<![CDATA[mtmhobbes.com - Blog]]>Mon, 12 Apr 2021 00:49:22 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Write Slow, Draw Fast]]>Fri, 09 Apr 2021 16:25:43 GMThttp://mtmhobbes.com/blog/write-slow-draw-fastMost of us know that keeping a journal can be greatly beneficial to our mental health.  I have kept a journal off and on for my entire adult life.  It has been wonderful habit to have and has helped me through hardships, especially way back when I was a young adult.  Journalling was a tool I often used to get to know myself more and figure out what I wanted for myself and my future.  During times of confusion and turmoil, I’d whip out my journal and would take much time and care to write down any unpleasant incidents that occurred.  And I jotted down my feelings in order to help me process these events.  

However, I found that when things were going OK and I was not feeling down or in extreme anxiety, my journal transformed into a to-do list where I simply scribbled down items to shop for and other mundane tasks that needed accomplishing.  Or, if it was not being used as a to-do list, it stayed closed and hidden away in my desk drawer.  In short, my journal was really only a repository for my negative thoughts and feelings.  Writing was only something I used in times of trouble.  Again, I am extremely grateful that I had this aid to help me in times of need.  But I felt it would be beneficial for me to have something more, another way to note my daily life the rest of the time.  I wanted this something to help me avoid getting to that dark emotional situation where I even needed my journal to keep me out of negativity in the first place.
It was an ordinary day back in 2019 when I started drawing an event that had occurred in the morning.  I’m not sure what prompted me to doodle, but it took me less than five minutes to scratch out a bunch of lines and speech bubbles with a sort-of stick figure that represented me in the middle.  It was a mess but it made me feel better.  I did the same thing the next day, drawing sharp and squiggly lines to represent my irritation around that same event.  And after that I felt better again.  The event I mention was not bad, it was not huge, it was just one of those frustrations that happen in daily living (like traffic).  In the past I would have let my anger simmer, but I found that when I drew my emotions, I was able to let them go.  And in letting them go, I believe I avoided these little annoyances from piling up and eventually making me think they were bigger than they actually were.  So, I started an almost-daily drawing journalling habit.  This worked for me, I could draw fast because it didn’t need to be pretty (in fact it was a whole lot of ugly).  I could lay down my thoughts, feelings, events that occurred, etc. in 5 minutes or so - something I could not do by writing (I am a very slow writer).
This regular drawing practice has helped me tremendously.  Through this technique I am better able to stay positive, grounded and am more equipped to avoid the darker moods that like to sneak in.  With a more sunny outlook, I am also able to realize that I have a lot to be grateful for (before this the feeling of gratefulness often eluded me).  I find it easier to create pictures than write words.  I find that I can carry on this habit more easily since it takes me less time to do so.  And it’s a way more healthy way to deal with bad feelings than eating half an entire cake (which I have done before).
Do you have a practice that gives you comfort, a chance to connect with yourself, process feelings, or even bring joy despite less-than-ideal circumstances? If not, I invite you to find one, or simply do what I did and start doodling.  Who knows where it might lead?
<![CDATA[Home Cooked Meals, Secondhand Clothes & Soap]]>Fri, 26 Mar 2021 13:31:29 GMThttp://mtmhobbes.com/blog/home-cooked-meals-secondhand-clothes-soap“The unexamined life is not worth living” ~ Socrates
For one whole year I did not eat anything I did not cook or prepare myself, or that someone else did not cook at home for me.  For another whole year I did not buy any new clothes (except shoes and undies). Instead, I used what I already had, or made all my wearables myself, or bought secondhand and adjusted these items to suit me.  And for yet another whole year, I made my own soap and body care products.  I mixed my own cosmetics, and produced my own household cleaners and bought not one of these ready made items from the store.
Why am I mentioning the above, and what does it have to do with art and creativity?  
I have heard many visual artists like myself say that in order to make good work, you must really see what’s around you.  Notice the small things, like how shadows from leaves on a tree dance on the ground, or how light ripples on ocean waves.  That you must learn to find the subtleties of colour and the lines and shapes buildings make in a landscape.  Or notice how people sit, stand, walk, and gesture so that you can make better art.  But for me, I need more.  My creative juices aren’t only brought about by observing.  For me, in order to continue to be in flow and make good art, I must move, take action and do.  I must live a creative life in order to be creative in my work.

The last post I wrote was about asking the question, “What if”?  It was essentially a post that talked about my belief that curiosity is essential to being creative and being an artist.  And in my very first post, I talked about my road back to creativity and how it was a long journey with starts, stops and more than a few wrong turns.  Well, that path, though meandering, was a very interesting one indeed.  One that prompted me to be curious, to question and explore.  It made me think of what I truly believed in and wanted.  It made me aware of my values which made me take action, even if the actions were often considered odd.  The above are just 3 examples of small experiments I decided to undertake because I was looking for what and who I wanted to be in the world. (And yes, if you want to know, I am concerned about the impact the fashion industry has on our landfills.  I believe the best food is slow, homemade food.  And because of harmful chemicals in many of our cleaners and cosmetics, I decided to do something to stay away from them as much as I could.)  My “What Ifs” caused me to continue and to keep searching for answers, and trying new things to find solutions in my own style
So, the point of this post?  I ask you to examine yourself to realize what kind of things help spark your curiosity.  (What kind of ideas or questions make you daydream or keep you up at night?)  I put forward the idea that maybe you’re like me, and that you may need to expand your world a little in order to find inspiration.  (What gives you the urge to try something new and poke about outside your comfort zone?)  That you may need to take action towards the things you care about in order to gain confidence and get those creative juices flowing.  (Are there issues or themes that you feel strongly about, and what unique action, small or big, will you do about them?)  Perhaps like me, you’ll need to dig a little deeper, do some hard, or silly, things, ask some weird, or uncomfortable, questions, and when you find some answers, live them.
<![CDATA[What if? - A simple question that sparks creativity]]>Sat, 13 Mar 2021 04:33:36 GMThttp://mtmhobbes.com/blog/march-12th-2021If memory serves me well, a Continuing Education class in fiction writing I attended waaaay back when has taught me that this is the question science fiction and fantasy writers love and use most.  It is the question they ask themselves that helps spring forth new story scenarios which give birth to new characters.  These characters bring with them their unusual histories and places full of otherworldly flora and fauna.  Perhaps they come from alien environments, other dimensions, or parallel universes.  All of these can spew forth from one tiny question, “What if?”  Some of these "What Ifs" inspire stories so compelling that they move us to create our own yarns.  Some "What Ifs" create tales so beloved that we carry their messages in our hearts and minds for years and which we may pass along to the next generations.

I am not a science fiction or fantasy writer.  My art form does not require beautiful narrative nor elegant writing.  I don’t deal with words but instead imagery.  However, my work and art practice do involve the question, “What if?” a lot:  What if I mix this paint with this colour?  What if I layer this material over the other?  What if I choose to illustrate this subject matter?  What if I create a pattern out of this shape?  What if from now on all my work will involve images of cephalopods?  You know, silly art things like that…
There’s no no doubt in my mind that our greatest artists have asked this question of themselves, and thus have created great painted works that leave us tongue-tied and awed to silence.  That our musical heroes have strung together notes and chords that were never tried before because they pondered similarly. That inventors, scientists, adventurers and engineers have made the same inquiry while they stayed up all night looking for a new energy solution, scanned the night sky with their telescopes, traversed deserts and sailed over oceans, and drew up new plans for their next great machine.  Many solutions to problems have been solved because of a simple “What if?”
I don’t think I could consider myself an artist if I did not ask “What if?” constantly.  For I believe that creativity cannot flourish without curiosity.  Because if I was not curious, I would not experiment, I would not try nor discover new techniques.  A lack of curiosity would stunt my imagination, and stop me from being playful with my work, which would stop my growth as both an artist and as a person.  And for me, if I am not growing, I am not moving forward.  If I am not moving forward then I am regressing.  And if I regress enough my friend creativity may fall back into hibernation like it has before.  A slumber so deep that only a kiss from a force that is strong enough to slay a dragon disguised as an evil stepmother queen can awaken (Blech, you see now why I am not a fiction writer!).

Anyhoo, I consider myself a pretty creative person and this question has helped to keep me going, doing and making.  Give the question a try  regardless of how you choose to manifest your talents.
* BTW, if you think the idea of putting cephalopods in all an artist's artwork is kinda crazy, it is!  But it has worked for one creative dude.  See https://www.jonathan-crow.com/vice-presidents  From what I understand, this guy is making pretty good cash from his “What If?”

<![CDATA[Back To Art and Creativity: A Journey]]>Sat, 06 Feb 2021 06:00:15 GMThttp://mtmhobbes.com/blog/back-to-art-and-creativity-a-journeyIn 2006 I took a creativity workshop at my local recreation centre.  I did not want to take this class but did so because I had a credit at the centre that was about to expire.  It was either take a course before year end or lose the money.  I signed up for the course simply because it fit my schedule.  I came to the first session with a bad attitude.  I was annoyed since I really didn’t want to be there and wished the centre policy allowed for a cash refund.  I am ashamed to say I took my frustration out on the instructor, a lovely woman with a bright smile who announced we’d be decorating masks that day.  I told her I did not want to paint a mask.  She offered me other activities to do while the rest of the students worked on their projects.  I declined them all, sat with a frown on my face and my arms crossed, then left class early.

As I walked into my home, guilt hit me.  I acted like a jerk towards the instructor (who stayed wonderful and positive despite me being less than polite).  I told myself that next week I was going to apologize and do better.  Determined that I would act like I was brought up properly, I participated in the subsequent lessons and worked on the projects without complaint.  I still thought the exercises were silly but I did them anyway.  Then a funny thing happened around day 4. In the middle of one of the projects I realized something in me shifted.  My mind was not thinking of my to do list, there was no anxiety in my being.  I was just present in that classroom, content, totally in the zone, and at that very moment did not want to be anywhere else.
Curious about my discovery, I finished the 8 week course then stayed in contact with the instructor and took more of her classes.  I also started taking other creative classes from other instructors at the rec centre: a painting workshop, improv, a photography course, creative writing, voice lessons, etc.  Taking these lessons were a way for me to come back to that presence of being and state of peace.  And that state of peace and flow for me was reached while in the midst of a creative endeavour and space.  

As I continued participating in these workshops, I started to recall similar moments of creative flow in my childhood.  In gradeschool I would hold my lunch hour storytelling club where I would tell a story I made up (usually a horror story) to a small group of classmates.  I drew comics (usually about child superheroes wearing kimonos and skipping school to fight bad guys).  I spent many blissful moments bringing my imaginings to life on paper.  Through my creative practice and a bit of talent, I won art contests with prizes like furniture and luxury hotel stays, and got a newspaper feature at 10 years old.  I even secured a guest spot on a TV show for my drawing ability.  And then things changed and I did a 180 turnabout at the age of eleven.
At 11 my beloved grandfather died.  My parents separated.  My dad gambled away the family’s money, including my money from my art.  He left the country because the loan sharks were after him.  Our house was taken away to pay back his debt.  Homeless, what was left of my family moved into a small room that was used for storage in my grandmother’s basement.  I was uprooted from my school, classmates and buddies.  There was no desk, no more paper and art materials, and no space to draw or to be comfortable and process my thoughts and feelings.  Devastated and betrayed, I sent my friend, creativity, away.  And without my friend, a void came to stay instead, and where there used to be joy, a numbness engulfed me for many years.  I am not sure why I didn’t pick up my art materials once my life stabilized.  Perhaps I thought I had to strive toward a path that was guaranteed to be secure rather than one that was not deemed “safe” such as a creative career in art?
After I moved to Canada 12 years later, it was a new start and so my old friend creativity resurfaced again and came for a visit, convincing me things will be different this time ‘round.  I picked up my pencil and created a new comic strip that was featured in a couple ethnic papers and magazine.  But being young, new to the country and naive, I was taken advantage of.  Editors and supervisors did not pay me the money I was owed and did not publish the comic in sequence.  Not yet having developed much confidence and self-worth, I turned my back on art once more.  I was angry creativity showed itself again to shake things up.  I returned to earning my living with “normal” jobs like retail and office work for a long time.
But the thing is that if you are an artist you cannot escape creativity.  It hunts you.  It calls out to you, seeks you out across the ocean and over mountains, it arranges circumstances until you can’t ignore it anymore. You have no choice but to acknowledge it, and before long the spark that ignites the flame to create is inside you once more. You cannot deny creativity.  For you are its conduit and for you to deny it is to deny who you are.  At least that is how it is for me.

It took creativity many attempts, many gentle nudges to win me over once more.  It schemed and sneaked about until it found me at the rec centre course, it shadowed me through other workshops, it steered me towards the art store, whispered to me in the night of experiments I might do with paints and fabric and clay. 
The journey creativity set forth for me was long and often exhausting.  It took me through an obstacle course where my heart got stomped on and my soul scraped raw.  But the challenges creativity put forth helped me get stronger, develop spirit and grow thick skin.  And the whole while it was there right by me helping me figure things out, guiding me towards solutions and pushing me  towards a future I actually cared about and was excited for.  With creativity’s help I was able to move on from office work and explore different careers, acquire new hobbies, learn new and scary skills.  I baked, photographed, cooked, composed, crafted, sculpted, drew, painted, sang, wrote, stitched, strummed, and slowly that void and numbness left and I found my way back to joy.  Because I let it back in, creativity healed me and saved me from becoming a person I did not admire.
After many years, I can finally call myself an artist without cringing.  I still have nightmares that the money I earn from my art could disappear, but that’s also true for money earned in other ways. I still worry about being betrayed. I still have anxiety over work and my business, but doesn’t everyone?   I still have my fears, but now I know that if difficulties happen I’ll be OK, I can recover and keep going because I have my friend in my corner looking out for me.  I have come so far and yet ended up in the same place somehow, with the same companion that I started with.  The friend and guide that never gave up on me, and the one that I have learned to be so grateful for that’s with me always.