Artists Create in the Year of Protests, Marches and Resistance

Stand-Up Comedy, Mixed Media, 30×40

 

Artists unite to create resistance pieces during the past year of protests and marches.  If they have not, they should.  I have the pleasure of creating “Stand-Up Comedy” for a group show called Truth and Consequences  at Art Access Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The vision for the show was:  “A multi-media exhibit exploring Salt Lake City based artists’ attempt to make meaning out of the socially turbulent early days of the Trump presidency… Using the capacity of artmaking to try to make sense of the impact this time has had on our communities, our neighbors, families and ourselves as artists.”

Following is my statement regarding “Stand-Up Comedy,” the piece shown above:

“The World is laughing as the Orange Twitler pretends to govern our nation and make it great again. He seems to be against many of the programs and infrastructures that have already made America great… education, justice, freedom of speech, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all of which affect every American community and many American citizens. Furthermore, he seeks to ban immigration, the backbone of our culture.

“What dominates the Twitler’s thoughts and actions, golfing, tweeting, Putin, lining his pockets and being reelected? He claims he stands for patriotism. He bashes the NFL players for kneeling and expressing their freedom of speech. He claims he supports the troops yet he shows no compassion for fallen soldiers or their families. He dishonors a POW by stating he’s not a hero. He teeters on indecisiveness as he sides with white supremacists.

“With this ideology I painted “Stand-up Comedy,” leaving bits of newsprint in the oil paint that represent, to me at least, the half-truths that spew from Twitler’s self-aggrandizing tweets. I am angry that our system of government is failing America and has disintegrated to such depths. As I painted, I returned again and again to my embarrassment that the World is laughing at America and it hurts. Perhaps it’s more of a tragedy than a comedy… yet it’s the Orange Clown, his Cabinet of Jesters and Congress of Monkeys that makes it a stand-up comedy, a comedy of errors.”

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How to Get into Your Creative Flow

Guest Post by Larry Mager

 

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

Creativity can be expressed in our lives in many different ways. From painting to writing to experimenting in a lab, your own personal creative expression might look very different from someone else’s. Some people even use their creativity to form businesses and make a living. So how do we increase our levels of creative flow?

 

Recent studies are showing it is increasingly important to perform aerobic exercise not only to help our physical health, but also to benefit our mental fitness as well. Heart-boosting “cardio” exercises can actually improve the function of the prefrontal cortex of your brain. The prefrontal cortex controls thinking, memory, emotion, and – you guessed it – creativity.

 

Studies have shown that the benefits of cardio on the brain are increased when we perform exercise while surrounded by nature. You’re boosting your creativity when you play an outdoor tennis match, take a romantic walk on the beach, or hike your favorite mountain trail. StanfordHarvard and even the New York Times have noted the scientific benefits of outdoor exercise on the brain’s creative potential.

 

Why is it so much more powerful to be surrounded by nature? If you are looking to improve your capacity for creativity and get back into your prime mental flow, you’ll want to minimize stress and distractions in order to create a productive work environment. When we’re constantly checking Facebook or sending emails, we are inhibiting our body’s natural creative process. Give yourself permission to unplug!

 

If, for any number of reasons, you are simply unable to perform cardio exercise outside in nature at this point in your life, don’t fret. There are still other ways you can improve your creativity including meditation and art therapy. Meditation is known to boost your creative thinking skills – and it is something you can easily do at any time, from the comfort of your own home. You can even meditate while resting in bed! And of course, we can all help our brains by avoiding drugs and alcohol – which change our cognitive functions and may decrease creativity.

 

Creativity is about noticing and assigning meaning to those moments that make life worth living.  Some of the world’s most successful people are able to boost their own creativity by staying positive, controlling their thoughts and choosing what aspects of each day they focus on. This improves mental fitness as well as quality of life. In the famous words of the late Albert Einstein, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

 

Have you been pondering whether you should take the leap and quit your corporate job? Have you been thinking about whether you should ask your girlfriend to marry you? Next time you are asking yourself those big, soulful questions, it can help to get back in touch with your creativity. Go for a walk in nature, and meditate on how you want to feel in your everyday life. Eventually, the answers will start to come to you. Creativity is a practice, and the more you get in touch with it, the happier you will be.

 

Time Manage Your Creativity With the Pomodoro Technique

 

You may think to “Time Manage Your Creativity” would hamper creativity. According to Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, you actually can accomplish more.

 

By having a schedule and scheduling time, focusing on a project dissuades you from those pesky distractions I wrote about in a previous article.

 

WHAT IS THE “POMODORO TECHNIQUE?”

Cirillo adopted a tomato-shaped timer to keep on task. The technique is to segment a project into short intervals of twenty-five minutes, named Pomodoros after the Pomodoro timer. Each segment is followed by a short break of five minutes. After four “Pomodoros,” the task is abandoned for a fifteen-minute break.

 

USE A “POMODORO” OR AN EGG TIMER

A “Pomodoro” timer is not required. An egg timer is sufficient. A more efficient timer, however, is Marinara Timer.  It’s online and it’s free.   It counts down the minutes and seconds and gives an audible warning when the time has elapsed. It immediately counts down the five-minute break. After five, it proceeds to the next Pomodoro. It’s also possible to pause if necessary.

 

BREAK TIME

During break time, get a drink of water and visit the restroom. If time still remains, do a few push ups or some other physical activity. For the fifteen-minute break, take a short walk and have a snack (but only if you need nourishment).

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE?

  1. Keeping on Task is easy for the 25-minute segment and distractions can be avoided.
  2. Resting the Mind from solving creative problems takes a great deal of energy. Taking a break helps to refocus.
  3. Clock Watching is unnecessary with a timer. A “Pomodoro” may begin at any time such as 8:49. It does not have to begin at the top of the hour.
  4. Projects Can Be Completed when final goals are broken down into 25-minute timeframes and smaller goals.

   

WILL THE “POMODORO TECHNIQUE” WORK FOR EVERYONE?

Creativity permeates all professional and personal time. Solving problems in the work environment calls for creative approaches. A parent dealing with a child calls for creativity. The musician can practice using “Pomodoros.” The writer can write using “Pomodoros.” The painter can paint using “Pomodoros.” Applying the “Pomodoro Technique” can work in all environments.

 

TRY THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE

Apply the technique to your own unique project and leave a comment about how it worked for you.

 

Do Distractions Hamper Creativity?

Distraction-Muse vs. Creative-Muse

Duh! More specifically, do your Distractions hamper your Creativity? I’ll admit mine do. Do you have Artist’s Block or Writer’s Block? Let’s blame it on Distractions as if it is the anti-Muse. Unfortunately, the Creative-Muse is often blocked.

 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” -Maya Angelou

 

COMMON DISTRACTIONS

For the sake of this article, let’s identify common distractions?

 

The Internet & Social Media.

Starting with the most prevalent, it is no secret that the “Electronic Age” has invaded our lives. How often do we check our smart phones, our email, not to mention Social Media? We are so afraid we will miss something. Each time we do, the Distractions hamper Creativity.

 

Television.

We have to be entertained at all times. If we are not watching a favorite show, we are catching up on current events and the “news.” Now there’s a huge Distraction. Imagine how creative we could be if we didn’t have all that garbage clogging our minds.

 

Life.

Where do we start? So many mundane activities distract us… our daily constitutions, fixing meals, commuting, day jobs, and finances. All important activities, but possible Distractions.   Add multi-tasking to this mix and we think we are accomplishing something.

 

Health.

Poor health and the subsequent bills can be an overwhelming Distraction.         It certainly has been for me.

 

        

“You can’t keep bitch-slapping your creativity, or it’ll run away and find a new pimp.” –George Meyer

 

SOLUTIONS

 

Turn it off.

If an electronic device is one of your distractions, it’s simple. During times you need to focus, turn it off!

 

Meditation.

Start your day with a 5-minute meditation. I’m no expert, but it can set the tone and help you focus.

 

Exercise.

An early morning workout can be beneficial on so many levels. Uppermost, it improves health. If you don’t like going to the gym, create one in your home.

 

Establish Rules.

Set parameters. During your Creativity, adhere to self-imposed rules. If a phone call is important, they will either call back or leave a voice mail message. Emails and social media posts will still be there when you’ve completed your project.

 

Time Management.

Before you turn up your nose, keep reading. I recently read an article by Alan Henry about the Pomodoro Technique. It’s simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks.” The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo who used a “tomato” shaped timer, called a Pomodoro, for each 25 minute segment followed by a short break of 5 minutes. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. In fact, I am using the Pomodoro Technique now as I am writing this article.

In summary, I likely have not hit on all potential distractions or solutions. Identify your distractions and potential solutions. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. Distractions should not rob you of your Creativity.

 

The truth is that creative activity is one that involves the entire self – our emotions, our levels of energy, our characters, and our minds.” – Robert Greene, Mastery

 

Ways to Beat Stress and Improve Your Creativity at Work

Guest Post by Larry Mager

 

In all of your tasks at work, some level of creativity is required. Some days, the creative process comes with ease, while others can be more difficult. The number one reason creativity becomes blocked is stress. Even if you have the career of your dreams, at some point you will fall victim to work-related stress. Identifying your stressors and eliminating them will help declutter your thoughts, which will enhance your productivity. Also, incorporating a few mental exercises in your routine will give you more space to be creative. Here are a few tips and exercises you can begin using today!

 

Read a book

 

A lot of times stress comes from uncertainty, or not knowing how to complete a specific task. When you are stressed you block the creative process, which leads to even more frustration. An effective way to handle this issue is to get lost in a book. Reading forces you to ditch all distractions and focus. You are provided an escape by way of a fictional character, which allows you to get a glimpse of life through their eyes. As your imagination is engaged you will gain a fresh, new perspective on how to handle your workload. Reading a chapter or two a day can help lessen your stress and boost your creativity tremendously. Give your eyes and mind a break from the digital world by keeping an actual print book in your desk.

 

Brain dump

 

You may feel like your creativity is suffering when you have too many ideas floating around in your mind. Sometimes an array of thoughts can lead to inaction because you don’t know where to begin. That’s where doing a brain dump comes in handy! Brain dumping will help you get back into a comfortable space by eliminating the stress of not knowing what to do next. All that is needed to complete this mental exercise is a sheet of paper and a timer. For five minutes, write down every thought that comes to mind. When your time is up, cross off what seems of less significance. Bulletpoint what’s left on the list in order of importance, then get to work!

 

Eliminate bad habits

 

When you are stressed and frustrated with work, you may turn to a few bad habits for a release. You may find yourself binge eating throughout the day or having one too many drinks at the bar at night. When you load your body with unhealthy choices, you affect your its ability to perform well. Overeating throughout the day causes you to feel sluggish, which limits your ability to think on your feet. Instead of opting for fast food or vending machine snacks, bring a lunch from home. Fill your body with leafy green vegetables and other whole foods that fuel your mind and body to perform at maximum capacity.

 

Instead of decompressing from a long day at work by visiting the bar, try to partake in a less taxing activity. Try ending the day with a long, hot bubble bath. By relaxing in the tub, your body will become less tense as your stress melts away. Because you are in a tranquil state after bathing, you will sleep better and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. This will be a welcomed surprise if you are accustomed to not getting enough sleep, or having too much of the wrong things.

 

Work can be difficult, but it doesn’t always have to be that way! Be proactive in combating stress and freeing up the space to be creative by using mental exercises to nourish your body. Always remember to nurture your body, and your body will indeed take care of you!

 

Photo by Pixabay

Author Larry Mager believes exercising the brain is just as important as exercising the body. He enjoys writing about mental fitness games, puzzles, and other resources. Larry created ReadyBrain.net to help give people the mental workout they need to have a healthy brain.

 

Playing Hide-and-Seek with Your Creativity Muse

5 Tips that Block the Creativity Muse…   5 Tips that Nurture the Creativity Muse

Jerry Hardesty, Artist

 

My Creativity Muse has eluded me. At least, I have pretended she doesn’t exist. I wonder, have I been fooling myself?

 

As a Visual Artist and a Writer, I see myself as a problem solver. As a Painter, I am faced with choosing the perfect color and creating textures to cause viewers to linger and experience my work.   When I write, I am challenged with word choices and putting those words together to cause readers to continue to the end.

 

I may procrastinate that first brushstroke or a blog post topic. Once I’m over that hump, Creativity takes control. Hmmm! Could that be my Creativity Muse?

 

I have always submitted to Artist Chuck Close’s credo, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

 

I get to work. I paint and write daily. I am so immersed in my Zone that I often forget to eat, or that I’m even hungry (it’s not a diet, people, really).   Could that be my Creativity Muse?

 

My writing has led me to develop my definition of my Creativity Muse – she is my goddess who inspires me to use my imagination and create original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work, a painting or a writing.

 

 

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

 

At times, my Creativity Muse is blocked and I don’t acknowledge her.   Unfortunately, it’s my own fault.

 

Stress – According to Larry Mager in his guest post, WaystoBeatStressandImproveYourCreativityatWork, states “When you are stressed you block the creative process.” Mager presents several ways to unblock: read a book, brain dump, and eliminate bad habits.

 

Procrastination – When I procrastinate, I become stressed and block my Creativity Muse. I’m ignoring my goals

 

Attitude – If I think “I can’t,” I can’t. Attitude adjustment is the buzz phrase. Think positive.

 

Multitasking – Do we really accomplish more when we multitask? When we jump from one task to another we never actually achieve our goals.

 

Distractions – Most of us have a long list of distractions, starting with electronics. We think cell phones and laptops help us be more efficient. Emails, social media, and the internet take us away from our Creativity Muse. Add TV, co-workers and family and the list grows.

 

 

Here I Come Ready or Not

 

Seeking the Creativity Muse is more playful and rewarding than hiding from her. What works for me may not for you. She’s your Creativity Muse… how will you entice her to play?

 

Healthy Habits – Adequate sleep, preferably seven hours nightly… healthy nutrition, a balanced diet (eliminate sugar and sugary drinks)… Physical activity, I go to the gym at 5:00 a.m. each day… A cold shower stimulates ideas, I cannot jump into a cold shower but ease off the hot as I my body adapts.

 

Mental Activity – Meditation and journaling… Crossword puzzles, I do one each morning… Reading, I read the paper daily and later immerse myself in a good novel… As I allow ideas to incubate, I make notes otherwise I forget.

 

Changing Routines – My Creativity Muse gets easily bored with the same routine day after day. She welcomes changes, and I have to nurture her. Taking a different route for an errand creates new experiences.

 

Observing People – I enjoy going to Starbucks where my Creativity Muse becomes an Observer. I sketch as well as journal and develop ideas that have been incubating.

 

New Experiences – Making new acquaintances, traveling to different locations, and trying new things awaken my Creativity Muse. They are like a decadent dessert following a tasty meal.

Painting Titles – Headlines or Captions

Headlines in newspapers captivate our attention and coax us to read the subsequent article. Or not. Captions can do the same. Do painting titles do so as well? Does a title entice the viewer to linger as he or she searches for a more in-depth meaning?

 

I dare say, most potential buyers view a painting before discovering the title. Once, they do, do they really contemplate the artist’s meaning? Do they return to the canvas? In an abstract work, are they searching for a recognizable image?

 

A good title may tell a short story. A good title may lead the viewer into having his own experience with the work of art. An ambiguous title could possibly do the same.

 

At this point, I am going to present 5 images of several of my paintings. Use the following procedure (no cheating, please):

  1. View the image of each painting without the title.
  2. Now, go back and view the title for each one. Has knowing-the-title changed your first impression?
  3. Scroll down and read the title and narrative for each image. Does the narrative change your impression?
  4. Return to the image and have your own experience. Was your experience influenced by the title and/or narrative? Did this procedure enhance your experience?

REMEMBER, NO CHEATING!

 IMAGES:

  

TITLES:       

         Drive  Thru

         On A Bus in Rome

         The Devil’s in the Details Playing Tenor Sax

         Ikigai

         Shadow

 

TITLES PLUS NARRATIVE:

Drive Thru. I remained in my car as I was going through an automatic car wash. With nothing better to do, I snapped photos of the experience, which then became inspiration for several paintings.

 

On a Bus in Rome. My wife and I were on a bus in Rome when the driver became visibly irritated in Italian and stopped the bus. Inadvertently, my wife was leaning against the stop-the-bus button. We thought we were going to be shown the exit.

 

The Devil’s in the Details Playing Tenor Sax. All viewers are looking for the devil. Without revealing his location, I do admit that I saw him as I was painting this piece.

 

Ikigai.  Unless the viewer knows Japanese, he or she does not know that “Ikigai” is Japanese for the reason-for-living. Expressing myself in paint is my “Ikigai.”

 

Shadow. As I was painting this piece, a shadow emerged. He is subtle and unless I point him out, the viewer doesn’t always know he’s there.

 

As an artist, I prefer to use ambiguous titles as I do not want to lead the viewer’s experience. An artist friend has the same objective when he uses “untitled” as a title. In my opinion, I feel cheated… at least give me something to work with. When reviewing my oeuvre, I found no examples of a bad title and I don’t mean to break my arm patting myself on the back. Some titles are weaker than others, but none inherently bad.

 

I like lists and I maintain a list of potential “titles” as well as words that could be used in a title. If you are an artist who struggles with titles, I suggest you do the same. Ponder your reason for creating a piece and choose a title that complements the meaning. By all means have fun giving your work a title. Like a headline or caption, it could capture the attention of a potential collector.