I succeed because I do what I do and I don't do what I don't do.
I have no need to do what anyone else does. I only do what I do.
It’s all an experiment. If I create something
I like - great.
Adventures of a Prolific Creator
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ART
Art and I began our love affair when I was twenty-one. Up until then, I didn’t really know Art. We hadn’t seen each other since coloring books in grade school.
I met Art again on the beaches of Cape Cod where I lived the summer after graduating from college. Over razorback sea shells, pieces of driftwood, dried seaweed, and some cork board and glue, Art and I got reacquainted. I quickly discovered that I had no one in my life to tell me what to do with Art, and I found I needed to make all my own decisions regarding our relationship.
This was both liberating and scary. What if I made a mistake? What if Art didn’t look good? What if no one liked my Art? I had no one to turn to for my answers; I needed to find out about Art all by myself.
In the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, I flirted with Art a lot. We didn’t really have a commitment to each other back then. I’d dabble with colored markers, make a mobile or two, design some projects for kids; Art was a fun past-time, but I didn’t take Art too seriously.
Then one day, after two months of lying in bed, which felt more like “dying” in bed—the result of an undiagnosed food allergy—I renewed my relationship with Art. Coil basketry grabbed my attention first. As I lay in bed, I began the tedious process of this form of weaving. I remember asking myself the question, “What if I keep building the bottom of the basket outward without building up the sides?” The answer to that question resulted in the creation of a beautiful mandala, or shield, as others saw it.
Now Art became exciting to me. Throwing myself into a state of weaving frenzy, I played with Art in bed for months, birthing one creation after another. We never got bored with each other as one mandala after the next popped out.
To keep that level of excitement buzzing between Art and I, I ask myself questions which begin with, “What if?” There was no right or wrong to our relationship, there was only, “what if?” a chance to try something new. Art and I were in a constant state of experimentation. This kept our relationship vibrant and alive, in everchanging in a world where the excitement of relationships often wears thin over time.
Like any good relationship, ours was subject to change over the years. After ten years of weaving mandalas, one day I took a small, white, square, bathroom tile and tried painting on it with acrylic paints. I liked the idea of painting on the tile, but I didn’t like the feel of the paintbrush. Another “what if?” arose. “What if I paint on the tile using a feather as my paintbrush?” I lived near a beach and molted gull feathers were plentiful. So I tried out the idea and quickly realized I was on to something.
My relationship with Art transformed, and once again, I threw myself into this new burst of passion. While the mandalas took more than twenty hours of painstaking work to create, the tile pieces took only three hours to create. Eventually, I tried painting on large squares of vinyl floor tile instead of the small bathroom squares and the results were very pleasing.
I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on Art, so we went on many cheap dates—fortunately the vinyl squares were much less expensive than canvas to paint on. The people in the floor covering shop must have thought it was strange that I was always buying odd amounts of tile. “What’s she gonna do with five squares?” But I didn’t care, my relationship with Art was all that mattered to me.
A few years ago, my relationship with Art changed onced again. An architect named, David Ludwig, asked me if I‘d like to help paint a giant set for a community ballet production. David had been volunteering his time to design and paint sets for this community ballet theater for years, and he was looking for more volunteers. The unique thing was that the sets were painted entirely on giant silk panels, the dimensions of which stretched over twenty feet long and forty feet wide.
Painting under David’s guidance, I felt like a student in the Renaissance, an apprentice working under the careful tutelage of a master. David was a master of precision, each stroke carefully planned, designed, laid out, with meticulous attention to detail.
After working on the giant set, I began creating my own silk pieces. In contrast to David’s well-executed style, I painted silk with a wild abandon. I never pre-planned what I was going to create. Instead I allowed my hands and arms to move however they wanted to across the outstretched silk. Sometimes I’d say to myself, "No thought. No thought." I used whatever colors I felt drawn to in the moment and let my arms do whatever type of movement they wanted to express with the dyes and paintbrush in hand.
David had a giant smorgasbord, seventy-two colors of dye, to choose from. When I looked at all of my choices, I always went for the one that felt the “yummiest.” There was always one color that stood out over all of the others. Perhaps I didn't choose that color. Maybe the color chose me. Either way, whichever ones called to me were the ones I brought into the piece.
FREEING THE CREATOR WITHIN
When I start a new piece of art, I never know what it will look like when it is finished. I just begin at the beginning. I allow the art to tell me where it wants to go. When I am ready to try something new or different, my hands just start doing it. I feel like a co-creator with the art. I am not solely in control here. It always has its way with me.When I create something, I ask myself, "Do I like it?" After all, it's not what others think, it's what I think that matters. And sometimes that doesn't really matter either. Sometimes I make something that I wouldn't want to bring in for Show & Tell, but then I learn that other people like it and even want to pay me for it.
I've given up comparing myself to others. Others are greater than, better than, quicker than, wittier than. It doesn't matter. As long as I compare myself to any other living being, I always come up short. I can't do what others do. I can't be you. I tried being you one time. No matter how hard I tried to match your Bullwinkle impersonation, I couldn't do it like you do. I just couldn't. I can only be me.
The great news is that I don't have to be you! You're already doing a great job at being you. Aren’t you? I only have to do what I do. What a relief.
I am someone who loves to create. When I'm in the process of making something, I'm often asked, "Who is it for?" or "What will you do with it when it's done?" I don't know. I never know. I never have a goal in mind when I'm in the process of creating with Art nor do I care whether I ever sell anything I've ever created.
I do what I do because I love to. I love to. I love to. There is no
other reason I do art or create anything in my life. I just do what
I do because I love to do it. I've found that this is the best reason
to do anything.
“Mommy, mommy, can I play the drums?”
I was in the first-grade. I don’t know how a clarinet ever wound up in my hands, but that’s what happened. It is a story to shed a tear over, no sniffling allowed, just a single tear—twelve years of squeaking out, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and “Hey There Georgie Girl,” on a poorly played licorice stick, while eyeing the kids who got to crash cymbals and play snare rolls in the drum section of the school band.
The drum players were the cool ones, admired by all. I must have had a recessive “cool” gene, because by the time I was in high school, I felt doomed to live out my life in a state of introverted self-consciousness, writing poetry about angst, death and peace—in that order.
Shyness plagued me for years. Then a miracle occurred; not the “God, comes-down-from-the-heavens” variety, but a miracle in the mind of a self-conscious seventeen-year-old, nonetheless. I went to a party—actually the only party I ever attended during high school. And there, in the middle of a room filled with acne-faced kids, I saw it—the instrument which would ultimately change my life; the instrument around which people gathered to sing “Kumbaya” as they toasted their marshmallows over a roaring campfire. Yes! The guitar.
It was being played poorly by another rather gawky clarinet player, but that didn’t matter. He was surrounded by an attentive audience, and to me, that made him a role model. If a fellow clarinet player could look that cool just by plunking out the bass line from a popular song on one string, then I could too! I could grow cool genes.
During my senior year, my dad bought me a twenty-dollar guitar from the Two Guys department store and I played it in my room every day with vigor and enthusiasm. The only problem was I was left-handed and the guitar was strung righthanded. Actually, that wasn’t the only problem—it also wasn’t in tune. But that didn’t matter either. I loved the guitar so much that I played it “upside down” and out of tune, making things up based on whatever the strings sounded like each day.
From the moment I picked up that guitar, I knew that I was a great guitarist. It wasn’t an ego thing, it was more like Michaelangelo’s philosophy—when you have a piece of stone and chip away at all that is not the angel, the angel will appear. The sense of joy that I felt as I played, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog...” told me I was the greatest guitarist in the world. In my mind, this didn’t stop anyone else from being the greatest guitarist in the world either. It wasn’t an exclusive opportunity.
There would come a time when long after having learned “Classical Gas,” and “Blackbird,”—the two pieces played by every guitarist worth their salt—I would eventually support myself with my guitar, teaching classes at a local recreation center for children and adults in the ‘70’s, performing instrumental backround music for art shows, restaurants, and dance classes in the ‘80’s, and playing for meditations and ritual circles in the ‘90’s.
Along the way, I also discovered the dulcimer, a traditional Appalachian folk instrument, and figured out how to play it. In the process of teaching myself the dulcimer, I discovered that I had a natural affinity for teaching myself instruments of almost any kind. After the dulcimer, piano quickly followed, then harp, assorted instruments from around the world, and finally, my beloved drums.
One day, God must have looked down from the heavens and said, “It’s been a while since Randy experienced that miracle with the guitar. I think I’ll give her another one,” because out of the blue, I was offered an elaborate drum set from the widow of a jazz drummer, an elderly man I had known. I had helped this man form a band with three other retired musicians. They played together at a local senior center every week for three years. Then he died. A year later, knowing of my musical interest, his wife offered me the set. I knew I’d helped to bring joy into this man’s life for his last three years, and now it was being returned to me in kind. I felt very blessed.
I play the drums—all seventeen of them—almost every day. For some reason, my neighbors still talk to me. The drums occupy the majority of my home. But that’s okay. Drums are a lifelong passion fulfilled.
One of my joys is adding on to my drumset (as if seventeen drums, five cymbals, three cowbells, and a woodblock are not enough.) So this past year, I built a frame in front of the drum set, and hung an assortment of unusual objects which produce stunning gong and chime sounds, including a sharp-edged, circular saw blade (if you try this, be careful to hit the middle of the blade, not the edges), a pot lid, various sets of Tibetan bells, all tones of singular bells, and about fifty car keys. (Keys hung from dental floss or fishing line sound heavenly. If you feel inspired, go to a hardware store and ask them for their junk keys.)
In another miraculous occurrence, two of my friends and I surprisingly created a successful music tape together. Amidst the seventy-five people who attended my first art show in 1990, these two particular friends met and seemed to make some sort of positive connection. A week later one of them called, saying he had free access to a music studio for a weekend. He invited me to join him and bring my other friend along.
After tuning up and doing a sound check in the studio, we pushed the record button and just started playing. The result of that weekend of improvising became HeavenScent, an hour long instrumental relaxation tape. We received excellent reviews, and numerous bodyworkers said it was their favorite tape to play while massaging people. The three of us had never played together before. We never went back and overdubbed anything. It was perfect just the way it was. We agree it was the most profound spiritual, musical experience each of us had ever had. Where else could this music have come from except from heaven?—hence, the name.
Our tape has been popular in massage therapy salons, and in other settings where people like to relax.
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