Challenge #24: Inner Connections

How can we connect with others if we don’t connected with ourselves?

Much of contemporary life seems to be aimed at doing anything and everything so that we are are never left alone with our own thoughts. We seem to find a million and one distractions. We text,  email, surf the ‘net, read, play games, crank up music, and turn on the TV. Sometimes we do all of these things at one time. When was the last time that you sat in complete silence, alone, and connected with yourself. Perhaps we are afraid of the self talk - the never ending loop of negativity and put downs. Perhaps we are afraid of what we will discover if we are alone with our thoughts. What do we run from?

How do you connect and reconnect with yourself? How do you disconnect from yourself? How do you distract yourself from meaningful dialogue with yourself? How do you find the quiet space to hear your inner voice? Do you run from yourself? Do you wallow in negativity and untruths about yourself? How can you make those authentic connections within?

Challenge #23: Challengers

We all have people in our lives who challenge us, and not in the inspiring, nudging kind of way. These challengers are people who push and provoke us, who may be down right mean and rude, and who do not elicit any warm and fuzzy feelings from us. These are our challengers and at times our arch nemeses. It might be a mother-in-law, a brother, a nosy neighbor, an office bully, or our boss. We may even call these people enemies believing that their main purpose in life is to torment and provoke us. Buddhists believe that our enemies are our greatest teachers because they provide us the opportunity to show compassion and understanding.

Who are your challengers or enemies? Why are they challenging to you? How can you see these people as fellow human beings who, as you do, desire happiness and joy? What can you learn from these people? How can you regard your enemies as your teachers?

Challenge #22: Inspirations and Nudges

We can’t do it all alone, and at times, we all need a little nudge to get us going. Whether it’s in our art or at our job, we need a bit of motivation that can only come from someone else being there to prod us and encourage us. It is always a good to have collaborators and accomplices in anything that we do, but especially in our creative endeavors. These are people who support us, encourage us, and at times, pick us up and carry us when we need them the most. These are our everyday heroes.

In your everyday, who inspires you and nudges you? Who shows up like magic when you need them the most? Who has your back and is always on your side? Who is your hero, your mentor, your collaborator, and your accomplice?

Challenge #21: Connections and Misconnections

How does the time slip away so quickly? It has been quite some time since I was able to post here because life has gotten extremely busy. With the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, working on the new book, working at the gallery, and arranging a variety of workshop and presentation opportunities, I am back with a gentle nudge from a few readers. I am starting up the the challenge again, and have some new things to share. So enough of the "Oh I have been so busy" whining and on with the challenge.

We seek connection in our lives. Many of us have spent an amazing amount of time seeking a spouse, a significant other, or a soulmate. Many of us have found that person, and many are still searching. Whether we have found that special connection or not, our lives are still filled with connections and relationships from family and relatives to friends coworkers. Sometimes we connect and sometimes we misconnect.

What are your connections in this life? What are your misconnections? Who are you most connected to? Who are you least connected to? How have you connected and misconnected with people in your life? What do these connections and misconnections mean to you? How can you deepen the important ones and disconnect the not so important ones?

What role do connections and relationships play in your life?

Don't forget to include a link to your response in the comments.

Art Unraveled

It has been a very busy summer, and I am finally finding time (on vacation no less) to share some of our adventures in Phoenix at Art Unraveled.

Dave and I spent the week between our trip to Cincinnati to shoot photos for the new book and our trip to Phoenix working in my studio completing art and making artist prints to sell. We shipped three boxes of supplies and artwork to Phoenix and had two boxes of books shipped from the publisher.

We arrived in Phoenix on the first day of Art Unraveled, and checked into the hotel. We had a great view of the golf course and the mountains from our window. I was taken aback by the landscape around Phoenix. I had never been in the desert before and to see such flat land with mountains just popping out was a bit strange - as was the brown. I'm used to hills, grass, and tall trees. The desert felt alien to me.

That evening we took part in the Meet the Artist Event, and participated in answering questions from some of the participants of the event. Several of the questions brought up some good debate and good discussion, and I mulled over several during the week. I will share my thoughts on those at a later time.

We taught three workshops during our week there. We had a nice space with a lot of natural light, and since our classes were small, everyone was able to spread out. All three went especially well, and I think that most of the participants appreciated our approach which I gather is a bit different from what many of them are used to. We focus on process and not product sharing a bunch of concepts and techniques allowing the participants to experiment and to play. The six hour format was great, and we were able to cram a lot into the time. We had three participants that took all three of our classes. It's exciting when someone is really into what you do.

We had the opportunity to work on our own things, and I especially enjoyed the Identity Mapping activity we did in our second workshop, and I laid the foundation of a few really good pages and ideas.

One night we were part of the book signing where we participated in a discussion about inspiration and signed books. We got to meet several other authors - people we had known from their books and blogs. I felt like I was meeting celebrities for these were some big names in the journaling and mixed-media world - Michael deMeng, Traci  Bautista, Pam Carriker, and others. It was great to meet these folks in person. 

We were able to see some of the sights on our one free day. Dave's godmother Peggy lives in Phoenix and played tour guide for us. She drove us into the downtown area and then out to see the Cardinals' stadium where we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. She then drove us out into the desert, and once again I was fascinated by the landscape. It's just so different then Virginia.

We were part of the Shopping Extravaganza the following day where we met and talked to a lot of great people. We had the opportunity to sell work, prints, and books, and we made a lot of contacts. Next year we need to remember to bring an actual mailing list for people to sign and business cards.

We participated in the Artist Showdown our final night in Phoenix where each artist had to select from a bunch of random materials and create with them. The actual piece that I made is the small canvas in the lower left of the above image, but I couldn't help spilling over onto the kraft paper covering the table.

It was a great first art retreat experience. We met a lot of wonderful people and had a chance to relax by the pool, see the sights, and mix and mingle with fellow artists. We definitely want to do it in the future, and we will be submitting proposals soon.

Challenge #20: Show Up Like Magic

We all have those times when we need a little support, when we need to be lifted up, and when we need the help of someone else. We can look back through our lives and remember times when someone showed up for us when we needed them the most as if by magic. It may have been in a dire hour or it may have been when we just needed someone to take us out for a cup of coffee. And hopefully, we can remember times when we have been there for someone else.

How have you been there for someone else and picked them up when they needed it the most? How have you supported and done small things for those who have needed you? Who in your life, right now, needs you to show up like magic – to be there – to make them smile – to feel your support? How can you show up like magic?

Challenge #19: Come Out and Play

Play. When we were children there was nothing more important than play. School, church, dinner, baths, and sleep were never as important as play. We counted down the minutes to recess where we could tear around the playground, swing as high as possible on the swings, play favorite games like Four Square and Red Rover, or make up our own games. Then we grew up, and too often we have stopped playing.

When was the last time that you simply played and had fun - not compete, not glued to a screen or phone, but played? When was the last time you headed outside, ran, romped, and carried on until well after dark on a cool summer evening?

Is someone calling you to come out and play? Reflect on how YOU can come out and play – how YOU can disconnect from the TV, the computer, the phone, and go enjoy yourself without worrying about all of those things that we have to worry about.

New Book and Upcoming Workshops

Dave in the photo studio at F+W Media, Inc. working on a page for a step-by-step photo.

The summer is in full swing, and Dave and I have had a very busy summer so far. There's lots to catch up on.

We just got back from Cincinnati where we spent a week shooting the step-by-step for our second book. Titled Journal Fodder 365: Daily Doses of Inspiration for the Art Addict, it will be a follow-up to our first book. Centered around the idea of a year-long workshop, the book will consist of 12 chapters, each with its own theme. Each chapter will contain 4 prompts, several new and specific writing, drawing, painting, and mixed-media techniques. Where our first book is a resource of a lot of techniques, Journal Fodder 365 will emphasize the application of concepts and ideas. We took a close look at how we use ideas and techniques, and put that into book form. We are very excited. The new book will release July 2012 - just a year away. We'll post more at various stages, and we'll share an image of the cover a little later.

Dave saying bring it on.

We are spending this week working on the new book and gearing up for Art Unraveled in Phoenix. We will be at the Embassy Suites from August 1-7, and we will be teaching 3 workshops. On Tuesday the 2nd, we will be teaching the all-day workshop Visual Ammunition for the Art Addict based on our first book. On Wednesday the 3rd, we will be teaching Mapping Identity in the Visual Journal. On Thursday the 4th. we will be teaching The Challenge of Beauty based on Arrien Angeles book, Signs of Life: The Five Universal Symbols and How to Use Them. It is not too late to sign up for Art Unraveled, and registration is taken up to the day of the workshop. So hopefully, we will see some of you in Phoenix.

In November, we will be teaching at Jerry's Artarama's Art of the Carolinas 2011. We will be teaching two workshops sponsored by Strathmore Artists Papers. On Saturday, November 12 from 5-8pm, we will teach Visual Journals: Personal Mythologies, and on Sunday, November 13 from 9am-12pm, we will teach Visual Journals: Compulsions and Obsessions. If you will be in Raleigh, NC that weekend, hopefully we will see you there. 

Unfortunately, our workshop at NCCAT (North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching) which was scheduled for November 14-18 has been cancelled due to budget issues. NCCAT's budget was drastically cut this year which meant the cancellation of most of their Renewal Seminars. We are very sorry to not be teaching this workshop at such a remarkable place. Maybe in the future, NCCAT will get its budget restored, and we can once again offer this seminar to the teachers of North Carolina.

Challenge #18: Self Talk

It is sometimes said that as humans we think too much. Often this thinking is self-talk – a dialogue that we have with ourselves about the past or about the future. Dr. Phil McGraw calls these “tapes” because we replay and loop the same thoughts and words through our head focusing on negative aspects. Many of these tapes or scripts focus on the past and are thoughts about failings and shortcomings. Many others focus on the future and are thoughts and obsessions about what is yet to come or about waiting for “the other shoe to fall.” Still many others are general thoughts of self-denigration and are about our sense of worth. Whatever it might be, this self talk takes us out of the present and has us worrying about things that we cannot change, that we have no control over, or that are not grounded in truth.

What is your self-talk? Do you fill your mind with thoughts about lack, failure, and your own perceived worthlessness? Do you relive the past wishing you could have done something differently? Do you think about the endless possibilities of the future worrying about what has yet to come?

How does your self-talk pull you out of the present and cause worry or anxiety? Reflect on the tapes that you have looping through your thoughts.

Journal for the Second Book

I've been working recently in a journal that I specifically started for our second book. I decided to go through all the prompts and techniques we plan on using in the book and use them in a journal that I will ultimately send to North Light (our publisher) to use as artwork for the book.

Though both Dave and I have used many of the prompts and techniques throughout the years that we have been doing journals, we have a lot of other techniques, ideas, and media in those journals that we are not really covering in the book. I thought that this type of journal would more clearly illustrate our ideas.

It's been interesting keeping two journals. I plan on posting more glimpses as I work.

And speaking of the new book, we have a title and have seen a couple of design possibilities for the cover. I'll share more on that when I can. But in the meanwhile , Dave and I will be traveling to Cincinnati next week to shoot photos for the step-by-step. It's all coming together quickly.