Little Accomplishments

Concentrating on other projects, I have not spent as much time on my artwork lately.  I have been feeling the frustration and irritability of an artist who isn’t making art on a regular basis.  I know and understand that there are creative dry spells and periods of times when other things have to come first.  But how do we get work in when we are limited by things beyond our control?

While hiking with fellow artist and friend, Deb Musson, we often discuss art and creative projects that we are working on.  On one hike she was telling me about a project that uses a puzzle piece that you turn into art.  I was intrigued by the idea because puzzle pieces are so small.  Below is her piece of artwork:


I think it turned out phenomenally and the idea was so clever.  Deb said that it is 2 x 3 inches because she used a piece from a children’s puzzle.  When I asked her if she would make more, she said, “Yes, I enjoyed it.  Something quick to boost confidence.”

I could feel the wheels turning inside my head.  One of the hard things about not creating on a regular basis is you get out of practice and lose some of your creative confidence.  The other thing that I kept thinking about was that it didn’t take Deb very long to make the puzzle piece art.

Several weeks later, I needed a thank you card for something.  Another friend asked me why I didn’t make one.  I hadn’t even thought of it to be honest.  So I made a thank you card, it was quick and easy, and it turned out nice.

Later I made a set of three note-cards based on a tea-cup theme.


I felt like I had creatively accomplished something.  The next day I made another set in which I focused on dominoes and the red and black color theme.


A couple of days later I completed a third set of note-cards in which I focused on stamps and earth tones.


Like my friend Deb, I enjoyed the creative challenge that this smaller format provided.  I also liked that they are quick and easy to make.  The note-cards allowed me to be creative and boost my creative confidence.  They are a series of little accomplishments.

So often when we are creating, we think that we have to have a big accomplishment.  For me I often think in a series of pieces or a show of work.  I forget that I don’t always have to be working on the next show.  That there is other creative work to be done.  It’s not the size of the accomplishment…. it’s accomplishing something.

Forbidden Art and Censorship

“I am an artist first, a censor second.”

This is how the book The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra begins.  Set up like a cassette tape with a Side A, Intermission and Side B, the book is a collection of short stories that stand alone but are all intricately connected.  The book spans across a century, a continent and a striking group of characters who are bound together by an obscure nineteenth century painting.

I received the Documentary “The Desert of Forbidden Art” from Netflix.


The description of the documentary reads as follows “Trace the incredible story of defiant visionary Igor Savitsky, an artist and museum curator who cunningly acquired more than 40,000 banned Soviet Union paintings and hid the illegal collection from the KGB in Uzbekistan’s Nukus Museum.  In addition to rare archival footage and interviews with the artists’ children, this absorbing documentary also features letters and diary entries read by Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Edward Asner.”

Upon finishing the book, I then watched the documentary.  The book was fictional stories about censorship, struggles of the people in the Soviet Union and a particular painting.  This painting wove itself in and around the characters lives.  The documentary was the true story about censorship and state sponsored art or propaganda.  It was also about the extraordinary work of Igor Savitsky, who worked tirelessly to save the work of disgraced artists, pay their families and create a museum to show the work.  It was interesting to watch the documentary after reading the fictional story about the censor or correction artist.

Here is where novel and documentary intersect.  The correction artist would erase disgraced individuals from photos, paint Lenin and Stalin into historic moments, and make the party icons look young and vigorous even as they aged.  The Soviet Union tried to erase the identity of its diversified populations by only allowing art that showed the Communist parties idealized vision of the common good.  Cultural traditions and crafts of the people of Uzbekistan were being lost and destroyed.  The creative and artistic identity of an entire nation was being destroyed by the censor, the Gulag and Soviet concentration camps.

What did I learn from the documentary?  That even though the Soviet Union tried to destroy the very soul and essence of the diverse cultures within its borders by destroying their art, music, dances, songs, poetry, craft and cultural traditions and by trying to erase or rewrite history, it was not able to do it.  People fought for their creativity and often paid with their lives.  Others hid art and created safe spaces artwork to be shown.  The human spirit, creativity and the need to express oneself through art, music, dance, songs, poetry, craft and cultural traditions is stronger than the censor.

What did I learn from the book?  Our stories are connected.  Sometimes in surprising ways.

I highly recommend the collection of stories The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra and the documentary “The Desert of Forbidden Art.”  I was surprised and inspired by what I learned from both of them.