Tag Archives: artist

2014 Muse Challenge: What Now?

30 Jan

 Join the 4 Chicks this year to stay focused on the next SMALL thing!

Now that it’s one month into the new year, are you moving closer to your creative goals? Perhaps, like the recording artist Rihanna, you may be asking yourself “What Now?”

If you “just can’t figure it out,” you’re not alone. For 2014 I’m challenging my 4 Chicksand youto ask yourself this same question as often as possible: What now?

But instead of screaming it in reaction to events happening around you, stay calm and query yourself for an answer. Something very specific and very small. What’s the next immediate, tangible action you can take?

Here’s one: Join my 2014 What Now? Challenge. To celebrate and share your beautiful little victories, feel free to check in with the Chicks one of the following ways:

Personal Territory

19 Jul

The 4 Chicks Chat about Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity – Chapter 5: Discovering a Sense of Personal Territory

Recently, my dear Chicks set out to create more boundaries.  That might sound counter-intuitive.  After all, creativity is about going to new places, drawing outside the lines, right?  Yes, but these boundaries are the ones artists must put in place to ensure their energies are not sapped, misdirected or squandered.  If you want golden eggs, you must protect the goose who lays them.

Our First Guest Chick

24 Jun

The 4 Chicks are delighted to welcome their first Guest Chick!  Shelby is a talented photographer in the Orlando area.  Here, she discusses with the Chicks how she ended up on this creative path and what she loves about it.  To see some of Shelby’s amazing work, visit http://www.simplyshelbyphoto.com.

Embracing a Multi-Dimensional Life

11 Jun

I believe being an artist typically means living a multi-dimensional life. 

 An artist’s creative mind often goes in many different directions, and they find themselves working on a variety of projects at the same time.   Does this sound like you?  It definitely sounds like me.  It can be a challenge, though, to find and allow time and space for many dimensions.

Many artists do not make a living from their art alone.  So they work at full-time  jobs, frequently in positions unrelated to their art.  Their work is an important dimension of their lives if they wish to keep a roof over their heads.   

Family is another dimension which some people spend more time on than others.  For mothers of young children, for example, this dimension takes a great portion of time though it is generally gladly given.  In fact, many mothers wish they could spend even more time on this dimension.  However, between the demands of family and work, there is relatively little time for much else.  

This describes my life as it was a few years ago.  It felt very one-dimensional because one dimension (work) took up a sinful amount of time and energy.  Even when I was home, my family didn’t really get my energy or focus, because I was still thinking about work.  And, forget about taking time for creative work, or exercise, or just having down time.   I was drained and it was affecting my health.

To an artist, making their art is as essential to living as the proverbial roof.  They truly require it to be healthy.  Julia Cameron talks about art being therapeutic.  And so it is.  An artist must make time for their art.

“We call ourselves neurotic – this is not the case.  We are not neurotic, we are miserable – miserable because we have stifled our creative selves.  Those selves are alive-well-and too large for the cage we have put them in.” ~Julia Cameron Walking in This World

If they are fortunate, the artist may be able to work part-time or in some kind of flexible situation, thus creating more “space” to create.  This is what happened to me. 

Here are the dimensions in my life now which all get time and energy regularly:  my husband, my two kids in two different schools, consulting on assignment for a management consulting company, independent consulting work for corporations and individuals, kids’ sports and extracurricular activities, my own exercise, volunteering at kids’ schools, chairing a school advisory council, editing and marketing a YA novel with Vivi, participating in the 4 Chicks including monthly meetings and regular posts on the blog and Twitter, writing a separate career wellness blog and attendant social media efforts.  Oh, and I cook now – almost every night – which I didn’t do before (see my earlier post Creativity in the Kitchen.)  Does this list sound overwhelming?  For me, it’s not – it’s exhilarating!

My life is less predictable now, but the inherent stress that can come with that has almost no effect on my well-being.  Things I never thought of as my strong suits I now do on a weekly or daily basis, and do them competently and even happily, because they are done in service of this amazing life I’ve been able to build. 

Though there are days when I realize I’m pulled a little thin, I feel more energized than ever.   Getting to experience so much feeds me rather than drains me.   When my life was far simpler, I was not as happy.  How about you?  Are you living a multi-dimensional life?

Mapping Your Interests – Task Chapter 3

4 Jun

In Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity Chapter 3: Discovering a Sense of Perspective, Julia Cameron assigns the task: Mapping Your Interests. She asserts that “the mapmaking of art points the human compass straighter toward home.”  In this task, all you have to do is list five items on each topic she sets forth.  Easy, no?  

For me, no.  In my normal habit of overthinking things, I struggled with this one, until I said to myself “Relax!  It doesn’t have to be the absolute top five things ever-since-the-beginning-of-time.  Just five things.”  So, here goes.  These lists could change tomorrow, or an hour from now, but here they are:

Five topics that interest me are:

1.  Language/linguistics/etymology (yes, I’m lumping them all together – call me a cheater if you will)

2.  Behavioral economics

3.  Archaeology

4. Psychology

5.  Music

Five people who interest me are:

1.  Maya Angelou

2.  Dan Ariely

3.  Jane Goodall 

4.  Adam Levine (yes, I’ve been watching The Voice)

5.  Julie Taymor

Five art forms that interest me are:

1.  Writing

2.  Photography

3.  Painting

4.  Dance

5.  Music

Five projects I could try out are:

1.  Take a photography class

2.  Enter a writing contest

3.  Start a new novel

4.  Write a song/score on piano

5.  Paint a picture

At least one of my items listed above will actually happen.  I have signed up for a photography workshop along with my fellow Chick, Eva.  It’s a one-night workshop in the middle of June.  I am really excited and perhaps we’ll share some of what we learn there on this blog later in the month.

Inspired by The Artist’s Studio

22 May

I found another post on Freshly Pressed and was absolutely inspired by it!   It includes pictures from inside the studio of a successful NYC artist.   Though I don’t consider myself a visual artist (well, not drawing, painting, pottery, etc,) I love, love, love being in their workspaces.  I love the ideas made visual, the shapes and, most of all, the colors.   The site it’s posted on is called Underground Biz which makes me want to go visit NYC. Right. Now.  And Paige, the author, seems like a supercool Chick.

Check out the post here:    http://undergroundbiz.net/2011/05/12/inside-the-artists-studio/#comment-300

Here’s a pic of another “studio” though I won’t say whose.  Do places like these inspire you?

Make Something of Yourself

20 May

The 4 Chicks Chat about Julia Cameron’s Walking in this World: The Practical Art of CreativityChapter 3: Discovering a Sense of Perspective

“The readings and talks of this week aim at detoxifying your thinking regarding the arts and your place as an artist in our society.  Art is tonic and medicinal for us all.  As an artist, you are a cultural healer.” ~Julia Cameron

This week, the Chicks looked beyond the barriers in their way, used their frustration as fuel, and made a slightly, er… different video.  As always, they shared their candid thoughts with each other, and with you, dear reader, about the art they are making and the artists they are becoming.  What are you making, and making of yourself, this week?   

Hellena – Los Angeles, CA

3 May

This week’s Chick Story comes from a very good friend of Eva’s (hostingthemuse).  She is a life coach and a very talented jewelry maker.   Read her story about going through life challenges and still being able to conquer your dreams.

The Leap…

I had hit rock bottom. I doubted my abilities. I had the feeling that people were looking at me behind my back and shaking their heads with pity.  I was not satisfied with my life and my work standards suffered for it.  That’s when “she” came to me. She had been patiently waiting, giving me subtle hints that she was on her way and now “she” saw that I was ready for a change.

It was August 2006 and after just two months of marriage to my husband Peter, I was in the hospital having a hysterectomy. Needless to say I was devastated – but not lost.  “She” guided me to a therapist who helped me tremendously and “she” also placed a book in my path – Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins.  Although this book was directed toward companies, it had a profound effect on me.   When the author instructed companies to find 3 things that they are really good at and focus only on them, I did that for myself.  My 3 greatest assets: my ease with public speaking, the ability to connect with people and my gift for helping people solve their problems were the things I decided to focus on and improve. These 3 things helped me to take my leap – and become one with her.


I realized that by focusing on my 3 greatest assets, they would connect me with my deepest values: trust, integrity, creativity, to be of service and to honor my self-worth.    I had finally turned on the lights in my life and saw for the first time all my gifts waiting to be tapped.  Being conscious of those values made it easier for me to see when I was not honoring them.  I got mad at myself when I hadn’t done something I knew was best for me or when someone else said or did something negative to me.  Think about your values and how they connect with the work you do. If your work is engaging, challenges your intellect, is exciting and you look forward to it every day, it doesn’t seem like work.  But when your work is uninspiring and creates dissonance, you’ll find yourself dreading each task.  “She” knew my values and that as soon as I connected with them my journey would begin.

My Future Self

You see “she” is me – Hellena, my future-self.  That part of me that didn’t see me as less than but more than I could ever imagine.  It wasn’t that Hellena was boastful, it was that she knew that in every situation, good, bad or indifferent, there was something I could learn as I moved forward in my life. The key phrase being “moving forward”.

We all have a future-self – we just need to tap into it and have that discussion.  It is that part of us that does not live life by lack or limitation but by abundance and endless resources.  It does not see obstacles but rather opportunities for growth and learning.  It remembers how to dream and does it on a daily basis. It keeps life exciting.  It creates scenarios with the connector word “and” not “or”, “either” or “but”. As in “I can be successful and have a great relationship” versus “I can either have a thriving career or a great marriage”.

Yes…you can have both and much more. The key to this success are your values.  It’s also knowing your boundaries and when it’s OK to say no to take care of yourself instead of saying yes to please someone else.

Making the leap

In January 2007 instead of making a resolution, I made a declaration. From now on I would be open to whatever the universe brought my way. I also made a conscious decision to honor my 3 assets.  First, I joined Toastmasters.  Not only did I become a better speaker, but when I joined the board and served my club, I also became a better leader. Secondly, after a short track with psychology, I decided to become a Life Coach.  I wanted to work with people and help move them forward in their lives. This career path addressed assets 2 and 3 simultaneously. But as with Toastmasters, I got so much more.  I found Hellena again and she introduced me to my creative side – designing jewelry.  Creations by Hellena was born from the freedom I gave myself to believe I had a creative outlet.  And it was further enriched by knowing that creating is not about perfection – it’s about allowing something to be.

These two career choices were a major shift for me because up until then I had only seen myself as nobody special.   How could I have the audacity to think someone would trust me with their most intimate fears and dreams?  That someone, other than my family and friends, would not only love my jewelry but pay me for it?  That wasn’t my future-self making those comments.  Alas, my saboteur aptly named Mr. Fear Procrastinator started whispering nuggets of self-doubt and worry in my ear.  I admit, for a while it kept me stagnated but because I was now connected to my values, Hellena had ammunition with which to battle those fears.  She said “Send out an email blast to family, friends and colleagues and tell them about your new coaching profession. What’s the worst that could happen?”   “Email pictures of your jewelry to that boutique.  It’s only an email, what harm can come from it?” Hellena took away the doubt and allowed my talents and gifts to speak for themselves.  In both instances, I was greeted with the word YES!  And what happens when you hear that word?  You want to hear it again!  Now that my fear had gone, I could approach perfect strangers and talk to them about what I did without fear of rejection because my PASSION was leading the discussion.

And now…

My coaching practice, Core Illuminations www.coreilluminations.com has made the leap to workshops and group coaching. Creations by Hellena can be purchased in two boutiques: Twig & Willow, Long Beach, CA and Mindfulnest, Santa Monica, CA (more stores to follow). You can also find my jewelry online through my Etsy.com shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/creationsbyhellena.  As I continue to dream, my dreams continue to grow.

I look back and thank my future-self for her patience and steadfastness. I look back and thank the Universe for allowing me to fall – so that I could learn something new. I look back on those 5 years and see the many leaps I’ve taken and the growth, adventures and rewards I’ve received.  Now, Hellena and I make those leaps together…

I leave you with this: Discover and Nurture your 3 greatest assets.  They hold the keys to your sanity, health and happiness.  It is here that your future-self is waiting to take the next leap with you.  Don’t keep him/her waiting!

Hellena Jones Elbling, CPCC
Core Discover Life Coach
Core Illuminations
Discover your True Passions and
Use them to Illuminate your World!

Hellena Jones Elbling
Jewelry Designer
Creations by Hellena
Find Your Spirit in my Creations

Expand Your Creative Identity

26 Apr

The 4 Chicks Chat about Chapter 2: Discovering a Sense of Proportion (PART 1)

This [chapter] inaugurates an ongoing process of self-definition.  As you redraw the boundaries and limits within which you have lived, you draw yourself to a fuller size. Coming into ourselves, we sometimes encounter resistance from those in our immediate environment.  The readings and tasks of this week aim at bolstering the sense of a realistic self in the face of difficulty and even discounting.

– Julia Cameron, Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity

If you’re burning to find me–the Muse–YOU can be a part of  the Chick Chat, too.  Here’s how to play at home:

    1. The 4 Chicks read a chapter.
    2. The Chicks meet and discuss the chapter.
    3. Over the next month or so, the Chicks do the tasks in the chapter and blog about it along the way.
    4. You’re invited to do the same and/or comment on the blog, sharing your own experiences and Chick Stories.
    5. You may even consider starting your own 4 Chicks group to simultaneously work through either this book or its prequel, Cameron’s ground-breaking The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
I’m waiting for you to find me…

Something Old, Something New [Part 2]

1 Apr

Cocktail wear? JK

The idea to rip apart my wedding dress came to me while I was completing one of my tasks for Chapter 1 of Walking in this World.  Julia Cameron calls it What the Hell, You Might As Well. Not unlike Chick Peggy, my list of “20 small, creative actions you could take” started out looking a lot like my to-do list:  1.  Repaint the baseboards and doorframes.  2. Wash the cat.  6.  Upload/order new pics.

I progressed to the more titillating:  8. Ask friends for favorite easy recipes and make one a week.  11. Learn all the verses to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride song.  12. Buy new kitchen towels.

Thus warmed up, I resolved to throw caution fully to the wind, which led me to:  15.  Cut up wedding dress and make pillows.

Who will need the pillow first?

Perhaps you’re thinking I mean bed or sofa pillows. Alright, I admit I did consider that first.  But then the Muse whispered to me, “pillow…wedding dress…think, Tracey, think.”  That’s it!  I would recycle my beloved dress–Coco’s dress–into a ring-bearer’s pillow for my children to use at their own weddings.

My dear spouse fully supported this inspired idea, that is, once he understood it.  My straight-faced jape about wanting to pair the bodice with jeans for my next Girls’ Night Out prompted his asking if I had really gone mad.  It was a rhetorical question to the positive.

Okay, so I wrote this idea on my task list.  But what came over me to actually do it?  Why the sudden, uncharacteristic urgency?  Well, like other reckless and unreasonable actions which I have undertaken, including this blog, I blame it fully on Chick Eva.  She was over the night of the wedding dress massacre, dropping her girls off for a sleepover.  When I told her about my no. 15, her support and enthusiasm had an intoxicating influence on me.

I used the top layer of tulle for stuffing.

The next thing I knew, there was a ripper in my hand.  As Eva took my picture and I prepared to make my momentous first rip, we were both laughing uncontrollably.  It felt like we were conducting an illicit middle-school prank and not an important creative experiment.

As soon as the initial damage was done, however, it was as if a weight had been lifted, one even greater than those twenty-something layers of tulle.  Liberation wasn’t just at hand; it was in my hand, one carefully torn stitch after another.  This was a thrilling sensation I had not anticipated.

I envisioned my grown daughter and son, their teary eyes following the precious pillow being carried down some church aisle by a yet-to-be-born nephew or once-removed cousin.  Even more, I envisioned my bedroom closet–freed of the Great White Snowball–and like my artist soul, cleared for room to move, to walk and to create.  I think Coco would understand.


My old dress bodice is now a new ring bearer’s pillow.


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