Category: learning

4 Tips for Finding and Bringing Inspiration

It happens frequently; a blank stare, the wandering brush, a few extra dips in the water and a heavy sigh. The question is palpable. “What am I going to paint?” An artist doodles hopefully on scrap paper, she explores wet on wet techniques and brush strokes, the little experiments that emerge from free exploration bloom in beauty and richness. Then, as soon as her brush is placed on her “real” painting the fluidity and untethered joy disappear and everything tightens then muddies on the paper. Frustration ensues.

Frustration is part of the artistic process. Not just the artistic process, it is part of learning. It is an indication you are on the journey from here to the there you want to be. We should celebrate healthy frustration, it signals the verge of some new finding and an indication that we are engaged in deliberate practice. Each step we take to explore our frustration, we will learn. It is a beautiful thing.

While some freeze with frustration, others bloom. In workshops, the goal is to create just one pendant in three hours. I’ve had a couple people make as many as five that they love. Yes, one was a part-time artist and the other was an engineer with no painting experience. How do you make sense of that?

How do I? Mindset is 90% of everything. That’s how I make sense of it.

But mindset is a tricky beast. I can’t tell you to fix your mindset and you simply change on the spot. There is a lot of internal dialogue to struggle with and sometimes it’s downright stubborn and insidious. That damn voice wont stop telling me that I’m never going to paint another painting as good as…..fill in the blank. I know it isn’t helpful, and the voice should go away and I tell it to go away but the stupid voice is still there. Ugh.

And there is this:  sometimes there is no voice. Just an indistinct discomfort in the pit of the stomach. That is a sneaky beast and potentially paralyzingly to creativity and inspiration.

Certain people are more comfortable handling discomfort and sneaky negativity. They come armed with coping mechanisms and inspiration to deal with it.

Here are a few to keep in mind at the next workshop or creative endeavor.

Ask Questions – Lots of Questions 

The engineer that happily made five necklaces asked a ton of questions. She had no experience but she had endless curiosity. From asking about the nature of pigments to advice about composition she made use of my experience and got as much as should could out of it.

Simply asking “How did you do that?” can speed up inspiration when the answer starts to unfold. Or “I want it to look like this. How do I do that?” Can save you miles of doodling aimlessly. Ask the questions, even if they seem stupid. The next question will be even better.

Remember, from my perspective as a teacher, it is an honor to be asked. I love questions.

The Golden Light 2 (c) Marika Reinke 2017
The Golden Light 2 (c) Marika Reinke 2017

Bring Color Inspiration 

Color triggers emotion. Consciously or unconsciously, we have strong opinions about color. You love them, you hate them, you want a room full of them or a room subtracted from them. A strong opinion creates fantastic art. Own your opinions with a full and fearless heart and embrace color.

Joy (c) Marika Reinke
Joy (c) Marika Reinke

Do you have a favorite color combination? Or hue? What about your favorite swimsuit, t-shirt or outfit? Match the colors of your favorite jewelry. Bring the colors your love, they will incite and inspire your creative process.

The colors we use in my workshop are the best, professional quality and I only use best paper for a reason. These color explode with intensity and vibrancy. This is no average color experience, take advantage of it.

Look Around & Bring Your Favorite Images 

The natural world is the most amazing artist. Sunsets, ocean water, landscapes and other abstract work are all awesome sources of inspiration. Abstract work is naturally inspired by both the environment and emotion which are perfect fuel for inspiration. A flower, a tree, a stone and a texture that you find inherently beautiful can motivate your brush and vision. Bring them and study them. Surf the internet or take some photos on your phone.

Or use what you see at workshop, I have my own jewelry and paintings available to view. You can also check out some of the writing and paintings in my little free book, The Art Ritual.

Inner Fire 2 (c) Marika Reinke 2017
Inner Fire 2 (c) Marika Reinke 2017

Once you have a small collection of what you like, notice what you like and don’t like. Start answering the question, why do I like this photo, image or piece of art?

And remember…

It’s okay if a painting starts to look like something you have seen. Really, it is fine. This is part of exploring and finding your voice. It means you are defining what you like, developing taste and starting to form your artistic vision. Embrace this as part of your artistic awakening.

Invite Surprises 

Keep the tension between what you think you will create and stay open to the surprise of what you will actually create. Dissonance between the two is natural and part of learning and creating. It is easy to cling to a vision and stubbornly insist the art in front of you doesn’t measure up. That mindset is easy to maintain. But often, it gets in the way of actually seeing the value and beauty of what you have created.

The truth is our imaginations are often much better than our skill set.  Our imagination is what drives us to be better but also what drives us to be overly critical. Follow the process through and let the painting teach you something. Invite the surprises in your learning process. You may not measure up to your initial vision but what emerges may offer you more when it represents a small step or leap in the direction of your creative life.

A sense of possibility will unwrap a multitude of possibility.

Inner Fire (c) Marika Reinke 2017
Inner Fire (c) Marika Reinke 2017

Ready to Dive In? 

Are you ready to test the theory and put this inspiration to the test? My next workshop is coming up soon.

Watercolor Necklace Workshop (Mimosas and Brunch) $39
Sunday, December 3rd from 9:30 am to 12:30
More information here. 




Climbing Gym 10 Scary Wall

Ugly Truths about Just Pretending

I’m a moderate climber, I’m not bad-ass.  I can climb close to as well as any recreational climber, man or woman, but I’ve mostly approached this sport as entertainment.  Moderate is challenging for me physically and mentally. I don’t think I can compare to the people I see the gym or at the outdoor crags.  I’m kind of a scardy-cat, fear gets the best of me and I certainly don’t train for climbing seriously.

I’m beginning to learn that I love it enough that taking it seriously may be the best I can give myself, husband and kids.

What do I love about climbing? The challenge and adventure.  I like not being awesome at something. In fact, I’m so far from awesome I don’t even have to worry about being awesome.  I have improved over time. Work and play pay back but awesome is a faraway goal.

I really love that climbing houses wonderful analogies for life. It has been said that the way you approach a climb is undoubtedly the way your will approach life.

I’ve been reflecting on this.

I recently worked on a 10c climb at the climbing gym and it taught me some ugly truths about myself.

Let’s start with this ugly truth.  Truthfully, I don’t work hard on climbs.  The term in climbing jargon is “to project” as in “I’m projecting a climb”.  This particular 10c climb gets the best of me so it is a perfect “project”.  It overhangs, which means I have to use my upper body.  It angles a bit, which means it pushes me into an exposed and scary state. It is long and that scares me too. I don’t feel in control when I climb it, the wall controls me. Why don’t I project climbs?  When you project a climb, you must begin to take the climb seriously.  You become committed to getting to the top. I don’t project climbs because I don’t want to make myself vulnerable to failure and fear.

Next ugly truth.  I don’t care if I get to the top. Why is this an ugly truth?  Well, why am I climbing if I don’t want to get to the top? Isn’t that the goal? I get something back from climbing, don’t I? I think so.  I think I like the image of being a climber.  I like to think I’m daring and adventurous.  I like to think I’m pushing my boundaries but when faced with a climb that pushes back, I balk.  I climb because my ego likes it and likes what most people think of me because I climb.

What kind of climbing narcissist am I? When I realized this about myself, I gagged a little.

Oh ugly truths!  Let’s summarize them. 1.  I don’t like to work. 2.  I don’t want to be vulnerable or fearful. 3. I don’t care if I reach my goal.  4. I just care that people think I am a person that does the opposite of those things.   

Am I doing this in life too? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes.  Let that marinate.  And I’m not saying that I do that ALL the time, but these are subtle mental distractions that keep me from my goals, the tough ones that take perserverence.

These ugly truths have kept me from getting better at climbing and more in-tuned with something that I really do love and respect as a sport.

So I must somehow work on change. To start, I must project this climb.

I told myself, through my passivity, fear and negativity;  Just do it 3 times.  That is all.  You don’t have to get to the top, get to the scary part and see what you can do.  So I did.  By the third time, I was tired, thinking halted and I laughed when I failed. Laughter is better than beating yourself up over failure, wondering what people think or not even trying.  So logically, I climbed to failure a fourth time.  You know, just because.

Laughter and learning are the enemy of these ugly truths.




Blugh and Marika ClimbingBlugh and Marika Climbing

Growing Up Past the Bolt

Blugh and Marika ClimbingBlugh and Marika Climbing
Blugh and Marika Climbing

That’s my husband lead sport climbing.  I’m below him belaying.  As he climbs, he pulls the rope up with him and secures it with a quick draw in pre-set bolts in the wall.  As he climbs past a bolt, he enters “scary fall zone”.  If he falls once he is beyond a bolt, the fall is longer, he is more likely to scrape himself up and the force of the fall will pull me off the ground, just a little.  In reality, he is safe. The gear and my belay will catch him.   We have learned and done everything we can to make it so.  He has a harness, a secure rope, knot, knowledge, practice and all our attention.

There are times when he is leading a climb and I get scared.  He climbs past the bolt, gets stuck and searches for a route to get to the next bolt.  He is nervous, clearly unsure and struggling.  I get anxious.  The last time I watched him struggle, I wondered why I bothered to watch him.  If he falls, he will be okay.  In reality, my anxiety doesn’t help him.

This is the essence of growing up past the bolt and parents should pay attention.  Why?

Ideally, parents do everything we can to provide safety for the risks of childhood and growing up.  We talk to them about the risks, we instill values, we set limitations, we teach them, provide an environment for growth and high standards.  But, eventually, they will have to climb past the bolt and enter “scary fall zone”.  Us parents can watch and get anxious or, provided that we have invested in learning, creating and communicating a safe structure, just let them fail or not.

Undoubtedly, climbing past the bolt sometimes means failure. It is the nature of risk-taking to fail.  In climbing classes, we always practice falling which is in essence, practicing failure.  It makes you a better climber to get comfortable as you climb past the bolt and fall. Get used to it.

I want my kids to fail (and succeed) a few times as they climb past the bolt and out of their comfort zone.  Failure shouldn’t scare them to paralysis – though it might always be a little scary.  The greatest learning in life happens when you climb past the bolt and into the risky unknown.