The Scarlet Emperor Beans are creating my summer garden, and they are doing it with passion. These hot days (88 F/31 C) are just what the beans love most. And I? Well, I don’t love the heat but (as every summer) the initial shock is over and I begin to adapt, I know I’ll be shocked when fall arrives and the first cold nights. Then I’ll just be happy.


I’ve read a few articles about what makes a person creative. They seem to take one tack or the other. The first is that “everyone is an artist.” No. I’m not sure I know what an artist is, but I know not everyone is an artist. To be an artist, a person has to make art which, right there eliminates a lot of people. As for what is “art”? Another wormhole I don’t want to crawl into, and who cares? The second tack I’ve encountered in my reading is that creativity is the ability to solve a problem with the resources at hand. Yes.

I’m tangled up in a painting right now, and I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it. Why? I started it. That’s one reason. The studio is the coolest (in all senses) room in my house (north side). I’m fascinated by the struggle. I started it in a way I only started one other painting, and that painting was a lot smaller and the argument for the underpainting was more legitimate than with this painting. The light in the painting is the strange, unfiltered, angled light of late winter which gives the feeling that one is walking on shadows. There’s also the sense that the earth — the dirt under everything — is thawing, about to wake up for Nature’s Great Beanfield. When I began the painting, I had a strong sense of that. So I took out my trusty Natural Pigments and painted dirt with dirt. It’s set me up for a different kind of painting than I’ve ever done, but I think I like it fine, so far. Besides, who really cares? THAT is, I think, the bottom line for anyone doing creative work. If the artist cares too much it won’t happen; it’s paralyzing.

That’s been my experience in attempting to teach people to draw. I’ve had so many friends who want to draw, but who are afraid they will get it wrong. It’s a conundrum because in a lot of other subjects we learn the emphasis is on “trying hard” to “get it right.” I think creative work is a little different. Technique matters, but I think it’s secondary in the learning process. Primary, I think, is joy, the way kids have fun drawing and painting. There is a potential internal reward to any creative work, and that’s the pleasure of doing it, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you (think) you want it to. And this one? Well, I still can’t say…

After today’s work (6/11/2022)

20 thoughts on “Creating…

    • I hear you — just remember I’m at 7000 feet — it’s like being ON the sun. I remember in Descanso, CA, waiting until it cooled down to 90 so I could ride the bike to nowhere or 85 so I could take the dogs up to the Lagunas… Now I understand 88 is just a number. 🤪

  1. ” ~ ~ ~ in the eye of the beholder!” To me, creativity is what happens after one leaves the realm of “getting it right.” Kids are creative in part because they allow themselves to use their imagination in the way they see the world — what a luxury!

    • I don’t think it’s a luxury. I think it’s a necessity; play shouldn’t end with childhood, but it’s amazed me all my life how grownups think play isn’t serious. Play is very serious; I think it’s where positive change begins. Also, kids don’t “know” everything grownups know, and I mean real knowledge of things. In trying to teach my friends that knowledge hasn’t helped them learn to draw. For all of us it comes between us and the thing we’re actually looking at. It’s a very frustrating paradox for people and scary!

      • Aha — good point. Perhaps that is some of what has happened to us during the pandemic — that we were forced by circumstance to take life more seriously than we had for years, and now we’re having difficulty relaxing that seriousness. That also would make it harder to understand what our world now looks like — something different that we didn’t have the ability to imagine (and play with) step by step as it happened.

        • Well said. for me, honestly, 2020 was a great year, but I know it’s because nothing awful happened in my personal world and the decisions I had to make — relative to me — were clear and simple. I did good work in 2020, too, because I was liberated from normal life. That was a HUGE lesson for me about myself. The other things that year? And 2021? 1/6/21 brought me right back into the hell of so-called normal life in our post-pandemic world. 2020 was kind of a dream, for me. My two jobs; don’t get sick and be kind. Now? Waking up to the anger all around me, the polarization, the confusion — play is more important and more difficult. ❤️

  2. That definition of creativity brought back memories. When I worked at Lockheed decades ago, we had something we called “plastic drawer engineering.” Most of our electronic components were stored in big cabinets with plastic drawers. They were just basic stuff, a random assortment of simple chips and capacitors and coils and such. We’d be tasked with creating a device to do something, (often something classified for an aircraft that didn’t officially exist), but no guidance on how they wanted it done. All we had to work with was the functional equivalent of a Radio Shack store’s parts inventory. So we took what we had and made it work. The resulting messy hodge-podge of wires and components and chips would get turned into a circuit board and just a couple custom made chips.

    That’s how engineers get creative.

    Another irony is that we were not allowed personal computers. That was reserved for people much higher in the food chain, a status thing. Status, it seemed, trumped need. Without a PC, how were we supposed to write and test code or lay out circuit boards or emulate their performance? We were probably supposed to farm it out to other departments but we would have grown old waiting for it to complete. There were mainframes one could apply to get time on but getting access was a glacial process, we’ve have to work in a different building than the one we were in, and time was at a premium. The people in the hierarchy were still stuck in the 70s.

    We ordered PCs but didn’t order them as PCs. They were always listed as a software emulator station or hardware design console. But a PC by any other name would small as sweet. And that’s how we got things done.

    • Yep. That’s creativity. People get kind of gooey about art and artists but all it really is is having an idea or a vision then figuring out a way to realize it in whatever medium a person leans toward. I think if Leonardo’s notebooks say anything (and I believe they say a lot) they say that. The painting I’m working on now is very difficult but the difficulty comes from the problem I set for myself to solve through paint and the problem keeps on growing with every brush stroke. But if I knew where I was going when I started, it wouldn’t be in the least interesting. There are rules (like with code) but ultimately something is supposed to happen that tells me it’s finished and successful.

      I helped my dad code when he could no longer write. Then, in the late 80s teaching ESL, I taught Indonesian business men to write spread sheets in BASIC which somehow I knew intuitively (years of coding Fortran for my dad??) It felt to me the same as painting when I had ideas and wanted to realize them. I taught my students to write Madlibs which were hilarious when they traded seats at the Apple II es in the lab and ran each others Madlibs. To me it’s all one thing. My dad was a scientist and he never made a distinction between art and science and I don’t, either.

  3. The painting has that same quality of movement that the drawing had! I’m sure you will figure it out but I’m loving the process… To me everyone has a spark of creativity – whether that is nurtured and given the opportunity for expression is another thing all together. I know people who create magic in the kitchen, others who can sew or weave and I think all of them are artists. As you said the medium doesn’t really matter. Yet I know some artists that sneer at fiber art or photography or even ceramics – feeling that only painting is “true” art. They are fortunately in the minority.

    • That was a debate in many of the artist groups I’ve belonged to. I think when it comes to stores and exhibits, they should have different rooms because they have different markets, but otherwise? I’m really happy to see that you see movement in the painting. That is the big challenge for me. Thanks for letting me know!!!

  4. A beautiful creation, Martha. That sky is awesome and so full of life. Although I lack any form of artistic talent, my daughter loved learning art at school and she’s really good. She finds art and crafts to be very therapeutic, and she’s just finishing her A Level exams, so I can see her spending quite a bit of time over the coming weeks winding down with her paintbrushes and craft box! I have a great admiration for your skills, and it’s always a pleasure to see your lovely, vibrant creations. 🙂

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