Find Yourself Through Art

I thought it would be fun to give you a quick tip or two on how to find inspiration and tap into that inner pool of creativity - we all have one! True, some may feel their creativity a lot closer to the surface than others, but we all have the ability, and right, to become more creative. And the more creative we are, the better we feel, the happier our friends and family are (because we're more fun to be around when they see us doing things we enjoy), and our homes even start to look better and reflect our personalities even more. Sometimes, this can begin through art exploration and I'll tell you a little bit about that now.

Some of my new works from Curbside Treasure.

Several friends encouraged me to start my own art journal years ago, but only recently did I decide to take them serious and actually do it. I've maintained diaries since I was 7 years old and still have nearly all of them, but an art journal, something that is mostly visual, well this is new turf for me. Whether you are addicted to maintaining art journals or not, I think through journals, galleries, classes, and other fun things, we can each explore our creativity and find ourselves through art on some level.

LOOK!: I remember ways I tapped into my creative self when I felt uninspired or in a rut. I'd roam the halls of museums and smaller, local galleries. Everything impressed me on some level, but it was only when I discovered art journals did I think that this was a form of art that I could actually be a part of. That was over 10 years ago while researching the work of Niki de Saint Phalle. Back then, I felt a genuine connection with her work that has stayed with me for years. I attended a revealing exhibit about her emotional turmoil back then -- the depression she suffered, all feelings that she worked out through the pages of her many journals exhibited there in Germany where I first saw them. I recall them so clearly, bold and strong, colorful, quite violent at times, and all very abstract. I imagined her pain as I peered into them, and after the exhibit, I spent time alone to reflect on what I saw. Her secrets were no longer hidden. That's powerful stuff. I was touched by her use of so many different mediums (paint, paper, pencil, photos, etc.) to release such intense emotions. As I explored her art further, visiting exhibitions and seeing some of her larger than life sculptures in Europe and California, I came in contact with parts of myself that I never knew existed. Although my past wasn't painful like hers on any level, I found bits that spoke to me still. Strange how that works, isn't it?

It was around the same time that I started to study other artists that maintained journals and those who were into collage and mixed media arts, the merging of paper, paint, and pencil -- to convey emotion. This is a form of artistic expression that fascinates me more and more. I think finding an artist, your muse, and the type of art that really speaks to you, can be the first step to finding yourself through art.

More good stuff in the mail last week from Curbside Treasure.

TAKE A CLASS: Next, after you've found art that you can relate to, try to take a class either with that artist or with a teacher that seems to be on your level, who 'gets' you. A local established fine art painter and teacher here in New Hampshire, Lisa Occhipinti, has many art journals that she uses as a diary of sorts, mostly for private use. One day in her studio, she opened one to show me what the pages looked like, things that inspired her. Beautiful, inspiring, magical. Journals can be a special place where artists display images and feelings that they would not otherwise present in public. Some artists show these pages to the world, however Lisa uses her journal as a compass of sorts, sometimes an inspiration for her next painting. Her paintings tell a story in a most fluid, emotional, and very alluring way. Like Lisa, they have strong opinions, a sense of style, and are very colorful yet sometimes quiet and reflective. Here's a few paintings that I own on display here in my home. If you're interested in her work, she is represented by Jules Gallery in Boston, MA. Or, you can take a class with Lisa, which I'll get to in a moment.

These are a few paintings I own by Lisa, each is 12 x 12". You can see close-ups here.

After so many years of enjoying collage art and mixed media paintings, I searched New Hampshire and Boston for art schools and galleries that taught mixed media art but couldn't find a program that spoke to me. I started my search in 2004 and everything I came across felt very, well, bleh. You can only imagine my joy when I discovered that Lisa is soon to teach a week intensive in mixed media painting this summer at the Currier Art Center, which I registered for without hesitation. Since registering, I've recruited a decor8 reader who lives nearby, who will take the class with me. Yay! (If anyone else is local and would like to take the class, please join us!) I can't wait to explore mixed media art with my own hands because her work inspires me so much. Learning more about this form of art by using my own hands, this is another way you can find yourself through art. Take a class! Get involved!

BUILD A COLLECTION: Ever since I started this blog over a year ago, I've been showing collage art because it's something I really love and actually have enjoyed as a hobby since 6th grade when my art teacher told me I had a future in it. Of course, my passion wasn't there, and without passion, a skill doesn't go very far. So I simply collect collage works and rotate the smaller pieces around in my home.

"Ahmed's Flower #1" by Donald Baechler.

Curbside Treasure, a San Francisco-based artist, offers many great original collage works. I went on a mini shopping spree there recently to add some of Curbside's work to my collection. Collage is so exciting because it's something we can ALL get involved in. You do not have to draw a straight line or learn how to paint well. A pair of scissors and a glue stick is a great start.

There are so many great artists out there that explore collage, from Donald Baechler to the new on the scene set, Michelle Caplan first comes to mind, but of course there's Dawbis, Claudine Hellmuth, Lorena Siminovich, and a slew of others that have gained a huge following in recent times. Maybe we can join them by doing a bit of our own collage work at home in our journals, or for our walls. We can also show support by purchasing the art we love, it doesn't have to be expensive works, just start by building a small collection. It's a great way to find yourself through art because you'll start to see a pattern in what you are drawn to, and this can help you begin your own body of work.

EDUCATE: If you keep an art journal, collage, paint, or do anything else that is creative, chances are that you've purchased a book or two about it. For instance, you can learn how to collage even better by reading blogs like Marieke Berghuis' Treats & Treasures from Amsterdam. Or grab this amazing creativity notebook and card set that I recently scooped up called, "Wide Open: Inspiration & Techniques for Art Journaling on the Edge" (Book & Card Kit) by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts.

Randi is one rad lady -- Her book and card set is so great because it's loaded with cards that give you all of these inspirational stories and journaling tips. Like this one, "Keep an artist date once a week. Hang around with people or things that speak your language. Some of my best artist dates have been spent in a bookstore, jotting down notes on napkins." Randi gives tips for art journaling that I found so helpful, telling us how to use color, photos, words, lines, crayons, circles, in different ways. Find yourself through art by learning about the techniques, discovering tips, and watching the process of others. Educate!

So, whatever your inspiration... Whether you study your favorites, take an art class, purchase work you love, read about it on blogs or in books, just make it your point to soak up everything as inspiration and if you want, start your own art journal, using collage techniques, pen, pencil, paint, and anything you can get your hands on to create fantastic pages that speak to you.

This is just one part, a very large part, of how I found myself through art, maybe you can find your unique voice, too. :)

(images from claudine hellmuth, curbside treasure, randi feuerhelm-watts, and donald baechler)