Creative Crackdown — #museclues

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I swear the glass isn’t the size of my head. Although I’d be okay with that.

I’d love to blame my current problems and frustrations on writer’s block or an MIA muse, but as most creatives will tell you, if you don’t work the muscle it simply atrophies. Staring at my blank canvas or page, waiting for inspiration to smack me in the face, usually results in the decision to pour a glass of wine and see what everyone’s talking about on twitter. Flash forward two hours and there is still a blank canvas/page, rolling its inanimate eyes in we’ve-been-down-this-road-before amusement.

In other words, there may not be a mystical muse to blame for my current state of overwhelming frustration and general dissatisfaction. Just me.

Well, crap.

So when I turned 52 yesterday [GULP, I really need to start lying about my age] and had just received $52 from mom to spend at will, I went to the local bookstore seeking inspiration. I didn’t buy any books but I did find some cool ideas for free. Then I went to the local arts and crafts store that doesn’t open on Sundays and doesn’t want to pay for their employees’ birth control which is fine but then don’t bitch about abortion and I eventually digressed down several aisles before spending $53 on art supplies in the full-scale hunt for my mystical, hooky-playing muse.

So here’s my plan: Create something every single damn day until I’ve retrieved the passion and confidence that has taken an extended hike in the past few years. I know I suck at NaNoWriMo and I know my schedule and resources would make a Painting-A-Day difficult to keep up with, so I’m committing to SOMETHING CREATIVE every day and I’ll be accountable by posting it online at my creative blog AndSuzSays.com. Every day.

[[[ I’ll just keep repeating that until I stop hyperventilating at the mere thought ]]]

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I’m sure 52 will be as much of a hot mess as this first painting attempt is. I’m okay with that too.

Day 1: Last night I took a selfie of me and my first glass of wine as I “celebrated” the passage of time. Today I celebrated my daily #museclues with a painting of that photo. It’s not really finished because I got so zealous with the oils it was impossible to add details, but you get the idea… It’s a start.

I’ll be posting a blog, essay, story, drawing, painting or SOMETHING CREATIVE each day and tweeting it if anyone is interested, but mainly it’s simply a cheap ploy to lure my muse out of hiding and help me figure out what the hell I want to be when I grow up. Which I think happens at 53 so I better hurry…

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Post-hibernation homework

Published with permission by the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

After a few heartbreaking false starts, it appears that spring may finally be ready to stick around. Well, at least until it snows tomorrow. I can handle precipitation as long as it’s not frozen and accompanied by frigid winds. I’m more than a little whiny these days.

With the warm-up, I can tell it’s not just my attitude that needs adjusting, but my creativity as well. After a while of everything being brown or white, I’m simply not as inspired – be it words, art, music or other forms of expression – I’m just not feeling it.

Don’t be late for this very important date… with your creative self.

If you’re the same way, crawling out of your figurative cave this spring, I have some post-hibernation homework for you: make a date with yourself.

Years ago I read an amazing book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and I’ve carried some of the most inspiring points with me since then, one of them being an artist date. Cameron is primarily a writer but the spirit of the book and the artist date is really for all types of creative people – and in my humble opinion, we’re all creative no matter what shape that may take.

Unfortunately we’re all too often waylaid by work, family, obligation – or in my case, winter blues – to get those juices flowing and we need to assign ourselves the task of stimulating those senses again. It won’t take a lot of time and it may even be something you’ve already scheduled. The key is opening your eyes and looking at the world a little differently.

Start with an hour a week and designate that time as your creativity date. One of my favorite places to start is the local thrift or antique store. Look past the junk that no one else wants or the dated dishes and clothes that make you cringe.

Look for the treasure. Think about the history behind an unusual knick-knack. Imagine the story behind the old book with the personal inscription. Appreciate the intricate pattern on a single dish that survived from a whole set of old china.

When the weather is finally cooperative, take a walk – just you and your imagination. Along with your stiff legs, you’ll feel your creativity stretch and yawn while you look at the dark bare branches lacing against the sky, their buds not quite visible to those in a hurry. Really admire the mosaic of decades-old flagstone that graces so many of the streets in Berthoud. (No really, look at them and make sure you don’t trip on an uneven edge while looking at the trees.)

Sometimes the date can be less abstract and you can take the time to fully enjoy the arts as created by others. When the kids are in school, spend an afternoon in the theater with a small independent film that has the critics buzzing. Speaking of kids, the Annual Thompson School District art show “Look. Think. Make. Connect!” is at the Loveland Museum/Gallery through April 14. You will be awestruck and inspired by the talent of our regional youth.

So many stories... one of them could be yours. (What is that weird black thing on the table?)

So many stories… one of them could be yours. (What is that weird black thing on the table?)

The Longmont Library is holding a festival this month that includes a talk and slide show with renowned Colorado author and photographer John Fielder on April 17. Any library is actually a gold mine for creative dates. I’ve been known to walk the stacks without purpose, just looking at all the books and seeing what subject sparked my curiosity.

You get the idea. You don’t need to be a writer or painter or musician, but may just need a seasonal jumpstart to your creativity. So here’s your assignment, if you choose to accept it: take an hour this week just for you and your winter-worn imagination. Work that intangible muscle and see what tangible impact it has on the rest of your life. It’s an easy A.

Current affairs and state of the arts

This commentary on the state of the arts was previously published in The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, in Berthoud, Colorado. Some comments are regional but the main point is universal. – Suz

Being an artist — whether painter, pianist or poet — is a tough calling to answer. The term “starving artist” has been around long before anorexic pop stars, and for good reason. To live by one’s art means that every little bit of money earned tends to go back in to supplies or studio rent or another black turtleneck. Food usually goes to the bottom of the list and thus, a cliché is born.
Appreciative art lovers may really want an original painting to adorn their wall, but first they have to spend eighty dollars filling their tank to get to their own day jobs. And since the average person doesn’t enjoy starving as much as the average artist, it takes a lot more green to fill their grocery cart with greens. That masterpiece just went from whim to wish and may gather dust in the local gallery.
Musicians still waiting for the big break – and who missed the auditions for that poor excuse of a show “America’s Got Talent” – are looking for a paying, playing gig to fill the gaps. Clubs trying to keep their expenses down will forego the live music. Why pay for a soulful crooner when karaoke is free. Obnoxious, but free.
Writers can bide their time between book deals by exploring the wonderful new world of blogging. If they don’t mind the need to shower hourly, there is certainly an available cesspool for political commentary these days. Unfortunately, the Internet might provide a huge audience but the pay is as intangible as cyberspace itself.
Sadly, it is a difficult time to be an artistic type who hopes to make a living doing what our souls can’t live without. Dramatic? Maybe, but it’s true. And as an arts writer, art seller, artist and friend of many artsy types in general, I feel qualified to expound on this matter. Those who aspire to spin gold from their chosen endeavors are getting bloody fingers these days, but regardless of their success they still gotta do it. It might be done after the day job or the housework, but there’s a cubby hole in the house or a corner of their lives where they squeeze out some product … even if it’s only for themselves.
You see, it doesn’t matter what acrobatics our economy is performing or what war abroad our country is fighting or even who will emerge from the muck in November to run it all. Creative souls have to create.
People may not be motivated in hard times to go out and embrace the arts, (too expensive, too far to drive, too frivolous) but the hard times have never kept the artistic spirit down. Why do you think the blues remained popular even after the Prozac kicked in? And the Great Depression, the symbolic era that defined tough times, produced some of the most amazing cultural expression in our country’s history. Painters like Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper depicted the mood and courage of the times with stark, mesmerizing imagery. When theatergoers stopped buying tickets to big productions, they flocked to the newly talking movies to be entertained by the optimistic likes of Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. Broadway themed pictures replaced the actual theater for a long time. Musically, the depression gave birth to the masters of Tin Pan Alley and today’s artists still integrate folk and blues into their work.
No, a civilization – much less a country – does not fall to its knees, creatively when gloom and doom are the battle cry. If it did, I’m afraid our museums would be chock full of Thomas Kinkade paintings, Abba would rule the airwaves and only numerous versions of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books would fill our libraries. People often say they don’t regret the bad things that have happened to them, because it made them who they are. Same thing, bigger picture.
Berthoud is working through its latest growing pains amidst the housing crisis, rising costs, etc., right along with everyone else. But the arts are being hit particularly hard. Mountain Avenue Pottery has been in apparent limbo for months since it’s brief period of business. A few beautiful pieces still sit and hang to be admired in the window. Jellyfish Glass on Third Street has scaled back to offer glass blowing classes, kids art workshops and viewing by appointment only. And one of the biggest losses was the cancellation of Berthoud’s Arts and Crafts Festival held every June for 34 years. Berthoud Arts & Humanities Alliance (BAHA) took over the event a couple of years ago and I’ve been told they plan to bring it back next year. We sure hope so.
Whether it was lack of vendors, poor economy or road construction, there is still a healthy appetite for art. The sculpture and art show held this week in Loveland are already reporting great numbers. One Berthoud art lover said she may be a little choosier, perhaps buying fine or more durable art, but she is definitely still buying art. Another theory I heard – and liked – is that with the gas prices rising, folks stay home more and before long they feel the need to nest; surround themselves with things that make them happy. Wildfire Community Arts continues to offer a broad range of culture to the town and the Bridge Between Show Choir are singing and dancing their way into people’s hearts, just to name a few.
I like all of these optimistic outlooks when we’re in a crunch, but it really doesn’t matter what I think. Artists will always find a way to express themselves whether anyone’s buying, or not. It’s an addiction that must be fed. I actually saw an advertisement once in California for A.A. – a twelve-step program for artists, not alcoholics. Why would anyone want to overcome the need to create?
So go out this week and feed a local artist – they might need a new black turtleneck before the temperature drops.