Art Vessel: you have all the inspiration you need…

 

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Artistic angles, I refer to often, are available moments that combine awareness and expression. Awareness is simply what exists within and around us. Expression happens when we synthesize what we become aware of. Sometimes, the expression is literal or matter of fact. Sometimes, the expression is as abstract as your imagination allows…

Combining impulses, of awareness and expression, mindful art-making reveals itself. When we are aware and expressive, I suggest that you’re living your artistic angles out loud. 

Bring attention to the thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations from within, right now. Jot them down for future inspiration: 

Thoughts— 

Feelings— 

Physical Sensations— 

Then, look outside of yourself. Notice the natural plus not-so-natural state of the things. Gather what you notice from your unique angles on life and the world. There is no wrong way to find inspiration in this way. Again, feel free to jot down notes for future inspiration: 

The Natural World Around Me— 

The Not-So-Natural World Around Me— 

My Imagination— 

True artists construct from whatever angles exist, with whatever materials spread out within and before them. In true artistry, the true part involves recognizing then piecing together the artistic angles. 

Angles spring from personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations), the world around us, and our imaginary universe. Some artists prefer one of these angles more than others. Their work reflects this. Some vary between the angles, and some flow seamlessly between all three.

Inspired by this excerpt from Reframe Your Artistry, published by Prodigy Gold Books – go onward and broaden your artistic angles, no matter the current confines. 

Home During Foreign Times

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Regardless of the climate, Phoenixville will always be romantic and rare and home. 

 

As a young dancer, I had a career ending injury. Weekly visits to a top doc could not fix my situation. While I attended those lengthy appointments in Philly, I’d get teased for things like my fascination with the obituary section of Dance Magazine and the fact that I was from Phoenixville.

“Phoenix, Arizona?” a fellow patient asked.

“No, Phoenixville,” I said.

“I love Phoenix,” that same patient responded.

“She said, Phoenixville,” the medical assistant clarified. She followed with something like, “no one has heard of it. Very different than Phoenix.”

And they shared a chuckle at my expense.

I went back to reading, then. That is what I did.

When injury permanently sidelined me, at fifteen, dad asked me to take a drive with him. Drive: code for pep talk. We drove along Phoenixville’s main street: Bridge Street. He played Doo-wop. Maybe he also longed for a more hopeful time.

He said, “we are checking town.

He pointed out the – then – shutdown Colonial movie theater where the Blob had been filmed. He pointed out the half-dozen places he’d worked.

He pointed out shops that his own father had owned during the ’50s and ’60s; soda fountains. One soda fountain’d close. Another soon reopened. The family business eventually moved a few streets down – off the main street – after hard times. I went into that triangular space a few years back. They were selling  – appropriately – vintage furniture.

Our origins credit iron and steel production.

By the nineties, most Phoenixville storefronts were abandoned.

Town colors were gray and grayer, except if you were a fan of high school baseball – in which case you wore purple with pride.

I saw a very different Phoenixville than my father. It embodied my own internal dystopia, another thing I’d have to overcome if I wanted to make something of myself.

First chance I had, I did leave town. It came in the form of a letter of admission to a place more people may have heard of than Phoenix, Arizona. One word: Harvard.

Harvard exists in a lesser known community (as vibrant and equally full of schooling) – Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was everything I’d hoped to inhabit: eclectic, diverse, energetic, intellectual, dressed in indie books, vintage fashion, bustling cafes by day and novel bars by night.

I said I’d never move back home.

Then, life happens. And love clarifies where we belong rather than a place in which to come of age.

Here I am.

I fell in love with Phoenixville, this time around. Or maybe it was my original imprint of love. Maybe the way my dad had painted a vision, and I recalled in heart, Phoenixville – this go around – seemed to heal both personal and community loss via transformation as an artist’s haven.

“It’s bohemian balmy,” a classy friend, passing through, once referred to my beloved Artisan’s Cafe.

Phoenixville. One word.

Forty-five minutes west of Philly, minutes beyond the Main Line, and minutes enough to be all I’d hoped to raise a family: eclectic, diverse, energetic, intellectual, dressed in indie books, vintage fashion, bustling cafes by day and novel bars by night.

This is my town.

You will rise
You’ll return
The phoenix from the flame
You will learn
You will rise
You’ll return
Being what you are
There is no other Troy
For you to burn

Troy, Sinead O’Connor

 

I had a dream last night. An explosion set fire to buildings starting down around Bluebird Distilling, and I was unsure if the bookstore – a few blocks up, would be spared.

For me, the businesses that shot me out of bed, concerned for and motivated to write this post, are precious to me; like high schoolers might have felt about Nathan Honig’s soda fountain in the ’50s. I’ll never get to set foot inside his creation, but walking among the establishments at the corner of Prospect and Gay, I feel his presence, still.

I feel his presence, here, and I better understand how and what I value. Acknowledged roots generate creative ideas.

My engagement with Phoenixville – now – however, involves deliberate, independent thought:

The Farmers Market, with its family-friendly hospitality and easiest access to kale that does not require salad dressing drench.

Reads & Co, indie enough to house favorite books – and even my own. After our visits, my daughter begs to return, especially to resume her flight inside her reading rocket ship.

Nectar Yoga Studio, where my gritty guru – Kate Goodyear – (conveniently, also, my favorite muscle toning diva) – operates one of the most soulful places on Earth.

Refinery, with fashion sense way out of my league, except for the fact that the owner makes everyone feel like someone special and seen.

Vecchia, ah – sweet Neapolitan-style pizza, or vvvrrreeal thing, as Nathan Honig’s Czech accent would’ve revealed. Pizza by this creator and owner – Frank Nattle – is one of the best things to come from the local high school baseball team legacy (if you ask me).

Soltane  whipped foam, in the shape of a heart, atop both my daughter’s hot cocoa and my latte. We drink our beverages and share an owl cookie after our monthly jaunt to the library.

Steel City Coffeehouse  yes, my original jaunt into town, as a bohemian-wanna-be-artist-teen, and one of the original and strongest offerings to creatives drawn to authentic music and coffee. It’s also hosted some of my favorite off-beat artists over the years, including Jeffrey Gaines and Kevin Manning. The current owners continue to blossom this wildflower.

Then, of course, pragmatically speaking – there’s the local bank – Phoenix Federal, where my immigrant, refugee grandparents could set-up an account for me when I was a toddler. I bank there today, after trying out bigger brands, coming home to honest, reliable, and friendly.

Along the canals, bar crawling for my partner’s birthday, and shopping with a complimentary champagne for holiday treasures

I have wandered, fulfilled.

I have wandered along these streets. I have wandered much further.

I think of the statement, now, “not all who wander are lost.” That does embody my spirit. Maybe it’s a Phoenixville thing – born of steel, transformed by art and food; wanderers. This moment in time, yet a blip, slight against this town’s eternal lifeline.

I developed a metaphor this week, for anxious clients. I described the tides of the current pandemic like bubbles of a bubble bath, moving from dense, fresh spigot then spreading out – before evaporating. For now, we sit in the bath. We aim to protect what is most sacred: our flesh. We reaffirm priorities. We pause. But, as bubbles dissipate, as they have in eastern parts of the world, so will we be fortunate to move forward, once again…

When it is time, move along the streets of Phoenixville. Watch us rise, once again, like our patron saint.

In the comments section or your own upcoming creative endeavors, I invite celebrations of home. Celebrate the shops, shopkeepers, vibes, and originality that makes your home and YOU, the best you can be. Keep their spirit alive now, and get ready to boogie with them, again, soon.

 

Mindfulness For Unprecedented Times…

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It’s been a whirlwind for most of us, in light of the concerns and precautions engulfing our world. I am sharing mindful wisdom that I am practicing. Trying to live and share, respecting boundaries and health, during these unprecedented times:

  1. STAY INFORMED, BUT DO NOT FIXATE.
    • ascertain information from minimally biased sources
    • read news articles rather than social media blasts to slow down stress reactions
    • gather information in moderation, compartmentalized amounts of time rather than news streaming – constantly – on the television, like white noise
  2. MAINTAIN A SENSE OF ROUTINE.
    • enjoy your morning coffee, exercise, and shower? bravo, keep that up…
    • consider a breathable, flexible schedule that spells out a few actions and engagements for the day
    • now, more than ever, carve out time for art making
  3. PRIORITIZE.
    • if you are homebound, tending to loved ones, that is an obvious priority
    • respect the priorities and boundaries of others
    • if you are working from home, prioritize the essentials of the to do list – the rest of the world is doing the same, right now
    • take stock of what your true priorities are, practicing a priority A v. B column, and let go of the B column til our way of life recalibrates
  4. SAVOR.
    • with senses wide open, soak in extra moments with rapidly growing children or aging parents
    • be grateful – exactly where and as you are, right now
  5. PERMISSION TO PAUSE, SLOWDOWN, HEAL, AND BE CREATIVE…
    • we are too busy during those other days of 21st century standards, pause
    • slowdown, that clean or that phone call or that evening story
    • allow stillness and joy via gratitude, to provide deep healing properties
    • create with novel materials already in your home (waiting to be repurposed), recreate your career, rebrand creatively….now, has never been, and you were made to BE, creatively in this moment.

Press Play-doh onto the Walls!

 

Almost all good things come and go…what’s your wabi-sabi?

Readers and clients are aware of my broad stance on what constitutes art: there is a material, an outcome, an intent to express – and so long as no one is intentionally harmed in the process – I’m down with it.

Art affecting material things – that’s an ongoing philosophical dilemma, for me. Part of me likely does not value the material world as much as most people, and yet, I honor that defacing property or things of importance to others can be a terrible violation of trust and respect and safety. So, when I think about guidelines for my toddler, I adopted traditional ones like – markers and crayons go onto paper, only, unless permission is granted.

When it comes to play-doh, you’d think I’d take a similar stance. Stickers throw me into a philosophical spiral, as well.

I hear a conversation in my head like, “there is value in your daughter learning boundaries.”

“But who made the boundaries, and why?” I spat back at myself.

“Oh, shoosh,” I reply, “concrete boundaries give her peace of mind, it will make her a better friend and guest, and she will already know what to do in the classroom.”

But then I hear the voice of her magical, progressive playschool in my head  – so long as you are kind to yourself, one another, and the environment, you’re cool. It’s both challenged my parenting guidelines at times – ie, I used to be firm that “on slides, you only go down,” and enabled my artistic biases.

Typical Monday in suburbia, I had an aha moment. It was a small opening into permission to broaden, or rather sink into broader ways, how I wished to allow my daughter to be – especially, as an artist.

So, then, this typical Monday in suburbia, when she brought this very wabi-sabi idea (of pressing play-doh to walls) to my attention, I said, “sure honey…throw some play-doh all over our finest molding, coated in bleach-white paint. you go, girl.”

I thought of my past self: the worrier, the rule follower, and the one concerned that a child from my wildest side could never fit it…

Then I embraced the moment, and glad that I did.

I aimed for an up-close photo to capture the ephemeral art (c’mon, I’m not that liberal to let play-doh permanently crust over the main entrance of our home). My daughter shouted, “No momma, not yet! No picture.”

I asked, “why not?”

And she replied, “I’m still in process.”

At the sound of her declaration, my wild-art-heart exploded with joy and confidence.

What are your guidelines regarding art and children? Please share…and please share your stories from the front line!

Explore to Restore.

 

 

In the natural world, now,

I have an unspeakable sense of belonging.

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Immerse yourself outdoors for at least ten minutes. Have your smartphone with you only for the purpose to potentially take a picture. Feel free to leave your phone behind, as well. Locate an object that seems displaced: a fallen leaf, a pebble all alone, or a blade of grass upon cement. If collecting this object does not harm the object nor the surrounding nature of things, take it with you for a project or future inspiration. If you prefer to leave the object in its most natural state, take a smartphone or mental photograph. Simply, be aware, be playful, and find one new element of nature that you might have overlooked, if you hadn’t immersed yourself outdoors with beginner eyes.

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HEART YOU: Inspired by Jason Reynolds

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adore this heart, formerly known as a shell, created at daughter’s awesome daycare

Super excited to learn that Jason Reynolds has been named Library of Congress’ current ambassador for young people. Inspired by an interview that I overheard, featuring him, this morning on NPR – I’m gonna share some how-to-be-YOU basics. Reynolds reignited my sense of purpose, describing that his mother nurtured his love of writing and that he hopes to do the same for other young people. His mother, he noted something like,

 

“she told me that my stories mattered because they were mine.”

 

HOW TO BE YOU, WITHOUT TRYING (TOO) HARD: 

(Excerpt from Reframe Your Artistry, by Jessica Honig, Prodigy Gold Books, 2020)

Look outside of yourself. Notice the natural plus not-so-natural state of the things. Gather what you notice from your unique angles on life and the world. There is no wrong way to find inspiration in this way. Jot down notes for future inspiration:

 

The Natural World Around Me –

 

The Not-So-Natural World Around Me –

 

My Imagination –

 

True artists construct from whatever angles exist, with whatever materials spread out within and before them. In true artistry, the true part involves recognizing then piecing together the artistic angles. Angles spring from personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations), the world around us, and our imaginary universe.

Some artists prefer one of these angles more than others. Their work reflects this. Some vary between the angles and some flow seamlessly between all three. Take Wendy Whelan’s flow, for example. This longstanding principal dancer with New York City Ballet is also the subject of the documentary Restless Creature. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, from 2017, Whelan was asked how she felt about embodying the “ballerina” and if for her, like the stereotype, fulfilling this role resembled ultimate femininity.

Whelan responded to Gross’s (brilliant, piercing) probe by saying her own traits as tall, thin, and athletic filtered into the work she produced. Her personal traits brought an angular influence to the art. Therefore, she concluded to hardly relate to feminine stereotypes. This stance evolved based on self-knowledge and the art world in which she practiced. This gifted artist has maintained an awareness of mind, body, and imaginary worlds to deliver art for over thirty years. At 51, Whelan continues to make art – after retirement from ballet, a major hip surgery, and with no less tenacity than her 17 year-old self. The art just looks different and has different intentions. Her roles demanded and continue to demand a high caliber of physical and mental awareness.

Without calling it that, mindfulness integrated her personal being alongside what choreographers, culture, and the rest of the universe asked of her. Even if you’re not a former ballerina type (and for the sake of biodiversity, I hope not), I want you to get clear about what personal and worldly and imaginary traits define your true artistry.

Do you tend to get inspired by your emotional states? Your physical structure? Your age? Your neighborhood? Your memory of childhood? Or, the invented kingdom sensed in your belly that, as you told your shrink, you figured everybody else probably had that too (um, yeah – that’s a personal reveal)?

I prefer the imaginary places. Maybe that is apparent to you after reading my philosophical blah blah blahs. My mind longs to go to places to which neither plane nor train can transport. I imagine kindness as a core currency and what makes us different makes us beautiful. Thoughts of global compassion fire me up. Imperfection is sexy. And I hope these angles come through as distinct elements of my art making.

Those elements are true to me and therefore belong to my true art making. Every artist will be different, as will every artistic moment or decade in a true artist’s life. But what makes mindful art original is the awareness of the creator to be able to identify their personal, community, worldly, and imaginary sources. With such awareness, narrow aesthetic values inherently erode. They are replaced by broader options, because no two people, no two places, no two moments in time could ever be the same.

 

GO ON, HEART YOURSELF…REFLECT IN SOLITUDE, OR I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE YOU TO SHARE YOUR ARTISTIC SOURCES WITH US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.

‘Tis the Season…for Centerpieces

 

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I’d like to think I’m Martha Stewart, after all – she’s a fellow Seven Sister. And yet, my craft-a-bilitiez-ness could not be further from her skill set. Maybe I had to invent Reframe Your Artistry to appease my ego.

That said, I do try to come up with some festive activities on the weekend (to pass the time), engaging my toddler (and entertaining myself), while my partner usually works the weekend shift and I’m a weekend-single-mom.

#marriedprivilagePOVstatement…realizing that is disrespectful to the full-time-single parents, out there… 

Okay so, after watching a delightful episode of Creative Galaxy, my daughter and I wanted to fill clear containers with stuff. Any stuff? I dunno…I figured I’d get seasonal. So, here is our attempt, and feel free to replicate:

 

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Voila, find a clear (kinda clean) container.

 

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Toss some mini-LED lights inside. We allllll seem to have a set of these hanging around, this time of year, and are like – WHAT DO I DO WITH THESE LIL THANGS?

 

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Oh, collect tree stumps? Me too.

 

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Find some pine, add to taste – and voila!

Note to parents: in the proceeding weeks since said centerpiece entered our kitchen, my dear daughter – who refers to it as her Jungle Jar – has added random pieces of play-doh, a gingerbread man, and a few acorns. And, it still looks delightful, heading into the final stretch of ‘Tis the Season…for Centerpieces.

Go, be creative! What scraps and seasonal-what-have-yous surround your space? Make something imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete…cause that, my fellow art-iste…is good enough.

Happy Holidays….from Reframe Your Artistry.

And re: the RYA BOOK…PS, got delayed a few weeks, due out December 17th (currently available through the Publisher – Prodigy Gold Books and Amazon…and bookstores, by spring 2020)…

 

One Minute Mindfulness

 

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Take a minute, and fly to a higher consciousness. 

Got a minute? Then you have all you need to be mindful.

If you ask me, hour long meditation – while good for us – is another layer of complication that most of us are either intimidated by or use as an excuse to not-getting-around-to-being-more-mindful.

Truth is, mindfulness is an outlook that pairs well with actions in the real world.

Rather than merely a way of being, mindfulness is something I come in and out of throughout any given day….just. ask. the. people. that. have. to. live. with. me.

Take a minute, now, to welcome mindfulness into your day. It could revolutionize our world, and most importantly – it revives your point of view regarding the world.

 

ONE MINUTE MINDFULNESS

  • SET AN INTENTION FOR A WAY YOU’D LIKE TO BE, TODAY.
    • For instance, I would like to be focused.
  • RECOGNIZE THAT THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, PHYSICAL SENSATIONS, AND CIRCUMSTANCES SWIRL WITHIN AND AROUND US.
    • Identify and acknowledge these aspects of being human.
  • TAKE A MOMENT TO BE INTENTIONAL, ALONGSIDE WHATEVER THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, PHYSICAL SENSATIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES SWIRL ….
    • For instance, I will focus on this blog for one minute, even though my tummy grumbles.
  • WITH CLARITY OF CHOICE, CHOOSE TO RENEW YOUR INTENTION FOR ANOTHER MINUTE OR SET OF MINUTES.
    • If you can afford the time, renew a mindful minute.
    • If any one distracting thought, feeling, sensation, or circumstance needs to be addressed – and only if need be – move along, and attend to that…
    • Know that you can come back to this mindful minute, and clarity of choice        regardless of the specific intention, hour, or circumstances…

 

THANK YOURSELF FOR THIS MINDFUL MINUTE TO REFRAME YOUR ARTISTRY…