Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Once, Twice... Three times the reason

I've wanted to go ahead and post my response to Eric Maisel's second incantation - "I expect nothing", but I'm sick at the moment and I thought I wouldn't be able to. Actually, when you are sick, I discovered, is a perfect time to practice the Ten Zen Seconds incantations and reflect on what they mean, personally, and how they affect me. So, there I was, expecting nothing, and...*bing* ...I realised I was expecting myself to create something new for this (yes, I know that is obvious, but at that stage it wasn't to me!) and a split second later I realised that this drawing I had already done actually 'said' "I expect nothing" to me anyway. So here it is. And that's the first reason for this post.

The second reason is for me to be able to say THIS IS MY HUNDREDTH POST!!! In honor of this momentous occasion I've actually spruced up my links a bit. Yes, I know you can't tell, so that's why I'm saying it here. And it's worth a look because there is some good stuff there. I've got rid of a few dead links, I've added some new blogs (unfortunately they're mixed in, but you'll find them) and a couple of fun sites to the 'frivolity' section, and a whole new section 'Artists'. In this section you'll find some really interesting people and their work. Some you will know and some will be new. And its not just painting and drawing. There are some exciting book artists, fibre artists and sculptors too. Some of them have long been my favourites, but some I've only found recently. It's not meant to be a representative list. And I'll keep updating it.

The third reason was to show you these three drawings. Once again, these were created in response to an exercise in my drawing course. Firstly, I had to experiment with mark making with non-traditional tools - about 20! Then, having narrowed it down to 3, do three tonal studies using those marks only. The top one was done with the metal part from a floppy disc. The middle one with a gluestick - yes, the sticky end! And this final one with the open end of a pad of post-it notes.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Janey got me

Yep, I been tagged. I'm not really a tag type but for Janey I'd do (just about) anything.
1. List 7 random facts/habits about yourself.
2. Choose another 7 bloggers to tag and list their names in your blog.
3. Leave your 7 tagged bloggers comments to notify them of their tagging and to direct them to your blog for tag instructions.
1. I'm addicted to coffee. I've long suffered from the eternal curse of the quest-for-a-perfect-cup-of-coffee syndrome. I have recently gained relief from the curse with my Nespresso machine (a perfect cup every time!) but it has done nothing to help the addiction.
2. I don't have any piercings or tattoos, which these days is a slightly unusual.
3. I have never mowed a lawn in my life.
4. I'm afraid of grasshoppers.
5. I'm an incurable Johnny Depp fan. I have a special section in my DVD collection. My latest addition is "Cry Baby" which I'd heard was crap but bought anyway. I love it! It is a wonderful spoof musical, all very tongue in cheek.
6. My favourite author is John Irving. If I find out someone I meet loves his books too, then I will love them as a dear dear friend and equal. I think anyone who doesn't love his books is crazy.
7. I love stationery. I need a minder in a stationery shop and I am unable to go past one without going in, just to look at the pencil cases (I love clear plastic best) and pens (I think I own every pen there is).

OK, who to tag?
1. Jade at spectrescope. Jade is one of the most exciting Australian artists I've seen in a long time.
2. Alison at scribbles adagio. Alison is another fabulous Aussie who creates to most charming interesting memory paintings of her interesting and sometimes surprisingly familiar childhood.
3. Hawk over at Pile of Index Cards should be interesting. His passion for stationery exceeds my own and visiting his blog is always interesting enlightening and a little confusing. I'm trying to understand Hawk!
4. Ty in Wales over at chasingtigers for another male perspective on this whole tagging business and some great sketches.
5. Ronell over at Africantapestry should also be interesting to ask. She lives in France.
6. And Linda at Quotidian Curiosities is another blogger who posts great drawings and paintings and is now tagged!
7. And I'm going to give Rob a go over at Sumosays. He always amazes me by the apparent amount of time he puts into his work. Check out what he as done with The Empire Strikes Back!

And on another matter, I haven't updated for a while and I will be a while longer before I post my latest pic for Eric Maisel's Ten Zen Seconds incantations. I'm sick and taking it easy until I'm better. In the mean time enjoy this Paris scene I drew adding myself to it!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mania in the Mangroves

My spare time is limited these days. I've mentioned I'm doing a course but I've never said what. It's a Bachelor of Arts (Art) (online delivery through Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia) and I'm loving it. Any spare time I have is swallowed greedily up by the exercises for the units I'm doing. I'm currently getting close to the end of a drawing unit and a textile unit. The textiles unit has been a big surprise. It has involved a lot of installation art and 3D work (as well as work with actual textiles!) I've been working with the themes 'time' and 'space' and a beautiful patch of sand down behind my house next to the mangrove trees where their aerial roots rise up to breath.

Here I'm playing with the tide itself, first creating a hole in the tide by using the low tide mark inside a glass cylinder at high tide...

and then creating a cylinder of high tide water at low tide.

Then I needed to create another installation using only what lay within my area of sand. I stood all the hermit crab shells up vertically to mirror the extreme verticallity of the aerial roots.

I also played with the photos of my site in Photoshop, changing the roots into lush grass and the trees into spectacular autumn trees in a fabulous garden.

This gave me another idea...

Mangrove areas are vital to ocean ecology. Most ocean fish are born in mangroves. But mangroves are often not valued by humans who sometimes think of them as dirty (they collect our rubbish in those spikey roots), inaccessible and a waste of good waterfront real estate. I thought of the cute endangered animals who end up with droves of humans championing their cause while more unappealing animals slowly fade away. I wondered if mangroves were more cute and/or appealing, if we wouldn't look after them better.

With these concepts in mind I collected leaves from the nearby trees (nice healthy ones with no blemishes because we humans like that) and attached them to the tip of the aerial roots to make a faux lawn area. Why? To indicate that if mangroves were more human-friendly we might look after them by default, the way we look after vegetation or animals that serve us well.

P.S. I've played with these images in my recently downloaded drag & drop widget on my new Mac. What do you think? Is it a good tool, or are the images too small?

Friday, May 04, 2007

TEN ZEN SECONDS and a couple of minutes interviewing Eric Maisel!

JA: Firstly Eric, can I say how much I appreciate you visiting my humble little blog, and how thrilled I am to have you. I've been reading your books for quite a few years now and they are all good, but your latest "Ten Zen Seconds" has really intrigued me. What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?

EM: It’s actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of “dropping a useful thought into a deep breath.”

You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life—I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book—and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.

JA: Where did this idea come from?

EM: It comes from two primary sources, cognitive and positive psychology from the West and breath awareness and mindfulness techniques from the East. I’d been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years as a therapist and creativity coach and wanted to find a quick, simple technique that would help them deal with the challenges they regularly face—resistance to creating, performance anxiety, negative self-talk about a lack of talent or a lack of connections, stress over a boring day job or competing in the art marketplace, and so on.

Because I have a background in both Western and Eastern ideas, it began to dawn on me that deep breathing, which is one of the best ways to reduce stress and alter thinking, could be used as a cognitive tool if I found just the right phrases to accompany the deep breathing. This started me on a hunt for the most effective phrases that I could find and eventually I landed on twelve of them that I called incantations, each of which serves a different and important purpose.

JA: What sort of hunt did you go on?

EM: First, I tried to figure out what are the most important tasks that we face as human beings, then I came up with what I hoped were resonant phrases, each of which needed to fit well into a deep breath, then, most importantly—which moved this from the theoretical to the empirical—I tested the phrases out on hundreds of folks who agreed to use them and report back on their experiences. That was great fun and eye-opening!

People used these phrases to center themselves before a dental appointment or surgery, to get ready to have a difficult conversation with a teenage child, to bring joy back to their performing career, to carve out time for creative work in an over busy day—in hundreds of ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. I think that’s what makes the book rich and special: that, as useful as the method and the incantations are, hearing from real people about how they’ve used them “seals the deal.” I’m not much of a fan of self-help books that come entirely from the author’s head; this one has been tested in the crucible of reality.

JA: Which phrases did you settle on?

EM: The following twelve. I think that folks will intuitively get the point of each one (though some of the incantations, like “I expect nothing,” tend to need a little explaining). Naturally each incantation is explained in detail in the book and there are lots of personal reports, so readers get a good sense of how different people interpret and make use of the incantations. Here are the twelve (the parentheses show how the phrase gets “divided up” between the inhale and the exhale:

1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)

A small note: the third incantation functions differently from the other eleven, in that you name something specific each time you use it, for example “I am writing my novel” or “I am paying the bills.” This helps you bring mindful awareness to each of your activities throughout the day.

JA: Can you use the incantations and this method for any special purposes?

EM: As I mentioned, folks are coming up with all kinds of special uses. One that I especially like is the idea of “book-ending” a period of work, say your morning writing stint or painting stint, by using “I am completely stopping” to ready yourself, center yourself, and stop your mind chatter, and then using “I return with strength” when you’re done so that you return to “the rest of life” with energy and power. Usually we aren’t this mindful in demarcating our activities—and life feels very different when we do.

JA: That sounds really interesting. Which incantation will be most helpful in assisting me to turn up at the blank page or canvas every day?

EM: I recommend to readers that they go through the twelve incantations, read the explanation for each, and then pick one or two that resonate the most for them and give those a try.

For one person, “I am equal to this challenge” may prove the most effective bridge to creating, for another person it might be “I trust my resources,” for a third it might be “I am taking action.” It might also be an incantation of your own creation—I suggest that readers create some incantations of their own, finding just the right words to drop into a deep breath that will assist them in whatever their objective is, whether it’s “doing nothing,” working hard on a project, or “vanishing” into creative work.

Any one of the incantations may prove to be a magic bullet, but it will be a different incantation and a different magic bullet for each person, so quietly and carefully going through all twelve is the starting point.

JA: I often feel resistance to my work while I'm creating. I fall in love with it first, but then begin to doubt. It is during this doubt phase that I'm most likely to discard the work or set it aside and begin again. While this might be the right thing to do at times, I find I have a lot of unfinished work stored in my studio. How can I use the Ten Zen Seconds incantations to help me persist beyond doubt and solve the problems of the work?

EM: Getting work finished—and not just finished in a draft way, but in a “finished” finished way—is very important. If we don’t finish our work, we get disappointed in ourselves, we doubt our ability to “really” do the work, we experience little joy from our own efforts, and we don’t have the experience of making sufficient meaning.

A starting place is to use incantation 7, “I am free of the past,” to help you get free of the past of not completing—to consciously and mindfully tell yourself that you are through not completing things, that that difficulty is behind you, and that you intend to stop doing that. Then you might try a variation of incantation 3, “I am doing my work,” and name as your work “I am finishing this painting.” Breathing-and-thinking “I am free of the past” and “I am finishing this painting” just might do the trick.

JA: Most of us wear multiple hats everyday. How can Ten Zen Seconds techniques help with overcoming the perception that there just isn't enough time in the day to do all the things we want to, or even have to? Can this technique make more time in my day?

EM: It can! Or rather, it can increase the number of “islands of mindfulness” in a person’s day. It is not possible that we accomplish everything in life with the same mindful attention, nor is that required. We can “space out” while we do some mechanical work or watch a few television shows. The trick to meaning-making is to pick our meaning-making places: to decide that the next hour gets my mindful attention, because that is when I am painting, but the hour after that doesn’t, and that the hour after that does once again, because that is when I am having that serious chat with my son, and so on.

We do not have to allow everything in our day to have the same adrenaline-doused, rushed, uncentered quality—if we can’t add extra hours (which in fact we can add, by getting up earlier and getting to our creating first thing), we can at least add extra mindful hours, and that is a big deal.

JA: Is there a way to experience this process in “real time.”

EM: By trying it out! But my web master Ron Wheatley has also designed a slide show at the Ten Zen Seconds site www.tenzenseconds.com that you can use to learn and experience the incantations. The slides that name the twelve incantations are beautiful images provided by the painter Ruth Yasharpour and each slide stays in place for ten seconds. So you can attune your breathing to the slide and really practice the method. The slide show is available here.

JA: How can people learn more about Ten Zen Seconds?

EM: The book is the best resource. You can get it at Amazon by visiting here. Or you can ask for it at your local bookstore. The Ten Zen Seconds website is also an excellent resource: in addition to the slide show that I mentioned, there is a bulletin board where folks can chat, audio interviews that I’ve done discussing the Ten Zen Second techniques, and more. It’s also quite a gorgeous site, so you may want to visit it just for the aesthetic experience! I would also recommend that folks check out my main site, www.ericmaisel.com, especially if they’re interested in creativity coaching or the artist’s life.

JA: Is the book available in bookshops in Australia?

EM: Ah, that is a question that authors can’t answer! I know that I have many readers in Australia and that both creativity coaches and creativity clients in Australia know about my work, but as to whether a given book of mine exists there—that is knowledge I do not possess! If you can’t find the book, make a fuss—making a fuss in life always seems to work!

JA: What else are you up to?

EM: Plenty! I have a new book out called Creativity for Life, which is roughly my fifteenth book in the creativity field and which people seem to like a lot. I also have a third new book out, in addition to Ten Zen Seconds and Creativity for Life, called Everyday You, which is a beautiful coffee table book about maintaining daily mindfulness. I’m working on two books for 2008, one called A Writer’s Space and a second called Creative Recovery, about using your innate creativity to help in recovering from addiction.

And I’m keep up with the many other things I do: my monthly column for Art Calendar Magazine, my regular segment for Art of the Song Creativity Radio, the trainings that I offer in creativity coaching, and my work with individual clients. I am happily busy! But my main focus for the year is on getting the word out about Ten Zen Seconds, because I really believe that it’s something special. So I thank you for having me here today!

JA: Thank you! It has been very interesting and exciting to have you here!

JA: Bye!

EM: Bye!

JA: Wow, wasn't that something! Eric Maisel, here! on my blog!

JA: You know something, I'm not going to just leave you all high and dry at the end of such a long post. I'm going to promise you more! Yes, more excitement right here!

I've actually tried out the first incantation "I am completely stopping". It works wonders! I've used it to have a break from my studies which, up until now, seemed to fill my mind all the time. I've also used it for instant relaxation. Again it works instantly and seems to even have a cumulative effect.

I promised you more... I've begun a project to create an artwork in response to each incantation and this is my first one - I am completely stopping... which gives me an idea... see you later!