Holly Soffee Bohannon – Art love

Art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I loved everything about it.

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In grade school, I would look forward to art class more than any of the other classes.  In high school I was like a kid in a candy shop trying to decide which art class to take.  I wanted to take them all!

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I got married and started a family quite early. I continued to keep it close to me whenever I could, usually through my kids. My husband would always nag me ” You need to paint.” He knew deep down how important it was to me. It wasn’t until my late thirties that I finally realized, there was no ignoring that voice in my head any longer.

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I started taking painting classes, and automatically it all came rushing back. My first love, my true love, my art.

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I have  worked in different mediums, but my favorite these days is graphite and charcoal.

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I love being able to control the pencil and detail that you can achieve, especially when working on a portrait. I will usually save the eyes for last, because I believe that in the eyes there is a connection to the source- something that goes beyond what we know.

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Over the years, my art has lead me to become more connected with my spirituality.  It is almost meditative.                                                                                                                           

IMG_2582The world around me can be beautiful or grim, and it doesn’t matter. When I have my canvas or paper in front of me, life pauses and I can just “Be” even if for a moment.

 

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Holly lives in Richmond, Va. with her husband and two teenage sons. She has been drawing and painting her whole life, and started selling her work in 2010. She is always willing to start a new project if anyone is interested in a commission.
Contact Information:
Email: Jidmoski@yahoo.com

Kelly Anona Kerrigan – Documenting a life on canvas

I feel most alive and most connected to the world when I am creating.  In college, I fell in love with painting.  I received a very traditional art education as an undergrad, learning the foundations of painting, drawing, and sculpture.  Our studio time was spent exploring still life setups and the human figure.  In graduate school, I branched out and explored other ways to use materials while trying to find my own vision.  Through my exploration, I discovered that my work always come back to portraiture.

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Anona 2010, oil on canvas

There is something about painting a portrait that feels like a special connection that I am making with my subject.  I want to invest the time to really see a person in a way that we don’t get to do on a day to day basis.  I use portraiture to explore identity and personality, and how much we can really know each other.  I feel a rush of adrenaline when a painting starts to form on the canvas, representing my personal relationship with and interpretation of the subject.

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Anona 2011, oil on canvas

When my niece, Anona, was about 10 months old, I painted her portrait.  At the time, I wasn’t thinking past that initial portrait.  I just wanted to capture her as I knew her that day.  Anona is now 7 years old, and I have painted her portrait every year since she was born.  That first portrait started an ongoing project that, for me, is about more than painting.

Anona 2012, oil on canvas and Anona with her early portraits.

Anona and I live on opposite sides of the country, so I don’t see her very often.  The distance and time between visits make it seem like she is growing up so very fast.  It is amazing to see how much she changes and exciting to watch her grow into her own unique individual.  Each year, I try to capture her in a way that feels true to my interpretation of her, and shows her personality.  In a sense, the portraits become a representation not only of Anona, but of my relationship with her.

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Anona 2013, oil on canvas

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Anono 2014, oil on canvas

A theme that runs through my work is one of identity and what shapes our sense of who we are and how we present ourselves in this world.  By painting Anona each year, I am watching her grow up and become who she is, while creating a lasting document of milestones throughout her life.  All of the portraits of Anona live with her on the west coast.  While compiling these pictures of the paintings today, I realized that this is the first time that I’ve looked at them all together.  I love seeing them as a group and noticing how she changes from year to year.  I’m pretty sure she enjoys seeing herself on canvas, as well.   I am determined to add to this group every year, for as long as she will let me!

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Anono 2015, oil on canvas

Anono with her 2016 portrait and Anono 2016, oil on canvas

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Kelly Anona Kerrigan is an artist living and working in Boston’s Fort Point Artists’ Community.  She received a BFA in painting from Boston University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University. In addition to painting, she also enjoys designing and making clothing and costumes.  Some of her favorite things in life are running, nail polish, and the Red Sox.  See more of her work at www.kellyanonakerrigan.com

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Jenny Brown – On Being an Artist

I decided early on that becoming a full time artist was my goal in life. I was 19 and a painting student at Bennington College, where the life of an artist was presented to me as almost a beautiful dream: a messy loft in New York City, ramen noodles for dinner, and the sudden discovery by a Chelsea gallery that would solidify my place in the art world… and would allow me to spend my life painting and traveling and in general just be cool.

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Brown, Jenny. Gray Pearl Cephalopod.  2016.  Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

I got an internship at Art in General gallery in 1994 (I was 20 years old), and I got my chance to live that fantasy. I slept on a couch in an apartment in Soho with people I barely knew, existed on pita bread and coffee for sustenance, and did embarrassing things like load all of the slides in the carousel backwards for a presentation at the gallery without realizing it. I was hungry and tired.

And I loved every minute of it.

After graduating from college the harsh truth set in: I wasn’t from a wealthy family or have a trust fund to fall back on, so I need to make money- not only to live, but to pay back the $30,000 I had to borrow to go to art school. I worked as a barista, a teacher, a waitress, a telemarketer, a medical secretary, and pretty much everything in between. I was broke but happy, and carved out time to make art between jobs in my bedroom. But I was tired- not only physically, but tired of people asking me when I would get a real job, tired of nervous calls from my family asking me what the heck I was doing, tired everyone asking me when I would get married and have children. Around that time I had the very good fortune to get to live and travel in Europe for two years. One night I was in Paris at a party and I told another guest, who was French, that I was an artist. Their face immediately lit up, and they proceeded to ask me all about my work and life like it was a CAREER. It had never happened to me before.

And it was all the motivation I needed to keep going.

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Brown, Jenny. Effervescent Flowering Scallop. 2017. Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

My work progressed. I had always loved working with collage material and it finally started to make sense in my work. I applied to grad school year after year and was rejected. When I finally got into the School of Visual Arts in New York, I thought it was all coming together (btw it took me NINE years to get into grad school). I figured I’d get an MFA which would lead to a great teaching job, which would lead to financial security… which would lead to me getting to just make art.

But it didn’t work that way at all.

I moved to NYC and immediately went into a downward spiral. The relationship I was in at the time came to a dramatic end. I found myself in New York with nowhere to live and and it was too late in the school year to quit. I had to borrow $50,000 to live and pay for school, work 4 part time jobs, and was almost laughed out of my classes for showing an interest in “paper ephemera.” I got sadder and more tired. I abused alcohol to almost a life threatening degree (which was thankfully a short lived phase). I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I was now EIGHTY thousand dollars in debt with no plum spot in a gallery, or really much to show from my time at school but a piece of paper.

But something kept me going.

I wanted to survive and make art.

I moved back to Boston to be by friends and figure out my next move. By then I had discovered that no one really cared that I had an MFA or had lived in New York. Unable to find any decent paying job in the art field, I took an office job that had nothing to do with art. Art was relegated to nights and weekends. Other artists I knew told me I was a sell out for taking a job in the corporate world. People in the corporate world didn’t take me seriously because they assumed I was a flake and not committed to my day job. I felt like I couldn’t win. But I kept showing up. Slowly but surely, I had a little money in my pocket and the confidence to keep working on my collages. And slowly they got better. Life was quiet and studious.

A few years later I met my husband and moved to Providence, RI with him. Not only did my husband truly believe in my work, but in Providence I found artists and friends and galleries did too. I got out of my comfort zone and started sharing my work on social media, and found another incredible community of artists and colleagues online, many whom I now call real life friends. I made the wholehearted decision to make my flowered-sea-creature-alien collages and be just happy with having the chance to make them.

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Brown, Jenny. Wandering Coral. 2017. Pen, Ink and Collage on Paper.

Right now, I am proud to say I work with 5 different art vendors and galleries. Some months, I make great money on my art and make almost as much as I do at my day job. Sometimes I go for months without even selling a print. And people still feel really inclined to share their feelings about my lifestyle, whether it be too corporate or too artsy in their view.

I think the real point of this story is to tell people that being an artist is really about committing to a whole life of art: the uncertainties, the doubt, the financial stress, the sudden successes. Someone recently said to me, “isn’t it WEIRD to really want to be an artist but spend all day in an office?” Another said, “don’t you wish you had never gone to school and didn’t have any loans so you could do whatever you want?” I honestly believe that all of these experiences, even the painful ones have taught me that I am TRULY committed to being an artist. Because some of the experiences really are painful. And yet I keep going towards my goal.

I am proud to live a life of non-conformity, complete with all the criticisms that come with it. I see people everyday who are unhappy and anxious and feel stuck and sometimes even tell me they wish they had been brave enough to pursue what they love, rather than be behind a desk all day. I hope they find the courage to take a step in that direction of what they love, even if it’s a little one.

I can’t promise them it will be easy, but I can 100% promise them it is worth it.

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Jenny Brown is visual artist living and working in Providence, Rhode Island, whose primary mediums are drawing, collage, and works on paper. Her work brings to life a mythical world of sea creatures and celestial beings, realized through her love of paper ephemera.

Her recent collage works focus on a dream of representing harmony amongst different elements of the natural world (flora, fauna, the moon, the sea). An abundance of flowers in the work represent the hearts and souls of these fantastic creatures. Branches and tentacles share their yearning to be connected to the most basic elements of life which created them…water, mineral, and the stars.

Jenny studied art at Bennington College and received her MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York. She is a featured artist in Issue 3 of Create Magazine, as well as part of the recently released “Craft Companion,” published by Thames & Hudson. She has also been featured at recent pop-up shops at West Elm & Anthropologie in Providence, RI, as well as Kate Spade in Pasadena, CA. Her work is currently available at Collier West in Brooklyn, NY and Good Eye Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

Carrie Allen – Dear Fish

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Sometimes something small grabs your attention during your morning routine that makes you pause.  While sipping my coffee and perusing theSkimm in my inbox, the quote of the day caught my attention:

“The fishes loved receiving this anonymous postcard from a fan!” – A California aquarium on some fan mail it received – and apparently read aloud to its exotic fish. The fish flipped.

I clicked the link for further details on what this could mean.  So happy I did.  A photo is below.  Someone took time to write out a postcard for the fish and the aquarium staff read it to them.  In case you cannot read it below it says:

Dear fish, You are the best fish ever!  Some fish are thought to be scary But you are great!

I love, love this.  Passion at its best in a simple form.  So to all of you, have a great day.  Some of you are thought to be scary, but I think you’re great!

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Cool Shiz

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This past week I’ve been noticing beauty in many things from the mundane to fabulous, from the specific, faded color of blue on a shed to snow-covered ghost trees on the mountain, and fireworks over the ski village at night.  There was a chihuahua named Princess dressed in pink sitting in front of us on the plane – cool?  Maybe…  She was better behaved than some.

This got me thinking about things that inspire in general.  I thought I’d pull together some cool shiz from this week and beyond.  Enjoy.

  1. Tiny Ceramics

On a plane a few weeks ago in the American Way magazine on American Airlines, I read a short piece on Jon Almeda’s tiny pottery.  I was intrigued and checked out his site.  They are gorgeous.  I love anything in miniature.   Here are a few images from his instagram page, which I love – tiny, beautiful pottery inside fruit!

2.  Snow Ghost

I had never heard of Snow Ghost trees before my love used that moniker when we were atop a ski mountain in Idaho in January.  The sheer beauty coupled with the name has left a haunting impression on me. They are quiet, with grace and beauty.  I could look at them all day.  Apparently they are covered in heavy accretions of ice, called rime, instead of snow.

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3. Blackbird Doughnuts

Doughnuts.  Who doesn’t love a doughnut?  Have you tried a gourmet one?  Boston has Blackbird Doughnuts, which creates unique gourmet doughnuts and uses brioche dough for their raised doughnuts and old fashioned recipes for their cake doughnuts.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Here are a few images taken from their instagram page.  Shiz is getting real.

4. Fireworks on a Ski Mountain

I believe I have only ever really seen fireworks annually on July 4th or at least in warmer months.  This week during our February break from school we got to see these lovely fireworks over the ski village at Schweitzer as the snow came down. It was magical.  I took a little video so you can see them too, complete with snow ghost trees in the background.

5. Princess

I will close with pictures of Princess, of course.  When I asked what her name is, her lovely Russian owner said Princess in a low sultry voice, barely acknowledging me or making eye contact, which was pretty cool too.  Princess remained aloof.

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Julia Csekö -Surviving turbulent times

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the many events that have been taking place across the world recently. If you feel the same way, follow me for a second, maybe we can figure out some interesting aspects of this state of urgency we are experiencing.

While I find it necessary to analyze the bigger picture each day, consume information (real news – always fact check!), I also find it helpful to take the time to dedicate a little brain flexing to not thinking about the bigger picture, checking in with myself and understanding what I need, when I need it, and trying to make space for self-care each day. For some (like myself) a little exercise can go a long way, for others, meditation or a balanced meal can cleanse the mind from the excessive chatter of media and worldly matters.

Recently I’ve found that what has kept me on my feet has been finding the time, the people and the place to talk. I find it extremely helpful and even therapeutic to have long conversations with folks that are in my social circle and more and more with folks that are not in my immediate range of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable. Small disagreements on sensitive topics can send anyone spinning in a rut.

If there is one big lesson to be learned from extensive conversations on controversial topics – it is the importance of developing the art of listening, which is much more complicated than it sounds. The urge to speak, to correct, and to openly disagree flourishes quickly in heated conversations and can derail a subject or generate frustration.

Living with two sociology majors, controversial subjects can be scrutinized for hours… even watching a movie can be challenging, since the movie can become the trigger for scrutiny. More recently these pleasant and largely theoretical conversations have understandably become more and more applied to reality and the political scenario. Not surprisingly, emotions have started to run high. One night as the volume of our voices increased and no one seemed to be truly listening to one another anymore, I had one of those Aha! Moments. I suggested that whenever the conversation derailed to: “you’re not letting me speak” or “you didn’t let me finish my point” and similar sentiments, that we would use a simple, yet super effective debate technique.

This technique consists on giving each speaker three minutes on the dot (you can use the timer on your phone) to lay out opinions and view points. It helps each person organize thoughts and put together ideas, and immediately lowers the level of frustration in complicated conversations, be they political, social, or moral. Each speaker has one minute for a rebuttal after which the three minute rule is applied again. This goes on until each person feels like they’ve made their point without being interrupted. Sometimes this will happen after only one round, sometimes more, but usually after a few rounds each speaker takes less than the three minutes to make their point and the timer is no longer needed to keep a coherent atmosphere, and the group can resume to “normal” conversation. This small but powerful tool has made heated debates much more fluid and productive in my house.

I can distinctly remember how much time and hassle this simple rule saved me as student in meetings and forums. It is a great way to avoid a cacophony of voices trying to overpower each other, and reinforces that a conversation is not about who speaks loudest.

Being uncomfortable is a necessary part of listening. Being uncomfortable makes you curious, alert, more careful about choosing your words carefully, and promotes thinking and preparing counter arguments and further research on divisive topics. Good conversation is the art of maintaining the balance between being upset and satisfied, between informing and learning.

Although avoiding being upset is a huge part of self-care, I believe that being upset is an important part of a healthy mind. Going outside of our comfort zones demands courage, which is a great quality to aim for, while listening demands patience, another fantastic goal to pursue. In times like these, a good balance between happy and sad, patient and eager, comforting and bold, are necessary elements to keep up with the whirlwind of abrupt changes we are experiencing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to create spaces and a mind-set in which disagreements can be voiced and discussed, in which we will listen with as much love and patience as we speak.

I encourage each and every one of us to speak up when we feel strongly about a subject, and keep in mind that in order to speak up one needs to listen intently. To survive turbulent times we have to stay curious, and try to heal at the same rate as we are hurt. The more we listen, the more we will have to say; and remember, three minutes is a significant amount of time to make a point, perhaps much longer than it seems. If you find yourself raising your voice, or in a group conversation that seems to be generating confusion and frustration, try the three minute rule, perhaps it might find that three minutes is a long time after all!

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Julia Csekö was born in Colorado and grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2011, Csekö moved to Boston, Massachusetts to pursue a MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Graduating in 2013, she mounted her thesis exhibition at Laconia Gallery in Boston. Csekö is the recipient of a 2016 Walter Feldman Fellowship, awarded by the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston resulting in her 1st solo exhibition in the USA. Csekö divides her time between being a Practicing Artist and an Independent Curator, serving as a Community Arts Liaison at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Program Coordinator at the New Art Center in Newton. Since graduation Csekö has participated in numerous group exhibitions at national and international venues. Her work is featured in collections including the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; as well as private collections in the United States and Brazil.

Carrie Allen – Lost in Translation to a Journey Within

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In the summer of 2016, not long after I started my new adventure working for the Cambridge Innovation Center, I headed off to Japan with my colleagues Tim (Founder and CEO) and Makiko for two weeks in Tokyo, with the intention of expanding our work there.

I arrived in Tokyo on July 30th.  Tokyo is fabulous.  I loved it, truly, even though Tokyo is the world’s largest megacity with a population of 38.8 million people.  I kept thinking about Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.

After a week in Tokyo, I was ready for something completely different. I felt a bit overwhelmed, unsettled and a bit closed in. I needed to set off somewhere for a few days that would help to ground me, give me the space I craved, and to experience something new.

I decided I would head to Kyoto, taking Shinkansen, the fast train.  I would stay at a Buddhist temple for the weekend and take a Zen meditation class.  I was nervous, truly nervous, but often fling myself head first into whatever is in front of me, not letting my trepidation hold me back. Emotions are complicated.

I was hopeful that with the Buddhist meditation class I would somehow journey inside, find quiet and my inner voice, maybe even something ancient and holy within me.

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Upon arriving outside Kyoto I noticed that it was Quiet.  So much quiet… peacefulness. Beauty. Bliss.  The opposite of the hustling traffic and people of Tokyo.  Even though the website had warned to not use google maps for the 10 minute walk to the temple, I did.

As I wound my way through tiny crooked streets, smaller alleys and a miniature walkway through a backyard, I realized I was trailing another woman following the same, odd, circuitous route.  I thought, surely she was headed to the temple too, and clearly followed directions as well as I do.  We smiled at each other and confirmed we were on the same path.

As it turns out, Liz had the same idea to spend a weekend in Kyoto at the temple and take the meditation class.  Liz (an American) had been living in Tokyo with her husband, who is in the military, for a year and a half.

Google maps took us to a location that was confusing and guided us to a door.  Everything was so quiet, we stared at the door, the door stared back at us … it was locked and had no signage.

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After a few minutes, a monk came out.  Excitedly we let him know we were here for the weekend and class.  He didn’t seem to understand. After some confusion and back and forth, he helped us understand, with hand signals and limited words exchanged, we’d come to the wrong temple, but as luck would have it we were not far off.  We were in a big temple complex.

We checked in and were assigned our rooms.  I decided to venture out to a restaurant called the Wonder Cafe for dinner. I saw Liz on the road and asked her if she wanted to join me.  She declined, she was running off to catch a bus to an outside market 40 minutes away, even further into the countryside.  How brave, I thought.

The next morning, I was up early and ready for the meditation class.  We lined up sitting, facing the garden.

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The monk first taught us about mediation and the importance of meditating every day for at least 5 minutes. He said the only thing that is unchanging is change itself. Impermanence, everything changes. We must embrace that and not dwell on the past or fret about what could happen in the future.  The outside world cannot impact our happiness.  Focus, breath and let change happen. We must quiet our minds, stay positive and focus on our breathing.  This helps with metacognition, which also helps with our emotional intelligence.

After the meditation class we had thick matcha green tea and biscuits as a way of prolonging our calm spiritual meditation.

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After the tea ceremony and class, Liz and I reconnected, as that morning we had decided we would leave the compound to explore Kyoto for the rest of the day.  Liz said she had met Natasja, another traveler from Denmark, after class and she would be joining us.

As I often do, I had played out in my mind exactly how the weekend would unfold.  I pictured mediation, and a calmness and quietness enveloping me.  I got that from the class that morning for sure; however, the unexpected surprise was in venturing out with two new friends to uncover what secrets Kyoto had for us.  Three women came together from different walks of life and different corners of the world.  We became fast friends.

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The day and ensuing fun unfolded in different ways.  We ate green tea ice cream, had an amazing lunch, hiked up a mountain, visited with monkeys, walked through a bamboo forest and ended the day at a tiny little restaurant and met new friends there as well.  We shared so many laughs, talked about our lives, who we are, where we came from, and about our hopes and dreams.

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All this packed into a day.

We enjoyed each other so much that we decided to meet in Tokyo the following week for more fun, which included a sushi conveyor belt restaurant and visit to a karaoke bar.  My journey to Kyoto, and within, led me back to Tokyo with fresh eyes and perspective.  In Kyoto I learned to open myself up to those around me more freely, to move past nerves of the unknown, and to live in the present.

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Tess Runion – Why I shoot daily

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A usual day in my life is filled with chaos, kids, and lots of coffee/wine. Work, kid’s activities, homework, a college student, 2 dogs, maintaining a functioning household can be overwhelming, fun, joyful and tearful. I pick up my camera to find beauty in my ordinary. To document for my family the realness that is their life. So that they can learn as I have that it’s this beauty in all the little things that make up our big thing. That nothing is real without connection and emotion. So that they can remember to always find light and beauty in their regular and in doing so be more grateful little people.

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Based in Richmond, Virginia, Tess Runion is a documentary photographer specializing in black and white imagery. She strives to capture connection and to tell stories in each image. A mom of 3, she is inspired by her husband, children, good friends and good wine. To see more of her work visit www.tessrunionphotography.com.

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John Aylward – Living Arts: Effortless Mastery

Last post, I wrote about meditation as a gateway to creativity. In this post, I would like to explore some of the ways we think about harnessing that creativity, no matter what media we use.

As a younger musician, one formative text for me was Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery. Werner is a jazz pianist who had an unconventional path that finally led him to the Berklee School of music where he met musicians who helped him open up a sense of freedom and exploration in his music. Essentially, for Werner, this came down to learning the art of improvisation.

Improvisation is a kind of meditation where music is somewhat spontaneously created and developed. Bill Evan’s famously said that jazz is the art of creating a minute of music in a minute’s time. And that cuts to the core of improvisation, not just in jazz music, but as a tool for spontaneous creativity and for living ‘in the moment’ – an aim shared with the practice of meditation.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about improvisation as a companion to meditation and a means for harnessing creativity, but for now, I would like to share one exercise that we can all do to unlock our creative potential that comes from Werner’s Effortless Mastery.

In an early chapter of Werner’s book, he asks to ‘make something bad’. In a naïve and encouraging way, we are asked to simply sit down and make something bad. It could be at our instrument, on our canvas, in our studio, on our design program, or however else we endlessly create. After a few minutes, Werner asks us to stop and look at or listen to what we’ve done. The phenomenon is actually striking because we see that when we are in the midst of a creative process we are usually consumed with whether or not it is any good. If we set out to create something bad, we have conquered the first inhibition toward creation, which is the constant censor of self-consciousness and critique that continually interrupts the creative process.

In this great clip of one of Kenny Werner’s lecture / performances, he talks about this connection between meditation, creativity, improvisation and non-judgment. I hope that no matter what you are working on, this idea of moving beyond your self-censor will help!

Kenny’s remarks begin at 10:50

 

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John Aylward is a composer, performer and writer who lives in Cambridge, MA.

Makiko Aikawa – Spiritual Gifts

Happy Holidays!

Every year I make something special as Christmas presents for various people who worked with me throughout the year.  This year I made 4 pouches for 4 ladies, who supported me in many ways.  I love colors and I actually feel colors in people.

The first pouch I made is for the lady who likes black. She is very mature compared to her age, but she has very strong and bright colors inside her. I am not sure if she realizes this though!

One is for the lady who always stays calm, whatever happens, and she is modest, but I feel her intelligence and clearness. She is like a big tree staying quiet growing her roots firm in the earth.

For the lady who attracts people and brings a lot of joy, she is always moving around like the golden wind with sparkling sand gold.

For the fourth, she is clever. She is right. She is a perfectionist, but she has an inner artist and this artist enjoys expressing her freedom sometimes. She has deep color, perhaps because of her many inner layers.

The world of color fascinates me. I love the special moments of picking out colors and fabrics for my loving friends and making something special for them.  This is the way that I express my gratitude and connect to the them.

With best wishes for Christmas!
Makiko Aikawa

Makiko Aikawa is a color spiritualist, mother, wife, daughter, producer, promotor, coordinator, connector….has so many hats!  Through her experience of living and traveling in Asia, Europe and the US, she is good at mixing culture and making very personalized products and connecting people in the world.

Brendan Ciecko – Seeking Grit and Ghost Signs

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I strolled along the cracked sidewalks and buckled paths of the “fossil American Venice” as Pulitzer Prize winning writer John McPhee once described this city. While passing through the sprawling district of canals littered with old brick mausoleums, I always notice something new. A century ago, that serpentine curve of the Connecticut River must have been a sight to be seen. Smoke stacks bellowing, trains roaring, and the bustle of things being produced in those factories. Each time I return, I examine the widespread decay, hoping that the “Queen of Industrial Cities” has stabilized and that she is in better condition than when I saw her last.

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“Hamilton Street” by Brendan Ciecko

Although many buildings and businesses continue to fall into ruin, the lack of forward motion has acted like a time capsule in some ways – preserving visual culture, commercial history, and proof of a more vibrant time. Behind flaking paint and around each corner, loom the ever-fading ghost signs.

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“Depot Square” by Brendan Ciecko

Most of my professional life has revolved around all things digital. Design is core to my being, and typography, a notable passion. When I travel my camera fills up with pictures of antique typography; hand­-painted signs, neon masterpieces, and chiseled cornerstones.

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“Haberman’s” by Brendan Ciecko

One of the things I can count on when visiting Western Massachusetts is that my ghost signs are still holding on tight. I’ve counted hundreds of interesting specimens within a mile radius of Holyoke’s majestic Neo-­Gothic City Hall.

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“Coca-Cola” by Brendan Ciecko

Oh, those ghost ­signs! High Street and Main Street have always been a feast for the eyes. Just look at the texture of the downtown, with its signage, old and new. But, the real treasures are of the businesses and advertisements long gone.

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“Main Pharmacy” by Brendan Ciecko

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“Essex Street” by Brendan Ciecko

Like a shoe-gazer on stage, you’d be surprised by what you’ll find with your head down. Terrazzo in the dipping entries of the old storefronts. Smashed marble and glass with hand-formed numbers and names of old departments stores. There must have been an old appliance shop here judging by that GE emblem, but I’ve never had the time to look it up.

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“GE” by Brendan Ciecko

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“Thom M” by Brendan Ciecko

In the 1960s and 70s, internationally renowned photographer Jerome Leibling took to the streets of this city’s raw downtown. During his time at Hampshire College, he brought along his students, including a young Ken Burns, to open their eyes and capture the grit of life.

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“Behind tenement” by Jerome Leibling

New York Times photographer Mitch Epstein documented the story of his family’s rise and tragic fall by the hands of Holyoke.

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“Newton Street Row Houses” by Mitch Epstein

A few months back, while visiting the deCordova, I came across a photograph in an exhibition titled “Overgrowth.” It was of a half­-shredded tenement with a hand-painted sign as an added bonus. Without reading the label, I knew where it was.

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“Coca-Cola, 1982” by Bill Ravanesi

These declining American cities have always captured our eye and imagination. I hope someday they’ll rebound, but until that day, I’ll continue collecting my snaps of signs and scenes of these formerly glorious New England mill towns.

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Brendan Ciecko is an entrepreneur, designer, and technologist. He lives in Boston, MA.