The Importance of Play

Painting by Wendy Chidester

As I have been struggling to stay productive over these last few months, I have also been contemplating what it means to incorporate play in my life in equal measure. Once we grow up, society basically tells us that play is no longer important for adults; but nothing could be further from the truth.

Play adds a sense of vitality to life – without it, life becomes dull, restrictive, and duty bound. Play helps you to feel more optimistic and creative because you tend to come up with innovative solutions to problems. It is also the foundation of most cultural aspects of our life such as art, games, books, sports, movies, and many more – basically the things we enjoy doing during our free time.

I referred back to the book “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Dr. Stuart Brown, and I wanted to share some of the insights from that book that stayed with me. One of the activities that Brown recommends is taking a look at your “play history” as both a child and adult to figure out what activities you most enjoy. Some of the questions he advised asking yourself include:

  • What did you enjoy doing as child? Why?
  • When have you felt free to do and be what you choose?
  • Is this part of your life now? If not, why not?
  • What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom?

When I completed my play history, I remembered that I spent a lot of time reading when I was young – my fondest memories involve libraries, book mobiles, and hours curled up in my cubby hole with a good book. Reading is one of the activities I consider to be my form of play now. But there was a period of time in my life where I was not reading on a regular basis, and my life was definitely not very enjoyable. I remember having thoughts like “Is this all there is?” (which is one of the questions that Brown mentions being a common question for people who are mainly just doing what is required in life without having much fun). Then, in 2007, I had a sort of epiphany, and started reading fiction again in earnest. Since I started reading again, my life has certainly changed for the better – I started to attend book related events, met new people that shared my interests, joined a writing center to learn more about the basics of writing, and of course, just started reading for pleasure in general. My other forms of play are also related to storytelling – writing and producing illustrations to accompany my writing.

One of the most compelling chapters in Dr. Brown’s book identifies eight basic play personalities that most people fall into (one is your dominant type) – here are general descriptions of the play personalities:

  1. The Joker – these people love nonsense, practical jokes, and telling jokes; they love to illicit laughter; examples include stand up comedians and class clowns
  2. The Kinesthete – these people love to move; they actually think better when they are moving – examples include athletes, dancers, yoga instructors
  3. The Explorer – these people love going new places, exploring new emotions, or delving deep into things at a mental level through research; examples include frequent travelers and scientists
  4. The Competitor – these people love competitive games and activities with specific rules; they play to win; examples include sports, gambling, sales
  5. The Director – these people enjoy planning and executing scenes and events; they like power, organizing, and throwing grand events; examples include event planners, film directors, entrepreneurs
  6. The Collector – these people enjoy having and holding the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects or experiences; examples include hobby collectors, flea market lovers
  7. The Creator – these people find joy in making things or making something work; these include artists, crafters, designers
  8. The Storyteller – these people love using their imaginations; enjoy telling stories or reading/experiencing the stories created by others; examples include performers, writers, illustrators, cartoonists

As I mentioned earlier, I identify most with the Storyteller. Which one do you identify with the most? This may be the key to figuring out some activities and hobbies you might consider adding to your life to increase your sense of play.

In summary, we play to bring joy into our lives. And we can do this at any age. As one of my favorite Christmas songs says about the Christmas spirit being for “kids from 1 to 92” – I believe play is for all ages as well.

To learn more about Brown’s research on play, check out his book or visit his website at the National Institute for Play

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.

Thinking About Why You Create

The Blank Page by Cindy Adelle Richard

I recently read a book called “What’s Your Creative Type: Harness the Power of Your Creative Personality” by Meta Wagner, and the content was intriguing enough to share. The reason that Wagner wrote the book was to help artist know why they create so that they can maximize their creative potential. The most accomplished and prolific artists know why they create and use it as the driving force behind their work. I am going to provide a summary of each of the types and one example of an a well-known artist who embodies that type. My goal is to introduce you to the creative types and hopefully pique your interest so you will seek out more information.

The A-Lister: Seeking Applause, Adoration, Fame, and Immortality

  • thrive off of adoration and attention from others
  • have a strong need to have people see what you see, feel what you feel, think what you think
  • feel alive when performing for others
  • want to be remembered after you die
  • more interested in the finished product because that is where the glory comes from
  • compete against past and present artists you admire
  • Example of an A-Lister Artist: Pablo Picasso was not only content to make art, he did everything in his power to also ensure he was famous and made money from his art.

The Artisan: Truly, Madly, Deeply Devoted to Creativity

  • just being creative provides its own satisfaction
  • lose all sense of time when deeply engaged in the creative process
  • the thrill of making something from nothing keeps you enthralled
  • love the process even more than the product
  • would keep making art even if no one paid attention to it or paid money for it
  • often look to artists who came before you for inspiration and information
  • Example of The Artisan: Vincent Van Gogh spent years learning to paint and he was quite prolific, yet he really didn’t sell much work when he was alive. He was completely driven by the creative process and making paintings.

The Game Changer: Creating Something Entirely New

  • make new, revolutionary, visionary art – originality crucial to you
  • want to expand the limits of art and get people to see the world differently
  • become restless and bored with following conventions so constantly experimenting with new approaches and techniques to keep yourself engaged
  • may have to wait years, even decades, for your ideas to be accepted
  • Example of The Game Changer: Jackson Pollock created an entirely new way of painting and changed how people looked at abstract art, and the world noticed.

The Sensitive Soul: Expressing Yourself and Helping Others

  • feel things deeply and use creative outlets to channel them
  • lots of things stir your emotions
  • can be thin-skinned, but have a great ability to empathize with the feelings of others
  • when they use art to bring themselves relief from suffering, they also help others to escape their pain
  • always seeking ways to cope with and make meaning out of life
  • often use their personal experiences as the catalyst for their art
  • Example of The Sensitive Soul: Frida Kahlo used her painful past and raw emotions to give her paintings power, and her work has emotionally affected art lovers for generations.

The Activist: Changing the World Through Art

  • desire to create art that has an impact – changes the course of people’s lives or even the course of history
  • tend to see injustices everywhere you look, and you refuse to stand idly by – you must do something
  • there is often a sense of urgency to your work
  • tendency to follow politics and world events on a consistent basis
  • art is often created for shock value and/or to send a message
  • Example of The Activist: Banksy uses street art/murals to spotlight political or moral injustices in our current world. His message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment.

Whether you identify with one, more than one, or none of these types, I hope they will get you thinking about why you create. I do believe that it is helpful to know why you create so that you can return to it when times get tough or when you need to refocus your work. It also helps to know so that you can find the inspiration you need to keep going. I would also recommend checking out Meta Wagner’s book in its entirety – in addition to in-depth descriptions of these types, she also goes into subcategories of the types and helpful hints on how to work best with your creative personality.

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!

Molly’s Miracle Garden

Woman sitting on patio looking at flowers

Molly’s Miracle Garden by Cindy Adelle Richard

I am always inspired by beautiful gardens with impossibly large blooms, and that was my inspiration for this week’s painting. I hope you enjoy this little story about Molly.

As a young girl growing up on a farm, Molly discovered early on that she had a special gift with flowers. Better than a green thumb – more like a golden thumb. See, as soon as Molly places seeds in the ground, flowers begin to grow. Not as fast as what you see in time-lapse videos when everything is moving fast, but within 24 hours, they are in full bloom. It doesn’t matter what the soil is like or the weather, or even if they have received water. They spring up perfect and as a big as they can possibly grow in vibrant colors like cotton candy pink, indigo, and corncob yellow. Molly’s favorite flower is the dahlia – she never gets tired of gazing at its perfection. The townsfolk all know about Molly’s talent, and they flock to her floral shop to buy choice blooms for all sorts of occasions.

Molly has taken up the violin to balance out the ease with which she grows flowers. She really has to work at the violin to get it to sound decent. She squeaks and sqwacks along, breaking bow strings and assaulting the ears of her patient music instructor. It surprises her how happy it makes her to work at something that challenges her. One day, she hopes that playing the violin will come as naturally as growing flowers, and she’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing she worked hard to learn how to play.

Painting available on Etsy

Remembering Roses

Remembering Roses Watercolor Painting by Cindy Adelle Richard

I have started creating mini-stories and poems inspired by my paintings. Here is the poem for this painting:

Remembering Roses by Cindy Adelle Richard

A morning walk ripe with dew

shards of light reflecting you

butterflies swirling matching your pace

roses shimmering caressing your face

Nature’s canvas  framed just for you

etched in your memory like cellular glue

love in your heart nothing to fear

enjoying the magic we all hold dear.

I hope you enjoyed my little poem. This painting is now available in my Etsy shop as well adellecirca1920.etsy.com

 

I Am a Story Artist

A practice painting of Bonnie Bennett by Cindy Adelle Richard

I have been taking a little hiatus from social media to do some deep thinking  about my brand and my art business. I seem to think best by writing by hand with no interference from technology, and I used my time journaling and reflecting on my vocation productively.  The series of practice paintings I posted today are based on characters from THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Rewatching six seasons of the show and creating these paintings helped me to realize how much I love art that tells a story. I finally found something I can happily do for the rest of my life without getting tired of it. However, these paintings were based on photographs, and I decided I really want to create original art using my favorite stories as inspiration instead.

Practice painting of Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert by Cindy Adelle Richard.

One of the big revelations for me while going this process was the role I came up with for myself – being a Story Artist. The two pastimes that have occupied my time throughout my life have been stories and art. From the time I was three years old, I have been obsessed with reading, and my favorite events were book fairs, weekly trips to the school library or the bookmobile, and story time in my classrooms. Eventually my love of stories expanded into movies, television shows, plays, operas, and ballets. I also started to pay attention to the arts as I grew up – painting, playing the drums, and dancing specifically. During the years that I was in college and building a career as a young person, I had forgotten how important these art forms were to me, and I am grateful that I have reconnected to my love of stories and art over the past ten years.

Practice painting of Damon Salvatore by Cindy Adelle Richard.

I have decided to use my favorite stories in various forms and genres as the starting point for the watercolor paintings I produce. This blog will be about my life behind the stories – my life as a Story Artist. In addition to creating and sharing my art, I am still in the process of writing a novel set in the 1920s, so you will still see content based on my discoveries from that glorious era. I am truly excited about this new direction my art and writing are taking, and I hope you will stick around to be a part of my creative journey. Thank you for reading and supporting this blog, and I look forward to sharing more story art and content with you.

The Jazz Age Style Alphabet

I completed a project that I feel pretty good about called the Jazz Age Style Alphabet. I completed an original watercolor painting and used a calligraphy letter for each one. I thought I might feel pressure or get bored with it, but I liked how much structure it provided in terms of selecting images to focus on for my work. An added bonus for this project was that I learned some things I did not know about some of the people, places, or objects I chose. If you are looking for a great project related to a theme you love, I highly recommend doing an alphabet project and challenging yourself to find unique content. I posted the entire alphabet below – I hope you enjoy it!

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Follow Your Curiosity

I watched an inspiring video by Elizabeth Gilbert about following one’s curiosity to figure out pathways in life here . Up until now, Gilbert has always been an advocate of the philosophy to “follow your passion” because that has always worked for her. A letter from a frustrated reader caused her to change her perspective; the reader had been searching for a passion for years, and had reached the point of being depressed because she did not seem to have one. It caused Gilbert to take a step back and think about the pathways of various people in her life that did not know their passions, but discovered them over time. She has now revised her theory about passion to accommodate people who are like hummingbirds – people who flit from interest to interest, and then eventually they are able to look over the field of their lives to see what they caused to bloom. I am one of those hummingbirds. I went through life for years frustrated by the fact that I could not seem to find one passion that really rang true for me. Now the dots of my life are finally starting to come together to reveal what I am trying to do.

One concrete example of how I have followed my curiosity has to do with drawing. Over the summer, I went to visit the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport because I was curious to see how they would present the work of illustrators in a house museum National Museum of American Illustration .

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National Illustration Museum

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New Beginnings

I created a new blog header for Notes on the Jazz Age:

blog-header.jpg

What do you think? It took me a few hours to set up the “photo shoot” (if you can call it that) and to take a ridiculous amount of photos. I have always loved black and white photography, and I have vowed to learn as much as possible about it through trial and error and studying the methods of others. I also used this image to create business cards; it is perfect timing too because I only have five cards left with my old blog header.

In addition to learning photography, I have decided that I need to learn to draw. I signed up for a six-week class at the museum in Boston. We shall see how it all turns out. You will definitely see the fruits of my labor because I plan to share my experiments with photography and drawing on this blog. I would love to illustrate my stories in the future. Being a visual person, I have always been drawn to books which incorporate visuals and words.

I just shared a few of my creative adventures. Have you tried something totally new and creative lately? If so, I would love to hear about it.