Joyful Creativity

I paint as a way to relax—specifically, I use inks, watercolors and acrylics, to create abstract and mixed media art.  I’m self-taught, having accumulated used and new books on drawing, color theory, painting, collage, mixed media, etc.  My ‘how to make art’ instruction books, take up two full shelves on the bookshelf.  I love sharing my art and talking about making art with other artists; and vacations wouldn’t be complete without devoting some time to strolling through local, art galleries.  Even my internet bookmarks are an indicator of my passion for art—it’s astounding the amount of information that is posted by giving and talented artists.

Art books picture cropped

If I was looking at the above-description about someone else I would assume that person had always had a natural love and affinity for making art.  Yet, this is not the case for me. As I was growing up, and well into my adult years, I was certain there was NOT a creative bone in my body.  I remember in high school art class being mortified to share my drawings, painting, pottery, you name it, with the rest of the class.  My clumsy attempts could never compare with those who possessed real artistic talent.  Unlike me, they were innately creative.

My first attempt at painting came one summer afternoon in 2007, when a creative, paint-dabbler friend of mine brought her easel, paints and brushes over so we could play outside together.  I covered the patio table, and had jars with water and containers ready for mixing paint.  I looked at my friend expectantly, and asked, “What do I do now?”  She smiled, handed me a paint brush, pointed to the tubes of paint and the canvas on the easel, and suggested I start painting.  I said in a worried, slightly infuriated tone, I don’t know how!  “So what,” she said, “just have fun.”  A quiet explosion happened.

Working creatively is an absorbing experience.  We may be completely unaware of time passing and have no conscious thought until we look up and see the stars twinkling outside.  By then, we realize that we totally forgot to take sustenance of any kind.  In this way, creating is like meditation.  This state is often referred to as ‘being in flow’.   Since working from a state of flow is not relegated to the arts alone, I would offer that creativity is found in all walks of life.  Ever hear of creative accountants?  Even the way a person successfully negotiates a sale or finds the solution to a scientific conundrum can feel creatively energizing.

When we finish and look at what we’ve made using our imagination, the feeling can be overwhelming.  We stare in wonder at our new creation, be it a poem or book, song, painting, garden or building design.  This new thing that never existed before comes from a place unique within our hearts.  It bears our personal stamp, like a fingerprint.  It is what is true within us.

Achieving this state of concentrated mindfulness is when one feels the most alive.  Furthermore, there are multiple avenues of creative expression that are potentially fulfilling.  Matthew Fox (2002), author and Episcopal priest, suggests that exercising our creativity is the path to experiencing a joyful life.  He states, “…what the artist is experiencing is far more than ‘actualizing one’s own potentialities’—it is experiencing the Divine joy itself.”

Like me, I suspect other souls have lurking, creative monsters within, just waiting to be liberated.  Rather than judging those impulses to use your creative imagination as unworthy, untrained or silly; consider that, as Matthew Fox suggests, exercising your creative imagination is your path to true Divine joy.  Wouldn’t you agree that finding joy is a truly worthwhile endeavor?  If you pay attention to what fires your imagination, you may discover the fuse and light your own explosion.  Below are a couple of humble examples of the days I’ve been quietly, absorbed, in the ecstatic state of flow.

 

The first time I fell in love with one of my paintings

The first time I fell in love with one of my paintings – 2007

A recent abstract

A recent abstract – 2012

 

Fox, M. (2002). Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.  New York, NY:  Penguin Group, Inc.

 

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Detective Bob Shilling: A Story of Tragedy and Character

This week, I read a local news story about Detective Bob Shilling.  After a long and remarkable career with the Seattle Police Department, he was recently invited by Interpol, the most prestigious crime fighting organization in the world, to lead their Crimes Against Children Group.  Now he is preparing to move to France after Thanksgiving to begin this new chapter in his life.

The interesting part of this story is that when Detective Shilling first began his career in the police department, he declared that he didn’t want to work sex crimes.  While he never told anyone, his adamant opposition to working child abuse cases was because he had been sexually abused by his grandfather as a young child.  His own mother witnessed the abuse happening and turned and walked out of the room, leaving him defenseless and alone as a young child.

The abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes any of us can imagine.  A child subjected to sexual or physical abuse is clearly a powerless victim at the mercy of a predator.  Yet, for Detective Shilling the story does not end with the abuse.  Contrary to his stated wishes, his career did ultimately focus on bringing abusers to justice and making certain that victims knew the abuse was not their fault.  Today he is preparing to advocate for child victims internationally.

Reading about Detective Shilling  made me reflect on the nature of personal tragedy.  I was reminded of the many heroes, who have risen above trying circumstances, and then courageously face their fears to help others recover from similar hardships.  The stories of people living with disabilities, losing a job and becoming homeless, losing a child to drunk driving, losing a breast to cancer, victims of rape or incest, and even survivors of crimes against humanity, often become stories of transformation.  The survivors channel their pain and heartache into the very vehicle for serving others.

Although no rational being wants to experience tragedy or loss, being human means we will endure pain during our lifetime.  However, as Detective Shiller discovered, within the suffering lies the key to healing.  In the midst of our grief we are called to marshal personal strength and survive; and, as we move through the experience, the opportunity exists to discover a compelling compassion (or passion) for others along the way.  In a way, this is part of our social evolution as a culture.  As each person surviving a loss or hardship finds the wisdom and grace contained within the experience, we are able to help others to heal, too.  Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  It appears, for Detective Shilling, success will mean greater responsibility and helping even more children than before.

Byron, Linda, October 24, 2012, http://www.king5.com/news/local/Seattle-Detective-Bob-Shilling-Interpol-fight-global-sex-predators-175710391.html#

A Passion for Cars – Harold LeMay

Harold LeMay in the Navy

This past weekend, my husband and I toured the amazing LeMay Family Collection at Marymount—an automobile museum in Spanaway, Washington, housing approximately 1,500 cars.  As we walked from one building to another looking at literally hundreds of antique cars, trucks and motorcycles, I was struck by the obvious passion responsible for creating this incredible automobile showcase.  This was no passing fancy; and what grew out of Harold LeMay’s lifetime interest in old vehicles is a legacy that people can enjoy for years to come.

Marymount Facility. Photo courtesy of the
LeMay Family Collection Foundation website

The facility is located on the grounds of the former Marymount Military Academy for Boys run by Dominican Nuns until the 1970’s.  (That’s a story all by itself!)  The setting is beautiful and well-maintained; with towering trees, manicured green lawns and the original historical, brick buildings.  Note:  The LeMay Family Collection is not to be confused with the LeMay-America’s CarMuseum located in Tacoma, Washington that opened this summer.  The two museums operate independently.

Harold LeMay earned his fortune collecting trash.  In addition to picking up our garbage every week, he also acquired Lucky Towing, AA Lucky Storage, LeMay Restoration, Parkland Auto Wrecking, Helm Manufacturing, and various properties.  His reputation for being a hard worker was clearly well-deserved.  For years the LeMay name has been synonymous with garbage collection and recycling services.  Today, Mr. LeMay is famous for having amassed the largest antique car collection in the world.

Our tour guide described Harold as someone who loved cars so much he couldn’t bear to see them destroyed.  He loved tinkering, fixing and restoring old cars.  He even collected old car parts in case they were needed later.  As his reputation for being a car collector grew, strangers would call Mr. LeMay to offer him the old cars their parents or grandparents used to drive.

Harold LeMay lived to be 81 years old before passing away in 2000.  Fortunately for us, his obsession with antique cars never waned throughout his life.  As I looked at one beautiful, old car after another, I realized Mr. LeMay was truly an example of what happens when a person spends 10,000 hours learning a subject or practicing a new skill.  The result is that this collection is more than just about the man; it is the ability to view history reflected in the cars we used to drive.

To be an authority on old cars, Harold LeMay, did what came naturally—he focused his attention and spent as much time as he could on what he loved.  The same is true for any of us.  We each have subjects we are drawn to or curious about.  We have hobbies that absorb us—callings that continue to knock on the door.  When we spend our time learning, practicing, training, exercising, or preparing, we become masters and maestros, experts, authorities, leaders and professionals, connoisseurs, even champions.  Becoming a master may require hard work and discipline; however, it sounds far more satisfying than settling for a boring existence.

If you want to visit or learn more about the LeMay collection at Marymount, check out their website, at http://www.lemaymarymount.org/.  To entice you, below are  just a few photographs of the  classic cars, graceful hood ornaments, beautiful curves, long fins, and real white wall tires.

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