nature

Sketch Process

How I Create Art

I notice that people often talk about the creative process as though it’s a lightning strike of visionary inspiration. For me it’s more like a daily process of curiously noticing everything that comes my way. When I’m paying attention to the details eventually a few of life’s seemingly random dots start to connect up into an insight or idea. A significant aspect of my creative process involves learning something new. I love learning almost anything new, with the exception of math.

While the first part of creativity is simply my way of living life, the next part is more focused on an outcome. I research my topic. I sit down with a cup of coffee and all of my Hawaiiana and botany books. Usually I’ll spend some time hanging out with our friend google, and often I reach out to botanists for information. Jen Lawson, a botanist and Executive Director of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative (waikoloadryforest.org) is one of my favorite go-to experts for info on plants.

At this point, I’m very focused inside myself finding the story. As I gather more information and it melds with my insight and idea, the storyline of the image begins to form.

The next part is sketching. For me, and many artists, there is great joy, and also tension in this part of the process. A blank sheet of paper is scary! I have to stay in the moment and not expect to come up with a final sketch. I use a daily productivity planner to keep me on task with my work, but never, never will you see an entry like “finish coral reef sketch” in my “do list”.

When I’m sketching an image I’m mostly focused on creating a beautiful composition and thinking about what to include or exclude. I’ve learned to keep returning to the sketch no matter what roadblocks seems to arise.

For me creativity is quite simply about paying attention, receiving the idea and then nose to the grindstone working out the details. Your process will be uniquely your own. If you are learning to cultivate your creative process, I’d suggest noticing your own natural way of learning and taking in inspiration.  Notice your emotions, your thought processes and how you feel in your body. And then build on those habits and strengths until you began to experience a natural and more structured pathway to joyful creative expression.

Hapuu Fern

Death in the Forest

The cycle of renewal and growth in the rainforest depends on the death of its inhabitants.

How else would the earth build healthy soil that supports new life? I expect to see declining and dying trees and plants when I’m hiking. However, dying trees and plants usually are not part of the beauty that touches me so deeply on forest walks. And yet, the hapu’u fern takes the process of dying to a new level by giving us the gift of beautiful sculptures embedded in the earth as it decomposes into rich forest floor humus. First, the hapu’u falls over, and then as it decomposes its underlying textures and the stubs of frond branches create a visual delight that rivals the intentional art of the world’s best sculptors and weavers.

These textures don’t show up until the fern has been dead for quite a while. This giant fern that dominates the rainforest with it’s stately beauty is still making a big statement long after its death. What other ways can you think of in which spectacular beauty shows up in such an unexpected way?

Fire In The Land

Rain

Last night I was standing on my lanai hearing massive amounts of water falling from the sky and landing on the roof, the kukui and rubber trees, and the hard lava earth. A sound we call R A I N. That word RAIN doesn’t really cover the experience. It’s too easy to tell a quick story about RAIN, like “the rain was so loud I had to get off the phone. Our stories about rain reduce it to an inconvenience– “too loud,” “making me wet” “too much for my wimpy windshield wipers”. Or sometimes it’s framed as a resource we need– desperate for rain for our gardens.

What would it be like to just be with rain? Water hitting floppy kukui leaves makes a different sound than water hitting the round stiff leaves of the rubber tree. I noticed that there was something else I was hearing under the landing of water– a steady high-pitched tone. Probably one of those crickety-type of insects that makes amazing noises just by rubbing their rough legs together, which when I think about it, is no more or less amazing than humans making noises by generating sound from thoughts in our brains and movement in our hearts that moves to a specific place in our necks and is amplified out through our mouths.

Sound is a new awareness in my life. I’m so visual. Humans are so visual, generally. I recently came across this quote: “Vision eviscerates all of our other senses”. I often move on a well-traveled highway between my eyes and my brain, and from this short fast trip I construct simple stories about what life is bringing to me. I loved that moment last night when the RAIN became more than a flat story; suddenly I was perceiving multi-layered sound and imagining insects and leaves receiving and shedding wetness. I want more moments like this!

Bees

Honeybee Chemistry

Bees can visit 2000 flowers a day in their quest to collect nectar for the hive. bees fly, they pick up a positive electrical charge from the air. An experiment revealed that flowers emit a specific electrical signal that attracts bees when their nectar supply has been regenerated. This explains why I see bees passing by many flowers and landing on the one flower that has recharged its nectar supply.

This girl is gathering nectar from a Beach Heliotrope at Manini Beach. She has little balls of beige pollen attached to her legs. In case you didn’t know, sigh…… it’s the girl bees that do all the work in the hive and flying thousands of miles to gather nectar. It’s not that the guys, the drones, don’t do any work at all. Their main job is to mate with the Queen. That’s a lot of work. And then they immediately die.

 

Mom Baby Goats

Goats

I often hike the Keauhou coastline, traversing my way through Kiawe thickets and making my way down to the red and black high-fired expanse of undulating pahoehoe formations along the ocean. One day I meandered along lost in my daydreams. Out of thin air a herd of goats bolted, flying in a swirl of delicate hooves, horns pointing skyward, grace set in motion skimming across lava, against the deep blue sky and ocean spewing white spray. I was stunned. I’d have never guessed that goats could embody the essence of beauty with such presence and power.

I thought I knew what goats were about. Not much about goats interested me – until that day. How can an animal whose hooves are no larger than the circumference of a tea cup race at that speed across tumbled and twisted lava? I experienced goats for the first time in my life. I now imagine that goats have senses and ways of perceiving that I cannot fathom. Is it too fantastic to propose that maybe they even may have sensors, like eyes, in their hooves that guide them across any terrain they care to traverse? And at any speed they care to traverse it. And with glorious confidence!

In my little box, when I thought “goat” knee-jerk images arose: barnyards, whiny bleating, rank smell, their reputation for eating anything that doesn’t move. Now the thought “goat” brings me a surge of happiness, blue sky and ocean, delicate, purposeful, power, and grace.

Art is a sure way out of the box. My opening step in creating art is usually a wisp of an idea that comes to me and seems to invite me to explore. So I step forward and I hear, I touch, I feel curiosity – wondering what will come. And then more comes. I see color I never saw before. I discern. I notice. And then usually at some point the image comes full force or trickles in through dreams or insights. This process calls me to pay attention and receive life in its infinite forms. It is this openness to life that gives me my deepest joy. Thank you my dear goat friends, for showing me how to be alive!

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