I'm so happy to have Lari Washburn as one of our guest posters! She is a Maine artist and an incredibly talented and creative individual. Her website is dreamy and her Instagram account captures a glimpse into the life of an artist who is ever creating!

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When did you first consider yourself an "artist"?

I first considered myself an artist when I was in school getting my BFA in painting. My mother was a painter, and so I was always steeped in the daily life of an artist. I grew up experiencing that making things and having space for a creative life was natural. I have never not had creating at the center of my life. I did go through a long period where I worked for Bell Labs, and did not paint very much at all. I founded a creativity center at Lucent Technologies in the mid 90's and that got me back to making my own art. It was then several years of being in my own studio in Chicago before I felt comfortable calling myself an artist. I think it came for me when I saw that I was applying myself to a daily discipline of making art, and that it really was my true place in life. I think people get so hung up on the label "artist". To me I am an artist mostly because I make art! And I make art because I need to say things in a visual form that I can't say in words. For me, my art is a unique language that I continue to discover every time I make things.

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How did you develop your eye?

I think I've developed my eye in my work and in my style of living by exposing myself to good nourishment in all forms. Sounds funny, but I believe that everything is "food" for our work and lives and we should be mindful of what we take in. I study with a spiritual teacher, and his way of expressing this is to be ever mindful of "the company we keep". And this means the company of our own thoughts, what we take in, what we put out vibrationally, what we consume in every way. So I think my eye has been made up of all these things. I try also to refine and craft well whatever I make, weather it be a painting or a meal or a conversation. I think the discipline of restraint and refinement are important in developing anything true or authentic. I have also spent much time learning perception skills and thinking about how to see more, and thus experience more in daily life. I have been blessed with many resources in the form of friends and experiences who have taught me and helped me see more. Curiosity and the love of learning are crucial to continuing the development of my eye, as I will do throughout my life. And I constantly expose myself to beauty in all forms.

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How do you incorporate creativity into your daily life?

Incorporating creativity into life is just life! In order to live we must be creative. I try to live from my own values and vision of what I want my life to be. I try to live from a purpose that is larger than myself, and that takes always looking at my actions and motivations for what I do. And then responding to that has to be creative. Life asks us to grow, to become more than we were, and that takes great creative response. To think of how to live in a better and better way each day takes creative engagement with life. I'm always thinking about how to make my life and the lives of those around me better. I'm also always trying to improve my work, and my environment. And for that I need new ideas, and new ways to approach life...and that is the essence of living creatively. I take nothing for granted, and I try to live fully each day. I try to respond  to people and situations around me with the best I have to offer. All these things are creative to me. I know that each of us is inherently creative, but sometimes we forget to live from that freshness, and that's when we get bored and stop trying. Maybe that is the essence of creativity...keep trying new things to get where you want to go!

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How do you think artistry and creativity affects your life, relationships, and personal experiences?

Artistry in my life is the need to bring aesthetic judgment into everything I do. Sometimes it feels like a curse! But I can't help it. I think that's the way I'm always growing in my connection to myself, others and life situations. I've developed this way of looking for beauty in everything as I've made my way through the experiences of life. Much of beauty comes from finding authenticity. Plato had it right when he said Truth is beauty. A complicated beauty to be sure, but from seeking the truth comes living in a way that is artful. Artfulness is the ability to respond to what we encounter. I want to always see the rich complexity in life and respond to that; let it influence my life and work so that I do live from that truth.

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You have a very unique style...what did you do to cultivate that?

My style has been developed from learning to have access to my intuitive self, and of course to learn how to use materials effectively. I studied intuitive painting for quite a while with Stewart Cubley, who is the author of Life, Paint, and Passion. I took many workshops with him. It was a process of learning to paint and NOT make aesthetic judgments so as to listen to something much deeper within that guides us always, and literally guides the next mark we make creatively. From those workshops I had to make a transition to applying aesthetic judgment to what I made, while still accessing the intuitive. That was, and continues to be, the biggest challenge in developing as an artist. I strive to listen to something non-verbal and non "rational", while also applying aesthetic judgements I've learned through practice, experience, and looking at lots of art. I keep sketchbooks going always, and use them almost daily. I think there is great value in drawing every day, and in a way that allows freedom. Sketchbooks allow me to practice and experiment and explore with the most freedom. Even if I don't feel like drawing, the minute I open a sketchbook and start making marks I feel free and engaged in a way that is very satisfying. For me this practice is indispensable.

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What advice would you give to other creative individuals looking to develop their own unique art?

The most effective way I know to develop your own art is to practice consistently. Life can pull us in many directions, but whatever we commit to doing regularly develops. Be always seeking new experience, but make them good, wholesome ones that are in line with your vision for your own work. I think it's necessary to look at all kinds of art, and don't be afraid to let other people's work be a jumping off point. You can't really imitate anyone else because even if you set out to do that, your art will transform into your own art if you let it come from your intuition. It's important to let yourself be inspired, but to listen to where your own voice is leading you. As an artist you must learn to take what other people say about your art...good and bad, as thoughts coming from their perspective and their experience. Try to remain unattached to what others say about your art. Keep a sketchbook and use it daily. Do some form of practice that brings you into stillness so you can hear your own voice honestly and regularly.

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How has photography influenced your work/life?

I have always been spellbound by photography. It all started when my parents took me to a lecture/slide show of a photographer when I was little. I still remember clearly being so affected by a photograph of a white horse in an emerald green field, shot in moody, misty Irish light. It as so evocative and therefore powerful! When I was younger I had a cool Minolta camera and shot lots of black and white film. When I started to get interested in blogs and started writing my own blog about art, and my own art, I really needed to learn how to shoot good photos of my work. I took an intensive course at Maine Media, and really learned how to negotiate my then new Nikon D7000. I have learned so much, but still feel that I don't capture the subtle surface quality of my paintings. So I continue to practice and study and admire other photographers. The one piece of advice that has guided me all along is "When you are photographing anything, you are photographing light." I wish I could remember who said that. Maybe Stieglitz, or Ansel Adams. But that has given me plenty to think about and strive for in my photos. I think the biggest motivation to make photographs for me is to capture the moments of life that are so fleeting and precious, just because they are so ephemeral. Taking photos makes me stop and really look. I also have a good friend, Suzanne Merritt who wrote an e-book called Flow-tography, (check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ax-ojusIAXM) who has taught me so much over the years about slowing down to see and use photography as a spiritual practice. All of this influences and enriches my life and work daily. A camera is a really good way to develop your eye as an artist.

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Where do you see your work heading in the next 10 years?

As for the next 10 years, I see my work becoming more and more about trying to engage people in my art as a way of relaxing and giving themselves to the refreshment of getting lost in surface intricacy in my paintings and drawings. I feel so strongly that people are exhausted by having to think and reason and analyze all day long. They need some way to let go of the intellectual and just be fascinated by something interesting for awhile. I think that experience actually changes the brain waves somehow, and refreshes the viewer. I also want to go deeper into the mediums of acrylic and watercolor. I love drawing, and want to always work on being better at that. I plan on going deeper into my ceramic work because working in three dimensions improves my gestural facility, and teaches me patience. I would like to do an intensive somewhere focusing on a solid month to persue one idea in my sqeeze-bottle painting series, so I can push further into where that technique can take me. And I want to improve my photography so that it captures the nuances of my work effectively. I guess I will remain busy!