Welcome to Books-N-Beats where we dish over the dopeness of Atlanta's Creative Class. Follow the hashtag #BooksNBeats and #WhattheATL to learn more about what's going on with Books, Art and Music in Atlanta.
The United States - A place where immigrants chase hope in a new land. As an American born citizen I hold certain rights by being born here. Although I am conflicted over the historical mistreatment of human beings by people and policy in my home country, it is still my home. With that I also hold the responsibility of giving voice to what I believe is right.
Witnessing the recent news reports of the detention of families at the border is a disgrace to what we say we are as a country. It feels as if politicians are using these families as pawns and Americans are on either side watching them split apart.
Back in 2015, I created a fictional graphic novel titled They Call Me Esperanza about a Dreamer traveling to the United States. Researching the immigration debate made my heart bleed and burn. Even though it was just a story, I felt compelled to say my piece. Subsequently, I was able to meet lawyers and community workers doing the work on a grassroots level - every day. Check out a snipit of the story here: https://sellfy.com/p/RU2c/
America has seen the destruction of families in it's not so recent past. This morning it made me ask, what are the generational repercussions of this policy? What will it do to the families, particularly the children, who are caught up in the decisions of adults on every level? When will the tossing of blame stop and shift towards genuine regard for human life? Forty-fifth said "Not on my watch"....well I say, #NotOnOurWatch.
As we wind down to the last few days of 2017, I am reflecting on the path I've walked in this past year.
It has been a year.
2016 was a doozy to deal with in regards to personal, political and worldwide transitions. As I entered 2017, I was determined to chart a new course because life is so short - so valuable - and when we blink it is gone. The years are passing faster and faster. But I wanted the moments to count.
"The Overhaul" - that's what one of my besties called it. The moment when you know you have to change everything about your life - all at once - to move forward. It may require you to shift your living space, your friendships, your lifestyle, your employment, your environment. It may even take you some time, right? But it's really a shift inside of YOU. You have to change for real change to happen.
So I shifted.
In January, I took the travel money I'd saved for a year (with no particular designation in mind) and spent it on a cruise for me and my two daughters.. The experience was #EffinPriceless.
I will preface this to say I am not a fan of cruises (and this was my first one), but I SO enjoyed the ability to plan a family trip easily and effortlessly, to not have to worry about food and to get off that damn ship! When we got off we
*Paddle boarded in Key West (a first, gratefully before this years hurricane)
*Touched sea animals that looked like excrement (a first)
*Almost barfed on a rocky sea trip to Tulum to see the ruins (a first)
*Literally jumped off a cliff into a Mexican cenote and let the fish eat my toes (yet another first)
*and ate food made by local people.
The excursions were definite highlights, but eating exotic foods and watching my daughters enjoy the water activities, food and dance on stage with performers was quite entertaining.
As we ended our trip to Mexico, another black cruiser with her husband pulled my two daughters to the side and told them how grateful they should be to be here with their mother, jumping off cliffs, doing cool stuff.... everyone does not have the opportunity to do so.
That made me smile and she was right.
It also reminded me of the privilege we have to breathe life at this very moment. Money comes and goes, it can be acquired and lost. But doing the things you want to do with your life and spending the time with those who you value most is what this is really all about. That is a privilege that we often forget about as we go, go, go.
The privilege lives between the Reflection & the Visioning because that is when you start to live in The Moment....which is #EffinPriceless.
A few years ago it took everything in me to create a piece of art. I was stuck in a major way. With support, nurturing and coaching I was able to get out of my funky artist block mood. Along the way I picked up some really good tools to use for the inevitable time that the creativity monster comes knocking at my door.
Below are 10 ways (and I have many more) that creative minds can get past artist block and get that mojo back:
1. Wash dishes, sweep or dig in the dirt
Do anything that is repetitive.The action of doing the same thing over and over again actually gives your mind a break.Even if it’s a chore you don’t like (maybe raking leaves ain’t your thang).Repetition may open your mind to new ideas.
2. Go for a walk or long hike
Nature is a healing salve to a stuck mind.I have the benefit of having nature trails nearby, but even if you don’t, a simple walk outside will oxygenate your brain cells and something you see may give you a spark and become your next muse.
3. Drive a long distance on an open highway
There is something about getting on an open highway that seems to make me relax.All kinds of ideas come my way.Adding music that I know and can mindlessly sing let’s my mind go where ever it wants to go.I usually come up with some great ideas on long drives.Have a notebook handy for the rest stop.
4. See something new – Explore & Travel
There’s a big ole’ world waiting for you to explore! Why stay stuck in a rut when you can draw inspiration from new environments, new cultures and new experiences.One of the things I have started doing is hosting artist retreats to give people an opportunity to travel with like-minded creatives.Check out the upcoming artist excursions at www.MuseArtsRetreats.com
5. Go to the library or bookstore
Equal to traveling is going to your local bookstore or library. Fictional stories and non-fiction information on different topics may make you aware of something you have never considered. Browse topics of interest or find something completely out of your element.
6. Take a nap
Children usually feel better, more refreshed and less awnry (as we say in the south) after a good long nap.Take one.See how it works for you.
7. Dance Play and Sing Loudly
Dance hard, play hard and sing OUT LOUD! Play is hands down a cure-all for everything under the sun. In a world where we are so doggone serious why shouldn’t we laugh a little more – mostly at ourselves. We may be able to actually heal the world with a little more joy in our own lives.
8. Pull out a coloring book
Ok, so I know in some circles people think coloring is super childish. Why revert back to a childhood activity when there is actually world hunger to deal with. We all should be adults right. Well guess what? Adulthood is stressing us out! And we are tired of it. No, coloring is not professional therapy. Yes, your problems will still be there when you are done. But maybe if you just take a moment to slow down then what you are stressing about won’t stress you out and the solution may come to you. When you wrestle down a monster, sometime you lose. If you want to add a little more fun to it, grab a friend and go to coloring group meetup like:
9. Be around Creative People
What better way to spend your time than with someone who reflects and validates who you are when you are wrestling with artist block. They know what the creative monster looks like. They just stared him down yesterday and won. Your art buddy may have the encouragement you need to go back and try again. Bounce your struggles, ideas and dreams of off your artist friend – and be kind enough to let them do the same.
10. Yoga, Prayer, Meditate and Healing Arts
This last one was big for me. I am really into yoga and meditation. I know that prayer has worked for me. Using spirituality to center yourself works for some people. My personal experience has been that when I close my mouth and my eyes, I can actually receive what I need. Find that thing that works for you and make it a regular practice, even if all you have is a few minutes each day. The time you take to center your mind and heart may be the inspiration you need.
Basically, think of anything that brings you relaxation and joy. Do that thing and do it relentlessly. The stress of being a blocked artist will eventually leave you to do your work. When the joy comes, so will the inspiration.
A few years ago, my doctor told me, “You need a lifestyle change”. She knew I was going through a divorce and had gained too much weight. She suggested that stress was a major factor.
Still, I had to keep living. Bills still needed to be paid, kids still needed to be fed and the world kept spinning. But I needed to hold a space for myself. I decided to turn back to my first love – ART. Creativity let me express myself freely – even when it looked like crap. It didn’t matter because it belonged to me and my job was to create what I saw in my mind.
This year I presented an art exhibit and decide to base it on a graphic novel I created about illegal child immigration. To lighten the mood on this heavy topic and make it interactive, there were coloring pages and pencils, tables and chairs set up for people to connect through coloring. Little did I know that there was a major craze going on with coloring books. But that art exhibit and the feedback I received inspired me to host a Coloring for Adults “Coffee, Coloring & Conversation” Meetup here in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Meetup experience has been interesting. People come from all parts of the metropolitan area to participate. They are individuals of all creative abilities, socioeconomic standings, races, genders and backgrounds. We are a diverse group. We meet for the love of coloring.
There have been days that I have rushed to the group, stressed out from my own life. Surprisingly, after twenty minutes of munching of food and drinks, small talk and deeper conversations, the table hits a silence that is surprisingly NOT awkward. We are in the midst of the moment. We are absorbed in what is happening right in front of us, right on the page. It is one of the simplest forms of mindful meditation.
Connecting people through creativity has been a theme in the presentations and workshops I have given in the past year. Creative play and social activities helped me get out of a mid-life funk. I think the popularity of my group and others across the world is a sign that we all are creative and we need to connect with people without a computer screen.
I have been asked:
Why did you decide to do a book about U.S. immigration and why are you doing a comic?
In the past year I have asked myself this question and have had to answer it. The immigration issue has not effected me directly so why should I care?
The story for "They Call Me Esperanza" started to come to me in June 2014 as I traveled cross-country in a passenger van with my multicultural family to attend my nephew's traditional Navajo wedding. I admired our beautiful country and enjoyed looking at the many natural, human and economic resources we have available as citizens. This country has so much to offer.
We were close to the border of Mexico near El Paso and my brother and I started a conversation about immigration. At the time the "The Surge" of immigrant children was heavily publicized in the news. Political talk about it was everywhere in the media. But as I saw our border, I started reflecting on the tragedy of being faced with a choice to leave your home and travel to another country alone - as a child. I couldn't imagine that for my daughters. I imagined myself as a mother deciding to make that choice for her child and it made me cry.
Over this past year, I wrestled with the idea of what made me qualified to tell this story? I'm not from Central America. I'm not an immigrant. I had a whole list of reasons why I should have backed out. But doing this project took courage and support by those who said it was a story worth telling.
The safe keeping of children in this world is the responsibility of every living adult. We are charged to raise them to be better than we are, to have more, to be the next generation to raise the children. One day they will care for us.
Children all over the world live in fear. Their fears vary depending on the situation, but fear is fear. Unfortunately, it can cause undesired circumstances that are detrimental not only to the individual who experiences it, but also to the society and the world. It's a comfortable idea to believe that because you don't interact with someone directly that they don't matter. But each one of us touches the other.
We are all connected.
The images for the book and the exhibit have been created as sequential art. There are two endings to the story. To drive home the point that these children have no real voice the images are also wordless. Anyone can read the images in the book despite the language they speak. Immigration is a tough subject to discuss, but it is my hope that my use of symbolism in an illustrated story will allow it to be received by both children and adults.
I am excited to see how people will receive the book. But I am even more hopeful that we will continue conversations followed up with action to make positive changes in our society for all of our children.
This “Pop-up” Exhibit is presented with First Thursdays Downtown Atlanta Art Walk.
Fuse Art Center
115 Martin Luther King Drive, Suite 225, Atlanta, GA 30303
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, July 2, 2015, 5 - 8 p.m.
(Parking available at Underground Parking Garage)
Purchase the Book: http://www.temikatheartist.com/shop.html
Ah! Can you feel the Southern Breeze? I sure did!
This weekend, I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in the southern city of Birmingham, Alabama. I always enjoy being around other people who are like me. People who haven't quite grown up, who still live half-way in the real world and half-way in their imaginary one. Most of all, we are people who are children's book junkies. We love a good story. Tell us one and you'll have our attention for life!
This weekend, I met women who wear outstanding hats, men who are unashamedly animated characters and hot-peppered, southern-seasoned, flavorful writers and illustrators from all over the south - each bringing their own stories for why they were at the conference. Some of us need a little nudge to navigate the book industry. Some of us came back to see good friends. But all of us came because of the story.
And the beauty is every story that we bring has value. They often times spring up from our childhood memories, and ironically, we find out that we really aren't so unique. Our story is also our neighbor's story. There is beauty in seeing your mirror in someone else.
I love being outdoors and hiking. The opening artist session was held at the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve so I was in heaven! It was my immense pleasure to attend the Illustrator's Intensive featuring R. Gregory Christie on the opening day. Artists, of all levels, were able to have a seat at the table to receive valuable information from Mr. Christie, who has worked on numerous children's books during his career. He gave us tips on art and the industry; he inspired us to think of new ways to do what we love to do - CREATE GREAT ART.
"YOUR ART REPRESENTS YOU IN PLACES YOU CAN'T GO"
-R.Gregory Christie, Artist
This statement resonated with me because just a few short years ago, I was scared to let "my babies" (i.e. my art work) go. I also was trying to find out where I fit in as a creative person. Like most sensitive souls, when I create something it is done from a place of love. We want others to appreciate, respect and value our work. Christie's statement reminded me my main job is to do the work. The work will find a home with those to whom it speaks. But an artist's primary job is to create. When we do, our gifts will go out into the world to show others who we truly are. It will find a home with whom it belongs.
Birmingham showed me it's beauty this weekend with its natural landscapes, rich history and architecture, and its growing community of hipsters and cool kids. As always, I enjoyed the interaction and information received from publishers, agents and editors. Every year the Southern Breeze WIK Conference brings its southern charm and aims to please.
A last word to all of you who love kids lit and want to write or illustrate:
If you are not a member, you should be. If you are, I'll see you soon.
Until then, I have lots of childhood memories to remember, stories to write and a great imaginary world of pictures to paint. Until next year....
I was recently accepted to present an art exhibit with C4 Atlanta (yeah me!). If you haven't heard of C4 Atlanta its a non-profit arts service organization whose mission is to connect arts entrepreneurs to the people, skills and tools they need to build a successful artistic career in metro Atlanta. I have benefited from the information, exhibits and networking opportunities they provide to artists and I look forward to presenting this exhibit.
I have been collecting ideas before i knew about the opportunity to exhibit. But in todays blog i want to speak on inspiration.
Everywhere I go, I see. It's the curse and blessing of being a visual artist. I see people alot because that is what I like to draw. But especially when I travel I am more aware of seeing architecture and landscape changes. People, places, things all become a part of what you see in my work.
In July I travelled by van from Georgia to Arizona with family and a little children (geesh!!). It was indeed an experience. I got to experience a piece of Navajo culture, see the landscape changes of our beautiful U.S., and at a distance see the borders between us and them (Mexico/U.S.). I say "us and them" because of debates in recent news reports. I personally believe in a universal "we" - but i digress....
Anyway, the image here came to me in a dream....just the feet. The series I am working on is underdevelopment, but i am often lead by my dreams. This is just something that I saw while I slept and it will likely be worked over to become a part of the whole.
It's gonna be a lot of work this year, but i can't wait.
In light of recent negative events in the news, particularly over the last 6 months all over the world, I started thinking again about the power of an artist to create social change. We all have different skills sets no matter what you are in to. Creatives are especially in tune with how to express the emotions that are processed during times of change. They also have the power to be a catalyst for inspiration. Add the internet and social media to the mix and you now become a walking journalist that even news reporters call on for inspirational stories (i.e. ALS Challenge).
A recent example I found in social media was in Mary Engelbreit, a visual artist, who created a piece in response to the incident in Ferguson, Missouri. In an effort to raise money for the Michael Brown Fund she examined her skill set and probably asked herself, "What can I do?" That is actually a hard question to ask yourself. It challenges your sense of power and resolve; it puts you in a position of accountability. Criticism may be waiting for you as you decide to create change. There is external work, even harder internal work, that must be done to get things done. It isn't an easy road, but oftentimes it is a necessary one.
Mary is not the first person to use their talents to make an impact. Still, she was a good reminder to me that even in what I do as an artist there is power of influence. But you first have to decide what you stand for, what is important to you and what is worth you representing. Basic questions like:
What am I good at?
What do I love to do?
What do I really care about in this world and why?
What can I do to help?
These are just a few questions to consider. And once you decide....make a plan and get into action.
Until we meet again, live long, be happy and make something or be forgotten.
I am an artist, arts advocate and artrepreneur here to share my journey with you in hopes that you will be inspired.