Entries Tagged as: synchronicity

Creative Muses, Magic, and Synchronicities

February 12th, 2009, Comments (23)

I absolutely loved the TED talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, in which she discusses where creative inspiration comes from. I heard Gilbert speak at a small Boston bookstore a couple years ago and she's super funny and personable.

During the bookstore talk, Gilbert talked about her experiences with synchronicity and asking for signs. I could relate to her stories as I refer to my own experiences with synchronicity as "winks from the Universe." Walking back to my car after the talk, my mind was all abuzz with thoughts about synchronicity and the meaning of signs. Just then I looked up and saw a huge fabric sign pinned the building across the street that said,

It's a sign!

Ha! Well, the Universe seems to have a sense of humor. Or I'm totally bonkers. Or both.

In the TED talk, Gilbert talked about how in ancient Greece, people believed that creative genius came from a source outside the artist, something like a daemon or Muse that would provide the artist or writer with their material. She was playing with the idea of returning to this ideal as a way of taking the pressure off of artists (as in, "It's not my fault this book sucks. My daemon is lame-o!") and also lessens the artist's ego (as in, "I can't take full credit for this piece, my Muse gave me the idea.) Now, this may sound far-fetched or odd, but I can understand it to a degree.

I often don't know the meaning behind my artwork and its symbology until much later. I say that it comes from my intuition, my higher self, or my subconscious. So, why not call it a Muse? Would that help take any of the pressure off? I'm not sure, but it's an interesting idea. It reminded me of parts of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, which talks about being a conduit or a channel.

Yesterday, I was musing on Twitter about whether or not these ways of getting ourselves creating are just trickery, but then I came back to this: Does it matter? Whatever works! As skeptical, cynical, or cautious as I may be, when it comes down to it, I'm also open to the possibility of all the things in the world that I can't explain or understand. I'm open to the possibility of signs, intuition, and synchronicity. It certainly makes life more interesting. And who couldn't use a little more magic in their life?

What would happen if you were open to the possibility of synchronicity, signs, and intuition in your creativity? What if you just played with the concept of it? What sort of expression might that lead you to?

No matter what your feelings about where creative inspiration comes from, it is helpful to take the pressure off ourselves (which is why I love to give myself permission to make "bad" art. It helps!) In her TED talk, Gilbert encourages us to forge ahead:

"Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it. If your job is to dance, then do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment for your efforts, then Ole. And if not, do your dance anyhow. Ole to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."

Full Snow Moon

February 9th, 2009, Comments (12)

full snow moon
full snow moon

I have this funny habit of painting the moon right around the time of the full moon (without realizing the timing of it until after the fact.) Something in me seems to be quite tuned in to the moon's cycles.

When I sat down to paint this image late last night, I wasn't intending it to have the moon in it, but it came out anyways. Today, I read that tonight is the Full Snow Moon. Something about the name just tickles me. It sounds soft and romantic and makes me think of rabbits hopping across icy moonlit fields.

What I'd sat down to paint originally was the tree-like formations within the lungs of a woman with a bird nesting in them. I'd had this image come to mind while I was lying in savasana one afternoon last week. I'd like to paint this image in a few different formats.

In another bit of synchronicity, it turns out that today is the Jewish holiday, Tu B'Shvat, also known as the Birthday of the Trees, which falls on the fifteenth full moon of the Jewish month of Shvat. What a cool holiday! I just learned about Tu B'Shvat last year when I was going to a gym that was part of a Jewish recreational center. They had signs up about the holiday, but I also took a Nia class that day and the teacher talked it and had us moving like trees in the wind. I was just thrilled knowing that trees have their own special celebration.

It's interesting what will bubble up from our subconscious mind when we allow it to create. I love that my subconscious brought up the trees and moon images today.

Jamie Ridler hosts a Dreamboard challenge on her blog at every full moon. The dreamboards are a collection of images and words of something you want to manifest in your life. What a lovely practice to have around the full moon and a wonderful way to play with words!

The image above was made with acrylic and ink on a 6"x6" Aquaboard (clayboard with a texture similar to watercolor paper) and I'm calling it "Full Snow Moon."

Getting Playful

January 2nd, 2009, Comments (28)

2yearsolddrawings When I think of play (the totally optional theme for January), I think of childhood. In a bit of synchronicity, my mom randomly sent me scans of some of my childhood drawings this week. These were from the month after I turned 2. I used to tell my parents that I loved to "drawf a wady" (draw a lady), so I'd say that some things never change!! In the top picture there I drew lots of people and in the bottom I drew some teeny items and then told my mom what they were (apparently, I pointed out a crib and a carraige.)

I think it's a fairly simple connection to make, play and youth. And while we can aim to never lose our child-like nature, there are lots of ways to include play in our creative adventures without returning to childhood.

In my experience, bringing the feeling of play into creating is essential in keeping the feeling of joy and fun in the process. Sometimes, I get too stiff. If I start feeling stingy with my materials, afraid of ruining that big canvas, or wasting that new art supply, I can get anxious. And that comes through in whatever I'm working on. So, how do you return to that playfulness, when you're feeling anything but? I want to explore this a bit throughout the month here and share what has worked for me.

Sketchbookswaprain One thing that helps when I'm feeling stiff, is to return to a place that I'm comfortable playing in. That might mean working in cheaper materials, in places that are less permanent, or in places that are private. That is one of the best things about sketchbooks. They are a place to experiment, make a mess, and when you're done, you can close the cover or turn the page and move on. I have many sketchbooks: one by my bed, a little one in my purse, and others that travel around with me. I use my sketchbooks to catch ideas as they pop into my head, but I don't just wait for ideas to come to me before I open the pages. I will also pull out my sketchbook and just see what comes.

I've found that you don't need to wait for inspiration, you can simply show up at the page and begin. You may be surprised what comes out! Sometimes, I just start to doodle and the doodle will suggest an image that will lead to an idea for a future painting. And sometimes it's just a doodle. Either way, it's a great release.

This year, I've also been participating in a sketchbook swap and I've been using it as a place to play. In the sketch on the right, I was just doodling a swirl, which suggested an umbrella to me, and then became this rainy scene.

So, how do you return to playfulness when your creations are getting stiff? I'd love to hear about it!

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. --George Bernard Shaw

A Work in Progress – Lantern

November 20th, 2008, Comments (23)

I've been drawing an image in my sketchbook of a woman in the woods, a couple different versions this month. Today I was thinking maybe I'd use a 14"x14" wood panel that I'd prepared, but wasn't sure. I still get this moment of hesitation when working with materials that I might find precious, a larger canvas or panel, or an expensive art supply. I was thinking that doing art every day helps lessen that feeling and then I had a funny bit of synchronicity. I had brought in the mail and saw a new Anthropologie catalog. On the last page was a picture of a woman standing in the woods holding a lantern, much like the images I'd been sketching. And the dress she wore was called the Lantern's Glow dress. Well, that does it, I thought! I set to work collaging the panel, here you can see the panel at that stage.


In the afternoon, I began to paint in the image. I'm not done yet, but here it is so far.


I'll work on it more tomorrow. I'll write more about my Soul Coaching journey tomorrow as that's all the energy I've got for computer time at the moment. Toodaloo for now!

Mandalas and Shadows

November 18th, 2008, Comments (15)

Posting a little late tonight. I went to take pictures of my art of the day, only to realize that my camera's battery was out of juice. It worked out well though, because while it was charging, I got motivated to bring to life a second piece of artwork that had been in my head all day.

The first piece I created is above. Last night I had gessoed over an old record, so I knew that I wanted to paint on it today. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to paint, but I thought maybe I'd do a mandala. I ended up squirting red paint directly onto the record and then going from there. Around the edges, I put little blue elephants that I think are pretty darn cute. I put it up on the wall with a clear pushpin and I'm loving how bright it is.

So even though I'd done my art for the day when I finished the mandala, I had a strong urge to follow through on an idea I'd had in the morning when I read the entry in Soul Coaching. There were some intense exercises in the book today and yet it really resonated with me. I even had a feeling as I read, that the art I'd submitted to Jamie for the group blog would be up there today (and it was). Also, today was day 17 in the book, and 17 is my lucky number (I say lucky, but I really mean it's the number that I see everywhere and consider to be a wink from the universe.) So with all these little synchronicities, I felt like I had to honor my idea-spark from this morning and bring it to life. And I'm so glad I did!

The idea came as I was reading Denise Linn's discussion of the shadow, the darker side to our psyche. She asks the reader to look out for places where we might be projecting our shadows onto others. I don't know where I read about this originally, but it's a great practice. Basically, the idea is to notice when you're annoyed with or judging someone or something. And when you notice, you stop to think about whether this someone or something is reflecting a part of you that you are annoyed with or judgmental of (whether that part of you is part of your past, present, or perhaps your future.)

I'm calling this piece "Shadow Self" and it's done with acrylic on 12"x16" watercolor paper. I was imagining this sort of vivid and active shadow self down below, while the real self is somewhat subdued because it is trying so hard to ignore the shadow. (I'm really liking this size right now!)

Other bits of today's exercises from the book included turning your "shoulds" into "coulds" (something I like to do and was glad to be reminded of), looking at our sexual history, getting our skeletons out of the closet, and then dancing out our dark and light aspects. It was all a cathartic experience, especially the dancing piece which I surprised myself by really digging into. So, all in all, today was a super expressive day, one of those days it was just pouring out of me. And with that, I'm off so that I can get this posted!

p.s. Thanks for the interest in the calendar I'm creating! I'm waiting for a sample copy to arrive, so I know that the quality is excellent before I start to sell them. As soon as they're ready to go, I'll let you know!

At Sea

November 13th, 2008, Comments (26)

Ack! It's dark so early!! I was painting today and totally lost track of time. Isn't that a nice feeling? I believe I've finished up "At Sea" which is about 9"x12" on cradled wood panel with acrylic and ink and now I'm feeling a bit foggy. Time for a break.

For those of you curious about the Soul Coaching book I'm working through with a group, be sure to check out these great audio recordings from the author, Denise Linn. She reads a great meditation at the start of each one and then goes on to do a quick over view of the day's tasks. There was a bit of synchronicity in the meditation for today (day 12) which instructed the listener to imagine looking out over a stormy sea, which is just what I was working on in the painting above. And then outside the sky has been stormy all day. Is there a message in that? I tend to see synchronicities as a sort of wink from the Universe and a gentle affirmation that I'm headed in the right direction.

Hmm, I know there were other things I wanted to share with you today, but I'm at a total loss as to what they were! lol! I've been off in art-land a little too long and my brain has gotten as foggy as my painting. I'm off to have some tea and honey and hopefully wake up.

Celebrate Every Advance!

November 6th, 2008, Comments (18)

Ah, my migraine left and today felt productive. I did some serious de-cluttering as part of my work with Soul Coaching, choosing a corner of my bedroom that has been bugging me for ages. I put my favorite cleaning mix on my ipod, blasted it loud and got to work, sweeping up the cobwebs and dust, separating out the trash, putting things away, and cleaning the surfaces. It kind of amazed me how much time and energy it took to do this one corner and it was overwhelming if I thought about doing the whole room. But I didn't think about the whole room. Baby steps, baby steps!!! As author Denise Linn suggests, "Celebrate every advance!" Woohoo! I'm celebrating my clean bedroom corner! While cleaning, there were a few funny little synchronicities in the things I came upon, including a list of values I'd written out over a year ago. I need to check that list against the one I wrote this week and see how they match up!

I had fun with some art-making time this evening. I did a small piece on a 4"x4" canvas in acrylics based on a sketch from my sketchbook. I don't always bring my sketches to fruition, so it's nice when a little push gets them done. I'm calling it, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon."

This piece was all play and experimentation. It's not quite done, but I'm liking it. I put two leaves on the image at the end, but they're not attached. I really love the way it's come together. I'm calling it, "Walking in Circles."

In need of some inspiration? Check out Design for Mankind's latest zine! This month, the theme is the handmade market. You can view it for free online or purchase a print copy. If you're looking for something to listen to while you create, check out the latest Craftcast podcast which features an interview with Daniel Vosovic (from season 2 of Project Runway!) who has a new book out called, Fashion Inside Out: Daniel V's Guide to How Style Happens from Inspiration to Runway and Beyond. It sounds like a great read with lots of discussion about the creative process. And I'm sure it's visually inspiring too!

p.s. I love Ugly Betty!


August 6th, 2008, Comments (9)

I've been experiencing so much synchronicity in the past few days, it's wild! One that made me laugh out loud and gave me goosebumps was when I saw the same image twice in a matter of hours. First, in the copies of the Calyx journal I received in the mail. I opened the journal to check out my art and the other art featured inside. One of the artist's I noticed was Fran Forman, whose name stood out partly because I read that she is a fellow Massachusetts artist. Fran does beautiful digital collages using images she finds at flea markets.

Just a couple hours later, I was at my old job where I'm spending the evenings this week and I picked up the Globe. I wouldn't have seen this if I hadn't been at work this week because I don't get the paper delivered at home. And even if I had gone to the paper's website, I probably wouldn't have seen the bit from the daily insert, called "Sidekick." There on the front page of "Sidekick" was a large image called "Letting Go," the same one I saw in Calyx, from Fran Forman. I snapped a quick pic of the paper for you.

In some synchronicity squared, I received a comment today from Patty of Magpie's Nest on my recent post about, synchronicity of course, which reminded me about an article I read in the Globe over two years ago. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find it, but I did a quick search with what I remembered and it was the very first thing that came up on google. The article is all about seeing signs in numbers, in this case it involves a message from someone who has passed on. The story clearly made an impression on me since I remembered it so clearly. Looking back at it now, I laughed because of the date it was published includes my favorite number for synchronicity: 17.

Gah, it's seems impossible for me to explain these things properly. Today there were so many little instances of seeing the same things show up in different books and websites and the oddest places. After a full day of feeling bombarded, it's almost silly. When I read SARK's newsletter this evening with her own story of crazy synchronicity (which she told ever so eloquently), I laughed when she shared the Anne Lamott quote, "That's God showing off." That's a good way to put it. In an email, I told Patty that I think of them as winks from the Universe. Winky, winky, wink-wink.

Lifeforce My internet has been on the blink which has been frustrating and I feel terribly behind in catching up with emails and blogs. But I'm trying to let it roll off my back. Speaking of letting things roll off my back, I've been continuing to enjoy yoga. I tried out a new yoga dvd today: LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues with Amy Weintraub, author of the book Yoga for Depression: A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga, (which was excellent by the way.) I really enjoyed the dvd which incorporated yoga poses, breathing, and chanting. It's definitely a dvd I would want some privacy to do, mainly because of the chanting, but I do like chanting and I like the way she incorporated it into the poses themselves. It wasn't a super challenging dvd, but I did feel much lighter and more energized afterwards. I especially liked how she began the dvd with some simple body movements (rolling the ankles, knees, hips, a little dancing, and a little shaking) that warm the body up before you do any poses. I appreciated that because I feel like sometimes yoga classes and videos go right into the poses cold. Eventually your body warms up, but it's much nicer to go into the stretches with the synovial fluids in your joints already moving, especially when your not the most flexible lady on the planet. Plus, doesn't shaking just feel good? Try it. It feels fantastic. :-) Shake it like a polaroid picture and all that. As I type this, in the background someone on t.v. says, "Shake it. Shake it." Hehe

All the yoga and reading I've been doing has been very helpful in my journey as I taper off anti-depressants. I'm grateful for that. It's so important for me to keep up with self-care here, especially as the days begin to get shorter, and yoga helps me remember to breathe and connect with my body. Finding creative ways to face my tendency towards a depressive state has been kind of fun. I enjoy reading what has helped others and trying natural ways to keep my spirits up through inspirational books, movement, supplements, art-making, etc...Every person is unique, so I think I need to discover my own personal prescription. But I always feel like I'm on the right path when I start seeing synchronicities every where!

Symbols and Synchronicity

July 29th, 2008, Comments (22)

I really love the way this piece came together. I worked on it a long time, letting it linger, changing and re-changing, layering and building, letting it grow and hide and reappear as I worked. I had the hubster come in and give me some constructive criticism at one point. He was cautious, not wanting to hurt my feelings. Sometimes, I can be very sensitive. But for whatever reason, I felt really open and non-defensive with it and I really wanted to hear what he had to say. I feel like I've come to a stopping point with it and since it is such a gorgeous day today, I was able to snap some pictures with natural light. It's 20"x20" with acrylic on canvas.


Sometimes things appear in paintings that you don't intend. I'm used to this with collage as I try to create collaged images intuitively, being open to happy accidents and such. But it only recently started happening in paint. While I was working, I noticed a large number 3 had appeared. I flushed out the bottom a tiny bit, but mostly it was already there. Three is a number that pops up a lot for me (as do 7 and 17), so I left it in there, even though I'm not sure exactly what it means.

I dreamed this image before I painted it. In the dream, Ophelia was walking into the water and she had a tattoo on her back that represented rebirth and renewal. I knew that she was entering into the water as a ritual (not as suicide) and that part of the tattoo was a large circle. I tried to recall more about the tattoo, but couldn't see it, so I drew sketch after sketch after sketch of it. At some point, I had to stop sketching and just begin and I'm glad I did because some of it worked itself out right on the canvas. The bees are a symbol that has been popping up lately first in my own artwork, in fun bee-spotting exchanges with Karen, and then in things I've been reading. I'd completely forgotten until it came up in a book I was reading about dreams, that my middle name, Melissa, means honey bee. I looked up the origins of the word and found that in ancient Greece, bee goddesses or priestesses were called Melissas and had the gift of prophecy. Homer wrote of the bee goddesses which I thought was fascinating considering my recent painting of Penelope. Bees and honey were symbols of the cycle of life as well as rebirth, so I decided to include them in the tattoo.

The flame that is also a tree, developed in sketches and on the canvas itself. I like how the roots mirror the bare branches of the trees in the background. Trees have been a common symbol in my artwork since I was a teenager, believe it or not. I saw them in a spiritual sense, as symbols of rebirth and the cycle of life. In the water, I also painted a scarab beetle, although it is mostly covered in layers of paint. I felt that I had to include it after the weirdest synchronicity occurred a couple weeks ago. You may remember the ridiculous (and funny) story about the large beetle in my bathroom. If not, go read it for a laugh. Anyways, the weird part was , I had just picked up a book, in the bathroom (yes, I read in the bathroom) called "Synchronicity" by Carl Jung, right before I saw the giant beetle and ran out to get the hubster, sans pants. I left the book open to the page, but didn't get back to it til the next day. Well, the next day, I open it up to read the story about when one of Jung's patients dreamt about a scarab beetle and just then they heard a tapping noise at the window. Jung opened it and in flew a large beetle (the equivalent of a scarab beetle in that area.) I literally laughed out loud when I read it thinking of my own personal scarab visitation. Turns out, scarab beetles were also a symbol of rebirth in the ancient cultures of Egypt and Greece. They're also considered a symbol of positive change, self-generation, and creativity. Very cool.

Phew, that was a mouth-full! I hope that was somewhat interesting to read about. It's a bit hard to explain the thrill of the journey and the little synchronicities that lead up to the finished piece, but I figured I'd give it a try anyways.

The yoga class this morning went well. The teacher was very sweet and gentle. Hoping to attend another class tomorrow! The hubster and I are going to a Red Sox game tonight. I hope the weather stays as lovely as it's been all day!

Dream, Dream, Dream

July 6th, 2008, Comments (9)

Through a bit of synchronicity and the recommendation of Kelly, I've been entranced by a book all weekend. Kelly had a dream about a lynx which led her to my blog because of a recent post about my own dream lynx. She recommended the book, Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss, which I found a copy of in my local library. When first hearing the title of the book, I wasn't super interested. I've held a certain dislike for books about dreams because most of what I've encountered has been like a cheap horoscope, poorly written and not helpful. Most of the reading on the subject in the past had been of your basic dream interpretation variety. And the definitions of symbols in those books never rang true for me, so I dismissed them.

I never dismissed my dreams however. I've always had vivid dreams and occasionally I have dreams that come true or clue me in on things that are going on. My specialty seems to be knowing the sex of a baby before it's born, though I've only experienced this with close friends and the children my mom had after me. I don't think I'm psychic, perhaps intuitive, but not reliably so. The best part of dreaming for me is the inspiration it provides for my art. Many of my paintings are developed from ideas I get in dreams, particularly in that hypnogogic state between sleeping and wakefulness. One of my recent ideas, of Ophelia walking into the water with a tattoo on her back that represents renewal and rebirth, came to me in a dream. It hasn't made it into a painting yet, but it will. I've been sketching it out, trying to remember the look of the tattoo that was on her back. All the pics in this post are sketches where I've been playing with the idea.

I believe what opened me up to picking up and diving into Conscious Dreaming was the fact that I recently read and enjoyed Martha Beck's Steering by Starlight which has a section devoted to interpreting your dreams. I listened to this book first in audio form (which is fabulous by the way) and when it came to the part about dreams, I think I literally groaned. I was not interested in hearing about it, but since it was playing through my headset while I did other things like take a walk or doing dishes, I just let it go. If I'd been reading instead of listening, I might have skimmed over this part. Well, wouldn't you know it, I really liked her way of looking at dreams. She looks at the objects, places, and people in your dreams as sort of message-bearers. And if you dialogue with them (out loud or in a journal), ask what they're trying to help you with, and then write the answer in their voice, as if they were speaking, you can often get to the heart of the matter. I tried this on some of my recurring dreams and it was helpful. It was helpful to see the people in my dreams as possibly being parts of myself relaying a message that has been buried in my subconscious. So having read Beck's book first, I think I was more open to reading Moss's book and I'm so glad! It was so wildly full of synchronicities for me that I kept laughing and ear-marking pages all over the place.

Some of the book felt a bit far-fetched for me. But it was still fascinating and I enjoyed reading about the dreams of others and what they meant to them. And I appreciated that Moss insists that we are the only authority on our own dreams. I was also tickled by the references to Alice in Wonderland, Women Who Run with the Wolves, and especially The Odyssey, which came up in my most recent painting of Penelope's Web. There were also many references to symbols that are important in my dreams and artwork such as birds and trees, which was very cool to read about. Do you find that dreams bring you inspiration for your creative activities? Do you follow the inspiration to fruition?

Well, I've got some prints to get ready for mailing and some painting that I've been itching to start, so I'll stop here. Hope you've had a wonderfully creative weekend!