Memorializing Your Legacy

ID-100141696_“Family” by arztsamui_freedigitalphotosWhen I was a child Memorial Day was one of those holiday gatherings that had little expectation or preparation. It was meant for spending time together and hearing stories. The elders of my family bothered to get flowers and visit the grave sites of our loved ones. I found this to be a very interesting tradition because it connected the web of our complete family. Making the time to connect and reflect with those who came and went before fleshed out characteristics that defined our family.

This holiday is traditionally about honoring those who served all of us through their military and other service institutions. In my family, it was about everyone who served the family in all the ways a family needs service.

Some of my family’s stories were quite fantastic and others we’re out of the ordinary but all of them described a thread that wove the fabric of our family.

My father served in WWII and while he NEVER talked about his active service years and what he had to do during the war, in my own research I discovered that he fought in several very nasty battles in and around the Ardennes Forest. I’m sure he had many memories both good and bad but he chose instead to teach that war was that was a means to an end and something to fight very hard to avoid. He served in the army as an officer for almost 30 years, and he cared greatly about the service men he trained to go into battle, especially during Viet Nam. He was deeply disturbed by the manner in which the service personnel were cared for, and appalled they were shipped in and out of active battle returning to civility with merely a few hours between. Without time to decompress he predicted the damage to our soldiers would be devastating. He died before the conflict ended, and sadly we now know he was right about the needs of our soldiers. I remember his silent and anonymous honor. He did kind things for people he barely knew. Often in secret he paid their bills, bought food, and one Christmas he bought bags of food and gifts for a destitute family of five kids whose father just died after a long illness. At his funeral numerous people I never met came up and shared stories of his quiet kindness’s that truly made a difference in their lives. His legacy is one of taking action to live kind and fight in all ways for freedom.

His father served in WWI and while he shared stories of the camaraderie of the fine men he served with and the people he met along the way, he also never discussed the battles or the horrors.; He too, believed that war was a sad and desperate means to an end that should never ever be glorified. It was about the duty of freedom. One of his oft repeated stories became known as The Black Snake Story. While he was training in Texas a member of his patrol didn’t join in the morning muster. When they went to check on him he was still in his bed motionless. During the night a large snake had crawled into his cot with him. There were lots of poisonous snakes around and these Northern boys had been warned to steer clear of them. They decided if they rolled up the side of his tent eventually the heat from the rising sun would warm the snake and it could slither away leaving him unharmed. My Grandfather spoke at a napping pace and if you could stay alert while he talked you’d learned that it worked. I always found it remarkable that during his slow cadence he rarely changed any words, and through the years of listening I had the story memorized. That story and the time spent listening to my grandfather was magical because it taught me that bonds are important and can’t be rushed.

Memorials are an important part of understanding who came before us and what we’re made of. It’s not the genealogy that makes a legacy, it’s the stories from the people you know that manifests the character of your family. What are those little snapshots of the people you know?

At bigger  family gatherings the women prepared, served and cleaned up the meal. As the youngest I floated between the living room listening to the men talk between dozing off with a full belly, and the kitchen a beehive of activity I remember lots of squawking about Aunt Tilly who always ran to the bathroom after the meal and was gone long enough to miss doing the dishes. I had an Aunt Bernice who laughed. “HA!” so loud she could wake her deaf husband. Uncle Norm was a diabetic and a very bad driver. Once he drove my sister and I mostly on the wrong side of the road while doing his errands. He had malt balls in his glove compartment which we devoured. He and his wife had a ball and chain and used it as a doorstop joke. Aunt Mae wore red lipstick that ran way over her natural lips and painted on black eyebrows. I always thought she was lucky and when I grew up I could dress for Halloween, too. These relatives had quirks, they were kind and loving and remarkably endearing.

We can do goofy things, dress oddly, say the wrong thing at the wrong time or give love when it is needed, but whatever our quirks they make us who we are and we will be remembered for them. These little things make us unique. When I paint pictures I look for the unusual, the small details that tell the story and create a pictorial impression of a memory.

All those wonderful service men and women fought honorably so you could have your memories. Remember them as you draw in a breath of peace, and celebrate their legacy by discovering your own. What are the little stories that will memorialize your legacy?

I’m thankful to my father, grandfather, to my aunts, uncles who served our country in military service and to my greater family for serving our small tribe.  Happy Memorial Day to all those honorable people who helped make my life possible so I could freely remember and celebrate today.

(Artwork by artzsamui courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

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Freeing Your Wild Artist

What’s the wildest art you can make?

Do you favID-100213076_Beautiful Girl with Her Hands In The Paint_stockimagesor marking with a pencil or brush stokes?

Will you use brilliant color or a monotone?

Are you the type who makes sketchy lines or bold smudges?

Will you give your work sensual expressions, or keep it plain and simple?

What is wild artistic expression for me won’t be the same for you. Finding your wild side can be fun and enlightening. Let yourself make a few messes with this opportunity and you’ll likely discover some amazing things about yourself and your art. If you want to stretch your creative abilities do something racy to juice up your creativity.

Challenge yourself to take a new risks. Try a new technique. Do something you really hate just to see what lies beyond your belief. Wear a color you don’t like and notice reactions of others, can you feel what the vibrations of that color do for your perception. Try being like another person for a day. How would that person make your art? During your next meeting take the opposite viewpoint from your own. Can you see something else in your reflection? How can you use these new-found tensions to enhance your performance?

When I feel I need to shake things up in the studio painting or on my keyboard writing I seek out my wild side. First I clear time and space for adventure trusting my instincts for what I think I need and can afford. Second, I give myself loads of permission to get really messy and have a lot of fun. Third, I allow play to invade everything I do. Fourth, I let go and live on the wild side of my artistic expression.

How do you free your wild artist? Leave me your comment. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

(Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What do You Get from Being Stupid?

 

Wisdom!

An unknown cook in china experimenting in the kitchen created fireworks, learning that cooking can be dangerous and more than food will delight.

Ink Jet printers were imagined after an engineer accidentally left his iron on his pen causing the ink to spray out.

Thomas Edison inventor, learned thousands of ways to not do things.

Leonardo Da Vinci artist and inventor, learned about human limitations

Steve Jobs creator of Apple, learned that life is fragile.

Alexander Graham Bell inventor of the telephone, learned through listening that silence can be translated into sound.

John Pemberton a pharmacist, learned that people liked to burp when his assistant accidentally mixed carbonated water into his recipe for Coca-Cola.

Charles Babbage inventor of an early calculator, learned that ambition must yield to time. Never completing his invention, years later his notebooks revealed knowledge basics for the computer.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” Mary Lou Cook

George de Mestral an engineer, learned that walking his dog could stick things together in amazing ways. He observed that burrs had a particular structure that stuck them to his dog’s furry coat and he created Velcro.

Leo Baekeland inventor of Bakelite an early plastic, learned the liability of copycat imitators after defending his work in numerous lawsuits.

Alfred Nobel inventor of dynamite and namesake for the Nobel Prize, learned that playing in mud has powerful payoffs, discovering mud held his explosive together.

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley inventors of the transistor, learned about success, collaboration and the emergence of creative ego while working together.

John Walker inventor of the friction matchstick, learned that you don’t need to profit from a good idea. Never patenting his invention someone else stole it.

Patricia Bath inventor of Laserphaco Probe used for cataract laser surgery, learned that innovation is colorblind. She was the first black woman to receive a medical patent and compete a residency in Ophthalmology.

Richard Jones a naval engineer trying to invent a meter to monitor power on ships, learned about the fun of bouncing discovering the slinky.

Sir Isaac Fleming discovered penicillin, and learned the true value of dumpster diving after discovering mold in the garbage.

James Wright an engineer trying to make synthetic rubber, learned about the human enthusiasm for goo – Silly Putty.

Patsy Sherman a chemist, learned that being messy is important to the creative process. After spilling on her shoe she discovered Scotchguard.

Albert Hoffman a chemist, learned that accidents can take you to unimaginable places. He developed LSD.

For gosh sakes be as stupid as you can when you want to grow. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn and you’ll become one of the smartest people you know.

Always Something New to Learn

I get asked all the time, “Why are you taking an art class? You teach them.” Well the answer is pretty clear. There is always something new to learn. Someone else may have the same skills or mastered the same techniques, but they do it in their own way. By looking at the same information through new eyes I can get a fresh perspective.

Watching paint splashed or how another artist handles their brush, is just as exciting as trying it for myself. I learn about using the same old papers to get different results, and why a particular brand of paint is favored. Things I never thought about become fascinating.

I also love the camaraderie of working with others. It gives me a lovely break from my private studio work, where I become serious about my final outcome. For me taking classes is about discovering something. Perhaps it is a tidbit I forgot, but it might also be seeing a color used in a completely novel approach. I make it a rule to not make a masterpiece when I take a class. I want my eyes open to possibility, not perfection. If I find myself getting picky about what I’m doing, I stop and add some playfulness to my approach. This keeps me spontaneous and ready to explore.

Also, as a creativity coach, watching other artists tackle really tough techniques is inspiring! Witnessing the amazing angles from which they choose to draw or paint their subjects, is thrilling in its outline for how they think about creating. Tenacious beginners are incredibly gutsy. It is through their creative innocence I see the force of creativity most alive.

What can you discover by taking a new class today?