"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Started Again. Grrrr.

One of the smartest pieces of advice I ever heard, came from a lecture the artist Nancy Crow gave at a conference in Ohio. “Always leave something unfinished,” she advised. “Then when you come home from a trip or you’ve been too busy to work, you’ll know where to begin.”

Good advice, but unfortunately I didn’t follow it the last time I left town.

I could blame it on the hectic preparation required when I am going to travel and teach for a month. I could blame it on the huge amount of time and energy that goes (I am recognizing this on a daily basis) into acquiring a new studio space. I could blame it on the many distractions of friends with hip and knee replacements, cancer, and/or the delight/trepidation of having a daughter who is a year away from college graduation. And assorted traffic tickets and car woes. (hers, not mine)

But it really comes down to not having any ideas.

In January I mounted a personal triumph – 48 pieces in the Etudes series. A few, very small bright ideas popped up in March and April. I assured myself that by the end of the summer teaching bits in August, I’d be good to go again.

But so far, no ideas. At least no bright ones.

What’s an artist to do?

I work best intuitively, but with a purpose. I adore having a goal, building tools to a theme and figuring out the symbolic significance of colors. But in the studio lately? Dry, dry, dry. As dry as the parched grass, or what’s left of it, in my backyard.

This afternoon I played around (rather listlessly) with some new Spoonflower fabrics. Tried combining them with each other, and then with hand printed dyed stuff. Not working. Not bad, but not singing, and why make anything any more - in this over-crowded creative world - if it isn’t going to sing?

Maybe because it’s therapy?
I can recall more than one conversation where all the artists in the room agreed that the alone time, the silence, often proved to be better than therapy.

I must agree. Maybe that’s the ticket. Alone time is what’s been missing. Since I didn’t leave myself an obvious start back into the routine of working (how could I forget about Nancy?) I am going to have to start from scratch.

But as another artist, the great Miriam Shapiro, once suggested, if in doubt or struggling, play. Fool around with materials or paints or whatever grabs your fancy and just begin.

So that’s where I’ll be tomorrow. Back in the studio, giving it another shot.

Because although the Tao te Ching states clearly that the journey begins with one small step, it takes a lifetime to get used to the idea that the journeys are never over. One creative journey begins and ends. If you are lucky or paying attention, you will have left a symbolic map and a compass on the shelf in the studio; ready to chart the course of the next trip.


  1. well, ain't we all been there. . .done that?!? You can always tell when I'm blocked when I start to pudder around the house. I have - lately - subscribed to the practice of leaving a tasked undone on my table so it jumps me back in. Still, with somethin' new - I go back into my inspirational folders and look at ideas that I jotted here and there. Butttt - thanks to you - shouldn't have any problems havin' new ideas for awhile. You've set my mind a hummin'!!

  2. Play! What great advice! I have found that I need some constraints, for example, play with what's in the scrap basket or play with purple--which I rarely use. I have confidence that you'll find your way to art again, just give yourself time to settle in again. In the meantime, read, putter and, like Nancy Crow said, play!

  3. Somedays I count it as progress just to go into the studio.

  4. I'm sort of there right now. Work is moving slowly - very slowly. Thank goodness for commissions to keep me creating something for the time being.

    Okay - here's one piece of advise. I haven't tried it myself so I don't know if it will work but after this commission I'll be doing this - and blogging about it.

    Set up a completely random score for your next quilt. No decisions will need to be made once you set your score in motion. See what happens.

  5. I sometimes go back over old journals and revisit ideas I had thought worthy enough to write down but perhaps not explore as I might have- and then pick one artist whose work intrigues- and write down ideas about both - the mingling of two seems to spark my own ideas again- ideas to explore with my own language and fabrics and stitches.

  6. Hi Jane ~ came over for a visit via a friend's link and I'm so glad I did...good stuff over here, much food for thought. I read back a bit and see that in March you considered quitting the blog scene. I had my own tsunami going on at that time, so I feel much kinship with your sentiments back then.

    I'm glad you didn't stop! Onward, forward, so it goes, as I look forward to your words and thoughts.