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 a control freak - and if you are reading this, I bet you are too!
Recently I was asked, "Why do you work with self-published authors?"
At first I paused, because I really never thought about it. But when I did, I realized it was because in my heart I am one.
Writing stories was something I started doing at an early age. I always enjoyed a good story - whether in books, plays or movies - and I will dissect it for its meaning and merit. You would hate to watch a movie with me, because if it doesn't make me believe it, I ain't buying it!
In adulthood I wrote my first book for my oldest daughter. It was so simple and is still unfinished in its "dummy" state. But that story is what sparked my interest in producing books. I had a story to tell.
As I learned that about myself, people also started telling me they had a story to tell. I decided that my gift to see the images in the words is how I could help them bring their personal stories to the marketplace.
But I am also a control freak. I think many serious, business-minded authors who decide to produce their own work want to do it on their own terms. They want to build an experienced and professional mastermind team to support them in editing, illustration, design and marketing. They want to be in control of how the product is produced and promoted. They love their project so much that they want to reap more of the benefit. They also realize that that benefit comes with a lot of work and they are ok with that.
Most of all they love the work they do. They love to write good stories.
So here I am today! I love children's books, graphic novels and sequential art and I enjoy helping other authors create their stories. Many people are inspired by their own lives or that of a family member. There are stories everywhere and in everyone. We all have one.....what is yours?
I appreciated this so I figured I would post to my blog. What a rallying cry: Book People Unite!
Check out the video on this link:
I go into schools to work with children and involve them in the creative process of creating illustrated stories. Providing this service feels significant to me because it encourages children to create, to speak, to collaborate and engage. Even more importantly, I feel it empowers them because they can tell their own story - as we each all have one. Every individual has a unique perspective in this world. God has given them a mind and a voice to express that perspective. To tell your story, from your true perspective, is an expression of freedom.
This Spring, I attended SCBWI's Illustrator's Day here in Atlanta. One of the charges for the illustrators, based on an industry need, is to create stories and images that represent the diverse perspectives of the world. Quality work is always most important, but a continued theme of inclusion and diversity is prevalent in the industry.
When I heard the talks that were given, it reminded me of a thorn in my heel that I try to ignore. I always ask myself, But what about the other stories that haven't been told? I am an African-American female. That is obvious by looking at me. I do appreciate the fact that historical stories about African-Americans are on the market for public consumption. Yet, as a children's illustrator (and occasional writer), I know that there are so many stories that are not being told.
During the after-hours mingle, I got up the nerve to ask a publisher about this very concern. She stood back on her heels, put her hands on her hips and looked me square in the eyes and said:
Well then, why don't you write the story?
I told her I wasn't a writer (only because I'm developing my confidence to be one). Then she said:
If you don't write it, then who will?
I had to admit, she had a very good point.
I had previously taken a powerless route to believe that just because I was an illustrator that I could not also be a writer. That is not true. It is true I must hone my skills at both if I want to do it well. Still, I should write the stories that other people need to hear. I should write the stories that I need to hear. Someone else probably needs to hear it too.
So now I confidently take the charge. I am seeing that my place in this process is very important, just as important as anyone else's. My stories may not hit big markets. I may not get a billion dollars. Neither of those are important in the big scheme of things. All I am required to do is to do the work. I encourage to you to do the same. Tell your story today and, one day, someone else may retell your story too.
Take a look at this blog for more information about the diversity movement in the children's book industry.
I am an artist, arts advocate and artrepreneur here to share my journey with you in hopes that you will be inspired.