Passion and Voice, a second excerpt from Eric Maisel's new book "Making your Creative Mark"

Passion and Voice
An Excerpt from Making Your Creative Mark by Eric Maisel

A logical — and vital — relationship exists between passion and voice. It is very hard to be passionate about what you’re doing if you haven’t found your voice as an artist. Imagine being forced to sing an octave too high or an octave too low, straining to hit notes that you can’t really hit and that aren’t natural to you. It would be very hard to be passionate about singing in that situation.
It is exactly like that with respect to whatever art you are creating. Whether you have been forced by circumstance not to create in your own voice, or whether you’ve avoided creating in your own voice for psychological reasons, the result will be a tremendous lack of passion for what you’re doing. Creating in your authentic voice produces and sustains passion.
With that in mind, here are ten tips for finding or reclaiming your voice. They are framed in terms of visual art, so if you are not a visual artist you will need to translate them so that they make sense for your art discipline.

1.    Detach from your current visual library. A very common problem, and almost always an unconscious one, is the need an artist feels to make his work look like something he holds as “good art” or “real art” — very often old master art. Because he possesses an internal library of the successful artworks of well-known artists, without quite realizing that he is doing it, he aims his art in the direction of those successes. It is vital that an artist detach from that visual library — extinguish it, as it were — so that his own imagery has a chance to appear.

 2.       Try not to rest on skills and talent. Maybe you excel at producing dynamic-looking cats or turning a patch of yellow into a convincing sun. That you have these talents doesn’t mean that you ought to be producing lifelike cats or brilliant suns. Your strongest subject matter and style choices depend on what you want to say rather than on what you are good at producing. By all means, parlay your skills and talents — but don’t rely on them so completely that you effectively silence yourself.

 3. Allow risk-taking to feel risky. Very often the personal work you want to do feels risky. Intellectually, you may find a way to convince yourself that the risk is worth taking — but when you try to take the risk, you balk because you suddenly feel anxiety welling up. Remember that a risk is likely to feel risky. Get ready for that reality by practicing and owning one or two robust anxiety-management strategies (more than a score of them are described in my book Mastering Creative Anxiety).

 4.       Complete projects for the sake of making progress. When you make new work that you think aims you in the direction of your genuine voice, try to complete that work rather than stopping midway because “it doesn’t look right” or “it isn’t working out.” You will make more progress if you push through those feelings, complete things, and only then appraise them. It is natural for work that is a stretch and new to you to provoke all sorts of uncomfortable feelings as you attempt it. Help yourself tolerate those feelings by reminding yourself that finishing is a key to progress.

 5.       Think at least a little bit about positioning. You may want to develop your voice independent of art trends and say exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. On the other hand, it may serve you to take an interest in what’s going on and make strategic decisions about how you want to position yourself vis-à-vis the world of galleries, collectors, exhibitions, auctions, movements, and so on. It isn’t so much that one way is right and the other is wrong but rather that some marriage of the two, if you can pull it off, may serve you best: a marriage, that is, of marketplace strategizing and of intensely personal work that allows you to speak passionately in your own voice.

 6.       Try to articulate what you’re attempting. Artists are often of two minds as to whether they want to describe what they are attempting. Paraphrasing a visual experience into a verbal artist’s statement often feels unconvincing and beside the point. On the other hand, it can prove quite useful to announce to yourself what you hope to accomplish with your new work. By trying to put your next efforts into words, you may clarify your intentions and as a consequence more strongly value your efforts. The better you can describe what you are doing, the better you may understand your artistic voice — and the more passionate you can be in talking about your work.

 7.       Try not to repeat yourself. Repeating successful work has a way of reducing anxiety and can bring financial rewards as well. But it may also prevent us from moving forward and discovering what we hope to say. A balance to strike might be to do a certain amount of repeat work, for the sake of calmness and for the sake of your bank account, and to also add new work to your agenda. If you keep repeating yourself, it will prove very hard to remain passionate about your work.

 8.      Revisit your earliest passions. Life has a way of causing us to forget where our genuine passions reside. You may have spent decades in a big city and completely forgotten how much the desert means to you. You may have been so busy painting and parenting that your burning passion for creating a series of cityscapes fell off the map somewhere along the line. Finding your voice may involve something as simple and straightforward as making a list of your loves and starring the ones that still energize you. This is one of the simplest and smartest ways to discover what you are passionate about and what you want to say.

 9.       Think about integrating your different styles. Maybe you make two sorts of art, abstract relief paintings and realistic flat paintings. This division may have occurred at some point when, perhaps without consciously thinking the matter through, you decided that the one painting style allowed you to do something that the other didn’t. It may pay you to revisit this question today and see if the two styles can be integrated into some third style that allows the best of both current styles to come together. Whatever you discover from that investigation — whether it’s to move forward in a new way or to recommit to your current methods — you will have helped yourself better understand your artistic intentions. A lot of new passion can arise from these efforts at integration.

10.     Accept never-before-seen results. It can feel odd to speak in your own voice and then not recognize the results. Because what you’ve created may be genuinely new — and completely new to you — it may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That can prove disconcerting! Don’t rush to judge it as too odd, a mess or a mistake, or not what you’d intended. Give it some time to grow on you and speak to you. Your voice may sound unfamiliar to you if you’ve never heard it before!

Remember: one of the keys to maintaining passion and enthusiasm for your work is finding your own voice and speaking in it!
Eric Maisel is the author of Making Your Creative Mark and twenty other creativity titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Creativity for Life, and Coaching the Artist Within. America’s foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at

Excerpted from the new book Making Your Creative Mark ©2013 by Eric Maisel.  Published with permission of New World Library

Yoga, Ayurveda, and Creativity

Yoga, Ayurveda, and Creativity

Based on the new book Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi ©2012 by Brian Leaf.  Published with permission of New World Library

I’m thinking of new ideas all the time. So much so that sometimes I can get spun out and exhausted. My wife, on the other hand, has a much easier time staying grounded and pacing her energy.  Though she’s not quite as quick with new ideas.

Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old medical system from India, often called the sister science of yoga, has a lot to say about my wife and me. According to Ayurveda, there are different types of people, and these different types have different strengths, challenges, and needs.

Ayurveda identifies three primary tendencies within people, called vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is the energy of air; pitta is the energy of fire; and kapha is the energy of water and earth.

A person, like me, with a constitution dominant in vata will have airy qualities (creative, quick, possibly anxious). A person with a constitution dominant in pitta will have fiery qualities (intense, focused, possibly overly critical). A person, like my wife, with a constitution dominant in kapha will have earthy qualities (steadfast, grounded, possibly stuck).

A vata person will be well endowed in the creativity department. New ideas and creative solutions flow freely for such a person. Their challenge, like mine, is to stay grounded and not get spun-out and exhausted from too many creative ideas. We have to make sure to see our ideas through and not lose steam half way through a project. By calming our vata, we can be wildly creative but also focused and steadfast.

A pitta person will be incisive and intelligent, often set on a fixed course of action and less open to creativity and new ideas. Surgeons are usually pitta individuals. They are confident, focused, and intense. A pitta person can retain their great focus, but bring in more creativity and tolerance of new ideas by soothing their pitta.

A kapha person, like my wife, usually has terrific endurance and resolve. She easily stays grounded, but creativity does not flow as freely. She may sometimes feel stuck and blocked up. By soothing her kapha and increasing her vata, she can harness her tremendous strength and resolve, while also tapping her latent creativity.

So how can you effect this change in yourself? First you must identify your Ayurvedic constitution. To determine whether vata, pitta, or kapha predominates your constitution, take the following short quiz.

1. Under stress, I become __________.
A. scattered and anxious         B. focused and angry              C. stuck

2. When I’m hungry, I get __________.
A. scattered and anxious         B. angry                                  C. depressed

3. I hate to feel _________.
A. too cold                              B. too hot                                C. too wet

4. My biggest psychological struggles involve __________.
A. anxiety                   B. being judgmental, irritation, anger C. feeling stuck

5. When I have digestive problems, they involve ___________.
A. intestinal gas and bloating  B. heartburn
C. slow digestion, feeling stuck

6. When I get sick, I feel ___________.
A. Worried, fried, constipated.           B. Fevers, skin rashes, diarrhea.        
C. Congested, stagnant, blocked up.

Count the number of As, Bs, and C’s in your answers.
Mostly A’s indicate vata, mostly B’s pitta, and mostly C’s kapha.
Now to bring balance and increased creativity. For your particular predominance (vata, pitta, or kapha), choose three of the six items listed below and follow them for at least a week and see what happens. You’ll probably feel a whole new level of health, vitality, and creativity. Let us know how it goes at

If the six question survey shows a predominance of Vata:

1. Keep warm, and wear soft, comfortable clothing. Make your bed into a soft, comfy haven.

2. Eat mostly cooked foods and use a bit of spice. Eat at a table, in a relaxed setting, not on the go or at your desk.

3. Keep a regular routine, and look over your schedule at the beginning of each day, so your mind can relax and know what’s coming.

4. Practice gentle forms of exercise.

5. Spend quiet time in nature, ideally near a lake or gently flowing stream. Sit under a tree.

6. Avoid or cut back on caffeine, wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

 If the six question survey shows a predominance of Pitta:

1. Keep cool. Get lots of fresh air, but avoid too much direct sun. Take evening walks in the moonlight. The moon is very soothing to pitta.

2. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

3. Avoid very spicy, very salty, and very oily foods.

4. Watch your tendency toward perfectionism, competition, and intensity. Bring in softness and love.

5. Express your feelings in constructive ways. Be gentle on yourself and others.

6. Avoid or cut back on caffeine, wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

 If the six question survey shows a predominance of Kapha:

1. Get lots of vigorous exercise, everyday.

2. Avoid fatty and fried foods. Eat lots of veggies and cook with a bit of spice.

3. Eat less bread.

4. Avoid getting in a rut. Try new things, take challenges, travel.

5. Practice expressing your voice and your feelings and spend some time creating every day. Draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, play an instrument, imagine.

6. Avoid or dramatically cut back on wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

Printed with Permission ©2012 by Brian Leaf 

Brian Leaf, M.A. is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. He draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at

Turning your painting practice pieces into sellable art

This blog is dedicated to every single one of my students who  have taken my foundation workshop in abstract painting in acrylics and mixed media, particularly those of you who were with me this last month - thank you. Thank you for having the courage to show up. Thank you for having the courage to take risks and play. And most of all, thank you for trusting me and allowing yourself to make crap art. To allow yourself to practice, to play, to make shit art and be OK with is. Knowing that getting in the painting groove, into your own process, and re-igniting your creative fire - for this weekend experience at least - was  more important than coming out with  perfectly finished art pieces.

So, here's a few ideas of what you can do with some of those little paintings you might have done on canvas pads or thick water color paper or acrylic mixed media paper. The paintings that perhaps didn't turn out, the ones that you've lost interest in, the pieces whose composition fell short but who you do no feel like going back to and working and re-working. We all have them. Now it's time to turn them into something functional and have fun doing it!

Turning your painting practice pieces into sellable art, a few ideas, but really the only limit is YOUR creativity:

NOTE: For all the following craft projects use YES! Paste because it's made to dry flat. Put a layer of plastic over it once you've glued it down and then put a brick or a few heavy books to glue it down nice and flat.
  1. Art cards ( buy the blank ones at a craft store such as Michael's and then glue on covers from your practice piece. Ahhh yes, now you know why I had the paper cutter at the back of the workshop room! I was cutting up my practice pieces and making gift cards while you were painting yours!!!)
  2. Book marks ( cut the art piece in a long rectangle and get it laminited)
  3. Artist trading cards ( I wrote a blog about that last year or the year before, check it out for all the details)
  4. Blank notepads with your art on the cover ( Last year I took all the old programs from the Culture Crawl and had them bound at a printer into little blank recycled paper note pads and then used my old art canvas pieces make excellent covers - especially when you use Kroma Crackle Paste, it looks like leather!!! Use a view finder on the art piece you're done with and find the sweet spot for the art on the cover of your card.  People Love to buy these that want a piece of art but are not ready to commit to a big piece)
  5. Collage - cut up the old art and collage it into other new paintings (recycle!)
  6. Magnets (cut the canvas pad piece into any shape. Re-in force it with cardboard. Glue a magnet to the back of it. Optional: Pour resin over it to give it gloss and depth!! On  a personal note I was soooo wanting to do this and make a bunch of magnets for the upcoming culture crawl open studio show but at this point I just don't think I"ll have time :-( )
  7. Homemade journals (cut out the best picture from the practice art piece on loose canvas and glue it to a blank journal. I like to put a sticker or my biz card on the back to give it a signature feel.)

Hate reading? Yeah, I have those days...Wanna see me talk about this live and see some pictures of what I'm talking about? 

Here you go... YouTube video link:

Turning your painting practice pieces into sellable art

This is a short video from a workshop whereby I am showing my practice art pieces and the things I 
have made from them and sold at art shows and fairs:

Creating with interruptions

If you are living in the modern world and attempting to create art of any kind – music, painting, pottery, writing, etc .- you are faced with interruptions. My opinion, one of the most interrupted people in the world are mothers.

 Its like there is this unwritten code that once you’ve given birth your body, life, breasts, time, solitude, and mind space now belong now to that which came from you and surrounding people who call themselves ‘family’ and take every ounce unless you set firm boundaries and decree otherwise. Yeah, Ok, some of my personal shite is coming up here but we’re all connected so I know I’m not alone here. Hello, I am an artist, I 

have ideas and passions and these require time so I can dwell on them, research them, expand them, create them, edit them, and bring them into the world just as I did you. You are born now, let me birth others.

 “mama, I need….”  ( seriously as I write this maybe 4 – 5 interuptions with request, demands, questions….)

Don't be fooled by how cute she is. Here is she is, my girl Ruthie, thinking about her next move to distract and interupt me. (:o)Look at that, she even has the gull to sit on my studio painting table and plan her next move!

 So, how do we stay on track, keep the momentum going, gestate and birth our creative creations, even despite and within the interruptions?

 I do a few things that work for me, but really I’m just dying to hear from you. So if you are super successful and have a private office/studio and a nanny taking care of your shopping, laundry, dinner, and kids you can refrain from commenting. Sit back, grin, remember the good old times when things were otherwise, but please don’t’ torture us folks here on the other side. I’m speaking to those of us who are on our way but not quite there yet and still mainly doing all of the above on our own plus making an effort to carve out some time for our own creative pursuits.

 “ Hey Deb, will you….” (ever notice how every one wants something exactly the minute you begin to get really into your project)

 For one, to stay focused and so I don’t forget, I post a sticky note right above where I am working. It’s got two words on it.

  1. Focus
  2. On writing this blog (what you are working on)

That way, every time  “ mama!mama!...” I can answer it, and remember what the heck I was doing. Really, I know mothers would understand this but really all parents in general.

This one I don’t recommend but quite frankly I become like a caged animal and that would be in simple speak pretty nasty to be around because as Jill Badonsky puts in her book 9 Modern Day Muses and a Body guard, we mortals get cranky when we don’t create. So I either piss everyone off or scare them away but honestly I hate getting to this point and I had a ‘friend’ recommend a hypnosis program for anger management which I’m gladly looking into.

 I’m also wishing the next man I date realizes that when I'm crabby its more than likely because I haven’t painted and that he puts a paint brush in my hand and takes my kid for a drive.  Thank you God in advance.

 Bring! Bring! ( this  is supposed to be a telephone)

 Ok that reminds me. We have some control here. We can turn off the phone, shut down the computer, turn off skype, click off facebook, shut the door, put up a sign, nicely tell everyone we will be busy for the next hour. Mommy time. Get out the body guard (read 9 Modern Day Muses and a Body guard) Let me know if that works for you, or for that matter what works for you.

So what about you? How are you making time for your creative pursuits in amoungst the noise and distractions of life?


Looking for a unique and personal gift?  Tote bagsMugsApronsPrints & Greeting Cards.All with Deb's original artwork. The Little Inspiration Book, Sand in my Bra Written/co-written by Deb.

Original ART  available to view and purchase Beverly Hills  paintings at SWITCH Boutique Santa Barbara at Java Station Coffee House Los Angeles at Via Roma Boutique.

Deb Chaney Contemporary Abstract Artist PO Box 3931 Santa Barbara, CA 93130 805-570-1582