Start Your Art Interview & Demo: Misty Olsen & Nancy Hillis
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Start Your Art Transcript
Misty: Hey, Nancy. I’m just so happy that you joined us today. How are you today?
Nancy: Hey, Misty. Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here with you and be in conversation.
Misty: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your artistic journey?
Nancy: Yes. So I am a psychiatrist and author, and so I was kind of on this path for years of becoming a physician and then a psychiatrist after that, and it took years.
So I’m going along, but I also felt as I was going on this journey of becoming a physician, a very circuitous route that I felt this calling, and it would show up as these whispers that said, Hey, let’s, let’s paint an abstract watercolor, or, let’s write a book or something like that.
So I had these artistic urgings, but I was very busy in my training. And so on the very last day of seven years after medical school training and I had done internal medicine, diagnostic radiology, psychiatry, child psychiatry.
Finally, there was the day that I graduated and I was 32 years old and I had this urging immediately. I said to myself, I want to learn sculpture. And I didn’t know where I was going to go to do this, how to start. So I just looked in the, at that time, the, the yellow pages and we used to have phone books and there was no sculpture teacher out there for me. So I ended up calling a place called the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto.
And one thing led to another. I found my teacher, I wanted to take private lessons in her home because I said, I don’t know what I’m doing in the moment. I said, I don’t know what I’m doing. She said, great, fantastic. And I knew, I had found my teacher when I heard that. So I got a 25 pound bag of clay, took it to her home and we began, and this began my journey.
And it started- here’s the interesting thing is that
You begin a journey and you never know what will open up next. There was this bluebird that happened that I had no idea ahead of time was going to happen.
I started out with sculpture and loved it, working in clay, building up in clay and creating these Italian plaster models or molds, cracking it open, pouring the molds, all of that, the old Italian method.
And then unbeknownst to me at the beginning, my teacher was a watercolorist as well. And so then when I saw that, I said, Hey, will teach me watercolor. She said, Sure, I’m not a watercolor teacher, but yeah.
And so I started painting watercolors and doing sculpture, and then that unfolded into collage. And then one thing led to another, got into oils. And before you know it, then I was painting in more and more abstract ways and went from kind of figures and landscapes to more and more abstract expressionism or non objective painting and into mixed media and going larger and all these steps along the way.
It was scary at times because of not knowing, again, I don’t know what I’m doing, right. And so, one thing leads to another.
I believe that when we take a step, it opens up another possibility and that’s called the adjacent possible. This concept comes from evolutionary biology. It’s so powerful to listen to your creative impulses, these callings, because they can be very subtle and easily missed or dismissed.
Misty: I couldn’t agree more. And I love the fact that you bring this up because I know as a professional artist, they really try to teach you to focus on one thing and really be known for that one thing.
But I love the fact that you have to be brave enough to try those creative urges or those creative callings to try to do other things, so that way you can evolve creatively. And I love the fact that you brought that up and just taking each step and knowing when it was time to let go before you start the next journey.
So I really love that you talk into that because I started following you this time ago back, but I loved the one piece that I really loved that you talked about this. I was, I felt so bad. I felt so guilty for stopping so many times, but then you wrote this piece that was talking about, there’s like a million steps before you get to one. And, and I just really resonated with that. And I’m just like, no, I’ve just been doing all the things before I get to one. And, and it just, it kind of released that guilt and shame for me being creative, like just creative and exploring all of these different things versus to have such a structure and rigid to that.
Nancy: Yes. I really believe that what we began to understand as we go along this path is that it’s really about allowing, as we begin to allow these creative impulses to come through these subtle ones, and we say yes to them instead ignoring them or dismissing them.
What we find out is that it’s really about evolving.
It’s about evolving your art, evolving your life. It’s continually in flux, continually in movement.
And so when you invite that in and you explore and you experiment, then you realize it’s okay and it’s not, you’re not perhaps so kind of rigid with yourself, right?
And so you kind of move beyond this concept that there are these rules. And so many people have spoken about that. Victor Hugo, the writer, Picasso, Helen Frankenthaler, you know, really that
In essence, there are no rules. You are the author, the composer and the artist, and you are on this journey of unfolding whatever is trying to come through you.
Misty: You know, that’s so interesting that you brought that up because I think it was yesterday or the day before I sent her reading this article about throwing out the rules, because we, as artists actually create the rules.
Like we don’t have to follow rules, we’re actually creating something out of nothing. And so there are no rules. This is it’s all up to us. What we like, whatever we decide. And it was such an exciting thought for me.
And I’m just like, wow. So instead of trying to do ABC, I like what happens if I did this, this and this, and like, what would really happen? And I found myself, I didn’t really create anything like no masterpiece, but I found myself having more fun.
And I found a couple of things that I did want to explore a little bit more and all because of, you know, I think it was like a podcast or something like that. And you’re just like, wow, that’s so throw out the roles you don’t need them.
Nancy: Well, it’s interesting. I was, I think about this a lot and it’s like, you know, we have principles and foundational concepts that we can be aware of and explore like value, value patterns, notan, you know, intuitive composing and all these kinds of things. And, and that’s kind of like knowledge, it’s kind of like the roots and the trunk of a tree.
Explore The Big Ideas
It’s kind of, kind of the big concepts, the big ideas that you can play with. Right. But yet they’re not rules.
And so, and then it’s like, if you can play with the big idea and the big idea might be, you have a dream of, of exploring continuous line or you are drawn to particular shapes or colors or whatever you want to go down that path for a while in a series.
So you come from that big idea rather than from the outside in, it’s the inside out.
You don’t want to start at the leaves. And to me, technique is the leaves and we don’t want to lead with technique. Okay. I mean, you know, technique can be fun and all of that, but it’s like, it’s like the little pieces out here.
Technique Is A False Idol
I see a lot of artists trying to grab technique after technique and even leading with technique, but it doesn’t get you to that deepest place I don’t think. And that deepest place comes from the inside that can be informed by concepts, but not ruled by rules. Right?
Misty: Yeah. No, it makes so much sense because I am a structured girl and I kinda like building order from chaos, but I started to realize that it was hindering me in terms of what I’m able to create and the joy that I have from creating those things.
So I’ve been trying to explore these ideas of not having to do things in a certain way or a certain order, or like how I mix things and really exciting working with color.
And so who’s to say that I can’t use a certain color with a certain color and why is mud ugly?
I love mud. And so, you know, like really explore those things and why brightness is, you know, is more desired than the mud. So it’s, it’s been a really fun thing for me to kind of explore and challenge my own beliefs and some of those rules, you know, with creating that way.
Painting & Paradox
Nancy: Yeah. It’s so interesting because there’s so much paradox in painting and in creating. Every time I turn around, there’s another paradox and one of the paradoxes is, the beauty of mud and the power of it.
And then there’s like the power of the ugly painting. So that’s a real paradox because I believe that
Ugly paintings are the nascent embryonic forms of new work that is trying to emerge is trying to be born.
And at first we don’t see it. We don’t recognize it. We’re uneasy with it. It’s awkward. We reject it. We’re allergic to it. And yet it might be the beginnings of something astonishing. Right. And it might be actually something that, right. You may see it as ugly right now, but 10 years down the road you’ll go, wow, that, that piece still wows me.
Misty: You know, I actually found an old, old portrait, like one of the very first ones that I did and I hated it and buried it. And it fell out of an old book of mine. I’m just like, this is the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen. And then I flipped it over to see who made it. It was mine.
I thought somebody had, like, one of my artistic friends sent me one of her sketchbook pages. It was mine.
And I’m just like, and it told me I like, I made it at the Barnes and Noble in Anchorage and like told me the time of the day and what I was doing while making it. And I’m just like, why I’m like, I can’t even believe I don’t even remember making this. And, but it was just one of those moments for me when I didn’t know that it was my own, it was beautiful.
Nancy: Yeah, it’s like we invite back the orphaned off parts of ourselves. And it’s like these pieces we reject and we see them as ugly or other, and then they fall away.
There’s a beautiful story where you re-found that artwork from years ago and at first didn’t know it was yours, but somehow you allowed it to live, to exist. It survived all this time in that book. It was there. Perhaps it was waiting for you to catch up to it. It was out there in your future.
It’s in you, and it was expressing something and sometimes we’re not there yet to receive it.
Misty: Yeah. I could like, actually that really makes me think so much actually makes me kind of emotional to think about that piece because I remember at that time, because I was working full time.
I was going through cancer treatments and I just did not have the mental capacity to like focus on those arts.
And I was just like one day I’m going to be an artist. And one day I’ll be able to make like really pretty things. And years later, you know, I’m still learning to be an artist and I don’t think I’ll ever finish that journey, but it’s nice to know that, that little, hope, that little to some little spark, I’ve been able to take like little tiny steps and just to get to that moment.
But I think I’m going to be cherishing that picture. And actually I believe with what you said, I’m going to frame it because I think it has much deeper meaning than what I actually thought it did.
So thank you for that.
Let Your Art Live, Don’t Throw It Away
Nancy: Yes. You know, that is a beautiful story. And I actually got goosebumps when you were talking about that. And I think that
Sometimes something deeply meaningful, ineffable and inarticulable comes through an early work and we don’t understand it at the time. And this is why I ask artists oftentimes to let their work live, let it be, don’t necessarily throw it out or go back over it. Let it be and move on.
Because 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road, that piece might have a message for you in there.
Deep Meaning In Early Artwork
I came across the very first sculpture I made in that very first private class with my teacher was a pregnant woman, very pregnant and this was when I was 32. I was not pregnant. I wasn’t married or anything, but there was a pregnant woman with a youthful body and yet her face was 80 years old.
And it was just one of these interesting things where if I got caught up in rules, I would say, Oh, that’s, that’s not unified. I must change that. But I didn’t.
This cachectic, elderly, bony face showed up and I just allowed it to be, even though it was seemingly a mismatch with the rest of the body, but I believe that there are deep messages and stories in there that continue to live.
It’s like a dream, you know how dreams are like gems and they can teach us things and they don’t often make sense, but they have deep meanings.
And so I think it’s good to live with your art like that and allow all of it, especially what feels uncomfortable- allow it to be.
Misty: I love that. I I’m going to make sure that even moving forward, I’m going to continue to keep those pieces.
I don’t throw away anything anymore. And I always leave a timestamp and love notes to myself so I can remember because I’m very forgetful and I can forget very quickly. And so having those reminders remind me, because I’m so forgetful, it’s really nice to connect back to those because I can remember once I give myself those cues,
I was like, Oh yeah, I, yeah, I, I can remember all these things now. And so that, I think that that is so valuable for us, especially starting artists. And I don’t even think just the starting artists, I think maybe even seasoned artists to really understand that all of their art actually has a meaning for us. And it’s not just for professional work or anything, but even with that professional work, there’s a message for us there.
Document Your Artist’s Journey In Your Art Journal
Nancy: I really love that. I believe that art is really, to me about getting at meaning and aliveness. And, and I believe that there’s a deep value in writing about this and documenting this and keeping an art journal or notes electronically, whatever it is, but documenting your journey, documenting your ahas and revelations, your struggles, your not knowings and all of that because documentation confers value, that we value something.
We want to bring it from the invisible to the visible, bring it into awareness. And that’s what I hear that you were doing with your art,
Misty: You know, and it’s interesting because now that you say that I can actually see that, and I struggled so much with even just restarting my journey or taking the next, not restarting, but taking the next step of my journey is allowing myself to just create, just explore and not be perfect at whatever I’m trying to create and actually give myself that space.
Because so often I got trapped in that thought that, you know, in order for me to be able to live my dreams or to be an artist, I actually had to create like these beautiful, perfect prolific, like sketches and drawings before I even touched a pencil. And it’s just like, I stunted myself so much just by not giving myself that permission to just have that creative freedom with all of that.
Moving Away From Perfectionism & Towards Experimentation
Nancy: This is a big one big, and that is there’s this perfectionism that shows up that we, many of us, probably most of us grapple with continually and the power of, of telling yourself that you don’t, it’s not about creating a masterpiece.
If you really can finally begin to get that. If you can move off of that, you need to create a masterpiece and you really get into the attitude of experimentation and the attitude that, of the power of the ugly painting and you really get into accessing the adjacent possible and you work in a series because then that helps you to make it not so precious because you’re really in there like a scientist and you are exploring variations on whatever that big idea is that you’re looking at in that particular, it could be, you know, two to five to 200 paintings.
And then you also listen, if something else calls you and go ahead and do that as well.
You’re not trapped in this thing of this series, but really this is enormous to kind of grapple with this issue of the masterpiece and, and how you talk to yourself makes all the difference in moving through that and going for that, you know, experimentation.
Giving Yourself Permission To Create Your Own Art
Misty: Yeah, No, definitely. I, that just resonates so much with me. And just knowing like, I, the perfectionism definitely stops you dead in your tracks. And then it also gives you that, you know, it kind of stunts you from giving yourself that permission to create, because if your art doesn’t look like Picasso or any, like whoever you admire, when your work doesn’t actually look like theirs, you know, you stop your process once again, and as I’ve traveled along this journey.
I’m starting to realize, it’s not me trying to emulate the people that I admire the most. What I admire is that they were actually creating.
What I want to emulate is that that ability to be able to create, share my stories, put the colors down and do things in a way that feels right to me versus creating something that is praised or well liked, or well-received or told to be good work like that rewarding system that we have growing up.
If we do something good, then we get praised and then it’s worthy of doing. And so, you know, getting out of that position and making yourself, giving yourself that approval, giving yourself that acceptance and love for your work.
And, but this is, I mean, this is something that it’s only been in a very short period of time that I have been able to acknowledge within myself is that, you know, what I really want and what I love the most about the, my artists that I follow, is that they actually gave themselves permission to create, show up and do what they wanted to do versus getting the permission and the validation from outside sources.
Creating Is An Inside Job
Nancy: That’s huge. And that is absolutely. And we can learn from seeing artists who have been able to move through that territory. And that is to move from extrinsic validation or external validation to internal or intrinsic validation that you define what you want to do, what you love, what you value, what you’re going to explore and experiment with. It comes from the inside.
It’s an inside job. It’s not an outside thing.
And when you get to finally move off of looking out there for approval, but rather coming from in here of allowing, which is also allowing, you know, the uneasy pieces to come through and really getting the value of that and getting the value of experimentation. That is a big, big thing in your cycle as an artist and your life cycle as an artist.
Moving Past Emulation
When you start to get that. And I think that it’s a natural sequence where in the beginning, artists tend to emulate other artists because, they say, I don’t know what I’m doing and we’re learning and all of that. And then eventually you get that. You want to move off of that, whether you’re emulating Helen Frankenthaler or whatever, whomever, Picasso, or whatever, finally, that is a dead end because it’s not coming from inside of you.
You ultimately get that. It ends up being boring and not gratifying, but then here’s another danger that happens after that.
Finally, we’ve stopped emulating, you know, the masters or the we’re the ones we look up to. Finally, we’ve started to come from the inside and we start really going there and accessing the adjacent possible and exploration and all of that.
And then another danger arises and that danger is it, we begin to repeat ourselves, the danger is a success catastrophe. It’s the situation where you’re going along. You are finally expressing yourself and perhaps you might even start getting seen and known and, selling your work, selling out shows all these things, the danger there is to just barely change it at all.
So you can keep repeating that success.
And so we go from emulating others to emulating ourselves, and this is a real danger. This is a real danger for people who were along on their journey. And so that’s where we really got to double down again, just like we did before, when we were emulating others.
Now we’re going to double down again and say, wait a minute, you’ve got to keep experimenting. You’ve got to keep taking those risks going to that edge. You know, you’ve got all these collectors, they love your work, but you don’t want to keep doing the same thing.
You’ve got to keep evolving as an artist.
So it’s always there that we’ve got to keep pushing ourselves to that edge
Misty: That really struck a nerve right there, because I would, you know, I have already been thinking about those kind of, those kinds of things at my own art is like creating what’s wanted by our customers, our clients, or our family members, or who knows who’s something. And so that really hits a little pinpoint.
And what I’ve been doing is like, Oh, you know, I can still create art professionally, but then I’ll just keep my sketchbook just for me. And I can do whatever I want.
And, you know, I can have all sorts of I can do whatever I wish, but I think that there’s, I think there’s an important piece that we need to recognize as artists is that, you know, we do actually, we can make the choice of being able to be creative, expressively open, because I think that we, we hide so many things.
So that way we put our best face forward and, and not show all of our work. And I understand it from a business perspective.
So that way, you know, people know what store they’re shopping at, but that’s not who we are as human beings. And it’s definitely not us as artists or at least not me. And I’m sure that there are people who like to do those things, but for certainly for, not me, I, I guess I would have a question is like, how do you actually help yourself from getting into that kind of pattern?
Keep Going To The Edge
Nancy: Yeah. So I think that that’s where you want to stay aware of that tendency to fall back to safety, the safety of emulating others, the safety of emulating your own successes and knowing that it may feel good for a little bit, but ultimately that’s going to not be gratifying.
If you’re not evolving your work and again, and evolving is like, there’s incremental changes. It’s not like you got to constantly, you know, jump from this to that, but it’s continually moving and risking and threading it through. You know, I do have artists who have kind of bread and butter or paintings that they sell.
So what they’ll do is have this group of paintings that they sell. And then they give themselves space to do their deep experimentation where they don’t care what anybody thinks about it- always to give themselves that space. That’s so important.
Even if over here they’re doing commissions, it might be dog portraits, you know, whatever it is they might continue to do that is their bread and butter, and that’s fine.
They are artists, which means they are evolving their work, evolving their art, continually exploring from the world, the intersections of art, science, life, relationships, all of it comes through. And it’s endless.
Misty: I think that is a really important point for us to be able to acknowledge and to be able to understand that this is part of the process and it is a part of that balance, but you don’t have to, I guess, put it in like little boxes.
You can, you can be all of those boxes, all mix them together. And I really, I really liked like that idea because I mean, you could even look online. I have all my little boxes.
And so what I think it would be a lot easier to do if it’s not so categorized and so like separated and being able to blend all those pieces in together and maybe even find a level of, of a happier place with your artwork and what you’re doing.
Hold on, Nancy, I’m sorry. I’ve got the landscapers out there. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to switch over to the art portion. I’m going to hit mute. So that way they don’t interrupt us because they’re like right underneath my window. No worries.
Nancy: So what are we going to do next then? What do we do next Misty?
Misty: So now what we’ll do is I’ll ask you, like, how do you start to just play and explore in your art journal? And then you can go ahead and start sharing, like your process and just sharing all of those different things with us, and then I’m going to hit mute.
So I know that you have like a system for yourself to be able to explore those things. Can you share a little bit more about that process that you have when you approach your art and how you kind of teach your students those same steps?
From Nothing To Something
Nancy: Yes. So there are many ways that I have of starting.
I’m very big on creating lots of starts painting starts and not getting so caught up in so-called finishes. So that’s one thing, lots of starts.
And there’s this concept that is deep in my mind and it’s called zero to one. So zero to one is a mathematical concept. That is just fascinating to me.
And so this concept is that from zero to one is the largest interval. It’s larger than one to two, two to three, three to four, and so on.
From zero to one, and this can be proven mathematically, I won’t get into that here, from nothing to something, zero being nothing, one being something, is larger than one to two, something to something, two to three, something to something.
So that concept informs me in my art because it says: Just starting is enormous, just starting.
So go into your studio and just start, start mixing paint. It’s like swimming- go put your toe in the water. And you can say no after that, if you want to,
but just start.
And the interesting thing is once you start, it tends to activate further activity. It tends to kind of nudge us on because we start to get into and it’s like, Oh, okay, okay. And then we’re in it. So there’s that.
And I think it’s also good to come from a place of ease as much as you can. So ease and playfulness and that joy that you were talking about. And so kind of that.
And then the last piece, and I’m holding this in my mind, because this is giving me permission is allowing for the ugly painting to emerge and actually embracing it and saying, this is fantastic because who knows where that might go.
- Zero To One: Just Start, Lots Of Starts
- Cultivate Playfulness & Ease
- Embrace Ugly Paintings
So I’m going to, show you all one, this is only one there’s so many that I have, and it was like, which one do I show you?
The Six Maquettes™ Exercise
This one I’m going to show you is called The Six Maquette™ Exercise. And so a maquette is a little study. Henry Moore, the great English sculptor used to create thousands, probably tens of thousands of maquettes from clay and looking at pieces of sea drift, in nature and just these little pieces, but he would play with it.
And this would inform his colossal enormous sculptures that you’ve seen all over the world.
So we play with ideas. So I love the idea of maquettes. So it’s, we’re playing with ideas here. We’re not going to be caught up in what it looks like. We don’t care what it looks like.
We want to be surprised because we’re cultivating surprise, cultivating surprise-ability. So all of these concepts, this inner landscape is very important for you as an artist so that you can continually evolve your work. That’s what we’re interested in. So I’m going to start this, these maquettes, and I’ll guide you through it.
And again, I invite you to just allow, so you can get a journal where you can get a piece of paper out in front of you. You could even get news print if you want. And I encourage you to get out some different tools.
If you can, if you’ve got them different types of tools, like I’ve got this wide brush here, I’ve got a shaper, I have a sash brush, you know, different tools that will give you different marks.
I’ve got a long brush is very thin and you could use a spatula, anything. You could also have markers of various sorts pencils. I have a little piece of charcoal here, you know, whatever it is, you know, a few tools, any kind of thick markers, then it doesn’t matter. Anything you want.
So gather some supplies if you can, or you can just watch this and try this later. And again, you can work in your journal. I’m going to work on a big board here. Let me move this forward so we can get closer to it. I’m working out a big board so you can see, you can see it better. Right? Okay.
So give me just a moment. Okay. The way I’m going to start, you know, would invite you to do this too, is we’re going to, first of all, we’re going to create six squares or rectangles on this sheet of paper.
Okay. I’m just going to divide it up. So I hope you can say this. I’m just making some squares. Then just mark off your squares or your rectangles And you know, don’t worry about it.
Experimentation & Constraint
This is about experimentation. We’re not worried about what this looks like. So we’ve got our six squares marked off or six rectangles. If that’s what you decided, and then you can start with any, any one of these.
But what we’re going to do is we’re going to make six moves on each square. So six moves and you can change things up.
I recommend that you consider to constrain your palette. If you do this, like maybe just two colors or three, you know, don’t throw in everything if you can, because it just simple. We’re trying to simplify things here. Okay. On the other hand, you can put every color that you’ve got in there, if you wish. So it’s not really about the colors. I’m just going to make a move. So again, Go in and just make six moves on each one.
So I’m working on the center one. I’m just going to start working into it. And we’re making six maquettes.
Misty: I love the concept of the moves.
Nancy: Yeah. We’re not thinking we’re just, it’s just spontaneous stream of consciousness. And just keep moving along. You can change up your, your arm, you know, work with a different hand if you wish.
Misty: Yeah. I’m going to actually try that non-dominant hand. Hmm. It’s interesting then to do that, switch it up. Okay.
Nancy: You can add in, throw in a wild card color. If you want something speaks to you.
Misty: Now Nancy, when you normally do this, do you use music or do you actually sit with your thoughts?
Nancy: Well, a lot of times it’s silent and I just hear the scratching sound, but so probably with my thoughts, you know, whatever, or non-thought.
Misty: I’m with you, I’d like to be alone with my thoughts. And it’s really nice to be able to do that while I create. Yeah.
Nancy: Well, one of the exercises I was thinking about showing you all has to do with music there. So maybe, maybe for another time,
Misty: I have played a little bit with that and it does make different marks. Yes, yes. There’s a whole thing on that. Right?
If you lose count of, you know, how many moves you might have, don’t worry about it.
Now, what do you normally do with these moves? Like how do you process that? Or like how, I guess, how do you implement them later on into something? Yeah. Yeah.
So what happens is I just do these maquettes and again, no judging, this is a stream of consciousness. This is just six moves. That can be, you know, you can vary the moves and the more you do this, the more you’ll just keep going into these edges of moves that are unfamiliar and so forth. And sometimes I’ll just let them be, as they are.
Sometimes I’ll go in and integrate them, like move, you know, move across the line into the next one so that they start to connect together and you can have these closer together if you want, and they can run into each other.
But lots of times students will do this and they’ll go, wow. I just really love it. And they’ll frame it. I’ve had people do that, but that’s, you know, not, not really the point, but it’s more about what this experience invites, allowing, loosening up, inviting your gestural expression.
When you make a move, that opens up a whole set of paths that weren’t there before, that’s the adjacent possible. You’re opening up as you create. You are affecting creation itself.
Every move opens up the set of possibilities that wasn’t there before that move was made. And so we are creating continuously.
When we go in there without strategic mind, without a plan, something astonishing can happen because we didn’t plan it. We get the mind out of the way and allow the gestural expression to come through.
That is so valuable because when you can tie that to your other work and it informs it and I’ve had many students say it loosens them up, new moves come through because they’ve been creating these starts, the starts may never see the light of day in terms of an audience, or they might, but they, they fuel you.
And these starts will begin to show up in your other work.
Even if you’re doing pet portraits, even if you’re doing very representational work, it will start to come through because you, this is like, you know, when you play the cello, you practice scales and, and it has more kind of, you know, concepts in terms of perhaps rules. But it’s kind of like working with the instrument, which is your body and your gestural expression and allowing it.
The Beauty Of Imperfection
Misty: I don’t know if you quilt or do anything like that. But I think that that is actually a really important concept for us as artists to know, is that gestural freedom and just our own signatures there.
One of the, like if you go back and you look at like those antique quilts that are like in museums and things like that, they actually talk, they don’t look at like the perfection of the pool. They’re actually looking for imperfections.
And it’s not even this, it’s not even the imperfections, it’s our signature. And because we, we hold our pencils in a way that only we hold them, we stitch and only a way that we stitch and they can actually identify the artist who made the quilt just by their stitches, because like every so many stitches, it does something and it’s consistent and we have patterns in those. And so these starts can actually help us develop that signature that’s uniquely us.
Nancy: Yes. I’ve seen is it the Gee’s Bend some of those quilts and yes, I come from a family of quilters. I started quilting when I was four years old. And it was the crazy quilts. They just pieced together by hand by hand. And I love that. And yeah, all of this.
You have your own lexicon, your own particular signature, that comes through your body and your gestural expression and will thread through your art and life.
And, and I take physicians at Stanford every year for 10 years, I’ve done this at Sierra Camp and I take them through an exercise. It’s where we create these starts related to a word or music. And I assert that you have your own particular lexicon, your own particular signature that will thread through all your work.
And this is what we see too, with the maquettes, whether it’s clay maquettes, or these kinds of maquettes- you have moves that will come through.
Misty: I just, I loved that and I have never put those together ever before, but that is absolutely brilliant. And I like, it’s like, it’s proof, it’s scientific proof because I mean, I worked, you know, I worked in these libraries and museums that actually were looking specifically for those things.
I used to work in restoration and we were looking for specific things and that’s exactly how we could identify those things. And it’s just so interesting that I never put those two together.
Nancy: Well, that is it. I mean, this is creativity right here, right now. You put that together. It’s about the intersections of putting things together and this is what happens when we start to create and creative conversations invite that as well and, learning all that we can in nature, reading books. There are other kinds of activities like playing an instrument or, or sewing will all inform your art. And it’s.
Misty: And it’s such a, it’s what a beautiful way to be able to do that too. It’s just such a blessing to be able to have all of these different influences for our inspiration, for whatever we create. And I, and I really, I really love that this, this was actually a really fun exercise and I, I did, I made two boxes.
I thought I’d be quick enough to go ahead and do them. And I’ve got to play with different colors than I normally play with. And I played with different brushes, but I I’m gonna, I actually put my one brush to the side because I want to play with that a little bit more. Because I have some unique shapes. Right. And love it. I love it. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you for doing this.
I know that you have created something magical for our community. And do you mind letting everyone know what you created and tell us a little bit more about what you created and where we can find you.
Nancy: Okay. So what I created is it’s a worksheet called Zero To One because this was so powerful.
Big concepts from mathematics, science, psychology and nature can help your art and invite you to create and to believe in yourself as you do that.
So that’s the gift I have for you. You can get it at artistsjourney.com/gift.
It will be there for you. Just put your information in there. You can get that, download it. It’s a worksheet to play with this idea. And you can find me at artistsjourney.com or nancyhillis.com. We’ll direct you to artistsjourney.com. And that particular exercise comes from my second book, which is The Artist’s Journey: Creativity Reflection Journal.
I’ll show it to you right here. I don’t know if that’s backwards or not, but not backwards.
Misty: I got mine. Yeah.
Nancy: So you can see, it’s like, it’s very colorful and it’s a book for you to write down, you know, zero to one documentation to bring, to bring visibility to, to your thoughts and your ideas and what, what matters to you.
And it’s really about meaning what’s the most meaningful to you.
And, and that’s the key it’s like, what is most meaningful to us?
Misty: Because it really is our unique experiences, our unique challenges, just our unique way of solving our problems too. And it’s just like your concept with the gestural expression is that we do each of these uniquely, no one else can do them the way that we do them. And I really love that concept. So like, thank you so much for this.
Nancy: Yes. You know, I think that you, when you reached out to me and one of the things you said to me is that one of the things that spoke to you was there is this phrase, we don’t know if it’s German or it’s Chinese, but it’s
“Find joy in your life, it’s later than you think.”
And then I wrote a whole piece on, you know,
“Dead women don’t paint, don’t write books or play the cello.”
So it’s like, and I have actually, it’s a thought experiment. It’s in this book too. It’s the deathbed thought experiment. And, and it is what is going to matter to you on your death bed. And this is a really good thought experiment to go through and to keep revisiting because that can change. But, you know, I think oftentimes it’s around relationships and love. And the other piece is the, the dreams, the dreams you have.
And did you say yes to those dreams or their un-lived dreams in you still pushing for expression?
And if so, listen to that and say yes, to, to the dreams that are calling you,
Misty: You know, Nancy that is, you could not have said a more meaningful piece because that I remember that article and I was in a certain spot in my life.
And like once I read that, I knew from that moment forward that I was going to be working towards my goals and my dreams of just writing and illustrating and creating and not, you know, not for someone else that they like, Oh, you’ve done great work here. You know, you’re an artist finally, but actually creating the work because I desired so much to do so.
And whether, if people find them, you know, worthy or not is irrelevant, or if that was successful, what, at the end of the day, what makes you the success is that you actually showed up and did your work and did that, what you really wanted to do, whether it was validated or not.
And I actually forgot that you had given me that moment and thank you for reminding me of that, because that is the most powerful thing ever that I’ve seen on, you know, on paper is like, you know, dead women do not write. And that is so true. And I’m never going to make my books and I’m never going to draw my paintings.
And I’m never going to tell the stories that are living deep inside me if I’m not creating.
And I wonder how many other women have art that they want to create stories to tell and all these things and not giving themselves permission because we have so many other priorities, just so much higher than that, you know?
Nancy: Yes, yes. And it’s really saying yes to the dreams that live inside you. And if you’ll listen, you’ll notice them.
And some of them have been there for years and it’s time now, now is the time to say, yes,
Misty: You are so right. Thank you so much, Nancy. I’m so grateful that you come and you shared your wisdom and showed us some techniques that we can just learn to play and create our own unique art. And I’m just so thankful that you joined us and are here with us. So thank you.
Nancy: Thank you so much Misty. And thank you for what you’re doing here. This is a beautiful work. It’s deeply meaningful. You’re helping other people. You’re encouraging artists. And I want to thank all of you in the audience who are here, and I encourage you to believe in yourself and say yes to your dreams,
Get into your studio Zero To One. Get in there and start experimenting.
Misty: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much guys for joining us. And as you know, later on this afternoon, Nancy and I will be in Facebook live and there to answer any questions.
Nancy will help you with anything that you might be stumbling with. And anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful day and we will see later on this afternoon.
Bye guys. Bye. There we go.
With gratitude from my studio to yours,
P.S. I’d like to share with you my book trailer for The Artist’s Journey: Creativity Reflection Journal
My book, The Artist’s Journey: Creativity Reflection Journal is a playfully illustrated creativity journal celebrating your exquisite uniqueness.
It comes on the heels of my bestselling, award winning book named a Top 100 Creativity Book Of All Time by BookAuthority: The Artist’s Journey: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity
This self-help journal sparks your imagination with prompts, poetic musings and stories inviting you to reflect on and activate the inner sources of your creativity
Will you say yes to your dreams?