The Circle of Life – Mandala Wisdom For Artists

I have recently discovered the beauty and mystery of Mandalas and become just a little bit obsessed with them {as is my way}.

A mandala is a concentric pattern which has spiritual and ritual significance in Buddhism and Hinduism. These beautiful images are meditative and restful to contemplate and are used as a way to enter deeper levels of the unconscious. They can appear in a dazzlingly wide array of forms and you may find them painted on silk, created out of sand by Buddhist monks with infinite patience and even tattooed on skin in delicate dotwork.

Tibetan monks making a temporary “Sand-Mandala”

The circle of the seasons

Maṇḍala (मण्डल) is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle.” and mandalas symbolize the circle of life.

As winter draws in and the nights become darker I find this a particularly relevant and comforting thing to contemplate. Everything is cyclical in life. Winter will come with it’s cold and darkness but we know that somewhere along the line, Spring will come around with it’s new shoots of growth and warmth and light. In fact, when I dashed through the garden yesterday in a rush to get indoors out of the freezing rain, I noticed the green tips of bulbs starting to poke through the soil already with their promise of warmer lighter days ahead. There are always signs that a change is coming if you look hard enough.

Thomas Hooper - Decalomania

Thomas Hooper – Decalomania Mandala Study 2

The circle of being

This is heartening to realise if you are going through a period of difficulty, albeit financial, personal or in your work. When things are difficult in life I like to remind myself of the ancient Eastern proverb “This too shall pass” meaning that all life is cyclical and all material conditions, positive or negative are transitory. It may be bad now but as with the seasons, change is coming if you look for it.

The circle of creativity

As with all things, creativity has it’s cycles too. In her book  The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron talks about working with the cycles of creative energy that ebb and flow through your life.

You may go through a period when your creative energy is low and blocked. When nothing much gets created and you aren’t happy with the things you do do. However, if you keep the faith that creativity is cyclical you can ride these rough patches with confidence, safe in the knowledge that your creative life force will gain strength again and you will enter another period of energy.

You just need to keep the faith that it WILL come around again and not panic when you are in a low period.

Or to put it in a much less spiritual and much more bluff way – in the down to earth words of Winston Churchill.

“If you are going through hell – keep going.”

Are you aware of the cycles in your life and creativity? How do you ride out the storms and troughs? Share with us in the comments.
Images - Buddhist Monks by HenryArt Mandala Image by Kosigrim

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Reader’s Showcase | Weets | Unbounded Thought

Eric G. C. Weets was born on 3rd August 1951. He is a self taught, multidisciplinary, contemporary artist.

Weets has no academic training. It was denied when he was young and later, when he was old enough and had a chance, he refused because by then he read a lot about art and came to believe that formal training destroys creativity. Weets’ quest to create timeless work, made him negate all his other works on canvas, prior to the year 2007.  Because he felt those works miss that something, which makes the work exceptional, original and thereby timeless.

Presently, Weets has retired from public life completely and is almost living in solitude.

These paintings are about the purity of unbounded thoughts, most probably more subconscious than conscious, than a painting painted in a classical way. I feel these works have to be seen, enjoyed and thought about, if only to gain a different perspective on ordinary, daily living. And is not that, the purpose of art?

Insight into why Eric G. C. Weets is creating his art.

“I don’t think I can really talk about art or talk about why I do it or how I do it. I think it is not necessary even. I say art, I mean painting, for me. I did it, always. There was never a question why I do it, I could not leave it. There were times that I didn’t want to paint anymore and keep myself busy with other things but even with year long pauses in between, I have always come back to painting. So, for me, it’s a part of who you are. I cannot really figure out why it is like that. It shall be born in. (They say it is a gift. But I think it is not really a gift, it is simply something you have it within you. See gift is something like a present which is given to you but this is not a gift, this is something that belongs to you, it is a part of who you are, your identity.)

But the question stays, why art? Now, most probably, it is because I had no other choice. We carry that in us and in the end, it had to come out. It’s like, it has to take birth, because it is there. It cannot be otherwise than to come out”.
Eric G. C. Weets.

See more of Weets work here

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Ignite Your Inner Flame and Learn To Fly

The Olympics and Paralympics have dominated the TV for the last couple of weeks. As an self-confessed “non-sporty” person who can’t stand watching televised sport {or sport of any kind} I was truly dreading the start of the Olympic media onslaught and had become very Scrooge-like about it, complaining that the Olympics had taken money away from the arts.  However, when the games started I was surprised to find myself moved and deeply inspired by the athletes taking part.

What I have enjoyed most are the stories behind the victories (or losses). The mental strength and the ability the athletes possess to keep going when the odds are stacked against them. The strength of mind, as opposed to physical strength that keeps them moving forward towards their goal.

The Paralympics has been especially inspirational for me. Competitors have had to deal mentally with life changing injuries, many caused by war or other acts of violence or other issues that make competing harder.

Paralympic athlete Martine Wiltshire competed at Sitting Volleyball at the London Olympics. She lost her legs in the July 7th terrorist attacks on the London Tube which happened the day after the Olympic committee announced that London would be the venue for the next games.  Martine was faced with rebuilding her life in a different form. She said of her Team GB selection “It’s a dream, and something that I never, ever thought I’d be doing, and a journey that I never thought I’d be on.” Read more on Martine’s story here.

It was magical to see the Paralympics opening ceremony dominated by art. One of the key moments was the centrepiece of Marc Quinns sculpture “Alison Lapper pregnant”

Alison Lapper Pregnant - Paralympics

This beautiful and dignified sculpture amazingly sparked a storm of controversy when it was displayed in Trafalgar Square in London.

Alison Lapper is an artist I have a lot of respect for and her story is one of determination. Born with the congenital disorder, phocomelia, which caused her to have no arms and truncated legs, Alison was rejected by her mother at birth and raised in children’s homes where she was treated cruelly by staff.

She taught herself to paint using her mouth and is a member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists group. Alison went on to  study Fine Art at the University of Brighton and graduated with a first class honours degree. Her work uses uses photography, digital imaging and painting to question ideals of beauty.

When she became pregnant, Alison was again told that she would never be able to cope as a single mother and should not have the baby, but again she rose to the challenge and has a beautiful son, Parys.

Alison and the Paralympians are a reminder that we all need to model this kind of self belief when the task of achieving our goals and dreams looks beyond our reach. Taking it one step at a time and believing in ourselves and that we can do it takes us a step nearer our goal every day

There are a few key things to remember when you are struggling to keep on track…

  • Surround yourself with positive people who support your plans
  • Conversely do your best to avoid contact with those who tell you it’s impossible
  • Find a possible role model who has achieved what you want to do. Study their methods and learn as much as you can from them. Look at how they got there and the struggles they had along the way and take inspiration and heart from the fact they got there in the end.
  • Set yourself goals – if you have a goal you know where you are going…
  • Have an open mind – you can find inspiration in new, wonderful and unexpected places…

Who is your inspiration? Share with us in the comments…

Image by Alison Lapper

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How To Keep Your Creative Flame Burning – 10 Top Tips

With everyday life bearing down on you it’s difficult to keep your creative flame burning.

Work, kids and general reality all conspire to eat up every last second of your time and cloud your thought processes, reducing your creative brain to mush.

It can seem impossible to find time to let your brain wander in the way that often leads to the best ideas. When you do get time to create you can find yourself with “white paper syndrome” leaving you in a state of panic as to what to do with your precious few minutes.

In this post I’ve gathered together a few ideas to help kick-start creativity.

One drawing an hour

Set a timer on your mobile and whatever else you are doing create a 1 minute drawing on the hour every hour. At the launderette? – draw your socks… at the pub? draw your pint… You get the picture. This really helps to force you to get creating. Even if the drawings aren’t great it’s the creative process that counts.

Photograph the small detail

Try and have a small digital camera with you at all times {mobile phone cameras are great for this} and be on the lookout for shapes, textures, silhouettes and details to photograph. Looking for these elements will make you more aware of the world around you and you will find beauty and inspiration in the most unusual places. The patch of amazingly textured rust on a car parked outside school when you drop the kids off. The spiders web on the bus stop shining and sparkling with frost. The flaking paint on a boarded up building you walk past every day on your way to work. Beauty and inspiration are everywhere. You just need to look.

Unplug & awaken your senses

Try and get away from the distractions of work/general life and awaken all your senses. This may mean walking away from the computer and doing something else. If you are stuck in an office, try and escape for a lunchtime foray into the park. Go for a walk and enjoy nature. Look at textures, notice smells {good and bad} listen to sounds. Pick up an instrument and play some music. Read a book, Awakening your senses can be really inspirational and lead to your creative thought processes flowing again.

Turn off the TV and go out and do something less boring instead.

Do you remeber the kids TV programme from the 70’s that advocated this? They were so right!. It’s so easy to slump in front of something mindless at the end of a hard day when the kids have gone to bed, but you often find if you don’t put it on, maybe listen to music instead you are in a much better place to get the creative part of your brain working.

It’s no secret that the TV is an absolute killer to creativity. Ignore its siren call. Put some music on and paint.

Learn a new creative skill

Learning a new skill which hopefully complements your existing skills will often re-energise your creativity. For example, as a Printmaker who specialises in Screen-printing, learning skills in Etching or Lithography would bring some new creative input to my process and possibly give my work a new dimension. Must get those courses booked.

Enrol on a course

Leading on from the point above – it’s a great idea to book yourself onto an organised course to learn a new skill. The fact that you have paid for the course will encourage you to keep going. I also find thatthe fact that you have “ringfenced” say 2 hours on a Tuesday night persuades you to go and do something and it’s not as easy to just get sidetracked by other things. Enrolling on a Life Drawing course or a learning a skill related to your work can be really inspirational.

Be inspired by Google

The internet is the perfect way to keep inspired by seeing new art. Set aside a few minutes to check out a new and exciting artist or reaquaint yourself with old favourites.

The Google Art Project gives you access to collections in galleries around the world and is an amazing way to visit a new gallery every day from the comfort of your desk. Why not make it a lunchtime break ritual?

Keep your sketchbook with you at all times

Maybe get yourself a smaller one that fits in your handbag – and keep writing things down. The funny conversation you heard in the dentists waiting room. The idea for a drawing that popped into your head as you were bored in a meeting. Make sure you record it all. There will be a point in the future when things are calmer and you have more time. Then you can go over what you have recorded and there will be some sparks of inspiration to work from. It will help prevent “White Paper Syndrome”

Get up early

This isn’t for everyone and the thought of getting up even earlier may be just too much… but I find I can have a nice half hour of peaceful time to think with a coffee before everyone else in the house is up. Well worth the effort of dragging myself awake. It works for me.

Just keep creating

It’s easy to stop being creative. Other stuff gets in the way and before you know it 5 years have gone by and you haven’t produced any work {believe me, I know}. The most important thing is to just keep going. Even if you only produce work very slowly it’s important to still keep making stuff and seeing yourself as an artist, printmaker or whatever you do rather than someone who “used to do a bit of painting”.

If you ever find yourself using that phrase to describe yourself at a party it’s definitely time to implement the tactics I have outlined above.

Please share with us in the comments what works for you to keep your creative flame burning.

Thanks to Tack-O-Rama for the fabulous retro image

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Reader’s Showcase | Harriete Estel Berman | Intriguing Post Consumer Recycled Art

Harriete Estel Berman uses post consumer, recycled materials to construct artwork ranging from jewelry and teacups to entire lawns and sculpture with social commentary.

Sculptures include domestic appliances remarking on the roles of women, the influence of advertising and commentary about our consumer society. Recent work includes a bell curve 15′ feet tall and 28′ feet as a commentary about the impact of standardized testing.

Judaica by Harriete focus on the concept of Tikkum Olam “repair the world” with the use of recycled tin cans.

This Seder plate was designed for the invitational exhibition titled Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought, The Dorothy Saxe Invitational at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. San Francisco, CA

Berman’s work has shown throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa. Her work has been acquired for the permanent collections of 13 museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Detroit Institute of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Harriete says…

All of my work uses  post consumer recycled materials for the past 24 years (starting way before the current rage for recycled materials.) At the time I started it was actually embarrassing to be working with trash. Now this movement has considerable momentum.”

“My primary material is recycled tin cans to make jewelry, sculpture, installations and Judaica. 

The Recycle Fushia Bracelet above is from a premium quality shampoo that came in a brilliant colored plastic bottle. The black is take out trays.

“Recently I have been expanding into using pencils and post consumer plastic waste.   

Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin is a gigantic bell curve 28' wide and 15' tall about the impact of standardized testing on our educational system.

Womanizer, Kitchen Queen 1982 - Blender body and lid are a painted copper construction. Carefully constructed using sheet metal these appliances are not found objects. Ballerina inside the transparent plastic blender container pirouettes in conjunction with the music by wind-up mechanism.

You can find out more about Harriete and her work on her website:

A Flickr Set detailing the design and fabrication of Harriete’s amazing Seder Plate

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The Road To Success – Are You On It?

A little while back I wrote about the difficulty of learning a new skill and how you would have to navigate what Seth Godin calls “The Dip”. The bit of your journey where the initial optimism and excitement of what you are trying to learn wears off and you are faced with the steep and harsh climb up the cliff face of learning towards mastery. This is the bit thats unforgiving and just not that much fun. You have to dig deep and pull through it to get to the other side.

At the moment I am struggling to learn THE most difficult art related skill I have ever faced. Therefore I wanted to share with you the following WONDERFUL image which beautifully illustrates the struggle we all face when trying to learn new skills or improve our current ones.

I don’t know the artist of this image or when it dates from. I found it on the wall of a tattooists in Louisiana. Thats all I know, but a picture speaks a thousand words.

If you are struggling with your own journey, take a look and share it. Hopefully it will help you find your own path…

 Please click the blurry image below to see it in all it’s full size glory…

The Road To Success Selling Art Online

The Road To Success

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Best of the web | March 2012 | Don’t miss these

33 ways sell art online

I LOVE this list of 33 Ways to stay creative

I havent been able to verify an author despite a trawl round the internet so if this is yours please contact me for a proper link and credit.

Paul Graham writes about how to find and do work that you love

If you only read one thing this month then make it this…

Riusuke Fukahori paints incredible 3D Goldfish in resin ponds

I have been totally blown away by the incredible art of Riusuke Fukahori. Its hard for your brain to understand that the fish aren’t real until you see his technique and understand how he creates the paintings. Beautiful and calming with a wonderful Zen quality. Watch the creation of goldfish below.

“Goldfish Salvation” Riusuke Fukahori


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We Need Your Opinion – Enterprising Artist’s Survey

Opportunities for artists have changed radically over the last 10 years or so.

Widespread use of the internet has begun a process of democratisation of the artworld as never before. New opportunities have been tempered by new challenges. It is a huge sea-change which has altered the art landscape forever. More and more artists are finding that it IS possible to make a living from their creativity. You no LONGER have to starve for your art…

What is less clear is that how do we fit into this new landscape as artists?

HOW are people doing? WHAT are they doing? WHERE are they going? Just HOW is it all panning out for YOU?

Introducing The Enterprising Artists Survey.

To get a little more of an idea, Artonomy has partnered with to create The Enterprising Artists Survey.

Your opinion and experience counts…

We need YOUR EXPERIENCE to understand what is going on.

In return for 10 minutes of your time filling out the survey, you will be emailed the summarized results and get a more detailed picture of today’s entrepreneurial art landscape.

So please help us  by completing the survey here

Thank You

Artonomy & Right Brain Rockstar



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The Art of Collaboration – How can letting go help you grow?

Defined by Merriam Webster, to Collaborate means: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.

Collaboration in art takes the idea to a new level. It is the opportunity for artists to contribute to one piece or to a multitude of pieces in a particular project that may or may not have the same theme. Sound confusing? It can be if there is not some kind of leadership involved; someone to grab the reins so to speak. However, once a group of artists decides on a project there is no stopping the energy that builds when these groups get together; when one idea is presented often times many new ideas spring from this one.

I have involved myself in several collaborative efforts—most notably through mail art groups. These groups can be local, national and international. Usually one person comes up with an idea and posts their Call to Art–artists from all over contribute a piece to the group. Sometimes the art is returned but more often than not, it is gone for good. I actually like that part because now my art is in the hands of another who may love the piece or discover something in it that I didn’t. The act of sharing is vital to collaborative art and you must be able to let go. Artists can get so stuck in doing things their own way – especially when one works alone in a studio, but don’t we learn more by be inspired by others? This is what collaborative art projects truly are…an opportunity to share and learn in the presence of like-minded individuals.

One project that made a huge impression on me was the 1001 Journals project. The website explains it best, “The 1000 Journals Project is an ongoing collaborative experiment attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels. The goal is to provide a method for interaction and shared creativity among friends and strangers.” These journals traveled all over the world and individuals wrote, illustrated, painted and collaged their art inside it. Then they sent it on to the next person. Most of the journals were returned back to the individual who began the project. Some did not. Launched in 2000, “The project officially launched in August of 2000, with the release of the first 100 journals in San Francisco. I gave them to friends, and left them at bars, cafes, and on park benches. Shortly thereafter, people began emailing me, asking if they could participate. So I started sending journals to folks, allowing them to share with friends, or strangers. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.” This is a timeless story told through art where individuals unselfishly shared their talent, and many times their soul.

A Northern California collaborative art group, Kunstanke embarked on an artistic journey inspired by the works of the 17th century artist, Claude Lorrain. A book containing his drawings was cut up and the drawings in the book were distributed among the artists. The artists were to combine the original book page and their art to recreate the image into something new. It was a composition of sorts with the new and the old. 45 pieces were completed. While there were actually more, the group felt that not all of the images succeeded and it came down to this number. The final pieces went into an exhibit where “The result is a diverse and nuanced conversation about ideas, subject matter and materials.” For more about this project please visit the Kunstanke web site.

And just today I came across a collaborative project by the online publisher, Society6. The final project will be a limited edition Zine called “Us and Them”. The rules are simple…create an inspired piece using the theme Us and Them and set the image up as a print on Society6. Society6 will curate the collection and notify the artists if their piece has been selected for the limited edition Zine.

An enjoyable aspect of the idea of collaborative art is the freedom of expression and free flowing ideas that are conveyed. Anyone can start a project, anyone can join a project. And you do not need to be an artist to join. The 1001 Journals project was less about art and more about expression. The last collaborative art project I started consisted of three 11×14 pieces of white paper sent out with a list of instructions. Draw anything, anywhere on the 11×14 sheet then send it off to the next person. The 10th person should return the completed sheet back to my address where I will scan it and have it made into a poster. I love the idea. However, it’s been three years and I haven’t gotten it back. This may be one of those times where we learn to let go.

Copyright 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
You can buy Jan’s beautiful work here

Have you worked on a collaborative project or in a group? How did it work out? Please tell us in the comments…

Post image by Jan Weiss

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Reader’s Showcase | Jordan Conlin | Rising Games Designer

Jordan Conlin Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime

Jordan Conlin is a young 18 year old artist from Stockton-On-Tees in the north of England. Having started drawing from a very young age, his passion was reignited by purchasing a graphics tablet for use with Adobe Photoshop software.

Jordan Conlin Masterchief


All of the work shown here was drawn using Adobe Photoshop CS3/4 and completed in less than five hours.

Jordan Conlin Bumblebee


Jordan Conlin Forest Gump

Forest Gump

Jordan is studying Game Design at Middlesbrough College and hopes to be a full time artist in the gaming industry working at drawing and 3D modelling.


You can see more examples of Jordans fabulous speed paintings on his YouTube Channel Contact Jordan at jord_conlin{at}hotmail{dot}co{dot}uk

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