Praise the Rain (CATALOG 5/6/2022)

My latest list of recent likes and favorite links…

  1. Poet laureate Joy Harjo poet describes poetry as “a tool to uncover the miraculous in the ordinary” and “a sense of play.” What a treat to hear her read “Praise the Rain” for National Poetry Month a couple weeks ago!

  2. I’ve relied on an old-fashioned spreadsheet to keep track of writing project progress and queries, but I’m tempted to give Kanban a whirl, specifically Trello.com, to make it more of a visual exercise.

  3. A couple years ago, I attended an encaustic painting workshop by artist Jodi Reeb. Wow, her landscape paintings really make my heart sing!

  4. From none other than Austin Kleon, learn how to make brush pens in any color!

  5. Being a knitter/crocheter, I love this video showing the Netflix bumper replicated with yarn. For more about the process, check out this extended version.

  6. My daughter and I, along with some friends, are signed up to volunteer with My Very Own Bed later this summer. We can’t wait to deliver and set up new beds and bedding for some kids in need of consistent and comfortable sleep!

  7. Have you seen the Oscar-winning movie “CODA” yet? I was so moved by the story and music—and can’t seem to get “Both Sides Now” out of my head.

  8. My hometown boasts a cool art and nature experience called Green Island. Poetry by yours truly will soon adorn the walking path!

  9. I became new to pickleball last summer and agree with Caryn Sullivan’s article deeming it “a model for a better life.”

  10. I would never describe my church as “uncool” or “boring,” but I really resonate with the “instead of” statements in this article celebrating church as I believe it should be.

Ode to My Socks (CATALOG 4/15/2022)

My latest list of recent likes and favorite links…

  1. In preparation for their standardized testing next week, my students and I analyzed a couple poetic gems: “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda and “Rivulet” (page 16) by Aramis Quintero.

  2. I love using Canva for all of my basic graphic design needs—it offers a lot of different templates to make just about anything, and many of them are free to download without payment or watermark. My daughter, who is just eight years old, also uses it to design notes to her friends, flyers, to-do lists, and calendars!

  3. As a two-time Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, I am proud to be associated with the publisher’s “Hallway Heroes” program, a creative and stirring social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. In fact, I will be trained in the program this summer in preparation for leading it next fall!

  4. Speaking of SEL, All Learning Is Social and Emotional by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fischer, and Dominique Smith is a must-have for educators who would like to become more familiar with SEL’s five key factors: 1) Identity and Agency, 2) Emotional Regulation, 3) Cognitive Regulation, 4) Public Spirit, and 5) Social Skills.

  5. As soon as my iPad is up and running again, I am totally putting the learnings of Stacie Bloomfield‘s free mini course on making greeting cards into practice.

  6. The timing stinks for me, but I still dream of somehow making it to this Writing for Your Life Conference in Colorado. I’d love to learn from Philip Yancey!

  7. My Heart Cries Out by Paul David Tripp has become part of my every day. It’s a grand collection of faith-based poems, along with related Scripture leads and journaling prompts.

  8. I first became aware of artist Jane Davies when I saw a print of her work in a major department store. Wow, does her web site feature a lot of great resources, including a very generous list of free tutorials!

  9. Austin Kleon shares how he can easily document favorite quotes from his reading with the help of a couple standard features on his iPhone.

  10. The AoPS (Art of Problem Solving) podcast is in its infancy, but it promises to offer some great content on the joy of learning.

On Reading FINDING DIVINE INSPIRATION

Just a couple weeks before 2019 came to a close, I finished reading Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy. Much more than a book, it became the inspiration behind a deep spiritual assessment of why and how and with Whom I pursue all of my artistic and creative endeavors.

I know now that, if I truly want to make the most of my time and to produce anything of significance, I’m best to apply what I read in Finding Divine Inspiration. Here’s what that would mean—and here’s the challenge I set for myself in 2020 and beyond…

Why I create
I’ve mentioned it in previous posts: Making a living, making money, and making a name for myself are sure and certain temptations. But there’s so much more power in making for making’s sake—to revel in an idea, then the process. The end result should place a distant second to the truest heart of creativity: how and with Whom I create.

How I create
To be the person God created me to be, I need to discern and live into what He wants me to create for this world. In other words, creativity is a discipline. If indeed I believe I am a unique channel of the Holy Spirit and His purposes, then I should take that business to great heart. This is where my faith is tested, of course. A woman of true faith follows through with passion and energy, but I regret to admit that the Spirit’s leadings often fall on deaf ears and among a multitude of distractions. There is a different way—and I’m determined to find it. This year, I commit to take intentional steps in addressing the “how” of my creativity.

With Whom I create
It probably goes without saying, but part of my “how” is also to acknowledge the almighty “Who” right up front. In the companion journal of Finding Divine Inspiration, McElroy suggests a habit of dedication—to offer a routine prayer or to make some type of special mark on all pieces of art to acknowledge the creative process as a cooperative effort.

How easily I forget the constant presence and pursuit of God. How little I trust God—the Divine Inspiration who formed my passions and sparks my ideas—with an effort’s entire and ultimate purpose, be it personal time well spent with Him or a profound message to share with the world. As my church sings regularly in worship, “I will rest in the Father’s hands, leave the rest in the Father’s hands.”

Why? How? With Whom? These questions now shape the what of my creativity. Such enlightenment certainly doesn’t mean that my work is now ultra-theological or spiritual. In fact, I think my latest endeavors couldn’t be more rudimentary and secular. But, for me, they bear much more depth and meaning than many past projects simply because of the God-given purpose I now yearn to fulfill in my artistic time. Amen. May it be so.

On Seeing ABSTRACT: TYPEFACE DESIGN

After spending about a year away from the series, I made a repeat visit to “Abstract: The Art of Design” on Netflix (I first blogged about it in October 2018). This time, I learned about a typography guru and expert named Jonathan Hoefler, whose fascination with all things text dances on the line of obsession and whose processes for developing new font families are both sensical and surprising.

This particular episode of “Abstract” got me to thinking: No matter what kind of artistic methods we practice, our creativity may demonstrate a grand amalgamation of place, practicalities, and the past…

Think place
When Hoefler was commissioned to invent a typeface for the rebranding of the Guggenheim, he used the museum’s architecture as his muse. The rotunda, for example, spoke “openness and roundness” and “elevated and lofty” to him, thus he set about to develop letter forms that also embodied these traits. Then came his next challenge…

Think practical
The Guggenheim’s existing signage also informed Hoefler’s work. However, he knew that certain letters—like the “E” and “H” used on the museum’s facade—were “overly stylized,” even “distracting,” and would not transfer well to headlines and text. He had his work cut out for him.

When it comes to practicalities, Hoefler also brings up his assignment with Sports Illustrated. Way back in 1989 when Hoefler was still a novice typographer, he was hired to make headlines for the magazine. That eventually led to his creating a special font family called “Knockout,” which features various widths and heights, and can always be adjusted to fit a specific headline space.

Similarly, a typeface he developed for Rolling Stone carries four different styles, but are interchangeable and don’t effect page flows when swapped in and out. They called it “The Proteus Project,” which is comprised of the font families of “Ziggurat,” “Leviathan,” “Saracen,” and “Acropolis.”

Think past
Trailblazer. Trendsetter. Forward thinker. These are titles that Hoefler wears well in the world of typography. But what I find most interesting about his artistic process is his dependence on works of the past to formulate his next big idea. Hoefler studies antique timepieces, gravestones, maps, and typesetters catalogs, paying special attention to unique characters that have potential for new life in the digital design world. In other words, who knows what hidden gems are yet to be discovered just through Hoeffler’s skills in resurrection and adaptation.

So how is our own work reflecting the distinct personalities of place? Are we considering any practical applications outside the box of our current projects? And could we forage for some relics from the past that could help make our art become even more alive in the present? Hoefler does it—we can, too!

On Seeing FIRED UP STUDIOS

You could say I was pretty “fired up” to visit Saint John’s Pottery Studio last summer. Perhaps just as exciting was my discovery of Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, Minn., which is just a stone’s throw away from my house.

Hundreds of original works of pottery grace the expansive gallery space of Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

Through the magic of the Facebook algorithms that peg me as an art buff, I received an event notice to Fired Up Studios’ Annual Holiday Open House. I expected to come upon a small storefront with a few clay artists peddling their wares around a tepid carafe of coffee. Instead, Fired Up Studios is a grand and expansive pottery gallery/shop, along with a potter’s dream studio (plus they had a huge spread of goodies—that earned even more “brownie” points from me, pardon the pun).

For a fairly modest monthly membership fee, artists enjoy twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week access to all of the equipment and supplies they could ever need to throw, spin, and form piece after piece. And for us pottery fans, the gallery/shop is open every day and features affordable art to purchase and enjoy at home.

What’s more, Fired Up Studios has a heart for the community. As part of its holiday event, potters donated works to a silent auction benefitting Haven Housing, a Minneapolis non-profit helping women in crisis.

Membership wouldn’t make sense for me at this time—especially since I have never thrown a pot in my life—but my husband and I hope to attend the studios’ beginners class someday. For now, I continue to ponder my observations from my first visit:

Horse hair becomes a medium for producing ethereal shadows and fine lines once a piece reaches the kiln.

More than clay
Sure, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to working with clay alone, but my family was especially mesmerized by the pieces incorporating other elements, particularly fiber. One artist showcased work using horse hair. Yep, straight from a horse’s mane or tail. The hair is seared onto the clay in the kiln, producing fascinating fine lines and shadows.

Personal styles
I recently finished reading Lisa Congdon‘s latest book, Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic. It offers tips on making a mark as a creative person. More than that, it celebrates the unique and distinctive styles that all of us offer to life’s landscape. In my roaming Fired Up Studios’ gallery, it became apparent to me they do the same.

Creative mash-up
It was also through Congdon that I grew an interest in and tried my hand at some simple pen-and-ink patterns. As a result, my eye really tuned into pieces bearing geometric and whimsical designs reminiscent of her techniques. Such collisions make me giddy, when a medium or technique or source of inspiration I already appreciate appears in a whole new context. This is what makes my artistic adventures so fulfilling, exciting, motivating—all of the words that compel me to read, see, learn, and try more in the world of art!