Category Archives: Art

Photo Essay: Breaking Through Writer’s Blocks

Overcoming writer’s block, they say, is done simply by writing.

stonewall 1

It’s kind of like building a stone wall.   Pick a suitable spot, gather some material and begin putting it together, layer by layer, one block at a time.

stonewall 2

My favorite stone walls are the ones found around southern Connecticut and Westchester County, north of New York City. I especially enjoy the ones built in multiple iterations, starting with an existing rocky outcropping and then crafted by multiple authors.

stonewall 3

From the standpoint of building creative muscles, it’s better to write and write, even if you’re just filling gaps or un-doing previous work.

stonewall 4

Because even the sturdiest of stone walls will eventually begin to crumble if nothing is added to it.

stonewall 5

Break through. Write on.

Creative Space

“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Brenda Ueland

Timna Spiral Hill Approach

In most endeavors, the main differentiator is creativity. Creativity requires that we — at least once in a while — no really, please — can we just — yes, there you go — relax.

Timna Mushroom Sandstone

When to relax?

  • When we’re doing the same thing and getting tired of it.
  • When we get tired of doing that thing before even starting it.
  • When we notice that too many other people are doing that thing now and doing it in an almost formulaic manner.

We may notice that doing that thing — that thing which once seemed meaningful and special — suddenly seems rote and ordinary. The groove is so deeply ingrained, so predetermined and obvious, that we cannot tolerate moving along within it.

The only thing worse than being caught in your own rut is to be caught in someone else’s rut.

Timna Copper Mine Shaft

When we notice that rut, it’s a clue that it’s time for us to put down our pen/pencil/paintbrush/pixel-pushing device and go for a walk. Off course, of course.

Take a leisurely stroll through open space and unprogrammed time.

Wander in the wilderness and glance across at other seekers along the way.

Timna Voyeurs and Poseurs

Photo essay: Sublime Sublimation

01 - twelve foot high snowbanks

 

Sublime (adj.) 1580s, “expressing lofty ideas in an elevated manner,” from Middle French sublime (15c.), or directly from Latin sublimis “uplifted, high, borne aloft, lofty, exalted, eminent, distinguished,” possibly originally “sloping up to the lintel,” from sub “up to” + limen “lintel, threshold, sill” (see limit (n.)).The sublime (n.) “the sublime part of anything, that which is stately or imposing” is from 1670s.

– from the Online Etymology Dictionary

01a - snow strata

 

Giant snowbanks pile up with geological strata of precipitation and street grime. Their surfaces evaporate directly into thin air, leaving behind fantastic fractal landscapes.

02 - buried fenceposts

05 - mount sublime

Freeze. Thaw. Plow. Evaporate. Melt. Shovel. Freeze. Snow. Evaporate again.

The sun carves sculptures out of ice and air.

03 - iceshroom

04 - sublime sculpture

06 - crystal layers

“Sublimation is part of the royal art where the true gold is made. (…) It is not a voluntary and forcible channeling of instinct into a spurious field of application, but an alchymical transformation for which fire and prima materia are needed.”

– Carl Jung

07 - crystal contrast

08 - snow yinyang

The snow and ice crystals capture dirt and then evaporate, forming a crusty layer of grit that compresses back down into the earth.  As we live and breathe, so do we compress our experiences and impulses into acts of creation.

09 - snow grit

10 - dirty snow lungs 1

11 - dirty air filter

Some of these snowbanks are like dirty air filters, overused through a long winter.

12 - dirty snow lungs 2

13 - groundmelt

It’s the pure stuff that sublimates. The rest of it lingers and melts into oil slick.

13a - dirtmelt

14 - parkinglot snow

Come on, it’s time to put this winter away, already.

15 - sublime sidewalk

Darkness begone. Spring forward into the light.

16 - sublimated shadow

Photo-haiku-essay: Snow Roots

jackfrost

Frozen crystal roots

Splay and weave on glass edges

Coldly scatter light

snowroots

They burrow downward

Avoiding the air’s harshness

Remaining silent

garden snow blanket

Forget discontent

Under the blanket’s shadow

Our potential grows

holding potential and its shadow

(Re)capitulation

(#27 of 27, final post in the series)

After re-visiting 26 posts from last year over the past 30 days, it’s time to wrap things up. The goal of this “blog feed-forward exercise” as I described it, was threefold:

  1. Focused output
  2. Reflective practice
  3. Sheer experimentation

Stretch Goals:  You're going to feel a little pressure...

Re: 1) Definitely got the focused output  — but it took a huge effort. As usual, I was being more ambitious than I initially realized. But I got it done with only a bit of faltering… well within the acceptable parameters of self-imposed high standards.

Re: 2) Got a boatload of reflective practice, in a much deeper and rigorous way than ever before. Even when I came across an oddball post that seemed irrelevant and/or poorly executed, I was able to draw out value from it by forcing myself to revisit it in some way. This was particularly true when I considered a sequence of posts which had continuing threads or themes, but looked at them in reverse order.

Re: 3) Got a decent amount of sheer experimentation out of this exercise. However, because of the daily pace and competing personal and professional demands, I could not fully experiment as much as I would have liked. I’d love to put together a graphic map showing how each of the last 26 posts related back to the corresponding 26 posts from 2014, with icons indicating the approach taken on each pairing.  For example, in a couple of cases I re-blogged a post. In one case, I split out a post into two posts, and in another case I combined two into one.  Many of the posts were reversals, some were refutations, others were remixes or extensions. Got to play around with visual and audio elements a bit, too.

One of the biggest lessons for me was seeing what it was like to blog every single day. It had all the elements of a grind, and it often felt lonely, but I did manage to get some feedback — both online and offline — during the process. Some of my “interaction” with fellow WordPress bloggers during this time helped improve my perspective and/or validated thoughts I hadn’t yet fully articulated. For example, the essay  “Why I Write so Personally, Publicly” resonated deeply. Sinawali Clip Art WomanAt least one real world friend offered solid encouragement and insights. I now realize that I miss the dialogue and debate that I used to have in comment threads with my buddies, especially Nareg. Having bolstered my writing skills by running this mini-marathon of 27 posts, I’m now interested in slowing down the pace and delving deeper with a stronger element of conversation and co-creation.

All of this ties in neatly (of course) to the first two posts from 2014 — one of them written by me (“Rough and Refined, Filipino Style: Sinawali Eskrima”) and one ghost-written by contributor Jake Broce (“6 Tips for Making and Sticking to an Exercise Regimen”). My two biggest takeaways from this past month are:

  1. I need to keep writing on a regular basis — not necessarily daily, but more often than once per week; and
  2. I need to engage with a chavruta – a learning partner — whenever possible, to generate some creative and intellectual sparks.

As for now, it’s time to rest and recover…and take a few days off from the blog.

Onward into the rest of 2015.

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