RobinLK ~ All About the Process

exploring life + learning + creative curiosity

Breast Cancer Logo Butterfly

September 30, 2014. The phone call. We heard the words. I wasn’t surprised based on the weeks leading up to that day. We are three girls in our family. We rally when we need to. Doctors’ appointments followed by waiting. Then the diagnosis. Our baby sister then 34, was starting a battle that claims so many. A mom of three and really a baby herself (at least to her two older sisters), our baby sister was scared to death. And so were we.

October 2014 – A small smile hides the many worries before starting treatment…..

And so it began…. six months of doctors’ visits, hospital visits, chemo, baldness, finding strength, and being so sick. Her daughter, then five, struggled to understand – even asking mommy not to come to school. Then, the day after her 35th birthday – surgery. Her life and her body were permanently altered. Watching her fight the battle was intense, sometimes surreal, and always painful. I wished so badly to take it away from her. For her.

2015…… Surgery day

Five years later, she is healthy and living life to its fullest. She ‘takes no shit,’ loves with her heart on her sleeve, and sees every detail in her world. She slayed the dragon but is always aware that another could appear. Now happily married to her soul mate, she makes no apologies for living life on her terms. She is wild. And mouthy. Responsible. And loving. Purposeful. And carefree. She is authentic.

April 2018 – Wedding Day!

On this five-year anniversary, and ironically on the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness month – a fact that did not go unnoticed five years ago for us – I remind you with love and awareness – to take care of yourself and support those fighting cancer.

Love you, Baby Sister….

Do you read? A lot? A little? Not at all? Many people I know, do not. Or do very little. Or do only for daily tasks (e-mails, road signs, contracts, notes from kids’ school, etc…). But wait. You’re reading this. Just sayin’….

According to Mr. Warren Buffett, reading a lot helps make us smarter. My takeaway when I read his advice is this: Reading often (and varied) gives us an advantage because we can oftentimes use that information in new ways as we piece different ideas, opinions, or facts together to form new ideas, opinions, or possibly – facts. This is the essence of creativity: making something new out of something that already exists.

Now we’re not talking novels and beach-style summer reading (you know what I mean… muscled guys and bodacious gals). No… this is more like nonfiction, informational reading that elicits questions in your head, opinions backed by thoughtful response….. that sort of thing.

Sidenote: As a Reading Specialist, I taught my high school and college students the same idea: Read often and ‘read widely’ (varied) to improve your vocabulary and general knowledge. Be ready to speak to many subjects – or at least, listen with a thoughtful perspective. Who knew Mr. Buffett and I would be on the same page? 🙂

He says, “That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”

He also says…. Sleep on it. Really. Let those ideas marinate. It’s like putting money in your knowledge bank, right?

source: forbes.com

So here’s my tip:

Read often. Read widely. Think. Sleep. Repeat.

Want to read the full article on Mr. Buffett’s thoughts on this? Check out this blog post over at Farnam Street.

What do you notice?

Do you see that small crack in the sidewalk as you walk from your car to your office? How about that piece of red thread that’s been billowing from the skinny tree branch outside your front door? Or maybe it’s the shape of someone’s eyes…. What about that scratch of green paint on that door? Or the old house you’ve passed a gazillion times? Did you notice that vintage truck in the parking lot that makes your heart sing every time you see it?

One of the hallmark characteristics of Creatives is simply We Notice. This is especially true of writers. No matter how small, we notice the details.

So what do you notice?

Here’s my tip:

Notice the details. Take pictures of everyday things as you move through your day. No posing. No selfies. No props. Just notice and click. Aim for 1 – 3 (or more!) pictures a day. Before long, you will have curated a small gallery of images that make you smile, laugh, or cry. They remind you of something – to do or say – or of someone. Or of that time…

Maybe you’ll be inspired to share them online or use them for reference to write or to paint…

Go ahead. Notice the details. You’ll be glad you did…

According to dictionary.com: vulnerable: an adjectivecapable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

Do you consider yourself vulnerable?

Do you ever watch, read, or hear something that REALLY resonates with you? I mean… like… stop-you-in-your-tracks resonates?

I find I’m often focused on things that bring me pause because I’m connecting the dots between ideas, but recently it happened in such a powerful way that I wanted to share it with you. I literally stopped what I was doing to process what I was hearing. Replay it. Process more.

I was working through an online course and required to watch a TED Talk in which Dr. Brené Brown shares her research and resulting paradigm shift about vulnerability. Unexpectedly, twenty minutes provided me with so much clarity about my personal and professional lives and further confirmed my direction as I build my business – which was the point of the activity.

I watched the video a third time the next morning. While watching each time, I discovered answers to questions that fill my head and heart. I found myself thinking each time I watched the video about specific people in my life and how we interact – or don’t – and why. I discovered that I fall into the ‘whole-hearted’ category of people defined by Dr. Brown’s research. I found that ‘wearing my heart on my sleeve’ is defined as vulnerability. And… it sure explains a LOT about my interactions with others.

It seems, based on her research, that many most (?) of us are not willing to be vulnerable. Instead, we numb our vulnerabilities – with debt, substances, medications… I realized that understanding this will help me continue working on my own pitfalls because though I’m largely vulnerable, there are areas that I can definitely improve upon!

The video also confirmed for me:

making art that gives my soul its voice and teaching the Creative Process (using words + colors) to address what needs addressing – is a worthy mission because we all have things to address.

Though most will define Creative Play as ‘time to socialize with others’ (true!), I will continue nurturing wellness for others through clarity, peace, and giving our soul its voice….

RobinLK Studios workshop participants, group members, and retreat guests are attending for fun, but many of us – especially returning guests – are showing up to show up… We know the real value in creative play and our own wellness, don’t we?

It is right with our soul.

We are willing to address what’s inside – usually privately – as we create our art and writing – and give our soul its voice.

so many serious faces as we focus on our art…

If you’ve got a few minutes, I invite you to watch Dr. Brown’s TED Talk… Then, watch for future Creative Play workshops. They’re cheaper than therapy, less harmful than substances and medications (though I’m told – just as addictive), and definitely fun. 🙂

Want to keep up with daily happenings in the art and writing studios? Join us on social media. You’ll find links below.

I often listen to people thinking through things at work. As an Instructional Coach, it’s a large part of my role… to listen. Just this week, I listened as a fellow teacher who’s in a new teaching role this year shared how much she dislikes what she’s doing. Not the kiddos, but the challenges that are systemic and largely unchangeable right now. (I’ve said for years our traditional educational system in the U.S. continues to fall short of our societal needs.)

As I listened, I could hear myself saying to her in my head, “Write it down. Work through it. I promise. It will help.” And yet, I didn’t say it because I knew it would fall on deaf ears. She needed to vent and trusts that she can be honest with me, which I’m keenly aware of. I listened.

But still I kept thinking… if only she’d write it down…. let the frustrations, the questions, the a-ha thoughts, even the celebrations (there was one that day – that’s why she called) all have a place to Just Be.

So here’s my tip….

Write it down. I know. I hear you. Are you kidding, Robin? It’s not that simple. Actually, yes it is.

Yet sooooooo difficult for many people. I think because we get caught up in the notion that we need to write comprehensible sentences. Not even comprehensible words… but full-on, grammar-correct, essay-ready sentences. And paragraphs. With proper indents. Transition words. A theme. Oh, dear god! We break out in a cold sweat as we remember those English class assignments. This is not English class, folks. We can do this! You can do this. Just. Write.

Just pick up a pen. Or pencil. Or lipstick. Or crayon. You get the idea…. And write that shit down. Apologies for the folks who prefer g-rated material, but I cannot overstate the simplicity of what I’m suggesting:

Write what you are feeling. One word. One hundred words. Just Write It Down.

Then, put it away for now. You’ve given your feelings, your thoughts a place to rest. To simmer. To marinate. To yell. Scream. Cry. Wonder. Explore. Discover.

I promise. You’ll be glad you did. Maybe not right away, but at some point, you will look back and see those words with a fresh set of eyes. And thoughts. And feelings.

P.S. – A fancy notebook and/or pen? Nope. Not needed. A writing utensil and a scrap piece of paper will do. Want to keep all those thoughts? Drop them in a plastic baggie for safekeeping. Or a box, jar, even a book on a shelf…

You get the idea.

Go ahead. Just Write.

A friend and I were talking on Facebook this week about making creative journals and writing (or not) in them. She said she loves to make them, but doesn’t write in them. I told her I don’t write in mine either…. at least not in the pen-to-paper sense.

Instead, my writing in creative journals is done using ‘found words’ – sometimes called ‘word bits’ or ‘word crumbs’ by fellow writers and artists. I like to tell stories in the shortest form possiblesometimes often with six or fewer words. I like inspiring others to tell their stories, too – by sharing a few words to nudge someone’s thinking/feeling/remembering….

So here’s my tip ….

Open a magazine or discarded book. Let your eyes scan the pages. Notice which words your eyes land on. Don’t force it. As I type this, I am envisioning a psychic/intuitive whose hands are moving slowly above an object or Tarot cards. I know – that sounds crazy! I get it. But it’s that kind of process – purely intuitive, instinctive. Not forced. Stay quiet inside your head and around you. Trust the process. Let your soul have a voice. When words jump out at you, that’s your soul getting its voice.

Once you find those words, cut them out and use them to tell your story… Or save them for another day. I have dozens of snack-size baggies with short stories waiting to be shared, alongside jars of words filling my Studio. Maybe it will be a short story – told in only a few words. Or, maybe those ‘found words’ become the beginning of a longer story inside you. It’s completely up to you….

Curious if there’s any historical reference to this? Check out this online article that talks about “Found Poetry” (what it’s often called) and an introduction to Dada Poetry, created in 1920 when Tristan Tzara “proposed to write a poem using random words pulled from a sack.”

Ready? Who knows? You may in the words of an art party/workshop guest last year, “Never look at words the same way again...!” Just sayin’. Have a terrific Tuesday!

…. Robin

It’s not uncommon to find random words stuck in funny places around our home… the side of a chair, between the couch cushions, the bottom of my shoe, the bottom of my foot (!), the inside of a cabinet… you name it. With more than 1,000 bits cut and waiting to be pressed into use, it’s not a far stretch to find them somewhere…. lurking. waiting. hanging out.

But that’s not really where I want those word bits to live!

So where are they when they aren’t roaming around our home?? I find everyday containers work great… some better than others. Three of my favorites are small mayo jars, wide-mouth salsa or queso jars, and Talenti jars (also wide-mouth). Each is small enough to place in my lap while watching TV and cutting up deconstructing books and to dig through when I’m looking for something. 😉 Sometimes the jars’ contents are even themed, which makes organizing and finding just the right word … easy.

Nothing fancy or complicated about this tip. Just lots of hot soapy water and plenty of drying time before using….. repurposed food containers + repurposed word bits and a dab of paint or washi tape (optional). Sustainable creative containers for the win!

Do you have a favorite repurposed, sustainable container you use for art + writing supplies?

It’s been a while since I cobbled words into a blog post. Nine months give or take. Where does the time go? To be sure, I’ve been writing plenty since then – filling writing notebooks before sunrise, building words into my art, and making notes in the margins as I read books that fill me with answers and more questions about the reading/writing/creating process. Business ownership also became a central theme as I committed to moving in the direction I’ve intended the past four years.

Less than 48 hours ago – after a month of planning, I enjoyed a Friday night Sip and Make Mixed-Media Art Workshop with friends – new and old. Afterward, I found myself – as I do each time I teach – reflecting on the process. What worked. What didn’t. What I could have done differently. If I’m lucky, I get organic feedback from workshop guests.

Saturday morning began like this:

Husband: Good morning!

Me: You know, I was thinking about last night’s workshop….

That poor guy. All these years later, he knows where my brain will go (and stay) until it has sufficiently chewed on whatever I’m processing. It began…

Husband: What were you thinking, honey…?

Me: Well, I was thinking…. I began to ramble through thoughts not yet completely formed…. (and before coffee)

Husband: Have you considered…..

As usual, his response gave me pause. Then as our day unfolded, he gave me space to process my thoughts…..

Here I am. Sunday morning. 5:38 AM. It’s time to find those words and leave them on this screen. Share my thoughts. Share my questions….

As I prepared for our workshop…..

I gathered materials and supplies, considered the techniques I’d share and packed plastic boxes with each carefully labeled. Just as I have in the classroom for the past 25 years, I needed to work out my teaching plan: topic, teaching strategies, and takeaways.

Topic (Project) established: Pocket Journals

Teaching Strategies mostly clear:

  • Provide our workshop game plan: the what, why and how
  • Review basic ingredients
  • Show samples of the project and variations, along with techniques to attain those creative choices
  • Introduce tools and materials
  • Have guests get started while I monitor, ask questions, answer questions, and guide the process – assessing where each participant is in her own creative process and adjusting my teaching to meet her there
  • Ask guests to reflect on the process as we wrapped up

Takeaways: What did I want guests to leave with? A pocket journal, but more than that – an understanding of the process we would spend 2+ hours exploring together….

I also kept thinking about past art parties. Did guests leave with a greater understanding of the creative process? It continues to be my question as I develop creative events for folks: Do you understand the relationship between creating and mindfulness? Are you allowing Creativity to give your soul a voice? Do you make the connection between the tangible elements (the creative ingredients we use) and your life?

If the answer is No to any of these questions, then my teaching goal has not been reached.

Creating is a connection to ourselves…. to our innermost feelings and emotions. Our stories. My goal is to help people recognize that connection, understand its power, and be open to exploring it. When we do, we begin to discover our own creativity and its impact on our life.

Fast-forward to the final 48 hours leading up to our workshop. That’s when it hit me! To help guests make the connection between our lives and our creating for this project, I needed to deliberately show how our lives are composed of pieces – of experiences and events, emotions and evolving thoughts. We are stitched together by the elements of who we become.

And there it was: Bit by bit, we become us.

To that end, each workshop guest received a small jar to place her bits into – each piece contained to the size of the jar. Use as many or as few and fill as many times as needed, but the “bits” needed to fit in the jar.

Watching that process unfold was fascinating!

I even received feedback the next day that made my heart sing…. milestones reached, breakthroughs made, creative interests defined… a joyful good time had.

Awesome! 🙂

Ready to do some artful journaling?  Wait. What? You can’t because you’re not a trained artist?  Well, that’s okay.  Me neither.  😉

Commonly called Art Journaling, putting colors and words on a page to express what’s on our minds is a way to creatively say what we need to say – even when we don’t realize we need to say it.  Our ideas need a place to ‘be’ – especially in this noisy world that constantly pokes at us.

I’d like to share something with you that I learned recently:

“Artful” journaling isn’t just for trained artists who are working out project ideas or practicing new techniques. Turns out, journaling artfully can be for anyone wanting to express him/herself through colors, words and images. A few terms are often used interchangeably. Knowing which is the best fit depends on our intent. 

  • Art Journal
  • Visual Journal
  • Creative Journal

Let’s break them down…..

Art journals have a long history. Well known (and not so well known) artists have worked out their artistic ideas, pondered mechanical development through images and words (da Vinci), documented historic events as they unfolded, and described works in progress. Sometimes called notebook, sometimes diary, other times journal. Whatever the term used, artists have been sketching/drawing/painting and writing thoughts for centuries. They use art journals/notebooks to work out their first draft (kind of like writing, don’t you think?).  Some current artists say art journals are generally associated with creating a product that can be/will be shared with others.

Visual journals also help us work out ideas, but have been historically associated with therapy. As a way to express one’s self, a visual journal acts as a safe place to work though personal ideas – thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc…. Colors, images and words help with healing. No harm in yelling at someone on a page, right? Visual journals are largely about the process for the person creating. Intention is more personal, less about sharing and more about processing quietly.

Creative journals seems to be a newer term, a hybrid of the first two types(?) – another place to explore and record what’s happening in our lives using colors, images and words. Creative journals seem (to me) to be the most relaxed (undefined??) of the terms used… as if to say, “I want to play with colors and words. I’m not necessarily happy or sad. I don’t necessarily need to be healed. I may or may not be artistically trained. I just want to throw paint at a page, doodle a bit, maybe add some pictures. I might throw in some words – found or created – for good measure. If I feel like it.”  It’s a place to think creatively (as much or as little as we feel like on any given day).  A creative journal seems to function on both the sharing/product side and on the private/process side – depending on the person creating it. The choice to share may also change day to day, entry to entry. I think I like this term best for these reasons…

Want to see a few creative journaling ideas? This fun one-minute clip will get you thinking….

 

All this talk about artful journaling and I wondered:  Do people still scrapbook? How is art/visual/creative journaling different from scrapbooking? I’m reminded of Beverly Goldberg as she lovingly cuts, glues and sticks pictures of her ‘schmoopy’ kids.  Or, as you’ll see in this clip, her devoted husband gives it a go.   🙂

To answer my question, I asked Google and here’s what I found (I’m paraphrasing):  Scrapbooking is defined as ‘recording family life events’ while journaling is associated with reflecting on and recording things we’re experiencing and/or trying to figure out.

Bottom line? Artful journaling (similar to keeping writing journals) is about process. It’s about exploring life, learning, and creative curiosity. It’s about figuring things out, whether privately or publicly. Or both.  As you’ll see in this clip, five journal artists share their perspective:  “Which type of journal you choose is really about your intent for its purpose.”   (18 min clip)

 

I’ve dabbled in “art journaling” over the past three years, trying different artistic techniques and materials as I’m learning, but realize I’ll probably call it “creative journaling” going forward – with my focus, my intent being on the process (as I do in my writing notebooks). Or, perhaps I’ll continue to keep multiple notebooks/journals to serve various purposes??

Side Note:  Though I describe my art-making as process-oriented (read: slow and organic), I’ve recently realized as I’ve been spending more time in my art/creative journal that my ‘making’ is quicker and more clear there.  I understand now after reading about these types of journals and hearing various artists’ perspectives about intent that my art for the public impacts my process; I consider what others may or may not like. That’s in stark contrast to my art journaling, for my eyes only… all bets are off. I sometimes choose to share parts of the process along the way, but I am selective, which affords me privacy and unrestraint.

My goal for 2019:

Continue building Creative Community in the new year. I look forward to encouraging others to discover their own creativity through writing, ‘arting,’ and journaling.  🙂

Do you keep a creative (art/writing/etc…) notebook or journal?

 

Thursday, October 19, 2017.  3:22 PM.

The cheery jingle of an arriving text message caused no alarm. Just another afternoon heading home from campus. Youngest sister checking in. I glance at the phone while the car cools down. Falling below 80 degrees in October is always the hope by Floridians, but jack-o-lanterns turning mushy in Florida heat and humidity is the reality.

Text Message You need to call me now.Ready to head home, I begin steering the car out of its space  and head toward the main road. Her words stop me:  “Mom just called. You guys need to call me now.”

I dial the phone. Her shaky voice does not hide her concern. I can feel it: Life was changing in the instant. An ordinary instant, indeed.

Looking back, rereading the messages, I see the irony now:  The text message arrived at 3:22 from a sister born on 3/22. What were the chances?

Little did I know what was about to happen. But it did that Thursday afternoon. I waited patiently for my husband to arrive home. A rare business day in Jacksonville had him on the road, now rushing while phoning my mother for details.

6:20 PM:  a text to my sisters – We’re on the way.

The hour+ drive felt like eternity. Heading east, darkness engulfs the remaining orange slivers of the setting sun as we drive toward the coast. Heavy rain threatens to slow us down. I think about Mother Nature feeling the loss as Bob slips quietly away in the sterile bed that will comfort him in his final sleep.

Heavy traffic shows no mercy as tired commuters, oblivious to our pain and determination, push toward home. Our wish to arrive quickly to the place protecting him as he dies slowly matters not to fellow drivers.

7:36 PM:  A smiling security guard welcomes us and asks that we empty pockets, open bags, and obtain badges. He is here – business as usual. We are here – anything but business as usual.  We are here because life is happening on this Thursday. We offer weak smiles and a pleasant thank you for his service.

A short elevator ride delivers us to the third floor. Doors open. We are greeted by locked doors protecting patients in the most critical moments of life, and their families who wait anxiously, hoping for the best, uncertain of what comes next. Beyond those doors we will see Bob, detached from life support, waiting for his body to quietly succumb to his failing heart for the last time.

His sister and cousin are there when we enter the room. His chest rises and falls. I want to close his gaping mouth. He looks like he’s napping and could catch flies. I smile. He looks peaceful, probably for the first time in a long time. Living with his wife, my mother, has been his hell for the past few years. We had no idea how badly until recent months. He is ready to go to the place where his wife of 43 years waits for him. Later that evening I learn that she died on October 20, 2011 after a battle with cancer. Bob is waiting until the hour he can join her. We are sure of it.

people sitting in hospital roomFor the next several hours, as shifts change and families go home for rest, we sit in chilly ICU room 305, as machines hum and beep. Nurses stop in frequently to check on us. Bob breathes softly as my two sisters, husband and I share stories about our times with him. We laugh at how much he loved to check in to this boutique hospital, just down the street from his home. In recent months, he would arrive with a book and his order for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He raved about their soups. Have you tried the soup? he’d ask with a big grin. It’s delicious! Come on! Order a bowl.. it’s on me! 

He’s been a part of our family for only four years, but his gruff Queens disposition juxtaposed with his unending kindness for others has left an indelible mark on our hearts. A grandpa to my nephews and niece, a step-father to my sisters and me, a father-in-law to our husbands, and a volunteer and philanthropist to many, Bob was kind, tolerant, patient, and generous beyond words. Now, as our hearts hold him close, his heart is ready to go. We reminisce, sharing things we know would make him laugh.  We suspect he can hear us. We hope that he can. We hope that he is feeling how much we love him, appreciate him, and will miss him. He and Laura never had children. We became his family in our short time together.

By 1:00 AM, knowing it’s the date he’s been holding out for, we are torn:  Do we stay or do we go and return in the morning? Vital signs indicate slow progression as his body moves closer to death.  We struggle with what to do. Finally, we decide to head home and return early in the morning.

Man lies in hospital bedAs my sisters step out and my husband comforts them at the door, I reach over and place my hand on Bob’s hand. I tell him I will miss him. I sob. I know this is the last time I will see him in life. His hand flinches. I gasp. And smile. I squeeze his arm in return. I’m certain I felt his hand flinch. He was letting me know things will be okay, that he knew we were there, that we loved him and would miss him. I felt sure at that moment that he really knew how much he meant to us, to me.

Friday, October 20, 2017.  11:16 AM.

As the elevator doors open, we are once again greeted by the now-familiar ICU locked doors, keeping death and sadness inside as the world passes by.  We are buzzed in to the solemn space. We learn that Bob took his final breath a little before 10:00 AM, near the time his long-time wife did just six years before. Now it is he who rests in peace, leaving us to figure things out. Little do we know how life altering that will be….

Joan Didion wrote in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” She reflects on the loss of her husband who suffered a heart attack as the two ate together.

Sitting by a windowShe is right. Life changes in the instant. Pain and sadness not withstanding, life continues on, though. Bills must be paid. Houses cleaned. Widows looked after. Roofs repaired because hurricanes don’t care that homeowners are sick and dying. In the weeks that followed Bob’s death, I feel like I grew up, in spite of already being 50. It was a life altering time for me, for us. As the country celebrated Thanksgiving, we sought respite as we tried to figure things out…

Fast-forward one year.

Man sits at dinner tableIn the months following Bob’s passing, I’ve heard him in my ear so many times, telling me to remember this, do that…  and I smile. It was he who told me in the sweltering July of 2015 to make a decision: Business or hobby? You decide! And so I did. I’ve often said in his absence how much I’ve continued to learn from him, as though he’s guiding me.

Thank you, Bob. I miss you greatly. I appreciate all that you brought to our family in the short time you were with us.

It happened that Thursday in October. Life changed in the instant. Indeed.

How many words does it take to tell a story?

One could argue that using fewer words conveys more meaning and requires more thinking.

Brevity is king.

In fact, many writers prefer to tell stories in short form, guiding the reader on a literary journey – in 100 or fewer, 50 or fewer, only six words, or even 140 characters. Writing shortly, often under the umbrella Flash Fiction, goes by many names. Here are a few:

  • microstory
  • short story
  • short-short story
  • flash fiction
  • six-word story
  • the 140-character story (also known as twitterature)
  • micropoetry

 

cover of a book, how to write short, by roy peter clark

No matter what it’s called, each short-form story has a similar quality:  the writer carefully selects and places words to tell a story. Similar to micropoetry, brevity is key.  Every. Word. Counts. 

 

book cover: 140 CharactersThough I was introduced to wordplay at a very young age (and always encouraged to write and tinker with language), it was not until 2009 when I discovered Twitter and short-form writing (beyond poetry) for the first time. I blogged about it in 2010 and again a few years later {here}. Turns out, short-form writing has a long history! Consider Telegraph messages… stop.  😉

Fast-forward to 2015, when I discovered an interest in visual art – an answer to writer’s block. As I tinkered with colors to heal my heart and head, my writing voice returned and I discovered that ‘writing short’ played a key role in my art pieces.

Carefully selected and places words are often seen, but just as often not seen – buried under layers of color and texture. When you purchase my art, there’s a good chance you’re purchasing my words, too, even if you never see them!

Now in my third year creating visual art, I am reflecting on my journey and continue to think about the process. I am seeing how my earliest pieces are simplistic, childlike – the efforts of a newbie artist, and I’m okay with that. Because I’m also discovering how ‘writing short’ fits into my own artistic style.

I see a growing collection of my words – many blended with colors, some standing strongly in stark black and white, while others hover quietly on brown patina’d book pages and the private pages of my writing journals.

Still, others stick quietly to our fridge and tap me on the shoulder when I walk by, or are pulled from my word notebooks and added to my photographs. Then there are the carefully chosen quotes by others that convey my deepest feelings…

All tell my story.

 

What would your story say?

As 2018 unfolds, I’ve been reflecting on my creative journey.

What began as art discovery (a form of therapy, if you will) during a difficult time in my life – personally and professionally – has developed into a way of living that is as necessary to me as breathing and eating. My head often feels like it will burst to let the ideas out!

When everything in art was brand new to me three years ago, I was taking it all in and sampling techniques, tools, and materials – but not choosing anything specific. Window shopping.  I suppose that’s how I discovered ‘mixed media’ – I tinkered in a little bit of everything. Now, while I still prefer using a variety of media, there are certain things I prefer.  Drawing and faces make my short list.

I’m absolutely fascinated by people’s faces, taking in the lines, curves, shapes, colors, tones, textures, how light hits high places and recedes in low spots, the crevices, scars, freckles, moles, placement of features, how the features move when the person speaks, the color of the iris, the white reflection in the pupil, the shape of the lips – up or down, a big toothy grin or a closed, smiling mouth…. the list is endless.

I’ve noticed as long as I can remember, but more in the past few years. Often when I’m looking at someone, I get distracted by what I see, and worry that I’ll miss what’s being said. When I look at photographs, I am mesmerized. I study the details.

credit: RobinLK Studios. 24×24 mixed media on art board

In 2015-16, I began curating faces from online images in Pinterest and Google, to use as reference tools as I developed my drawing skills. I didn’t draw too many faces those first years, but the first photo in my curated collection became a reference for an early piece I created in a workshop I attended. The 24 x 24 art now hangs in our home. It’s one of my favorite pieces, but I didn’t focus on drawing faces. Yet.

I was still dabbling.

Looking at a face is like looking at art for me.  I am infinitely curious when I look at someone’s face…

In Pam Carriker’s book, Mixed Media Portraits: Techniques for Drawing and Painting Faces, she says, “You’ll find when you begin sketching and using faces in your work that you notice the tilt of someone’s head when you’re talking to them or how the light is shadowing their face.” When I read this, I thought, “I do that all the time!”

My focus is narrowing. No longer just window shopping as I did in 2015, I’m figuring out which subjects interest me most, which mediums feel ‘right’ in my hands, how compositions, combinations, and colors convey what’s in my heart and my head.

Pam goes on to say, “Each face that emerges is like meeting a new person. They are who they are, and they don’t have to be perfect… Let them become who they become.”  I love this!

I am literally ‘drawing them out’ – new people who have (apparently) been hanging out in my head and are now emerging. Their faces are the evidence of my own growth as an artist…..

Here are a few new friends I’d like to introduce, because as I develop my drawing skills, these ladies will become fondly remembered as the faces who appeared first in 2018, willing to emerge with all their quirkiness and imperfections.   🙂

Where will the process take me next?  Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest: @RobinLK Studios

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