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Penelope Przekop October 02, 2015

Chasing Love is Like Chasing Your Own Tail

I came across this on Facebook today. So true! I learned it the hard way, and then wrote a book about it ... Please Love Me

The good news is that with determination, we can learn and grow from all our relationships and experience. I sure did; I will never forget the boy that broke my heart while I was breaking his. I'm so thankful I went on to have such a wonderful, fantastic husband ... going on...

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6527212 February 24, 2015

Deconstruction of a Southern Girl

I was taught through the church, and the Southern culture supporting it, that men are inherently superior to women. As if that wasn't enough, there was an underlying message that everyone was superior to me.

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6527212 February 28, 2012

The Artist

Vulnerable like that stark canvas, I am an odd sort of survivor Navigating a failed system, A world that may not hear my song, One where rules are king, And logic prevails, Oh, where is my kingdom, Where do I go to breathe, To feel it all, To swallow.

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6527212 October 26, 2011

Art, Fire, and a Hurricane: John K. Lawson

"The creative cave is the looniest, loneliest place in the world. Ultimately it’s the scariest and safest place as well."

I grew up in a special type of loony, lonely cave. A place where contradiction was king. Creativity enabled me to envision another world, a future where all the confusing fragments of my life might perfectly align. Was I a hungry kid on the streets, in the gutter, or scraping by in a refugee camp?  No, I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana in the 1970's under the emotional thumb of a mentally ill mother.

It certainly could have been worse.  

Today artist and writer, John K. Lawson, tells us that the creative cave is the looniest, loneliest place in the world. So why the heck am I hanging out in it when I'm still trying to divorce myself from all the lunacy and loneliness of my childhood?  

John also says it can be the safest place. 

I'm not a expert on psychology but hasn't it been said that we often feel the urge to go home again?  I've been simultaneously running away and toward home for years, and it's caused me a great deal of inner turmoil. I don't know what it means or which way I'm supposed to go. My writing and art have given me an outlet for that turmoil, and that's why I'm painfully sensitive about it.  Why I want it to ultimately be meaningful and have inherent value.

I'm one of those borderline philosophical sad sacks who spend pathetic amounts of time thinking about "what it's all for," and "what it all means."  I look at the thousands of words I've written and the art I've created, and ask myself, "Am I pouring years of my life into something that means nothing?"  When I die, will it all turn to dust and blow away?  Am I just a misguided idiot wasting precious time?  Is John?

With regard to creating art, John says,  "It takes guts and sometimes stupidity. You  have to have an ego strong enough to accept that the creative force is not always a pretty smiling greeting card, and what you are making might not fit over the proverbial couch or match the newest art fad."

So if it doesn't fit over my neighbor's couch or become an art fad, is it wasted? The answer is supposed to be no. But why? Is the answer no because it's healing my soul, because it gives me something to do, and provides meaning in a meaningless world?  Is that enough? 

Lately, I'm confused about what I should be painting, what I want to paint, why I want to paint, etc.  Trying to resolve those questions is slowly driving me nuts.  What I do know is that I need to paint.  I don't want to stop.  And if I had to stop for some reason, I'd write.  They are avenues to funnel out a tiny spec of all that rages in my head. If I didn't have a way to relieve the pressure, I'd explode.

John also paints and writes, and he believes that "the continual fire to create, in whatever shape or form, draws from the same source regardless of medium."

Yes, that's it.

I'm burning; there's a fire pit in my soul that just won't die. It's sad to think that it may never actually cook up anything phenomenal.  But I realize now that it doesn't matter; the fire is all that matters. It rages on. 

I think John gets it ... has it ... needs it like I do. 

What's your story (in a nutshell)?

Inside the nutshell, a curious child wonders alone in the busy cracked sidewalks streets always wanting to know what's around the next corner, or why he doesn’t feel cool inside and out because he questions everything, hoping his parents won't notice his rusty safety pin ear rings, his hands covered in spray paint and the poetry books he is reading.

Whispers of lovers, foreign lands filled with new cities and the genuine smile of strangers, beckoned me onward with the chance to experience new thoughts and experience new ideas regardless of the outcome.

Was the journey on a straight or twisted path?

Upon reflection there were many times when the puddle I jumped head first into was really a bottomless pit with slimy cracked walls, armed uniformed thugs, the stench of raw sewage and no toilet paper.

Crawling my way out, I lost many a battle watching the skin on my face and knuckles reveal bare bloody flesh, a locked and bolted door, or worse, a condescending pat on the back making me feel like a snail crawling along the edge of a razor blade.

Unable to look away or behind me keeps the journey constant even though there were many times when one step forward and two steps backwards was the only way to go.

I always knew from a very early age I had to create something. In Working Class England the word artist was never really in the vocabulary. Folks started calling me that long before I considered myself one. These days I accept the label and dig my heels in deeper.

How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist?

Twenty five years ago the concept of working part time and creating art was new to me. Europe was under the rule of Thatcherism and the main reason I stayed in the USA was the abundance of part time work. I didn’t have any formal art training, knew nothing of the gallery scene but was given plenty of opportunity to work with my hands. I made a point of living as frugally as possible, often in ghetto situations, a friend’s van, or abandoned buildings where I could use the money I made to create art.

Quite quickly all I was doing was making art and to my surprise folks started buying it. The day job disappeared and these days it would be impossible for my mind to conceive of doing anything else.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC5a-4r4hQI]

Are you surprised by your success?

I tend to use the word gratitude rather than surprise. Every morning I look out of my studio window at all the folks working really hard, thankless jobs and inwardly thank the Universe for my lot in life.

Success for me is being able to do my job without any consideration for what others might think, not caring if it sells or not, and enjoying a good bottle of Chianti for breakfast.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

The adventure is stepping off the crumbling cliff top ledge and plummeting towards the abyss, into the unknown, realizing you have no wings to fly as the inevitable rushes closer. I try to observe the descent, feeling the air fill my lungs, feeling the knots explode in my stomach as I taste the goods. If I’m lucky something comes out of this fall, something new is translated, and some kind of expression manifests. I guess I am an optimist in the sense that as I enter the creative cave I think the end result might be worthy of daylight.

It takes a lot of guts to create something new and refreshing; the “ah- ha” moment is waking up every day and slogging onward.

You have also written a novel, Hurricane Hotel. Please tell us about the book?

Hurricane Hotel is a rollicking street car ride into the underbelly of New Orleans and was started many moons ago while living in a small dive hotel on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans.

The attraction to the hotel aside from the cheap rent was the 24/7 bar and dance hall conveniently located downstairs. An assortment of outsiders, lost souls, artists, sailors, oil rig workers, poets, dancers, ravers, DJ’s and circus performers haunted both at the bar and in the rooms.

During an exceptional hot summer, a mandatory evacuation was given due to an incoming Hurricane. Several of us decided to stay at the hotel simply because we had no place else to go. The flood water came in very quickly forcing us to go upstairs, basically trapping us from the outside world for several days. Without power the intense humid heat and lack of emergency provisions started taking it’s toil on us.

Everything became really wacky when all the booze and drugs ran out. Back then there weren’t cell phones and the hotel was far from Internet savvy. We were trapped like rats on a sinking ship. It was during this intense time that I started writing the novel.

For personal reasons I had to abandon this project for almost 10 years.

Then in the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit and we all know that story.

I was on a family vacation in the NE at that destructive time and for some strange reason, I had grabbed a box containing all my poetry and the Hurricane Hotel manuscript before leaving the city. My New Orleans home and studio sat in nine feet of floodwater for six weeks and during that time, living in a friend’s apartment in NYC, I started reworking the novel. By Thanksgiving of the same year I felt it was finished and showed a tattered manuscript to my cousin, author Andre Dubus III. He read the novel, told me it was brilliant, and proceeded to write the foreword. During this time, I made 12 hand made copies of the book and gave them to friends as gifts. Their critical response convinced me I had something worth publishing.

The rest is history and for some a good read.

What do you see as the similarities and differences between writing and painting?

Expression means translating a feeling, a fleeting moment, a response to something personal and accepting the end result is simply a snow flake landing in a puddle of tepid lake water.

I believe the continual fire to create, in whatever shape or form, draws from the same source regardless of medium.

What does each bring to you as a creative individual?

Continual room for improvement.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations (issues), or both?

The creative cave is the looniest, loneliest place in the world. Ultimately it’s the scariest and safest place as well. For the few who can let go of society’s demands and dogmas, and really dig deep enough into the self, eventually a primal place is found. This place can be described as a fountain if you like of unlimited resources where everything is possible and nothing else really matters.

For many years I wrestled with some formidable demons, being a passenger in a strange land and the jaws of poverty kept the monkey on the back, so to speak. I am lucky.  Somehow my art, a small group of loyal friends, and the kind folks at Charity Hospital in New Orleans kept me alive, kept me coming back for more. It would be fair to say I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for my art and a few folks believing in it.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

From the very beginning no one understood why I had to make art, why I had to scribble on bathroom walls, deface posted signs, or kick down the barbed wire fence. It’s a very selfish pursuit. It takes guts and sometimes stupidity, you have to have an ego strong enough to accept the creative force is not always a pretty smiling greetings card, and what you are making might not fit over the proverbial couch or match the newest art fad . My friend Bob Hogge, says it best, “If you’re not excited or driven by what you make, why expect anybody else to be interested.”

I think these are very exciting times to be a visual artist. The electronic world has numbed the raw sense of immediacy. Film and television has opened the doors for artists to express their ideas to hundreds of thousands of people, but neither of these mediums can replace the visceral place a painting or sculpture holds.

Alone you have to go into the studio and do battle and in that struggle there is no room for caring what other people think, if you pause you lose. Period. Sure it feels good if some folks dig the end result, but I avoid trying to make art that competes against other art. If my work has any truth to it at all, if what I am saying actually can stand on its own two legs something positive will manifest.

It took me a long time to master the trick of not taking negativity personally. It comes with the ride so get used to it. Everybody is driving their own car and has a right to their own opinion whether I agree with them or not.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your creative goals? If so, can you tell us about it.

Discipline can be achieved through daily routine.

Every day I work on something.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWKj7REtPSY]

Where do most of your ideas come from?

Good question.

Perhaps in the way an opened can of half eaten sardines, imported from Thailand, drowned in red wine, resembles the nape of a lost lover’s neck.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers?

The inability to sit still and do nothing.

So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

Luck, continually working it and helping folks less fortunate than ourselves.

Do you plan to write more or will your main focus continue to be art?

The 1000 or so coffee stained poems, sitting in a cardboard box, beside me now, salvaged from natural and unnatural disasters, ex’s ex-husbands, and sometimes their wives, mice, and the neighbor’s cat, continue to grow legs and constantly scurry across the floor, walls and ceiling of my rented womb resembling sniveling pesky cockroaches.

No matter how many times I’ve doused them in tequila and lighter fluid, plucked their wings, singed their tails with hot cigarettes, trapped them into remote dusty corners or flushed them down the sink, Providence demands that they fly.

Hurricane Hotel, for all its flaws, can be described as a deranged epic poem.

The fact that Hurricane Hotel continues to be read and is rapidly becoming a best seller is beginning to fuel the notion the contents of my cardboard box is worthy of publishing.

It has been suggested on many an occasion I should incorporate my poetry into my paintings and this may be the next logical step.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life?

Gratitude.

Why is this important to you?

It combats greed and beats stealing from the poor.


"Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature's monotony.  The sublime idea men have of the universe would collapse with dizzying speed.  The order which we find in nature, and which is only an effect of art, would at once vanish. Everything would break up in chaos. There would be no seasons, no civilization, no thought, no humanity; even life would give way, and the impotent void would reign everywhere."  - Guillame Apolinaire

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6527212 July 29, 2011

Minya: A Creative Lifestyle

"Creativity is a lifestyle. I think that at some point in life one has to decide if he or she wants to follow their creativity and search for alternative ways, or to accept solutions and decisions that have already been established."

Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, his eyes are closed." 

This is particularly comforting to me today.  I've been sitting here worrying about the fact that I'm still a mystery to myself after 45 years.  I won't share the details but I've recently been reminded (once again) that despite all my education and achievements, I have the spirit of a child.  She dominates when she should be off frolicking in some back corner of my mind, picking imaginary, sun-drenched daisies while she hums a happy tune. 

At times, I'm confident that the little girl who won't go away is responsible for my ability to create interesting artwork, think outside the box, break rules (most of the time in positive ways now), get blissfully lost in my imagination, and in conjunction with my mature brain, make connections others do not.  I love that aspect of her resistance to stand back.  I just wish the world were structured in a way that would enable the two of us to be more comfortable.  I wish we could have our cake and eat it, too.  Most of the time, she's eating the cake and I'm starving. 

My guest today, artist Minya, notes that all children are in some way artists. At an early stage, the vast majority of us danced, sang, colored, banged on pots and pans, and pretended to be all kinds of things.  I made salads out of plants; played house for hours; colored a thousand pictures with crayons and magic markers; pretended I was chewing gun when I couldn't sleep; and made a mansion for my paper dolls out of flattened boxes ... among other things.  As Minya says, all children explore their imagination, but sometimes I think I went overboard out of necessity.  For some of us, especially those wired to be highly imaginative, pretending offers a unique brand of solace in the midst of dysfunctional situations.

I didn't fully emerge from my early flight of fancy until I was about twelve.  When I finally peered into reality, I didn't cope very well.  As a child, there was a part of me who was sucking life in, processing, and analyzing.  That girl filed a tremendous amount of information away with the idea that she might deal with it later.

Hello!

Now I realize why the kid is so strong and the other so often weak. I realize why I'm still more comfortable in the role of the playful, imaginative girl whose willing to notice and take in what swirls around her, but prefers to shove it to the side, sending it to the auto processing file rather than deal with it. 

My goal is to keep aiming to balance myself while embracing the creativity that still fuels my spirit.  Several years ago, after fighting it, I decided to choose creativity as a lifestyle.  It suits me best and feels right.  I'm still transitioning in many ways.  I'm evolving just as I did when I chose as a young adult to put limits on my creativity, to squelch it so that I could live the type of life everyone expected of me.  Doing so had its rewards, but finally I realized there is no true choice, only a battle.  We are who we are, and it's best to accept the wiring we were allotted on production day.  

Minya tells us that her paintings symbolically illustrate the journey mankind has made – from prehistory and cave painting, to modern technologies and ways of communication used today (computers, TV, phones).  Her work metaphorically comments on actual events and contemporary life.  Maybe at a philosophical level, Minya's work somehow expresses how I've evolved from the day I decided to lump disproportionate paper dolls made by different toy companies together (because that's how real people are, thought the little girl), and play out their lives on a 6' x 6' detailed cardboard blueprint of the home I wanted to have.


The week I spent making the paper doll house was like any other.  I could have chosen to play outside.  I could have watched television all week.  I could have done anything but I didn't.  I had an idea, a concept, and was driven to create something that was unique and unavailable to me by any other means.  I didn't care that nobody wanted to do it with me.  I was willing to do the work, and I made it a reality.

But as Minya points out, it's important to understand that the work is never completely finished.  I see that now; I won't stop again.   
    

Have you always know you would be an artist? How has your artistic life evolved?

I believe that all children in their early stages when they start communicating with their environment, are in some way artists! They express their deepest and most sincere emotions in a straightforward way: by dancing, singing or drawing. Some of them continue to analyze their feelings and environment throughout their life by expressing themselves in some form of art. I am one of those! My artistic expression has changed and evolved during my growing up: my artistic research became more complex and articulated following my interests, and so did the materials and techniques I’m using.

How would you best describe your personality, and how your art relays that to the world.

I am, by nature, a person who notices and carefully studies their surroundings. I define my artistic expression methodically and with a lot of attention. My works represent, in a metaphorical sense, commentaries on actual events and contemporary life.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Those “moments” do occur, they come periodically.  They represent turning points in my creative phases. They happen occasionally but do not come out of the blue! They are the result of a continuing work.  It has happened several times that, while working on one series of works, when I’m most satisfied and inspired, that “moment” strikes and suddenly a rather different painting comes out! That moment I recognize as a turning point, the beginning of a new series. That somehow happens naturally and easily and I know exactly what I need to do next, as if there is some kind of recipe I have to follow.

You do quite a bit of work on Plexiglas. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to appreciate this medium and what draws you to it?

Plexiglas is a material that in a way imposed itself to me in past few years, as it is a perfect medium for expressing my artistic thoughts. It is, as a material, in contrast with the natural pigments I use for painting. With this contrasting effect I want to point out a very interesting fact: during history people always wanted to catch the moment they live in, to register what is happening around them at that instant. They wanted to record it and to send a message to the following generations. Through my paintings I symbolically illustrate the journey mankind has made – from prehistory and cave painting, to modern technologies and ways of communication used today (computers, TV, phones). In my paintings that is depicted with natural pigments on the smooth surface of Plexiglas.

I also like the transparent nature of the material. I apply pigments on both sides of Plexiglas but at the same time I take great care of areas that will remain transparent. When finished, my works are mounted on the wall with the distance of few inches from it, hence creating shadows behind painted parts that can be seen through transparent ones. This, as a result, creates the impression of visual depth and third dimension

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations (issues) in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Creativity is a lifestyle. I think that at some point in life one has to decide if he or she wants to follow their creativity and search for alternative ways, or to accept solutions and decisions that have already been established. Naturally, rules and codes of conduct exist in every society, but it is for each individual to decide how they will relate to them. That is one of the aspects I like to explore in my works. With straight lines and arranged square forms I want to suggest those rules, control and regulations. On the other hand, free hand movements and paint drippings suggest the “human factor”: creativity, surprise factor, unpredictability, improvisation. I personally have chosen improvisation and creativity as my contribution to the society I live in.

In what ways does art sooth or inspire you during difficult or challenging times?

During the creative procedure, the artist is exempt from all boring, trifling, everyday rules and procedures that make life complicated. They are free to express themselves and act free of any social and bureaucratic constrains. The artist is completely alone, with their tool to create anything they want – that feeling is elating and makes you feel limitless.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I was blessed to grow up in a family of artists, both of my parents are painters. I was surrounded by people who understand and appreciate art ever since I can remember. That experience prepared me and gave me ability to search and find an appropriate interlocutor through my life.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

For me, every new painting I create represents an individual research. It is primarily with relation to the technique, but also regarding the artistic concept. New discoveries, experiments but also new casual effects, contribute that one idea evolves through its transformation. My ideas breed slowly and before I present them to the general public they have to go through a complex process of maturation.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

What distinguishes one artist from another, and sets them apart is their ability to present their artistic idea. It is important that an effort of research and study of a certain phenomenon is shown. Experimentation and research of new and original ways of expression, new materials and modern technologies are also essential. More interesting, intelligent and courageous those ideas are - more brilliant and extraordinary is the artist himself.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I think it is essential that one never considers their work completely finished.

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6527212 June 24, 2011

Releasing Complexity: Claudia Furlani

"Through art , I synthesize, play, and let off all the complexity of my inner world."

I have a strong suspicion that my inner world is more complex than the average Joe's.  I began to suspect this around age six, when I was lamenting about the kid in our class who was rumoured to have a mother who jumped off a bridge (and eaten by alligators) while I was trying to stop my own mother from killing herself.  

By the time I was a teenager, my high speed turmoil and associated thought processes began to fuse with my innate outwardly sunny disposition to create a persona that most people couldn't quite compute ... causing all kinds of issues.  Once I finally realized this, I stopped expecting to be fully understood, and I started writing novels.

Now I understand myself better than I ever have.  Like my guest today, artist Claudia Furlani, I write and paint as a way to let off some of that complexity.  I didn't bolt out of bed one morning with the bright idea of doing this.  The need and desire to do it simply evolved as I grew up and stepped away from my afflicted mother into my own life. 

Recently a few folks have referred to me as a creative.  It sounds like some kind of Star Trek alien nation.  When I considered myself solely a writer, I never thought I'd be called a creative.  I wasn't even familiar with the word (used that way) until a couple of years ago.  Everyone has the capacity to be creative and to create, so what exactly is a creative? 

I researched the use of the term creative to describe a group of folks and didn't come up with too much.  Writer Jeff Goins ran a blog post about it in February.  He says:

"A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. A creative is someone who sees the world a little differently than others. A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box. Some think of creatives as iconoclasts; others see them as rebels. Both terms would be quite apt. A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.  A creative creates art — not to make a buck, but to make a difference. She writes to write, not to be noticed or to sell books. She sings to sing, for the pure joy of making music. And she paints to paint (and so on…).  A creative colors outside the lines… on purpose. In so doing, she shows the world a whole new picture they never would have otherwise seen. A creative breaks the rules, and as a result, sets a new standard to follow."

Is that what I do?  I don't like being put into categories, but being a creative doesn't seem too bad.  I still want to be my own category.  It's called being a Penelope, and there is no one else who can join me in it.  It's lonely sometimes but it's where I need to stay.  I'm driven to write and paint even if what I produce sucks.  It's a simultaneous trap and release.  An obsession that sets me free.  An escape that holds me down.  Freedom among the ruins. 

For me, the process of creating is like worship, therapy, vacation, work, and communication all swirled up into one.  When you're like me, you create because that's what makes life bearable on a deep personal level that transcends even love.  The people you love and who love you are supposed to be what makes life worth the effort, but I feed on something different.  Perhaps this makes me narcissistic or psychopathic.  Not sure.  Perhaps I just need art to keep me sane so that I can love others and accept their love.  Art makes love possible for me.

Oh, the mysteries of life.  I think too much.  I try not to, but it's difficult to shut down the machine.   Like Claudia, I'm introverted, observant, and very imaginative.  We are passionate.  I am still full of love that's trying to get out.  I grew up in an environment that was overwhelming.  Art defined as "imaginative skill as applied to representations of the natural world or figments of the imagination," has enabled me to bring my inner and outer worlds together in a way that best represents who I am.  Almost everything else seems frivolous.

Art lasts forever. 
  



[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPCTgyND_tw]

Have you always know you would be an artist? How has your artistic life evolved?

Since I can remember, I've always been involved with color, paint, drawing or painting. During college I worked on several things including advertising agencies in the area of computer graphics, an area that has always fascinated me, but my passion for art and sheer will to create freely guided my choices.

How would you best describe your personality, and how your art relays that to the world?

I am an introverted person, observant, and very imaginative. Through art , I synthesize, play, and let off all the complexity of my inner world.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Yes, there was a big "Ah-ha" and fortunately it's becoming a new project that is underway. It's about people their dreams and nightmares. I still can't give many details in this moment so as not to spoil the surprise.

You seem to enjoy both painting and graphic art. Do you have a favorite or do you enjoy both equally? Can you tell us a little bit about what each gives to you in terms of the ability to express yourself creatively?

I do not have a favorite. Painting is something very lonely, and graphic art process is the opposite. I usually go out to photograph people or places, depending on the subject that I want to express. I choose one language or another.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations (issues) in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Yes, I believe that has caused many, but today I do not worry about it. The creativity just helps me to cope and overcome the problems.

In what ways does art sooth or inspire you during difficult or challenging times?

The art helps, but you have to want to indulge yourself while you are creating, just so you move away from everything else. Your focus is just in your art. And at this moment all problems are dissolved

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Oh, many times, including the first years of my marriage.  I always worked during the night and never had a strict routine. With great patience and persistence, all problems have been worked out.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

Ideas come from everywhere, from all places and from all things that I see.  Also, all the people I talk to.  I like to observe everything and everyone. Without that involvement, the artist closes.

I am self-motivating. I enjoy working with ideas that challenge me.  At creation time, I try to enter the "flow" of the here and now and not worry about the results.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

For an artist to stand out as a great talent, he really has to have talent. His work should stimulate and provoke curiosity. He might even do something that's been done before, for example, writing the lyrics of a song that speaks of "Love."  Something so common, yet his ability to create will differentiate it from others.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I follow my intuition.  I think this is my only mantra. It's important to me because up until now has always worked very well.

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6527212 January 27, 2011

Beautiful Alien: Emily Lisker

"I always knew I was a Martian of sorts."

About ten years ago, my brother, my mother, and I had a conversation about high school.  My brother commented about how everyone around him seemed to be from another planet--not his.  Then my mother went on to describe similar perceptions.

I sat, quietly, choosing not to offer up my own story.  Doing so seemed as if it would somehow belittle my own memories. Listening to them, I wondered if every teenager feels that way, or if we simply were different as a family, that maybe we shared certain oddities due to our genetic code.

I felt sad that I failed to realize during those years that my brother, who is just over a year my senior, was feeling so much like I was.  We somehow missed a valuable opportunity to connect and find some solace within the family. We were lonely together and lonely apart.

After all these years, I'm not convinced that every teenager feels like an alien.  Perhaps they do for a moment, a day, or even weeks at a time.  For some of us, it has been a lifetime.  Like my guest today, artist Emily Lisker, I've learned " ... to counterbalance. My whole body is my antenna, it's very intense physically and sensually to be a human on this earth. I try not to push my emotional limits, instead I try to live like a farmer, early to bed, early to rise, fertilizing and nurturing my crops."

In my non-scientific research into the hearts and souls of creatives, I've noticed that more artists than writers have relayed this feeling of being alien.  I've always thought of myself as a writer, first and foremost; however, I can say without any hesitation that I grew up feeling like the biggest, brightest alien in the Universe. I was an avatar, creeping around inside an unfamiliar body.

I recognized my alien nature as young as 4 or 5 years old.  I knew I was different.  My major flawed assumption was: Something is wrong with me!  I held onto that belief for years.  It guided my early life, creating a self fulfilling prophesy.  I also assumed that I was different for a reason, and that became my great counterbalance. My dream in life was to find that reason.

Everyone is different.  Each person is unique and to be celebrated. I absolutely believe that.  It may be politically incorrect to say so, but some people are significantly different in various ways.  They are outliers on the graph of what's normal.  Some of us realize early that we are dangling on a bell curve tail.

I've never met Emily. I can't tell you where she actually fits on the curve.  All I know is that she gets it. I suspect that I could sit with her and describe my life, and she would get it. More and more I question the significance of my realization that most of the artists I interview seem to get it more than the writers. What does that mean about me, and where I'm headed?

I will always be a writer, but I'm becoming an artist.  It feels right.


What's your story (in a nutshell)?

I was from a family of artists in Westchester, New York. My parents and step-parents were in different aspects of advertising. I ran away from home, first to Brooklyn and then Chinatown in NYC, then finally to Providence RI at age 17. I worked odd jobs, then enrolled at the RI School of Design and studied painting, literature, and photography. After graduation I became a freelance illustrator for magazines, newspapers, theater productions, children's books, etc. Eventually I decided it was time to make paintings.

How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist?

I got hooked on drawing and painting as a young child, and never stopped. I had a lot of artistic confidence by the time I graduated from college, and then got lucky landing a lot of illustration work right away. Editorial illustration disappeared with the advent of the computer, so I started over with children's books. In publishing, though, you don't so much establish an artistic record as establish a sales record, and I became weary of that attitude. So I started over again, trying to establish myself as a painter. I'm 50 now, and I have a respectable local reputation. Thanks to the Internet, I got hooked on publishing my words and paintings online, and that has certainly increased my audience.

I've seen a lot of strange art in galleries, as well as more traditional pieces. How do you define great art? Is it more about the technique or emotion? What the heck is it about?

Art can be a pyramid of tomato cans in an Italian grocery store - it's about vision, not about the art object. Inspiration for that vision comes from all places. I have no idea how to define great art and I'm not sure I could for another person. I just know that I am constantly engaged in making art, and it comes out through all of my senses and pores. I exercise my receptivity - the more avenues I have to express my vision, the deeper and more widespread my receptivity. If you are doing your work your appetite increases.

But the vision has to be true. There can be no falseness, no compromise. I recently saw art that moved me and changed my life because it was visionary, and it was sincere. You can smell the slightest insincerity. The artist in this case was self-taught, his craft exquisite, but it was his vision, the truth of it, that made for greatness in my eyes.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?



I believe we must counter the forces in our schools and our society that say unless you are THE BEST at something, you are not allowed. Imagine if everyone shared their food and played music with their neighbors and walked everywhere, rather than hiding in their pod cars and houses, hiding behind computer screens? Yes, I am a dreamer and an idealist, but this belief is very meaningful to me. I worry about a society that is not stressing the vital importance of making music, art, poetry as part of daily life. Don't give creating over to the celebrities! Embrace it, love it, encourage it in each other! It's about engaging in life in this moment and all moments. Be alive! Live!

For you, is making art more about creation or expression? It can be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

I'm not sure I know the difference between creation and expression, or, maybe for me there is no difference. My imagination is like a wild horse that needs daily runs, a stall, hay, and carrots. My imagination must be used, otherwise I get stuck on worrying and making myself miserable. I call creating the opening of the ziti. I open, I receive, something moves through me, I visit another planet, I look over the edge at the abyss. What comes of that is my expression. I never really know what that will be, and it isn't really the point. The creative energies will turn to disease if they are not harnessed and expressed.

Many artists focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I wouldn't know anything about career development, or the development of style. My audience tells me that I have a distinct style, but it's not what I focus on. When I am painting, I first sketch freely on canvas until an image strikes me as being something I'd like to develop further. Certain images may come up repeatedly in a batch of paintings, then over time new obsessions take over. I never run out of ideas. Its a bit like how I write. I write spontaneously in longhand, and stuff jumps out at me to develop. Then I write, standing at my computer and moving words around.

What I take in from reading and looking worms its way into my imagination while I walk and sleep, and things develop unconsciously. Visually I've developed a language, a style, which evolves naturally and organically through regular visits to the studio. I don't worry about it. My vocabulary is always evolving. I had a fabulous art teacher in high school. She used to show us slides from art history, not letting us draw or paint right away until we'd filled up, bursting to express. I still do this. When researching to solve illustration jobs I always load up on imagery. Now my writing makes me hunger for reading ten books at once. As I play the sax I hear everything more, just like drawing makes you see more.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? 

I had to look up aberration to help me with this one.

1. A deviation from the proper or expected course. A deviation from what is normal, expected, or usual.

2. A departure from the normal or typical (aberrations from the norm).

3. Psychology A disorder or abnormal alteration in one's mental state.

I guess I can relate to all of it. When people admire my imagination and humor, they see me as crazy, in a fun way. When they see the truth behind what I do, they are terrified. That is the artist's role, to be the fool, the jester, and also the prophet, the myth maker. I am actually very non-crazy. I continually try to ground myself through writing, walking my dog for miles each day, baking bread, washing my clothes. I have always had a delicate chemistry that can carry me up, up, and away. So rather than fly off like a rocket I have learned to counterbalance. My whole body is my antenna, it's very intense physically and sensually to be a human on this earth. I try not to push my emotional limits, instead I try to live like a farmer, early to bed, early to rise, fertilizing and nurturing my crops.

I guess you are asking about crazy artist syndrome. I do see the world from the ceiling as if I were dangling from a swinging chandelier, and this is helpful for my art. As a child I noticed the differences, for example, between myself and my older, more conventional sister. I figured some part of my brain had melted from the ether I was given during my tonsillectomy. My husband says no, silly, you were born this way. Biologically I am blessed with a sensitive temperament, moodiness, and all sorts of stuff I've had to befriend and ultimately respect. I've needed to figure myself out. Read, read, read, hunt down books at the library! Libraries are the churches of my heart.


During difficult or challenging times in your life, does writing soothe or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

Totally. I started writing as suicide prevention. I tell this to everyone because it was that bad, and writing worked to lift me up S-L-O-W-L-Y one word at a time. When I wanted to build my own guillotine to chop off my head, my friend Susan said to me, "Try writing." When I started keeping a journal, I actually went to the window to make sure there wasn't someone there to shoot me for writing. That's when I knew I should keep writing, that writing was important, and that I had things to say.

Painting grabbed me at age 12, especially when my step-father introduced me to an amazing painter who was exhibiting in a Soho sidewalk sale. But it worried my parents when I was in high school that I was chasing poets, not boys. I still would prefer being in my studio or walking my dog or dancing in my living room to Brave Combo than being most anywhere else. The poets are my heroes, they are our national treasures, our royalty. I look to them to understand my job.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it? 

Only my husband and fellow artists REALLY understand me to the core. People are either frightened, entertained, or recognize me as a fellow traveler. Mostly they are frightened. I have taken the word friend out of my vocabulary. It gets me in trouble. I have acquaintances, pals, audience. I do not generally hang out with people.

It has been crucial for me to recognize that I can support my drive without apology. I've never had a huge desire to be normal, or to fit in, or be cool (perhaps I knew it was impossible!) so in this way I have been extremely lucky. I see many people get caught up and distracted by this need. I always knew I was a Martian of sorts. I was also lucky that my few high school friends were poets. I didn't suffer peer damage but I did suffer family tribal damage.

How did I deal with it? I ran away to a safe place, and I sank into my art. Nothing else worked. I couldn't drink or take drugs, they've never helped. I still loathe parties. I now think I was lucky in this way. My life is still beginning anew each day. I am excited that I will be teaching art again to high school students. That was a crucial age for me growing up. Having mentors and adult artists in my life helped me envision a path. So I'm excited about being part of this for students now.


Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

I am drawn to work, to communicate, and I am drawn to the solitude I need in order to do so. As a kid it was because I had a crush on this artist or that poet, etc. But now I am motivated to communicate in both a personal and creative sense. My ideas come from feeding myself food, literally and metaphorically: imagery, story, music, but also getting out each day walking, and really sleeping well at night too. All of this ferments in the brain and the magic is how it comes out. I love what Ray Bradbury said, "Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."

He also said:

"If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories - science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world."

Isn't that wonderful? That's how I feel.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

I'm not sure I can be the judge of that. Perhaps it's about having a particular vision or take on things. I know that when an artist has affected me I don't see the world the same way again. Last night I read Haywire, a book of poetry by George Bilgere. This morning at five AM I woke up from a dream and raced to my desk to get down the words inspired by the book. His poems had been messing with my head while I was asleep, and I am grateful. This happens a lot when you eat good poetry, art, music.

A few months ago I saw the art of Stephen Huneck. I had my library find a book of his art, and I spent all night reading about him and looking at his art. My life has been forever changed. When I first heard Brave Combo's music, I sobbed I loved it so much, and felt I had wasted my whole life not being a musician. So I began playing music. Obviously their music released something important in me. Years ago I read The Fire Eaters by Bill Cobb, and I was forever changed. I had to write!

I love to write fan letters. It's a habit that started when I was 13 and wrote to some of the illustrators my step-father represented. He was their agent, and I would bring home samples of their work and study them. I often got to meet them in their studios. It is so important for kids to meet artists. Still to this day I write thank you notes to poets and musicians and playwrights whose art has affected me. I am actually shy, so letter-writing is how I converse. I never expect a reply, but I have had lovely experiences corresponding with some of them. And once in a while what I am doing interests them, too, and then it's a lucky love-fest.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Communicate! Connect! Envision, all through your art! I guess I am communing with life when I engage in these things. Now that I am fifty I want to make sure I pass along the enthusiasm to the ones in my community just starting. I write, I paint, I play music, and I need to do it all, to keep dancing! My name means emulate, and perhaps that is what I do. I try everything in the banquet of life.

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6527212 November 22, 2010

The Mind of an Artist: Karin Perez

" ... almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works."

Lately a few folks have asked me to describe how my mind works.  To address the question, I focused on things such as how I can zoom from detail to big picture and back to detail, or how I can manage to do a variety of different things at once while heads spin around me.

I didn't go into detail about how I sometimes notice things other people don't, but then miss the obvious element the crowd is busy focusing on.  That aspect is often tough to explain; I summed it up by saying that I'm creative.  Over the years, I've struggled to understand myself so that I can make the most use of my skills in a world that seems to best support the top of the bell curve. 

My guest today, artist Karin Perez, says that most "normal" folks don't understand how her mind works.  This comment brings up my suspicion that artists have a unique mental capacity or brand of focus.  I suspect that most folks would likely agree.  Somewhat like the LGBT crowd, artists come in all varieties.  We long to live unhampered by so called "regular" folks out there. We hope to be understood. We support each other. Many succeed, but some of us struggle at times, in closets, behind closed doors, ... or everywhere.  We are yet another variety of the square peg in a world of round holes.

I've gone through several phases in my life when I wished I was just like everybody else. Of course, everyone is unique, but let's face it, there are subsets or types of people out there, some more common than others. Even with the best intentions, stereotyping runs rampant.

When I was 24-years-old, I relocated to New Jersey from Louisiana in the Spring of 1991.  I was immediately amazed and mesmerized by how brilliantly green everything was. One morning, I made the comment at work, "The grass is so green!"  A not-so-nice woman looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Yes, well, grass is green."  Everyone laughed and in their eyes, I became someone much less intelligent than I am. 

That was before I understood the artist in me, and why the green of Spring in New Jersey so captured my attention.  Why I would notice that particular aspect of my new environment.  Why I became so focused on it, and why I wanted to talk about it. 

Now I realize that not everyone makes such observations, or puts such emphasis on them. Was it important?  Maybe not to that sarcastic woman I worked with, but it was to me, a young person desperately trying to adjust to a new culture.  A home sick misfit who'd never lived anywhere other than the Deep South.  In that green grass, something unique called to me.  I'd found a jewel that made me believe I could come to love my new home, that I could be part of it, and that perhaps I'd come to the right place.  It signified new life, something I desperately wanted no matter how much I missed my old one. 

So a comment that made me the work-place laughing stock held a tremendous amount of passion, observation, and significance for me.  I was expressing exactly who I was, but they were blind to it.  Now I know that the blind can't help but miss these things just as much as I can't avoid seeing them.  That's the world we live in.

Now, like Karin, I no longer feel an intense need to explain how my mind works.  After years of generating laughs based on seemingly off-the-wall comments and strange observations, I now understand where it comes from. I'm proud to be me, even when a blind world laughs.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist? Was the journey on a straight or twisted path? Are you surprised by your success?

It's so hard to tell one's story, though each and everyone of us has one thing at least, that defines him/her from the other. I started my artistic life as something completely different. Ever since I was a young girl I was dancing, and this passion and dedication made me a professional dancer. That motivation is certainly something that defines me, that gets me where I want to go. After studying visual communication (while dancing), I started working as a graphic designer, and continued as an artistic director in one of Israel most creative multimedia companies.

After giving birth and moving with my family to Paris, I felt like my creative desire needed to find a new path.  With with my husband's support, I started painting with an immediate appreciation and interest from people and professionals. That was seven years ago.  Right from the beginning I was fascinated by this new way of expression and interaction with myself and others. My voice found a new path.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

There were many "ah ha" moments, but one that is definitely significant was starting to work in figurative art. When I discovered the process of photographing nudes and self portraits, and started using them, that was very new to me and something I would never have thought I'll do ... a very exciting new zone...  Another "ah ha" was starting to work with the NY gallery, Monkdogz Urban Art, owned by two wonderful people, Bob Hogge and Marina Hadley. Bob is working with his artists on a different level of commitment, and by doing so I'm able to really let go and not think about other peoples thoughts about my work, being really a part of it and free.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

I think that weighing those two for me is impossible. Both definitely motivate me.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I think that for an artist it's very important to develop his own language, to create his own different world. It's like every human being has his own voice and nobody else sounds like him ... I believe that looking at an artist's work and recognizing it easily is a turning point. Once you have that,  you are unique.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

But off course it did! :-) Aren't we all (artists) a little bit scratched?

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Oh yes, almost every single "normal" person has a hard time understanding the way my mind works.  It's always about explaining (which I hate and usually won't do) my works, my decisions, my choices. I think that interesting art shouldn't be comprehensive from first glance, and should raise some questions in the viewers mind.  The viewers are participant of the work, which makes the work more interactive.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from my restless mind ... from imagination and images that are voyagers in my mind, for a second or for a long time, they will find their way to the canvas.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

I think that what makes an artist really stand out is his determination, passion, and motivation. As you stated in the question, there are so many talented people, so in order to stand out is really about how dedicated you are to your art, how much do you invest in it in terms of commitment.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My primary motto in life is to live in the present because you don't really know what will happen tomorrow (how banal) ... I believe that in most of my doing I am truthful to this motto, yet off course
you have other obligations to other people, so you can't really live like that 100% of the time, but you can try.

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6527212 November 12, 2010

Climbing the Mountain: Justin Bua


"I wanted this my whole life, but when I got it I realized there is so much more."

Yesterday I mentioned to a friend that I just keep doing what I feel driven to do, assuming that someday it will all make sense.  What-could-she-possibly-know Miley Cyrus tells us it's the climb that counts most.  We're all scaling some sort of mountain, at times desperately clinging to sharp stinging rocks.  Living in the moment gets tough when the pain digs in.  

Growing up many of us were told to reach for the stars, focus on the end goal, never give up.  All great advice; however, they often failed to mention that the mountain actually never ends and that those stars just keep getting higher. Perhaps they couldn't bear to slam us with that reality as we gazed up at them with shining eyes full of hope. 

My oldest daughter's boyfriend's best friend was found dead this week.  He was 28 years old.  Sorry to bring up such a sad thought, but folks are dying all around. I'm sure you can name a few.  One of my closest childhood friends died at 18.  I still dream about her several times a year.  I wonder what mountains these two young people aimed to climb.  Had they even identified their peaks yet?  Had they perhaps seen them looming in the distance? Knowing they lost their chance could make us all feel like folding up due to sadness.  We could choose to stop and simply cling to what and who we have.  It makes me want to lay down flat, close my eyes, and focus on the sound of my 11-year-old laughing, the smell of dinner, and the hum of my computer. 

It's perplexing.  I know I can't be happy on flat ground.  I need something to climb towards, yet knowing that the climb, once started, may never end, is exhausting.  My guest today, artist Justin Bua talks about how in his most recent "ah-ha" moment, he realized he was spinning in a moment he's always dream of -- he was at the mountain peak -- or so he thought momentarily.  When the dust settled, he found himself in another "ah-ha" moment.  He saw that the mountain never ends.  

Justin suggests that we be true to ourselves and just keep going.  I often wonder why Salmon swim upstream to mate.  It's so hard.  Why would they do that?  Perhaps for the same reason that I keep climbing and climbing and climbing.  At least they know what their reward is.  What is mine?  What is Justin's?  And will it be enough to justify the hard work, the sacrifice, the longing?

I think it will be.  I have to believe that.  I believe it for the 18 year old girl who lost her life in a car accident in 1984, and for the 28 year old man who was found alone in his apartment last week.  Both were extraordinary individuals.  I climb for them.  I sense that Justin climbs for those he paints, those whom he dubs the underground icons of our time, the under-appreciated souls similar to those Van Gogh painted on days that scorched his soul and hunger ate away at the belly he eventually shot.  Somehow I think all the climbing upstream has to do with love.  With respect to the creative climb, perhaps it's the way people like us express some kind of specialized, never-ending, mountainous emotion that seems to fester in standard avenues of expression.  

I don't know the answer.  I wish I did.  All I know is that today I don't care how jagged, rough, steep, or slick my mountain is.  I'm grateful to have one to call my own, and I will cling to it for as long as my arms can hold on to love, art, words, joy, and pain.  It means I'm alive.  My job is to move as high as I can until the end.  On the way, I'll breath deeply and try to smile.  I'll look to you, and I'll know I've found my true path.  As long as we can see each other, we'll be fine.

What's your story (in a nutshell)?  How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist?  Was the journey on a straight or twisted path?  Are you surprised by your success?

I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life.  My grampa was a letterer, a graphic designer, and a painter.  He did the original letterings for Felix the Cat as well as Prince Valiant and many more comics.  He was amazing!  Also, I remember back in kindergarten I had an amazing art teacher.  She made me do books on my life and that was the beginning of a whole new world!  I had characters who would make rainbows from rainbow machines and all types of insanely creative people in my books.

I studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in Cali.  That experience was amazing and it helped lead me to a successful career not only as an artist, but as a professor of drawing at the University of Southern California.  You know every day I strive to get better. I am a teacher but I am also a student and I try to grow all the time.  Michelangelo was 81 when he said that he was just beginning to learn how to draw… You never arrive and if you really feel that it’s over, it drives you to grow and explore new levels.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Perhaps a show I just had at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  It was amazing.  Everyone came out from Mr. Wiggles to Mix Master Mike to Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It was an “ah-ha” moment because it was so out of body that it was as if I was looking down on myself saying both “ah-ha"-- I get it … My work is justifiable because they are hanging in a Museum -- and at the same time I felt like “ah-ha” -- that doesn’t make you great or terrible, it makes you fortunate.  I wanted this my whole life, but when I got it I realized there is so much more.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

Expression.  The artists that I like are mostly emotional painters.  Artists like Van Gogh, Kathe Kollwitz , Daumier , and Goya all paint emotionally.  They also paint the underclass and the common people.  This is what I really relate to and who I love to paint. 

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style.  How important is this for career development?  Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I’ve never grown tired of painting the same types of things.  I’m from the hip hop era, so the characters I paint are kind of the iconographic heroes of my time. Whether it's the DJs or the MCs, they are the underground icons of our generation. The artists throughout history have always painted the heroes, painting popes and kings.  I paint DJs and b-boys, those are the people I really emulate, who I look up to.  I’m currently working on my next book entitled, "Legends of Hip Hop", which pays homage to the great heroes of our time.

I was a little burned out on painting characters playing pianos so I taking a hiatus from that but not to worry, I’ll be painting characters playing piano in the next year or ten years… or twenty. 

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Both ...

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does painting sooth or inspire you?  Is it therapeutic in any way?

I write to soothe myself, but I also balance myself with painting!   It is my yoga.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Yes, my high school teacher who didn’t let me enter an art contest.  I don’t want to mention any names because I don’t believe in throwing anyone under the bus—Mr. Stember!!!

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals?  If so, can you tell us about it.  Where do most of your ideas come from?

I work very traditionally.  I do a thumbnail, develop a full and realized drawing then I do a value key and then a color key and then the painting.  This process is interesting because half way through the painting I usually want to redo the whole thing!  I’m my own worst critic!

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers?  So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

The advice I’d give to any young artist just starting out or trying to get started is, just put your art out there to the world and you will shine.  Whether or not the world embraces you as an artist or not isn't the point.  You should paint because you have to and that's the way it is, and that’s how you’ll stand out as truly gifted.  It is a competitive world, but as long as you keep it real and don’t trick yourself into thinking that you’ve arrived then you’ll be good.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Just be true. Its like KRS-One says: what does it mean to be underground, you have to be real to be underground. I think that people can smell bullsh*t from a mile away. So don't copy, don't bullsh*t, be you, and work hard. Be blue collar about it, put in the hours. The harder you work, the luckier you get, right?

I respect people who try to create awareness for art and the art movement.  Also, just be yourself!  Respect and love because that’s real hip-hop.  Woooooord!

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6527212 October 01, 2010

Hell's Best Illustrator: Allen Koszowski

"In general, horror artists are not promoting evil; in their world, good triumphs."

Creative folks often use art to express what we cannot otherwise fully articulate. As everyone knows, among other things, art is an outlet. 

Although this outlet concept isn't rocket science--it is.  Entire books and college courses have been created around the study of why specific writers, musicians, visual artists, etc. gravitated toward a particular form of expression.  On the other hand, we could just say something like, "Shakespeare was a romantic guy who was interested in family dynamics."  

Despite the level of complexity, this outlet stuff sometimes causes trouble for creatives. Some folks incorrectly identify the driving force behind an artist's need for a particular outlet. My guest today, artist Allen Koszowski, has run into this issue as an acclaimed horror/science fiction/fantasy illustrator. 


Allen focuses on the type of art that gave him immense pleasure as a kid.  He just simply loves it!  Having an outlet that keeps his intense boyhood love alive is something he needs; it gives him a sense of meaning. Okay, maybe we could dive in and create a college course on why, but that's not the point.

When I was growing up, my brother and I weren't allowed to watch Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie.  Those were evil shows because they dealt with magic.  My mother believed that watching them would open us up to all kinds of demonic influences. Although her reasoning didn't make sense or seem fair to me, I was terrified. 

To my mother's dismay, my brother developed an intense love of horror/science fiction/fantasy novels, which evolved from an earlier interest in comic books. Needless to say, I spent my entire junior high and high school career listening to her claim that my brother's hobbies were causing evil spirits to infiltrate our bodies and our home.

Interestingly, my brilliant brother had a learning disability; he struggled with reading.  Comic books rescued him from those difficulties. As he got a little older, horror/science fiction/fantasy novels were the only books that seemed to trigger his interest. He dove in like a mad man, devouring book after book after book while my mother screamed in his ear.

After I grew up, filled with numerous, unreasonable doubts and fears, I realized that books, shows, games, or music didn't usher evil and fear into our home, my mother's behaviors did.

My latest novel is, among other things, about how an intense focus on religion can rip apart relationships. I know more than a few folks who will likely claim that its theme of tolerance and balance somehow promotes evil. 
 
Helen Keller said, "It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.”

Don't hate Allen or me because what we create is, in any way, terrifying, uncomfortable, chilling, or filled with aberrations.  In the end, we all want good to triumph.  The more horrific or uncomfortable the plot or picture, the more good we must generate to overcome it, and the more love we seem to find. Maybe that's why we do it.  For some of us, perhaps it's about the generation of greater and greater hope.
  
How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist?

As a child, I was constantly sketching and drawing on every surface I could find, my schoolbooks were a mess with sketches of hands, tanks, fantasy oriented sketches of every kind, comic characters, monsters, etc. So, it was probably fairly obvious that I had an artistic bent. However, outside of art as a major in high school, I have had no formal artistic training whatsoever. It never occurred to me that I could ever have an art career at all. 

It was only later after I got married and settled into a routine that I discovered the world of the small press. When I started reading and enjoying these little magazines, it occurred to me that the sketches I used to do, just as a diversion, were better than much of the art I saw in these small-press publications. So, I started sending out little drawings and spot illustrations to many of these publications. When to my surprise I started getting back checks (for very small amounts), I was thrilled! But it was even more thrilling when the contributor's copies would arrive in the mail and I would see my efforts in print.

I was hooked! I became very well known in the fantasy/horror/science fiction small press world as I had hundreds and hundreds of illustrations published in these magazines. At the same time, I made many contacts with names that have also since become well-known in the genre. So things sort of mushroomed from those small press beginnings to a world fantasy award as best artist a few years ago. I never expected this to happen. I didn't map out a career.  Things just fell into place over the decades.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Since I'm partially color-blind, I have devoted myself mainly over the years to black and white, pen and ink illustrations. I never took any painting courses or things of that nature because I thought that color was an area that would be unproductive for me. I got that impression in high school when my art teacher, who was very "high" on my art, would often come to me and complain about my color tones in some of the assignments. This was quite embarrassing because he would point this out in front of the class; however to me, the colors seemed fine and I couldn't understand the complaints. I didn't know I was color-blind.

It was only later when I took some tests that this was revealed. So, I have neglected color. However, recently (within the past few years) I have learned how to get around some of these difficulties.  I've taken to coloring many of my old black and white, highly detailed pen and ink illustrations with Prismacolor markers. I have become better and better at doing this.

Best of all for me, this method allows my intricate details (which I am very well known for in the field) to show through. This was an ah-ha moment for me which continues to grow, as I find that I enjoy working with colors very much. My fans seem to enjoy the color work as well, and this has opened up new areas for me!

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

The way things have evolved artistically with me, I think of myself more as an illustrator than as a fine artist. I've been illustrating for years in the small press and professional markets (illustrating such people as Stephen King and other well-known names in the field) so I have for the most part been illustrating other people's vision as I have had to depict scenes from their stories and articles. But, just as often, I do freelance work with illustrations that have been taken directly from my own imagination. For me, it is equally about creation and expression.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

Career development has never been a concern of mine. It has always been about the escape and the enjoyment that fantasy/sci fi/horror has provided for me ever since I was a young child, sneaking away to read genre magazines and comics in the 50s and 60s. So, to create illustrations that deviate from what has brought me so much joy in my life and what has basically become a glorified hobby would not be productive. Art for me has always been enjoyable, not a way to earn a living (although making money with my art has certainly been an unexpected and happy benefit)!

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Art has helped me tremendously in my life as it has given me a focus, basically some meaning to my existence. It has given me unexpected prestige, friends, awards, extra income and has taken me around the world. It has been a welcome escape.

Conversely, it has also, at times, become an obsession which had the tendency of keeping me away from growing in other areas. I used to spend many hours (and when I say many, I mean MANY) agonizing over minute details and nuances of my illustrations.

When life has thrown me a curve ball, art has been my friend and shield. Perhaps that shield may not have always been a good thing. I have sometimes used art as a way to avoid tough situations. It can bring joy, but it can also bring melancholy and depression at times.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I have definitely run into those problems over the years, particularly in the horror field (and to a lesser extent, the fantasy and science fiction field). Horror is not very well accepted by the general public. Many people consider the horror writer or artist to be one step from evil. Some feel almost that a person who enjoys to create obviously disturbing or violent images must somehow feel close to the images that he or she creates. Often, people do not hesitate to express their discomfort with these types of creations. In general, horror artists are not promoting evil; in their world, good triumphs. What these critics do not understand about me in particular, is that my art is often just for child-like fun. It is a way of keeping my childhood alive, like telling scary stories in the dark, around a campfire.

Do you think there is a difference between creativity and talent? What are your thoughts on this?

I do think there is a difference. But those who can manage to combine both are more likely to be successful & satisfied.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

My primary mantra is easy! "Do unto others..." I think everybody should be this way.

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6527212 September 24, 2010

Coaster Rider: Dario Posada

"This journey has been like a roller coaster."

During the last week, I completed the draft of my latest novel, DUST.  I also finished a new painting.  Amazing authors Marya Hornbacher and Darin Strauss recommended me for a Guggenheim in fiction.  My agent gave me some encouraging news, and I had lunch with a VP/Associate Publisher of an A-list publishing company. On the same day, I got a call about a Senior Director position in the pharmaceutical industry.

It sounds thrilling, doesn't it?

I'm on the ascending arch of a gigantic coaster.  The anticipation is electrifying.  I'm wondering if I should prepare to hold both arms up in the air and scream my guts out.  I try not to focus on the inevitable drop ahead.  It always comes in some form or fashion.  Down, down, down, I go, and it's terrifying.  I've learned over time that the drop is easier to take if I scream bloody murder, if I let myself experience the absolute, pure emotion of it, the life.  Doing so enables me to recover more quickly, and dig up the strength to embark upon the next ascent.

That crazy ride keeps me focused in an odd way.  It's delicately controlled.  It's an outlet.  I'm in a seat with safety devices surrounding me.  There's a system, a balance, and a design.  Before I mustered the bravery to get on that ride nearly twenty years ago, I was all over the place, spinning in a crazy, unsafe, circuitous world of emotion, ideas, and frustration.  I didn't know what to do with myself; I was getting nowhere.

My guest today, artist Dario Posada, says that painting keeps him sane.  No matter what happens in his life, he must paint.  It's his big, beautiful coaster.

This week, as I drove toward the Trenton train station, heading to Manhattan to meet with my friend, the Associate Publisher, I asked myself, "What do I really want?"

See, during the course of that busy morning, I realized how much I miss my commute to work.  I miss reaching over to take my travel mug out of the cup holder to the beat of my favorite tunes.  I miss seeing interesting people day to day, and having a shared vision and mission.  I miss being part of a team, and leading teams.  I came to the conclusion that, at some point, I want all that back again, but wished I could find it within the publishing industry.  Then I realized that if and when I do find it within a publishing house, it still won't be a daily gig.

I'm a writer; I will always be alone in that role. And I also want to be alone.  I need to be alone, submerged in my own internal world, with my words and the clicking sound of the keyboard.  I need to reach for my coffee cup while feeling the ecstasy of a perfect sentence.

Below Dario talks about how he realized that painting is about more than just brush strokes and color.  This week, I remembered that being a novelist is about more than a computer and words.  It's about expressing the experience of life and its exquisite complexity.  The personal coaster I ride somehow illuminates humanity for me.  It cracks open and teases apart layers and layers of preconceived notions and self-limiting ideas. It gives me something to chew on, and quenches my never-ending thirst.

Who knows what will happen next? But no matter what, I will keep writing.  It keeps me sane.  In the end, it's the big, beautiful coaster I ride.  It doesn't need to look like yours.


What's your story (in a nutshell)? 

My first mural was done at the age 12.  I painted Che Guevara.  I didn't even know who he was, but I liked his image. I was born in a poor country that was engaged in war (Colombia).  I studied fine arts and environmental engineering. It took four years to convince myself that I should only be painting.

This journey has been like a roller coaster: Colombia, Germany, Spain, Italy, USA, Kenya.  I've been  in each of those countries, both legally and illegally.  My paintings have always taken me further than I expected. She's (the art/talent) stronger than me.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

In 1998, as I was leaving my house to take a painting to an exhibition that I had that same evening, one of my paintings fell out of the truck that was transporting it to the gallery.  The canvas split in half. I didn't know what I was going to do.  The show was just minutes away.  So I decided to sew it and put oil on top to cover the holes that could be seen from the sewing. That's when I understood that the painting was more than just brush strokes and colors.
 
For you, is art more about creation or expression?

I believe art is an expression that has its on language.

How would you describe the life of a true artist?

A true artist is always sensitive and sincere to himself and everyone else.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? 

By nature I'm a very aggressive person,  Painting helps me channel my strength onto the canvas.

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does painting sooth or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

Going through tough times has never changed what I am painting--just the way that I paint.  Something is happening, coming out onto the canvas.



I think people understand when they see the success.  The best test that you can give them and yourself is by exhibiting your painting at an art gallery. People will see it differently than the way the see it at your studio.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? Where do most of your ideas come from?
No, I don't have a process. I don't know which painting will be the next one created or sold. My ideas come from everywhere.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? An artist needs to be alone with his painting in order to create it. So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

Discipline--meaning constantly working.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Paint no matter what happens. It's what keeps me sane.

Dario's work is currently being shown at the Area 23 Gallery in Miami.

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6527212 August 18, 2010

Deal With It: Randy Thurman

"There is only one way I have found to deal with it - WORK!" 

This morning I woke up wondering why the hell I keep writing this blog. While the traffic is good, it needs to be better. While I seem to have a lot of regular readers, they don't often leave comments.

I guess I do it mostly for myself. In the past, I've written about how blogs seem a bit self centered. Maybe that's my issue. 

My guest today, artist Randy Thurman, says that working helps him deal with folks not understanding his creative drive. Working helps people like Randy and I deal with a lot. I suppose that's why writing this blog is good for me whether or not anyone actually  reads it.

Maybe rather than selfishness, Aberration Nation is driven by self preservation, like eating a healthy breakfast, going to an AA meeting, or taking medicine.

So what if most people don't understand? They don't have my disease.

Although I'm currently working on my fourth novel and also painting, the blog helps me feel connected. It also offers me a way to express myself through a nonfiction outlet. It often reminds me of all the years I kept a journal. I guess I did all that work that for the same reason. No matter what, writing helps me think. It helps me decide and define how I feel and who I am.  The interviews teach me a tremendous amount, and give me prompts.

I need to write to occupy my mind to a certain degree. I need characters and places and situations to mentally weed and wade through because doing so focuses an overactive imagination and a highly obsessive element that has gotten me into trouble more than once. No matter what ails me, working is the medicine I need.  Whether it's writing or painting, creating and expressing myself in these ways gives me both the soothing feeling and the rush I crave.

I may never know what's wrong with me--why I need these sort of meds. I don't know why I sit here writing words that very few folks care to read. I don't know why I have all these paintings stuffed in my house, or why I keep writing novel and after novel that may never be published.

It just helps me deal with it, whatever it may be. If you have anything to say about it, leave a comment.

What's your story? How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist? Was the journey on a straight or twisted path? Are you surprised by your success?

My story really begins in March 2006 when I had a health crisis that changed the direction of my life. Instead of focusing on the restrictions of my health, I immersed myself in painting and music, which had always been integral parts of who I am.

Even before the illness, my wife had urged me to show my work, but I had always declined. Reluctantly I said "OK" and she sent some of my work to Bob Hogge and Marina Hadley at Monkdogz. Then in January 2007 I had my first exhibition at their gallery in Chelsea New York. That's how it started.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

A succession of "ah-ha" moments would better describe how my creative process has evolved to where I am now. For me the "ah-ha" moments are just acknowledgments of what I already subconsciously know.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

If it is possible to separate creation and expression, different artists might consider one more important than the other, but for me they are interdependent and of equal value. To me, expression is the fulfillment of the creation.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

I have explored different styles in both my painting and musical compositions. Those experiences led me to my current focus. Success in following one or more styles really depends on the individual artist. For me, painting and music have always provided inspiration for each other. That has always been a natural part of my creative process. Professionally, several exhibitions of my work have also included my musical compositions. Each has opened opportunities for the other. For me it works.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

There are many factors that condition our ability to interact with or connect with other people. Being highly creative can certainly be one of those factors. At times it caused feelings of separation and isolation for me. Then through exhibiting my work I was able to make connections with other highly creative people who have experienced some of the same aberrations.

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does painting sooth or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

The actual physical part of painting has never been soothing or calming for me. The process is very intense and focused. It's more like an adrenaline rush.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I think it is a situation that all truly gifted people experience. You have to have confidence in your work and your ability in order to push through it. There is only one way I have found to deal with it - WORK!

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

If I have a creative process it is visualization first, then finding a way to make that vision tangible. Resourcefulness is key to using whatever means necessary for achieving that goal. For me it varies and is constantly evolving. I basically follow my intuition.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

All highly talented artists possess a strong intuitive sense of their surroundings. What makes an artist stand out as truly gifted is having the courage to follow that intuition and the determination to see it through. They heed the call.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I don't really have a specific motto or mantra. The qualities I value are having confidence in your ability, accuracy in your intent, and the tenacity to follow through.

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6527212 June 15, 2010

An Artist's Courage: Sheila Wolk


"An Artist's life takes courage--it’s looking for the light while living in the dark."

Rejection sucks no matter how many times it happens. Failure sucks! Everyone gets a good kick in the teeth at some point, but life seems to go freakishly smooth for some people.

On the flip side, I suppose I'd rather be the one failing than the one who's not trying.  Sitting around the house afraid to try anything, just wishing you could get past the feeling that if you try, you might fail. Those people aren't learning anything; they're stuck until they move.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, right?

Artists, writers, and many other creatives face rejection over and over again. Perhaps their plight can teach us  a thing or two about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.  For them (myself included), rejection starts to feel like a painful ritual. I tell myself I've adapted, but sometimes it's still like a knife in the heart. As that sharp blade twists, I fight the urge to let that dark hole in my soul open up and turn me inside out.  I try to avoid being yanked back to all the earlier rejections in my life, many that had nothing to do with creativity. 

I fight the good fight, reminding myself of all the positives.  I say that I'm learning and growing but sometimes I just feel like crying.  Sometimes I do cry.  Yesterday my novel, CENTERPIECES, was rejected by one of the editors considering it. She said, "Ms. Przekop is clearly a talented writer."  I should be thrilled that a cream-of-the-crop editor for one of the top-of-the-heap companies in the publishing industry made such a statement about my work. I wish her words could take away the sinking feeling but they don't.

Instead, the negative thoughts kick in:

Why doesn't it ever work out?
Maybe I'm not talented at all and people just tell me I am to be nice.
Everyone's lying to me; they probably hate my work.
Maybe they're all laughing behind my back.
Maybe my work sucks!
I'm embarrassing myself.
I'm wasting time.
My writing is worthless.
I'm just not smart enough to accomplish my goals.

My guest today, artist Sheila Wolk, knows that dark place I try to avoid. She's worked hard, pushed on, and believed in herself enough to navigate a few tunnels of her own.  I carry on as well but it's not easy.  Sometimes I wonder if one day I'll be forced to look myself in the mirror and say, "It's over, Penelope. It didn't work out."

So what keeps us going?  For me, it's hope. I can't seem to completely lose hope, no matter how much bad news I get.  That spark rises again and again, reminding me that there are other publishers, editors, and readers. There are other novels to be written.  Perhaps my imagination enables me to keep believing there are other alternatives, new approaches, and untapped avenues to be explored.  And above all, my strange need to write must be satisfied.  

When I consider the people who seem to have it easy, I wonder: Were they lucky?  Did they just happen to make the right connection along the way?  What did they do that I've not done?  Maybe they truly are talented and I'm just second-rate.  It hurts to think that could be true. It's tough to imagine I've wasted so many hours of my life chasing a dream I may not be worthy of.  

But like Sheila, there's nothing else for me. I can't turn away because this is who I am. Shelia says that sometimes you have to fail to succeed.  I don't mind failing a million times if it gets me there; I just wish it wasn't so damn hard.

What's your story? Are you surprised by where you are or did you always see it coming?

I always knew I was going to be an artist. I dreamed about it starting at age seven.  It was a premonition of my entire life and sense of being. As far as where I am today, I am never satisfied because I am always thinking of what’s next.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Yes…it happened when I was young trying to plot out my life and financial existence to make it in the Fine Art world.

I majored in Fine Arts in school but knew if I were to be financially independent, the Fine Arts would have to wait a bit so I switched my major to Commercial Art. That was a clear resolve because I could earn a living in an Advertising Agency and then paint in evenings and weekends, my bills could be paid and my goals as a Fine Artist could be met securely in all good time.

I knew that combination of the arts would meld together to make me a more refined artist, so I was assured that any job, as long as I stayed in the Arts, was the wisest decision I could make.

The “ah-ha” moment came later when I entered the “sports art” world, everything I had learned up until then was mentally scattered in different compartments, but with Sports it all came together and I realized it was my entire package of knowledge that took me there. The designing, anatomy, fashion, layouts, hand lettering, technique, power in motion and timing was all wrapped up for me to start my career choice in focusing on the business of creating sports art as Fine Art. I was elated at that one moment, with exhilarated awareness of my “now” and future.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

I would say both with Passion and Imagination added to this ingredient as a complete package. You have to have all four in order to survive as an artist; it is not an easy profession, in fact almost painful at times …it’s a smothering existence with self judgments and decision dissections that are made with struggle, but the “gift” to create, express, imagine and love, is what always kept me going. I never doubted these four ingredients; I was always confidant that they gave me the strength to keep on going.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life’s aberrations, or both?

My father used to say  "sometimes you have to hurt yourself in order to help yourself.” I didn’t understand that when I was young but it all came to light of understanding as an adult, and he was absolutely right! Many many times in my past businesses, I had to fail to succeed. I had to fold companies in order to move on and those decisions were very difficult ones to make. I think the latter applies to me. I have turned negatives into positives.

Example 1:

When I was an Art Director, I thought it would take a lifetime to get to that title and position, it took approx. seven years. After that it all became redundant, the challenge wasn’t there and I became quite unsatisfied with my life.

A friend called me one day and said, "With your expertise in anatomy, your youth, your knowledge and technique of painting, why don’t you try sports art?” At that moment I saw my future take a turn. I painted three sports paintings and called my family and asked for a one year loan. I told them in that one year I would either have a one woman show and be noticed in the Fine Art world , and if not, I would stop and find another Art Directors job…they said OK.

I did up about 25 paintings in a very short amount of time and one day on an errand I saw a sports art gallery in one of the best mid town areas here in Manhattan. I knew that was meant for me!

I went home, gathered all the photo’s of my paintings, put them in an envelope and went to that Gallery the next day.

When I was there the secretary told me I had to make an appointment but I heard the owner in his office talking on the phone. I said, “Can’t he see me now? He’s here!” She said no, so I told her I would wait there until he saw me and I sat down.

She went into his office and he came out and was growling at me that it was not appropriate to see him without an appointment, so I said, “OK, lets make one.”  He opened his calendar book and said, “When do you want to come in?” and I said, "Now!" So I pulled out my photos and threw them all over his book and made him pick them up off the floor, knowing he would have to see them.  We signed a contract right then and there, and in less then a year I had a one woman show! I was written up in the New York Times as a great artist and new discovery, and my career as Sports Fine Artist was written in stone.

I knew he would have had two choices: either kick me out or take me in.  I knew I had to make this into a dramatic negative act to get a positive response, or all would have been lost at that very precious moment.

EXAMPLE 2:

After 22 years of being a Sports Artist I felt the need to leave that realm of art.

I took the inheritance that my mother left me and invested it into creating a new portfolio in the Fine Arts, my hyper-realism art. I had enough to live on for one year and at years end I had a new Gallery and a one Woman Show. The show was a total success ... again making it into all the newspapers.

Back at the opening night…a Museum was asking me if I had a financial supporter, they said my work was needed in the Fine Arts but to build a big enough portfolio I would need the financial aid to keep me going. At that one moment I knew I was doomed. I had nothing left to support me and the sales at the show weren’t enough to keep me going.

Even though my art (in the viewers eyes) was born from genius, I knew I failed in what I wanted to do and to where I needed to go. I was devastated at that moment and felt my art had let me down.

I cried for weeks. I couldn’t function. Then I found the need to paint my sorrow. So I painted a mermaid drowning in a pool of her lonely tears. That comforted me, I took it to my photographer to have it shot and he told me about a relative that loved art like that,  “…on the order of Pre-Raphealite."

And that’s what led me into Fantasy art…and here I am today.  Through all that hard work and ups and a huge amount of downs, I just kept on working with faith and belief in myself and my creativity.  An Artist's life takes courage--it’s looking for the light while living in the dark.

During challenging or difficult times in your life, how has art comforted or inspired you?


Art has been my savior. I came from a very difficult childhood (very dark) and art gave me the escape to survive. I totally saturated myself in the arts, from crayons to the now pastels. I have worked in every medium so I knew which to pick to make my mark in the Art World. I was so obsessed with my passion that I would let nothing get in my way.

In some situations it was the Arts that created the difficulty, like in my marriage or in later relationships too…yes, with men always saying that if I loved them I would have to give up the arts to prove it.  What nonsense!

My answer is this: If I gave up the Arts, it would be giving up my identity.  It’s better for me to be alone and love myself than to be with a partner and be miserable, hence my divorce.  And I'm sad to say that  I've found a soul mate to share a life with, but I have me so I’m in great company doing what I love and never regretting my past decisions.  My paintings are my children--and this is the legacy I leave behind.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it? 

Oh good gosh YES! My parents never believed being an artist was a good thing. They discouraged me all the time. Being from Europe, they couldn’t see art as a profession but rather saw it as doodle in life. I fought with them everyday until I was old enough to move out and keep going where I needed to go.

They insisted that I take typing in high school so I could fall back as a secretary to survive if the arts didn’t work.  My answer to them was, "That’s exactly why I'm not taking that class in typing.  If I can’t type then there is no option for “fall back.”  I would have to succeed in the arts and that’s all there is to it."

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?

The most important thing to me was to know anatomy. Then you know you can paint anything and everything in realism. How can a realist artist understand and paint anything with structure, without knowing their own structure first? I don’t mean everyone has to paint realism. To paint minimalism you must know the complexities in order to simplify. Abstract artists can’t abstract anything without knowing what they are abstracting from and why. That’s why certain artists end up in Museums.  They paint from knowledge and open a new door to understanding for other great artists to learn from and discover, then take it further.

I don’t paint the same things; I try to discover new knowledge from each piece. It may not seem that way to the observer’s eye, but growth comes in small steps and those are the things I look for. But subject? I can paint anything from knowing anatomy, but I have to choose carefully for my growth. Creativity is an instinctive search engine. So I laid out my areas to discover so that I end up with a complete story at life’s end.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Huge difference in my opinion. You can have talent but it’s the creativity that glorifies it. That’s the one thing that makes you stand out amongst the others, the twist to the subject, the imaginative difference, and the confidence behind the craft.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I have a few mantras:

"Motion creates motion.”
”Without Fantasy there is no dream.”

I have another mantra that I keep to myself because I consider it sacred, therefore it must be mentally repeated but never spoken.

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6527212 May 11, 2010

Beingness, Memories, and Relevance: Mari Yamagiwa

"People get the impression that my art is fanciful but my paintings are not fiction."

For quite a few years, I choose to ignore my past. Like many people, I wanted to forget. As a young adult during my struggling sprint forward, I wrote a lot about the experiences and emotions I aimed to leave behind.

You might lift your brows and say, "That doesn't sound like trying to forget."

It seems the opposite, doesn't it? It's interesting how physically and emotionally moving away from the people and situations I longed to forget while writing about what happened and trying to understand why and how, ultimately brought me to the best place. For me, it was a recipe that worked.

My guest today, Japanese artist Mari Yamagiwa, tells us that while her art appears quite fanciful, it isn't fiction. Instead it represents slices of her memory. Everything that happens to us plays a role in our evolution, even the things we forget. Now as I write and paint, I seek to recall people, places, and emotions as if they occurred moments ago because I understand that everything I've experienced fills and fuels my creative toolkit.

There's an important recipe I follow that involves heaping amounts of:
  • memory
  • imagination
  • emotion
  • intellect
  • honesty
  • beingness
Mari used the word beingness in one of her responses below. When I first came across it, I wondered if it's actually a word in the English language. As usual, I looked it up. Well, however awkward it may sound, beingness is a bonafide English word. It means the state or fact of existing.

For my recipe, I'll take beingness a step further by suggesting that for creative folks it includes existing in the present moment. I think this ties to the idea of relevance that our dear Simon Cowell loves to talk about. After all, relevance means bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand.

Of course, many creative folks could care less if their work is relevant. Well, I would argue that true talent longs for relevancy. True talent is driven to find and create relevancy. They either recognize what is relevant, or what they offer up becomes relevant based on their keen ability to exist in the present, whether from a cultural, intellectual, or emotional perspective.

I find it fascinating that despite being on the other side of the globe, operating within a vastly different culture and language, Mari is able to communicate so plainly to us (US citizens) what it means to be creative using a word one of us actually had to look up.

When we strip away desire in terms of creating or expressing something specific, we're left with what exists inside and drives us at a primitive level. Imagine standing alone in an empty, white-walled, square room. Standing there, thinking about who you are, what would you come up with?

What you'd like to create or what you need to express changes over time, but the naked animal standing in the cage goes on.

Some believe the creative drive is a genetic trait, while others believe it's a gift God bestows upon us. Growing up in a ultra-conservative, Christian home, stuffed with creative, unconventional thinkers struggling to conform, my mother used to talk a lot about the "fruits of the spirit," or "gifts" we all have. As a child, I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of having a gift or talent. I was fascinated with the concept, and made it my goal to discover my special gift.

As a small child, when the yelling and screaming began, or when my mother was too sick to take care of me, and instead asked me to take care of her, I often retreated into my tiny square, white-walled room to color, read, write, sing, and make believe all kinds of things.

I rearranged my sparse furniture in as many ways as I possibly could within that confined space, all while wondering, what is my gift? What special trait will redeem this family suffering that surely must be my fault simply because I can't stop it. I was a bright kid, and thought I should know how to stop it. I thought a lot about how I could do that but nothing I tried worked. In the end, by age seven, I felt old and powerless.

So who was I then and who am I now?

I'm exactly the same, a grown woman still reading, writing, make believing, and rearranging components. I do what I'm still driven to do, what brings me purpose, and I do all this in the moment as I did then. I'd like to imagine that what I created at five and six reflected the world around me at that time, and perhaps for that reason, it was beautiful and valuable. I just bet that if my mother held those desperately colored pages in her hands today, tears would come for what she lost, for what we all lost.

Like me, Mari seeks to draw from her memory banks and share who she is at the core. In describing her art, Mari says that it's filled with the dirty part that exists in a deep inner and hidden side. I believe what she's describing is the primitive nature that never goes away and never changes, despite the present moment.

What's your story? Are you surprised by what you're doing and creating these days, or did you always see it coming?

I am a self-taught artist living in Japan. My art works represent pieces of the memories I have of all my experiences. I am often confused and dither and take wrong actions but painting is the best way to eliminate the stress caused by that. People get the impression that my art is fanciful but my paintings are not fiction. They are records that time was deleted from my memories. I have continued to create art since 2004. It's an unavoidable activity for me.

When you are creating a piece, what goes through your mind?

I always feel small afflatus and sensations during creating. Pictures evolve through several reprises. It's hard to explain it with concrete descriptions because it's really subtle evolution. However, I think all artists experience this.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

When I'm creating, first of all, philosophy and several inspirations must be added onto instinct. And then I put pigments and objects on supports.

In a word, expression is output. Art is beingness for artists. Creation is very important but when a painting is finished, it is completed. I think art is neither creation nor expression.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)? Can a person succeed at more than one, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

It is impossible to do two things at the same time to me. So I'm clueless. However, I think considerable physical strength and cunning are necessary to continue giving their ability or 100% of the soul.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

I don't think people can find aberration within their mind. And I don't think they can create it on purpose. People have a tendency to categorize others who are honest with themselves or minority people into a category of aberrant but I don't think that is right decision. And I don't know where the border is between normal and abnormal. However if I have some aberrations in my mind and they are pabulum for my creativity, I appreciate that.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive?

My art works are were met with various misunderstanding in the past, but I realize that they have won acceptance by little and little in the last few years.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I'm only giving vent to something from the inside of me with creative activity. And the activity of accumulating things that I need is important. My finished art works can be shown at exhibitions that I choose. Some of new works will be shown at a group exhibition in Kyoto in the end of this autumn. The attractive gallery deals in a lot of works of international outsider art. I am attracted to creation activity itself, and I don't have time to dream except creation because I need a lot of time to complete art works.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

I think that being creative means being instinctive and valuing philosophy. Being talented means being reasonable and being excellent at skills.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Never regret or change my decision. As humans we must make decisions.

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6527212 April 23, 2010

Defying Gravity: Lou Patrou

"I no longer want to work for other people's businesses, visions, and projects."

My new theme song is "Defying Gravity" from Wicked, recently covered by the cast of Glee. Today I listened to my Glee CD on the way to a lunch meeting that may result in some great pharma consulting work. I'd heard the CD before, but this time the last song hit me in a new way.

Potential consulting work is a good thing. When I stepped back from a full-time career in the industry, I thought having more time for my writing would be great. And it has been! But I was at my best when consulting and writing at a 50/50 split, which is what I'd been doing until September of 2009.

Now I'm getting a little stir crazy.

This brings me to the topic of multi-talent, and also the difference between focusing those talents on what others ask or direct you to do versus self-direction. My guest today, artist Lou Patrou, has been creating art for a lifetime. However, for years, his creative focus was utilized by others. Now he directs himself and is focused on promoting his own art. I get the impression that he somehow broke free or took a leap, and is determined to stay on a path of his own creation.

I'm also determined yet I'm realizing that perhaps I have multiple diverse skill sets--and that's okay. I wrote for years while working full time. During the 50/50 gig, I wrote a new novel over a nine-month period (probably my best work yet), kept Aberration Nation going, and managed to paint quite a bit. Every day held something different. I still had time to devote to my creative goals. I tapped into all my skill sets and directed myself.

Lou points out that there are no rules around multi-talent. Several of those whom I've interviewed feel there should always be a primary focus, while others believe there can be only one focus if you want to be the best. Although I fully understand all the opinions, I like Lou's approach. I'd like to believe there are no molds, rules, or boundaries for how much an individual can juggle and achieve.

I'm first and foremost a writer. I still don't fully know what it means to be a writer yet I know that's what I am. Becoming an artist has expanded my creative horizon. It's taught me a great deal about myself and subsequently improved my writing. I'll not stop painting, but I can't stop writing.

The other day, I asked myself,

"If you were in a jail cell with nothing but a pencil, what would you do with that pencil? Would your first inclination be to draw or to write?"

I knew the answer before I got through the question. I would write and write and write on the walls around me until my pencil turned to dust, and then I'd look for anything else that could create a mark. In the end, I'd want and need to leave my mark, and I know it would be in the form of words.

Does that mean that I'm not truly an artist?
I don't think so.

Does that mean that I should completely turn my back on all my years of pharma experience?
I don't think so.

As Lou has discovered, I think the key is finding a way to make it all work.

Yesterday I wrote 1,000 words of my latest novel, DUST. As I sat at my kitchen table, allowing myself to melt into the words, I remembered how much I love that feeling. How much I need to create characters and scenarios that express my own humanity. How I enjoy the complexity that writing calls for and allows.

I remembered why I write, and reminded myself that it doesn't matter if my work makes it to the top of the charts. Although I'd love for that to happen, it was never the driving force behind my calling. My need has always been to express something meaningful. To caste my eyes upon the world around me and into myself, and figure out what it means to me, and then express it in a way that enables someone else to share it. What drives me is that shining moment when we both become just a little less alone.

So as I sit here introducing you to Lou with a tear on my cheek, I hope you'll consider his idea that there are no rules about who we are and what we can achieve. I started this blog with the premise that normal is a farce. Let's not forget that we're all filled with aberrations. Let's allow our humanity to bring us together not pull us apart--whether we're writers, artists, corporate folks, teachers, religious, agnostic, gay, straight, black, Asian, white, physically challenged or fit, lonely, happy, introverted, extroverted, or whether we prefer Palin and tea bags or Obama in the house.

Perhaps I'm way too idealistic. Perhaps Lou won't succeed in marketing his art. Perhaps I'll never find a new publisher. Perhaps we'll all burn in hell or turn to dust with nothing to show for it. Believe what you will. I choose to believe in miracles, happy endings, fulfillment, and peace. These things happen everyday in every corner of our world, and as my Dad used to always say, "If it can happen for someone else, it can happen for you."

Studying Lou's art, I suspect he may also subscribe to the relative nature of gravity.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? Are you surprised by where you are or did you always see it coming?

I've always known that I would work in creative fields and never an office, for better or for worse. As far as my art is concerned, I've been drawing steadily since junior high school in the 60's. Over the years I've worked extensively in film and television production, custom photo labs, both color processing and black and white printing, neon design and installation for events, concerts and commercials, animation, advertising, prop and set design, product design, photography and product licensing.

Today I no longer want to work for other people's businesses, visions and projects. I'm concentrating only on my art, designs and product ideas. If a project doesn't have my name on it, I'm no longer inspired. I just have no interest in working on it.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Not any one moment--more a continuum. Over time I get different ideas about concepts and during the exploration of them, new directions become apparent and details become clear.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

The urge is probably an urge to satisfy oneself with the work and whoever might appreciate it, the process is about different challenges along the way to creating the work, which also gives satisfaction.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)? Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I don't believe that there are rules about this. I've seen some with many talents and others with few. Some people can be multi-talented, and some people can think they're multi-talented.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Do you mean a curse? I don't know about that. We all have to deal with our own set of life and personal problems that come along--even those people considered talented or gifted.

As far as using your talent, I have seen super talented people waste themselves away on drugs and others just lose interest in what they were good at.

We've also seen people that used to be very talented writers and musicians become less talented or less productive over time, so who knows? Maybe it's all because of contributing factors like lifestyle, greed, or loss of ambition.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I figured out a long time ago that not everyone gets everything or everybody, which also goes to personal tastes. In my case, there are many people that I don't show my art to because they just don't get it or care to get it--so I just leave it at that.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I worked in the film business in Hollywood for years and had some of the best times of my life, along with an amount of success in the industry with my art and designs. I've amassed a body of work that goes back to the 70's yet have only been focused on marketing myself for the last five years. So even though I've been producing art for decades, you could say that when it comes to selling and showing my work, I'm only just getting started.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Let's look at it this way, many people can enjoy being creative yet if one of them is far more talented, it is evident to all.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Because of changing circumstances and aging, these things change over time. At one point you think certain things are so important or admirable, and years later they seem foolish or unimportant.

Today my business motto is, "Push ahead, stay vigilant and stay focused."

My creative motto has been, "Keep a clear enough mind to be able to make uninfluenced discovery and then follow your instincts."

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6527212 April 14, 2010

A Healthy Dose of Paranoia: Mollie Kellogg

"Creative is the secret room in the brain to which everyone has access. Talent is what you choose to do after you enter."

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between creative and talented. Here's what the dictionary says:

Creative:

1. Having the quality or power of creating.
2. Resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imaginative

Talented:
1. A marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment.
2. Natural endowment or ability of a superior quality.

What I've heard from most of those I've asked is that everyone is creative, or can be creative. It simply takes either the act of producing something or somehow being original. At a basic level, most people express creativity as they are cooking, cleaning, gardening, decorating their home, choosing what to wear, or fixing their hair for the day.

I can do that.

You can do that.

Lots of folks take it a big step further by creating music, art, literature, architecture, computer programs, films, etc. If we put our minds to it, we could all create those things. They might suck, but in reality, we could actually create something we would feel comfortable labeling as a song, a book, a painting, a film, etc. We might even sell it to someone. Wow!

Being talented is another story altogether. My guest today, artist Mollie Kellogg, says that talent is what you choose to do with your creativity once you decide to exercise it. I'll go a step further and suggest that it's also what you are able to do. As hard as they may try, some people aren't capable of creating anything surprisingly different from what their neighbors are creating. Is it markedly above or superior to the work of others? No.

Does it suck?

Maybe not.

Maybe it's okay.

Yesterday I strolled around Chelsea, New York City's famed art district. While I enjoyed popping in and out of the galleries, I was a bit disappointed in the art displayed there. I wondered if it was just me. If I lacked some special filter, the one that tells a highly creative person that what they're viewing is magnificent. In other words, did I lack an appreciation for the art?

(Go ahead, tell me that I have no right to criticize the art since mine isn't there. I can handle it.)

During my visit, I was reminded that art appreciation is subjective. I was also reminded of the process for how artists' work lands in the top Chelsea galleries. I heard a lot about how the "art establishment" works.

After a while it began to sound a bit like corporate America. The art reminded me of those special people who rise to the top while the rest of the folks scratch their heads to the tune of "He's good at networking and politics ... doesn't matter how smart he actually is, how well he manages people and projects, or how much he actually knows about what the hell we do around here."

So here I sit this morning with a lot on my mind about where I want my art to land and why. I'm thinking again about the differences between producing and creating, and creative and talented. I'm wondering all over again who decides the value of art and why. If, in the end, art and music and writing are all just businesses ushered forward by "the establishment," then what is the purpose and where is the place for true talent?

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” I've always believed that Mr. Edison's sweat emerged from trying all those ways to make the light bulb work rather than pounding the political pavement. He also said things like, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Well, I'm getting the feeling that, at least in American culture, we've twisted these messages into, "Genius takes 1 percent talent and 90 percent politics," and "Opportunity is missed by most people because it's dressed in a business suit and looks like schmoozing."

Can you hear my screams of frustration?

I've always said that I hate to complain if I don't know how to fix it. Perhaps instead of getting smaller, the world has grown large and layered, a network that strangles rather than connects. Perhaps there is value in retreating back to a smaller circle where talent can shine through the B.S., beyond established procedures and steps created by folks with less talent or IQ points, and above the incessant chatter of the average, the political, and the bottom-line thinkers?

Who can possibly change our world now that we're surrounded on all sides by the establishment?

What are they establishing and where is that road leading us?

Mollie's mantra is "better paranoid than sorry." Maybe we should all take a shot of her paranoia and think this over. Otherwise, we may all end up sorry, with nothing to show for ourselves but cold, hard, lonely cash.

What's your story (in a nutshell)?

I am a full-time Creative, 24/7. Born that way. Art, dance, acting. At a cross-roads I chose commercial art over theatre with the thought that I might have a better chance at making a living. My career started in art direction and illustration. As time passed, I intensified my focus on fine art. Always figurative. Fine art and theatre collided in the early 90’s as co-founder of Planet Earth Theatre and Gallery in Phoenix, AZ (and eventually Seattle, WA). I primarily showed large, oversized nudes. After moving to San Diego, CA, I found myself without a space to show/store my work, so I focused on smaller personal works that I wouldn’t mind having around the house a while.

After a decade of theatre work, raising two children, facing health issues, and changing spiritual influences, my art evolved and transformed. Today my images contain a bit of magick, sometimes hidden, as in a portrait such as Onion Hill, or on full display, as in the Incognito Witch Project.

Are you surprised by where you are or did you always see it coming?

I am always surprised at where I am – that is why I won’t go anywhere without my GPS. But seriously, there is a hazard and correlation between getting lost in the creative mind when driving and getting “physically” lost!

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Divorce. Once nature has had its way with you and you have had your kids, (what I call the salmon swimming upstream syndrome), and you find yourself alone, as in divorced, without anyone besides yourself carrying the power to veto your dreams – then every single day has the potential to become an ah-ha moment.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

In my mind, creation without expression results in decorative art. My high school art teacher once chastised a cute little watercolor I showed her as “decorative.” Those word still sting. (Hand grasps at chest.)

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul (i.e., writing and painting, music and art, etc)?

I think highly creative people are naturally drawn to multiple disciplines and can participate passionately in each. However, unless they have a team of people working with or for them, I think it would be very hard to market multiple art forms, from a time perspective, unless the art forms are integrated, somehow.

Can a person succeed at more than more, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I think a creative person with multiple talents or even a knack for multiple mediums within a single art form, who finds everything easy for them, might find it hard to focus. And back to marketing, it is hard to tell people who you are if you haven’t discovered that for yourself.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

In Junior High I was targeted for being very white and very red-headed. Basically I stood out. It probably didn’t help that I wore two different colored socks at times and other much-too-embarrassing incidents to report here. Why did I not fit in? Because my parents just let me be who I was? Could they have taught me to assimilate? However, at the very same time I was hiding out in the classroom at lunch to avoid getting my butt kicked, I danced a solo to Love Will Keep Us Together in the school talent show and I somehow became captain of the Pom-Pom Line choreographing the team dances, despite the team not really liking me. The lesson? If you can’t Fit In, Stand Out. Discipline, talent, persistence and passion will eventually get you respect.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? Does anyone really understand a Creative and their drive?

Other than another Creative with similar values? Spouses, friends, and other loved ones, even those who are creative, are jealous of sharing you with your other love and the time it takes away from them.

If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Actually, I think I prefer that they do not understand me. Makes what I have to offer more “special” and “mysterious.” Just as long as they do not fear me. Just my kids should fear me.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

Life is a Dream and I am not going to be satisfied until the final curtain.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented?

Creative is the secret room in the brain to which everyone has access. Talent is what you choose to do after you enter. I live in my Creative Room. It is locked from the outside.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life?

Better paranoid than sorry.

Why is this important to you?

I have kids.

Be sure to check out Mollie's 3-part documentary focusing on her Incognito Witch project. Here's the first part:


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6527212 January 26, 2010

An Enduring Drumbeat: Joyce Dibona

"If you’re marching to the beat of a different drummer, it can be a very reassuring thing if the drummer is always strong, always on beat, and doesn’t just stop playing or run off at the first sign of trouble."

When I'm writing or painting, I forget myself. Everything and everyone seems to dissipate into a peaceful void that's somehow filled with words, color, and emotion. There's a script or vision in my head that continues to move forward, telling me what to do next. It feels like a Vulcan mind meld, like something beyond who I am has taken over. My guest today, artist Joyce Dibona, likens this phenomenon to "channeling."

Who or what are we channeling, I wonder? Who are we hearing? Where do the mental images come from? I tend to think it's still me; the things deep inside that can't seem to jump out any other way. Joyce suspects it's something divine. Whatever it is, hearing others describe it helps me continue to accept who and what I am.

On top of this, Joyce also mentions our capitalist society with all it's norms and expectation. I've told my children that you can't always play to the crowd because the crowd may be filled with a bunch of mediocre, average people whose power and influence simply grows with size. If you lack confidence or self-esteem, you can feel overpowered, as if you're the one who's wrong, weird, etc.

Maybe there's absolutely nothing wrong with all the folks in the crowd but you owe it to yourself to be authentic, even if you're one-of-a-kind in a huge, pulsating crowd of all-the-same. It sounds like Joyce recognized this concept at an early age.

I wish I'd been equipped to pull that off. I was way too much of a "people pleaser." It's a gene I have that conflicts with a few others in my bucket. The conflict of desperately needing to march to my own loud drum while somehow still pleasing everyone has caused me quite a few aberrations. What a recipe for passive aggression and subversive behavior (especially when I was younger)!

1 dominant "people pleaser" gene
1 "adventure-seeking" gene
1 incessantly loud and creative drumbeat
1 pinch of low self esteem
1 pinch of family dysfunction
1 good intellect
1 sin-focused environment
1 million digested books

Mix well.

Pow! Bang! Wham!

OUCH!

Pain.

However, like Joyce and some of the others we've heard from, thinking outside the box often helped me navigate those situations, emerging stronger and wiser. My creativity saved me.

So whether we're in the zone, channeling, or out there channeling through a crowd of folks who may or may not see the world as we do, Joyce reminds what she calls "Creatives" to be true to ourselves, show up, and keep driving forward.

Whether you're creative or not, it's great advice.

I often wonder if most highly creative people are born knowing what they want to do. Have you always wanted to be an artist, or was it a specific creative interest that evolved over time?

I knew I was an artist from a very early age. Quite honestly, from as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a professional artist, i.e. someone who made her living as an artist. At three years of age, my parents considered me precocious; at seventeen, misguided; at forty, demented; and when I reached fifty and was still pursuing my dream, they finally accepted it.

Do you have other creative interests, and if so, what are they?

I’m a closet writer and sometimes poet. I have a “streak of the geek” and am interested in the possible creative applications of ever changing technology. I am also very interested in the healing arts and alternative approaches to health.

There is a stereotype that creative people are "different," which can be a positive or a negative at times. What are your thoughts on this?

I think self-referencing can be a difficult task. Creative people certainly seem “different,” but different compared to what? Social norms and expectations? I have at times felt myself somewhat put off by the stereotype of “different” in the same manner that I’m put off by the cliché of “starving artist.” On the negative side, I think Creatives are frequently viewed through a capitalist lens in our society. If you’re making money, you’re held in regard, and elevated socially. If you’re not, you are suspect, often considered a misfit, possibly lazy, and frequently counseled to “go get a real job”.

Do you believe being creative has caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Good question. I would have to answer both. My creativity, particularly at a young age, often left me feeling a “gap” between others and myself. In my early ages, five to nine years, it was almost like feeling a little autistic. It seemed that I had a language for interpreting life around me that most of my peers and elders, didn’t quite get. I could sense that I was often viewed as rather strange. I think a lot of creative children experience this as they try to integrate into society. In that sense, my sensitivities probably created some aberrations for me: a sense of loneliness, an inability to communicate as directly as I longed to, and a general inability to form more than one or two significant friendships.

On the positive side, my creativity has definitely helped me to not just cope with, but also navigate life’s aberrations. If you’re marching to the beat of a different drummer, it can be a very reassuring thing if the drummer is always strong, always on beat, and doesn’t just stop playing or run off at the first sign of trouble. I’ve always been able to count on my creativity. I consider it to come from a wellspring of inexhaustible energy that flows from the Divine. In my darkest moments it is still there, and it has real worth to me as I go through time. I feel creativity and a sense of reverence are closely tied. I’d rather be an artist and maintain the ability to see with new eyes, than a hard-core materialist that sees life as something to be dominated at any cost.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I think the primary difficulty with this in my early years was in my relationship with my parents. Although supportive somewhat of my creativity, they certainly did not want me to embrace the life of an artist. They were Depression-Era people, and needless to say were deeply impacted by that experience, and were fearful for my economic stability. They weren’t always wrong, lol. The way I dealt with their fears was to plunge in, plod through and keep on going, regardless. I stayed committed to my work. It eventually worked out.

I think the next area where people perhaps failed to understand my creative drive would be in my relationships. I think many men in particular have a difficult time with the amount of time it takes to be seriously involved in creative work. It’s an act of balance to have a good relationship and an artistic career. If you’re an artist, and you’re not working, you’re miserable and it impacts the relationship. If you are working, inevitably it is sometimes resented that you are not available to them in the manner they hope for. This could be a contributing factor as to why I’m no longer married, and haven’t felt inclined to ever remarry.

I often wonder, "Am I truly creative or do I just think I am?" Have you ever wondered about this? In a world filled with creative people and people who think they're creative, how have you been able to distinguish yourself and your talent, despite any doubts along the way?

I honestly have never wondered about whether or not I was creative. I think this is one of those things that are imposed on us from the outside. I think humans are naturally curious and creative. Some of us however, are more compelled to maintain and develop our creativity. How does one quantify creativity? Certainly we can measure it by production, but that’s only one way.

To me, creativity is a natural flow. In a way, it’s like having a “problem-solving mind” without all of the preconceived notions of what is the appropriate way to proceed with the problem solving. The mark of creativity is the freedom to explore. I hold this freedom paramount. This state of mind has led me from painting to explorations in three-dimensional painting to sculpture to combining all these as in my tattoo sculptures. I simply follow my nose and don’t doubt my hands. If I have a strong idea or impression, I tend to leap. I often have to figure out how to do something while I’m actually doing it.

I think it is absolutely important to remain FEARLESS in your creativity.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. How do you cope with disappointments? What motivates you to keep going, to not give up?

Well, this is a HUGE one. As for disappointments I’ve found the rebound from them gets quicker. After awhile, if you’ve been doing this for a long time, you realize you’re a “lifer,” that being an artist IS the way you will spend your life. You have to believe in yourself, it’s absolutely vital. If you don’t, the world will eat you alive. I find true value in the creation of my work.

Everything in life eventually passes away. If my work touches one person, it was worth it. I keep going because I feel compelled to communicate, and often communicate things of a spiritual nature. I also know, on some level, that this is the work that I am meant to do in this lifetime. Like other artists, I have had my bouts with significant sorrow and depression associated with being an artist, but I’ve never lost my love of doing the work. What keeps me going is how right it feels when I am working. It truly feels like love energy. I will never leave it. My creativity, unlike a lot of things in life has intrinsic value to me.

I often wonder about the similarities and differences creative people have in terms of though processes. How would you describe your creative process? How does your mind work?

I have thought about this a lot. As I’ve watched myself over time, I’ve come to realize that there are actually two different modes or processes I tend to approach my work with. I am either completely spontaneous, and almost feel as if I’m channeling, or I am very structured in my approach.

My mind seems to function in the creative process in these two distinct ways. Sometimes I have visions, literally, where I “see” an entire work of art. When this happens, I have to dig in, and get very practical about how to best realize my vision. This type of work usually entails a great deal of physical and intellectual work. The tattoo sculptures and my newest sculpture, Atonement, are examples of this.

On the other hand, works like Spirit and Soul, Industrial Junkie, or The Last Dog are examples of sculptural work approached in a spontaneous fashion, where I’ve just dug in and started working. The painting work seems to exist within the same dichotomy. Some works are born of complete abstraction. If images are present, they often arise out of the painting process itself rather than pre-planning. This type of painting work is very enjoyable to me. I also will pursue painting in a more thought out manner, particularly when I have a particular concept or something I’m trying to convey.

What are the top three characteristics of a highly creative person, in your opinion?

1) Awareness: An open, exploring mind

2) Passion: Love for all life and ones work

3) Integrity: To thine own self be true

Many creative people have tons of ideas but never follow through. I'm not sure if it's because they lack drive, organization, or focus. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Hey, it takes work! If you don’t develop a strong work ethic, it’ll never happen. Many people don’t understand the discipline it takes to create a significant body of work. You have to show up even when you’re not doing your best work, because that’s the way you eventually break through. You also have to know when you’re stuck and getting away for a while will allow you to come back with fresh eyes, just don’t use that as an excuse for staying away too long.

I do think drive has a great deal to do with this. There is no question that some people are just more driven to produce than others, and it definitely makes a difference. If you’re not producing good work, you’re still probably more likely to produce some good work if you’re producing consistently than the person who just works when the mood hits them.

Focus comes into play during this process as well, but in my opinion you have to show up in order to have something to focus on. I suppose some people suffer from a lack of organization around their work, but for the most part, if you have discipline, and you’re showing up and working, the organization is a secondary issue.

To learn more about Joyce Dibona and her work, visit her site.

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