Tag Archives: learning

Mexico: Learning and Growing and Headed in Two Directions at the Same Time



(Part 1 of my recap of a week in the Boca de Tamatlan artist retreat)

The heat must have gotten to me — or was it the cold?

Whichever it was, I blinked my eyes and was painting wild abstract watercolors in a tiny and completely charming fishing village in Mexico with a fabulous maestro I had never heard of before but should have.

Winter is beautiful — really, it is. The weather cannot be controlled, so we’d better embrace it. Still, looking out my studio window on one of the coldest Februarys on record, I snapped. Due to some work commitments, my sweetie was not able to take time off, so I started Googling artist retreats somewhere warm and sunny. Before I knew it, I was booked to take off in ten days to Casa de Los Artistas.

I can only say it was not a disappointment. In fact, I urge you to book your time there next year. I sure hope to.

The place felt like a fantasy. Lush, tropical river valley spilling into the Pacific with little boats, dogs and frolicking children sprinkled about. Throw in some Ranchero music and the sound of waves crashing and you have the idea.

The best part, the jewel, is the artist retreat in this paradise. All art, all the time — or almost. My maestro for the week was Sterling Edwards. Though I had not heard of him before (which is not a surprise, as I am not a watercolorist and he is), he was, simply put, a true maestro in every sense of the word. His work, I can say with confidence, is brilliant. (Don’t take my word for it: Look him up!)

abstract3815-3I was so happy he was a giving and open teacher. But watercolor? Me? I hadn’t studied watercolor since college — a very long time ago — and I quickly abandoned it for oil color, then acrylic. Still, something in me said it would be good for me, stretch me and expand upon the discipline that I had returned to in while studying in Florence last September.

And it did. Also, as an artist, I want to remain open and not fall into any boxes or comfort zones.

The first thing that happened was that I was humbled. My skills from all these many years as an acrylic painter were not translating to watercolors. Perseverance really is so crucial in art, as in life, and I did keep at it.

Sterling is a wild watercolorist. Disciplined? Yes, but his freedom kinda blew my mind; he got really abstract and reminded me of how important it is to simplify. It is the essence that matters, not every detail of a given scene. Then he went full-on abstract.

abstract3815-5I want to be an abstract painter when I grow up. It just hasn’t happened for me. As I have written before, abstract painting is HARD. Your kid cannot do that. The reason it is hard is that there is no information in front of you. When I draw, it is so relaxing. I have a photo in front of me and I copy it. Usually sitting down with a cup of tea. I don’t have to make anything up. It’s right in front of me. But abstract is all about your imagination. It is also deeply personal. It’s about getting everything inside of you outside of you.

My art in recent months has been heading more in a direction of realism. Now, as a painter that values keeping a painting VERY painterly (as opposed to wanting it to look like a photo), it might be a stretch to use the term “realism,” but I have been drawing more with my paint and tightening up a bit. I promised myself this would help me when it was time to go abstract and it will, it has. The more you can automatically use your skills, the better they are all around. Practice, practice, practice! So I find myself headed in two different directions at once. Tightening up, drawing and abstracting. Wheeeeee, it’s good to be a artist!

Stay tuned on this journey, as I’ll be writing more about the Casa and painting. This is only Part 1.

As always share your own experiences or comments below. I love hearing from you all.

The Most-Watched TED Talk, Creativity, 30 Days Facebook Free and You



(Or the blog that every creative person or person who loves a right brainer needs to read.)

I recently accepted the 30-day Facebook Free Challenge. I was motivated by several things, and one was I have an insatiable thirst for learning. Books piled up that I wanted to read, and there were tons of TED Talks I was dying to watch. I also am so acutely aware that creativity needs vast amounts of brain space. And as much as I love connecting with people, checking Facebook while I ate breakfast and lunch and for 2, 5, 10 minutes arre and there throughout the day wasn’t contributing to that brain space that I needed. It wasn’t getting those books read, and it wasn’t getting those TED Talks watched.

I heart TED Talks, and I want to shine a light on one such talk I discovered while not on Facebook. It’s by Ken Robinson, and it’s the most-watched TED Talk of all time.

I hope you will take the time to watch it. I can only say I was not alone in being profoundly affected. It hit my heart, and I full-on ugly cried. I cried because this man who had never met me got me, because I believe his philosophy is so important to others like me: Kids who are right brain dominant, who don’t learn in the rigid left brain formula we as a culture have adopted and accepted as the way to teach. If that’s not how you learn, you get left out — pun intended. We’ve completely immersed ourselves in this school of thought. We have, as they say, “drank the Kool Aid,” swallowing this formula without questioning.

creditmarc6-smallAs I watched Ken blow wide open the ideas we have about learning and who is and is not “smart,” I thought that no one in our culture is ever shamed for not being able to draw, paint, dance, play music or create.

Please know I am not suggesting we begin shaming, but what I am suggesting is that we STOP shaming. It has become perfectly culturally acceptable to shame those who don’t spell well, or whose grammar isn’t perfect. We label the ones whose math skills aren’t up to par as “slow learners” or “not smart.” I am here to tell you to STOP. STOP all shaming when someone’s left brain is not like yours; we will never shame you for your right brain not working like ours. Next time you think it’s helpful to make a “Grammer Nazi” post on Facebook or even label yourself a “Grammer Nazi” or any other term that ultimately is meant to shame people not like you, STOP. As Ken so beautifully says in this TED Talk, the world may not benefit from more left brainers, but we may suffer greatly if we don’t start to honor the right brain.

I am understandably passionate about making a way in the world for creatives everywhere, for honoring their gifts and realizing ART MATTERS. So this is only Part One … Stay tuned, dear ones, for more. I will do my best to advocate, to encourage people to think outside the box and share amazing words like those of Ken Robinson in this the most watched TED Talk of all time.

Click here to watch Ken Robinson’s TED Talk.