When the Creative Spirit Stirs

This month’s blog is written by long-time BPS member John di Leonardo.

January lingers as a proper time to faithfully reflect on the previous year and a unique opportunity to make fresh starts. I personally like making New Year’s resolutions regarding creative projects, specific goals I would like to achieve in the next twelve months. I routine manage this, while sipping my morning espresso, by reading new poets, perusing my art book collection or, later at night, by mining YouTube for influential artists’ programs, exhibitions and interviews.

The other day I was flipping through my many sketchbooks and inevitably began reading notes I had randomly jotted down concerning the creative process. These handwritten notations, quotes and sketches gave me some pause and possible ideas for future paintings and poems. I thought I’d share the notes with you, with the earnest hope to stir the muse or creative juices and to explore novel ways of creating. I am not just interested in technically proficient artwork, but also work that assumes risks, and inevitably leads to that in flow moment where everything feels harmonious, unified, and effortless until you look up six hours later and smile.

Sketchbook Notes: Art/Poetry

  • Let your imagination roam free. Be receptive to all things; embrace risk and failure– this is part of the creative process!
  • Trust your inner voice. Your gut feeling has evolved over millions of years, so dismiss the inner voice that whispers “They will think I’m foolish.”
  • Give risky ideas time for your unconscious mind to mull over a solution. Sleep on it.
  • Recombine ordinary words and images. Be open to new possibilities of ideas, words, images in new and unpredictable associations.
  • Question the rules that govern the art form. Know the rules. Bend them, then break them! Break them! Even if people tell you they like your old work better.
  • Break away from current narrative forms. Experiment with meter & syntax; seek new purity in word & phrase. Lower the tone to a whisper. Slow down the pace. Fill each pause with meaning.
  • Be technically proficient but go well beyond the page or canvas. That is where art resides.
  • Always keep an eye on form & content, the what and the how. What am I saying? And why am I saying it this way? Unity and harmony is a must in any artwork!
  • Be aware of your culture’s needs and wants, the beautiful and the dark. Read ideas; read artists; read philosophy and read things you are not interested in. Have an opinion!
  • Explore new subjects and create new genres in the art form.
  • Imply a visual or word puzzle that makes you ask, “What is going on?”
  • Strive to attain an essential, literal and visual language that is both ephemeral and deep, one that fosters associative feelings and meanings.
  • Strive for layered, ambiguous work. Multiple viewpoints offer fresh meanings with each new reading or viewing.
  • Show what a new art or poetry could be. The process is everything.
  • And finally, have fun!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A Roman February

“February has a knack of returning us to winter, and drowning us in darkness”

The chill month of January has at last taken its leave, and we find ourselves in yet another February, weary of coats and gloves and cold floors in the mornings. February is a tease, the next month of a long season drawing out the torment of grey days like a frosted veil while its sharp winds moan  — a tease that this winter may never end. Our collective mood reflects the biting wind, our spirits as charged and restless. But then come brief thaws and nervous sunshine – a practiced treachery, as February has a knack of returning us to winter, and drowning us in darkness.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our calendar is a Roman one, and like Roman history, February offers its deceits. A spectacular example is what occurred in February 44 BCE. In that year, Julius Caesar refused the crown that Marcus Antonius pressed upon his head. Standing before crowds gathered for the annual Roman fertility festival of Februa, during the days of Lupercalia, the offer was recorded by Plutarch and later famously dramatized by Shakespeare. Many historians agree that the incident was probably staged by Caesar himself to gauge the wishes of the Roman people. Given his undeniable imperial ambitions, Caesar’s refusal strains credulity even now. But again, it was February, that teaser, that time of practiced treachery.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

Whatever he truly intended, we know that Caesar never was king or emperor. His deceit was a litmus test that served as an augur, predicting the fateful March that followed his final February. On the floor of the hallowed Senate itself, Rome’s mighty saw Caesar, the dictator, fall to the ground, betrayed by a friend. This time it was not the gold of Lupercalia that watered the earth, but blood. 

History bludgeons and blooms like the seasons, dragged forward by the momentum of change. So too, February blows hard, softens, then comes down again like a Roman sword. 

So, while February may plunge us into painful darkness once again, we can be like the ancient Romans and take charge of our lives – in our case by plunging ourselves into poetry.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ..."

	from Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar

“A Roman February” is by BPS Member and accomplished poet, Fj Doucet. Check out her work on Instagram: @fj_doucet

Creative resolutions

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words” — Mark Twain

Over the holidays I have been thinking about my involvement in the arts over the years. I have been a visual artist and art teacher for many years, and have turned to poetry within the last decade. My experience teaches me that the imagined accolades I have at the beginning of a project do not necessarily materialize at the end of the undertaking. There is a hollow feeling that follows the months or years of daily focus on a creative project that some people have compared to postpartum depression.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So what is an artist to do? Well, creating art is a part of the life we chose, or, for some of us who have come to art later in life, creating art is something that we are newly in the process of forging. Either way, we should enjoy the journey, enjoy the pleasure and joy of being in the moment, of exploring, of creating something that never existed, something no one else could have brought into the world but ourselves. No amount of monetary reward compares to watching a person react, perhaps a stranger moved to tears, by something you, the artist, have created.

The creative life after all is about discovering the artist within, whether as a painter, a poet, a dancer, or a musician. It is about paying attention to the spiritual experience the inner and outer worlds offer.

I leave you with a quote by M.C. Richards:

Appreciating poetry is probably like appreciating anything else. It means having the generosity to let a thing be what it is, the patience to know it, a sense of the mystery in all living things, and a joy in new experience.

Wishing you all a very creative 2020!

by John Di Leonardo