Category Archives: Creative Work & Productivity

Hibernate – Activate

This blog has been hibernating.  A season of change since we were in Florence unfolded across our lives like a map to the pirates’ trove.  Ben and I have found treasure, challenge, and new life in the intermission.   All the while, I questioned the validity of this blog.  Lacking a clear focus, the default subject becomes my moods, my life observations.  I dislike self-publishing as a vehicle to vent, or to sing my own praises, so when I’m feeling insecure or über-excited, or too busy to reflect on what I’m up to, I just want to stay quiet.  But in the apparent quell, I’ve been an active dreamer.

Dreams–those subconscious goals and desires of the heart–arrest the dreamer.  Though she sleeps, insight dawns.  In hibernation mode, this blog cried out with the original intent: but what color is love?  Artist Marc Chagall knew that love is a color of hope and vivacity, a color that triumphs despite pain, evil regimes, and cruel death.  Ever my hero, Chagall’s words remind me to press through the indecision.  Weave the story.  Hook the reader.  Edify the hearts.  Any of you who write, paint, compose or choreograph know what I’m talking about.  Your art form will compel you to awaken once again.  Your mission will resurface.  Your dreams will direct you to complete the path you started.

Sometimes delay – whether caused by hibernation, procrastination, or the vagaries of life – is the path.  It is key to the mission and lends depth to the message.  A bear hibernates to conserve energy.  At the threat of life’s “winters,” humans prioritize.  A new baby demands our full-time care.  A husband’s career requires relocating and reorienting.  A step-child needs to be schlepped hither and thither.  Someone is ill.  Financial pressure puts us in survival mode.  Whatever the cause, delay happens.  But the dream will not stay dormant forever.

This past weekend we celebrated a full-circle story.  It was the story of a women who dreamed of becoming an artist.  A beautiful girl who married young, loved much, and birthed three amazing people into the world.  A lady so skilled with her hands she can weave tapestry, craft intricate jewelry and cleverly cook up almost any cuisine.  All in one day.  Her paintings adorn our home and countless others.  Oversized watercolors that speak of skill and secret knowing as she has honed her artist’s eye for many years.

On the wall of my bedroom, one of her recent works tells of Aaron our son, me his mother, and the interwoven lines of a 16th century Da Vinci drawing.  The image inspires me constantly.  A visual reminder that we are surrounded by a cloud of unseen witnesses.  An emblem of the spiritual strength we can impart to others younger than us, and receive from those who’ve gone before.  It’s a portrait of generational blessing, of tenderness and fortitude.

Watercolor by Mindy Faubion, 2013

Watercolor by Mindy Faubion, 2013

The artist, the heroine of this story, is my husband’s mother Melinda.  I am indebted to her for choosing the delay of her art-school dream, in order to care for her firstborn Ben.  If it wasn’t for her choice, perhaps Ben and I would never have met.  Interestingly my own mother also took about 30 years to complete her art degree, finishing in 2004 at the Laguna College of Art and Design.  My mom’s choice, like Mindy’s, became key to the story of how I met my true love.  Adding depth to the delay, theirs was the fruitfulness of apparent dormancy.   New generations and restorations arose from their journey.

If Ben and I are about anything in common, it is our conviction about art, faith and creativity.  We were raised by women who imparted their dream despite the delays.  As a result, the dream multiplied.  Now there are children, grandchildren and spouses who each love art and creativity in their own way.  Writers, photographers, a cosmetologist, entrepreneurs, painters, educators, tech-design artists, musicians.

Ben and his mom, Mindy, during Ben's BFA program at LCAD

Ben and his mom, Mindy, during Ben’s BFA program at LCAD

We are creative mothers and fathers ourselves now.  Passing on the legacy of our brave moms and dads.  Like them, we carry the seeds of our dreams on life paths that may seem indirect.  Wisdom prompts us not to judge success or failure too early.  Let the journey unfold.  Embrace the twists and turns.  And no matter what, don’t bury the treasure of your dreams.  But even if you do, trust that God has a map to guide you back.  As they say, X marks the spot.

Shalom.  Merry Christmas.  With lots and lots of love, in whatever color you feel it.

 

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Entreat the Muse

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Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my own ideas.  There is so much I want to do.  So much to live for.  So much to get creative about.  And there are days when I don’t know where to begin.  Today, finding myself in that place, I decided to just start drawing.  I worked on a demo I am making for my students in the Saturday Kids’ Atelier art classes I teach.  Tuned into some Brazilian jazz by Toots Thielemans  and tuned into my inner artist.  This is better than wine.  Better than chocolate.  Not quite as good as one of Ben’s kisses, but an OK second being as he is far away at work.  Anyway, to all my artist friends out there (and you writers too) please drop a line and let me know how you ‘stir the soup’ of your consciousness when it’s hard to focus.  I’d love to see any of your creations or best lines that came out of such a space.  Peace to you today.  And much love.

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Aaron helped me stay inspired

Aaron helped me stay inspired

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Integrate

Artist: Adolf Mentzel (1815-1905)

Artist: Adolf Mentzel (1815-1905)

Have you ever felt like you were on a train and the view is great but suddenly it starts moving so fast all the colors of the view swirl together?  Now you see life like a Renoir painting.  Everything is bright but out of focus.  The pace of change makes it hard to put boundaries around time and space.  You can’t name what you see anymore.

The train of my life has been moving.  There’s beauty in the view, but I haven’t felt like putting words to it, and I certainly haven’t felt good about airing my thoughts in this semi-public arena of blogdom.  I have wondered, should I close this down?  Shall I simply declare (or, let my silence say it) that I’ve abdicated What Color is Love?  I don’t know what color love is anymore.  It is a blur of grays and reds and vermillion, aqua and ultramarine and phthalo blue.  The colors are vivid but my tongue sticks to roof of my mouth.  No, my keyboard sticks to my fingertips.  I feel dull and insignificant.  I feel alive and happy.  I feel energized and tired.  I feel sexy and invisible.  I feel like a woman.

I say this last bit because I think there are seasons of our lives as women that are particularly hard to make sense of.  Although we specialize in multitasking, in having all four of life’s burners going.  Although we’re accustomed to preparing the exquisite “meals” of life with every pan in the house.  Nevertheless there are seasons where the juggling act truly feels like I’m a circus performer and I can’t sort out the thoughts and emotions of my head.  In this chaos how can I try to put words into the blogosphere?

This isn’t a lament.  I like being a woman and I like my life.  But I’m not sure if my voice is on this fast-moving train where the colors blur and the contours disintegrate. As if my voice were a thousand meters behind and I want to call to her and say run, you can do it, catch me!  I’m here.  With my voice back in my body I’ll be able to speak kind and comforting words to my soul and maybe then, to yours too.

But today, I break the silence and surrender to the speed.  Because today is Sunday.  A world at rest.  The train is in it’s station, blowing off steam.  My eyes blink and I can focus.  The sun glows warm and the sea sparkles.  My child sleeps while canvas curtains billow softly.  In the calm I recollect myself and feel my voice again.  Inside my chest, she’s a bird come home to the nest.  Later, I will ask her softly, Voice, what lands did you discover, what truths do you now see?   Shhhh…rest now awhile.  Take time.  Tomorrow you can tell me your tales.

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Self portrait made with my fingerprints on vellum

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Beating the Heat

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September is a playful month. It presumes to promise Fall-the cool, crispness of air, the fresh unfolding of a new school year. Rosh ha Shana being around the corner I am amped on this season and the sense of new beginnings held out like a crisp green apple dipped in honey. Except that for days now September has played me for a fool!

Today Ben and I grabbed baby Aaron and drove to San Diego. It’s become a little ritual for our anniversary. Go south and buy a special piece of art or pottery from an artists village in Balboa Park. But we were unprepared for the hundred degree weather and the dearth of shade. Our picnic melted and we hung out in the air conditioned art museums.

Still, art was found. We bought some small, incised cylindrical vases from a favorite potter named Doug Snyder. And I found fresh inspiration in a Russian born painter, Igor Koutsenko. But the best art was the conversation – with Ben as we drove, sharing our artistic goals for the coming year – and once home, with the baby. Ok, the baby doesn’t talk yet in the grown up sense, but he’s very conversational. He wanted to draw and make a tent out of a giant brainstorm page I made. So out come the crayons and in comes the fullness of fun. Leave it to the baby to help me get my art supplies out and begin to draw!

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The Value of ‘Negative Space’

Recently I joined a watercolor class.  It meets in Seal Beach on Wednesdays and is instructed by my own Mamma, Bobbi Boyd.  Aside from the fun of getting to paint every week and the fact that my mom is really a great teacher, I like this class because the other painters are so interesting.  Get a table full of creative women together and the conversation is bound to be dynamic.

At my first visit one of the women, Nicole, brought up some research she had come across on a German media program (she’s German).  Neuroscience has shown that the brain actually forms memories during periods of inactivity following an event.  So, Nicole explained, she now understands why her two little girls often seem to space out after they’ve been studying something.  Another woman in the group, (who I happen to know pretty well because she was my natural childbirth instructor), said that she often gets the solution to whatever problems she’s facing if she lets herself sit in stillness for awhile.  Again, just spacing out.

These valuable periods of inaction remind me of a parallel concept in art: negative space.  The idea is that the empty areas in an artwork have equal importance to the active, filled-in areas.  We use negative space when creating art, as in being able to accurately see the shape of a three dimensional object and translate it to the canvas.  We also use negative space when viewing art.  The space has presence of its own and counterbalances the presence of the depicted subject.

Just before typing this I’ve been staring at a beautiful example.  In our living room stands a life-size portrait made by artist Amanda Harrison.  While the figure obviously dominates, I find I can sit for great stretches of time just examining the white areas.  The negative space.  There is such a sense of air and light breathing through the emptiness.

Original Drawing by Amanda Harrison. http://www.amandaharrison.org

In life as in art, there is a great harmony achieved when we allow for emptiness.   Periods of unstructured time.  Moments of spacing out.  Staring at the sky.  Daydreaming.  Wondering.  I think, but I’m not yet experienced to know, this will be an important concept to remember when I’m raising my kids.  Aaron’s so young still, but I want to give him the same freedom as he gets older that I had as a kid.  The freedom to gaze long into the open spaces and find the company of my own thoughts, dreams and visions.

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The Creative Everyday

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How do you nurture your inner-artist when your day is full of unglamorous tasks like diapering and laundry and scrubbing the kitchen sink?  One idea is to make your world (including your laundry room, kitchen, sleeping area, etc.) a place that inspires.

Here’s a few things I love:

  • A beautiful tin and the aromatic contents of Peet’s Winter Solstice Tea (available only this time of year)
  • Shadows cast by small bowls and bits of pottery on the tile
  • Original art by high school senior (at the time I bought it) Natasha Weir.  Hanging over the stove like a port hole on a ship
  • A painting of Crystal Cove on the kitchen wall I painted turquoise
  • A framed photograph of my German grandmother at 19
  • Whimsical clay cups Ben and I bought from an artist in San Diego
  • Radishes and chard sprouting from seed and beginning to look ready for harvest in the garden
  • Walking to the grocery store and nesting the purchases around Aaron in his stroller
  • Putting paint brushes in glass jars and storing them in the laundry room
  • The new bright blue label on Trader Joe’s plum tomatoes
  • Discovering a new way to make Mexican hot chocolate

I’d love to hear from you…where do you find the “creative” in your hum-drum life of everyday?

Calm Evening

I love you Ben Faubion (my husband, best friend, counselor, creative partner, fellow traveler, muse)!  Tonight after Aaron went to sleep we listened to a few chapters of A Tale of Two Cities on Audible.  We’re debating whether to get a TV…on one hand it would be nice to see Netflix on a screen larger than our iPad or laptops; on the other hand, not having the big screen forces us to be more creative with our down time…listening to great literature or to Ben’s latest Blues riff on the guitar, for example.

I suppose the bigger issue is how to maintain and cultivate an atmosphere of calm creativity in our home.  As Aaron grows up, I want him to be a kid who knows how to use all of his senses, especially his sense of imagination.  I want him to know how to entertain himself and his friends via his own creativity, as well as having the capacity to sit back and enjoy media created by our society.

This means Ben and I need to continue to model it.  How do we spend our free hours?  Are we engaged in meaningful dialogue with each other?  Have we made our home an environment that reflects both of our styles and interests, but nonetheless harmonizes in a satisfying way?  Do we spend our time productively, challenging each other to grow past our fears and insecurities and truly live out our calling?  Do we know how to rest together and just be?

Whistle While You Work

How do we rediscover joy in our work?  Whether we work at a public space, in a cubicle, have our own office or work at home, I believe taking time for the adornment and regular updating of our physical environment is key.

I have for years wanted my workspace to include the following:

  • a red-orange desk or a desk alongside and accent wall painted peachy-red/orange
  • Framed artwork by artists I love, including child-artists
  • Framed photographs of places or people I love
  • A hint of things from other times, places & cultures (i.e. French decorating magazines, small objects, maps)

In fact, the inspiration for these elements came through an exercise in the touchstone book for creative recovery: The Artist’s Way (you can order the book on Amazon or click here for a link to author Julia Cameron’s online course).  Here is what I wrote in one of my morning pages (an foundational daily exercise explained in the book):

November 12th 2009

In my ideal environment the house…has an accent wall that is a luscious salmon-orange color.  It has loads of color and fabulous real paintings on the walls.  It is neither cluttered nor bare, it is calm and yet vibrant…

What is so lovely is the way this exercise really did ignite the process whereby my husband and I moved from our dull, drab, dreary, lackluster environs in a taupe-colored townhouse in a boring suburb, to the south facing, light-flooded, funky, airy, palmed tree-lined, centrally-located and creative apartment we now occupy.  With the help of some of our brilliant artist friends, we do have real, large-scale oil paintings on the walls.  And, as the following photos attest, I did set up a little work space for myself that includes a red-orange desk and the other items listed above.  The result: one happy Mamma who is beginning to connect with her “writer within.”

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