Are You a Champion of Artful Living?

Van Gogh Self Portrait, Art Institute of Chicago

Last week my younger son came up to me after school one day and asked me if I knew that Vincent Van Gogh had cut of his ear?  Sometimes as a mother, you know when a question is a bigger than it sounds.  I sensed that this was one of those times. I said yes.

He then said, “Did you know that he killed himself?”  There was a very serious concern in his eyes that went beyond the sometimes gruesome fascination boys can have with death.  I said that I wasn’t so sure about that, and apparently some journalists have been wondering about that too.  I could see that something was bothering him deeply about this.

My son loves to draw pictures, and is really good at this.  He is already considering being an artist when he grows up, and has thought about attending the Art Institute in Chicago some day.   I had a very strong feeling that he was worried that if he kept pursuing an artist’s life that he would end up like Van Gogh.

So, I suggested that we go down to the Art Institute in Chicago this weekend and see the vast range of artistic lifestyles that have existed throughout time.

So, today, both my sons and a friend of theirs spent the afternoon at the Art Institute.

We saw the work of artists ranging from anonymous ancient Chinese sculptures of works from 800 b.c. to the cobalt blue Chagall windows and of course, several Van Gogh paintings.

German Armor, Art Institute of Chicago

My boys’ favorite art was the armor collection from the middle ages that required a bit of a trek to discover the almost hidden collection in a corner of the museum.

At nine years old, my youngest son has an artist’s soul.

He very carefully and slowly looked at paintings from early Renaissance masters and 17th and 18th century black and white drawings with an intense attention to detail.  He didn’t rush past the imposing sculptures that surrounded the collections like his older brother.   He tried to understand everything he saw. His older brother on the other hand, was primarily fascinated with the craftsmanship of the medieval armor, the architecture of downtown Chicago and any displays that had a mechanistic or scientific aspect to them.

As we were leaving Chicago, we drove past Daley Plaza and the sculpture that has been there since 1965, and I said, “Boys, you need to learn about this sculpture by Picasso and learn more about the lives of artists that came before you.  Some of them suffered through miserable lives like Van Gogh, others like Picasso experienced acclaim in their lifetime. There are so many ways to live an artistic life.  Don’t let yourself get pigeon-holed into one stereotype.”

They both said that’s great, but can you find the Rock and Roll McDonald’s.  Fortunately, I did!

Yesterday, I was playing around with my twitter account and for some reason, I was inspired to add the words — Champion of Artful Living to my profile.   Champion as a verb sounded fine, but after looking at the updated profile, I wondered if champion as a noun was appropriate.  Who am I to say that I am a champion of artful living?  So, I changed the wording to Advocate of Artful Living.  Then, I thought, what’s wrong with claiming to be a champion of artful living?

Part of me sees a champion as someone who has won contests, and reaches a certain level of attainment, or conquers something.  Most of the time, this is not how I feel.  I see myself on an unending journey of artistic evolution from when I was young to the end of my life, always with new challenges popping up.  Yet, the importance of being a role model of artistic possibility has become more and more obvious to me.

I trust that someday both of my sons will find their own way to living an artful life, but for now, it’s up to me to show them how to be a champion of artful living myself.  Declaring myself a champion of artful living is one way of honoring many of the unusual choices I’ve made in my life that sometimes don’t make sense to them.  And taking a trip to the Art Institute was one way of honoring the artistic impulse.  There are many more ways we often forget are available to us.

What about you? Do you consider yourself a champion of artful living?  What might happen if you allowed yourself to do so?

Do You Create Vision Boards? They Might HelpYour Writing

I’ve been sharing some fairly esoteric posts about energy, strengths, weaknesses and treasure recently.  I’m feeling an urge to shift gears just a bit and talk about something a little less lofty.  So, today, I’m writing about the connections between our closets and clothes, and editing our writing.

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of vision boards.  I’ve been doing them for years. There so much fun to make.  I have not tried Pinterest yet for fear of addiction. With that said, I also often find that vision boards don’t usually work for me in the way that I originally intended. They almost never help me with money, relationships, getting thinner or any of the big dreams that I add to the boards.  I wish they did. However, vision boards have a wonderful way of highlighting my desires as well as the inner resources that I think I need from the outer world, but already have within me.

For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve been buying the spring fashion magazines and cutting out pictures of clothes to put on my fashion vision board.   When I pulled together my latest fashion vision board, it was full of beautiful, bright pink, orange and lime green edgy and eclectic clothes as well as some earthy feminine pieces.  The board looked so cute, and I was so proud of myself for pulling it together. Despite all the money I don’t have, I dreamt of making my fashion vision board into a reality as soon as possible.

Then, a series of wise observations occurred to me.

First, I noticed that I had a whole bunch of bright, eclectic, edgy and earthy clothes that I wasn’t wearing. Looking even more closely, I decided that part of my problem was that my clothes weren’t grouped together well.  I also had many clothes I didn’t wear.  The closet edits of Gail King in the latest edition of O Magazine also inspired me to make some changes.

You might be wondering if this is a post on the benefits of cleaning closets.   Please humor me, I’m going somewhere with this. The process of looking at my existing resources for living my fashion vision, helped me to notice that my novel’s problems correlated very closely with my formerly unwieldy closet:

  • I had never taken the time to organize all the pieces in my novel strategically.
  • I didn’t allow myself to gratefully acknowledge what pieces, scenes, characters I loved about my novel.
  • I hadn’t grouped scenes together in a way that made the story flow better.
  • I was afraid to throw anything out because I was too worried about my word count, and wondered if I’d have any story left after editing.

My new vision board for my novel looks quite a bit like a conventional storyboard, with the difference that it’s focused on what I really love about my own book. Focusing on what I love about my novel has helped me immensely to respect it more. Organizing a writing vision board is also very good preparation for an upcoming writer’s conference that I’m going to attend one in Madison in mid-April where I need to know pivotal scenes in the novel, the climax of the story, and a synopsis that is clean and easy to understand.

My “love your novel” vision board process is not a guarantee that a novel will be any good, but it is a much more interesting way to make the process of fine tuning and editing the novel fun.   It’s also taught me that we should look at our other dreams and visions for clues about our creativity.  My fashion vision board reflected back to me that I want to create a boldly colorful, eclectic and slightly edgy, earthy and feminine fantasy novel that expresses my true personal style, and that I have existing resources to do this.

Don’t know if you do vision boards, but you might take a look at any you have created recently or in the past and see if they tell you anything new about what your writing wants to express through you.

Mastering Your Destiny

A fortune cookie inspired me to write today’s post.  On New Year’s Eve my son received this pithy fortune:

Repetition is the mother of skill.

This idea was so perfect for him as he’s in the final stretch of getting a black belt in karate, and has much talent as an artist.  He’s also only ten years old.

Repetition also happens to be important for most of us who are trying to become a master of any skill or occupation or quality in ourselves.  If we want to be kind, we have to practice being kind.  If we want to be a great writer, we have to write.  Mastery requires repetition and practice.

Most of us, however, don’t think too much about the idea of mastering our destiny.  So much of modern western culture equates mastery of our destiny with financial success or fame.  Being a master of your destiny is more of a spiritual aspiration.

Mastering your destiny means something more to me, especially as a writer.   If I want to be a master of my destiny, I have to know my skills, my gifts and what activities and ways of being that give meaning to my life.  I also need to connect with other human beings.  There is only way to find out something that you care about, and that’s to try something and repeat.  Doing something once isn’t enough. As writers, we sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough time to become the master at our writing.  We want to create that best-selling novel or academy award-winning screenplay now.

There’s a pleasure in repetition and developing mastery if we allow ourselves to feel it. This year, I’m blogging every day simply to begin to master the wonderful opportunity that blogging presents to connect with others through my writing.  It’s a joy for me to press the like button on a post or write a comment for someone else.  It’s also wonderful to see that someone else resonated with one of my ideas.

Do you value repetition? How are you mastering your destiny this year?  I’d love to hear from you.