Another piece of concept art for my book.  I may end up with one piece for every chapter at this rate.  Today is a day with lots to get done. I have some serious writing to do, as I am behind in my word count.


We have had stuff around the house and kids activities. All and all a lot to get done.  I have not had as much time as I’d wish to go visit and see the other artists who are participating in AEDM. There is such a wide variety of styles and techniques.

This morning I am thinking about what exactly developing a creative rhythm means to me and what it looks like.

I have come to accept that creativity has a rhythm,  what I tend to think of as an ebb and flow much like the tides.   High and low tides are not thought of as good and bad, but rather as parts of a whole.  Sometimes there is a a lot of water, and sometimes a lot of sand. I swim in the water and I walk on the sand.  I have found that by recognizing and embracing this natural rhythm in my creativity I am better able to move through the periods of low creativity by setting up exercises and activities that encourage the smooth cycle from one to the other.

When the tide is in, I create.  When I am feeling creative all kinds of ideas come into my head. They range from ideas for epic novels, to copy for the website.  The painting that has been stuck, I suddenly know what to do with it.  I have the most brilliant ideas for rearranging the studio to facilitate better creation, or how to rearrange my work space.

All of these are good, but learning to prioritize what I am going to do in this super creative moment is key. Some of these activities will feed the creativity, and others will bog it down. So I assess where I am, and what are my time constraints are.  If I am in the studio, I make a note of the novel idea, the website copy and the studio redesign. I am in the wrong place for the novel, and the others are things that the process with bog me down and waste creative high point. It is the idea of them that is important.

During times of low creativity, I take care of the things that need doing. This is the time to implement that brilliant studio redesign, and while I am doing that work, it is also time for taking in or filling the well.  The taking in of art as part of the process is something that I have come to enjoy. It is important to replenish what you are doing with not only visual input, but also theory on the process. One way of doing this is by listening to different people speaking on artistic and creative theory such as the podcast, The Accidental Creative.

It was actually by listening to the podcast, that I realized how much of my time was spent out of rhythm with my creative process.  The podcast is designed for creative professionals, helping them develop the tools to be healthy and productive in a create on demand industry.  One of the biggest problems I had was time. I might not be facing the problem of having to be “on” every day, but my limited time caused all my creating to be essentially create on demand.  My goal, to be making my living through the creative process, rather than expending all my creative energy making a living was my demand.  Back in 2007, I started listening, and was exposed to the ideas of Seth Godin and David Allen, and the idea of creating unnecessarily.  I start to learning how to live with a creative ethic, learning to practice and to take the time to create for the shear joy of creating.  I listed to podcasts such as

AC#90  in which Todd Henry talked about the importance of prioritizing time for creating. I realized that I had stopped growing creatively, I had stagnated. I decided to make it a priority.

Speaking of making it a priority, I have some words waiting to get out of my head and it is time to be writing.


Impulse and rhythm.


Riding the train

When it comes to creating, one of the things that is both the hard part and the easy part is starting. The hard part is getting myself to the location where I am to paint, write, sketch, sew or otherwise work on what I am doing.  Once I have put my fingers to the task at hand and begun to generate whatever it is that I am working on, it just starts to happen. The words flow without stop onto the page or an image begins to take shape and time flies by without me noticing. That feeling of effortlessness sheer enjoyment is why I create. I often wonder if the runners who talk about that runners high are feeling the something similar, but I have never been inspired to run enough to find out.  There is a rhythm to creating that a regular routine makes it easy to get into that effortless place.  I suspect it is very much the same for runners.    The other side of creating for me is impulse. Sometimes impulse is inspiration, sometimes it just that, an impulse.  I know many creatives who get blocked waiting for INSPIRATION, as if it was something magical without which they cannot move.  The picture for this post is one I took on impulse. There was something about the mix of luxury, practical and worn in this train car that inspired me.   The photo itself failed to capture what I saw, so it sat in the file folder for several years.   I came across it again while doing what I think of as a creative workout, the sitting down and working with out waiting for that flash of inspiration.  As I worked on the image, the inspiration came for a story that would allow me to bring out the details that drew me to the image.

Basics- Rhythm and balance

DSC01563 DSC01565
DSC01567 DSC01564

These are four very similar photographs, with very slight differences between them.

Rhythm plays a key role in these photographs. The black lines of the window grid set a strong rhythm.  The way the green  leaves and dark butterfly disrupt, but follow this rhythm make them the focus.  Balance is another key player here. The balance between the light and the dark,  and the positive and the negative.

For me, I feel the lower left hand image does the best job with the balance and the rhythm. I felt the lighter color butterfly in the other images some how threw the combination out of balance.

In the lower left hand, the unbroken field of while along the bottom of the image, balances with the bright white area that balances the green leaves.

Others may disagree. My daughter for one feels the upper left image is the best. When asked why, she says because it is. Part of what makes all of art interesting is that it is up to the artist to choose which principals of design to follow.

Checking in CEDC Challenge


Currently underway are a lot of Mixed Media pieces.  Many are using materials that I had in and around my studio collaged into them.   There is a snow storm blowing in over the weekend, so I might have to add the pictures later.

I am enjoying the process of covering each layer and then letting the adhesive dry to see exactly what you have, and where to go from there.  I am finding that with each layer and sanding, I am building something that seems to be much more than the sum of the parts. Each piece seems to have a personality of its own that is developing. 

There is something very free about mixed media, it seems such an exploration, yet in all it comes back to the basic principals and elements of design.  If the design is not sound, the artwork will reflect that.   What many people call “talent” is just a matter of understanding these principals.  Just like with everything else their are those that pick it up without much effort, but that does not mean that it is out of the reach of anyone else. 

Every class I have taken has had a slightly different set  or way of describing  the principals of  design.  

A partial list follows:

Balance, Rhythm, Proportion, Strength, and Unity. proximity, alignment, repetition or consistency, contrast, visual hierarchy, symmetry / asymmetry, Dynamics, Emphasis.

I find collage to be a fun way to play while learning these principals.  Clearly if you look at the scrapbook aisles of any craft store, you will find that it clearly appeals to a large number of people. 

One of the things I am working on is a series of articles/class notes on how to discover and understand these principals without it being painful and boring.  The other series I am working on is one on social media basics, and the web for artists.  Critique, feedback and discussion are welcome.  My goal is to grow unique as an artist, and help others along that same path.

A somewhat less than creative day, or was it?

I have talked about rhythm and creative ebb and flow being similar to the tide.  It was one of those extremely low tides yesterday.  I did create, lots of signs, fliers and forms for the auction this weekend, but when it came to creating for creating sake, nothing seemed to be what I was attempting to do.  I loved the fractal I created with the star burst.  I was trying to create another, but I could not seem to achieve one I like as much.

I tend to put a lot of creative effort into everything. So something as simple a form for a silent auction will  throw me as I want it to look good.  I found myself being critical of everything I made. I finally realized that I was possible being overly critical of what I was creating, because I had switched into editor mode on all the forms and sign and fliers.

Going back and looking at our work with an eye for how to improve it is important. There is however a fine line between that and just being critical.

I have been to any number of art shows where I wished someone had been more critical of their own work. I remember one in particular that had shadows pointing in two different directions on cactus in a desert and a green thumb print in the sky.  I looked at it, wondering if the thumbprint was intentional or not.  The painting was titled.  “Sky with Thumbprint”  I gave up and asked the artist, who cheerfully replied. “I messed it up and decided to fix it with a  title.”

I find myself looking for thumbprints on my work.  I am a firm believer in accidents of art,  Things that came out differently than anticipated, that were then recognized as good.  I have spent a great deal of time figuring out what went wrong right, so that I can do it again.  But, if it is an accident that I would not want to ever recreate, well then, that is not something I want to call art.  I choose to walk away yesterday, just leave it all and come back later to see if there really were thumbprints in all my work, or just a reflection in the glass.

Zen Tangle and Another Fractal

Rennata M. Tropeano, Zen Tangle, ink on paper, 8x8 inches ©2009 Rennata M. Tropeano, Purple and Sage Promanade, digital image ©2009

Having seen the Zentangles on an number of sites, I had to try one myself.  I also played some more with the fractal filter.  Both images appeal to me in that they have a strong sense of rhythm.

Todd Henry in his podcast and website Accidental Creative talks a lot about rhythm, and it has made me  more aware of it.  If you have not hear of this podcast or blog, please go check him out.   Rhythm is one of those things that is often lost in our modern society.  We have become obsessed with Now! and New and Improved.   I always want my art to be constantly improving and getting better.  When I hit an ebb part of the tide, I think of it as bad. The creativity is going away, what I am doing is not working.  What I made is trash. 

These negative thoughts are destructive and wrong.  Like the tide, creativity has a rhythm, it cycles through low and high periods.  These periods of low creativity are the times for processing  and for refilling your personal well.  I also like to think of them as times for sand castle building.  Sand Castles are a great low tide activity,  all that bare sand, a blank canvas, but a low pressure blank canvas as you know the tide is going to return.  Sand Castles can be works of art, but they are a joy to create, simple to make. It is the process that is fun.

I found this Zentangle to be an excellent sand castle type activity.  It was fun, it simple to make, but can become complex.   Like many before me,  I found it to have a meditative quality to it.  I found myself thinking of  the things I am Thankful for, A very seasonal thing, and  I found some answers to some artist problems.   I had been working on a series of tiles, I had decided to make some seasonal tiles.  Flowers for spring and summer.  Leaves for fall, but when it came to the winter tiles, my Christmas tiles fell very flat, too found at Walmart and kitschy.  It was the same for snowflakes, the more religious tiles and the others.  They lacked rhythm.  The flowers and leaves worked because they had rhythm.   I feel like the tide is coming back in on my tile creativity.