Creativity + Your Everyday

"I'm NOT creative at all! I CAN'T draw/paint/sculpt/write/sing/dance! Only people who go to ART SCHOOL are creative!"

It's such a bummer when I hear people say this because it slams the door on any person just having a bit of fun with their absolute-you're-born-with-it creativity. 

Am I wrong? When you do something inventive or creative (knit, cook, sing, dance, tell a good story, collect beach glass, leap to catch a baseball) we LIKE it, we feel good. We own our actions.  

Somewhere along the line, this all became specialized and only people who get degrees in it get to experience it. The rest of us are left with feeling like outsiders, not smart enough and definitely not artistic.

That's where I come in. I'm kind of an art crusader. I believe that everyone is creative and that art is all around us. And I want to teach you everything you need to know to walk, talk and act the art part. I want you to feel comfortable with your artsy side. 

I have created 12 books; all magazine size and about 20-25 pages each. They are offered monthly and they are meant to teach you the wonderfully useful skill of creative thinking. They are geared towards a younger audience but, like Bugs Bunny, they are totally translatable to adult world speak. 

Every single thing I talk about will be demonstrated with things you encounter every day. All of the art concepts are taught using every day, run-of-the-mill objects. Take this first book, for example, it's all about seeing your world a little bit more creatively. And I use stuff I find on the sidewalk for examples. 

"Artistic" is just a fancy word for "Perceptive". And perceptive is, very simply, about looking at things just a little bit closer, just a little bit differently.  

My goal, is that you will finish the year feeling your creative identity bursting forth. You will no longer say "I'm not artistic" but instead will feel as comfortable talking about a kid's drawing as a painting in a museum. You won't feel like an outsider any more. And you will again experience the joys of being creative. 

If you would like to order Book One: The Pareidolia Project, please contact me here. And please let me know if you would like to subscribe to the whole year. 

Thank you for giving yourself permission to be creative again. 

See you soon!

A Urinal and Some Trash; Let's Call It What It Is

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp found a porcelain urinal and put it on a stand. He titled it Fountain and signed it R.Mutt. He then submitted it to The Society of Independent Artists', paid the show fee and waited. It was rejected by the committee even though all works were to be included in the show as long as the entrant paid the fee. 

This, of course, stimulated controversy and the Dadaists got involved by publishing its photo along with an editorial in their publication The Blind Man. It proclaimed:

"Whether Mr Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object."[source]

In 2014, I began The Pareidolia Project. My thought was to create a refresher course for anyone who was interested in seeing their daily lives with new interest. I take photos of things that most people scoff at: garbage, sidewalk cracks, oil splotches. My cardinal rule is to never touch or in any way alter what I see. With this project, I am not interested in crafting something with my hands, I am interested in singling something out and presenting it for interpretation. 

I always see something in the things I shoot (I practice pareidolia, after all) and I ask others to tell me what they may see the same or differently. The point is to exercise our right to see beyond what we know, to think creatively past what we assume to be true. And happily, the great bi-product of this way of looking is the addition of some very welcomed humor in our sometimes humdrum lives. 

Sure the Fountain is a urinal but it certainly can be a fountain, too. Isn't the definition of a fountain some sort of receptacle that shoots water into the air and catches it back? Isn't liquid always cascading into such a receptacle?

Sure Spirit Bird is the smushed leftovers of somebody's lunch. But can't you also see the shape of a proud white bird, its talons holding a fish below it and arching around its head the faint outline of a halo? 

Take a look at some of your recent photos and try and see them through Duchamp's eyes. Are there any that change meaning or tell a surprisingly different story?

The Great Balancing Act

Thoughts on Chaos and Calm


Do you ever wonder when Americans slow down?

What habit have we, as a culture, perfected to offer enough literal and mental space to slow down and calmly, but thoughtfully, reflect on the subtle beauty of our world?

I am asking this question because I recently attended a Japanese tea ceremony demonstration and it left me feeling uplifted and gentler. I felt calm.

Expecting simply to sit on the floor and sip a cup of tea, I was astonished to be told that the tea ceremony itself is akin to performance art; that there is a theme to each event, that guests are honored and purified upon entering and that the (up to) 4 hours spent inside is time for host and guests to muse/discuss/contemplate beauty and tradition (more). Business discussions and world news are forbidden. The tea room is for contemplation about works of art, things of beauty, tradition, stories, myths, symbols. The guests are guided into the tea room where a particular scroll is hanging. The scroll sets the theme or tone of what’s discussed. There is a loosely placed flower/s in a vase. The flower chosen not for its hardiness but for the opposite; the guest admires this bloom knowing that that will soon fade and die. A suggestion and reminder of the temporal nature of life. The tea bowl is observed and carefully handled, its history felt in the hands, its beauty in form, function, and imperfection (more on that in another post).

There are so many levels of looking, reflecting, admiring, discussing that the ceremony becomes a hive of noticing things with a reverence not typically accomplished. The gathering pauses our chaotic drive towards goals and lets us revel in the fruits of our (and our fellow human’s) labors. We connect to those who have gone before us and who have added to our experience of our worlds.

Thank you Urasenke Chanoyu Center, NYC

Hide and Seek

Here is a short audio clip from Alan Watt's You're It

If the clip doesn't work, here are the words: 

..."In the same way that perhaps you could say that the protective coloring of a butterfly who has somehow contrived to make it’s wings look like enormous eyes so that when a bird who is about to devour this beast is confronted by these staring eyes, the bird is a little hesitating, like when you stare at somebody they are always taken a little bit aback, and so the butterfly appears to stare at the bird. And perhaps you see this phenomenon of the marvelous staring wings of the butterfly is in some way a result of anxiety. Then anxiety to survive all the problems and struggles of natural selection. Nevertheless in this intense struggle we are unknowing poets." 

Quiet your mind.

It could be 300 BC or 2015 AD.

Our instincts don't change much. 

Alan Watts, 1915-1973, a British-born philosopher, writer and speaker, best know as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

Pass Go. Collect Growth.

The Learning Process Follows the Creative One.
— Theo Moorman

There it is: Pass Go. Collect $200. Just Do It. Give yourself permission to be creative.

Your job is to follow your creative impulses because it's truly how we learn. It’s the no pain no gain formula turned on it’s head. Go ahead and play, explore, and imagine because learning and growth follow. 

We learn after we do something.

“But I can’t do it until I know how .” How can I start if I don’t know what I’m doing?

Common questions. If we don’t know how to do something, and we can only learn better how to do it AFTER we’ve done it, then what exactly are we doing when we begin?

We are taking a leap of faith.

Step over the fear. Act instinctively. Apply that paint. Knit in a new color. Skateboard off the stair railing. Try that new recipe. When you feel an urge, consider the most immediate bits of info required, and then do it. Your act of faith will give birth to something that did not previously exist. And you get to look-see-feel-hear-taste it. You will naturally learn from it. You will grow.

Theo Moorman, an outstanding textile artist, 1907-1990


Transcending the Mere Puddle

One of the great bi-products of being a pareidolia project hunter is finding rare and fleeting moments of magic in the most common of things. 

Click the video and you will see 12 seconds of incredible beauty. It's a puddle on a side street during an early morning rain. 

There's no editing, no filters, no placement. It is simply a few seconds of a puddle that transcends it's lowly status of filthy water. Tree refections create a landscape worthy of Corot; the moving water feels like a slightly sped-up tide; the sprinkling of real rain on the surface takes on the signature crackle of old film.

For just 12 seconds, get real quiet and peer into this other world. It's incredible. 

Want Magic? Get Personal.

One of my core beliefs is that a work of art should be as interesting up close as it is from far away. If I had my druthers, we would all be able to stick our noses right up to a van Gogh and muck around in the dabs and color splotches that make up his work.

But we’re taught to view art just outside of our own personal space; or, at an arm’s length away. Personal Space is defined as “the distance that we stand from others at cocktail parties, office parties, social functions and friendly gatherings”. We’ve been trained to view art as if we are attending a cocktail party and we are strictly reminded to heed the warnings: Don’t get too close! Danger! Don’t breathe on it! Stop! You're not allowed to see how the paint was applied! STAY BACK!

Ok, museums have their reasons. They are sitting on priceless works. There’s no upside for them to let us get close to their treasures.

Take a leap of faith now. Release the rules of what art is -- and where and how you see it. Have your own fun looking for your own treasures. It may sound odd but if you let yourself look at things within your personal space, you have a much greater chance of finding moments that will leave you breathless. Leave the cocktail party and get more intimate with your world. There's magic to be found.

Daily Magic Happening on: 

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Weaving and Water

Ever wonder why you do things? Like, why you are naturally attracted to a certain type of movie or you pick one coffee shop over the other? And do you wonder whether people actually change over the years or if they are who they are at birth and onward. 

Like, you're a kid who obsessively puts together model airplanes from age 8-11 and then you get on with life and eventually become an accountant and join a fantasy football league. One day, it occurs to you: assembling model airplanes, cataloging numbers so they work, figuring out stats so your team wins. Your 50 years really don't make you that much different than you were as a kid. 

As a painter, I've painted seascapes for years. I thought it was because I loved Wellfleet, Cape Cod. I thought I was trying to reproduce the place in paint because I couldn't live there in person.

But years later, (now) I'm sitting at a loom, and as I sit there, pulling weft thread after weft thread through the shed, one after the other, inch by inch, I look at what I'm creating and you know, the result is not unlike my early seascapes. 

It got me thinking, is my love for seascapes really about a physical place on earth? Or, is it about creating a work with tonal movement, transformation, and shifts of visual bands of color? 


Spilled Milk and a Mental Model

It's spilled milk but it's also a lobster claw. 

It's spilled milk but it's also a lobster claw. 

I love pareidolia. I love the word. I love how people’s eyebrows furrow when I say “The Pareidolia Project” and I love when, after I explain what pareidolia is, people smile and say: "I understand! That’s cool. I’m not crazy. I do that!

Pareidolia is finding recognizable images in random shapes and patterns (think cloud watching or the man on the moon) and it comes naturally to some. For others, who say they don’t think that way, it can be learned.

Creativity is certainly most associated with artists but don’t let that stop you from learning and utilizing its magic qualities. The more creatively you view your world, the more “mind-flexible” you become. The more you explore past what you know, the more expansive life becomes.

I recently read an article by James Clear about Mental Models. (James writes about habits, health and creativity. Check him out here.) The article was about the physicist Richard Reynman and how he was known for his ability to solve problems that no one else could. One of the reasons was because Richard had developed a mental model (a way of looking at the world) that was a unique. Therefore, when his contemporaries were stuck on a formula (because they were all trying to solve it with the same mental models - the same way of looking at the problem), Richard consistently peered through a different lens and was able to identify and solve the mysteries.

"If you read all the same books that your peers read then you’ll all have the same thoughts." James Clear


So, you know what? The next time your kid (or you) spills some milk, take a look at it before you sweep in and sop it up. In fact, ask your child what s/he sees. React not to what you already "know" but think about what could possibly "be". Your child will be enchanted watching you having fun. What a different mental model than the crisis-mode, time out and exasperated sigh.

The Pareidolia Project guides you through re-thinking what you see. It helps you shake up your assumptions and dust off your curiosity. Practice seeing things through a different lens; it’s a great way to build a mental model or two.