Tag Archives: creativity

Tree of Contemplation

The Tree diagram illustrates some of the contemplative practices currently in use in organizational and academic settings. Which of these practices (if any) help you with your creative process? Are you willing to try something new?

The Tree of Contemplative Practices

There are seven main branches: 1) Stillness, 2) generative, 3) creative, 4) activist, 5) relational, 6) movement, and 7) ritual.

Being a gut dominated person I am drawn towards the movement branch. My daily trail jogging/hiking with my dogs is deeply meditative for me. Being silent in nature allows me to not only visually rest but also to hear nature’s sounds, to take them into my own rhythm and well-being. And yes the dogs point to things I’d otherwise miss. They show me who has been there before us with their keen noses, mostly coyote, rabbit and deer but also bobcats and foxes.

Dogs

On the generative branch are many helpful practices. I enjoy Lectio Divina because it allows me to engage all three of my centers of intelligence. Deep, contemplative reading is part of just about all traditions with written scriptures (head center). In the Christian tradition there is a contemplative reading known as lectio divina (“divine reading,” in Latin). Through a process of contemplative reading the words on the page become clearer and more meaningful. The idea is to bring greater understanding and connection, the opposite of superficial, quick reading.

In the third Century, the Christian scholar Origen said if you read in the right spirit, you will find the meaning “hidden from most people.” When St. Benedict compiled his rules for monasteries in the sixth century, he included reading as an important part of the monk’s day (at a time when personal reading was still relatively rare). He called them to deeply study, ponder, listen, and pray. To this day, The Rule of St. Benedict is the most common and influential rule used by monasteries and monks, more than 1,400 years after its writing.

In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk named Guigo, formalized four stages to the practice of Lectio Divina. He described four levels of meaning and four approaches to the text: lectio (reading and then understanding the text, head centered), meditatio (reflection and contextualizing the meaning, heart centered), oratio (listening within and living the meaning, gut centered), and contemplatio (being still, and meeting God in the text).

https://www.thereligionteacher.com/lectio-divina-steps/

The approach allows one to first become keenly aware of what is on the page and then successively builds to greater and deeper meaning within (using our distinct three centers), until ultimately bringing us to personal connection and action. Each of these steps together form a process by which we encounter God in His sacred word and respond to His grace. They form parts of a larger whole, but each one comes with a certain set of skills for us to master. For me this practice brings creative inspiration as I receive God’s love and attention, which I accept through my faith in His word–“and leap to flame”.

You can learn more at https://www.slideshare.net/mikep7/ld-short-presentation-2225112.

One creative application (from a secular standpoint) of Lectio Divina is from David G. Haskell, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at the University of the South, in his course on “Food and Hunger: Contemplation and Action,” introduces a modification for reading short essays on hunger and food in class. This participatory process of reading aloud around the room immerses students in the text so that “they’re swimming in it.”

In a circle of students, he reminds students to project their voices and assures them that it is all right to pass; in initial stages of group work, it is important that students feel comfortable. This provides a safe place that allows them to embrace fear rather than freeze or fight it.

The instructions for his exercise are as follows:

  1. Sit quietly and relax our minds and bodies for one minute.
  2. Read aloud, slowly, the entire text, each of us reading one or two sentences, “passing along” the reading to the left to the next reader.
  3. One minute of silence and reflection.
  4. One of us reads aloud the short passage that we have chosen in advance.
  5. Another minute of silence and reflection.
  6. We share a word or short phrase in response to the reading—just give voice to the word without explanation or discussion.
  7. Another person reads the short passage again.
  8. One minute of silence and reflection.
  9. We share longer responses to the text—a sentence or two. We listen attentively to one another without correcting or disputing.
  10. Another person reads the short passage one last time, followed by another minute of silence.

I’d love to hear from you readers, which of these practices (if any) help you with your creative process? Are you willing to try something new?

My ANT Resolution: No more Automatic Negative Thoughts!

AttackedbyAntsI kill my ANTS! What do I mean by this?

I’m working to SQUASH my negative thinking patterns. More than ever before– I am going to fight them off! OK, I concede there is no way I can exterminate them completely because they are AUTOMATIC. Renowned brain disorder psychiatrist, Dr Amen coined the word ANTS for them, Automatic Negative Thoughts in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He describes them as “the little voices that pop into your head and tell you you’re not good enough, not thin enough, a rubbish daughter, mother, worker.”
 A few ANTS, he says, can be managed. But he warns to watch out for ANT-­infestations — when hundreds of negative thoughts start to take over. Has this ever happened to you?

It has happened to me. Like when I eat one of those incredible Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and wow, it blows me away… so I eat one more… then just one more. Then I think, well I’ve blown my low sugar allotment for today so I may as well finish off the bag… I can never do this low sugar diet thing anyway…  I just don’t have the discipline or will power or whatever it takes… (more negative thoughts)… no wonder I’m a failure in certain areas of my life, like being blocked in my creative work right now… and on and on…

Here are some examples of typical ANTs (automatic negative thoughts):Ant Mission

“You never listen to me.”

“Just because we had a good year in business doesn’t mean anything.”

“You don’t like me.”

“This situation is not going to work out. I know something bad will happen.”

“You are an arrogant know-it-all.”

“I should have done much better. I’m a failure.”

“Its too late for me.”

“I wish I was creative.”

“It’s your fault.”

These thoughts severely limit our creative powers. The answer, Dr. Amen says, lies in simple ANT-eater techniques that stop the bugs in their tracks. “Your brain is a powerful organ,” he says. “If you see yourself as fat, old, wrinkled or forgetful, you boost production of the stress hormone which affects your health, your weight and your mind… Negative thoughts can make negative things happen.”

transformedWhy should I/we care about creating our own personal ANT eaters? Because we know our NEGATIVE THOUGHTS un-monitored lead to NEGATIVE CHOICES, which lead to NEGATIVE HABITS and our habits determine our CHARACTER, which becomes our DESTINY. Oh no(!), fat, old and uncreative we think… NOT! How do I/we stop this nonsense?! My ants invade my mind like ants at a picnic. They arrive suddenly, are unwanted, uninvited, stinging ugly sticklers that don’t leave unless I intentionally force them out!

It helps to understand there are at least nine categories of negative thoughts. There are nine different ways our thoughts lie to us and make situations seem worse than they are, listed below. Our first step is to identify—NAME– the type of ANT, and by doing this we begin to take away its power.

Which of these nine show up most in your thinking?

  1. “Always/never” thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, everything.
  2. Focusing on the negative: seeing only the bad in a situation
  3. Fortune-telling: predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation
  4. Mind reading: believing that you know what others are thinking, even though they haven’t told you
  5. Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them
  6. Guilt beating: thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to
  7. Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else
  8. Personalizing: investing innocuous events with personal meaning
  9. Blaming: blaming someone else for your own problems — a red ant, it is very poisonous!

I’ll be honest and share that patterns 7 and 8 are ‘stinkin’ thinking’ ANTs for me. I use the 5 A’s of awareness, acceptance, appreciation, action, and adherence (discussed in my newly published book) to squash these suckers. My stinkin’ thoughts must be noticed, captured and accepted as real before I can take action and replace them with more realistic positive thoughts and choices.

infestationIf I don’t deal with my ANTS in real time the result is the 5 D’s—depressed, despair, dissed, de-energized and deflated. I need SOS in real time– stop, observe and shift techniques. If I’ve allowed a genuine infestation to occur, then worse, I become devastated and immobile.

Its no wonder these mind attackers don’t go away– but must be managed. Some truly frightening scientific facts about ants include: they are as old as dinosaurs, have already survived a mass extinction event, have conquered almost the entire globe, their total population make our 7 billion look weak, they can exceed two inches in length (!), they have a hive mind (a killer!) and they actually practice slavery. It is true—they commonly raid neighboring colonies and steal eggs or larvae in a practice known as “dulosis.” Their forcibly acquired young are then either eaten or put to work.

In our never-ending ANT ­battles, our redemption lies in building our own arsenal of ANT-eater solutions. I will not be captured automatically as a slave to my own ANT’s! I will fight them and kill them—this is my choice!metamorphosis_by_weroni-d7exzb5

I invite you to share how you feed your anteaters? Onward and upward brave soldiers—together lets KILL our ANTS, lets revolt together!

Thank you for reading my post. I am an organizational and business consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. I enjoy hiking and high desert gardening. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Creativity: Taking risk & stretching self

How do you think about risk?

Do images of hang gliding or dying on Mount Everest come to mind? Does it mean an activity where one false move can mean death for you? The truth is risk doesn’t need to involve danger. Risk can also be defined as the intentional interaction with uncertainty. “Uncertainty is a potential, unpredictable, unmeasurable and uncontrollable outcome; risk is a consequence of action taken in spite of uncertainty” says Wikipedia. Risk can be defined as “activities with uncertain outcomes.”

The ability to take calculated risks is an essential human trait, crucial to our development. Our risk-taking ancestors were the successful survivors who took chances to adapt to their changing environment. And today, the same principle applies, “To grow, we need to experience challenges — whether we’re 4, 14, or 40” says psychologist Michael Ungar. I’d add–until our dying breath.

Facing things that make us uncomfortable has advantages, whether we succeed or fail: we become more emotionally resilient, confident, satisfied, and engaged with life. We don’t have to parachute from a plane (thank God!) to reap the benefits of taking risks. Choosing to be creative everyday means taking some risk. Any time we pay attention to areas of our life that feel challenging, lacking or intriguing to us– we can choose to take some risk. Whether that means being open to the universe to find a new mate after a divorce or to change our artistic medium in order to better express ourselves on an easel. We embrace the adventure of uncertainty. “Do one thing every day that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt said.

Will taking a risk cause anxiety? Yes!

Researcher Hans Selye found there are actually two kinds of stress: Distress is a negative stress and eustress is a positive stress. “Eustress,” or healthy anxiety motivates or focuses our energy. Healthy anxiety is “just right” anxiety; the kind we need to be creative. Too much anxiety becomes toxic to our performance, paralyzing it. Too little anxiety is toxic as well, as it puts us in an “I’m bored” state. So the level of risk we choose to take should include “just right” anxiety for us. This will look different for you than it does for me, but for both of us, it will involve a “stretch” from our head, heart or gut center (or all three).

Pioneer Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard explains in his 1844 treatise that anxiety is the dizzying effect of freedom, of paralyzing possibility, of the boundlessness of one’s own existence. He writes, “Anxiety is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of possibility.”

We intuitively know that our best learning occurs just beyond our comfort zone from our heart, head or gut perspective. That’s what happened to me when I left my corporate job after 19 years. I had to take a big risk, relinquish the golden handcuffs, and take a leap of faith into the deep unknown. Through the process I discovered more passions: living off the grid in the mountains, building a rustic cabin, trail running on old mining paths and meeting my soul mate whom I would marry. There is always a sense of satisfaction that emerges from trying something entirely new and proving ourselves to be capable of the task. Creativity is born!

Perhaps the coolest benefit of taking a risk is that it’s simply fun. Neuroscientists explain this bliss with biochemistry: New, challenging, and risky activities trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that’s part of the brain’s reward system. Call risk taking the ultimate antidote to boredom. It’s the best way (I am aware of) to wake up and feel fully alive. We can have a say in our destiny—by taking a risk– versus being dominated by our circumstances. Indeed every chance we take teaches us something about ourselves and leads us mysteriously along our long term creative path.

If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. As Vincent van Gogh said, People are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don’t know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such terrible cage.”

Any risks you’ve taken you’d like to share– that reaped you creative benefits?  Was the risk from a head, heart or gut perspective? Happy risk taking.

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Read more in my book and my website: The Three Sources of Creativity: Breakthroughs from Your Head, Heart and Gut.

Why is communication so complicated?!

No wonder communication has gone South! This info-graphic, Talking a different language explains it: Baby-boomers want a cell phone call, Generation X-ers want an email, and Generation Y&Z/Millennials want a text message (or Snapchat).


If you don’t think Millennials are important–think again! The term “
Millennials” was coined in 1987, around the time children born in 1982 were entering preschool, and the media identified their prospective link to the “new millennium” as the high school graduating class of 2000.

Communication is so complicated

More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Ignore their future growth momentum at your peril!

Communication is so complicated


I’m not sure why there is not a special category for the Great Depression era survivors
(like my mom). A call will not do–no way!–they want to see the whites of your eyes and make bodily contact (i.e. a kiss, big hugs, hold your hand and sit with you for awhile). Whatever happened to eye contact, kisses and big hugs as communication anyway?

With much of the world in political chaos, some people are worried about going through another economic and/or security crisis… lets hope that does not happen. Is that what it would take for big hugs to be popular again?

Have we lost our intuitive knack for effective communication? Let us observe how the animal world communicates–are they better at it?

My sincere message is: Don’t leave anyone out of your group communications (especially mom and grandparents)!! What do you think, are we getting better or worse at effective communication?

Thanks for reading my post. I a writer and consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves in my book and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Ugh! Why is my creativity stalled?

My last blog post was about asking why–three times, in three different ways to get motivated about creating your next thing. This is part two, what if I know why I want to create this thing, but I am still stuck??

Want to make something

Asking your head, heart and gut–why do you want to create your thing of interest–is a big deal. Our why is the motivation behind creating, it drives us. And keeps driving us. But what if we think we aren’t good enough?

Self-awareness is the key to recognizing and managing our self-doubt about our creativity. Where is the resistance (the BIG R!) originating from? Most of us feel the negative power of the “Big R” but don’t really analyze it. One of our creative centers–either our fearful/critical head, our envious/comparing heart or our lazy gut center is to blame. Which of these intelligence centers is your resistance culprit?

Want to make something

One of the tricks of our head center is perfectionism–this stops us from creating–it tells us we aren’t good enough to do it. If our head center convinces us that everything has to be perfect, it knows we won’t begin, or at least we won’t finish what we started. For example, I’ve done endless research for my new book and made an outline of the chapters. Is my head center the culprit for my stalling actually writing it? I ponder this–I’m not at the point of analysis paralysis and still have incredible curiosity about my subject. No, I don’t think its fear from my head center that is stopping me at this point.

Our heart center says, “What if I suck?” If we say this, then what we are really saying is that I suck compared to others. Comparison is a major creativity killer. So I say to my heart, my feelings, “If I really suck at this then why do I have a persistent desire–a calling–to birth this book?  My heart says, “I have a deep passion for this subject, it is significant to me and I don’t think anyone else has already done this book… I know they haven’t!” Its my unique voice and history and take on the subject (my mess, my message) after all–so why compare myself to others?

What am I feeling, I ask my heart? “I am feeling overwhelmed by my story–getting lost in it.” This is another effective “Big R” tactic. “What are the most authentic pieces of your book,” my heart says, “most true for you? Cut everything else, get rid of it…” OK this is great advice from my heart. Its helping me, not causing my “Big R.” Its telling me to simplify, simplify on the message(s) that matter most.

This leaves only my trusted gut center for me to ask the same question: Are you the culprit– the resistor of me writing this book? Alright it confesses: “I am pitifully suffering from under-action, undisciplined writing time and poor resolve. I am excessively surfing the net–in the name of research–which is really BS. I am not controlling my time, NOT spending my time doing the right things at the right time for the good of my book.” My gut tells me, “You know you write best in the morning, the earlier the better, but instead you are insanely reading newspapers and opinions… the all-distracting Trump thing you have going on… he isn’t anything you can control, so why spend your best time on this?”

My gut tells me: “Creativity isn’t about rare talent, it’s about executing! Quit ignoring writing your book and feeling overwhelmed by it. Get down to the nitty-gritty writing of the details to discover which of your ideas work best. It’s a numbers game, but it is a numbers game that you are not playing!” Oh yes, thanks for reminding me–being creative isn’t magic. It’s just a person dedicated to actually doing it for better or worse–no matter the ever present resistance–every single day.

Aha, that’s it! My distractions and excuses are essentially lies. My gut tells me so! We can DO this creative thing, lets do it!

I invite you to read more about the creative high hanging and low hanging fruit from our three intelligence centers in my book: The Three Sources of Creativity: Breakthroughs from Your Head, Heart and Gut.

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursuing long term creative quests in my book and website.

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Can organizations be creative?

Have you ever been at a corporate off-site or other workshop/offering where the result of the initiative fell flat? The intent was good; but there were no new meaningful insights. It was scheduled rather than organic. Our brains had time to predict the future, and the potential for novelty disappeared. Transplanting the same mix of people to a different location, even an exotic one, then dropping them into a “new” conference room usually doesn’t work.

No, new insights usually only come from new people, new environments, and new incubations; any circumstance where the brain can’t predict what will happen next. In short, by creating paradigm shifts in our three centers of intelligence: our heads, hearts and guts.

It is possible for employees, supervisors and managers to “wire” creativity into their organizations by drawing upon the three centers of intelligence. But do organizations have heads, hearts and guts? Resoundingly– yes they do!

The Ted talk below succinctly illustrates “collaborative visualization”– this is a “head based” technique to begin with (using our imaginations) that quickly can lead to creative action (gut based). If the visualization taps into our heart’s passion, then it can lead to a triple intersection (of head, heart, and gut intelligence) creativity. 

Organizational cultures reflect back the top people driving them. You can learn more in my recent book. I include diverse case studies such as, Apple Corp, Exxon/Mobil Corp, Saddleback Church and more.

What do you think about “collaborative visualization” as an organizational approach? Any hope for it working in your organization?

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life in my recent book. I invite all to become the best version of themselves at my website and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.

Want to make something creative?

What shall I make for my next creative project? It is easy to get stuck at “What the heck should I make next”?

Instead of focusing on “what” should I create, I humbly suggest asking yourself WHY–three times. Get very quiet and still and ask your head, heart and gut separately: Why do I want to make or create this thing? Let the voice of each intelligence center answer this question for you very distinctly.

What does your head say to you about this creative thing?

What does your heart say about it?

And what does your gut intuition say about it?

Write down each distinct intelligence center answer and reflect on each.

Want to make something

Clearly articulating why you’re creating what you are will light your path and continue fanning the flames inside you, and likely will touch others deeply too. Regardless if your creative thing is purely for your own enjoyment or you want it to be a commercial success–if you don’t start with why, you have no compass.

I’m writing my first science fiction book. When I start to doubt myself on why I’m writing this book I ask my head-why am I writing this? My answer is mostly because I love the space/astrophysics/spiritual subjects involved and by doing the in-depth research involved I get to learn new things, “the latest and greatest”. I ask my heart, why am I writing this? I want to find more clarity and meaning about the cycle of life and the suffering involved in it. If I can find some peace in it, perhaps it will help bring peace to others too. I ask my gut, why? My gut says there are some older, deeper truths inside me that I can tap into, feel and know to be true. My intuition quietly says–this is important to you, your curiosity about scientific and spiritual facts and how they can co-exist in different realms. I can now go forward knowing I am doing the right thing by writing this book.

Imaginative thinking is at the core of art, science, and a number of other disciplines, but the science of imaginative thinking is a secret. I believe by tapping into (the usually un-reflected upon) WHY from our head, heart and gut perspectives can tap into our untapped imaginations.

Starting with why can lead to levels of excellence we never considered attainable, especially for long term creative projects. By emphasizing the WHY behind our motivations to succeed, versus the WHAT approach, which is less passionate, less inspired (and probably a more habitual approach) we can have confidence in our creative product. We can be authentic in our approach, which will–at the very least–delight us and perhaps even really inspire others.

Do your research first. Mark Twain said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” Good research is about asking broad questions, and thinking critically about the answers. It’s something everyone can learn, and do quickly with Google, and countless other search approaches. If we do this well, it will save us time, energy and money by reducing unknowns and creating a solid foundation to build the right thing, in the most effective way. After all time is–by far–our most precious commodity.

Want to make something

Where have you gotten your ideas in the past? Take the time to reflect upon this, then write your answers down. Next, what are you waiting for… go do that research. If it is being in nature and for example, examining something much more intensely than others do, then go do it!

How do I know if what I make will be the right thing? Because even if we’ve done the research, we still don’t know if we’re actually making something that works for others. Keep in mind this only matters if we aspire to have commercial success, many creative people don’t. But if you do then ask yourself:

Is my new  book something that others will want to read? Example, beta readers, etc.

Is my performance art exhibit something others will be inspired to participate in? Example, do a sequence of “pilots” with other artist’s input.

What kind of targeted experiments can I run to find out?  Example, reach out to real users.

You can read Part 2 of this post here.

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests. Read more in my recent book and my website: The Three Sources of Creativity: Breakthroughs from Your Head, Heart and Gut.

Surprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art!

Why do animals inspire such great art? For some, it is their unconscious beauty–they never struggle to be “authentic” or creative–they just are. For others–many would say–it’s their unconditional love and joyous way of giving back to us. And yet for others, it is the desire to “conserve” the rare beauties for the next generation.

For photographer Michael Kern, he uses abstraction to remove fear and prejudice of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids, “I’m trying to help people see the beauty in the beast,” he says.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL D. KERN

Kern’s says that most of us don’t experience and appreciate the beauty of these animals due to our natural fear of them–and some of these species need our help to survive. He is dedicated to their conservation and hopes to save them through revealing them in his art.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Kern’s creatures include: bush viper, tragopan, chameleons, rainbow millipede, flower mantis, and blue tarantula

He starts by photographing the animal. Then he “deconstructs it into its most basic elements: color, line, pattern, texture.” These are the building blocks of a new image, which he alters in Photoshop. His technique results in a pair of portraits: one abstract, one of reality. When he is successful Kern muses, he turns fear into fascination for his viewers.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Kern’s Panther chameleon (left) and rainbow millipede

Frida Kahlo is famed for the love of her beasts and she is frequently painted with them in her self-portraits.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

 Frida Kahlo with her pet deer

Frida kept pet monkeys, xoloitzcuintli (“Mexican Hairless”dogs), parrots, parakeets, macaws, chickens, a pet eagle, and a fawn called Granizo. Kahlo had a chronic pain-filled life due to childhood polio and a tragic bus accident— but her animals were a calming constant.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait With Monkeys

Painter/illustrator Norman Rockwell remains widely popular for his nostalgic depictions of American family life, he did many iconic covers for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. He often painted dogs because they were an important part of families and a sense of “home.” His own dogs hung out with him in the studio. He recommended that other artists depict them “just as carefully and understandingly as you paint the people.”

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Normal Rockwell posing a beagle for a reference photograph

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

 “Boy and Girl Gazing At The Moon” by Norman Rockwell

Another dog-inspired artist is Picasso. Pablo Picasso, perhaps the most influential artist of the 20th century, was born in Spain in 1881. He acquired Lump his dachshund in 1957. When Lump and Pablo met, it truly was “true love”. Lump was allowed anywhere on Picasso’s property, including being the only creature allowed in Picasso’s studio. Lump appeared in 54 of Picasso’s works. They were together for sixteen years, and died within months of each other.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Pablo Picasso and Lump

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

 Pablo Picasso’s “Dog” Line Drawing

Paul Klee’s unique style was influenced by expressionism, orientalism, cubism, and surrealism.  His original work is a favorite of many other artists, art scholars, and teachers because it is immediately recognizable.

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” Paul Klee.

Klee was so devoted to his white cat (Bimbo) that he would write to his wife (while he was away) simply to inquire how his kitty was doing.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Paul Klee, his wife Lily, and their cat Bimbo

Klee’s love of cats meant many were incorporated into his paintings.

“Cat and Bird” by Paul Klee

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

 “The Mountain of the Sacred Cat” by Paul Klee

Why such a love of cats you may ask? The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photojournalist for Life and other publications and is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He explains his love for cats like this: “I’m an anarchist, yes. Because I’m alive. Life is a provocation…. I’m against people in power and what that imposes upon them. Anglo-Saxons have to learn what anarchism is. For them, it’s violence. A cat knows what anarchy is. Ask a cat. A cat understands. They’re against discipline and authority. A dog is trained to obey. Cats can’t be. Cats bring on chaos.”

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

 Photo of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his cat

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The most famous surrealist was Salvador Dali, born in Spain in 1904. He painted bizarre scenes that were meant to cause confusion and inspire creative interpretation. Dali had an eccentric lifestyle that accentuated his brilliant artwork. He owned two ocelots, Babou and Bouba, one or both of whom accompanied him frequently.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Dali loved to collaborate with other artists, as this “live” photo shows.

Suprising Ways Animals Inspire Great Art

Portrait of Dali and cats by photographer Philippe Halsman

How do animals inspire you to make art? What is your favorite kind(s) of animal(s) and why do you think this is? How do they make you feel, think and act–that is different from people?

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of ‘everyone is creative’ resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become–the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests–in my recent book and website

Lady Liberty: Repression, Art & Metaphor

Our lady love, the U.S. Statue of Liberty, was created through inspired repression, collaborative art and poetry–standing for defiant resistance, independence, and ultimate victory. She is magnificent, but how did she become a symbol for outcasts of the world–how did this art-piece evolve into such a grand living metaphor?

Repression, Art

Credit: New York Times, Hodgson photographer

This is a story of ideals, resolve, collaboration, a sculptor and a poet. It took 21 years for this idea to become a reality.

It was first proposed by Édouard René de Laboulaye (the president of the French Anti-Slavery Society) at a dinner in 1875: His idea was that the French finance the statue and the Americans provide the site and build the pedestal. Laboulaye was an ardent supporter of the Union in the American Civil War and said: “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.” He hoped that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the United States, “the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy (of Napoleon 111).”

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Laboulaye by Nadar: He was the originator of the idea of a U.S. monument

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor who was also at this dinner, was inspired by this “proposal” and it was he who pitched a massive sculpture design to influential people on his first trip to America. Bartholdi’s hometown in Alsace had just passed into German control, which motivated his own keen interest in independence, liberty, and self-determination. The statue would commemorate the centennial of American independence. When he arrived at the New York Harbor, he focused on Bedloe’s Island (now named Liberty Island) as a site for the statue because he was struck by the fact that vessels arriving in New York had to sail past it.

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Larger than life Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, Sculptor of Statue of Liberty in 1880

Bartholdi and Laboulaye considered how best to express the idea of American liberty.  A significant female icon in American culture was a representation of Liberty, derived from Libertas, the goddess of freedom widely worshiped in ancient Rome, especially among emancipated slaves. A Liberty figure adorned most American coins of the time. Also artists of the time commonly used Libertas as an allegorical symbol of republican ideals. A figure of Liberty was also depicted on the Great Seal of France. Bartholdi wanted the statue to have a peaceful appearance and chose a torch, representing progress, for her to hold.

Bartholdi made the first sketches for the statue during his U.S. visit and continued to develop the concept upon his return to France. He also worked on a number of sculptures designed to bolster French patriotism after the defeat by the Prussians. One of these was the Lion of Belfort, a monumental sculpture, to honor the locals’ persistent resistance of a Prussian siege. The defiant lion, 73 feet (22 m) long, displays an emotional quality characteristic of Romanticism, which Bartholdi would later infuse into the Statue of Liberty.

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Bartholdi’s Lion of Belfort

Bartholdi made alterations in the design as the project evolved. He initially considered having Liberty hold a broken chain, but thought it too divisive after the Civil War. Instead she rises over a broken chain, half-hidden by her robes. He finally settled on a keystone-shaped tablet for her left hand to evoke the concept of law. Although Bartholdi greatly admired the United States Constitution, he chose to inscribe “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” on the tablet, desiring to associate the date of the U.S.’s Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty. He decided on many details, such as a height of just over 151 feet (46 m) for the statue, and the symbolic seven rays in the crown representing the Earth’s seven seas.

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Bartholdi’s design patent

Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions. It was rumored in France that the face of the Statue of Liberty was modeled after Bartholdi’s mother.

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The statue’s head on exhibit at the Paris World’s Fair, 1878

In 1881 Auguste Bartholdi contacted an engineer named Eiffel to help him build the Statue of Liberty to withstand significant wind stresses. Eiffel devised a “spine structure” consisting of a four-legged iron pylon to support the copper sheeting which made up the body of the statue. Eiffel would later design the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In 1885 the statue was formally delivered to America. Fundraising for the pedestal was difficult for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened due to lack of funds. A newspaper publisher named Joseph Pulitzer came to the rescue by urging the American public to donate money towards the pedestal. His newspaper, New York World, raised over $100,000 in six months, enough to finish the pedestal. The majority of contributors gave less than a dollar, securing Lady Liberty’s destiny as the people’s prize. Pulitzer published the names of each person–all 125,000–who made a contribution in his paper.

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Unpacking of the head of the Statue of Liberty, which was delivered on June 17, 1885

“The New Colossus” is a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 as a donation to help raise money for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

It is a stunning fact that Bartholdi’s gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to international republicanism–but a poet reinvented the statue’s purpose–turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world.

One immigrant who arrived from Greece recalled, I saw the Statue of Liberty and I said to myself, “Lady, you’re such a beautiful! You opened your arms and you get all the foreigners here. Give me a chance to prove that I am worth it, to do something, to be someone in America.” And always that statue was on my mind (Sutherland, Cara A. (2003).

In October 1886, the structure was officially presented as the joint gift of the French and American people, and was installed on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. It was the largest work of its kind that had ever been completed up to that time. The statue’s completion was marked by a parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.

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Bedloe’s Island in 1927, showing the statue and army buildings. The eleven-pointed walls of Fort Wood, which still form the statue’s base, are visible.

There is a presentation tablet that honors “the Alliance of the two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship.” A group of statues stands at the western end of the island, honoring the men and woman closely associated with the Statue of Liberty: Two Americans—Pulitzer and Lazarus—and three Frenchmen—Bartholdi, Eiffel, and Laboulaye—are depicted.

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The UNESCO “Statement of Significance” describes the statue as a “masterpiece of the human spirit” that “endures as a highly potent symbol—inspiring contemplation, debate and protest—of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy and opportunity.”

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Liberty Island, credit photo by D. Ramey Logan

Lately our lady has been depicted as weeping or hiding her face in shame… so symbolic and dear she is to us! She is leveraged to express our emotion over distressing current events we fear will change what our country stands for. She is a most powerful metaphor.

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We should remember that this icon originated at an idea-inspiring anti-slavery French dinner, which motivated a sculptor to imagine a statue of a woman holding a torch burning with the light of freedom. The sculptor hoped this would also inspire his home country to freedom. It took 21 years for this idea to become a reality and a living, beautiful metaphor of freedom.

Please do share what the Statue of Liberty means to you. Many thanks especially to Wikipedia for helping me piece this story together!

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of ‘everyone is creative’ resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become–the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests–in my recent book and website.

Nothing is Original?

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” King Solomon

“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” Marie Antoinette

“No idea is original, there’s nothing new under the sun, it’s never what you do, but how it’s done.” Nas (Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones)


The saying, “There is nothing new under the sun” is as old as the bible,
found in Ecclesiastes 1:9 and spoken by King Solomon–but is it true?

Some people find this idea depressing, aren’t we unique beings created by our Creator to be creative after all? We know our thumb print is like no others… even identical twins, who share the same genetics (initially), have different prints.

Nothing is Original

We know each snow flake is like no other. Each snowflake falls and floats through clouds with different temperatures and moisture levels, which shapes each snowflake in a unique way.

Nothing is Original

SO it seems “the how“–of how we come together–is what matters. You have a mother and a father and possess features from both. However, the sum of who you are is bigger than their parts. You are a mysterious conglomerate of your parents and all of your ancestors–but you are even more than a physical genealogy–you are a genealogy of ideas too.

You don’t get to pick your parents, but you do get to pick where your ideas come from–what books you read, who your heroes are, the art you view and study, the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the people and ideas you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Your ideas are a mashup of what you choose to bring into your life–we are a sum of our influences.

Nothing is Original

What good artists understand is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative works build on what came before–nothing is completely original. It is the way we uniquely combine, subtract, mash and tinker with the ideas that creates something new. It’s an endless cycle of recycling–in a similar way that nature does.

I love this picture of the “rock cycle” to illustrate this idea of “nothing new under the sun.” The rock cycle is a basic concept in Geology that describes the time-consuming transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. The rock cycle is an illustration that explains how the three rock types are related to each other, and how processes change from one type to another over time.

Nothing is Original

So here you have it: Sedimentary rocks transition to metamorphic rocks, which transition to igneous rocks and through erosion and environmental conditions transition back to sedimentary rocks–nothing new under the sun!

Just like nature we are all recycling ideas–whether consciously or unconsciously. Francis Ford Coppola says it best:

“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.”

Steve Jobs also famously said in 1996:

“Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

So lets go forth creatives “shamelessly stealing” all of the ideas we need and want and LOVE to create our own new art–the way only we can. May we endeavor to say–some day–what Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” 

Thank you for reading my post. My core message of ‘everyone is creative’ resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become–the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests–in my recent book and website.