Category Archives: Creativity

Moving in Essence


Mention to someone, “It feels like Monday” and he will likely nod knowingly. Whatever it is about Mondays, they seem to be notorious for problems and things not going quite right. On the other hand, we can have days that are productive and everything seems to fall into place.  What makes the difference between a “good” day and a “bad” day?

A few years ago, Russ and I took a self-awareness class. One of the concepts they taught us was Moving in Essence.  The idea is that if you move at your personal optimum momentum you will not bump into people, drop things, or make mistakes.  Basically, you can do away with “Mondays.” You will be aware of everything around you and can maneuver yourself to avoid collisions.

The exercise we did to discover our “Essence” was to walk in random directions around the room. The goal was to walk as quickly as we could, but not bump into or touch another person. We were all going different directions, with no set pattern or rhythm. As we moved around the room, we were eventually able to move within the group without knocking into each other, completely aware of each person as we passed by them. The tempo was different for each individual.  Being aware of our own Essence allowed us to move through the crowd without mishap. It was interesting how many were surprised that their Essence speed was slower than they expected.

I have learned a few things about Moving in Essence since my self-discovery:

  • One thing I have learned is that our Essence changes its tempo. Some days, you just have to move a little more deliberately. The key is to be aware of self and aware of your surroundings.
  • When doing something you are not familiar with, your Essence will slow down to accommodate the learning mode. Allowing yourself the time to be in essence while learning a new skill will actually help you to learn more quickly, even though it feels as though you are moving slowly.

Moving in Essence is crucial for an artist. To be fully aware of one’s self is to be fully aware of what is around you. Gina Soleil, in an article published on, calls this being grounded. Soleil states

“Being grounded means your feet are firmly planted in the here and now. You’re rooted firmly on Earth, present and mindful of your surroundings. When you’re grounded, you can actively engage in a conversation rather than looking right through the person in front of you. When you’re grounded you feel confident, strong and acutely aware of what’s going on around you — characteristics of someone who’s outrageously productive and calm.”  Gina Soleil

As an artist in touch with your Essence, your ability to capture the intrinsic nature of your subject will come more naturally. The clarity and honesty you see around you will be communicated to your audience through your art.

Tomorrow, when you step into your studio, take a moment to become aware of yourself, and your interactions with your surroundings, Feel the brush in your hand, or smell the clay on your wheel. Notice the light on your canvas, the movement of air against your face, or the sound of your pencils as they move over the paper.  Move in Essence and make tomorrow “a good day.”

Image: The Harvest is Ready and the Laborers Few by Russell Ricks, Oil on panel, 20 x 16


Do You Have a Creative Soul?

008My mother always said she was not creative, yet she would fill our dining room table with visual aids she had assembled for teaching her little nursery children. She could organize a drawer or a cupboard using different configurations of dividers cut from cereal boxes or milk cartons. She made everything fit perfectly. Items you and I would toss she would repurpose and bring back to life. She couldn’t draw a stick figure or a five-petal flower, but she instinctively knew how to cheer a friend or make a child feel welcome in her class.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, creativity is defined as the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. People, in general, equate creativity with the Arts, but there is so much more to it. If an individual doesn’t draw or sculpt or write poetry, they label themselves as not creative. I am here to challenge that idea. I believe that every child born has a creative soul. It is evident in how a child learns to play, to walk, and even to talk. There are as many different ways to crawl as there are babies in the world. As Brenda Ueland   says, “Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.”

Since we all are born with a creative soul, here are some ideas on how to awaken your creativity:

  • Broaden your experiences. Go someplace you haven’t been before, eat something you have never eaten, start a conversation with a stranger. You don’t have to travel worldwide to broaden your experiences. Don’t be satisfied with an internet experience, either. Get out there and rub shoulders with Life.
  • Accept your mistakes. Use mistakes as a learning tool, or even a way to discover new ideas. I taught poetry and bookbinding to a class of sixth graders. When a student would approach me and say, “I did it wrong,” I always replied, “You didn’t do it wrong. You did it different.” Giving them that freedom to make mistakes produced some amazing book formats from some very creative souls.
  • Brainstorming is a great way to open up your ingenious mind. Learn to ask yourself “what if.” “I could do it this way, but what if I did it another way.” I played a game with my children when they were small. They would throw out some impossible idea, like children will do. Instead of saying, “No, that won’t work. We can’t do that,” I would say something like, “That sounds fun! And then we could…” We would come up with some outrageously fun ideas.
  • Sensory experiences like music, gardening, dancing, or walking in the fresh air can trigger the imagination. Bringing ideas into existence oftentimes starts on a sensual level.  Be present in the moment. Smell the smells, feel the feels, hear the sounds.
  • Set the stage for creativity. What things trigger your creativity? A cup of peppermint tea and some Daniel Ketchum piano music does the trick for me.
  • Be Grateful. Feeling gratitude heightens your awareness of everything around you. Things come into focus and you notice colors and shape with more clarity. Words of appreciation form in your mind. A gratitude journal is a great way to put those images and words on paper.
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable. Creating something new can bring up strong emotions and make us feel vulnerable. Flow with it, ride it through, and on the other side you will find you have a new perspective and stronger self-confidence.
  • Stay curious. Think like a kid, with boundless curiosity. If someone hands you a crayon, ask yourself “what can I do with this?” and explore the possibilities. Remember the children’s book, “Harold and the Purple Crayon?”

Don’t be afraid to embrace your creative soul. Your life will be richer and more fulfilled because of it. I love Maya Angelou’s philosophy on creativity. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

(Here are some simple activities to cultivate creativity.)

To see Russell Ricks’ newest pieces, visit his website at






How to Enjoy the Journey

Setting goals is often thought of as the path to success. Once you have your intention clear, you set off to secure your future. Too frequently, however, the enjoyment of creation and progress is lost on keeping your sights too focused on your goal. You get on that train and start shoveling that coal as fast as you can. Pretty soon the air is black with soot and you can’t see what is going on around you.

Don’t misunderstand. I think goals are crucial to achieving your dreams and driving you to success. You have to have a destination in mind or you will get nowhere. I just think sometimes our energy is so focused on the objective that we miss out on great opportunities and vistas along the way.

img_2727Russ, gathering inspiration.

Here are some ideas to accomplish both reaching your long-range goal and enjoying the journey along the way:

  • Continue learning. Who do you admire in the art world? Study their creations. Look at the details such as brush strokes, palette choices, placement of light and shadow, how they manipulate their medium. Is their work realistic, abstract, or somewhere in between? Read what they say about their own art.
  • Do quick studies. In 20 or 30 minutes, create a simple painting. Let the process be the focus, as you lay down paint and minimize your brush strokes. Let this be a time of experimentation and discovery. Use colors and techniques that you have wanted to try, but haven’t felt confident about using in a major piece. This is where you attempt that method you have been reading about from the artist you admire. Don’t worry about the subject matter. Open your cupboard or look out your window. You will find plenty to paint for a quick study. If the painting doesn’t turn out, it was only a few minutes of your day.
  • Participate in inspirational or creative diversions There are days when you just don’t feel like arting. For whatever reason, (headache, stress, fatigue, boredom) it will affect your work that day. Change it up. Go for a walk. Look at inspirational art. Read something uplifting. Hang out with someone who encourages you in your pursuit of art. Do something nice for someone. Do something you love to do, just for the sheer joy of doing it. It is not just paint that makes a painting.
  • Keep a record of your progress. Take photos of your work and archive them. Every so often, pull them out and look at them. You will be surprised at the change and growth you will see in your work. A written journal of your experiences and struggles can also remind you of everything you have put into your career and how far you have come. It can also remind you of why you are pursuing art.
  • Do something that scares you, such as put on an art show or take your work to a gallery. You could even do something totally unrelated to your art. Try learning a musical instrument, or bungee jumping. Fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to achieving goals. If you can learn to overcome fear in another area of your life, it will help you overcome fear that holds you back from reaching your desired destination with your art career.
  • Embrace your mistakes. We tend to beat ourselves up over ruined paintings or failed projects. Look at them as learning experiences. My very wise son said he certainly enjoys seeing his 10-year-old son win his hockey games. But, he is excited when the team loses. It gives him a chance to see where this little goalie-in-the-making needs to improve his skills and then they get on the ice and get to work.  It gives purpose to their practices. Your mistakes can give purpose to your quick studies, direction to your research of art, and ideas for your inspirational excursions.

Your journey can teach you a lot about your destination. Be mindful of each step along your path. When you reach your goal you will have had a journey that you can look back on with joy, gratitude, and satisfaction.


For more information on how to do Quick Studies check out Kathleen Dunphy’s post here.

To learn more about how to enjoy the journey, follow Steve and Tonya Vistaunet on Instagram at @ahappyvista, @stevevistaunet, and @tonyavista, or their website at


Trust in the Process

Time  seems to be running faster these days. People are trying to get things done more quickly, always looking for shortcuts. Deadlines, Internet speeds, microwaves, and bullet trains move our activities along at breakneck paces. With this whirlwind momentum, do we lose something? What are we dismissing along the way? There is something to be learned by taking our time and focusing on the process, as well as the outcome.

Everything we do requires a process. Learning a new instrument or skill, cooking a meal, or creating art have necessary steps we must take before we arrive at the end result. It can sometimes feel discouraging to be standing at the beginning and looking forward to what has to be done before we reach our desired goal. Or, it can be exhilarating! It can change us. It can change the world around us.

Art, in every aspect, requires a process. The mere viewing of art asks us to stop, observe, ponder the subject and its context, and even put ourselves in the artist’s mindset. In the end, the artist’s hope is that his art has influenced the viewer in some way.

Many an artist has been asked, “How long did it take you to paint that painting?” This question can be answered in a couple of ways, depending on which process we take into account.

The time it took for the artist to put together a pleasing composition, work out the piece in rough-sketch form, block in the basic shapes, lay down colors of middle value, add light and dark contrasts, and finish with final accents can vary from project to project. Some may take only a few hours to bring to completion, where other projects could take weeks, months, or even years to produce.

When considering the time it took the artist to understand and hone the skills necessary to make beautiful works of art, we are looking at a process that lasts a lifetime. It has been said that to master a skill it requires at least 10,000 hours of practice, or 6 to 10 years. The reality is, there is always more to learn. World renown cellist, Pablo Casalis, at the age of 83 was asked why he still practiced his cello four to five hours every day.  His reply, “Because I think I am making progress.”

As we go through this process of mastering a skill, we learn and grow as individuals. We develop discipline by pushing ourselves past obstacles, learning to have patience with ourselves and respect for the process as we make mistakes of inexperience. Passion for our art and determination to rise above any hurdle will shape and embolden our abilities.

Russell Ricks, mural and landscape artist, states, “Looking at a blank canvas can be daunting and intimidating. Putting down shapes and brush strokes moves you past the fear and forward to completing your painting. First, create the bones and muscles, and don’t try to jump into it too fast. In order to create and express what is in your heart you have to trust in the process, just like trusting in God’s timing in your life to make you one of His masterpieces.”

Trust in the process. Trust that you will become the artist, musician, writer, or businessperson you envision for yourself. Trust in yourself. And enjoy the journey!

For another great article on this subject, by one of our favorite artists, check out this blog post by Sarah Richards Samuelson, the Tulip Painter.

Come back next week when we will talk about specific things you can do to get past the hurdles that inevitably will come along in the creative process. We will share ideas on how to Enjoy the Journey.