Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: art Page 1 of 2

Elle Luna – On Launching Your Creative Journey

Elle Luna’s creative journey is a touchstone for many eager to find creative expression in their lives. A designer and artist, she’s become somewhat of a creativity guru with her recent book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion.

Elle Luna twitter page

Elle Luna from her twitter page

From The Great Discontent site:

I have so much respect for anybody who will step away from what they can do in order to find what they must do. That’s a hallmark characteristic of entrepreneurs and artists. And it’s scary and exciting as all hell.

I’ve read her book and highly recommend it. You’ll find it’s many things: a journal about her struggle to find and express her creative passion – painting, an exploration of roadblocks we erect on the path to creativity, and a guide to discovering and realizing your own creative impulse.

Crossroads book

It’s also surprisingly reasoned – unlike Timothy Leary’s famous call in the 60’s to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” she talks about how issues like time, money and space challenge your ability to transform your life from the world of “should” to the challenge of doing what you “must” to follow your creative passion.


from “The Crossroads of Should and Must”

How did she launch her creative journey and what can we learn from her experience?

Creativity is a process and often, each experience builds on the next. It’s also a jumble of confusion, inspiration, stillness and bursts of activity – all leading to a final outcome. The process can be disciplined or unfocused, spontaneous or meticulously planned in advance – the specifics vary with each person.

photo by Anna Alexia Basile

photo by Anna Alexia Basile

Elle Luna would say it’s a journey that is potentially open to everyone. Here’s her story in brief:

Elle Luna grew up in Texas and came from a long line of lawyers, on her father’s side. She took some art courses in college but saw law as her destiny. She applied to 9 law schools and was rejected by all. So she pursued her early interest in art and got an MFA in design and conceptual storytelling from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her ability as a storyteller led to a dream job with the design firm IDEO. From there, she helped redesign Uber’s iphone app, won an Innovation by Design award, designed a logo and app for the start-up Mailbox, and helped scale up the storyteller site, Medium. She was 31, at the top of her game but all she accomplished left her feeling unfulfilled.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 4.40.41 PM

From The Great Discontent:

I started having a recurring dream about a white room: it had really high ceilings, white walls, industrial windows, and concrete floors. I had the dream over and over again. Finally, a friend of mine said, “Have you ever thought about finding this white room in real life?” I remember feeling stunned by the question. What an obvious thing to ask. I didn’t know what I was looking for or what the role of this white room was. I felt ridiculous.

white room

Feeling restless and unfulfilled, she began looking for her dream space.

One day I was on Craigslist and saw a thumbnail of an apartment—it was the room from my dreams. When I walked into the space, it was crawling with people, but I felt like it was already mine. I walked up to the broker, wrote a check, and left; it was almost an out-of-body experience. A couple of hours later I got a call that I had gotten the apartment. 


I had no idea what I was doing, but I showed up in the new apartment with two suitcases and my dog.

her studio2

I sat, looked at the space and said aloud, “What in God’s name have I just done? Why I am I here?” As clear as day, the space spoke back to me and said, “It’s time to paint.”

ike edeani

photo by Ike Edeani

That next morning, I went to the art store and filled my cart with anything and everything that spoke to me. Then I went back to the space and started painting nonstop for the next seven months.

from her tumblr site6

from her tumblr site

Still, she was stuck between should and must – How would she live? How could she support herself? Would her work be any good at all?


photo by Ike Edeani

From an interview from

Shoulds are everywhere. You should read this book. You should go to that event. You should ask that question. They can be small; they can be big. Should provides lots of rewards.

Must is different. It’s about the essence of you: what you believe; what you stand for; what you want; who you must be; and how you must live. Must isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be brutal. But, choosing must is the greatest thing we can do with our time here in this life.

self portrait


She spent time in solitude to slow down, explore, meditate and seek inspiration. She showed her work to people she admired for feedback and criticism. And kept working, refining and following her muse. Her art gained attention – a solo show sold out.

Far From Shore Ian Ross Gallery

Elle Luna’s “Far From Shore” exhibit at the Ian Ross Gallery

From the Great Discontent:

Everything is a paradox. I feel like I’m on a path I’ve never seen before, yet I’m not on a path at all. There’s no prescription for where I’m going, yet many people have been down this road. 

her studio3

In 2014, she wrote on Medium about her struggles and insights into the conflicts between “should” and “must.” Her article went viral. That led to a book and inspirational talks like this one at DO Lectures.


She took a deep dive into painting, plus giving interviews and inspirational talks. This year she felt the need for solitude once again. She decided to take her “white room” on the road.

Elle van2


Here’s a video of that experience, from the Adobe Create site:

Adobe Creative Voices – Elle Luna from ALCHEMYcreative on Vimeo.

More than anything, I’m struck by her courage, curiosity and belief that if she takes time to stop and listen she’ll find a direction forward. It’s exciting and difficult, crazy and illuminating to find your own direction and follow it. When you give yourself to the “must,” you may not become a social media darling but you will be doing something that’s true to yourself. That’s a huge gift in its own right.

Medium.comFrom the Great Discontent:

I began to wonder, “What if we went through life assuming that everyone actually was an artist? That everyone had an offering to give? To share?” Let’s broaden that up a little and ask, “What if everyone has a gift inside of them, a unique gift to give the world?”

If your time is short – read Elle’s article on Medium (15 minutes) or watch her DO talk (30 minutes). If you have some time – buy her richly illustrated book. You’ll feel inspired and realize there are many small steps you can take to launch your own creative journey. She’ll show you how.


Search for Connection: A Father’s Story


Self portrait. All photos by Reathel Geary

Photographer Reathel Geary is on a search for connection with his autistic son, Griffin. With the obvious paths to a close relationship blocked by the autism, Griffin is physically present but emotionally hidden.


Reathel is using his photography to try to capture a sense of those internal moments – even as the essence of the boy inside seems so intangible. With an observer’s eye, he can see the person that autism keeps locked inside its walls.


As a photographer, how do you capture something that you can only feel, not see? How do you photograph what’s so internal, it’s as tenuous as vapor… as fleeting as memory?


I find Reathel’s work wistful and haunting but also filled with a father’s love for his son. There is a lot of emotion in his work and you can sense some of what Griffin is feeling, in his own search for connection.

(3)in repose

Reathel describes the experience of creating this photo collection he calls Waiting for Griffin.

Autism is a separation of experience, where one is unable to participate fully in our shared reality. My son Griffin is autistic. Much of our experience is fraught with difficulty punctuated by moments of intense emotion.

(6)elevator #1

In these photographs I share what I see as a father of a little boy struggling with autism. These photographs are sometimes beautiful, often difficult and always true. Not only to the moment, but also to my hopes and fears for the future.

(13)winter tracks

Each photograph is printed as a photogravure, a process that requires a high degree of physical manipulation. Each time I wipe the plate to remove the excess ink, I do so with a father’s hand.

(9)windy beach

As I work the plate, my son is revealed to me anew, beautiful and frightening in all his future possibilities. I see him for who he truly could be and I find myself waiting for Griffin.

sqspace7 His photos also give you the sense that Griffin is waiting too. Waiting to find peace, to find a way to make sense of the world. Reathel has found a way through his abstract images of Griffin to show something of his son’s struggle as well as his own.

6036538839_6c659dbf77_sMy journey as an artist started as an escape from the stress of parenting an autistic child…  In time I started photographing my son. Now I use my camera to engage, not evade life.

I can’t say I know a lot about autism, but would like to talk a little more about Reathel’s images. Most of his work is not as distinct as the silhouette above – his photographs tend to be soft focus or hazy or a different kind of abstraction. But in the image above, the body language says so much. You can feel a sense of exhaustion, as if the weight of the world is on the little boy’s shoulders. There is also a deep feeling of separation – Reathel is using framing to separate Griffin from the rest of the world and exposure to separate him from us.

(4)morning light

According to Reathel’s statement above, all of his work is real and not posed. There is a kind of watchful waiting one would have to go through to capture these little reflective moments. In that, there’s a close connection to the street photographers I wrote about in my previous posts on street style and the decisive moment. It’s about finding that instant when something larger is revealed, when you can find that facial expression, gesture or body language that reveals something deeper about the person caught in the lens.


This image is so evocative of Griffin’s autistic journey. The soft focus and grainy image make the photograph dreamlike and surreal as Griffin follows the white broken lines off to who knows where. This image seems to encapsulate all of Reathel’s fears for the future. And still, there is a quiet sense of watchfulness here too. You feel that someone is there in the background, tracking his son’s progress.  Griffin’s body language shows he’s totally relaxed… maybe a little curious… moving forward.  Yes, the picture is moody, but there’s something very recognizable there too. When I first gazed at it, I found myself smiling as I saw a curious child wondering what lays ahead. Then I realized he was carefully tracking the lines – that’s when I saw autism’s influence.

(14)with mama I find this image of Griffin and his mom very touching, especially after viewing all the other images of a boy so isolated and unhappy. There’s a peacefulness and sense of “normalcy” and it’s a relief to see the connection between two. Even though they both seem to be lost in their own worlds, they’re still together, holding hands at the beach. It’s the most hopeful image in the collection.

I find his work both moving and inspiring because Reathel has turned the challenge of parenting an autistic child into art. He’s captured Griffin’s spirt and his own connection to his son. I feel the work respects his son and treats him with a gentleness and love that’s very touching.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Mark Haddon’s fictional portrayal of an autistic child’s effort to make sense of the world, The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time. 

What do you think? Do you like Reathel’s work? What do you see there?  Let me know.

Flower Power: Art v. Science


From my Richmond Hill series

When an artist ponders a flower, what is observed?  What does an scientist see? Here’s Richard Feynman’s take on it:

Richard Feynman – Ode To A Flower from Fraser Davidson on Vimeo.


Richard Feynman at Fermilab

Richard Feynman physicist, teacher, musician, was brilliant in many regards and his remarks for this animated piece came from a much longer interview with the BBC.

I’d like to explore this seeming dichotomy between the artist’s vision and scientist’s quest for understanding, because I think Feynman’s take on how an artist experiences a flower misses something important. The way I hear Feynman’s comments, he’s basically arguing that while the artist is concerned primarily with beauty, or the world of the senses, science is concerned with context, meaning and knowledge, or the world of the mind.  And he seems to imply that science brings “value added,” or a deeper understanding of the essence of flower and its place the natural order of things.  So is science more worthy that art?


From my Richmond Hill Series

I don’t want to get too abstract here, but I think the artist brings much more to the table than Feynman perceives.  Art works on so many levels… there’s the flower’s shape, form, color, smell, taste, texture… all that our senses tell us. They’re very inviting, these aspects of how we interact with the world.  Art tries to capture them.

There’s the space the flower inhabits.  In the photo above, no longer is it just a flower, but it exists in a ambience of contemplation… inviting us to muse, make associations, or perhaps just experience a quiet moment.  Visually, the soft focus of the background adds a little mystery.  Where is this space?  Who tends this garden?

From my Richmond Hill series

From my Richmond Hill series

Going still deeper, the flower conjures emotions and images… birth, passion, awakening to a new day, the freshness of morning dew…

The peony’s shape is so enveloping… you can imagine the bud gently opening… in slow motion… each petal revealing a deeper sense of flower unfolding.

The artist’s work transforms our perceptions… their view is often dreamy, instinctive, almost pre-verbal… but their vision invites us to see the world with new eyes.


Renoir’s Woman with a rose in her hair

What I’m trying to get to is that the search for meaning flows in different directions at the same time.  There is the scientist’s passion for knowledge and the effort to understand the flower’s place in the natural world that propels Feynman.  There is the artist’s quest to explore an emotional, sensual and perhaps symbolic relationship with the flower and connect it to our humanity.  To tell us something about ourselves and our place in the world.

Between science and art there are so many connections to be made.

The intellect and the emotions bring us different ways of seeing and understanding.  Both are essential to teaching us how to inhabit the world.  And together they make our lives deeper and richer.  That’s what I wanted to say to Feynman.  That it’s not either/or… we need and should embrace both.

If you’d like to explore more about Richard Feynman, here’s a link to Feynman Online.  And in the current political debate about fiscal priorities, I hope our leaders will remember the value that art and science brings to our lives.

Time, Place and Purpose: The Identity Art of Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada

Maria Tudela (all images from Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada website)

Some artists like to work on a grand scale.  Then there’s urban artist and former “culture jammer” Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada, and his Identity Series.  

Aurelio Monterrey

Concepcion Buenos Aires
Emma Barcelona

For the Identity Series, he portrays everyday people who have a strong connection to their community and then finds a suitable space for their portrait.

The artist at work on Julio Granada

But these eloquent images are only part of the story.  Jorge creates all of these portraits in charcoal.  As they gradually fade away they encapsulate identity, memory and the tenuous nature of our existence.

Maria Barcelona

Here’s a short video showing the creation of Maria Barcelona, while Jorge explains what he’s working towards.

If the video doesn’t play you can watch it here.

Jorge began the Identity Series in 2002, with a complex vision.  It’s about the process of capturing the person in charcoal, the impact that enlarged image has on the neighborhood as they see one of their own on such a grand scale, and then the collective memory of the work, after the wall portrait fades over time.  Jorge says, “the memory that is left confirms the importance and fragility of every existence. My intent is to have identity, place and memory become one.”

There’s still another dimension to his imagery which, he believes, counters the political and advertising images that permeate the cultural landscape. “I believe that our identity should come from within, not from the brands that we wear. We should question who choses our cultural icons and role models, as well as our values and our aesthetics.” 

David Vitoria

This portrait of local resident David quickly became a political statement when Jorge created it in Spain’s Basque country. The video below explains:

If the video doesn’t play, you can watch it here

There is so much we take for granted about the impact of art and the artist. We assume the artist has uncommon skill and talent and that great art is a creation that lasts for the ages.  

Of course I’m oversimplifying, but in Jorge’s work we have a strong visualization of what the winds of change both create and destroy. And I think there’s something at once inspiring and humbling about his art, as it celebrates our common humanity and points towards the impermanence of everything.

There’s more to his story that you can check out on his website. Here’s a link to an interview he did last year. And I’d like to end this post with two images from his Terrestrial Series. 

He created this homage to a beloved Spanish architect from colored sand:

Homage to Enric Miralles

Here’s a link to a video showing how he did it. 

Then there’s the image below, made from 650 tons of sand and gravel, created just before the 2008 US election.


Page 1 of 2