I No Longer Want To Be a Shadow Artist

Image of Woman with Books Courtesy of: Alisha Firdland firdlandprints.com/Photo by: adellecirca1920

On one of my days off this week, I decided to visit a metaphysical store called Crazy Wisdom Bookstore in Ann Arbor. It is a wondrous place not only filled with books, but crystals, tarot decks, incense, journals, art, and gifts. I went there hoping to find books on art and spirituality, but I couldn’t find any. I decided to ask one of the lovely booksellers for assistance, and she looked up various keywords tied to art and spirituality and nothing was coming up. She was as surprised as I was they don’t have a section of the store devoted to this section. Then she said, “Wait, here’s one. “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.” I laughed and told her I already have that one. I thanked her and left the bookstore. As I was walking away, I started thinking, maybe that was a sign, a prompt, to return to the “The Artist’s Way.” The book is about creative recovery, and that is what I find myself in need of once again.

When I first delved into “The Artist’s Way” 13 years ago, I had no idea what I wanted or what to expect – all I knew was that I had this overwhelming urge to be creative. So, I dove into the book, reading sections and trying out exercises. I started keeping morning pages and going on scheduled artist’s dates as Julia advised more about morning pages and artist dates here. And eventually, I got back to my love of books and the stories they contain by virtue of participating in these activities. This then led to me:

  • reading more
  • learning to write
  • starting a blog
  • learning to draw
  • learning to paint
  • completing a 365 day art challenge
  • setting up art studios in my homes
  • starting an art business

All of these things came about because I embarked on this system of creative recovery, and stuck with it over the years. I realized that I have gotten away from it over the past year – I stopped writing daily morning pages, going on weekly artist’s dates, and creating on a regular basis.

I just read the first essay in “The Artist Way” where Julia Cameron talked about being a shadow artist, which is someone who admires the work of other artist without doing the work of being an artist themselves. This manifests as reading about others, going to museums and galleries, watching movies about artists, supporting the work of artists as agents or representatives, and so on; basically being in a field or pursuing hobbies closely related to the desired field. I’m sorry to admit that I’ve returned to being a shadow artist. I have been flipping through books and admiring the work of others, but I am no longer doing the work myself. There are reasons for this, of course (there always are); like I have a new job that is mentally exhausting and being totally overwhelmed by the scope of the creative project I am undertaking. I still dabble every now and then in my creative work – creating a piece of writing, creating a graphite sketch, working on a painting – but I miss the consistent routine of doing regular creative work. The work of being a true artist.

Now that I have returned to “The Artist’s Way”, I am getting back to basics – doing morning pages, scheduling weekly artist’s dates, and taking small steps on the mammoth story I want to tell (the story of two jazz age bibliophiles in France). I know that I am a Storyteller, but it is time to get back to the work of being a Storyteller. I plan to share my creative recovery, my journey as a Storyteller, on this blog going forward. I am hoping that the entries I share here will help someone else to recover their creativity as well; to stop being a shadow artist, and to start producing the art they long to make.

2020 Life Updates

Photo courtesy of: vi.sualize.us (2)

We all know what kind of year 2020 has been, so I am not going to spend much time dwelling on it. I decided instead to share some of the good things that have happened in 2020 since my last post.

Move to Michigan – I moved to Michigan (from Massachusetts) at the end of August (this is the reason I have been so quiet on the blog; it takes a lot of time and energy to move). The idea had been brewing for awhile, and circumstances aligned to make it possible – so I made it happen. It was hard to leave behind my job and friends, but I am excited to be back near my family. I am also happy to be in a place with more diversity and a reasonable cost of living. Now, I am just anxious to find a job and a new place to live.

The Magic Feather – This time without a job has actually been great for my creativity. I started a story called “The Magic Feather” that will be told in the form of an illustrated journal by a young black woman in her early twenties. It will be set near France in the 1920s – some parts will take place in Paris but most parts will take place on a mysterious island called Peacock Mountain. The island is home to an art colony populated by exceptionally talented (and magical) artists, and my protagonist will be a newcomer tasked with chronicling/archiving what is going on. So far, I have written about 11,000 words and I am excited to keep going.

Mind Mapping – I have rediscovered the power of mind mapping for sorting out my thoughts. I have started using them for everything – planning my future, planning the scenes I am about to write, mapping the ideas I want to remember from the books I have read, and much more. I have started keeping them in the same hardbound books I use for journaling, and they are all in the same journal so I will know where to find them when I am ready to refer back to them.

Commonplace Book – I have also created a Commonplace Book to keep up with all of the bits and bobs from my writing projects. Commonplace Books used to be popular before the age of the internet- they basically are like written scrapbooks to keep up with content you want to remember such as quotes, poetry, recipes, lists, song lyrics, and the like. I have tweaked it a bit to also include imagery I find inspiring as well. It feels good to have a tangible book to flip through when I am seeking inspiration for my writing or illustrations.

Storytelling Focus – I have been thinking a lot lately about what the focus of this blog should be going forward. I have so many interests that it can be difficult to narrow things down. However, I think I have got it – I am planning to focus on celebrating the art of storytelling. My own stories and those of others plus story related content in general. I am still working out the particulars, but I feel good about this direction. Stories have always been my true passion, so it makes sense to put my focus on what I truly love. I am hoping to post more frequently too – I’ll start with once ever other week and see if I can work up to weekly posts. Baby steps!

Most Impactful Book – I have read a lot of books during this time of transition, but I decided to share the one that has been the most impactful during this time. The book is called “World Enough and Time” by Christian McEwan. I learned the following:

  1. Giving yourself time affluence = increased well-being. We tend to think about affluence in terms of money, but time is the new luxury.
  2. To engage in the art of reverie, which means slowing down, observing, sauntering, wandering, pausing, and digressing; basically the activities that our society deems a waste of time are actually essential
  3. The emotional parts of our brain take their own sweet time – empathy, imagination, love, fidelity, and ethics
  4. Instead of rushing from one new thing to the next, it is helpful to return to the same works to see what they reveal
  5. William Stafford advises having a symposium with the self early in the morning – he used to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and put his mind to work on whatever he found fascinating before everyone else in his household awoke for the day
  6. Unitask – multitasking leads to inefficiency and distraction

Most Inspirational Illustrator– I have been enjoying the work of the writer and illustrator Maira Kalman for some time now, but I had never really drilled down to learn how she thinks and works. I decided to change that by engaging in a deep study of her – examining her work, listening to various YouTube videos, and reading articles about her. These were my takeaways:

  1. She navigates the world with a sense of humor and irreverence. She learned both from her mother – a woman who left her husband in Tel Aviv to move to America, wore only white, and did exactly what she wanted each day of her life.
  2. She says her creative process is to walk around daydreaming all day and sharing her personal views via illustrations and writing. She takes long walks everyday and documents what happens.
  3. Her philosophy is that there are only two vital things in life: Work and Love. If you put work into these two, you have a shot at happiness.
  4. She starts each day by reading the obituaries. She finds it extraordinary to read about the totality of peoples’ lives, and it motivates her to go forward with her day and make the most of it.
  5. Her favorite quote is: Not everything will be okay, but some things will.

I know I covered a lot in this post, but I had a lot to share after being away so long. I hope that you had some positive things happen in 2020 that you will be able to carry forward into 2021 and beyond.

The Creature Adventure Company (Hot Air Balloon, Watercolor, Woman Flying, Zebra, Buck)

The Creature Adventure Company by Cindy Adelle Richard

The Creature Adventure Company by Cindy Adelle Richard

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Cecily Dreams of Umbrellas (Watercolor, Illustration, Story Art, Portraits)

Cecily Dreams of Umbrellas by Cindy Adelle Richard

Cecily Dreams of Umbrellas by Cindy Adelle Richard

Imaginative Vignette: Cecily Dreams of Umbrellas

Wade stumbled upon Cecily on a gloomy, rainy afternoon – it was one of his favorite types of of days because it necessitated the need for an umbrella. On this particular afternoon, Wade spotted a spectacular multi-hued umbrella about six feet in front of him; it was burgundy, pink, blue, yellow, and green and arranged like a color wheel. He just had to know who was attached to this rainbow confection. To his delight, the owner was equally charming: a kind face, sparkling eyes, and softly curling hair beneath a raspberry beret. After introductions, they walked along companionably discussing their favorite subject (umbrellas). Cecily even admitted that she dreams of umbrella – Wade secretly thought she was the perfect woman. Wade told Cecily he was in need of an assistant (he wasn’t) at his umbrella shop because he did not want their association to end, and it was the first thing that came to mind. Cecily was thrilled at the prospect of this opportunity. Cecily started working at Wade’s umbrella shop the following afternoon.

It has been six months since Cecily started working at the shop, and Wade still has not worked up the nerve to ask her out. In the meantime, they keep building their friendship and indulging in their shared passion for umbrellas while Wade admires her from afar.

The Word Wrangler

The Word Wrangler by Cindy Adelle Richard, Illustration, Art, Forest

The Word Wrangler by Cindy Adelle Richard

Gigi Halliwell, otherwise known as The Word Wrangler, swirls among the fireflies, letting words emanate from her core. She is oblivious to her surroundings, completely lost in the land of intuition. Letters float through the air, and she is able to reach out to touch each of the letters and rearrange them to spell something profound. She has tried conjuring these words in different locations, but the middle of the forest seems to work best. In the forest, she is close to nature, away from prying eyes and opinions. The letters seems to come alive – glowing and moving about in graceful swoops. They always seem to attract fireflies; they can sense whenever Gigi enters the forest and swarm around her emanating more light.  Gigi grabs a stick to record the message in the dirt. The letters stay in place only for a moment, and then they resume floating in the air. At first, the words do not always make sense alone but when she copies and rearranges them in a notebook, they make beautiful poetry. Haikus to be exact. One poem a day is about all she can manage.  She shares her poems at The Wily Word Cafe in the middle of town, writing each one on the chalkboard the proprietor set up especially for her. The haikus always tell the citizens of Peacock Mountain what they must reflect upon that day – things that nature wants them to know. They all respect these messages.

A Feature About My Career Journey for Women’s History Month

Gillian Barnes from our Marketing and Communication Department at Endicott College asked me to speak about my art career as part of a feature for Women’s History Month. Gillian saw my calendar posted in a colleague’s office and wanted to know more about how I balance being an artist and working full-time as the Director of Internship – I am honored that she expressed interest in my career journey and wanted to share it with others.

Here is a link to read the article: Cindy’s Art Career Journey

The Butterfly Charmer

The Butterfly Charmer by Cindy Adelle Richard

Agatha did not discover her love for the cello until she reached her twenties. She had always been extremely active as a young child and participated in lots of sports; the thought of slowing down to play an instrument never crossed her mind. In college, Agatha’s music theory class took a field trip to a museum, and as part of the experience, the students got to try out lots of different instruments. For some reason, the cello just clicked with Agatha. She had no idea how to play it yet, but it just felt right resting against her body. With the support of her music theory professor, Monsieur Lamb, Agatha found a good cello instructor and started taking lessons in the afternoons after classes.

One day when Agatha and her cello instructor, Mr. Kim, were practicing, they decided to go outside to play because it was too warm inside. By this time, Agatha was quite proficient and could play lovely songs on the cello. As she played, butterflies started to swirl around her – first one, then two, and by the time she finished, there were about 20. Mr. Kim had never seen anything like it. The next day, they came back to the field to play, and the same thing happened. Out of curiosity, Mr. Kim played his cello to see if the butterflies would gravitate toward him, but they just fluttered away. From then on, he referred to Agatha as the butterfly charmer. Whenever she performed outside, day or night, butterflies appeared and fluttered lazily about enchanting everyone present. Agatha loved this spectacle because she had always been fascinated by butterflies. It always made her happy to see that the butterflies enjoyed her music, and she kept them in mind when she started to compose music.

To bring Agatha and her butterflies home with you, visit Etsy

The Swan Keeper

 

The Swan Keeper

The Swan Keeper by Cindy Adelle Richard

Yuuma, the swan keeper, is known for breeding swans of an unusual size. She is currently the keeper of a family of swans with a female (Pixie), male (Beau), and two babies (Bobby and Lucky). Yuuma works at the bird sanctuary, and her lake and cottage are attached to it via a bridge. She is good friends with Birdie, the manager of the bird sanctuary. One of their favorite pastimes is taking long, quiet strolls through the sanctuary together while sipping tea and discussing the birds. Yuuma is also a ballerina for the local ballet company. She is obsessed with Swan Lake, and spends countless hours creating variations of it during her spare time. She creates one new interpretation each year and stages one grand performance for the citizens of the Isle of Adelle. They look forward to it all year because her productions are truly spectacular to behold. They all admire her wonderful talent, quiet tenacity, and gentle perfectionism.

This poem was created in Yuuma’s honor:

Stillness

White feathers flow

yoked to a graceful form

drift slowly by.

To bring Yuuma and her swans home with you, please visit my Etsy shop.

Nora’s Stitches

Nora's Stitches

Nora’s Stitches by Cindy Adelle Richard

Nora is an exceptional seamstress that Adelle recruited to join the art colony some years back. Nora said she would come on one condition – her home and shop needed to have an unobstructed view of the sea, and Adelle granted her wish. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Paris, Nora loves hearing the gentle swaying of the waves and seeing the boats headed to wondrous destinations. She likes imagining the places they might be headed, and her imaginings often make their way into her creations in subtle ways. For example, this yellow dress for Marigold, a perky harpist who has a flair for the dramatic, came about because Nora imagined that she was attending a night out at the opera in Venice. The gloves became a necessity because what Diva wears a dress without gloves.

People often say that Nora’s creations fit like a dream. She takes great pleasure in seeing her customers try on their outfits for the first time – when they swing, sway, and sashay in front of the mirror while professing their love for her clothing. Could there be anything better? Nora doesn’t think so.

One of her satisfied customers created this poem to honor her:

Satin Gloves

Shaping a fabric’s fate

her needle mimics the waves

making golden gloves sing.

This painting, Nora’s Stitches, is available as an original and prints via Etsy

Flora and Feathers

Flora and Feathers by Cindy Adelle Richard

Flora and Feathers by Cindy Adelle Richard

Bernadette “Birdie” McGee is the founder of the bird sanctuary and the local bird shop on The Isle of Adelle. Birdie is the resident expert on all species of birds, and she is careful to fill new bird owners in on everything necessary to take excellent care of their bird friends. There are a few rules that every new bird owner must follow when purchasing a bird: 1) they must allow them to be free (the birds cages in her shop are just for decoration because the bottoms are all open) 2) they must bring the birds to her shop for proper grooming and regular check-ups and 3) they must participate in special training sessions to learn about their particular species of bird.

Birdie learned everything she knows from her grandmother, Agatha, a noted ornithologist at the Sorbonne. Birdie decided not to go to school (on account of being painfully shy – the thought of attending a huge university terrified her), but she learned everything intuitively by reading her grandmother’s books and taking lessons from her. She is still painfully shy with a quiet and gentle demeanor; her days are peaceful, well-ordered, and allow plenty of alone time – exactly how she likes it. The only time she becomes unusually vocal and strong is when it comes to speaking up for the health and well-being of her birds.

Birdie’s shop is attached to a vast bird sanctuary that is open to the community (there are well over 300 species of birds at the sanctuary). One of her favorite things to do each morning is to go into the bird sanctuary before everyone else is awake with a cup of tea and listen to the beautiful chorus of birdsong. She wrote a little poem to commemorate her favorite activity:

Morning Birdsong

Alone among trees

sipping cherry blossom tea

a soul-stirring melody

fills the air with harmony.

Birdie’s painting is available on Etsy