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This is me, Kelly Hevel
Tag Archives: Arts
In the interests of practicing what I preach—getting out there and trying something new just for the fun of it, playing with no expectation of being an expert—I signed up for a pinhole camera workshop. Not only did I sign up, but I got out of bed on a Saturday morning and went! And boy was I glad I did.
So, how do you make a pinhole camera? The basic concept is to make a lightproof box with a removable lid (so you can insert and remove your photo paper) and a tiny hole to let in the light which can be covered and uncovered (your shutter). It sounds easy, and it is, but it does take a bit of experimentation to get the size of the hole and the shutter speed (how fast you open and close the hole) right.
Here we are with our materials which mostly consisted of cookie tins, black tape, and things to make holes with. John, of Cibali Arthouse, who taught the workshop, took one for the team and bought, and I presume ate, lots of cookies. Thanks John!
After taping up our lids to ensure they were light-proof, and making tiny holes covered with tape for shutters, we went into the dark room where we inserted photo paper into our new cameras. Then it was out into the streets of the picturesque and peaceful Cibali neighborhood on the Golden Horn of Istanbul to look for likely subjects.
Now, here I must thank the lovely residents of Cibali, because we must have looked very suspicious and/or crazy, and they were good sports. Imagine eight people stalking around your neighborhood on a Saturday morning clutching cookie tins covered in tape to their stomachs (this seemed to be the preferred method for ensuring that the lids didn’t come off and expose our photo paper prematurely). After peering around, those people carefully set the tin down, peel off some tape, and start counting or looking at their watches. Then they replace the tape, grab their cans and dash back down the street. Crazy, right?
After dashing back into the art house we took turns in small groups to develop our photos. There was lots of crashing into each other. There was also lots of overdeveloped, completely black photo paper. We experimented with reducing our shutter speed, but it was no use. It was a really sunny day and our holes were just too big. Undaunted, we returned to the workroom and using various methods, including taping up the holes and poking tiny new holes with an earring (despite the name of the workshop no one had thought to bring an actual, uh, PIN), soon we were back on the street, clutching our cameras protectively to our stomachs.
Finally after much trial and error, we produced some images. Above you see a couple photos drying on the windowsill of the art house in the shadow of funky art house creatures.
Here’s one of the images I managed to capture. I like this one because if you look closely you can make out the cobblestones in the street and also a figure walking in front of the buildings. The photos produced this way are essentially negatives, so if you play around with them in photo editing software and reverse the image you’ll get a more recognizable black and white image.
This may not be the best photo I ever took, but it was really fun to experiment and see how easy it is to make a very basic camera and develop the film yourself. The process of trying and failing to get images didn’t dampen our enthusiasm, we just kept trying and manipulating variables until the images started to appear, by which point we were excited to see those ghostly shadows and shapes finally emerging.
And of course I took my cookie can camera with me and spent the rest of the day asking people, “do you want to see my new camera?”
I’d love to hear about your experiences—write ‘em up in the comments area below!
- When is the last time you tried something new just for the fun of i?
- What is the last new art form you played with?
Here’s a question: who gets to call himself an artist? Is it the guy who sells the million dollar painting? The girl with the MFA? The renegade street artist? And what’s the difference between a “real” artist and an amateur artist?
This answers to this question have been the source of much squashing of creative talent, exploration, ability, and curiosity.
The definition I prefer states that if you’re a “professional” anything it means you get paid for it. Period. It doesn’t mean you’re good—or bad—at it. And being an amateur, a term which is sometimes used as pejorative with which to hit someone over the head, merely means you don’t get paid for it. It doesn’t mean you’re bad—or good—at it.
The belief that amateur means bad or sloppy is what causes people to hide their creative attempts away, or not to make them at all.
There is a difference between being a beginner and being an amateur and no shame in either.
Those clumsy first attempts to express yourself through writing, painting, or dance are just that: the first steps towards being an experienced amateur. And there is something wonderful about seeing someone pursue their passion for the joy of it and for no other reason.
Check out this link to an award-winning young photographer, one who doesn’t even necessarily accept the label of artist. He pursues his art almost by accident, as if it is merely a byproduct of his life as a “teenager-turned-supertramp”. He has incorporated his creative activity into his life in such a way that it is not the main purpose of his life, but the expression of it.
As Shelley Berc, expert on creativity and one of my teachers points out, “The word ‘amateur’–from the Latin ‘amator’ or lover–means to create for the sheer love of it”. As she writes in her article The Gift of the Amateur, “It is only recently that the word ‘amateur’ became a dirty one. Until the 1980′s, just about every educated person no matter what his or her profession played an instrument, or painted, or wrote for pleasure. The aim of these hobbies wasn’t necessarily to become the next Beethoven but to deepen the sensibilities of the individual doing them.”
I say we take a step back in time and aspire to be amateurs—lovers—of creating our art.
I’d love to hear about your experiences—write ‘em up in the comments area below!
- What arts do you pursue as an amateur?
- Are you comfortable sharing those works with others?
I am usually very orderly. I hate to clean, but I love to organize, so I broke new ground when attending The Creativity Workshop in Istanbul last month. I got so excited by all the STUFF I was creating that I made a big mess, and had a grand time doing it. Photo evidence of the mess I made, along with my fellow participants, can be found above
My challenge to you for this weekend is: make a mess!
You could play in the dirt—it’s a great time of year to garden, whether that is outside in your yard or in a small pot on your windowsill.
You could get out those art supplies you stuck in the back of the drawer for “when I have time” and PLAY with them. No need to create a masterpiece, your challenge is to make a mess, the bigger the better. Just go play. For those good girls and boys who need it I hereby give you permission.
I think what you’ll find is cleaning up that mess takes less time and effort than you think, and even if not, it will have been worth it. There’s something about making a creative mess that’s good for the soul.
Have a fantastic weekend and don’t forget to come back and share what you did!
Here’s a little video introduction to Playing Around Istanbul, the workshop I am doing this fall with partner Melissa Dinwiddie–we are so excited about this workshop! It will have a little bit of everything: art making, exploring an amazing city, meeting fascinating people… the list goes on.
Now is the time to sign up for the workshop, I can’t wait to share my adopted hometown with everyone!
Take a gander then be sure to ask any questions you may have about Istanbul or the workshop in the comments below–I’d love to hear from you!
One of the best things about running your own business is having the freedom to choose who you work with—and I think I have chosen well in selecting my partner, Melissa Dinwiddie. Melissa is a whirlwind of positive energy and such a pleasure to work with. Our weekly meetings often involve a lot of enthusiastic gesticulating, excitedly raised voices, and tangents that turn into tangible ideas of what we can do together. Another good thing about running your own business is that you get to call yourself a “Poobah”… but that is a different story.
Working with Melissa has taught me the value of a truly great partner: someone who thinks enough like you (we have similar teaching styles and goals), but is different enough that you balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Working with the details of the technology of online life is second nature to her where it makes me want to crawl under a rock, and she appreciates me dealing with the details of lesson structure and planning.
Currently, we are teaching a 12-week online course called “Playing Around Online” and we are having a blast. And, we are gearing up for our live fall program “Playing Around Istanbul”, which we are SO EXCITED ABOUT! You should definitely consider joining us in Istanbul. I am firmly convinced it is going to be the most awesome creativity workshop/arts immersion vacation that ever existed. That is if the world doesn’t screech to a halt when Melissa and I finally meet in person. Believe it or not, we met and (so far) work exclusively online. Thank you internets for introducing me to such a great partner!
Without further ado, I give you Melissa and her thoughts on being a Passion Pluralite, striving for imperfection, and living a creative life daily.
You talk a lot about being a “passion pluralite”. Tell us more about what that is and how it affects your work and play style.
I have come to realize that I am hard-wired to have multiple passions, not just one. Not only that, but I’m not happy unless I keep my toe in at least a few of my passions at all times.
Needless to say, that keeps me very busy!
For much of my life I fought this tendency of mine to want to follow multiple blisses. I often wished I could be happy picking one thing and focusing on that, and I even wondered if there was something wrong with me. Once I accepted and embraced that this is simply how I’m wired, I was freed up to figure out how to use my Passion Pluralite nature to my advantage.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that I really do get to do everything, just not all at the same time. It took me into my 30s to figure that one out, but once I did, I stopped trying to run in multiple directions at once. At first, I determined to limit my focus to just two things at a time, but that wasn’t enough, so I expanded to three. Then four.
For me, about four passions at any given time feels about right: approximately the same number of major “focus areas” as burners on your typical stovetop. I think of my passions as pots on the stove, which I can rotate at will. There’s always one bubbling away on the front burner, which takes the bulk of my creative energies, but I’m happiest when I’m also keeping a few others simmering along at the same time.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get to have more than four-ish passions, just that I concentrate my energies on no more than about four at any given time. To stick with the cooking metaphor, my other interests get to hang out in the metaphorical refrigerator or pantry until I’m ready to move a current pot off the stove and bring a new one into the rotation.
I allow the rotating of the pots to occur on its own rhythm, and I find that my focus areas seem to pull strongly at me for about 3 to 9 months at a time, after which point I usually find myself compelled more strongly by another focus area.
I used to feel badly about myself for not sticking with a focus area. I love the pursuit of mastery, and for a long time I lamented that I’d never achieve the level of mastery in any one of my passions that I could be if only I would limit my focus and stick with it. However, now that I know this is my modus operandi, I enjoy the flow of it all. It’s true, I’ll never be “The Best” at any one of my passions, but I’ve decided that’s okay with me. I’d rather have the breadth of passions and expressions, plus honestly, I’d get bored!
I’ve also figured out that it’s not mastery that makes me happy, but the pursuit of it. Realizing that helped me let go of my need to “achieve greatness.”
What allowed you to set off on your creative path? Did you have a sudden revelation that things had to change or was it a gradual shift?
It was both, really. If I look back on my life, with the exception of a few dry and painful years when I was an academic, creative expression has always been part of my path. As a child I drew and painted and sang and played instruments without thinking much about it. Then at 16 I discovered dance, my first real passion. At the time I didn’t realize that I would ultimately have many passions, I just knew I was in love. When an injury forced me to stop dancing I thought my life was over, or at least the passionate part of it.
Years later I discovered my next big creative passion, calligraphy. It was a revelation that I got to have more than one passion! Then I got dance back in a different form, with ballroom and salsa dancing, which made me realize that hey, maybe there wasn’t a limit on this passion thing! Maybe I got to have as many passions as I wanted!
Later I picked up the guitar and dove into that for a bit, then discovered a real passion for singing, particularly jazz, and much later I discovered that I have a passion for writing songs.
Each of these discoveries was a revelation at the time, but they gradually revealed themselves over a period of many years. The big, sudden revelation, though, came a couple of years ago. I had let my creative passions gather dust in a corner, believing I didn’t have time for them. A major life crisis made me realize how very unhappy I was. Something cracked open for me–I refer to it as the Universe whacking me upside the head with a 2×4–and I realized that if I wanted to live the fully creative life I really, really wanted, I was going to have to make it happen. I realized that it was a choice that I, and only I, had control over.
I determined to make that fully creative life my reality, and I’ve been embarked on that journey ever since.
What did you have to give up breaking free to be you?
I had to give up a very old, ingrained idea that I had to be perfect in order to be okay. That “good enough” was never good enough. I still pursue excellence in everything I do, but I used to have a sense of desperation around being “The Best.” That’s a pretty heavy burden to carry around! What a relief to finally accept that I’ll never be “The Best” at anything except being myself! My teenage self would call me lazy, but now I feel like being myself is really the only thing worth trying to be the best at.
You say that you “strive for imperfectionism”. Why do you think that is important? Do you think you will ever complete the journey and become and imperfectionist extraordinaire?
I intentionally combine the words “striving” and “imperfection” because they seem so ridiculous together. I think it’s important, though, because perfectionism stops so many of us in our tracks. When our standards are “perfect or bust,” we end up giving up altogether.
My goal is not to just dream, but to actually create and produce (and I know I’m not alone!) In order to do that, I’ve had to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. I’ve made myself become much more interested in getting my creations out in the world than in tinkering until everything’s “perfect,” because nothing can ever be perfect!
Do you know the story of the ceramics class, where the instructor divided the class into two groups, one that would be graded solely on the quality of their pots, and the other solely on the quantity? It’s not surprising that that latter group had a lot more fun, cranking out pots, laughing and chatting, totally unconcerned about making any one pot perfect.
The really interesting thing, though, is that the highest quality pots also came out of the group that was only graded on quantity! Through the very process of making so many pots, they naturally learned what worked and what didn’t, and their pots improved. The “quality” group never had that opportunity to learn, because they were too busy laboring over the few pots they tried to make perfect.
To me, striving for imperfectionism means treating my own work like the “quantity” group in that ceramics class. Create, produce, and learn from the experience.
Becoming an imperfectionist has also helped me to accept myself as I am, rather than constantly be berating myself for not meeting up to impossible standards.
What is your #1 rule for living well when life sucks?
Do something you know gives you joy, even if you think you don’t feel like it. Also take naps. And go on walks by the Bay.
What’s the first sign you’ve overdone it?
Oooh.. anytime I feel resentment, it’s usually a clear sign that I’ve taken on too much. When I lose my normal zestful energy, that’s a good clue, too!
What is one thing you say “no” to, and why?
I used to sit on a lot of boards and committees for various nonprofit organizations I belong to. I’ve learned, however, that until my own needs are fully met — including my needs for Creative Sandbox time — giving my time away like that does not lead to happiness! So I’ve learned to say no to volunteer work, even when it makes me feel guilty!
How are you living a creative life? How are you following your evolving bliss right now?
I live a creative life by making time just about every single day to do the creative passions that give me joy. Whether it’s writing, or visual art, or making music, or creating a video, or creating a new course or offering for my business, I put feeding my creative spirit at the top of my priority list and (this is key) I make time for it. The specifics change as my blisses evolve — I might go for weeks without painting while I focus on writing, for example, and then vice versa — but I make sure to feed my soul in whatever way it is asking to be fed. That, to me, is the essence of living a creative life.
You can find Melissa on her website Living a Creative Life and check out her new program Time to Glow for women who are ready to stop putting off their passions and live the creative life of their dreams. That’s an affiliate link, by the way, my first ever, so you know I really believe in what she is doing!
And don’t forget to check out our Playing Around Istanbul workshop. The time to sign up is now!
In a recent session of Playing Around Online, the workshop I’m running with my partner Melissa Dinwiddie, we focused our attention on limits and barriers. What began as a discussion of overcoming limits led to a discussion of the limits we place on ourselves and the perceived barriers thrown up by criticism or simply lack of praise from others. The Playing Around Online group is made up mainly of artists, but I think something we all struggle with is: who should we listen to when we ask for constructive criticism? Who are we trying to please? Do we care what others think? Should we?
What I heard from workshop participants was disappointment at not receiving more enthusiastic responses to their work, frustration at not being understood, and discouragement because they felt their work was not valued. I was still thinking about these reactions as I read We Are All Weird by Seth Godin, and was struck by his definitions of “normal” and “weird”:
“NORMAL is what we call people in the middle. Normal describes and catalogs the defining characteristics of the masses. Normal is localized–being a vegetarian is weird in Kansas but normal in Mumbai. What’s normal here is not what’s normal there. Finding and amplifying normal is essential to anyone who traffics in mass. Over time, marketers have made normal a moral and cultural standard, not just a statistical one.”
“WEIRD are what we call people who aren’t normal. Your appearance or physical affect might be unusual by nature or by birth, but, like me, you’re probably mostly weird by choice. Different by nature isn’t your choice, and it’s not my focus here. Weird by choice, on the other hand, flies in the face of the culture of mass and the checklist of normal. I’m interested in this sort of weird, people who have chosen to avoid conforming to the masses, at least in some parts of their lives.
He goes on to say that our society is shifting from a focus on the normal to a focus on weird. The bell curve of normal and weird is flattening. There are fewer and fewer people in the middle and more and more people on the fringes. As I read, I felt such a profound sense of relief. If he’s right, and I believe he is, this means that at some point there will be more people outside the normal/average range than inside it.
THE OLD NORMAL THE NEW NORMAL = WEIRD!
It will be normal to not be normal.
That’s all well and good, but what does that mean for your art, your writing, your artisanal cheese made from hamster milk? Simply this: if you are not selling your work, getting the praise you hoped for, or the web traffic you desire, it may simply mean that you have not yet found your pocket of weird.
No one achieves universal acclaim, and if Godin is right, soon even those who receive the most acclaim from the biggest segment of the population will find that the majority of the population is ambivalent to them.
As an example, I will own up to my own dirty little secret: I have issues with Cezanne (there, my dirty little secret is out). Does that mean he is not a master? No. Does that mean I am wrong in my dislike of some of his work? No. I am not wrong, and he is not a bad painter. I am just not one of “his people”, we are not a match, Cezanne and I.
We have to become discerning about who’s opinion we listen to and the value we place on our work in terms of money, in terms of praise, and in terms of its validity. We must judge its success by its value to our weird little segment of the population, not the middle which is shrinking anyway.
Do your thing. Lots of people won’t like it. That is normal, you have now located that shrinking portion of the bell curve. But keep looking. Somewhere out there is your pocket of weird.
Be like a mother sea turtle: lay an egg.
Actually, lay many eggs.
Matthew Diffee, cartoonist for the New Yorker, gave a talk entitled “How to be an Idea Factory”. His method? Sit down at a table for an hour (or however long it takes to drink a pot of coffee) and free-associate with a pencil and a piece of paper. This exercise leaves him with a lot of, ahem, bad eggs. But it also usually leaves him with a couple good ideas.
Diffee’s advice for aspiring creative people, according to an article in Forbes, is this: “Be like a mother sea turtle.”
So what does a mother sea turtle do? She lays a lot of eggs on the beach then swims away, leaving them to fend for themselves. Some of them never hatch. Many of them hatch, only to be gobbled up immediately by predators. But that’s not the mother sea turtle’s concern. Her only job is to keep laying eggs.
Lately have seen the wisdom in this. I have been madly laying eggs for a couple months now. Lots of ideas and opportunities have presented themselves and then faded away. In some cases I have followed the idea through only to let it go then have it resurface a few months later and turn into something fantastic.
For example, in October I was invited to do a workshop for high school students, and immediately sent a proposal. I followed up, but a few months passed with no progress so I let it go. Suddenly, the school got back to me, and very quickly the workshop was planned, coordinated, and off I went to deliver it. Now, unlike the mother sea turtle I do check in on my “eggs” periodically if the opportunity presents itself. But I don’t fixate on one or smother it with attention. I have other eggs to lay!
Many of the egg/opportunities I have laid have led to another, which led to another. In fact, I believe reaching critical mass in the multitude of eggs laid and ideas sown allows ideas to multiply and lead us to new ideas, new connections, new opportunities.
Turkey is a good place to foster and grow the ability to not become too attached to any one idea. All you can do is throw it out there and see if there is a place for it. I am offered a myriad of opportunities. Many of the most enthusiastic ideas/partnerships/collaborators just fade away, and this seems to be normal here. When it comes to new projects, most go nowhere, some become something fantastic, and I have yet to learn to identify which is which in the beginning. So I pursue interesting projects, follow-up once or twice, and then have learned to let it go. Perhaps the project is not meant to be, perhaps the potential collaborator is off laying her own eggs and will get back to me eventually, perhaps we’ll hatch the idea later.
In any case, I still have a job to do. Every day I have to lay an egg.
Last month I was fortunate enough to be invited to do creative writing workshops for the American Farm School and the Anatolia High School, both in Thessaloniki, Greece. In the workshop we wrote, we played, we dreamed, and we struggled a bit with resistance, but I give the kids credit: although I sensed some initial reticence, they played along and I think ended up surprising themselves!
A few of their discoveries:
- It’s surprising that you can discover something you never knew about someone you sit beside every day.
- It is strange and sometimes uncomfortable to hear someone else telling your story.
- It’s hard to write and talk about yourself in depth (but they did it!)
We did LOTS of automatic writing and then used it as a jumping off point for writing even more. The kids came up with some amazing stuff. I promised them their work would not be shared outside that room, and I’ll keep that promise, but they really dug deep. Some examples of what they wrote:
- A great imaginative series of mini-story/poems;
- One student wrote two complete essays, beginning to end using only his prompt word and his imagination;
- Another took himself off to a corner of the library and wrote a “once upon a time” story about a boy and a girl;
- There were stories and musings about planes, families of cats, and the love of rain and rainy days;
- Poems and thoughts about a song that came to mind;
- From the prompt word “gray” came thoughts on being in the middle, black vs. white, and taking sides.
I had such a fantastic time and was inspired by their discoveries. There’s talk of having me back for a Part 2, so my fingers are crossed that that works out–I’d love to work with these groups again!
Interested in scheduling a Storytelling Creativity Workshop for your high school or group? Please contact me at Kelly@KellyHevel.com, I would love to work with you!
What is the purpose of the workshop?
This creativity workshop is designed to inspire, enlighten, and energize, and will focus on expression and playful ways to tap into creativity.
The Storytelling Creativity Workshop is the place to shed inhibitions, try out new techniques, and inject personality into writing. It is a place where students learn to use their unique life stories as inspiration. The workshop is perfect for students who are getting ready to apply to colleges and universities and need to learn to write more creatively using their own personal “voice”.
Who is the workshop for? Is it only for “real” writers with expert skills?
The message I want to get across is twofold:
- You don’t have to be an expert to participate in any creative practice and, contrary to the myth of the suffering artist, writing doesn’t have to be painful. Everyone has many stories to tell, so come play with us and share some of yours!
- Creativity is not just for “special” people with “special” (read: superhuman/genius) abilities. It’s for you. It is! You’re allowed!
This workshop is a playdate for the big kids. It’s a place to explore and learn tools and techniques for creative expression that can be used in many arenas.
Half-day and full-day workshops are available, and can be tailored to any special needs or goals students may have. Contact me to discuss your needs!