Another Path Towards Creativity

“We are who we think we are”

“There is no greater enemy in your life than your own thoughts”

These statements come from Buddhist Philosophy and I see them as some of the greatest truths.  Following this practice is very much to do with being aware of yourself, your thoughts and how they can be a good or a bad influence on your life.  The study and its practice teaches awareness, compassion and equanimity.

The statements are easily applicable to the need or search for Creativity. Having trouble with finding or being creative is rooted in, fear, distraction, lack of motivation, handicap of personal obligations and self-applied rules.  All these limitations and emotions are rooted in our own thoughts about ourselves and, therefore, how we live our lives.

You may not be inclined to explore further in this philosophy but I think the statements are indisputable.  Even if you look outside of yourself and find other reasons for your conclusions about your emotions and/or limitations, you still, at one time,  accepted those outside influences and made them part of your repertoire of thoughts, behavior and perception.

So, if you are convinced of the truth of these statements you have to accept your own self-imposed limitations and behaviors.  This is GOOD NEWS.  You know who is responsible and taking that responsibility is the first step to change!

Here are just a few suggestions:

Surround yourself in inspiration – a forest, a beach, a mountain, a garden, a religious service, a good book, a museum, study.   Find your place that positively feeds your senses.

Find and Feed your Passion. Read about it, visit centers, museums showing works of people who have succeeded in their passion. Examine, explore. Read biographies for inspiration.

Be around inspiring people.  If there is someone or maybe even more than one person who you find a drag or a negative influence to your life, reject and stay away from them.  If this does not seem possible to you, just realize their influence, personally reject it and plan for a future where you know you will not be influenced by them.  Find like-minded people and exchange ideas. Make this part of your mission.

Visualize how you will feel when you reach your goals.  This is part of the work of Becoming.

Do the Work.

Replace the rules you have set for yourself, your habits, your routine.  Reject procrastination as your worse enemy.

Write your own Mission Statement:  This is your step towards self-awareness.  Be as creative you can be about where you are and where you would prefer to be.  It may seem far out and challenging at first because your habitual thoughts, rules and self-limitations will try to sneak in and may tell you to be ‘reasonable’.  But take over, don’t be in the least bit ‘reasonable’ and allow yourself the freedom to dream.

Welcome Rejection

Turning rejection around and use it as an opportunity for growth

Once gain Jeremy Sutton writes:

“Embrace Every Problem as a Gift

Creativity starts with an inspiration. That inspiration can be an idea you have or a problem you face. Every idea presents a problem as well as an opportunity. Put another way, Inspiration = Problem + Opportunity. The problem, or challenge, is how to manifest and realize the idea. The opportunity is to engage in the process of exploring solutions and to bring something into existence that didn’t exist before. With this perspective you can now embrace every problem and challenge as a gift. Every problem is an opportunity for creativity.”

We learn more from failure than success.  If all we get is praise, how do we handle rejection and where do the opportunities for change or growth exist?

With failure, after digestion, comes the motivation to look at what we are doing from another perspective.  To explore other solutions to problem(s). It is a nudge to take a fresher look or create another perspective

The idea is not to feel defeated but to welcome critique and failure to question our complacency and look at things afresh.  Few of us do not ride on the coattails of our successes and keep repeating over and over again until Bam!!  From our inner voice or critic: “No, that’s enough, not anymore”. “You are quite capable of exploring something new.”

As a watercolor painter one of my goals is to work towards recognition by my peers and gain acceptance into a Watercolor Society Juried Exhibitions.  I have had my fair share of rejections and, after the initial disappointment and feeling of deflation, I take another look at my submission.  I nearly always try to look with a objectivity and more critical, fresher eye. 

I hardly ever redo a painting, but the experience of rejection always makes me try a little harder with a new painting in whatever area I have judged to be the reason for rejection.  It could be the color palette or the something in the composition.   It could be the subject matter and the submission is judged as being ho-hum and “Oh, not another view of the Bridge of Sighs”.  Sometimes I decide on several facets of a particular painting that could benefit a second approach.  But, for sure, the rejections have prompted me to look more critically, nudge complacency and offer an opportunity for growth.

The arts, sports, a sales career, college studies, even parenthood are all areas where  disappointment and rejection is a part of the experience.  I remember as a parent, consoling my son during an experience of rejection and reassuring him to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow.  We all have hurdles to jump and the more experience we have in jumping, the higher our poles and aims may go.  So welcome the challenge and never, ever take it personally.

It makes acceptance and success all the more rewarding.

Creativity – An Inward Approach

Ideas to attain an attitude of creativity

I have read that artists can be seen as aloof, independent, odd, even arrogant.  I am not sure I totally agree but I think these observations could offer some insight into attaining a state of creativity.


Creativity is an individual endeavor.  I have experienced brainstorming sessions where like-minded people build on each other’s ideas.  This can be a really inspiring experience.  But, for long-term, attitude changing, intentional strives towards being creative we need to depend upon our own, internal thoughts and imagination.   We need to give them space in our daily lives and in our practices. If you need the company and approval of others, if you crave adulation and look outside of yourself for fulfillment, I think it will be challenging to guide yourself to a creative mode of thinking.  If you live with a person or people who constantly demand your attention and make their needs your focus, this too would be a handicap to sustainable creativity. A creative mode is a state of mind where the exchange is between the creator and the inspirational thought and/or the process of creating.  Not that we cannot be inspired by what someone else says or a scene, a situation we can observe.  But to cultivate creativity as an attitude we need to have an inner dialog.  I like to study the Dharma or Buddhist Philosophy.  Somewhere in those teachings I remember reading that the mind can only think of one thing at a time.  It can wander from one idea to another and sometimes those thoughts can be totally unrelated.  But it is still only one thought at a time.  That’s why I liken the state of creativity to meditation.  Anybody who is in daily pursuit to create something can attest that time and surroundings will disappear. To purposefully meditate we attempt to clear the mind and have no thoughts, or meditate on one idea or concern.  Otherwise we have to deal with the ‘monkey-mind’ which takes you on a mental journey of mixed thoughts, which is not necessarily one you would choose to take and can be unproductive.  From this idea we can assume that we are not really in control of our own thoughts. Sometimes we need to reel them in and discipline them.   This needs a lot of practice!  But it is attainable and, over time, we can learn to get into a meditative state of mind quite quickly.  And yes, we can choose our thoughts and judgements.  If meditation is not for you, just learning to relax and be alone with your own thoughts is still a good source of inspiration and a habit to cultivate.  Take a walk on the woods, the beach, your neighborhood.  Be aware of your surroundings, the sounds, the sights, a breeze, fragrances.  But be aware of yourself within that environment, be aware of your heart beat your breath, thoughts and how they make you feel.   Do you have a slight smile or are you frowning. Don’t allow your awareness to take you away from your surroundings.  But remember, we are cultivating an attitude.  Don’t frustrate yourself with the self-defeating intention to get an inspiration during one session of being with yourself.

Photo by Bich Tran on


Thoughts and ideas can be so fleeting.  Get into the habit of writing them down.  Keep a notebook close by.  Any observation, insights, thoughts, dreams are worth noting.  Any image is worth drawing.  Your notes and doodling become reminders of fleeting, inspirational thoughts.  Don’t judge or question those thoughts.  Your thoughts may seem to have nothing to do with the creative process, but you are giving yourself permission, you are making your thoughts noteworthy and, when you review or re-read, the note could prompt a thought you may judge as more inspirational.  The goal is to start the communion with yourself, giving yourself permission and worthiness.

Please, if any of this strikes a cord in you, please leave your comments and please subscribe to my musings.


Exploring Creativity

Erick Wahl writes…..

“The purpose of art is not to produce a product. The purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art – but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless.

Artwork should be an active verb (a lens by which to view the world) not a passive noun (a painting that sits dormant in a museum). Creativity lies NOT in the done but in the doing. Art is active and incomplete. Always shifting, always becoming. Art is a sneak peak into the future of potential, of what could be. Not a past result of what has been already done. Art is a process not a product.

Art is a human act. Art is Risky. Generous. Courageous. Provocative. You can be perfect, or you can make art. You can keep track of what you will get in return for your effort, or you can make art. You can enjoy the status quo, or you can make art.

This is the purpose for why art should not be cut from education.

Erick obviously has some very narrow ideas about the definition of art.  He would have it that it is all in the process and gives no credibility to a product of that process.  I agree, if becoming more creative is the goal, then forgetting about the product and just ‘do it’ is certainly good advise.  So many ‘artists’ spend their time judging what art trends are, designated color of the year, what architects and designers are looking for, or checking out a juror’s art work to sway their style of painting.  

Historically, his claim was very evident in art schools of the 1960’s through 80’s.  Painting teachers were reluctant to lay down any rules and expected students to find their own means of expression.  The student needed to attend a design class to learn about standard guidelines.  The Painting teacher came from the Expressionist era where the goal was ‘autonomy’ between the painters’ more subjective feelings, heart/ soul in order to produce something with more spontaneity and ‘expression’.  The artists’ goal was more revelation than intention.  Those ideas still exist today, although there is more of an emphasis on content to express reality, or the artists view of their perceived reality, rather than it being just a vehicle for internal expression.  

As a student, on the first day of painting class, it was an exercise in frustration with a feeling similar to getting ready to jump in the deep end of a pool from a high diving platform.  We didn’t know anything about materials, paint, brush and surface characteristics, plus the added intimidation of being a freshman trying to deal with acceptance.  What a relief to have permission to set up a still life and the principle of just ‘blocking in’.  It got me in the pool.  Then we found out there was something called ‘critique’ at the end of every class. It helped to take a philosophy class in conjunction with art classes.  I think we earned our initiation.

As a teacher I have noticed how so many beginners are nervous to even start a painting, some even freeze up.  As if laying out their souls to the world or revealing something very personal.  I’ve seen how students can intimidate themselves.  The is probably what Wahl alludes to when he wrote about the idea of ‘perfection’  The student is afraid not to be perfect.  So, yes, I agree, the creative process is not about the product but a concentration on the enjoyment of the process and a degree of ‘introspection’ that brings success, ironically, in the end product.  Rather than a headache, the student experience becomes more aligned with meditation, with time just disappearing.

I don’t like Erik’s claim that all paintings in museums were not created in the pursuit of art.  Maybe we call them art works.  But, just like science, we need to know where we have been in order to move towards innovation.  What is the purpose of studying Art History if this were not true?

The truest statement he made:  Art should not be cut from Eduction.


Photo by Nandhu Kumar on

How do we define Creativity?  Is it a natural, innate or learned trait? Does it mean production of something new?  In the practice of making things and finding ways to get them to market?  What about the idea of being a creative thinker.  Thinking of the possibilities rather than allowing the handicaps to hinder.  Why something positive should happen rather than spending energy on why it shouldn’t.  I guess this is the difference between an optimism and a pessimism.  Can a pessimist be creative?  Does it need to be expressed in a product?  Or maybe it is just in the ideas.  Do the ideas need to be put into action or produced?  Is a poem a poem only when it is written down?  Certainly an idea for a novel cannot materialize until it is written.  But does it need to be published to be considered creative.  Is the word ‘Creative’ a noun, and adjective or a verb?  Is the process of a actually writing the book the creative endeavor?  

I like Jeremy Sutton’s definition:

It is All in Your Attitude

“What is this mysterious sought-after thing called “creativity” and how can we nurture it in our lives? Creativity is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.” The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes creativity as “a quality of making, or an ability to make, something original rather than copied.” Both definitions reflect originality and newness. Creativity can be looked at as the bringing together of an idea or problem (inspiration) with action that manifests the idea, resolves the problem and results in something that didn’t exist before. That is, Creativity = Inspiration + Action. Creativity can be applied in all aspects of your life, not just creating expressive art. When it boils down to it I see creativity as an attitude. It is all in your attitude how you respond to an inspiration or a challenge or an idea, and whether you transform potential into process and succeed in working through, resolving and manifesting your ideas. Are you called to action? It is the Creativity Attitude! that calls you to action that I wish to share with you here.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Jeremy.  It is all in the attitude and how we respond to life’s stimuli.  Nurturing creativity we have prioritized it in our lives.  Some people say, “One day I want to…”,  Others, “I have a plan which I will start as soon as……”…Still some will say, “I know what I am doing and, I may be taking some chances here, but here I go”.   Even others will say, “I’m just doing it and I don’t have a choice but to follow my instincts.”

I know many productive people… (maybe that is another aspect of creativity…surrounding yourself with other ‘creatives’ with whom you can share, motivate, inspire)  Who think of their expression of their Creativity as a job.  Most don’t necessarily get on the job at a specific time of the day, take regular breaks and work until dark.   I’ve known some who prefer the night hours liking the silence and stillness.  Nearly all of them, including me, have a dedicated space.  That is extremely important.  

Having to set up the materials of your Creativity every day can easily become an excuse not to get on with it.  Although that is probably where everyone starts – the kitchen or dining table while baby or kids sleep or at school.  The other side is to actually produce and that is where the equation would extend:

 Idea or Inspiration + Action = Creativity = Product.  

But I also think the mulling of the idea and/or inspiration as a creative process.  I am a painter and, when I travel, especially as a passenger, I constantly think about how I can interpret the scene in front of me, what colors do I see in nature. what colors would I use.  Unless I take a photograph, I rarely end up with a product of those thoughts and ideas, especially as they change with every few miles of travel.  But I believe I am thinking creatively.

So how can we actually choose to have a Creative Attitude.  I think it starts with the way we think about ourselves and how we fit into the world.  This produces our ‘self-image’.  Authors have written books about how Creativity can be learned and how their book will give all the answers.  A very creative marketing plea?  I am a bit skeptical of those claims.  I just don’t see that it can be prescribed.  I think, we face decisions every waking minute of our day and deciding to be creative is, in itself, a creative decision.

It probably helps to be given permission to be creative.  Not just to ourselves, but the people with whom we share our lives.  I am lucky that my husband gives me the freedom to explore my creativity and supports my efforts to expand creatively.  I guess, in that regard, we can think of Maslow’s Triangle with the necessities to sustain life at the very bottom of the triangle and self-actualization at the very peak.   

So is practicing creativity the same thing as Self-Actualization?  Or maybe creativity has nothing to do with reaching Self-Actualization?  Can those with only physiological needs be creative?  If so, from where do they get the inspiration?  So much to ponder and this subject is one of my favorites. Please join the conversation…


Starting from here:

Since I started my art painting and print business, I have periodically evaluated where I stand from a marketing point of view. Most artists will say they find it very difficult to switch from a right brained activity like creating a painting to thinking about analytics, selling and ways to reach out to people. But, let’s face it, the best compliment anyone can give is to purchase an art piece and then give it pride of place in their home or give as a well thought out gift. We will not get many buyers by working all the time in our studios.

I soon turned to creating a personal website which has been in place since 2011. At that time I decided that site was suitable for a gallery of my large works, intended for art society juried show submission and sales of original and giclee prints.

But before I created my personal web site I imagined painting and printing small prints for local distribution. I am fortunate to live in Williamsburg, VA. where we have many sites of historical interest: Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and, within a short distance, the beaches and the Bay Tunnel Bridge. Going further afield, Charlottesvilles and the Blue Ridge Mountains are only 2 1/2 hour drive. I approached my local Barnes and Noble store which is located in Merchants Square, part of the Colonial Williamsburg district. I discovered they were interested in carrying watercolor prints of scenes from the campus at College of William and Mary and, in particular, the Crim Dell Bridge.

There was much to consider like printing and resourcing materials like wholesale mats, backing boards, packaging then consider the price I needed to sell in order to make this new business viable. I had to keep in mind that it had to be a wholesale price because any retail business would want to add at least 100% mark up. I had to consider optimum size of the print and its mat. Then, probably the most important consideration, was what painting technique of watercolor painting should I use and what size the prints should be. Equipped with my new 35mm digital camera I took many shots of the Crim Dell Bridge but soon realized I needed a photo editing program. It took about a year to master Photoshop and I found the best way to learn was to solve specific problems, ask specific questions and then find the answers. This way the operations stayed in my head rather than going through a rote process of all the program is capable. Although I also purchased video, instructional tapes to speed things up. At first, I really only used Photoshop for cropping photo images and some simple enhancing with tools, like changing value contrast. But I also used it to get my scanned painted images by using photo merge for the larger images. This way I could enhance how the image would look in the finished, print product. The image I saw on my screen had to correspond with a clean, sharp image from my newly purchased, Epson Chrome Ink printer.

Crim Dell

It was the start of my new print business starting with the Crim Dell Bridge at the College of William and Mary, quickly followed by the Wren Building and scenes from Colonial Williamsburg. The store later asked me to do in-store print signings which gave a lot of valuable, buyer interaction and information. Like the demand for other, local scenes and offering a choice of different sizes. After learning how to accomplish all the individual necessary tasks, I quickly turned to offering my prints to other colleges, mostly in Virginia. It helped my marketing efforts that I had a website to which to I could refer my prospects.

But, in the time of COVID-19, like many businesses, college campus book stores have closed and, consequently, their orders for art prints. But Etsy continues to pick up sales, even the larger, high resolution prints, or Giclees

I intend to use this Blog to share my passions, my thoughts, techniques and methods about art, watercolor painting, color theory, design, art marketing, art critique, art trends, art travel, workshops, personal experiences and whatever related subjects comes mind. I hope this finds others who have a spark of interest in its content and I will be pleased to exchange with any interested reader.

Please feel free to leave responses, questions and, hopefully, we can have some valuable exchanges.