Artist's Way Blog
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on September 3, 2012 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
It reminds me of the time when I was a therapist and was trying to embody/channel my brilliant consultant who had the loveliest delivery when talking about how she might talk to kids.
She’d start out in a high sing song-ing voice and end in a calm, reassuring alto. Her go to feedback always started with ...
“I might say … ‘I’m wondering if may-be …’”
I was prepared. I practiced the line over and over in my head …
“I’m wondering IF … I’M wondering if … I’m WONDERING if…”.
The time had come. One early evening 6:00 pm session I was ready to try this with a favorite little 6 year old girl client of mine.
And I began …
“I’m wondering if mayyyyy-beeeee ….”
She stopped her play mid-doll house rearranging, stared at my face, looked very confused and said quizzically:
“You SAID that funny.”
I burst out laughing. Hard.
She couldn’t help herself and laughed along with me … intuiting that I wasn’t laughing at her but appreciating the honesty and spot-on-it-ness of her comment.
I said “You're right. You got that right, I DID say that funny.”
She taught ME that day.
I gotta’ be me. You gotta’ be you. Anything else and we’re going to be” funny”.
Not in a good way.
The most profound, perfect, insightful comment could have come from my supervisor but if I couldn’t find a way to say it AND be me at the same time it was going to do the big ‘ol stinky belly flop.
We think though others have it figured out. We think that if we could just find a way to be like them, we’d be golden. Free from trying out our own methods and possibly fail. What could be better? We’ll just find something that is tried and true and viola … success … happy clients/customers/family members/partners …
The heavens will open …. Riches will be bestowed on us … the angels will sing …
OK I’m getting a little carried away.
But you get the picture.
We think if we do it THAT way, THEIR way, we’ll do it RIGHT.
And what’s wrong with doing it right?
But I’ve learned it has to be congruent for me.
It has to be honest.
Julia talks about the importance of affirming ourselves and how using affirmations can help us in creating a sense of safety for ourselves.
Instead of affirming that my supervisors way was the only path to take, I could have affirmed my own intuition re: how to respond in the moment. "As I listen to myself and to others, I will have the right thing to say."
My motivation of using my supervisor’s “line” was to connect with my client which, while coming from a good place, resulted in my not being REALLY present with the kiddo and allowing my own insights and observations to bubble up.
As potentially awkward and imperfect as they might be.
The ironic thing was that our laughing together over my mimicking was a real bonding moment for us. It seemed to forge a deeper connection which allowed us to do some good work together.
Maybe it IS about being funny.
Or perhaps it’s just the old truism. Laughter really IS the best medicine.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on May 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM||comments (3)|
There are few things that get my blood a boilin’ and my heart a racin’ more than one particular phrase.
“I am not an artist.”
Usually delivered in a wilting voice, shrunken shoulders all while scurrying away. Recently, I saw one person declare it in a group and then another said "me too" and then another one: "I'm the same". They then ran to each other, embraced and formed what looked like an amoeba like pod almost to say “don’t ATTACK us you-artist-professing-person-you.”
My sense that they seemed to anticipate an "attack" might give me a clue to what they might be feeling.
Somewhere down the line someone or some thing might, just might, have given them the message that they were not an artist.
When I facilitate our Artist's Way classes, I think of "artist" and "artistry" in the broadest of terms. One of the many definitions of “artist” includes this nugget: "Someone who is a creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination)."
I have seen people who display true artistry in doing accounting, in their gardening, in how they parent, in how they tell a story, to how they put together an outfit. It is an incredibly beautiful thing to see the artist in every single one of my students and it is often very individual and unique.
The origins of the "I'm not an artist" mantra seem to vary. I’ve heard from some students how they were shamed by others or they shamed themselves when they couldn’t match up their art with someone else’s vision of REAL art.
Who hasn’t had that experience in school of trying to draw something and seeing some art savant wiz kid next to you draw a perfect tree while yours in comparison shouted to you: “Charlie Brown tree anyone?!”
And then it begins.
The mantra begins to seep in “He’s an artist, I’m not.”
Or maybe someone looked at your painting and sneered and we thought “yup, not going to experience THAT again”. Thus the no artist tattoo got burned into our brain.
Maybe we bought into the cultural definition that “artists” are solely those select few other folks who draw, act, sing, or dance. Maybe we didn’t get seen for the amazing artistry we bring in the gifts we were bestowed with or have developed (thank goodness for others who can recognize those gems in us!).
But I’ve learned how to respond.
Not always perfectly.
My first inclination? To want to pounce on the clump of the 3 professing “non-artistry” pod and exclaim “YES, YOU ARE!!!!”
Yeah, that’s definitely going to help.
Not so much.
Instead, I try to remember what might be behind it and instead smile and reflect on when I used to feel the same way, because I did. Heck, there were things I claimed not to be even when I hadn’t tried them. For example, “I’m not a dancer.” Mind you, I had never even TRIED to dance apart from the trauma-inducing 9th grade dances at my high school.
Confession: Stairway to Heaven still causes me to break out in a cold sweat.
But then a friend gently introduced me to swing dancing and now I’m a swing dancing enthusiast (albeit a constantly learning and imperfect one which I am learning to embrace.).
Now after remembering how it felt to not see myself as artistic, I now reply: “Boy, can I relate. I used to say that about myself a lot. Now? Not so much.”
Then I can let it go … mostly. Instead of needing to hit them over the head with “you are too an artist” baton, I make a point of seeing the artistry in them and maybe even take a minute and name their gifts (because BOY are they!).
“WOW, you are a great story teller.”
“I LOVE that you moved your door in your house so that it faces the street. Fantastic!”
“That is one STYLIN' dress.”
Gifted, every single one of ‘em.
Now, THAT can really get my heart a racin’.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on January 1, 2012 at 6:05 PM||comments (0)|
It is a tradition.
At the end of every Artist's Way class, we do the failure bow.
And we document it with a photo.
It's something we introduce early on in the 12 week Artist's Way class. The failure bow was introduced to me in an Improv class when the instructor said "Not failing in Improv is impossible plus it would be VERY boring if you didn't fail." SO, he taught us that we need to get comfortable with failing and one way to do that is when we fail we need to celebrate the failing by:
Raising our hands over our head as we smile and shout "I failed!"
Then everyone claps for you (and you clap for yourself too).
The first time I did it, the instructor said "Hey hey hey you didn't smile. You need to smile." I said "Can you fail at the failure bow?" Apparently not. Whew!
The cool thing is we've noticed it seeps into other parts of our students' (and our) lives so that when they are at work they do little failure bows (in their head mostly) when they fail at something and then ... move along.
We figure this is a great lesson to incorporate as we create - failing is a good thing - it keeps us open to the process of creating - whatever that looks like.
Plus it is just fun.
Fall 2011 Artist's Way Sunday night students:
Fall 2011 Friday morning Artist's Way students:
Fall 2011 Artist's Way Redux students:
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on December 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
"In any creative life there are dry seasons."
So opines Julia Camera in Week 10: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection on page 169 of her book "The Artist's Way."
When we encounter this chapter in our tenth week of class, I'm usually not in a dry season and in fact I'm usually flying high with the growth that I've seen in myself over the previous 10 weeks and in that of our students.
And then Week 15 and 16 hit.
Ok, technically there is no week 15 or 16 in Julia's book (the book only has 12 chapters/12 weeks). But after going through 12 exhilerating weeks, there is usually a little bit of a dry season or "drought" sneakily waiting around the corner for me as our students have gone off flying toward their creative dreams.
And the drought feels like a lightening bolt. Appearing from out of nowhere.
And Julia confirms.
Julia: "These droughts appear from nowhere and stretch to the horizon like a Death Valley vista. Life loses its sweetness; our work feels mechanical, empty, forced."
And the "work feeling mechanical"?
You mean if you can get to the "work".
Sometimes it's more along the lines of "what was I thinking that I liked to (fill in the blank) ... sing, take photos, write." Et ctr. et ctr. et ctr.
And then a "crash" often hits. The cold hits, the back goes out - often the physical is the first reminder.
We ... ok, ok, ... "I" ... sometimes forget that "rest," times when things lie fallow is exactly what I need, that that IS part of the creative process. OH to learn that without having to be sick to be reminded! (Fallow defined: "Plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplus production." LOVE this - restoring fertility indeed!).
I don't go gently into that good night.
I tend to prefer the part of the process where I'm running around being creative and have Ah-Ha moment after Ah-Ha moment.
The Ah-Ha moments of "I need to rest" or "I need to read trash books" or "I need to pause and not write right now" are not my fave.
Those feel more like Ho-Hum moments, but they are like dueling brother/sister creative connections that need to remind themselves that they are indeed family and need to reside somewhat peaceably with one another.
But then synchronicity comes to the rescue!
Just as I was wallowing in what felt like a flat lining creative week, an acquaintance talked about how she was needing to rest a lot that week and how she needed to remind herself that rest was in fact "doing" something.
I hear someone say "Keep it simple."
And here's the other thing.
I don't have to like it.
But I find I often DO have to do it.
And sometimes the "DO" is "do nothing".
I think about what "keeping it simple" means.
I write my morning pages.
Even if some mornings it feels like the pen is a 40 pound weight.
I recall Julia's promise that "the mere act of showing up on the page, like the act of walking through a tracklesss desert, requires one footfall after another to no apparent point. ... For all creative beings, the morning pages are the lifeline - the trail we explore and the trail home to ourselves."
I ask the basic question - what do I need?
And it varies. 10 hours of sleep, 4 nights in a row, going to the recent George Clooney movie only because I've been fantasizing about trips to Hawaii for months, steaming hot Tom Yum soup or practice getting good at saying "I'm resting."
And remind myself (again!) that resting IS doing something.
I may continue to read my light reading books and find some kernels of wisdom as I found in the book "Joy for Beginners" ...
"Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up."
"Over the years, she had forgotten what it felt like to walk with the delicous purposelessness of going nowhere."
So in this period of rest, I'm going to keep my eye open for mini-fun moments, may go for an aimless walk and recall the final promise in Chapter 10:(
"Droughts do end."
I think I feel the water a-comin' as we speak ...
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 23, 2011 at 11:05 PM||comments (0)|
So we'd been confessing.
"It's been 5 days since my last check-in/confession, and these are my ... I haven't had an Artist's Date in x days."
Ok maybe not a "sin" exactly but we were noticing that the 'ol artist's dates were sloughing off.
This is not uncommon when we hit Week 10/11 in our 12 week Artist's Way class.
An Artist's Date, for those not in the know, is time one spends solo, usually planned (at least an hour but not could be less or more) with the focus being something that would be fun for YOU ("you" being the operative word here). Could be just about anything ... but the one rule is "let it be fun."
It got me thinking.
And the class talking.
What's the benefit of an Artist's Date?
It fills the well.
The creative well.
The artistic well.
The inspire-me-please well.
The students lamented that what was keeping them from doing their dates was forgetting that the date could be just FUN. It didn't have to be "good art" dates (i.e. museums, and more museums). In fact doing something that called to you in that "woo hoo" way was probably the most important thing to listen to when signing on for an Artist's Date.
I'd been inspired to have an Artist's Date a few days before after listening to the "pull over and check out that shop" voice. I went to this cool little shop on top of Queen Anne Hill - Charley + May and saw this bird made of wire that was attached to a rock.
"Our students could have fun with this."
Off I went to my favorite of all time hardware store Hardwicks and got some wire.
And they got working.
We love our little wire/rock creations.
We thought they were very Seuss-ian. And that made us very pleased.
Thank YOU Artist's Date.
And the whole class' work (mine is the dolphin with no tail - inspired by the dolphin tale movie!).
And our Friday morning Artist's Way students' contributions! ...
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 18, 2011 at 8:40 PM||comments (2)|
The exercise was to write down things you loved.
No limits except do it in 4 minutes.
I love these exercises.
For the smile it puts on my face when I do it.
For the tickle I feel when I hear fellow students giggle as they air their “loves.”
And the responses? Glorious.
The smells, textures, ideas, and feelings that surface are enlivening.
The discoveries from some students that “… and all of these are free!”
But best of all, I love the surprises.
My surprise this time was remembering the perfect salad.
I love a perfect salad.
And there was ONE perfect salad that came to mind instantly.
I’d turned 40 and gone off for 3 weeks by myself to Ireland to travel around and have an adventure. It was a wonderful trip, full of new friends, green filled sights, images of dolphins on the west coast and of course … the salad.
I’d been craving vegetables. For those who’ve been to Ireland “back in the day”, searching for a PCC/Whole Foods version for vegetables was “challenging” to say the least (or maybe I didn’t know where to look).
The fact was 2 weeks in and counting, I was seriously craving a salad.
Greens, and the crunch of small carrots, nuts, olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing, ripe tomatoes danced in my head.
Food was always serious business (and comfort) in my family. Homemade breads, hand kneaded pizzas, fresh soups ... all courtesy of the chef gene my Croatian grandfather had handed down.
So I was very excited on one very rainy (shocking, I know) day in the north of Ireland somewhere up near Donegal, I came upon a pub sitting on the blustery coast. I scanned the menu and became downright giddy when I saw “salad.”
A Caesar Salad, no less.
The king of salads.
I ordered. Salivating a little. Then some more. And even more.
It finally arrived without king fanfare except for my “thank you thank you thank you” horn blaring.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected.
It had greens alright, but apart from the tomotoes that was about it on the vegetable front.
I almost thought to send it back but then heard the “Come ON… when in Rome …”
And I took my first bite.
The lettuce was loaded in what seemed like a pound of hot bacon, crunchy homemade croutons, roasted walnuts, tomatoes and smothered with a homemade Caesar dressing.
Did I mention it’d been really cold outside?
I was in heaven.
It may not have been what I had been calling out for, but it scratched my itch for something comforting.
Sometimes I forget that what I think I want isn’t necessarily what the universe decides to provide.
It’s even better.
So today my artist date was to create the perfect salad.
Armed with the ability to improvise ... in addition to the bacon, tomatoes, homemade croutons, and Caesar dressing, I added goat cheese, olives, pepperoncini, and sunflower seeds.
I had my first bite and I savored it. I could feel myself back in that pub – outside - the cold, sideways wind blowing to and fro, the fireplace blazing in the pub and me with my toasty, tasty, fatty salad.
And I loved it.
All over again.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on November 5, 2011 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
One of our fall Artist's Way students suggested us doing a photo blog entry ... great idea, Sharon! Here it is:
Candle idea stolen from Crate and Barrel:
Like rose petals:
It's all about perspective ... lucky birds ...
Artist's Way student fleur goodness ...
It's got it all ...
And the leaf end zone ...
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on October 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM||comments (1)|
"Just a little bit more" ...
I'm reminded of the great response by Will Rogers when he was asked "How much money is enough?" He replied (say it with me people) ...
"Just a little bit more ... "
As I've been pondering abundance lately it doesn't surprise me that this is the line that has been haunting me.
It's easy to feel a lack.
A lack of time. Of money. You name it.
Especially these days.
Especially when you're laptop goes belly-up (don't get me started).
Especially in this consuming culture we live in. I can buy into the marketers' message (those wiley marketers!) that I won't be happy until I get the new ipad/ipod/itouch/ishuffle.
On top of all of the messages we get around us that we need to get more and more, to hear the word "abundance" during a time of extreme financial woes can be like pouring salt on the proverbial "wound".
And then synchronicity struck.
I saw the purse.
More a satchel really.
Reddish brown, sitting alone in my creative space like a high school girl standing nervously alone at her first dance wanting to be picked to twirl around the dance floor.
The only twirling this satchel has done in the last year was being moved from "here" to "there" when I vaccumed around her. (She is SUCH a "her").
Then I read Julia's chapter about noticing what feels abundant.
A box of raspberries.
A new favorite pen.
Or for me - looking around the items I already own and truly appreciating and using them.
I also REALLY heard a comment an Artist's Way student made in class. She noted while on vacation she imagines some of the clothes that didn't get worn are disappointed. Imaging that it actually matters that we appreciate what we have is one SURE way to be more mindful of the things we actually are so very lucky to have.
I was also reminded of a comment my pastor made about an orphanage his daughter runs with her husband and son, Yohani in Mozambique. He said "you have never seen such happy children."
It stopped me in my tracks. Still does. And I'm glad it does.
It makes me grateful. For the comforts I have around me - both material but even more so in the friends, colleagues and family I am honored to know and have in my life.
Here's who is getting my attention and love this week:
My dear friends who make me laugh so that I snort. Yup, the truth is revealed.
The digital piano that seen more dust on its keys than my fingertips
The kind comment from a total stranger.
The pretty green scarf hidden behind my other scarves ("come out and shine you little wallflower you").
The group of musicians who ask me to play guitar with them on Sundays who I haven't strummed with in months.
My funky clunky (and favorite) brown/black boots who have a new life when paired with knee highs (who KNEW??)
Actually sit and look at the gorgeous artwork Annya Uslontseva made and I now own. (see below)
I'm going to take my purdy satchel, throw my knee highs on and go pluck some strings of my guitar with my strumming friends.
I am going to be mindful of the abundance right in front of me. Without having to spend an extra penny. What's that? It's this little brown, round thing that most people step over on the street ...
Maybe I'll even stare at a penny today.
And I'm going to rework the joke:
"How much money is enough?"
Exactly what I have. Exactly what I have. Exactly what I have.
I think Will would approve.
Dorcas and Yohani, Mozambique residents
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on July 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM||comments (0)|
I was giddy.
Like you're 6 years old, jumping up and down and waiting for the doorbell to ring with one of your birthday party best friends kind-of-giddy.
It was "Salon night" aka "Use Your Outside Voice" night. A night for a diverse group of folks to come together and perform for each other. "Perform" in the loosest, most casual sense of the word - think one step up from what it was like as a kid to jump up in front of your parents and put on a show/routine/skit.
This idea had been germinating for easily 6 years.
I'd been volunteering at The Empty Space and read an article where the Artistic Director Allison Narver spoke of the death of her mom Betty Jane Narver and how she would gather people from all walks of life and would have these amazing evenings of conversation noting her home was a "community center in the true sense of that word."
The idea of a place where community gathered was never far from my mind. I thought "wow, I'd love to do something like that only have it involve music and performance."
Hence the Salon was born (if only in my head!).
So how can I paint this picture (since I refused to miss one minute of really being there by taking an actual picture)?
First, here's the space:
Present Sense sang to me the first time I saw it - I imagined some wild west frontier store (and apparently it was at one time a store) - so simple, so sweet and nestled into the middle of the Wallingford neighborhood. We've been teaching our Artist's Way classes there for awhile now and the space radiates warmth.
6 people signed up to do a variety of singing, group sing-a-long, solo performance, poetry, and reading an original play. No rehearsal (at least not together).
We started with the whole group (guests and performers alike) practicing the failure bow (hands over head stretched to the ceiling, smiling broadly and shouting "I failed" and then clapping for ourselves). We noted how important failure is to the creative process and we were going to honor our successes and most importantly our failures tonight. Katie talked about her vision for Present Sense - a place where community can gather.
As simple as that.
And gather we did.
Starting off the night with everyone singing "this little light of mine I'm going to let it shine" over and over until you could hear the collective undertone "oh yes, I AM! I am SO going to let it shine."
Shining happened ...
I could go on and on about the radiance of the voices that reminded me of the sweetest birds tweeting, or the knowing laughter as the performers shared their written word, or the courage it takes to get up it front of people and say "this is who I am and what I have to offer."
So many gifts - many of which I was hoping would happen.
But it was the things I couldn't have expected that touched me most.
The man from the neighborhood who saw we were having the Salon came in off the street and asked if he could perform (and did! a lovely poem)
A guest of one of the performers who asked spontaneously at the end of the evening if she could sing noting at the beginning "I'm surprised I'm doing this - you can ask my husband - I never sing in public" but DID and was fantastic.
Or perhaps the greatest compliment from a friend who said "this so inspired. I want to go home right now and write."
At the end of the night the attendees were super excited by what they'd just been a part of and kept saying "thanks so much for doing this."
Here's the thing.
I SO can't take the credit for it. And mind you. I'd love to take credit for it.
What I think? I think it was simply divine-inspired.
Call it what you will, God, Higher Power, Universe, Creative Force.
I heard a voice saying "get people together and sing". And all I did was listen and take direction. When I do that, glorious things happen.
So what I say?
Bruce is giddy too
P.S. The other added bonus of the night came from the suggestion that Katie Talbott had was to have a hat out and any donations made go to the charity of my choice. I choose this amazing couple who run an orphanage in Mozambique and because of the generosity of the attendees, they will be receiving $181.
Thank you ALL!
We hope to do these quarterly so hope to see you there in the future.
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on July 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM||comments (0)|
Week 10---Julia warned us that this segment of the journey would include “waves of resistance and hope” in “a birthing process”.
Every day as I turn the corner of my porch and see my red bench and red door I experience a wave of hope!
They are my daily inspiration reminding me that my mind is constantly CREATING and sometimes I catch those thoughts and MAKE THEM SO.
3 weeks ago I had a broken down bench I was ready to haul away and a stained and scarred front door. As I turned the corner my critic would have plenty to say:
“When are you going to toss that useless bench?”
“Why haven’t you at least cleaned the door-how embarrassing!”
“Curb appeal? I don’t think so!!”
The door was open (literally) to an avalanche of self-criticism and carrying my 300 lb. critic across the deck meant I arrived home discouraged & tired.
Creativity always involves risk---what if I choose the wrong red? My helper (husband) after the 3rd coat of primer and paint assured me that it absolutely was the RIGHT RED.
I failed (picture me hands raised with a smile on my face) to buy the right amount of paint. Michelangelo must have faced this very difficulty!
Some people might not see the connection; but my imperfectly accomplished creative movement to paint a door and bench somehow helped me to make a phone call and write a letter that are the first baby steps for two other stalled out projects.
Maybe I can take one more baby step today!