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Archive for the category “Art”

word pictures

There’s so much creativity happening on the internet. I love this site called Tagxedo, where you can take the contents of, for example, a blog post and make a graphic design element out of it.

This one is from one of last month’s blog posts,  just driving:

just driving tgx

You can see many more examples on their Facebook page.

OK, your turn to go play now!



“I would but find what’s there to find,
Love or deceit.”
“It was the mask engaged your mind,
And after set your heart to beat,
Not what’s behind.”
–from The Mask, William Butler Yeats

Masks have always fascinated me. People have been making and wearing them for thousands of years. The earliest ones found are over 9,000 years old.

The only piece of art I’ve ever regretted not buying was a teal colored plaster mask of a woman’s face on display in a booth at the Sausalito Art Festival many years ago. The mini installation above consists of a leaf-shaped fan I’ve been carting around for years, an elaborate dream catcher my partner and I got from an artist at the downtown farmers’ market in San Rafael one summer evening, and a paper mache mask he made of the upper part of his face before I met him (and before his deviated septum was corrected).

I’ve always thought it would be interesting to make a mask from a mold of my own face. For a while, I knew of a local artist who taught mask-making classes, but I never followed through. I might yet do it, though. I found these detailed instructions on how to make a paper mache mask. It’s a messy process and seems like the kind of thing that would be more fun to do in a group.

Beyond being fun, making a mask can be a more meaningful, even a transformational, experience:

Artists use a wide range of materials for the masks they make. Spokane artist Annie Libertini makes gorgeous leather masks. Click the link below to check out how she does it and what her creations look like.

Watch Transformational Masks on PBS. See more from Northwest Profiles.

music made visible

Violin_CymaGlyphA3_280108_pdfPlease check out the website for Cymascope (music made visible), where you can see music notes as “holographic bubbles.”

musicmadevisible is a new concept in musical expression, a stream of cymatic images representing an analog of music in visual form. If our eyes could see music we would not see waves, as is commonly believed, but beautiful holographic bubbles, with shimmering kaleidoscopic patterns on their surface. The CymaScope allows us to see this previously hidden realm of beauty.

There is much more information about how this works on the website, which also has a CymaPiano. You can click on the keys to see what each note looks like. Plus there’s a “cymatics experiment,” a short video of Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine. So cool!

you: a work of art in progress

If you thought of your life as a work of art in progress, what existing art form would it most resemble? The idea of living one’s life as a “work in progress” is not new, and I have come across it many times in my travels. More than a few years ago, when I was struck afresh by the rich possibilities of artistic metaphor, I took a look at my own life in this context and also surveyed some friends. My own answer to the question was immediate and obvious, but I was surprised by every single answer I received from my friends.

An ex-insurance industry executive said that his life would be a multi-media performance piece. A writer described her life as a sculpture, while a musician called his life a “junk” sculpture. A computer  programmer was clear that his life was a symphony. Several years later, I posed the question to several different people and got a whole new set of answers, including:

Kelly words

At that time, I saw my own life as a play and this is what I wrote about it:

The things in my life are all stage props; I’m very aware of setting my scenes. All the people in my life are characters in my play and so, of course, am I. I just happen to be writing, directing, and starring in this production which, a friend remarked, would probably be the most expensive play ever produced.

There’s an inherent discipline in living one’s life as a play in progress. This is different from the discipline that’s part of living life as a sculpture or as a painting or as a symphony. In a play, props and scenery are vital–but only to the scenes in which they belong. One can’t become too attached to any particular props. Staging is also important and so are timing and pacing.

I recall being conscious of things as background props and of people (including myself) as characters from an early age. I wrote plays, read plays, directed amateur productions, and hung out with the local drama group. I thought up names and descriptions of characters, along with elaborate decorating schemes, to amuse myself. When I was old enough to notice I decided this was an odd way to think about things. Whereas other people seemed to make choices almost by instinct, I could consider a range of alternatives: the final choice depended on the requirements of the scene or the plot line; choosing otherwise seemed  arbitrary.

That felt like a strange approach, but strange or not, it was my approach. When it came time for me to reinvent myself at a major twist in the plot, I had no difficulty changing my wardrobe, my style, my attitude, and even my name. After all, this isn’t real life–whatever that’s supposed to be.

I wouldn’t use the same metaphor to describe my life now. Some days it feels like a surrealistic jigsaw puzzle: challenging, colorful, so much to look at, still not put together, and not at all what you’d (or I’d) expect.

What about you? If your life were a work of art in progress, what metaphor would you choose to describe it? Would it be a painting, a sculpture, a black and white photograph? A novel, a short story, a play, a poem, an essay? Would it be a symphony, an opera, a collage, a Rodgers and Hart musical, a movie? Or…what?

mandala daze

An assortment of colored pencils

An assortment of colored pencils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the influence of the friend I stayed with right after I moved to San Francisco in 1974, I bought a box of crayons and some colored pencils and jumped into mandala-making. The practice involved creating a new one each day. My first efforts were kind of crude, but the intention was to develop self-awareness rather than to create works of art.

Nevertheless, I was dissatisfied with the slapdash approach that seemed to be necessary in order to produce a new mandala every day. I started being more deliberate and spending more than one day working on each one. Right around then, I met RC (my partner of 30 years), who was a very talented artist. He was working with the mandala form on both small and large scales. He had a stash of drafting tools (among other stashes) and showed me how to use them (the drafting tools). We got into the habit of spending hours sitting together at the dining table, each working on our own drawings.

I made a couple dozen mandalas using markers and colored pencils and developed a heavy Prismacolor habit. We framed a few and hung them on the wall. But i stuck them inside a manila folder a decade or two ago and filed it away in such a safe place I haven’t been able to lay my hands on it for years. In the course of looking for it, however, I unearthed a number of other things I’d forgotten I’d kept or had lost track of. So it’s fitting that last week, while looking for something entirely unrelated, I finally found the manila folder containing the mandalas!

The ones I like best are:

Mandala #1

Mandala #1

Mandala #2

Mandala #2

Mandala #3

Mandala #3

Mandala #4

Mandala #4

Mandala #5

Mandala #5

Mandala #6

Mandala #6

Mandala #7

Mandala #7

Mandala #8

Mandala #8

All of these were created in 1975 and 1976, before the advent of the personal computer and scanner. It was a different time and place, a different way of life. That’s one of the reasons I’m glad to have found them. They remind me of living at a slower pace, of paying attention to things in a different way, and of the companionable evenings RC and I spent together.

I still enjoy coloring mandalas occasionally, but even though I have that stash (of drafting tools) around here somewhere, I haven’t taken the time to draw my own designs in so long it seems unlikely I’ll ever do it again. But that’s OK. That was then, and this is now.

Is there something you once really got into and enjoyed, but that you no longer do–or maybe no longer even think about?

bright things


Brightness (Photo credit: gibsonsgolfer)

The world is full of poetry.
The air is living with its spirit;
and the waves dance to the music of its melodies,
and sparkle in its brightness.

–James Gates Percival

One cold, dark winter afternoon when the temperature never rose above freezing all day and I felt trapped inside my office in front of my computer, I looked around the room at all the bright things I’ve put here.

I won’t go so far as to say say my world is full of poetry right now, but there’s a hint of its brightness here and there.











Vase (underwater upside down)

Vase (underwater upside down)

Reality (ala Brian Andreas)

Reality (ala Brian Andreas)

Good Advice!

Good Advice!

A bit of brightness landed on that one. Happy Saturday!


Once upon a time, in a life far far away, I came upon the instructions for an activity called creative doodling. Before describing it, though, I have to confess to a tendency I may have been born with to absorb activities like this one and then immediately turn around and teach them to any person or group halfway willing to give them a try. I used to say about myself that I was born to disseminate information. But the complete truth is that I was also born to show you how to do this stuff–whether you want to do it or not. Well, I haven’t actually hogtied anyone yet. That would be kind of counterproductive when it comes to creative doodling.

Creative doodling is an art therapy exercise, but don’t let that put you off. It’s also fun. And so easy to do. Start with your dominant hand.

  1. Get out a couple of pieces of drawing paper (larger is better), masking tape, and some colored markers or crayons.
  2. Tape a piece of paper to a flat surface with masking tape to keep it from moving around.
  3. Choose a marker or crayon.
  4. Close your eyes and run your hand over the page to locate the edges.
  5. With your eyes still closed, start drawing on the page. Don’t lift the marker off the paper; your drawing should be composed of one unbroken line.
  6. Don’t try to draw anything in particular. Just let your hand (and marker) wander all over the page until you feel like you’re done.
  7. Open your eyes and check out your work. Look at it this way and that (sideways, upside down) until you find an image in it. The image can take up most of your drawing or only a portion of it. It can be fairly complete or only hinted at.
  8. Once you’ve found your image, use the rest of your markers to elaborate it.
  9. When you’re done, title your drawing.
  10. Repeat with your non-dominant hand. (You can use your dominant hand to finish the drawing.)

These are examples of two of my creative doodles, the first with my right hand and the second with my left hand.

Right hand: Impossibility Takes Flight

Right hand: Impossibility Takes Flight

Left hand: Turkey-Swan

Left hand: Turkey-Swan

I include them to demonstrate that NO artistic talent whatsoever is required for this activity.

I love color and I enjoy coloring, so sometimes I do this just for fun. But it’s an activity that can also provide a little personal insight if you take the extra step and either journal about the pictures or at least tell yourself their stories. Another thing to do is write down the first five or six words that come to mind when you look at a finished drawing.

This doodle, Bird’s Eye View, is one of my favorites.

Right Hand: Bird's Eye View

My doodles tend to include a lot of critters, among them a one-eyed flying fish and a rather demented frog. That’s just what I see. So now you know.

don’t you want to be Maria Popova?

Maria Popova

How about Curator of Interestingness, then? So cool! And I’m a little jealous. Even if Popova made up the title and gave it to herself, take a look through her website (Brain Pickings) and I think you’ll agree the title is pretty accurate. It’s a website you can get lost in, full of all kinds of interesting (of course) and creativity related information, material, and links.

My favorite part of Brain Pickings so far is literary jukebox, which features a “quote from a favorite book, thematically matched with a song.” Some of the quotes are long; others are quite short. I like the pairing of this short quote about change from Henry Miller with the song “Change is Hard,” by She and Him.

You can sign up to receive Brain Pickings’ free weekly newsletter. One recent issue features an article about why writers write, composed of excerpts from an essay by Joy Williams. Nicely timed with National Novel Writing Month. The current issue includes a piece titled What Will Survive of Us Is Love: Helen Dunmore’s 9 Rules of Writing. Rule No. 1: Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

Popova was named one of the top 100 creative people in business in 2012 by Fast Company. She also writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic, and several other publications and edits Explore, “a discovery engine for meaningful knowledge, fueled by cross-disciplinary curiosity.”

The Brain Pickings and Explore websites each have an entirely different look and feel, but both are appealing and very nicely designed.

Sadly, although I would love to be Maria Popova and to have invented a career as Curator of Interestingness, I would not love to take on her daily work schedule, which is a real bear. So I’ll continue stumbling around in the world of interestingness, keep tuning in to the literary jukebox, and admire Ms. Popova from afar. Or from Twitter or Facebook. Maybe both.

Who would you like to be?

a collaborative adventure

This is a guest post by my friend Sylvia Davis, a very creative quilt artist. She graciously agreed to undertake making something to hang on a wall in my living room. I love the resulting piece.

A group of friends was at my house for dinner, and as often happens, we all gravitated to my workroom to discuss my current quilting projects. Silent amongst them stood Joycelyn, who was looking thoughtfully at each of the wall hangings in the room. These were predominantly modern abstract stained glass-like patterns in bright colors using bias tape and sometimes beading. They had been created over many years sans any formal training other than an occasional quilting class and around working full time and raising teenagers; they were just for fun. Later she asked if I could make one like these for her, as she had a space in her living room that called out for something interesting. And with that, our collaborative adventure began.

Soon I put together many of my design books for stained glass (mostly Dover) and a notebook of my own projects and went over to Joycelyn’s place. We looked around at her living room, noting the design elements and colors that already existed (heavily Southwest), looked at the space above some bookcases where the wall hanging would be hung, and determined a size of 46 x 18 inches. We went through all the idea books, putting Post-Its on all the pages that showed something she liked. Then we went back to each Post-It page one by one and discussed which details she liked, pulling graceful lines from one, circles from another, and placement from yet another as well as the idea of having one design element go outside the basic rectangle. We made a rough drawing of what we had in mind…

…and set off for the quilting shops for fabric. Two stores later, voila! We found a Southwest abstract in several color schemes. There we sat on the floor of a fortunately empty store, bolts all around us and two store cats wending their way in between us, and we made our decisions.

As I drove home after our purchase, I was utterly amazed that in one short afternoon we had both designed the wall hanging and bought the fabric! I had expected a much more laborious process. Our success lay in Joycelyn’s innate design sense, which meant that, even without the element of color, she knew immediately what she liked and didn’t like. Combined with my experience in which details would likely work and which presented too many problems or conflicted with the overall design, we had made short work of the whole designing process.

Then began several weeks of communication with each other whenever there were decisions to be made about colors and other details, sometimes in person and sometimes via photographs and e-mails. We were both startled at the number of times we had been independently thinking of the same change. We progressed through the paper true-to-size layout…

…transfer of the layout to the background light teal fabric, grid quilting of the background…

…placement and sewing of the curving lines, and assembly and attachment of the circles without a hitch.

I couldn’t find the right color of cording for some of the circles, but found crocheting thread and braided it into two sizes, and we both liked the texture the braiding added and the tie-off of the threads that created some draped detail.

When the wall hanging was nearly complete, we met in a gemstone shop to choose the final embellishments. Then, only two months later, her new wall hanging was proudly in place, a bold statement that pulls many elements of her living room together satisfyingly.

What a delightful adventure!

NOTE: I couldn’t agree more. Collaborating with Sylvia was great fun, and after just over six months, I can’t imagine not having this piece hanging on the wall of my living room.  It just seems to belong there. Thank you, Sylvia! Looking forward to our next project together.

all is not lost

Found on Radiolab. Wow!


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