Barbara Hengstenberg is an educator, artist, writer and founder of WildesArt.com, an online community of creatives. Barbara lives in Pittsboro, sells her Zen folkart and offers tips on creativity through her website. You can reach her at Barbara@WildesArt.com
Writers, artists, teachers, kids, parents, cooks, musicians, EVERYBODY … this column is for you. We are all creative, whether you think you are or not!
The Mess of Life
The calendar marks the days’ comings and goings,
A half-read newspaper sprawled upon the table,
While the grocery list ticks off foods needed at market.
This is not a sterile, sanitized life.
In here, dust gathers, papers pile,
And the mess of life lives on.
Stacks teeter at the edge of my desk, on my drawing table, on the small wooden stool beside the couch. Piles of unread magazines, journals, yet-to-be-read books, newspapers and of course, a pen or two — since inspiration can hit at any moment.
My studio appears neat at first glance. I have a way of tidying the piles so that their cairn-like balance creates an element of Zen. But every now and then, especially when I’m overwhelmed with projects, I decide the stacks represent poor organization. So, I sit on the floor and take each collection apart piece by piece, trying to stay present with each item.
Inspiration in Life’s Mess
First, I take a few photos of the stack in its element. Maybe it will find its way into a painting or drawing one day. At least I’ll have a “before” photo.
I tackle one pile at a time — saves my sanity. My journal is nearby while I ponder, piece by piece: Why is this there in the first place?
Magazines/Newspapers/Newsletters: Is there a photo, story or poem dogeared inside? Tear it out. I have a box filled with bits and pieces of sheet music, art and photos that may end up in a collage one day. I also keep an inspirational writing file and store away stories and poems that speak to me.
Books: Decide where to keep them, and then put them there. I’ll first spend time thumbing through them, however … who knows where my eyes may land. And I tell myself that a stack of books by a chair looks cozy, colorful and intriguing.
Photos: What memory does the photo evoke? Emotion? Sense of place? I tape the photo into my journal, in the hopes of writing about it. Better to be stored in there, where inspirations grow, than in some arbitrary pile that only adds to anxiety.
Random Papers: Why did I save them? I’ll quickly jot down a memory. It may make for an interesting story line one day. If it’s what I call “random blandness” — of no value at all — it goes in the recycle bin.
Letters, Notes: These are usually chock full of inspiration. So many memories, ideas and stories. It’s often a joy to reread them, and then place them in my journal. Maybe bits of correspondence will show up collaged in a painting. Correspondence = always keepers!
As I pore over my ephemera, I relish each bit, respect and treasure it as evidence of a life lived, a sense of self. What can I create from this?
What’s in your Mess of Life? Share your ideas, questions, or comments by contacting me at Barbara@WildesArt.com. Is there a creative event happening? Let me know — I’d love to hear from you!
Not-to-Miss Creative Event: Time to kick back and plan to take an art class or two. Check out our local arts councils: Chatham Arts Council (www.chathamartscouncil.org), Durham Arts Council (www.durhamarts.org) and Orange County Arts Commission (www.artsorange.org) for creative classes and artist contacts. Resolve to be creative and have fun!