Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

The New York Times announced today that the king of children’s book illustration has passed into his next creative adventure. Read more here.

From all of us who were inspired endlessly by your creativity, innovation and just plain brilliance…endless thanks…and bless you Maurice!


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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is equipment.

A casual observer might list the equipment of my trade as paper, pencil, paint, light box and table. But I know that my most valuable tool is the unseen Source of ideas and images that sustains and encourages my work as an artist. And like air, it is a gift. I would not last very long without it…

Many years ago, a woodworker friend told me that he had just spent the day sharpening his planer blades. At the time, I assumed that he wasn’t feeling up to working that day, but he calmly explained that if he did not periodically stop work to sharpen blades, the dull blades would soon begin to tear up boards instead of planing them smooth. Even then, the analogy was not lost on me.

The wisdom of this approach to work and life has become more and more apparent as time passes. Sharpening planer blades is very much akin to my own need to tend the unseen Source of my creativity… the real equipment of my artist’s life. I do this through making time for reflection, remembering my dreams, walking, reading words of wisdom, and communing with other artist’s work who also attempt to balance life and creativity in this way. I do my best to stay attuned to the thread of images that trickles or flows into my awareness. And I am old and wise enough now to admit that the Flow is always there… but the reception of it on my end can be pinched or wide-open, depending upon my level of distraction.

On especially distracting days, I still long for a life apart from the mundane tasks and ‘interruptions’ of the world. Eventually, I remember Carolyn Myss‘ words about the need to become “mystics without monasteries”— the challenge to bring creativity and spiritual attunment into everyday living. Myss (as well as many contemporary spiritual teachers) is very clear: we are being required, at this stage of human evolution, to be Present with everything… not just the peaceful and extraordinary moments, locked away in our monk’s cells and artist’s studios.

It is a high-level challenge that pushes my own buttons about work and security, and I need regular reminders that Something is living itself through me, not the other way ’round…

“Muse II” (oil on paper).

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ahead.

In my world, ahead is another word for the future. No… not the Back to the Future kind, but the kind that exists inside my very own head. Admittedly, it’s a place I spend a lot of time in… Trying to simultaneously exist in this studio moment and the future, I observe myself wondering… “Will the painting I’m making work out? Will anyone love it? Will I alienate everyone, and be pronounced a hack? Should I get a regular job and end the misery? What’s for dinner… ?”

Of course, any bystander could tell me that this train of thought(s) is all a huge drain on my batteries, and especially on my creative batteries. But it seems to be a mental loop that runs pretty much on automatic. Most embarrassing to admit. I have gotten to the point where I can frequently ignore those monkey-mind voices and work anyway, but the fact that they are still there in the background is not something that I am proud of. I wish they would go away and leave me in peace… I take only a small bit of comfort in knowing that this mental state is largely ‘par’ for the human condition.

Conventional wisdom says that Time is linear—comprised of Past, Present and Future. But many spiritual teachers and mystics state that there is only NOW. In the past or in the future, everything was, or will still be, NOW. Yes, it’s a lot to wrap a little lump of cerebral cortex around…

Unfortunately, my mind is not usually content to hang out solely in the this NOW… everywhere else but here always looks so much more inviting, less problematic… and probably was, or will be, so much better than it is now. The contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, has written and taught extensively about this dilemma. Although he is not speaking specifically to the artist crowd, he is very clear that the full experience of being alive, not to mention any guidance that may be available, can only be experienced in this NOW. (I know from personal experience that this available guidance can even include practical information like what color to paint next, or even what to draw in the first place…)

I’m still trudging away on this journey back to the NOW… I’ll meet you there?

“Bird Thoughts (watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil)

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Mother Nature turned the outdoors white as I slept last night, blanketing the landscape in four inches of new snow. In one fell swoop, she hides the other colors’ attempts to announce themselves: the showy green and yellow of Spring daffodil, the blushing scarlet of quince blossom and the hopeful blue-violet of periwinkle. Not being a winter sports enthusiast… and rather uninsulated by body type… my first response to this whiteness is “Oh, no!”

As I grow older, I am getting better at watching my thoughts… and I realize that this response is uncomfortably similar to my response to the proverbial white paper or white canvas (a well-documented phenomenon among artists and writers alike). My own fear of the white page feels like a fear of nothingness, of a void… as if I will never make another good painting again. But if scientists and color theorists are correct, white is not ‘nothing’ at all, but the presence of ‘everything.’ Light shining through the clear, color-less prisms of crystal pendant in my studio window reminds me of this. On every sunny day, rainbows bounce off the wall in a splendid, soul-satisfying array of colors.

The story of Noah’s Ark illustrates this potential beautifully: from nothing (the result of rain and flood) can come everything (renewed life). When the rains have stopped and floods receded, the Creator sets a beautiful rainbow in the sky as a promise that this emptiness will never happen again.

Perhaps this promise is inherent in a prism, inherent in the color white? All of the colors are there, all of the colors are waiting for expression. Every possibility for creativity is dormant in white, whether white snow or white paper… it’s not a void at all. The fear is really more a fear of ‘over-choice,’ a fear of making the wrong choice, as if one could be wrong and another right. I suspect that this fear is a fear belonging to the ‘Little Me,’ to use an Eckhart Tolle expression… and will fade away as I become more comfortable with simply being the willing channel for whatever creativity wants to be born next.

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) put this idea quite nicely: “A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the Absolute can manifest.”

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Inner Wisdom

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

I have been thinking lately about the similarities between humans and their computers. Now, I suppose this should come as no surprise at all because humans invented computers… and “like father, like son” or, as in the ancient expression… “the prune does not fall far from the tree…” Nevertheless, I find some of the similarities a little unsettling. Take, for example, the concept of ‘external hard drive.’ Even a non-technical person like myself can recognize the value of a ‘back up’ for all of one’s precious information, photos and sources. But if viewed from the perspective of similarity between computer and human, the analogy becomes a disturbing reflection of a common human behavior.

‘External hard drive’ when viewed from the human perspective might reflect that we, as humans, tend to look for our value, our worth, and the meaning and directions for our lives… outside of ourselves. At first glance, most of us would say that “No, of course I don’t do that!” But how many of us are influenced–if only unconsciously–by fashion, polls, gossip, diets, styles-in-whatever-category, newspapers, magazines, the News, TV, peers, friends and family?

I am taking the long way around to make a point, I know…

The point I wish to make is that, for humans, this tendency toward ‘external hard drive’ can be a habitual denial of one’s own valuable uniqueness. (And for those of us who are artists, it is a rejection of the Muse from whence our creativity comes.) The world does not need one more person (or artist) who is just like so-and-so…. The world needs more people (and more artists) who are willing to turn towards his or her own Inner Wisdom for  guidance about how to live, what to do (and what to make). The world needs as many unique perspectives on Life as it can get. We need the full three hundred and sixty degree view of what Life is… or can be…

To quote Dane Rudhyar, “When you don’t follow your nature, there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be.”

“Inner Wisdom” (oil on canvas)

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