Friday, June 14, 2013

Where in the world was The Art Abyss? (Adventures in Urban Spelunking)

You might have noticed that we totally missed two days of posts this week. We'll talk about that more next week (tune in Monday!), but in the meantime, let's review one of things we were *supposed* to talk about.

Kadie started off our new "Life in the Right Brain" series with a collection of pictures from her kickass Memorial Day BBQ. I can't say that I am nearly the photographer or the party-thrower that Kadie is, but I did go have a pretty epic adventure off of Interstate 10 on the drive between Tucson and Phoenix.

Having grown up in this state, I actually remember when the motel this sign pointed to was still up and running - though it was rundown even. Now it's been torn down, leaving only the old skeleton of its neon sign behind. As you can see, the sign has been repurposed for new billboards. But there's something I love about the original design, and it's only gotten better (in my opinion) as the sign has decayed and faded under the Arizona sun. Still, I wonder what it looked like all fixed up, when the motel was new and one of the only stops on the road.

The other highlight of my drive was invading the old Nickerson Farms Restaurant in Pinnacle Peak. You can read about what things used to be like here, but these days, the building is hollowed out and falling apart. It creaked with every gust of wind, and a thick layer of dust, broken glass, and fallen insulation littered the floor. I'm not going to lie -- this was my first-ever adventure with wandering in abandoned buildings, and I was thoroughly spooked. Luckily, the only residents were a couple of pigeons nesting in the beams. I spent about half an hour photographing and poking around, then headed back out into the sun. Never mind that little voice reminding me that wandering through
abandoned buildings is how 84.6% of horror movies start, because I was so freaking thrilled with the pictures I got. I'll probably go back -- armed with a couple lights and a friend or -- and see if I can get some more interesting shots in the shadows. Something about "broken down 60's restaurant" just says crazy fashion shoot to me.

If you want to see more pictures from the day, including my favorites from inside the restaurant, I'll have them posted over on my other blog, Mrs. Degree, as well as on my Facebook. Woot for shameless self-promotion!

Wreck This Journey -- It's Coming!

You might recall us giving away a free copy of Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.

That contest served a purpose -- namely, to get a copy of the book into one of our reader's hot little hands, since starting July 1st, we're going to be off on a marvelous adventure called Wreck This Journey. More specifically, we're going to be vlogging our way through Keri Smith's journal project, and showcasing our favorite bits here on the blog.

But wait, there's more! We want you to be a part of this adventure, not just as silent readers, but with vlogs, pictures, and written responses of your own! We're super excited to see all the cool stuff you create, and feature it here on the blog -- but we can't do it without your help. Here's what you need to do before July 1st.

Step 1) Order Keri Smith's freaking fabulous book. You can buy Wreck This Journal from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's Books, or Indie Bound -- or you can even go to your local independent bookstore and request they order it for you. They do that, you know?

Step 2) Brace yourself for the awesomeness.

Simple, right?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How Perseverance Helps Creativity Blossom

Guest Post Time!

Christi is the brilliant genius behind
Novel Conclusions. A former English teacher and aspiring author who loves everything related to words and creativity, she currently writes and lives in Southern California. Go check out her blog at - you know you want to. And now, let's get to today's post.

In Kadie’s post last Tuesday, she highlights a talk by Candy Chang where Candy reminds us that “life is brief and tender” and that we must decide what we will do with our lives. We must take action in order to create in our lives. Creativity, the art of creating, the act of innovating, requires decisive action and perseverance in keeping that momentum going. A spark of inspiration is great, but we have to fuel the fire to keep it blazing.

Being a master of your craft and of your own creativity requires perseverance, study, and figuring out what works for you. Anyone can have an idea, but you are the only person who can bring that idea to the world with your signature touch on it. The glory of art is in the execution. Van Gogh and Monet (and honestly, a ridiculous amount of people if you judge by the crazy amount on Google Images) have painted hay stack landscapes, but they look very different in the execution.

What Van Gogh and Monet have in common in this instance is that they painted prolifically to get things right. They painted everything around them over and over and over – and over again – until they couldn’t even look at hay stacks anymore. They persevered to get the lighting and the brush strokes and the color just so. Their creativity, the mastery of their craft, was fueled by persistently pushing forward and experimenting. They kept on working and trying new things when others would have stopped.

Author JK Rowling was famously rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury accepted the Harry Potter manuscript, but she kept on pushing. Pierre-Auguste Renoir suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, but he kept painting anyway and became one of the most prolific Impressionist painters of his era. Thomas Edison (who reminded us that "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”) was one of the most prolific inventors in history; his creative innovations in electricity led to the technological advances that allow you to read this blog.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he expands on this theory and gives example after example of individuals who became masters of their craft after putting in roughly 10,000 hours working on their specialty (check out this really cool detailed infographic about the 10,000 hour theory here). HOWEVER – big caveat coming up here, people – this does not take into account mindless repetition. If you play “Chopsticks” on the piano for 10,000 hours, you still won’t be Beethoven. So what does this take into account?

Perseverance in your craft means:
  • Practicing areas of your craft that are (currently) outside your comfort zone
  • Checking yourself (where am I at with this skill? How can I expand my knowledge of this aspect?)
  • Always devouring ideas related to your field (like reading art-related blogs!)
  • Working to create and innovate even when you want to be doing something else
  • Not being afraid to fail – every failure is a stepping stone toward mastery
Perseverance can open up new avenues for your creativity. Sometimes when you push through, you find something you never expected. How are you taking action to create in your life? What have you created when you kept pushing? What else does perseverance do to support creativity that I didn’t mention?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

P.S. Check out this awesome TED talk on grit and how it impacts success:

Want to read more from Christi? Check out her blog at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Challenge #10: Limitations Embrace

Sometimes life just sucks people.  Sometimes things happen and plans don't work out and we can't do or be the people we wanted to be in the way we had preconceived in our minds.   I don't care who you are, we all have a handicap that has made us feel this way at one time or another.  It might be physical, it might be emotional, it might simply be a situation or maybe even a monetary thing.  Everyone has that personal handicap that they think is restricting them from being who they were meant to be, or at least who they could be if only they didn't have that one thing in their way blocking their path.

The guy who posted this photo captioned it
"Crushed Dreams" SERIOUSLY!? WTF!?!?
I was dredging my way through the internet tonight, looking for images I could include with this blog post, when this image popped up.  The moment I saw it I had a gut wrenching urge to break down in tears and then to get up from my sobbing puddle and punch someone in the face.  The caption beneath the image read "Crushed Dreams".  And that right there ladies and gentlemen is exactly what is wrong with us as a society.  

Society ingrains in us from such a young age what perfect should look like.  It tells us what success should look like.  So as little boys and little girls we start to develop expectations for our lives based off of what society tells us we should want.  We plan them out meticulously, controlling and manipulating every detail of our existence to get us to societies perfect outcome.  But like all good plans we usually run into a few snags along the way.  We don't have enough money, we unexpectedly find ourselves with unanticipated family obligations, or our bodies just give out before they were supposed to.  Life has failed us and we are suddenly failures because we can no longer realize the perfect outcome that we were supposed to achieve. That's it, game over, you lose.

Here's the thing, life isn't a piece of classic literature with one set ending, it's more like a choose your own adventure novel. It's messy, it's complicated, and it's got more than one potential ending.

For example meet Dergin Tokmak aka STIX.  Dergin was only one year old when polio left him partially paralyzed from the waist down.  But that wasn't the end of his story, he chose a different ending.  Dergin spent years of hard work and training to become a dancer, because he was passionate and wasn't about to let his handicap get the better of him.  His talent and originality has taken him all the way to becoming a member of Cirque du Soleil.  Now here's the point to all my ramblings, in the end it was his handicap, not his perfect life, that lead him to work hard and to develop a unique style that got him where he is today. Likewise in our lives, it is our perceived handicaps that eventually help form us, shape us and push us out of our conventional boxes and into who we were truly meant to be.  

Handicaps force us to abandon the shackles of convention and use our creativity to develop our own unique style and flair.  In fact the entire history of art is riddled with people who started working the way they did because of a handicap.  Matisse had to cut paper because he couldn't hold a paint brush anymore. Beethoven was deaf and Chuck Close's neurological handicap and paralysis has had a profound influence on developing his unique style of painting. 

But you don't have to just take my word for it, Phil Hansen does an amazing job of summing up what I'm talking about in this video:

His whole talk is amazing but this is my favorite bit at the end:

"Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories and challenge accepted norms. And instead of telling each other to seize the day, maybe we can remind ourselves every day to seize the limitation." 
- Phil Hansen
These challenge badges keep getting ridiculously cooler
each week it seems like.
So if you haven't already guessed it yet, this week your challenge is to write down all your perceived limitations you see in your life and brainstorm ways you can (to use Phil Hansen's term) "embrace the shake."  How can you turn those perceived limitations into launching pads for inspiration?

After you've brainstormed make sure you come back here and share some of the ideas you came up with over your week of contemplation!

Also don't forget to snag a nifty challenge badge to share on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media pages to get the word out about this weeks challenge.  I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty proud of this one.  (seriously how amazing were choose your own adventure books!?)