Music And The Muse

When I was little, I had a record called Havin’ Fun with Ernie & Bert. I would listen to this record, doing all the dances and activities, as often as my mother could stand it. But there was one song on the album that has stuck with me throughout the (more than I’d like to count) years: Imagination, sung by Ernie.

Ernie encourages us to close our eyes and tell him what we see. The unimaginative Oscar the Grouch says, “You can’t see anything with your eyes closed,” but the other characters shush him and begin telling us what they see: blobs and stars and oceans and birds. Then Ernie starts singing about what happens when he uses his imagination. I still get goose bumps listening to it today.

This song was probably one of the first links I had between music and creativity. How listening to a song can spark new ideas. How a single line can inspire a new design. How the underlying melody and beat can make my fingers itch to pick up my tools and start creating. I often listen to music while I’m working on my jewelry, sometimes I can’t work without it. Music invigorates and motivates me, and helps me get in touch with my muse.

Imagination and creativity can be tricky things, elusive and stubborn one day, flooding us with ideas the next. For me, music can help to direct my inner artist, riding the waves of crescendos and diminuendos, dancing along the chords and verses, moving to the rhythm. Try putting your favorite music player on random or shuffle and close your eyes. What do you see?

“I look inside and discover things,
That are sometimes strange and new,
And the most remarkable thoughts I think,
Have a way of being true.” .

And that’s one of the best things about being an artist/designer/crafter/creative person. Taking those strange and wonderful ideas and bringing them to life.

You can open your eyes now, kids.

I Am An Artist, And So Are You

Discover the art you create on a daily basis, without picking up a pencil or a paintbrush.

I remember going to my grandmother’s house for the weekend when I was a young girl. She would hand me a stack of blank paper, a set of watercolor paints, and a big box of crayons, and by the time the weekend was over, my drawings and paintings would cover every available surface. I considered myself quite the artist, and my grandmother encouraged my creativity.

Perhaps it was with her death, when I was nine years old, that the dream of being an artist began to die. I know I looked at my art a lot more critically as I got older, and finally put down my paints, pencils, chalks and crayons, deciding I’d never be good enough to be a “real” artist. I still did other creative crafts, such as sewing and cross-stitch, but to me, “art” was something you would find in a museum. It was a drawing or a painting, a picture that was conjured up in one’s mind, then put to paper or canvas, framed and hung upon a wall. Or it could be a sculpture, something carved from stone or shaped in clay. I had a very narrow view of art. I think many people do.

But art is not just paintings, sketches or sculptures. Art is everywhere, in everything we do. We just don’t always see it in the rush of our everyday lives. We are so busy doing “stuff” that we fail to see the beauty around us, or the skill and mastery we use to accomplish all this “stuff.”

I create and sell jewelry on Etsy.com; this is my most obvious art. But I am also a DJ for The Cape Radio, a small internet radio station for players of City of Heroes, so the play lists I create and the banter I engage in on the air is another form of my art. My “day job” is as a photographer for a portrait studio; this is also my art.

Okay, so jewelry-making, music and entertainment, and photography can be forms of art; I think that is something we can all agree on. But what if you’re not creative? What if you don’t “make” anything? How can I say that you are an artist? Because I am still saying that you are.

The first definition on Dictionary.com states that art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

More than ordinary significance. What a concept these words are! Think about what you have created in your life that has more than ordinary significance to you. What do you love? What gives you satisfaction? What are you really good at? What do people compliment you on?

Let’s look at what you do for a living. I’m sure a lot of people will say they absolutely hate their jobs, but even if you are one of those, I bet there is some aspect of it that you excel at. In my various past jobs as an administrative assistant, my coworkers marveled at how organized I was. Even if I had piles of folders and stacks of papers on my desk, if someone came to me and asked for something specific, I could put my hands on it in seconds. I always knew what tasks in a project had already been completed and what still needed to be done. I knew what resources were available and where to find them. I knew exactly where to go and what to do in order to fulfill a request for information or complete a report. I got things done quickly and was a model of efficiency. Organization is my art.

Perhaps you’re the only one in the office who can deal with that one problem client that drives everyone else up the wall. Your diplomacy is your art. Perhaps you can always convince people to give a bit more to a fund-raiser or spend a bit more than they had originally been planning to. Your salesmanship is your art. Perhaps you’re the one who always has a smile, who brightens everyone else’s day just by being there. Your sunny disposition is your art. Perhaps you learn new programs quickly, can figure out how to make them do what you need them to do faster than anyone else. This aptitude is your art. What points on your resume are you most proud of? I bet they have something to do with your art.

What about your life outside of work? Perhaps you’re the one that all your friends look to to organize events for the group. Party planning is your art. Perhaps you can always find the best route to take to get wherever you need to go. Your sense of direction is your art. Perhaps you make the best chocolate chip cookies your family has ever tasted. To someone who always burns the bottoms of cookies, making good ones is definitely an art!

What have you made that has more than ordinary significance to you? Perhaps you’ve made a comfortable home that your friends and family love to hang out in. Perhaps you’ve made some fantastic friendships that have stood the test of time. Perhaps you’re a parent, and what parent doesn’t think their child is a work of art?

More than ordinary significance. You ARE an artist. So what is your art?

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