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.

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.

Poetry Plans for 2020 and Tips from the Book “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart”

How Poetry Can Change Your Heart Book

How Poetry Can Change Your Heart Book

I read an excellent, slim volume called “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart” by Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley, and I wanted to share some of the great tips I picked up from the book. I made a commitment to study poetry deeply this year, and a few days later, I stumbled upon this book in a bookstore. These are points that I want to remember, but I always like to share when I find content that is inspiring and useful… so here goes:

“There is a poet out there who is fluent in you (pg. 8) .” – The authors are encouraging readers to keep searching until they find the poets that resonate with them; I needed to hear this because it is often frustrating for me to find poets I really love. This reminds me not to give up hope, to keep searching for poets that know just the right words to awaken the dreamer in me.

“Ayurvedic medicine suggests the root of disease is often undigested emotion. Therefore, to feel is to heal (pg. 30).” – Writing poetry helps us to express emotions that are not always easy to express in day to day life, and in so doing, it helps to keep our energy flowing. I suspect a lot of us suffer from repressed emotions, so I loved this sentiment.

“One of the absolute coolest rules of writing is the Great Paradox, or, the fact that the more specific something is, the more universal it becomes (pg. 38).” – This helps to encourage me to write specific words related to my own unique experience. I often wonder if others will be able to relate to content that is unique to me, but this gives me permission to be uber specific – the details make the difference.

“There is no wrong way to experience poetry (pg. 49).” – The authors said that you should avoid writing the types of poems that turned you off from poetry in the first place (at least when you are first starting). For me, that is all the forms of poetry with lots of rules (i.e. couplets, tercets, quatrains, etc.) – as a result, I gravitate to free verse poetry because I want my writing to be as free as possible. Write the poetry that excites you!

“Poetry is the pen-and-paper version of paying wondrous attention (pg. 99).” – The authors talked about the importance of noticing – really, truly slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings and your life. And keeping a notebook with you at all times so you don’t forget the details.

“Make a list of things you could speak about for thirty minutes or longer. Review the list (pg. 111).” – This point addresses the age old question of “what should I write?” Well, write what you can’t stop talking about when you are given free reign to talk. And keep an ongoing list of those topics so you will always have a starting point when you sit down to write.

“Once you start to write and read every day, you will begin to think in poetics (pg. 119).” – It is important to establish a habit of reading and writing regularly if you want to get better at writing poetry – this is something we all know, but we constantly have to be reminded of it (or at least I do).

I hope you enjoyed my brief list of tips on reading and writing poetry. I would definitely recommend this book – if you like books such as “Steal Like an Artist” and “The Artist’s Way”, you will probably like this book for its straightforward, practical advice.

 

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

The Umbrella Man

The Umbrella Man by Cindy Adelle Richard

The Umbrella Man by Cindy Adelle Richard

Wade believes in making rainy days more amenable by adding joyful surprises inside each of his umbrella – surprises like pops of bright color, lights, glitter, and clouds. No matter what is happening in the sky, when his customers look up, they only see images that make them happy. There is something special about having joyful umbrellas to make it through a wet weather event. People order Wade’s umbrella’s from far and wide, and he will customize each one to match the personalities of his customers. How? Wade has developed a set of 5 profound questions to figure out all that he needs to know about a person (they are top-secret of course).

I created a brief poem to accompany Wade’s mini-story:

Idiomatic Umbrellas

The rain taps lightly above.

Inside their dome

people gaze up

happy to be home.

Umbrella Man is now available on Etsy 

Carousel in the Sky

Carousel in the Sky by Cindy Adelle Richard

Carousel in the Sky by Cindy Adelle Richard

This image of miniature carousel horses has been floating around in my head since Christmas, so I am relieved to finally get it down on paper so that I can share it with you. The woman featured in this painting is Cayley, and she has one of the coolest professions I could think of – she creates life-sized and miniature carousel horses. Not only does she craft these beauties out of wood, she has a secret talent for bringing them to life as well. She loves carousels so much that she created a special park full of her creations, and each one performs a little differently so that riders will have a unique experience no matter which one they ride. Once the park closes for the day, she makes a point of riding her favorite carousel, the one with show horses and spinning teacups – it reminds her of the feelings of sheer delight she experienced the first time she rode a carousel as a small child.

I also created a brief poem – I hope you enjoy it:

Carousel in the Sky

Floating horses

swirling in splendid circles

the height of bliss.

This painting is available in my Etsy shop (an original and prints) Click Here

My NaNoWriMo Project 2018

Adelle by Cindy Adelle Richard

November is one of my favorite times of year because 1) I get to take a week off for Thanksgiving, and I use it to watch lots of T.V., read lots of books, and take lots of naps and 2) it is National Novel Writing Month. I attend meetups to write with the NaNo North Shore group, a wonderful group of people who encourage each other and have fun together. We always hold an event one day each November where we write all day and night (24 hours), eat lots of food, and talk in between writing (another November favorite). I never actually do what I am supposed to do during NaNoWriMo (write a novel that is at least 50,000 words); I usually use the time to work on whatever project has been brewing in my head for a while. This year I have decided to spend the month fleshing out this fictional art colony that has been taking shape in my mind since January. The paintings I have been creating this year have come about because of this fictional place which I have named The Isle of Adelle. I imagine that Adelle, the woman pictured above, founded this special art colony on an island off of the coast of France circa 1920. You will hear more about this special place after I have a chance to fully imagine what it is all about – who the people are, what they do each day, the climate, and so on. I am excited by the idea of building my own world and letting it take shape on paper. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, happy writing!