Music to open your heart

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Ah, inspiring music.

A list of favorites could be enormous , but if I had to choose just one song, it would be John Lennon's Imagine.

I am also a huge fan of David Byrne, and adored experiencing his new America Utopia creative tour de force. (If you have the opportunity to see it, go!)

What music or artist is at the top of your list — and why?

What do you listen to to get inspired? energized? to relax?

What are your top-10 favorites?

Please share!

Focusing on career questions through a creative lens

Considering big questions about your professional life can be overwhelming. No matter where you are in considering your career — whether it's about making a change, how to start a job search, considering what will make you happiest, preparing for a big interview, how to face emotional issues that arise, and more — bringing creative thinking to the questions and employing creative expression can make all the difference.

A courageous and amazing group of women joined me for a workshop to get clear about the career journeys they are each navigating. We dove deep into identifying the emotions at play for each of them and identifying the attributes related to work that are most important to them. And we addressed the mindset issues that limit them. With all of that insight, the women created collages to pour creative energy into the process and to make a visual creation they can reflect on. Their collages makes their new-found insights vivid for them as they continue on their journeys.

It was a fabulous group, and their work was remarkable.


If you are interested in group coaching, learn more here. Group coaching programs are an exciting opportunity for women looking for coaching to enrich their lives, resolve limitations and chart a path forward, and do it with a small group of like-minded, supportive women. 

Getting creative with corporate leaders

It was a pleasure to work with an outstanding team of eight corporate leaders in an off-site program that I created for them last week. We spent three hours together as the cap-off of their day.

Everyone did remarkable creative work and shared insights gleaned from a writing exercise. They connected their insights and the concepts I shared with them about bringing more creative thinking to their work to the big issues they are focusing on. The afternoon concluded with collaborative art-making that everyone loved.

I enjoyed seeing the way that these scientists and researchers dove into creativity with me. It was exciting and gratifying that both the individual and collaborative creative work, and the conversations we had, inspired the team in so many big ways.


If you are interested in group coaching, learn more here. Group coaching programs are an exciting opportunity for women looking for coaching to enrich their lives, resolve limitations and chart a path forward, and do it with a small group of like-minded, supportive women.

Getting creative with 90 new friends

I love bringing my programs to teams who work together, and have enjoyed creating custom off-site programs for several years. Last week I had a great opportunity — and a great challenge.

A dynamic start-up asked me to create a powerful creative experience to cap off an off-site day for their team of 90 incredible people. Comprised of engineers, AI experts, and a host of other brilliant people all working to design a robot unlike any out there, this promised to be a great group and a great assignment. My work was to cap off the important retreat they were holding at Gillette Stadium (which proved to be an amazing venue for my program).

The objective for my work was to help the team to be energized and discover new paths to connecting to deep creativity. And, I needed to help this relatively new team to build deeper connections as they work across disciples and need to meet tight deadlines.

After days of calls with the CEO and the executive team, I honed my program to fit their tight window. The room had to be laid had so that I could work with the huge group. The program had to be fast and fun, interspersed with delivering lots of key points for people to take back to the office. I included individual Intuitive Painting work to start, followed by group work that called on people to collaborate to create together, each team having a wacky assignment to bring to life.

The outcome of the program was eye-popping creative work and energy bouncing off the walls! I could not have asked for a better group to work with.

I can't wait to see the finished work framed and hanging in their offices and hope to hear that the experience of making such exciting work together will remain alive and inspiring for the team.


My vision for a big new year

The year is off and running! In just the first couple of weeks, I’m experiencing a lot of positive energy and feeling that this will be a momentous year.

Yes — I, like many others, feel great uncertainty and deep concern about the direction our nation’s new administration is taking now and where it will go. But, I feel determined to make my voice heard, to take constructive action, and to do my important work. I want to be a force to support and inspire people to stand strong, to think creatively, and to be effective leaders in their lives and work. The collective, bold, creative thinking and action that we bring to our lives and our society are crucial now. If we succumb to fear and anxiety we will fail to think, and fail to act.

Here’s how I am moving forward:

1. I chose an important word to guide my year.

As many of my readers know, I am a big believer in choosing a guiding word for each year. Last year, I chose SAVOR. It guided me to slow down and appreciate everything — big and small — in my life, and it served me well. It helped me to create new awareness and habits, and enhanced my daily happiness. The gratitude I cultivated was a great balance to the stresses that came along.

My word for this year is VIBRANT — vibrant health, energy, creativity, thinking, service, and action. I am already feeling the power of this amazing word in my daily life!

2. I am already celebrating achievements.

I am celebrating good self-care, and that I am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I am celebrating that I have cleared my office of accumulated clutter, and have updated my systems so that I can keep my work space organized and functioning smoothly. I am celebrating that I have started to work with a terrific virtual assistant, and I look forward to how that help will free me to do more of the important projects I have planned.

3. I am finding inspiration and creating in exciting ways.

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts last week to see great work on exhibit before it leaves the museum. Standouts, in addition to William Merritt Chase, were The Clock, Terry Winter’s prints, and the Massed Media show. I will continue to visit museums and galleries regularly. And, in anticipation of the start of a painting course that I’m registered for at Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I have been painting in my studio. I am also finding the vision board I made in late 2016 to be an inspiration for the things I most want to manifest in my life now. Seeing it every morning keeps me taking action toward what I want most. All of these are sparking my thinking and awakening my heart every day.

And, connecting everything for me, love will continue to be my driving force, alongside creativity — in this year and every year. As I wrote in my email at the end of 2016, I ask myself every day if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart. I am determined to model love and tolerance as I move through 2017.


How is your year starting? Have you chosen a guiding word for yourself? Do you find yourself struggling or feeling stuck? Let me know how you are feeling and doing as you look ahead to this new year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

What my art — and making it — is teaching me

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY   COMPLETED.

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY  COMPLETED.

Having embarked on a new professional direction after selling my design firm 5 years ago, I dicovered that I loved Intuitive Painting (so much that I became an instructor in that proecess), but that engaging in other personal creative work was a challenge. In time I started writing poetry (as I have always loved words, and that was a comfortable way for me to express ideas and emotions). And, last year I enrolled in a class at Boston's MFA and began sculpting in clay. To my delight, I loved working with my hands and in three dimensions.

On my fall 2015 sabbatical, I took a new big step and enrolled in an abstract painting course at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. To say that it was life-changing is not an overstatement. I had a brilliant teacher and wonderful classmates who generously embraced me as a new student, and who all taught me more than I'd have imagined possible in a one-semester course.

Now, I am enrolled at the SMFA in Bosotn, with another brillient painting teacher and inspiring classmates. And, I have continued to study with my sculpting teacher.

All of this art-making takes a lot of time. I wondered, at first, if perhaps I was devoting too much time to this work, as my coaching practice and the programs I offer are so important to me and require so much time and attention. Now that we are four months into 2016, I am taking stock of the decisions I made, and how the balance is working for me.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

What I have realized is that my creative work is richly rewarding — and it challenges me. In the best moments, I make what I feel tangible in my art. I sometimes find myself in such flow that I completely lose track of time. That is an amazing experience, and one that, happily, I often replicate when engaged in my coaching work.

Other times when I am in the studio, and more often this semester in my painting class, I find myself struggling to connect to my intution, unable to create with ease. I had decided at the start of the semester to deliberately use this painting class to experiment with a wide range of techniques, so that I my painting process can flow. I want to find a way to paint that feels like home for me. So, I am perservering and have started to find more freedom as I paint.

Strikingly, when I am at work outside of either the painting or sculpting studios, I realize that I more naturally look for opportunities to be responsive, intuitive, adaptable and, yes, creative — in recognizing unexpected and intriguing ideas, and in the decisions I make and the actions I take. This fluidity is striking to me, and is leading me in exciting directions. And, the happiness I feel with my work is ever increasing.

I am certain that my descion to devote time to personal creative exploration is paying dividends for me, and I am excited as I contemplate continuing my journey to develop as an artist.

Sabbatical recap and looking ahead

Alas, my sabbatical has ended. We‘ve packed up the DC apartment and driven home to Boston, and while it‘s lovely to be back, it is bittersweet.

Our Thanksgiving trip to Boston was wonderful, highlighted by spending time with our children and our grandson, Samuel. Sam is now 9 months old. He is growing and thriving in wonderful ways, and is a constant source of joy.

We flew on to Chicago after the holiday, where my husband was honored at the RSNA (Radiologic Society of North America), at their enormous annual meeting. I was so proud to see him receive a Gold Medal in recognition of his great achievements as a leader in Radiology. And, I was happy to have time to explore the town on my own, including a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and getting a start on some holiday shopping.

My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

My husband, Steven, being honored with a Gold Medal at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, and a wonderful celebration at The Art Institute Of Chicago.

Some of the spectacular pieces we enjoyed in the contemporary collection at The Art Institute of Chicago (by Jawlensky, Giacometti, Matisse, Klee, Severini, and Klee)

The interior of the Kennedy Center; at Lafayette Park the night after the Paris attacks.

The last weeks of my time in Washington were full and fun, in spite of coping with troubling world events. We were at the Kennedy Center seeing a brilliant perfomance of the Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversay Tour when we heard the news about the terror attacks unfolding in Paris. The next evening we found ourselves walking through Lafayette Park, across from The White House, and were surrounded by people holding candles and hand-made French flags as they sang La Marseillaise. We felt a deep connection to the love, sadness and hopeful energy of the crowd.

On a happier note, I worked nearly daily in the studio and returned with a body of work that I am proud of. I have registered for a spring semester course at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that seems to be much like my course at the Corcoran School for the Arts and Design. While I will miss my brilliant teacher, Mira Hecht, and my fantastic classmates, I am excited as I look ahead to continuing my work as a painter. I look forward to having the structure, support and energetic environment of a challenging course to help me further develop my skills as a painter, and I am eager to explore many new ideas on canvas.

Three of the small paintings I completed near the end of my sabbatical.

I am also excited to have made significant progress on a book I‘ve been writing, and am glad to be in conversation with a terrific publisher. Stay tuned for news about the book!

Another highlight of the last weeks of the sabbatical included a tour of the White House, that was decked out in fantastic holiday splendor. The live music that was being performed made it even more special to be there.

The White House tour was a visual treat at every turn.

And, my teacher had arranged for our class to have a private tour of a remarkable special exhibition, Masterworks From Switzerland, Gauguin to Picasso, at The Phillips Collection. The art historian taught us a lot I had never known about the distinctive works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pissarro on view, and several wonderful artists whose work was new to me (including Alexej von Jawlensky, Ferdinand Hodler and Cuno Amiet).

My husband and I also made time to take in several excellent films while we were away. Among our favorites were Spotlight, Truth, Bridge of Spies, Suffragette and Trumbo I also recommend a wonderful new documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, that was released just before we headed home.

On our final visit to the Dupont Circle Farmer‘s Market we enjoyed seeing holiday wreaths, garlands and flowers and e were surrounded by lively music and happy shoppers. We said goodbye to our friend Annette, whose amazing bakery items are all gluten free, and all delectable. If you‘re in Washington on a Sunday morning, it‘s worth waiting in line at her O Earth Creamery and Bakehouse table to taste her creations (even if you have no worries about gluten)!

With the unpacking now nearly done, and having enjoyed lovely visits with family, it‘s great to be home. I am glad to have this last week of 2015 to ready myself for the new year. I believe that my experiences on the sabbatical will inspire an amazing 2016. I‘m planning some big new work — to live an even bigger life in the year ahead, and to help more women create and step into the amazing big life they dream of, with clarity, confidence, and joy.

Wonder at the Renwick Gallery

One of the great joys of being in Washington DC for my sabbatical has been the opportunity to visit the fantastic museums of the Smithsonian. These treasures are free for all of us to enjoy, and it is a thrill to be able to visit these museums whenever time allows.

The Renwick Gallery is one of the Smithsonian museums, and is located across from the White House. It is a beautiful building that’s been closed for renovations for the last 3 years. I’d not known of it, but I have walked past the gallery each day on my way to the Corcoran and have been intrigued by the imposing facade. It was exciting to find out that the museum was to reopen on November 13. There was a lot of buzz about it, so I checked out its fascinating history and the opening exhibition, Wonder. While I was eager to see the exhibition, I waited until after the opening weekend to avoid the crowds.

My patience was rewarded! The magnificent sculptural installations that were commissioned for nine grand galleries were thrilling to move around and marvel at with just a few other visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. The name of the exhibition, Wonder, could not be more apt. The works are superb, and they make each of the gallery spaces a star attraction.

While photos cannot convey the impact of seeing these monumental works in person, I hope you will get a sense of the nine works — and perhaps be able to make a trip to Washington see them yourself. I hope you can make it before July 10, 2016, when the exhibition will close.

Tara Donovan’s intriguing landscape, ”Untitled”, is made of index cards!

”Plexus, A1“ by Gabriel Dawe is made of thread and is completely spellbinding.

Patrick Dougherty’s ”Shindig” is PHENOMENAL, and especially delightful because you can move into the forms he created with willow saplings.

Janet Echelman’s Suspended Woven sculpture, ”1.8” is in a gallery 100 feet long. It was inspired by the Tsunami in Japan in 2011. changing lights, and the shadows cast on the gallery walls, make it completely mesmerizing.

”Middle Fork”, by John Grade, was made by first creating a plaster cast of a tree, found IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS, that is the same age as the Renwick building. Then, a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar were carved and connected to make the new ”tree” from the cast. Amazing!

”Folding the Chesapeake” was created by Maya Lin, using marbles to shape rivers, fields, canyons and mountains in this gallery. IT is exquisite.

Leo Villareal’s ”Volume” sculpture is suspended above the great staircase and is ever-changing. It is coded so that the lighting sequences never repeat exactly as before.

"Anonymous donor" by Chakaia Booker is made with reworked RUBBER TIRES. She created fantastic textures and forms.

”In the midnight garden”, by Jennifer Angus, transports us into a magical and completely surprising space. Not only are the patterns on the walls made with actual insects (that are abundant in nature), the stunning pink wall color was derived from crushed insects.


Sabbatical update — reflections at the mid-point

I continue to be enormously grateful for my 3-month sabbatical adventure. In the year before it started, the prospect of having 3 months to live in a new city and dive deep into new learning and personal exploration sounded like it would be a rare and remarkable experience. Now that I am at the mid-point, I can say that the sabbatical has surpassed my expectations.

The rhythm and structure of my days is quite different here than in Boston. I am taking a semester-long abstract painting class as well as a short course on making art books. I‘ve also committed to a self-study program and I am working to complete a book I had started writing before the sabbatical. I am working with a few coaching clients on a very limited basis now, and savoring the time with them. I am also visiting as many of Washington's museums and monuments as I can, I‘m walking to explore as widely as my feet can manage, and Steven and I have been taking in movies more often than usual. I‘m doing some cooking with lovely farmers‘ market finds, and we are enjoying socializing with some friends and family — including some wonderful new friends — who live in the DC area. 

One of my paintings

One of my paintings

Every day is different, and I am never at a loss for things to do. But as I plan each day, I am aware that it is very easy for me to slip into old patterns and overload my schedule. I am conscious of making choices to create space for some quiet every day, whether it‘s for reading, meditation, drawing, or walking in a beautiful place. Creating balance is a big priority now, and I hope that when I return to Boston at the end of the year it will be a natural part of my life.

My first book

My first book

Among my most inspiring experiences have been recent museum visits. When I look at art now, I see it in new ways. When I stand before a painting, I look at color through new eyes, thinking about all of the color choices the artist made. I have a new appreciation for the tones they mixed as well as the impact of the juxtaposition of colors. And, I am keenly aware of the painting technique, marveling at strokes of textured paint, or smoother surfaces with clean edges of color against color, or a flat surface in which the brush strokes are barely perceptible. The craft of the painting, as well as its color and composition and overall emotional impact are all playing in my head (and my heart) as I walk through galleries. 

Whether sharing studio time in my painting classes, or seeing the gallery exhibitions of some of my incredibly talented classmates, or gazing at masterworks in some of our country's most fabulous museums, I am thrilled by all of the creative stimulation. That energy spills over into every part of my life.

Here are just a few examples of recent pleasures and experiences.

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11.  [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11. [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

I cannot omit some other highlights of the sabbatical so far. The first half of this adventure was punctuated by a wonderful week back in Boston, where I had a powerful retreat with my coaching group to conclude and celebrate the completion of 6 months together. And, I had the pleasure to doing two great Evening of Creativity and Cooking workshops with women who were full of creative spirit. 

As I look ahead, I am eager to continue the challenging work in my painting class (I‘m venturing out of my comfort zone and starting to paint on larger canvases), learning from my gifted teacher and my generous classmates. I look forward to visiting the newly renovated Renwick Gallery that will reopen next week, as well as many other museums. I have plans to spend time with new acquaintances who share my passion for creativity. And, I am excited to anticipate our trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving, when we will spend time with our children and our precious grandson, before returning for the last weeks of this special time in Washington. 

I am truly excited to be here and to be living big!

My sabbatical adventure has begun!

I am thrilled to be posting from Washington DC, where the experiences of my first 2 weeks on sabbatical have been terrific. We’re living in Dupont Circle which is within walking distance of an enormous number of wonderful places, and I’m happy to report that my fitbit is hitting new highs for steps walked and active minutes each day!

It’s been great fun exploring a city I have visited only briefly in the past, and then as a tourist. Being here as a resident feels quite different. 

Here are a few observations: 

  • Driving from Boston to Washington down the East coast is not for the faint of heart, particularly trying to get through New York (where we finally toured the South Bronx to make our way into Manhattan, when the road to the George Washington Bridge was in total gridlock). But one can find unexpected delight in a route that the phone’s map suggests, such as finding yourself on traffic-free country roads in Pennsylvania that are surrounded by beautiful farmland.

 

  • There’s a lot to be said for adding small, personal touches to make a furnished apartment feel like home. Postcards of art we’ve collected on recent trips to museums now fill our bookshelves, mixed with books and family photos we brought along.
  • Exploring new places on foot, with my phone in hand, enables me to easily go anywhere without getting lost. (Driving has been somewhat more challenging at times, but we have done as little driving as possible.) The metro is a breeze to navigate when distances are greater than my foot power will manage and I want to be car-free.
  • The Sunday morning farmer’s market at Dupont Circle is a feast for the eyes and full of marvelous produce, cheeses and more. The market is open year-round, so we will be able to enjoy the abundance of fresh foods for our entire stay.
A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

A few of the many amazing works that delighted me on my visit to The Phillips Collection.

The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art  TREA  SURES in the  West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

The National Gallery's East wing is largely closed for renovations, but the classical art TREASURES in the West wing, and walking though the atrium of the East Wing, made for a wonderful visit.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has a fabulous, eclectic collection.

  • The painting class I have enrolled in at The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design (part of George Washington University) is challenging and exciting. I am studying with a marvelous teacher and am surrounded by talented, interesting and generous classmates. 
  • Now that I am studying painting, I am seeing differently. I am keenly aware of color, whether simply looking at what surrounds me or, quite profoundly, when looking at paintings in a museum. And, I am closely looking at surfaces and paint strokes, as never before. 
The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

The yellow flags to welcome the Pope were replaced with red flags of china today. There was a face-off of dissidents and chinese supporters lining the street,

  • It’s new for me to be in a city where political events play out all around me. My daily walk to classes and my studio takes me close to the White House. From the flags that went up to welcome the Pope, that changed to the Chinese flag this morning (on those same lamp posts), and protests of all kinds that feel a like street theater, there is always something interesting to observe.

There’s not doubt that these 3 months spent away from home, doing so many new and exciting things, will have a big impact for me. I am enormously grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

Stay tuned for periodic updates!

Summer team-building workshop

I created a team-building workshop for a terrific group from a major medical center in the Boston area. Sixteen wonderful people — some of whom work at outposts in other locations and had never met those based at the hospital — gathered for the day. The workshop was filled with creative fun, thought-provoking writing, and lots of discussion about the ways that the team can bring creativity into their workplace in new ways — as well as enriching their own lives.

Everyone was spirited and created courageously. The work they produced was outstanding. And, they shared openly and honestly with one another. At the end of the day there were smiles all around, and I could not have had a better time sharing my work and insights with them.

The photos capture the energy of the day. And, you can read what the department leader said about the workshop.

The day was spent creating, gathering to write and talk, and creating again!

As the day progressed the art became larger, and finally teams of four created together.

Here is the final "group Art" that was created by teams of four. Each was based on a whacky prompt.

Here is the final "group Art" that was created by teams of four. Each was based on a whacky prompt.

Five of the final wonderful individual pieces that were done at the end of the day.

Five of the final wonderful individual pieces that were done at the end of the day.

An inspiring workshop for Youth Design Boston

I was delighted to do a workshop for the amazing young interns in the Youth Design program, returning this year after having done the workshop with last year's interns. We spent a terrific afternoon creating with Intuitive Painting individually, doing writing work, doing group work, and sharing enormous energy all around.

A big thank-you to Alisa Aronson, Assistant Professor at MassArt and Youth Design's Education Specialist, for inviting me to work with the interns again this year, and to her enthusiastic assistants. And, I thank the students — who went along for the ride and courageously created throughout the workshop.

Watch out for these talented young people to emerge on the scene in a few years. They will light up the design world!

Details — what we see when we slow down and look closely

I always find it a thrill to see art of many types on visits to museums, galleries, and performances (both near home and when I travel). Happily, my senses have been rewarded in amazing ways the last few months. Culture in Boston is so exciting these days that it’s hard to get to seeing everything one hears about before an exhibition closes or a performance is sold out. But I see as much as I can, and on recent travels the opportunities for enrichment and inspiration have been similarly abundant.

What has been especially interesting to me has been noticing details. When I enter a large gallery and taken in the vista of work on view, I then move to observe the individual pieces. Finally, I take a close look at the surfaces and forms of the art. It’s then that I realize how much there is to see and consider about the creation. These are details we typically miss unless we take the time to slow down and observe closely. And those observations can reveal so much more than our impressions from a few feet back.

What might appear at first to be a simple, solid field of color on a canvas delivers intriguing texture and thoughtfulness about what the artist intended, when you take that close look and think about what you are seeing. A busy field of splattered paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas reveals pattern and color interplay that would be missed without a closer look.

The examples are many. In every case, a closer inspection adds to my insights and responses to the art. Similarly, when I saw the Mark Morris Dance Company perform last week, and carefully pondered the selections of music as well as the dance forms, I had a deeper response to the works. The sweep of impressions can be wonderful, and still, focusing in on details enriches us in new ways.

In our day-to-day lives there are also great insights and things to be seen and felt deeply, when we slow down and observe details with care. Think about driving down a street. We never see as much as when we walk that street. The forms of flowers in a garden, the architectural moments on the edge of a roofline, the way the colors of the facade look in a slant of light, are all part of a blur if we only drive and never take a thoughtful walk, with stops along the way to observe and consider small details.

To be observant in that way, we must take a look at how much we rush through our lives. For many people, the days are so over-scheduled that going slow is hard to imagine. Yet when we do slow down and look closely, what we observe can inspire us in surprising and wonderful ways. It can open our eyes to possibilities or suggest ideas for completely unrelated projects. We are stimulated deeply and can connect that energy to any aspect of our lives.

In our work, and in all of our relationships, the principles can be applied. Much as in a gallery, it takes a bit more time to look for and take in the details and to apply the observations. But when you do the results can be profound. Having deeper, more thoughtful conversations can reap amazing rewards. The details that emerge can be the most valuable when formulating decisions for our next steps. At the office, you might find yourself incorporating more insights into a report or proposal that can elevate your work to new heights.

In our ever-rushed world, there are fabulous opportunities for us when we make a habit of taking the time to take in the details all around us. We can use those observations, those "aha" insights, to enrich our lives — and our world.

What will you see today, when you slow down and take a closer look?

THIS REMARKABLE LARGE TAPESTRY THAT I SAW IN THE COOPER HEWITT MUSEUM IN NEW YORK WAS DESIGNED BY DANISH ARTIST GRETHE SORENSON. WHEN SEEN UP CLOSE, YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE AMAZING WEAVING TECHNIQUE THAT CAPTURES FILM IMAGES SHOT AT NIGHT BY HER HUSBAND, BO HOGVAARD. THE GRADATIONS OF COLOR ARE CREATED USING THREAD "PIXELS" OF RED, GREEN, BLUE, CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE. THE RESULT IS AN ALMOST PHOTO-REALISTIC REPRODUCTION OF THE IMAGE. 

THIS REMARKABLE LARGE TAPESTRY THAT I SAW IN THE COOPER HEWITT MUSEUM IN NEW YORK WAS DESIGNED BY DANISH ARTIST GRETHE SORENSON. WHEN SEEN UP CLOSE, YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE AMAZING WEAVING TECHNIQUE THAT CAPTURES FILM IMAGES SHOT AT NIGHT BY HER HUSBAND, BO HOGVAARD. THE GRADATIONS OF COLOR ARE CREATED USING THREAD "PIXELS" OF RED, GREEN, BLUE, CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE. THE RESULT IS AN ALMOST PHOTO-REALISTIC REPRODUCTION OF THE IMAGE. 

JASPER JOHNS' "FLAG", AT MOMA NEW YORK IS AN ICONIC WORK, BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED CLOSELY TO SEE THE AMAZING TEXTURES AND DETAILS OF NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS EMBEDDED IN THICK ENCAUSTIC PAINT THAT WERE LAYERED ONTO PLYWOOD — OR CONSIDERED THE MEANING IN JOHNS' APPROACH TO CREATING THIS WORK?

JASPER JOHNS' "FLAG", AT MOMA NEW YORK IS AN ICONIC WORK, BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED CLOSELY TO SEE THE AMAZING TEXTURES AND DETAILS OF NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS EMBEDDED IN THICK ENCAUSTIC PAINT THAT WERE LAYERED ONTO PLYWOOD — OR CONSIDERED THE MEANING IN JOHNS' APPROACH TO CREATING THIS WORK?

SHANIQUE SMITH HAS A REMARKABLE BODY OF WORK ON EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN BOSTON, TITLED "BRIGHT MATTER". THIS MIXED MEDIA WORK, "SPLENDID", WAS DONE WITH INK, ACRYLIC, FABRIC AND PAPER COLLAGE, RIBBON, YARN AND FOUND OBJECTS, MOUNTED ON A WOOD PANEL. THE IMAPCT IS FANTASTIC WHEN YOU FIRST APPROACH THE WORK, BUT BECOMES EVER MORE FASCINATING WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY AT THE DETAILS AND DIMENSIONAL LAYERED ELEMENTS.

SHANIQUE SMITH HAS A REMARKABLE BODY OF WORK ON EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN BOSTON, TITLED "BRIGHT MATTER". THIS MIXED MEDIA WORK, "SPLENDID", WAS DONE WITH INK, ACRYLIC, FABRIC AND PAPER COLLAGE, RIBBON, YARN AND FOUND OBJECTS, MOUNTED ON A WOOD PANEL. THE IMAPCT IS FANTASTIC WHEN YOU FIRST APPROACH THE WORK, BUT BECOMES EVER MORE FASCINATING WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY AT THE DETAILS AND DIMENSIONAL LAYERED ELEMENTS.

THIS PAINTING, BY ROBERT RYNAM AT MOMA IN NEW YORK, AT FIRST APPEARS TO BE A SOLID WHITE CANVAS. WHEN THE OIL ON COTTON SURFACE IS OBSERVED CLOSELY, YOU CAN SEE THE ATTENTION TO TEXTURE AND EDGE THAT THE ARTIST EXPLORED. HE PAINTED "TWIN" WITH THICK PAINT AND STOPPED BEFORE REACHING THE EDGE OF THE CANVAS ON EACH SIDE. THE RAW CANVAS AND EDGE QUALITY TO THE PAINT GIVES THE IMPRESSION OF IT BEING A PIECE OF ROUGH-EDGED CLOTH GLUED ONTO THE SURFACE. RYMAN WAS FASCINATED BY THE TACTILE SURFACE OF PAINT AND RIGOROUSLY EXPLORE MANY EFFECTS BY USING ONLY WHITE PIGMENT ON SQUARE CANVASES.

THIS PAINTING, BY ROBERT RYNAM AT MOMA IN NEW YORK, AT FIRST APPEARS TO BE A SOLID WHITE CANVAS. WHEN THE OIL ON COTTON SURFACE IS OBSERVED CLOSELY, YOU CAN SEE THE ATTENTION TO TEXTURE AND EDGE THAT THE ARTIST EXPLORED. HE PAINTED "TWIN" WITH THICK PAINT AND STOPPED BEFORE REACHING THE EDGE OF THE CANVAS ON EACH SIDE. THE RAW CANVAS AND EDGE QUALITY TO THE PAINT GIVES THE IMPRESSION OF IT BEING A PIECE OF ROUGH-EDGED CLOTH GLUED ONTO THE SURFACE. RYMAN WAS FASCINATED BY THE TACTILE SURFACE OF PAINT AND RIGOROUSLY EXPLORE MANY EFFECTS BY USING ONLY WHITE PIGMENT ON SQUARE CANVASES.

An LA art adventure

I was fortunate to be able to pause during the end-of-year/holiday rush, to spend a few mild days in LA last week. In addition to visits with some very special friends and lovely long walks in Santa Monica, my husband and I immersed ourselves in art experiences that were marvelous. If you are in LA or can get there, I hope you’ll enjoy some of these treasures.

LACMA has never disappointed, and this visit was no exception. I always love exploring the galleries devoted to their exceptional modern art collection (Matisse's ceramic installation, that was based on his paper cut-out art, is marvelous, and is exhibited near amazing works by Picasso, Magritte, Léger, Mondrian and other brilliant artists of their era). The galleries include a fabulous enormous canvas by Motherwell, and works by Rothko, Kandinsky, Pollack and Oldenburg (to mention just some of my favorites on view). We then discovering gems in their special exhibits. 

MARK BRADFORD, CARTS (2013) at LACMA

MARK BRADFORD, CARTS (2013) at LACMA

Larry Sultan's photographs were new to me, and quite wonderful. And, in the special show titled Variations: Conversations In and Around Abstract Painting, it was a delight to see works by Mark Bradford, whose current show at the Rose Museum at Brandeis had recently introduced me to this great contemporary master.

Our visit to MOCA (LA’s museum of contemporary art) was also a treat. The special exhibition, Andy Warhol: Shadows, was exceptional. He painted 102 canvases in 1978-79 that were hung dramatically in the enormous gallery. It was a fascinating exploration of a simple shadow in Warhol's studio, expressed in varying colors and subtle textural variations. The rhythm and breadth of the installation were fabulous to see.

Andy Warhol's Shadows at MOCA

Andy Warhol's Shadows at MOCA

We continued at MOCA and found ourselves surrounded by works in an exhibit titled Concrete Infinity, and then moved on to see selections from their permanent collection. The range of expression was wonderful, thought-provoking and fascinating. For a visit to a small museum, we were well rewarded!

From left: A gallery at MOCA with work by Segal, Alfred Jensen and others; Robert Rauschenberg; Donal Judd; Jackson Pollock;  ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG;  Barbara Kruger

From left: A gallery at MOCA with work by Segal, Alfred Jensen and others; Robert Rauschenberg; Donal Judd; Jackson Pollock; ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG; Barbara Kruger

Across the street from MOCA the dramatic Walt Disney Concert Hall demands your attention. We had been told there was free a self-guided tour available and we truly enjoyed the experience of being in and around Frank Gehry's architectural tour de force. The only thing we did not get to see was the inside of the concert hall performance space (a rehearsal was underway). On our next trip we’ll try to hear the LA Philharmonic perform. 

Exterior views of the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Exterior views of the Walt Disney Concert Hall

While I love sharing photos of these marvelous works of creation, and reflecting on them again myself, there is truly magic in experiencing them in person. Whatever art you are able to explore this season, I hope that you feel a similar thrill.

Forging new identity

If you did not hear or read about my opportunity to partner with painter ZsuZsanna Donnell in a gallery opening at First Friday in SoWa, you may not know that I have formally and publicly shared my poetry for the first time. In a show titled Powerful Pairings, ZsuZsanna’s breathtaking large paintings were all paired with my poems. As people entered the gallery, many asked who was the artist and who the poet. And so I found myself saying, “I am the poet.”

It was an amazing — and surprising — feeling to call myself a poet. This is an identity I never imagined for myself. But, as with many new things I have explored and made a focus in my life in the last few years, a new part of my creative spirit has emerged and taken shape.

I believe that most of us have hidden gifts that are waiting to emerge. I have always loved words, so it’s not really surprising that I started playing with words as a way to channel emotion and express ideas. What is surprising is that it took until this stage in my life to explore the possibility of writing poetry.

What do you love that could be a form of new creative expression — and maybe could become a new dimension of your identity? Whether you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, keeping a sketchbook, writing song lyrics, becoming a dancer, playing an instrument, being an inventor, building furniture, teaching what you know and love, pursuing a sport, or anything else, I hope you’ll devote a little time for your heart and spirit to explore the possibilities.

And, if you have begun something new and exciting in your life, I’d love for you to share your story.

Oh, what a night!

Do you remember the old hit song by the Four Seasons? If so, you’ll get an idea of what a marvelous night I had on November 9. I made my debut as a poet on this First Friday at SoWa in Boston!

Poetry may sound funny in terms of First Fridays, as they are all about galleries and studios welcoming people to visit and view the latest art on exhibit. Let me explain.

A brilliant artist, ZsuZsanna Donnell, has attended two of my workshops. After both workshops, I emailed a poem to the people who’d attended — and both times, ZsuZsanna wrote back to me to say she’d done a painting with the same title as my poem. This was too much of a coincidence to ignore, and so we decided we’d collaborate. And, since ZsuZsanna had a gallery show scheduled in her SoWa studio for the November First Friday, we made that our focus.

Another great coincidence is that ZsuZsanna came to my first workshop seeking inspiration to continue her work making large-scale paintings. And, my work is all about teaching people to live big. So, “big” was a theme for both of us.

Having made our plan, ZsuZsanna sent me a photo of her magnificent painting titled, “Oh My”. It’s 6' wide and 7' tall, and even in jpeg form it took my breath away! The poem for that painting poured out onto my keyboard, and I couldn’t wait for her to send more images of her paintings and their titles. As they arrived, I wrote poems for each. Poems for “Continuum”, “Common Ground”, “More”, and “Zero to Infinity” soon followed.

I printed the poems out large, to hang next to the canvases. We spent a great day hanging the show. We also wanted the opening to be a time for people to get creative themselves, so I brought strips with phrases from my poems and ZsuZsanna brought color prints of lots of her art. We set up a worktable, provided scissors, glue sticks, tape and markers, and devoted one of the gallery walls for people post their collaged creations. 

Rochelle and ZsuZsanna.

Rochelle and ZsuZsanna.

"Zero to Infinity" on the left; "Common Ground" in the middle; "Oh My" on the right.

"Zero to Infinity" on the left; "Common Ground" in the middle; "Oh My" on the right.

ZsuZsanna in front of "Continuum".

ZsuZsanna in front of "Continuum".

Watching people enter the gallery, read the poems and ponder the paintings, then spend time creating with the words and images that touched them, was truly a thrill. ZsuZsanna and I had amazing conversations and delighted in the fantastic energy and enthusiasm all around us.

In particular, I loved that we enabled people to create, not just observe. Seeing the wall become a growing collage of words and colors was fantastic. But seeing the emotional dimension — in the content of the collaged pieces and the connections that people made as they assembled their pieces — was even more special.

You can read the poems that were written for ZsuZsanna's paintings, as well as others I had on hand for people to take home, on the new Poetry page I have added to the site.

Watch as a group creates

At my last workshop we had a marvelous day. As part of the workshop we did a project that I always love seeing unfold — and one that participants always find to be a blast.

Groups of three people work together to create a large Intuitive Painting (in this case, using soft pastels) with a fun theme. The objective is for the group to fill the entire page with color, and for everyone to work quickly all over the paper. The theme for this piece was a wild picnic attended by crazy creatures, and I enjoyed photographing the creation as it developed. (What I was not able to capture was the great music and the chatter about ideas — and laughter — as the picture came to life!)

I would love for you to come and create with me. My next day-long workshop is November 9, and my new Creative Drop-in sessions are held weekly on Wednesday evenings. The range of creative adventures is growing, and the joy of creating with others is always energizing. 

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New studio for the new season!

Autumn has arrived, even if it is still technically summer for a few more days. Schools have started, the weather is surprisingly crisp, and the pace of life seems to have cranked up considerably for everyone I know.

I am delighting in the beautiful new studio space I worked to make over this summer. Completed just in time for the new season, the studio is bigger (due to lots of simplifying, rearranging, recycling and donations) and brighter (thanks to amazing new lighting and shots of paint to enliven the space). I've been building my library of resources to share, and bringing in lots of new and interesting materials with which to create.

And, now that I’ve done my first, new Wednesday evening Creative Drop-in session and my first full-day workshop of the season in the new studio, I am happier than ever to know how beautifully the space functions. I had a fabulous time with amazing groups of women at both events.

I would love for you to join me soon at a Creative Drop-in on a Wednesday evening, or at one of the workshops coming up in the months ahead. The next workshop is scheduled for November 9. Let's create together in this wonderful space! 

A summer of superb art and surprises

It’s hard to believe that the spring melted into summer, and now summer is coming to an end. As I have been busy coaching, conducting workshops and revamping my studio space for lots of new fall events, I have also visited museums and found inspiration of many kinds that has excited and propelled me all season.

Boston museums have hosted many marvelous exhibitions in the last months. Among my favorites was the Quilt and Color exhibition at the MFA. Having entered the gallery with the idea that I'd take a quick look at the Pilgrim/Roy quilt collection and move on to seeing other works in the museum, I was astonished at what I found. The exhibition was organized brilliantly by color and captivated me. I felt as though I was reliving color theory as I’d learned it in college — but this time in a delightful and unique way. The color lessons were provided by groupings of work done by brilliant artists, women who worked in isolated rural communities over a century ago. Their work was never appreciated as fine art or lauded for its brilliance of design, color, imagination and fabulous craft. I loved the variety and the beauty of the fantastic collection, and loved that this art was being seen and appreciated in a major museum exhibition.

quilt strip.jpg

 

The work of a young, contemporary woman artist, also working with textiles, resonated for me this summer, too. I was taken by surprise at The Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum when I saw the exhibition, Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community. Fernández is a Mexican artist and fashion designer who has documented indigenous Mexican textile making techniques and has honored that heritage by incorporating the materials into striking contemporary fashion designs and accessories. The exhibition also included drawings, photographs, videos, performance and source materials, all of which were fascinating and marvelous.

 

It was a delight and yet another surprise to discover the work of Lesley Dill at the Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum. The 20-year survey of Dill's work was a revelation for me. Her materials, concepts and integration of text in her drawings, sculptures and mixed media pieces were marvelous to explore.

dill-strip.jpg


On a visit to Maine we made two trips to the Portland Museum of Art because there was so much to see and enjoy. The retrospective of Richard Estes’ Realism was fantastic, and the museum's extensive permanent collection was wonderful. 


Of all the work that inspired me recently, one exhibition I loved will be on view until November 2. If you can get to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston this fall, I recommend you spend 64 minutes experiencing the video performance, The Visitors. The film, on multiple screens in a large space, documents a durational performance by Ragnar Kjartansson and musician friends. It transfixed me, both with beautiful and moving music and with visuals that are quietly compelling.

 

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see such marvelous and brilliantly varied work at great museums in my area. I hope that wherever you live, or wherever your travels take you, you too have the opportunity to experience creativity that opens your senses and fills your heart.

 

An inspired reunion

When I reflected on having done a year of workshops for individuals, I had an urge to invite people back for a reunion. I was eager to reconnect with workshop participants, and to have people who attended different workshops meet one another.

It was an inspired idea! The group that gathered at the reunion included people from five of the workshops. Everyone connected easily and spirits were high. The pot-luck dinner was special, as everyone contributed a dish made with love. As if by magic, the meal was perfectly balanced and every taste complemented the others. It was as if a master menu-planner had created the meal.

As we ate we each shared something we created, something that has inspired us, or both. The range of offerings was fascinating. One person brought a magnificent glass bowl she recently made (a new technique for that person, and one she’d dreamed up and sketched shortly after taking the workshop). One person came with gardening gloves of various sizes — hers, her kids’ and her husband’s. Following the workshop she attended last summer, she discovered that being in fresh air and tending a garden was the creative outlet she craved. And, for the first time, her family happily centered some of their weekend activities around her passion. One person brought back her sketchbook from the workshop. It was nearly filled with vivid drawings and poems she’s been creating. Someone else brought a dramatic drawing, also done in her sketchbook, that she made on a vacation soon after her workshop experience. She said that drawing held more vivid memories for her than all of the photos from her trip. 

After eating and enjoying all of the creative sharing, we moved on to start creating anew as a group. I had been inspired by two visits I recently made to the ICA, to see the work of Nick Cave. He uses "mundane" materials like buttons, pipe cleaners, yarn, beads, and more to create his sound suits and fabulous “paintings”. With that in mind, I hit art supply and craft stores, as well rifling through my own cabinets and drawers, to source a host of fun materials. With Edith Piaf as our sound track and glue guns in hand, we dove in and started playing and forming the materials into fantastic creations.  

As the evening came to a close, someone suggested that the reunion had been more fun than a book club meeting and that we should continue to meet and create together. Plans are underway already for our next creative adventure!

Nick Cave sound suits at the ICA Boston; creations made at the reunion from similar materials.