning a whole new "language" and I think you would enjoy it too! Do take a look at our class photos in the flickr group here and sign up soon.

Collage by Lani

Sunday, October 04, 2009

If the road is uncertain...

Collage by Lani

If the road is uncertain and difficult, remember to bring art supplies and your friends! My friend Diane sent me a quote from the wonderful New York Times article April 21, 2009 on the importance of friendship. Although most of the article was about how friendship actually helps us live longer, more healthy lives, it was the very end of the article that caught my eye.

Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”

This idea about friendship making the "steepness of the hill" easier to bear is a wonderful idea. And the best part about this is that being a good friend has nothing to do with our social status, our education, or our abilities. We can all be good friends to each other, and make those uncertain and difficult roads a little easier. So over at 14 Secrets we're playing with an idea of an art swap based on this research but mean while we're playing with these questions:
1. What would you share with friends to make their climb easier?
2. What would you like folks to know about things you enjoy that would make YOUR climb easier?
For some of our answers please check our blog. The difficult journey has miraculously turned into a colorful celebration of the traveling band of gypsy artists! What a wonderful group of friends!
Collage by Lani

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Altered art, altered emotion

Today's images are from Susan Tuttle's amazing course "Visual Poetry" .

Carol sent me a link for Kathryn Antyr's wonderful website and an art prompt found there. This prompt really got me thinking. It is about how we can get what ever stressful emotions that might be bottled up inside and put them into our journals or in this case, into some altered bottles. Kathryn gives Sharon Soneff credit for this idea which she found in "Art Journals and Creative Healing - Restoring the Spirit through Self-Expression." Since it's all about altering things I would like to alter this prompt a bit. I created my altered glass bottles with interesting labels like various emotions, dreams, hopes, wishes. And I left the tops off, that way I can place what ever I like into the bottle and forget about it. For me, it's a better idea metaphorically if if I am working with and trying to release troubling emotion to not re-bottle it. There's folk wisdom that I tend to agree with, "What we resist persists" so I'll keep my altered bottles free of any corks or tops. Turning a difficult emotion into a work of art (altered or otherwise) which I actually like, may be what I would aim for in response to this prompt. Do you want an example? See below.

Vintage image altered by Lani

I may have been feeling a little worried about something when I selected this photo to play with and by the time I was finished with my alterations I was very happy with the image AND in a completely different mood.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trying new words and new ideas!

Collage by Lani

Working in my friend Cyn's "Wreck This Journal" for an RR I'm participating in and I found this amazing sentence. "Dark times call for new words and ideas to bring the colors back into the day." So true! There's nothing quite like learning something new, trying one new thing every day to help us bring color back into our lives.
Today's images are from Susan Tuttle's amazing course "Visual Poetry" and what a delight that is, learning so many new words and ideas!
This shot was into the sun with marbles in an antique glass bottle. I love this but I have to admit I didn't think of it all by myself. I got the inspiration from Azirca's blog. Thank you Azirca!

And finally we have some sweet peas from Edward's garden with some of the "Visual Poetry" treatment. Such fun. It really is hard to keep a grumpy mood going if you are learning something new! Try it out for yourself and let me know what happens.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Touching Serenity

Collage by Lani
I stumbled on a website, Goodlife Zen, full of wonderful directives for increasing positive brain activity and the potential for being here now (why is it so much easier to live in the past and future?). Here's one example and it fits so nicely with my previous wishcasting post.

There is a way to escape this negative spiral of emotions.

The simple action I’ll describe in a moment is the physical expression of loving-kindness meditation. This is a kind of meditation where we turn loving and kind thoughts towards ourselves. When we are wound-up and blame ourselves for not performing well enough, we need to break this negative cycle of emotions through being kind to ourselves.

A simple touch can return us to serenity

What I’m going to show you is a powerful technique. It means touching the heart with the hand of love. You will notice a change when you do it. But it’s not going to make you serene for ever, just by trying it once! The tension in your mind and body is apt to reoccur. However, if you use this loving touch regularly, you will be able to prevent a build-up of stress in the future.

Touch the heart with the hand of love

Here is a beautiful and very simple way to find serenity.

  • Step #1 Take one deep breath and notice it flowing in and out.
  • Step #2 Take your right hand and place it gently– in slow motion and with warm awareness – on your heart area.
  • Step #3 Leave it resting there lightly for a couple of complete breaths and notice then changes in your body and mind

What your hand is saying to you is, “It’s all right. I love you all the same.”

When your hand comes to rest, you may notice that you spontaneously take a deep breath. Leave your hand on your chest for a while and notice your breathing deepen, your shoulders relax, and your face soften.

Repeat this magic action as often as possible

We cannot get too much of loving-kindness. All of us are in need of it. And we ourselves are often the ones who are our harshest critics and withhold our self love. When you touch the heart with the hand of love, your soul unfolds and your whole being lightens up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How do you wish to stretch?

Collage by Lani (vintage image from Paperwhimsy)
Over on Jamie Ridler's Studio, the wishcasting question is "How do you wish to stretch?" and I'd have to answer that I wish to stretch my heart. Being kind and nice to folks who are kind and nice to me is easy. What I'd like to be able to do more easily is to stretch my heart to include everyone, no matter if they are kindhearted themselves or not. That would be quite a good stretch, I think!