• Five Ways to Awaken the Muse!

    As far as New Year's goes, I have to admit that as a holiday, it just doesn't hit my radar. Year in and year out, it holds so little interest for me that I don't even tune in to watch the ball drop, not out of some latent anger or cooler-than-thou attitude, but really because I just forget. 

    This year is different, though, not in that I watched the Times Square celebration (I forgot to tune in again, 'natch), but because the marking of time feels significant. So much is going on in my life these days that I feel a bit woozy, particularly when it comes to my art. It turns out that 2013 was a very good year for my Etsy shop and my paintings--a development that caught me completely off guard. The fact that I've actually attained some goals, both artistically and financially, has my head spinning a bit, and I've been asking myself that old Peggy Lee question, which sometimes surfaces when one has achieved a long sought-after dream with such single-minded focus: Is that all there is?

    Ah yes, with amber cocktail in one hand and a bon-bon in the other, I've been lying back on the couch lately pondering my newly won Etsy earnings and asking myself that time-honored query, realizing that I may have lost my way a bit, focusing too much on the business and not enough on the art. Don't get me wrong--A little extra cash does a girl good, and I'm profoundly grateful, but I need to get the artistic fires stoked again, as let's face it...without art, nothing will happen for me AT ALL.

    As I haven't created a painting in a few months, I'm now experiencing the dreaded white canvas anxiety attack...the moment when you've got a pencil in one hand, and a canvas or piece of watercolor paper in the other, and it's time to do something. I've been thinking about my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing, and thought--what the heck! Let me share them with you, too! So what are some good ways to wake up the muse?

    1.) MAKE A GIFT. There's something about making a gift for someone that completely wipes away my creativity self-consciousness. I suspect it's because my love for the recipient is the driving force behind the act, and I know that regardless of the outcome, this person will be thrilled that I thought to make him or her something handmade. Even though the item might not be a painting, just getting my creative brain rolling again can create the momentum I need to get working on EVERYTHING.

    2.) SEND A CARD, DECORATE THE ENVELOPE. This is similar to number one, only simpler. To bust up a creative logjam, send someone a card or an article you know they'll enjoy, and then go hog wild decorating the envelope. I'll go so nuts at times when I do this that it's hard to even see the address when I'm done! Again, all self-consciousness vanishes in this exercise, and I'm delighted to know that the recipient is smiling as soon as he or she pulls the envelope out of the mailbox. Without fail, the response on the other end is always sheer delight, which invariably makes me want to do MORE.

    3.) GET ORGANIZED. No, this isn't necessarily a creative act, but there's something about organizing my creative space that sets the stage for something wonderful to happen. Placing all my paints, pencils and utensils in their proper place has a very relaxing effect on my brain...almost like I've mowed and weeded the lawn so that the flowers now have room to grow. I just love when I walk into my studio, and everything is clean and organized...mainly because it's license to get in there and mess it up again! Some artists thrive in a messy environment, but not me. When I'm in the middle of working on a painting, not a single thing gets put away at night, lest I destroy my momentum. But when I need to awaken the muse, an organized, clean drawing table simply looks delicious!

    4.) TAKE A CLASS. There are SO many wonderful online classes these days! Just scour Etsy alone and you'll find dozens. There are even plenty of FREE classes on YouTube! Without fail, whenever I take an online class, the muse gets busy again as she begins to play with all these new, wonderful techniques. (I like mixed media courses in particular.) And almost always, whenever I sit down to do an exercise, I get a full-on painting out of it.  Right now, I'm taking a class that's a year long, where a new lesson comes in every Monday morning. I'm having so much fun with Week One (the class is already on Week Three) that I've yet to move past it, having created TWO new images from it instead of one. (See the "work in progress" on this page.) Even though the teacher is online and in a video, trust me, you'll get inspired. It's well worth a few bucks to have someone hold your hand and show you some new ropes.

    5.) VISIT AN ART OR CRAFTS STORE. Oh, the fun of shopping in an art store! My favorite art store at the moment is Jerry's in West Orange, NJ (it's close to where my parents live, so I go there when I visit), and as soon as I walk in, I become intoxicated. I grab my basket and simply start walking the aisles, seeing what jumps out at me. My most recent exciting purchase? Ink pencils!!! Yes, that's right. INK PENCILS. Oh, and are they wonderful. They're sort of a cross between watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons (my previous exciting purchase)...a little looser than the former but less liquid than the latter. Make your lines, activate them with water, then watch the magic! Yep, a visit to the art store will get you working on something as soon as you get home, GUARANTEED.

    Have any creative tips of your own? Please let me know! I'm all ears. :)