Tag Archives: art

Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Photo 2015-03-12, 2 06 58 PMThe AGO’s Basquiat ad at Dundas Subway Station

Today I went with my friend Linda to see the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Linda and I each bought memberships to the AGO back in November so we could expose ourselves to a bit of culture every now and then. Plus it makes for a fun girls’ night (in this case, day) out.

According to the AGO’s promotional materials,

Jean-Michel Basquiat took the New York City art world by storm in the early 1980s and gained international recognition by creating powerful and expressive works that confronted issues of racism, identity and social tension. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at age 27, his groundbreaking drawings and paintings continue to challenge perceptions, provoke vital dialogues and empower us to think critically about the world around us.

Photo 2015-03-13, 9 08 06 PM

Before I attended the exhibit, I didn’t know much about Basquiat, other than what I’d read in this article I recently read in the NYT Blogs about an upcoming exhibit of his notebooks at the Brooklyn Museum.

So, did his drawings challenge my perceptions and empower me to think critically about the world around us?

The first wall of the exhibit showcased a number of drawings on paper. To my uneducated-about-art eye, these drawings looked a lot like children’s drawings. There was a certain charm to them, but then again there’s a certain charm to most drawings done in that style.

But then I moved on to the next pieces, and slowly I began to understand what the promotional materials were talking about. His larger pieces are bold and beautifully vibrant with colour and emotion, and many of them incorporate symbols which are reflected in other pieces. Overall, I enjoyed his skull/head pieces the most. My friend Linda was awed by the emotion Basquiat was able to give to the eyes in several of his pieces.

One piece, Defacement – The Death of Michael Stewart, is particularly intense and moving. Basquiat created the piece after the brutal beating death of black graffiti artist Michael Stewart at the hands of the New York City transit police in 1983.

With some of the pieces, though, the accompanying commentary just confused me – I’d look from the painting to the words and I simply didn’t get from the painting what the commentary said I should be getting. But there were several very powerful pieces that definitely speak to the issues of race and social tension. His portrayal of young black men in his artwork is particularly powerful.

Would I go again? Yes. And actually, I am going again! Next week, I’m going to take Dylan there. I have a feeling he’ll really enjoy the exhibit.

To see some of the pictures from the exhibit, click here.

Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process

art journal art journey nichole rae

I love art journaling, although I don’t have as much time (read: almost never) for it as I’d like. But while I may not bring out the acrylic paints and paintbrushes as often as I should, I do find myself devouring lots and lots of books about art journaling.

My main complaint about many of the art journaling and mixed media books I’ve read over the years is that there’s often a feeling of sameness to them. The color palettes, the basic styles, the overall look – often one book will mesh into another and in my memory they become one long book, the pages virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Not so with Nichole Rae’s Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process. I opened this book and was engrossed from page one. Unlike most other books on art journaling or mixed media, Nichole begins by plunging us right into her journaling process, and it’s a great process on its own, whether or not you decide to take what you’ve written and create an art journal out of it.

Her method of art journaling begins with her journaling process, which she does on the computer. She works with a list-style format of journaling which in her case reads beautifully, like poetry. It’s a very original, organic process, and just reading about it gave me lots of ideas for journaling different themes, which is something else she talks about. I always have so many ideas about various projects I want to work on, and I love how Nichole’s journaling process gives you permission to work on many themes at any given time:

“I often start multiple journal documents on my computer to set the writing process in motion. I save them to my desktop and am able to work on them little by little. Over time I will have a collection to use for my projects. Once I begin these journaling documents, my heart feels content to know they are created and will evolve with time. The simple joy of having them started provides comfort, knowing they are there to visit at any time.”

Once you feel you’re ready to print out one of your journal projects, it’s time to get into the creative process of putting all the pieces into a book. Nichole uses old, hardbound books for this process, and one thing I love is how she also incorporates pages from old books into her journals, in a method that’s a little similar to Austin Kleon’s blackout poetry, but with colour and without having to black most things out.

If you’re not a fan of working with altered books her techniques can definitely be applied to any blank sketchbook. I’ve made a few altered books before but have never really enjoyed the process. I don’t like having to glue pages together, or gesso them either, and I often lost the inspiration while I had to wait for the pages to dry. What I like about Nichole’s method is she doesn’t gesso the pages to give herself a blank canvas. Instead, she covers the page with a page from her printed journal and, in some cases, uses part of the page as her background or as part of the focus of the page.

While the discussion about laying out and assembling the pages is interesting, probably my second favourite part of the book, after the section on the journaling process, is the section on the creative mini projects.

“Working on a mini project while you are in the process of collecting and gathering supplies for your main project is a great way to be creative during this process. … I use mini projects to inspire my creativity and to help jumpstart the creative process.”

The mini project that appeals to me the most is the Inspirational Card Deck. There are just SO many possibilities for this one project. Not just from an art perspective, either. From a writer’s point of view, I can see myself creating writing prompts, mini character sketches, setting cards .. the possibilities are so exciting.

In fact, much of the process Nichole describes will help me with several of my writing projects. I’ve always loved combining my words with art, and Art Journal Art Journey gives me a process I can use without having to worry about my quite amateurish drawing skills.

There is an originality and freshness to Art Journal Art Journey that I really enjoyed. I finished reading it feeling very inspired, and the fact that her journaling process is one I can use for my writing was a huge, unexpected and very wonderful bonus.

From My Shelves: Ten Books for Creative Inspiration

Thank you to Joy Weese Moll, for suggesting that I put together a list of books ideal for creative inspiration for this month’s BAND (Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees) discussion of books that support goals and resolutions. It was a great idea, and I’ve had a blast this past weekend going through the books on my shelves, picking out the most creativity-inspiring books!

One of my intentions for 2012 is to be more creative – and to add a nice dose of commitment to this intention, I also signed up for the Creative Every Day challenge. I’ve been doing fairly well with this “be creative” goal of mine, but one thing I’ve discovered: it’s much easier to do something creative every day if I prepare myself for creativity.

Preparation for creativity requires two things: materials, and inspiration. It’s easy to get together the materials you need, once you’ve been inspired. So creative inspiration is key!

These are all books I pulled from my bookshelves; some of them I’ve read, some of them have been hanging around waiting (often for quite a while) for me to read them. I spent the weekend looking through a huge pile of books (I am notorious for being unable to resist these kinds of books) and ended up with this list of ten creativity-inspiring books.

1. 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity, by Jeff Yamaguchi

52 Projects: Random Acts of Everday Creativity

52 Projects is the companion book to the 52 Projects website. It’s worth reading through the projects because even when a project doesn’t particularly tempt you, you might find yourself coming up with appealing variations on the theme. Here’s one for book lovers (who aren’t adverse to writing in books, that is!):

Write in the margins of your books. Underline your favorite passages. Then, make sure to donate the books, or sell them to a used bookstore, to put them back into circulation.

2. Journal Bliss: Creative prompts to unleash your inner eccentric, by Violette

Journal Bliss

This glossy, colorful book is filled with ideas for your journal – if you’ve never incorporated art into your daily journal, you’ll come away with ideas for some fun things to liven up your pages. What I liked best about this book is its emphasis on doodling and drawing. I love the idea of creating my own fanciful lettering, too. And here’s something I could definitely make use of:

Start a file, box or scrapbook of flourishes and interesting doodles that you like clipped from magazines, junk mail or catalogs. Then, refer to your inspiration collection whenever you need ideas for your own doodles.

3. Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain, by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield

Caffeine for the Creative Mind

This thick little paperback is beautifully designed and great for just flipping open whenever you’re in need of a bit of creative inspiration. While the book is meant for graphic designers, it’s easy to change things up and transform the design-related exercises into art or writing ones. There are lots of photography prompts, too, for those days when you just want to play around with your digital camera.

Here’s one for those who love the zombie genre:

As any sane person will tell you, there will be a time when the area we currently live in will be overrun by hordes of flesh-craving zombies. Naturally, we have all prepared for this inevitability, correct? Of course we have. The task today, in case this vital piece of preparation has eluded your usually comprehensive safety regimen, is to devise your zombie survival plan.

4. Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life, by Keri Smith

Living Out Loud

Not only is this colorfully illustrated book filled with fun creative activities, there are also pages for you to write on or doodle in, game boards, fold-out pages and even sheets of stickers. It reminds me of a kid’s fun book – for adults!

Recipe Box of Secrets: Be your own research project

We are all collectors at heart. Creating a Box of Secrets gives you the chance to explore and to research things that will help you see the big picture when you need perspective.

5. The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 exercises to liberate your writing, by Bonnie Neubauer

Write-Brain Workbook

Unlike most books of writing exercises, The Write-Brain Workbook is designed to be written in. The pages are colorful and visually appealing, and each exercise also includes a bonus exercise entitled “Take the Next Step”. While you can read through the exercises from beginning to end, it’s definitely a book to flip open to a random page and ready, set … GO! Here’s the exercise I opened the page to just now:

You are a disgruntled Tooth Fairy. You can’t understand why Santa and even the Easter Bunny get more attention than you. You just visited twins who expected $20 per tooth. Start with: “I can’t believe …”

6. The Imagineering Workout, by The Disney Imagineers

The Imagineering Workout

The Imagineering Workout is filled with creativity tips from members of Disney’s Imagineering team. (Even a stroll through all the job titles is fun; can you imagine being a “visioning consultant”?!) Direct from the “How to use this book” page:

The Imagineering Workout is designed for those who are interested in shaping and toning their creative muscles. It’s written from the collective practice, wit, and wisdom of over one hundred Imagineers – each creative and yet each different in their creative expression. As a result, this book is a collection of exercises, note cards, write-in cards, jotted notes, journal pages, and illustrations that capture aspects of the creative process and routines Imagineers use daily to keep their creative muscles in the best of condition.

7. The Creative License, by Danny Gregory

The Creative License

The Creative License is all about living a more creative life, and Danny Gregory shows you how by focusing on drawing and journaling. The book is motivating and inspiring; it reminds you, you can do it. Here’s what I know: It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to draw – drawing is a skill that can be learned. I know this because I didn’t know how to draw. And then one day, I decided to learn. And it was fun. And then I stopped drawing. Now I’m ready to start again. If I can learn to draw, you can too!

We’re going to start by developing one of your creative skills. It’s a skill that you had when you were small but now almost certainly think you have lost. It’s a skill that will immediately begin to stretch your mind, to transform how you see the world. It’s a skill that takes minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.

You are going to learn to draw.

Yikes! (Gulp!)

8. Creative Is A Verb: If you’re alive, you’re creative, by Patti Digh

Creative Is a Verb

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m in love with index cards. I use them in my writing, I use them to jot down quotes, I use them to brainstorm. In Patti Digh’s Creative Is a Verb, you journey back to your creativity with a few simple materials: a black pen, and a stack of 3X5 unlined index cards. And the Creative Challenge exercises come in two versions: word and image. So whether you’re a writer or an artist, there’ll be something in here to fill your creative well.

This is a book about waking up to the beauty around you – the beauty of seeing more and living more deeply. What emerges from that equation is art. Not Art with a capital A. That kind of Art scares me because it takes us out of the doing (writing to write, painting to paint) and right into performance, comparison, sales. I’m talking about art with no capital. The art that is your life. Artfulness that only you can create, that is uniquely, incredibly yours.

9. The Crafter’s Devotional: 365 days of tips, tricks, and techniques for unlocking your creative spirit, by Barbara R. Call

The Crafter's Devotional

Don’t worry if you’re not very crafty; I’m not (I’m a menace around glue guns), and opening The Crafter’s Devotional at random, I came across lots of things that inspired me. Even the crafty techniques that are sprinkled throughout the book are doable – fun for creative self-challenges (although you may have to research specific techniques a bit if you’re not familiar with the process involved). And there are more than craft techniques here; you’ll also find lots of quotes, artist interviews, creativity prompts and entries that just make you think and engage.

Revisit Childhood Crafts: Today’s task should be a fun trip down memory lane. Visit your favorite craft, toy, or art store and buy a kit for a craft you used to do as a kid. It could be bead looming, a miniature potter’s wheel, paper dolls, or sequin art. It may not look exactly like you remember, and the materials may have changed, but try to find a kit that resembles something you liked as a little child.

Buy the kit, take it home, and do the craft.

10. Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists : 52 creative exercises to make drawing more fun, by Carla Sonheim

Drawing Lab

This is probably the book I’ll turn to the most this year for the Creative Every Day challenge. There are a ton of creative project ideas in the drawing exercises in Drawing Lab, and best of all, your drawing skills will improve as you work your way through the book. I think this is also a great book for choosing something creative randomly. Flip it open and see what you find.

One suggestion I loved was Doodling on Steroids. You’ll need ten pre-selected drawing implements (markers, pens, pencils – anything that you can doodle with) and an audiobook (yes! an audiobook!). Here’s what you do: doodle while you’re listening to the audiobook. Don’t concentrate on what you’re doodling; focus on your audiobook. Switch your drawing tool every minute or so, making use that you use all ten of your drawing tools.

When your book or podcast is over, take some time to study your doodle drawing. You will likely learn some things about yourself, such as that you like purple or you are drawn to patterns and shapes more than to identifiable objects. These types of insights can be valuable as you endeavor to tease out your individual style.

These books are great fun to have around, and very inspiring. What titles would you recommend for living a more creative life?

Angry Birds and Creativity

Dylan and his Angry Birds creations

Whenever people talk about kids and video games, you don’t often hear much said about being creative, but I was thinking today about all the ways video games enhance and support my eight-year-old’s creativity.

Take Angry Birds, for example. If you’re not into video games at all, Wikipedia tells you all about the phenomenon that is Angry Birds. In a nutshell, Angry Birds is an extremely popular puzzle-based video game that first debuted a few years ago as a game app for the iPhone. It’s grown a lot since then, and is now available for other mobile platforms as well as PCs.

Around here, it’s not just Dylan, my eight-year-old, who’s a fan of Angry Birds. Most days you’ll find both Dylan AND Daddy passing Daddy’s iPhone between them as they replay Angry Bird levels. They both wait for updates eagerly, and it’s always cause for celebration when an update appears in the App Store.

A few weeks ago, Dylan was thrilled to discover one of the vending machines outside a favourite Chinese vegetarian restaurant had changed its offerings: little Angry Birds “stuffies”. He now has three of them, and they occasionally get pulled out and played with in various Angry Birds scenarios.

And yes, there’s both creativity and hands-on, tactile, play going on when that happens.

But Dylan does even more with the whole Angry Birds concept.

Every night, after his bedtime reading, he has “drawing time” in bed. Armed with a lap desk, reams of paper, and a bag of Crayola Pipsqueak markers, most nights you’ll usually find him in bed designing and drawing Angry Birds “levels”.

We have a whole stack of these now (he’s been doing this for about three months, and he draws new levels at least four times a week, so that adds up to a whole lot of levels). I asked him to pick out one of his favourites for you:

Angry Birds

It doesn’t end there, though. When Dylan finishes drawing a level, he calls my husband up to sit on the bed with him and they PLAY the level. Don’t ask me how they do this – despite the fact that I’m very fond of video games myself, Angry Birds has never enticed me enough to give up some of my time playing it.

All I know is, a whole slew of sound effects floats out from Dylan’s room, along with a ton of laughter (not exactly conducive to a sleepytime bedtime environment, I  know …).

Dylan carries the whole Angry Birds thing even further: he’s built Angry Birds scenes out of LEGO. He’s recycled toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, scrap paper and other bits and pieces into new levels.

Basically, he’s built Angry Birds levels out of just about anything he can get his hands on. And once he’s done building the levels, he plays them.

The other day, while decluttering the house, I found a stash of plasticene I’d picked up at one time or another for some long-forgotten kids’ art project. Dylan was thrilled with my discovery.

“So, what are you going to make?” I asked. I pulled out a craft book on making things with plasticene that we had on our shelves. “How about a whale, like this? Or maybe a bee?”

“Nah,” he said. “I know what I’m going to make.”

You guessed it, didn’t you? Yes, Angry Birds.

Plasticene Angry Birds

Now he’s trying to figure out how to film an actual scene using one of his plasticene levels so he can upload it to YouTube …

C is for Catch-up: Daughter, Early Rising and Fun (and that takes care of D, E & F)

If you take a peek at the latest posts by those participating in the A to Z Challenge, you’ll see a lot of “F” posts today. As I mentioned, yes, I am woefully behind.

But Joe gave me some great advice yesterday – he suggested doing a series of small posts to get right back in the game. I liked the sound of that!

C is for Catch-up

And then I thought … well, I’m on C, right? So why not a Catch-up post?

Why not indeed? So here we go!

D is for Daughter

My daughter recently produced, directed and filmed this music video for friends of hers. It looks so professional!

E is for Early Rising

I’ve had a great deal of success setting out intentions in this blog. So I thought I’d try out a new intention. After those crazy months of heavy deadlines just a few months ago, my system really fell out of sync. I was going to bed at 3 and 4 in the morning, and getting up at 10 or 11.

I am a bit of a night owl, but I’ve discovered that when I get an earlier start to my day, not only do I feel more productive – I think I actually AM more productive. (Anyone else feel this way too?)

So I’m going to set an intention here to start getting back into the rhythm of early rising again. Well … earlier rising, I guess I should call it, since to me, that means 8:30 am or thereabouts!

F is for Fun

And finally, I’m back on track for today. And I’m going to cheat a little bit. I really enjoyed writing that little scene that I posted as my “B” post, and I’d like to try doing more of these as I play the A to Z Challenge this month. The only thing is, I now know that it’s easiest for me to pull out my writing prompts and let my subconscious work on things, and for that, I need time.

So I’m going to try just pulling out new prompt cards at the end of each day’s post, to prepare me for the following day.

And since I had such fun writing from the prompts yesterday, I think drawing my prompt cards right now should qualify as fun!

So here are the prompt cards and the one archetype card I’m going to be using in my next A to Z Challenge post (G is for …), which I will be posting on Monday (I’m taking a hiatus from A to Z posts on the weekends).

The prompts:

1. yelling for help

2. dirty

3. magazine

(Yes, this was the order in which I pulled the cards … )

From the archetype deck:

Implies the unknown: ignorance or desperation; evil

I’m getting the same “You’ve got to be kidding me!” reaction I felt when I drew the last set of prompt and archetype cards.

This will be interesting …

[TSS] My Year of Creativity

I’m not one to make resolutions – they just don’t work for me. And perhaps it’s a matter of semantics; “resolutions” and “resolve” have a hard-edged feel for me, and I much prefer the softer ease of “intention”.

So at the beginning of each new year, I like to make some general intentions for the days ahead.

Last year was my year of authenticity. And this soft, gentle intention had a great deal to do with 2010 being a very pivotal year for me. It was a year during which I got to know myself a lot better – who I really am, and what I really want out of life.

I didn’t exactly enjoy all the lounging-around-on-the-sofa-feeling-sick time I spent during Christmas week last week, but in some ways it was a gift; I had lots of time to look back over the past year, and look forward to the new year – and see what my general intentions are for 2011.

Despite flagging energy, I came up with a lot of ideas (many of which I’d actually been nursing during the deadline-driven months of November and December). And all these ideas gelled together and pointed in one general direction:


2011 is my year of creativity.

I’ve missed being creative. Last year, I added writing back into my life, and it has been a very joyful experience. But there’s more to what I want out of life than the writing. There are a lot of things that interest me, and this year, I’m giving myself permission to enjoy exploring and playing with all the things that catch my fancy.

So this means:

More Writing. But I’m not going to narrowly define “writing” anymore. I’m going for the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach. So that means not just novels and short stories, but playing around with writing prompts, writing essays, and (this is very tentative indeed!) more regular blogging here.

Janel has been my inspiration when it comes to my writing intentions. I am totally in love with her bowl of inspiration, and plan to pair it with this other idea I got from her blog – coming up with a story idea a day.

More Art. Once upon a time (read: pre-Dylan, my seven-year-old), I actually spent a great deal of time mucking about playing with paints and glue and paper and clay. I was never particularly good, but for me, making art isn’t about the end result, it’s about the process.

I’m going to start slowly; right now, I’m contemplating the idea of a Zentangle a day, or, more accurately, a Zentangle mandala. I found this great video on YouTube which makes me want to reach for my set of Pigma Micron pens and just do it – except, I don’t have a set anymore. So a trip to the art store is in order!

I’d also like to learn how to create digital art; I bought the Sketchbook Pro app for my iPad, and have a stylus on its way to me (in the same package as that Bluetooth keyboard I mentioned yesterday).

And digital photography! Molly posted today about her interest in photography, not just as a memory keeping device, but as a form of artistic expression. Photography is something I’ve been interested in ever since I was a teenager; I’ve just never made the interest much of a priority before.

More Reading. I also intend to read a lot more – for me, reading is a very creative thing. It’s rare for me to put down a book without it having stimulated an avalanche of new ideas. But this year, I’d like to add interesting non-fiction back into my TBR stacks as well.

For many years, after I had my kids, I read nothing but nonfiction, because fiction was just too gripping and I didn’t have the time to give to it (if you’ve ever found yourself having a really hard time putting down a novel, but it’s inching really close to 2 in the morning and you have to get up in a handful of hours to get the kids off to school, you’ll know what I mean).

So a few years ago, I made the decision to let myself read more fiction again, and I am so very glad I did. The more I read, the more I find myself itching to write. At the same time, though, fiction doesn’t quite appease my curiosity about things the way a very good non-fiction book can. So I’d like to have both types of reading in my life.

I suspect the Kindle app on my iPad is going to play a huge role in my reading life this year as well. It has been so easy reading on it (I recently finished Kathy Reich’s Virals, a real page-turner, and am in the middle of Naughty: 9 Tales of Christmas Crime, by Steve Hockensmith), and I’ve been finding myself looking through the Kindle store feeling very, very tempted by the selections there.

Morning Pages, My Way. I’m contemplating writing Morning Pages again; they were a part of my daily practice for about eight years, but I found myself outgrowing them. This time around, I’d like to do them with an added twist – I’d like to use them as a way to hold a conversation with myself, the deep-down-me who often gets buried in the unintentional busy-ness of life.

Meditation. And finally, there’s the meditation. I find it terribly challenging sometimes to quiet my mind (as you can probably imagine, by the length of my blog posts …) But I’d really, really like to incorporate meditation into my daily practice.

As a gift to myself, I bought a copy of Abraham-Hicks’ Getting into the Vortex Guided Meditation meditations; there are four 15 minute meditations on the CD, and 15 minutes is SO much easier to manage. It’s like the short timed writing goal for me – it’s nearly impossible for that naysayer part of me to tell me “you don’t have time for that”.

So these are all the things I’m looking forward to doing and being in 2011. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Mini-goals? What has worked (and not worked) for you in the past when it comes to new year changes in your life?