Tag Archives: Art

Spinning Out of Control

Spinning out of ControlLife has a way of getting in the way of art.  It sometimes seems to me that either you make your life all about art, and to hell with the rest, or you valiantly struggle through your life, crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s, and you never get a sodding bit of art done at all.  And then there is all the drama and chaos.  I’m feeling hemmed in right now.  I, me personally, am fine.  But between the time I spend trying to live a sane sustainable life, and the shit storm that is constantly battering the glass walls of my personal bubble, I’m finding it harder and harder to be creative.

And it’s like this shit storm just keeps getting bigger and bigger, picking up debris in its wake and spreading it across the face of my world.  You know when you buy a new car (new to you) and say it’s a Volkswagen Beetle or whatever (you pick) and suddenly you just see them everywhere on the road – or it’s because you’re playing Punch Buggy, but the point is that they go from being invisible to almost all you can see?  Is that what this storm of disaster is all about? Or is the world really going to hell faster and faster, like the spin cycle on a washing machine?

I don’t honestly know.  For me things are very much the same as they have always been: slightly better maybe, but with slightly less time.  I’m trading time for comfort.  But that’s just me.  Everyone else and everywhere else seems to be blowing apart at the seams, or at least in need of a few denim patches.  Oh yeah, and that time thing, it’s a bitch.  It brings me back to the first thought.  I spend more time working, more time fretting about things I cannot change in the lives of people who seem bent on destruction, and less time doing the things I really love: making stuff.

For me, making stuff is a huge area.  It’s writing, it’s creating Pan Historia, it’s painting, it’s learning new skills, it’s books, and museums, and pulling in inspiration from all around me to turn it into moments of insight and art.  But when life starts to feel like a buzz saw, saw dust flying until it chokes, and your eyes start to blink and tear up, where is the time to be found for the creativity?

My reaction?

Take a nap. Play a mindless game.  Lose myself in some meaningless movie made for TV.

Waste the precious moments even as I scream about losing the time: it was so hard to find, and as I get older it is an ever vanishing resource.


Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle

I just watched an amazing presentation on the source of genius and creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, that I want to share with you all on my writing blog this morning. Not only did it answer a few questions for me as an artist but it confirmed some of my own beliefs about art and the myth of the tortured artist. Elizabeth talks not only about writing but writing as an art form and the writer as an artist but about the other arts as well so this talk is essential for all creative people.

As a student majoring in fine arts (I have a Masters in painting) and as the offspring of artists I’m, more than most, fully aware of our stereotypes, culturally, about artists as tortured souls that pay for their genius (modern definition of the word being that genius is being really smart or creative) with terrible mental and emotional problems. The quintessential poster boy for this viewpoint is, of course, Vincent Van Gogh. The viewpoint is so all prevailing that I know artists who have considered themselves failures when they didn’t die young, or bemoaned the fact they haven’t had a nervous breakdown yet.

Normally sane people, in other words, will drink, take drugs, cultivate disruptive and destructive behaviors, just to fulfill society’s prophecy that the creative individual is doomed. There are, naturally enough, tons and tons of examples. As I was studying art, being a rather sane individual that really didn’t want to booze myself to death or suffer from mental illness just for my muse, I had plenty of cause to think about this topic. I was also studying art history at the same time and it’s pretty easy to trace the history of the idea of artist as tortured individual from its origins. Great art has been produced of it, but is it really that useful of an idea? Can we change it?

Elizabeth wants to give us a new myth about artists and creativity and it’s actually a very old myth. Watch and rejoice:

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius


The Bones of a Leaf

The human mind is an amazing instrument capable of processing data from multiple inputs at speeds that make the fastest microprocessor look like a slow moving cement mixer. Not only that but many of the functions it performs are sorted and prioritized without the owner even seeing or sensing the processes involved. One of the astonishing abilities of the mind is the interpretation and creation of symbols: one thing standing for another thing. Letters form words that the brain then interprets. A picture of shape that is roundish, red, and has a sticklike appendage near the top becomes an apple. I catch sight of a piece of leaf with just the stem and a small part of the base and I see a tadpole swimming on my carpet.

Art, whether written, pictorial, or musical, is the mind’s conscious manipulation of symbols to create images, emotion, and meaning in the mind of the observer/listener. I take something that is not there, create symbols (words or images), and deliver it to you so that you have an experience. Creating words from letters, then forming sentences, all of which describe the world, exterior and interior, is really an astounding activity and yet so many of us, from children to the most humble, can do it. Of course a lot of people tend to stick to the literal, the true, the tangible. It takes another flight of fancy to make stuff up – to make beautiful meaningful lies.

But even the entirely made up should be full of truths eternal. They may be very small, but I believe that even in the most lighthearted or humorous or fanciful piece of fiction writing there should be yet another layer of meaning underneath the obvious. I should be able to paint a picture for you of another reality and underlying my fictional reality is yet another substrate of meaning, of symbol. A really satisfying work of art lingers with you a long time after experiencing it. It’s the movie that makes you keep thinking days later, or the novel that resonates years in the future so that you have to pick it up again, and lo and behold there is even more there than the first time around. It’s the painting that haunts, or the musical refrain that moves you to tears and you don’t know exactly why.

If I can ever write just one novel that has the ability to resonant in the reader’s mind long after they put it down I’ll have succeeded as an artist. If someone reads my words like I can read the remains of a leaf as a tadpole on my carpet then I have done my job.


The Passionate Salmon

salmonThe creative process is a tricky thing. Many hear the clarion call to create something – indeed it seems to be a fundamental building block of human nature – hence the proliferation of ‘things’ that clutter our lives from gadgets like egg slicers to paintings that uplift our spirits in some kind of deep and meaningful way that is ineffable. Of course the many millions of inventions that have been produced over the course of human history have many benefits, though there are many that have dubious benefit or can be labeled down right evil (the atomic bomb, the iron maiden). Our minds constantly seem to be thinking of new things. Even the least creative of us have the urge to create, improve, adapt, and otherwise manipulate their surroundings in some way. For many it’s an unconscious act (choosing wallpaper for the living room, selecting one make of car over another) that seems to have little bearing on the whole creative stream, but magnified by millions has an enormous impact.

It’s when you take a very active role in creating that the process of selection and manipulation becomes a powerful struggle. Which word? Which color? You’re like a salmon trying to swim upstream against a raging waterfall to spawn. The odds often seem against your work of art successfully being birthed into the world. Then all those little fish of creativity that do hatch then have to make their own difficult way back to that enormous sea. So few grow into a mature salmon. How do you have that original idea that will allow your small egg of concept to grown into a magnificent force of silver scaled nature? How does your book stand out of the crowd?

There are countless blogs and books out there to tell you how to write, how to be a better writer, how to sell, but there wouldn’t be a market for those things if it wasn’t actually a total shot in the dark, almost akin to that salmon heading upstream. You can be the sleekest healthiest salmon in the whole damn ocean but fate can still mess you up, you can still make the wrong move, just be unlucky. And ultimately art is not a salmon. The analogy can only carry us so far. Creating a story that lasts in the minds of your readers is not just about following rules, or even going with what’s been successful before. You can’t sit down and plan to be the next Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer (read Stephanie Meyer’s story in her own words to get a great idea what I’m next about to say to you). If you do it comes out formulaic and dry.

You can only sit down and write about something you are passionate about. No matter how much college you had, or creative writing classes, or blogs on writing you read, you will not write anything that anyone wants to read, that strikes a chord within another person’s soul, if it’s not something that sings to you. Meyer’s had a dream and she followed it through. I have not read the book, I probably won’t because I’m sick of vampires and turned off my young adult fiction, but regardless of my personal preferences Stephanie Meyers touched an honest chord in her readers and now she has her deserved fame and fortune. Some of it was just plain luck, but without the passion it’s never going anywhere.


The Decade of Our Youth

bo-derek-10I went grocery shopping last night after work. Exhausted though I was we were completely out of food and I’d gone to work in the morning with a stale croissant from Safeway and Starbucks (possibly the worst supermarket and worst coffee franchise ever) so I was resolute in my desire to fill a shopping cart with a basket of good food from a different food chain. Taking my time I was drawn to the magazine rack as I strolled by leaning heavily on the handle of the cart. People Magazine had put out one of its glossy special editions “Celebrate the 70’s“. The cover features the Bee Gees, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Bo Derek, and Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. The back cover is: Mary Tyler Moore, Richard Nixon, Mark Spitz, Star Wars, Patty Hearst, Donna Summers, David Cassidy, Burt Reynolds, and the Village People. I mention the cover images in detail because with the exception of Mark Spitz I could, without hesitation, name very single celebrity on the cover and the movie or show they were famous for or being featured in. This is particularly a feat considering Bo Derek was pretty much solely a phenomena of the 70’s – known for one bouncing boob moment and a, at the time, unusual hair style. It’s also amazing because if you gave me a cover of the 80’s, 90’s, or the 00’s I would be lucky if I got 25%.

Much as I thought I hated the 70’s at the time it is clear from this example that I am a child of the 70’s. While I was born in the 60’s and have always sort of revered that particular decade and felt the one that followed was really a pallid and sometimes laughable shadow of the previous epoch shattering decade, it is the 70’s that stand out in my mind with a clarity that no other set of years will ever achieve – no matter how important personally to me. It’s truly the nature of the beast that is called human. When we come of age is, for the majority of us, marked permanently in our brains in a way that no other time of our life ever really can match. We are marked forever by the intensity of our youth. We are moving from childhood to adulthood on a cresting wave of hormones and adventure. The life in front of us is full of the unknown and of promise. We are actualized hope and we soak up life like a sponge.

As artists, whether writers, painters, poets, musicians, or sculptors, we need to soak up the world around us with the same intensity all the time. For those of us mature in years enough to have gotten some distance from the decade of our awakening the line might seem quite clear from when we were almost entirely alert (though maybe not terribly self-aware) to the years that followed when, no matter how we tried, the lights became less bright, and the world started rushing past us so fast we couldn’t hope to catch every image, every emotion. We all get tired out from so many hours spent washing the same dishes, going to the same supermarket, working the same job, but as artists we have to recapture the wide-eyed all-encompassing gaze of our youth. Your mind should be like a camera recording snapshots of life that you can paste into the album of your work. Age is what makes the selection of the images more discriminating.

I bought the special edition of People Magazine only to find that what I had once found to be banal and boring (oh the irony that when we are most awake we are also at our most opinionated and jaded!) to be bright, full of hope, and yes, even innocence. The 70’s now seem to me to be halcyon compared to the decades that followed and I challenge anyone to disagree. I won’t be watching reruns of Charlie’s Angels anytime soon, but I can remember watching them the first time around far more clearly than I remember what I watched last night.


Thoughts on Immortality

kingsI received a copy of a trade magazine in the mail that I used to write a regular feature for as part of my last job. My feature was also always the cover story. The new issue included the latest of these regular features, now, of course, written by my successor. To read the magazine presents a seamless tradition. There was and is no byline on this feature. To the casual observer there has been no change at all. Life goes on within and without me. Holding a copy of this magazine in my hand led to some bittersweet reflection about the footprint that we leave in life.

I am one of those vain animals that has always longed to leave my mark upon the world – some tangible proof that I was here, that I existed. Perhaps it’s not just simple vanity or a purely self-centered self-interest. I have always been captured by history, and in particular art. Beginning with the evocative fossilized remains of the first human footprints to the air-brushed (yes, air-brushed – they would blow the pigment from their mouths over the back of their hands as they pressed them to the cave wall) outlines of human hands along with graceful renderings of animals in the Lascaux caves we leave our prints on the more durable materials that compose our world.

Pharaohs and Kings had their names and idealized images carved into monumental stone so that they would live eternally in the hearts and minds of those that followed, but even the humbler of our species created marks to trace their path by. If you observe closely the stones upon which ancient stone masons worked you can see the lines of their tools etched into the stone like you can see Van Gogh’s brushstrokes on canvas, even the bristles from his paintbrushes, more tangible even than the signature. Greek potters began the cult of personal identification by beginning to mark their wares with a signature much like earlier Ancient Egyptian stonemason crews also left their ‘team’ mark on the stones.

As we advance in time artists, scientists, philosophers, and more began to leave their names more indelibly than kings and priests. Eventually even more humble people make footnotes in the history books, the images, and the remains of our various civilizations. In my research of the American West I come across hundreds of such people, moments of their lives captured in birth certificates, newspaper reports, tintypes, and inscriptions in the family bible.

Our popular culture worships celebrity and notoriety, which is sort of the dark underbelly of the shining desire to leave a tangible traceable mark upon history; a trail that can lead from one moment in time to another and allow people to make connections between the past and the present and feel the wash of history flow through them as something real and relevant. Celebrity can be a vanishing thing; here one moment and gone the moment after.

My impulse to write or make art is inextricably tied up with my desire to one of the threads of the fabric of the world. It’s a desire for a tangible immortality that transcends time or fleeting fame. I was here. I existed. Perhaps it stems from doubt about the existence of an afterlife, or perhaps it’s just natural hubris, but when I look around me at my achievements past and present there is really only one way that I feel I have made a unique contribution to the world, and that is my community site Pan Historia.

However how indelible can a web site be? I know that I have touched hundreds of people, and that I have made a difference in some of their lives that will be remembered all of their lives, but how about the future? I believe this question can be asked of the whole of the internet. It’s very nature is ephemeral and ever changing. Who tomorrow will remember communities like Pan Historia or even MySpace or Facebook? Where are the graceful strong carved lines in stone? How can I rest assured of my immortality when in a the flip of a switch all that I have worked for is gone forever with one electronic wink? Achievements on the internet seem as brief and fragile as human life itself.

Proud as I am of my personal achievements I do feel like I am rushing headlong to the abyss, and I don’t know what is on the other side. Desperately I crave the book that I can cradle in my hand, put on my shelf, and know that it will be here after I am gone. Books burn, degrade, rot, or get recycled, but surely one such tome can survive the ravages of cruel time to carry my name long after I am gone? Some future person will happen upon it on a dusty shelf in an obscure second-hand bookstore, a throwback to a gentler slower past, and there will be my name, my words, and it will be as if I still live.


Come With Me to the Sea…

Someone I greatly respect as an artist and storyteller once said he considered plagiarism to be the sincerest form of flattery and that it didn’t bother him because unlike the thief, he could always create more. On the other hand this very artist suffered from those that would steal his thunder and wanted to share the rarified sky and clouds with those whose feet walked above their own uninspired heads. The fact is that they were counterfeits and that the truth lay in his belief that he could always ‘create more’. It is the creativity itself that is the gift, not the individual piece.

I bring this up because one of the interesting features of sharing your writing online, whether it is a blog or at a site like Pan Historia, is this electronic act of trust. I’m putting it out there, assuming no one will take it. Of course it seems to be hubris to think anyone would, but it’s always a risk, however seemingly bizarre.

There was once a writer at Pan who was fairly good. I invited her to create a collaborative novel in order to help the site grow a community of writers beyond the standard historical or fan-based fiction. She created a whole fantasy world for her writers and I was pretty impressed. Then one day she decided to pull the plug on it because she decided she wanted to be a published author and someone might steal her material. The shock, at the time, was profound for me.

First I was very surprised that she considered the possibility of theft quite seriously, and the second that after months of working with other writers she would yank the framework from the tapestry they had built together out from under them. This being the early days of Pan it was simple enough to make sure it didn’t happen again through policies adopted, but I have never quite forgot it. It had an impact on me because I share my work all the time. I cast it out to the universe with each key stroke. I have no manuscripts lying under the bed, gathering dust, that I jealously guard.

Almost every single word I write is, in actual fact, published. Some may languish unseen in forums so old and dusty that the page never receives a call from a casual mouse click, or may have even disappeared from pixelated virtual reality all together, but every character of it has been shared. In all that unmitigated personal hubris (the assumption that anyone else would care to read it) I have never had cause to worry that anyone else was lifting it and trying to make it their own. If it came to a day when I wanted to see my words become ink upon a page – well I can write more.

Words flow outwards to the sea.

I don’t believe they should be dammed or ideas and creativity grows stagnant. You may only be a small creek, and it may only run with quick cold water after the spring thaw, but don’t impede it, and don’t consider it so precious that it grows thick and turgid with algae until it dries up completely and not even a lonely frog can find a home.

And if once those flowing words reach that great swollen ocean to mingle with all the waters of the world so that you fear that you will lose them, remember words are timeless. Who knows what shore they will one day cast up on to inspire again?

Let creativity leave and breathe. What do they say? If you love a thing… let it go.


Writer versus Author

I have a concern that there is too much control being asserted over the writer as artist these days. It is true that, contrary to the image of the solo writer tapping away at his typewriter with an overdose of five o’clock shadow, writers need the assistance of an editorial eye, but do they need to be told what is art and what is not? I’m not referring to the fixing of grammar and spelling – or even some structural advice when it is sore needed, but it seems that more and more, and I’m not merely talking about online resources such as my very own blog, that the final say and the final cut comes from agents and then editors.

Of course the nascent and inexperienced writer seeks guidance from the more experienced, and that is correct. There is always a need for advice and mentoring in the arts, any art. What I’m seeing, however, is a molding of writers to one limited model, and a muscular leveraging of outside viewpoints on what is, ultimately, a personal art form. Let me give you an example in terms of painting.

As a painter I went to art school to learn my craft. I was guided by my instructors, other artists who were earning a living by teaching, and then finally at the end of my journey I was let loose in the studio. It was the goal of both me and my teachers that once I was finished with instruction that I should be alone in my studio, master of my media, and the artist. I wanted the critics and teachers out of my studio once I was ready to fledge. Imagine that the art agent and the critic entered my studio at this point and grabbed a paint brush correcting perceived errors on my canvas. Perhaps they even took scissors to the piece to reduce its dimension because smaller art was more easily accessible to the viewer than a large piece.

It would be shocking and outrageous and the finished piece would no longer be mine. Increasingly it seems that the writer is losing control of their art form. Novels are written to have cookie cutters applied to them by experts that seem to have more control than the writer, more authority. If you want to be a good writer and be published than submit your art to another’s scrutiny and final judgment is the message I read all the time. It’s the same whether it’s over the internet or the real life experience of my friends who are published writers.

Of course if you follow my thoughts in this you might well find yourself unpublished and unread. Many a painter has works of art languishing in spare rooms and dusty studios because no one wants to buy the art. Most art shows do not result in sales or a living for the artist. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I know that I would rather be a good artist than one that had compromised my art for what is currently considered saleable. When I think of the authors that are truly great very few of them conform to the well-worn maxims of today. Yesterday’s authors were authoritative and their art had authority.

My proposal is that there comes a time when the writer is no longer an apprentice, but an author. As an author they should be the final arbitrator of what is excellent in their own work; even if they submit to a helpful critical eye the final decision is theirs. That day cannot be measured by some sort of marker like being published by a major publishing house because that privilege becomes an unlikely goal, but if a writer truly wishes to make a mark on the world then at some point they must, finally, become the author of their own creation.


A Cause Without a Rebel

I don’t find the myth of the starving artist to be alluring. I don’t relish the idea of the writer in the garret, scotch bottle at his right, cigarette smoldering in the overflowing ashtray. I’m not drawn to self-destructive he-men like Jackson Pollock splattering his work over giant floor-sized canvases while his wife sacrifices her art and happiness on the altar of his genius. I don’t need to die young, wrapped bone and sinew in the chassis of my Porsche 550.

There are days when I actually consider that might be why I’m not a better artist.

Then I remember this guy, a printmaker of some skill, which was a friend of the family. My mother and her husband were both amazing artists in their fields but both suffered from anxiety disorder as well as other emotional scarring and trauma. This printmaker actually said “I wish I could have panic attacks so I could be a great artist”. Obviously he lacked the imagination required to move from ‘competent’ to ‘great’.

When I have my moments of angst over my lack of success as an artist I like to think about Raphael. He was hugely successful, very prolific, handsome, and amiable. What more could you ask for? Oh wait, he died at 37 years old. Ok, but that wasn’t too bad right? After all it was the Renaissance, more dangerous times and all.

Wait, hold on… I’m rummaging through my hard drive for more examples of happy productive artists (preferably ones that were slow starters because they were too busy just sort of wandering around aimlessly until their mid-thirties)…

Hmm… Rembrandt won’t do because though he started out happy and successful (in love with his wife Saskia) he ended up with tragedy and poverty.

Maybe painters aren’t the best source for the happy successful artists sans angst? I should turn to literature.

Ah! Henry Miller.

I’m sure he had his moments of angst but he lived a very long life, was successful during his lifetime, and screwed tons and tons of beautiful interesting broads. There you go. Oh and on the subject of long lives I did think of a painter: Picasso! So he was an asshole to all around him. I’m sure he was totally happy.

I, too, can be a happy successful artist. Of course if I’m not an asshole will that hinder me? Perhaps I should cultivate being more of a jerk?

Or maybe, just maybe, I should stop navel gazing and write something besides another blog post?

Oh, ok, I just have to share this will all three of you that read this: so last night I’m trying to go to sleep but the lovely lady has on her show because she’s not quite sleepy yet and I’m trying to ignore it, but you know I can’t ignore dialogue. I start to listen whether I want to or not. I’m not sure what show she was watching but I wish I had a photographic memory so I could share with you all (that’s you five over there) the deathless bad writing. I never ever heard anything so hackneyed in my life. Without seeing the actors or other distracting visual content I could just focus on the clichés. It was horrendous. I had to turn on my light and start reading Elmore Leonard before I made an ass of myself and told her just how crappy the show was. Would that have qualified me as an asshole artist? Did my restraint forever doom me to be just another wannabe?


The Soundtrack of Art

Ok, completely different tangent, or maybe a tangentially related tangent: I do not put music on to write or to paint.

I love music and have a large and eclectic collection in some varied styles that I enjoy.  Another time we can talk about my favorites.  Today I want to discuss why people listen to music for everything.  I don’t have an iPod.  I didn’t ever having a Sony Walkman (remember those, kiddies?).  Right now, because I’m writing and not doing chores (there should always be a difference between those two), I’m listening to the sound of the train.  The train sounds different in winter during a blizzard then it does in summer in clear skies.  It is infinitely more eerie in winter.  It’s almost like a foghorn in tone.  The bell to warn people off the track sounds much farther away, muffled by the snow that falls.   I can also hear the sound the snow plow makes as it passes by, heavy shovel lowered, scraping along the tarmac.  Very far in the distance, so far it’s nearly inaudible, I can hear sirens.

It’s much quieter when the snow falls because much of the sound is dampened by the thick blanket of frosty white.  Sometimes you get that wonderful surprising ‘thump’ as the accumulation of snow grows too heavy for its precarious position on the slanted roof and it comes down in a wet lump and disappears into the snow below.  Only a few days ago I was actually listening to birdsong because there were an earful of Cedar Waxwings outside in the branches of the old apple tree and partaking of the brilliant red of the sumac fruit.  They would cling to the naked branches like dying leaves refusing to give up the ghost.

All of these sounds would be lost to me if I was sitting here with earphones pressed into my ears or blaring out of my speakers.  My life rarely comes with a musical soundtrack.  I often wonder if it’s the movies that have changed the way people go through life, always with music.  When I walk I like to be able to hear the blare of the car horn as I step heedlessly off the pavement, or snippets of a passing conversation made more tantalizing by the lack of context.  I’m even amused by the cars that go by, steel chassis vibrating, bouncing on the tires, as the inmate destroys his eardrums.  Sometimes I catch a phrase of a favorite song on a summer day as someone drives by with their windows down.  Snatched from a random moment like that music retains its evocation.

It’s the constant all pervasive and completely ubiquitous use of music that puzzles me.  All at once it is the most popular art form and the one most abused.  A quiet moment turns your head to a beautiful and provocative painting or sculpture; an erotically set solitaire diamond graces the throat of a pretty woman; a hand woven blanket is sprung from the hope chest and laid upon the guest bed to delight the guest; a bouquet of spring flowers is carefully arranged in the hand blown glass vase.  Music we just put on and ignore.  It becomes the background noise of the supermarket, the elevator, and then our lives.  The lyrics become embedded in our brains, like the refrain, but do we really ‘listen’ when we’re too busy doing something else?

The notes are often distorted or muffled – not allowed to speak with the clarity in which they were composed.

I went to the opera recently.  The sounds produced by the orchestra and the crystalline voices were like a revelation.  They entered through the ear but then poured into the soul and opened up the heart like a daylily to the morning sun.  Each note was clear, even when woven into a tapestry of sound.  The words sung became infinitely more meaningful for their clarity until it wrung emotion from the body like water from a towel.

It is, for this exactly, that I do not listen to music when I write or when I paint.  I listen to music.  I sing and dance to music.  I let it fill me up and then overflow until the house is awash with music.  When I sit down to write or stand before my easel I need to listen to my voice, not the muse of another artist.  I want my own pure thoughts and emotions.  I need to listen to the wind blow, the honk of the car horn, the laughter of a child passing outside.  I need the soundtrack of my art to be my own life.