Worthy Creative Advice

July 2, 2014

“Identify the primary distraction that keeps you from your creative work and deal with it. If you have an issue, be it weight, lack of exercise or family worries, do your best to resolve that issue or reduce it's power of distraction on your time and energy.” – Julieanne Kost (of Adobe Systems)

As I dive into a renewed commitment to my own creative efforts this quote is my scale. It is especially appropriate since I am slowly moving into using Lightroom and yes, that which I have avoided for years: Photoshop. I have always maintained that a good photographer shouldn't need to do much in software if an image is shot properly. I still believe this. Yes, a crop or exposure tweak after the fact may be needed but all the bells and whistles of Photoshop are not required. I realize that Photoshop has become a standard tool and by avoiding it I am just being contrary. Sometimes that's just how I roll.

But now I have owned Lightroom for about six months. I have barely had time to really get to know it. I have found by using the cataloging feature that I have tens of thousands of photographs. It will probably take me years to troll through them much less learn how to use Lightroom. I know… it must be time for a class to shorten my learning curve. After setting Lightroom onto my photographs to catalog them, I had to own that I am a photographer. I should just stop being quiet about it (since it was staring me in the face) and own that since I actually have about 15,000 or more photographs I've taken just from the last 5 or 6 years. Click happy me.

So in an effort to reduce the power of distraction on my time and energy I am going to stop teaching. I already spend a lot of time mentoring artists every day at ArtWorks and through the EDGE Program each Winter. I have come to realize that one can only mentor so much and I need my own creative time.

Light Dawns at the End of the Day, Meredith Arnold, 2014

I have a lot of jewelry to make and am excited about the prospect of digital collage as well as a lot of other projects I have in mind. Onward and upward!




Happy Holidays 2012

December 16, 2012

Sitting here with my cup of coffee (from Switzerland!), listening to some music in front of my electric fire (it does look like a real fire but no heat – maybe I should just call it the Visual Fire?) and just thinking on a Sunday morning… This is the first time in my life that I chose not to bring out our Christmas tree. Me, the Queen of Christmas! Instead I have the one that I usually take to work for my desk, a pretty little thing that's about a foot or so tall. I already put up a huge tree at ArtWorks and it's lovely. Everyone says so. That's enough this year. I'm feeling cozy and creative anyway which is what I expect this time of year.

Looking back over the year I see that it's just been crazy. I spent the first 5 months traveling every month, sometimes twice in a month. My house shows the chaos of all the packing and unpacking and repacking I've done. June was spent trying to get my bearings back at work and all that laundry done! August saw another trip to the East coast where I had really hoped to get to Seaside Heights (Jersey Shore!) and of course, now I'm very sorry I didn't get there. Hurricane Sandy changed everything there and it's still closed to the public. After August it was time to get producing for the show in Switzerland (in November) and then before I knew it, we were off to Switzerland.

I took my remote control air swimming Sharky to the Edmonds Art Festival's Christmas party recently. That was hilarious despite Sharky not being very cooperative that day. He kept hanging around close to the floor for some reason. He does need more helium… Still I'm sure people thought I was very strange for bringing him as my date! Oh well. I was celebrating. I had just figured out that ArtWorks is 90% or so self supporting and that's phenomenal! Art centers are rarely more than 30-60% self supporting – with 60% being generous… Yes, I'm proud of myself. My 3 year plan worked! I really do know what I'm doing and I have proof. =)

Looking forward, I will be home more this year. I have only three trips planned with one being a maybe. It will be the first time in about 8 years or so that I've been home so much. I have just a handful of classes scheduled. Usually I'm scheduled to teach almost every weekend somewhere so this will be a huge change. I'm planning on some rest and play, lots of studio time, and working on some things that have been on my list for way too long… How about you? Do you have time to mull over a cup of coffee or tea today what you would like the next year to look like? Shape in your mind what you want and it will happen.

Some ideas I've had:

Start the Paris fund – contribute every month!

Make new stuff for the galleries quarterly

Write that book

Get rid of extraneous stuff! Make space!

Go to the beach this summer, have a picnic

Hang out somewhere with your sketchbook

Try that recipe for graham crackers

Start Tai Chi

Make art with friends more often


This is a speech Tom Hanks gave in 2005. It’s a quick read and worth the three minutes of your time:

by Tom Hanks


Not long ago I was reading about the problem of gridlock on the freeways of Southern California–the traffic jams which cripple the city, stranding millions and laying waste to time, energy, and the environment. Gridlock is as serious and as impenetrable a problem as any we face, a dilemma without cure, without solution, like everything else in the world, it seems.

Some smart folks concocted a computer simulation of gridlock to determine how many cars should be taken off the road to turn a completely jammed and stilled highway into a free-flowing one. How many cars must be removed from that commute until a twenty-mile drive takes twenty-five minutes instead of two hours? The results were startling.

Four cars needed to be removed from that virtually stuck highway to free up that simulated commute… four cars out of each one hundred. Four cars per one hundred cars, four autos out of every one hundred autos, forty cars from each thousand, four hundred out of ten thousand. Four cars out of one hundred are not that many. Two cars out of every fifty–one driver out of twenty-five drivers.


Now, if this simulation is correct, it is the most dramatic definition in earthly science and human nature of how a simple choice will make a jaw-dropping difference to our world. Call it the Power of Four. One commuter in your neighborhood could put the rush back into rush hour. So, if merely four people out of a hundred can make gridlock go away by choosing not to use their car, imagine the other changes that can be wrought just by four of us–four of you–out of a hundred.

Take a hundred musicians in a depressed port city in Northern England, choose John, Paul, George, and Ringo and you have “Hey Jude”. Take a hundred computer geeks in Redmond, Washington, send 96 of them home and the remainder is called Microsoft.

Take the Power of Four and apply it to any and every area of your concern. Politics: Four votes swung from one hundred into another hundred is the difference between gaining control and losing clout. Culture: 2 ticket buyers out of fifty can make a small, odd film profitable. Economics: by boycotting a product 1 consumer out of 25 can move that product to the back of the shelf, and eventually off it altogether.

Four out of 100 is miniscule and yet can be the great lever of the Tipping Point. The Power of Four is the difference between helplessness and help. H-E-L-P: a four-letter word like some others with many meanings.


The graduating class of 2005 can claim, with perhaps more credibility than any other class in history, that during its four years of college the world went crazy. In the fall of 2001, our planet earth and the United States of America were different sorts of places–in tone, in tolerance, in peace and war, in ideas and in ideals–than they are on this spring day in 2005. These past years have been extraordinary in the express rate of change, well beyond the usual standards of culture, well above the personal watermarks you have stamped as college students. As college graduates, you now live in a brand new world, with new versions of political upheaval, global pandemic, world war and religious polarization, the likes of which have rarely visited our planet all at once–and thank God for that.


Today’s main purpose is to celebrate your entering into society, but the fact is you have all been very much steeped in it already- Poughkeepsie being the proxy and microcosm of the whole wide world. None of you were untouched by the events in September of your freshman year, none unaffected by the ideological movements of local and geo-politics since. All of you have been staring your individual fate and our collective future right in the eye for the last four years. The common stereotype would have you today, cap in the air, parchment in hand, asking yourself “what do I do now?” You, the class of 2005, have already had many, many moments during your time at Vassar when you asked yourself that question. You might have added the word ‘Hell’, or some such four-letter word to the phrase: “What the HELL do I do now?” In which case, today might not be all that different from other days on campus– except your parents are here and they might take you out for better food.


On Commencement Day, speechmakers are expected to offer advice–as though you need any, as though anything said today could aid your making sense of our one-damn-thing-after-another world. Things are too confused, too loud, and too dangerous to make ‘advice’ an option. You need to hear something much more relevant on this day. You need to hear the most important message thus far in the third millennium. You need to hear a maxim so simple, so clear and evocative that no one could misconstrue its meaning or miss its weighty issue.

So, here goes. It’s not a statement, but a request. Not a bit of advice, but a plea. It is, in fact, a single four-letter word, a verb and a noun which takes into account the reality of your four years at Vassar as well as the demands of the next four decades you spend beyond this campus.

It’s a message, once made familiar by the Beatles–those Northern English lads who embodied The Power of Four.



We need help. Your help. You must help. Please help. Please provide Help. Please be willing to help. Help… and you will make a huge impact in the life of the street, the town, the country, and our planet. If only one out of four of each one hundred of you choose to help on any given day, in any given cause– incredible things will happen in the world you live in.

Help publicly. Help privately. Help in your actions by recycling and conserving and protecting, but help also in your attitude. Help make sense where sense has gone missing. Help bring reason and respect to discourse and debate. Help science to solve and faith to soothe. Help law bring justice, until justice is commonplace. Help and you will abolish apathy– the void that is so quickly filled by ignorance and evil.


Life outside of college is just like life in it: one nutty thing after another, some of them horrible, but all interspersed with enough beauty and goodness to keep you going. That’s your job, to keep going. Your duty is to help– without ceasing. The art you create can glorify it. The science you pursue can prove its value. The law you practice can pass on its benefits. The faith you embrace will make it the earthly manifestation of your God.

Here at Vassar whatever your discipline, whatever your passion you have already experienced the exhausting reality that there is always something going on and there is always something to do. And most assuredly you have sensed how effective and empowering it can be when more than four out of one hundred make the same choice to help.

You will always be able to help.

So do it. Make peace where it is precious. Help plant trees. Help embrace diversity and celebrate differences. Help stop gridlock.

In other words, help solve every problem we face – every single one of them–with the Power of Four out of a hundred. Help and we will save the world. If we don’t help–it won’t get done.


Congratulations. Good luck. Thank you.


Reprinted from the Plant Tea Gardener, www.plantea.com


  I had written a whole blog under this title when iPad crashed out and lost it…naughty iPad!  The title is actually a line from a Peter Gabriel song and it hit me like a ton of bricks…again.  This time it spoke to the constant striving I’ve been doing to get ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ is.  I asked myself: how do you know you’re ‘there’?  What if you’re ‘there’ and just don’t know it?  These seem like simple questions until you really start thinking about them.

  Some years ago I wished I were gainfully employed in the arts.  I wanted to be teaching artists, teaching my own art related classes, mentoring artists and making my own work.  I wanted my work in a gallery or two as well. 

  So I created programs to teach, made samples and pix of the samples, put together class descriptions, materials lists and pictures for proposals and sent them in to places I targeted.  I took on coordinating a 50 hour professional development program designed for artists for a college and the job of running a small art center part-time when that became available as well.  One day I realized that when I wasn’t In a classroom teaching or working on scheduling/growing the art center, I was putting together submissions for classes next quarter, next year, the next 4 shows, and so on.  I was working 24/7 or darn near to it as one could get.  I was blogging, keeping my website updated, juggling my scheduling, traveling, teaching and art center concerns.  This has gone on for a few years now and it was time to take stock.  What had I been doing?  Were we there yet?


  Fun artist’s website: http://www.fimp.net/index.html  




Comfort Points

November 7, 2011

Sunset at the Jersey Shore, Aug. 2011

Okay, it must be one of THOSE days… I’ve rewritten the first sentence to this post about four times now. I know what I want to say but keep coming at it from the wrong end. Need more coffee, (or in my case, tea, but today I’m drinking coffee). My brain isn’t awake yet and I feel the need to chemically induce wakefulness. It’s totally acceptable in my culture to do so, shoot, I live in the Seattle area where everyone is hopped up on the caffeine. We think that’s why ‘café’ is named such. Clearly it’s short for caffeine, isn’t it?
So perhaps the first thing you do in the morning is to chemically induce wakefulness and this is a comfort point for you. Like I said, I usually drink tea. For me it really depends on what I will enjoy more: quick wakefulness, (coffee) or that first wonderful sip of ahhhhhhh, (tea), because it reminds me of being in Paris late on a cold November day, sitting in a hustling, busy, brightly lit café in the afternoon gloom, across from the Trocadero waiting for dark to see the Eiffel Tower light up in anniversary splendor. I believe the tea was Richard’s ceylan or purple label, my favorite tea of all time. Too bad I can’t seem to find it in the U.S. I’m hoarding my last 10 tea bags of that stuff as if it were gold because it is 10 more comfort points down the road for me.
What’s with the comfort points? Think about the moments in your day where you know deep in your soul: this is good. That’s a comfort point. Or the thing that makes you stop for just a second and appreciate what you have going on. Like an artful coffee cup or lusciously warm socks on a cold day and you’re outside but your feet aren’t. Or Art Spa time creating away. Or how about that moment you crawl into your bed at night and relax, totally relax into it? Isn’t that a delicious moment in your life to savor? Whether the day was good or bad, that bed feels like the promise of something better yet to come.

Comfort points can be alluring and useful. It’s good to know what your comfort points are. It’s just as important as knowing what makes you uncomfortable since comfort points can be used in your favor.

No matter what, I try to build some comfort points into each day. I find that those mere moments (Ha Ha! Mer Moments [think Meredith] as they’re known around my house), are like an instant recharge so I can slog or dance through the rest of my day knowing I will crawl into my bed, relax, get that respite to wake up again and see what’s around the next corner of a new day.
I use comfort points to get me through the most dreaded tasks. They’re a reward. For example: get these contracts filled out and all parts sent and you can have a moment in Paris across from the Trocadero…

Brilliant Turning Points

July 27, 2009

There are quite a few inventions that impact our culture and world today.  The obvious ones are telephones, cell phones, television, computers, mp3 players… but what about Tyvek?  Okay, I can hear lots of people wondering what the heck Tyvek is.  Have you ever seen those white, sort of fabric like, flimsy feeling, postal envelopes for larger stuff?  That’s Tyvek.

Tyvek cover for one of the first ever Debit Cards from 1988.

Tyvek cover for one of the first ever Debit Cards from 1988.

Tyvek is a non-woven, felted -like, synthetic material.  It was creatd 54 years ago, in 1955, by DuPont.  What’s so special about Tyvek that it could be considered a turning point?  It has an interesting property: one side is permeable and one side is not.  This means that water can go through from direction but not the other.   What’s so great about this is that whatever is wrapped in Tyvek can breathe because moisture can get out but the Tyvek is still waterproof on the outside.  I don’t know how they do that and I’m pretty sure they’re probably not telling but whoever thought of this was brilliant.

Back side of Debit Card cover, 1988.

Back side of Debit Card cover, 1988.

As you can see in the pictures here, Tyvek started appearing as envelopes and on a more wide spread basis in the late 1980’s.  The pictures show the original slip sleeve I got with my very first ATM card back in 1988.  We didn’t know how to use a Debit Card then since they were so new.  I still use this slip sleeve for every ATM card I get.  Does it look 21 years old?  I have never washed it so that’s pretty amazing when you think about how often a bathroom needs cleaning!

New buildings are wrapped in Tyvek as a moisture barrier.  Both sides look pretty much the same unless you work with Tyvek a lot,  (I do!).  They print the word ‘Tyvek’  or U.S. Postal Service or whatever on the waterproof side so everyone knows which side goes out.

I started using Tyvek as an art material years ago when I began making books.  Any time someone would send me something in a Tyvek envelope,  I’ve saved it.  Tyvek can be used to make a really strong spine for a ‘perfect bound’ book, as long as you put the waterproof side out so any adhesive can dry properly.  The term ‘perfect bound’ refers to an adhesive method of bookbinding so it’s not a vanity thing!

Tyvek can be painted, melted, sewn, cut with scissors or punches but won’t rip.  It’s a very interesting material to work with since it’s a lot like fabric paper and is so light, tough and strong.   Be sure to have good ventilation if you do melt it because who knows what sort of chemicals you’re creating when you do that.  It’s not worth permanently damaging your only pair of lungs, right?

Who knew one day that we would be wrapping houses to making books and art with this thing called Tyvek?   I’m pretty sure DuPont had some specific idea that this was invented for and even they didn’t comprehend how it would osmose into such a cutting edge material more then 50 years later.

I’m still waiting for that Tyvek wrapped bathroom though…