Sunday, October 11, 2015

New Website and Blog Supersedes This One

Well, four months after having applied for a new host and domain name, I will soon have up-and-running a new WordPress content management site.

It will most likely have a link back to and vice versa. But this old site that I first set up in 2011 is no longer adequate to the increasing professionalization and content of E. M. Corpus Graphic Arts.

The new website is

My email address for newsletter and business purposes is

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How To Nurture the Child Artist -- Or Kill It

Creativity is a characteristic given to all human beings at birth.
 -- Abraham Maslow

All children are born geniuses.
 -- Buckminster Fuller

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
 -- Pablo Picasso

My take on the last statement is that the problem is even worse: how is the child to remain an artist once he or she is born? I don’t for an instant question that inherent creative genius in children is “Nature”. For me this is a given, and at least in this essay will not endeavor to defend that assertion.

Bad Dreams Are Made of This
With the possible exception of those born with congenital birth defects (and even that is an open question for me), I believe the fostering of creative genius in children past birth is a “nurture” problem.

I assert that current society is not built to foster whole individuals, let alone creative ones. I assert that current society turns out damaged goods. How individuals function more or less intact is simply a function of degree of damage. As a whole we are not a society “running on all cylinders”.

I’m not in any position of authority in government, science or academia to determine policies regarding child welfare or education that will cause systemic changes – and I do see the problem as socially systemic.

What I see is as my mission – a spiritual mission, if you will – is to make socially significant interventions as within my power as an individual, and specifically as a creative artist and through my art, to create conditions by which children retain their creative abilities, and adults regain something of what they’ve lost.

Perhaps there’s enough blame to go around, but it’s not my intention in this writing to blame anyone, but to describe the problem as I see it, and propose a solution as I see it. I emphasis, “a solution”, not “the” solution; but I believe a crucial component of multi-level solutions to a multi-level problem.

First of all, once again, all children are born artists. Perhaps a more elaborated description of the term artist will be a good subject for many subsequent blog posts; but for this writing by artist I mean one who engages in creative expression of any kind, whether it be visual, musical, kinesthetic or whatever.

However, the capacity of the creatively-born child (i.e., any child) as an artist can be – and is often -- killed before the age of four years.

That creative capacity – the ability to think divergently -- is intrinsically connected to childhood identity-formation around self-worth, a sense of simultaneous uniqueness and universal connectedness, personal boundaries and the integration of physical, emotional, intellectual and sexual aspects of identity.

This happens at a time when the child is most vulnerable in every way imaginable. The first line of defense is in the caregivers – the mediators of the child’s environment, and his or her power to manipulate and exist in that environment, to ask for needs to be met and receive satisfaction of those needs. Most notable in this category are the gods and goddesses of an early person’s life known as parents; but also siblings, nannies, extended family and close friends are included. A short time thereafter, you add in teachers, coaches, etc.

A chaotic environment, one seemingly out of effective control by the caregivers, is a detriment to nurturing the creative child. Children will soak up their parents’ emotional distress like sponges. That emotional distress might stem from divorce, socio-economic hardship, racial, religious or sexual adversities. These distresses are unfortunately among the most “ordinary”. Downright neglect and abuse of any and all kinds adds a whole new dimensional layer, and it doesn't help if the child's neighborhood is under bombardment, does it?

These are hurts imprinted before the age of four years and then played out and reinforced soon thereafter in the classroom, playground and locker room by teachers, other children who carry their own internalized distress and by the children in question on themselves – children who beat up other children, children who beat up themselves.

Again, the point here is not to lay blame or point fingers, but to acknowledge what has been denied as the very real impact these social stresses can have on children. The impact may very well carry decades into adult life as an inability or inefficiency in functioning socially, let alone as creative artists.

There’s another aspect worth mentioning here; that I’ve written about before, to which I will undoubtedly return many times:

There will be those who point out creative individuals that have achieved some measure of public success, despite childhoods who grew up in poverty, in horrendously aversive or abusive environments, individuals who subsequently spent time in concentration camps, on the streets or in prisons. Some will argue that the creative success of those individuals was due to their early aversive experiences.

(In a somewhat similar vein, there are those who express in one way or another, “My daddy really whipped hell out of my ass, and I turned out fine.” I will certainly challenge this directly and with particular force; but that will have to wait for future posts. The fact that you can even say that indicates to me you’re far from “fine”. But, I now digress.)

I would contend that they were able to achieve despite their adversities, and to the extent that their adversities contributed to or shaped their later creative achievements, the survival of their creative inherent natures was due to something else. And that “something else” is close to the heart of my spiritual mission.

To interject a personal note, I’m a person of color who experienced a physically and emotionally abusive parent; racially and socially motivated bullying in school; and have spent the last five decades of my life dealing with the impact of these childhood experiences in various ways.

Dr. Alice Miller and one of my favorite authors, Andrew Vachss, used the term efficient witness to describe an individual who recognizes and expresses recognition of the inherent goodness – and I would add, inherent creativity – in a child or person. That individual serves as an intervening guardian angel, perhaps with a kind word or act that lasts a moment; but it could be a life-changing, life-enhancing, life-preserving word and moment.

It could be an Annie Sullivan. It could be a teacher or coach or probation officer or cellmate or AA sponsor or friend who sees something special and worth nurturing in some upstart youth with a troubled background.

The efficient witness could be you, and it could be me.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Comparison Is a Trap (some Thoughts On Art As Spiritual Practice)

toddler drawing on dresser mirror with lipstick
pastel on coffee-stained watercolor paper
11.5" x 8.5

Available for purchase
For me the creation of art is a spiritual practice, and I'll return to this theme again and again. One of the primary features of that spiritual practice is transcendence over ego. I want to emphasize the word "practice" here, meaning that my expectation of myself and of others is not perfection, but process. It's an effort that's renewed constantly while I exist in this physical space-time reality.

Ego means giving in to childhood trauma-based voices of "not good enough" "better than" "less than". If one doesn't proceed from the standpoint of LOVE -- of one's own creative inherent nature, of connectedness to the creative inherent nature of others, of the need to express and be part of the change of human experience -- then one falls into the trap of comparison. That's ego-based. 

Lately, in my art creation process, I'm striving for spontaneity and rapidness of execution. This has always in previous times been problematic, if not downright impossible. I've determined that ego plays a part in this. When you make art rapidly with a traditional permanent medium like ink, there's little opportunity to cover up "mistakes" as I make them. The same for doing art in a social setting, such as a figure drawing session.

Will others like it? Not like it? Think badly of me? Think me "less than" or "not good enough"? What is my motivation for making this piece? Am I proceeding from love and collaboration, a desire to work with others? Or am I just self-aggrandizing, shoring up personal insecurities? 

Closely tied to competition and comparison ("better than" "lesser than") is performance. These are ego-based, and a waste of my creative time and energy.

I've been making art all my life, some six decades now. I have many accomplishments and life experiences, important thoughts that need to be heard -- and seen. Yet the voices of childhood hurt still cry out at times. That's ego. 

At the same time, I would assert that it's counterproductive to beat up on the ego. It serves a purpose, and while a child or young person, it does its best with what it has at the time, often as an integral part of "survival mode". Now I honor it, tell it be calm, but it's time to let me -- the aware creative adult -- drive the bus now. 

Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell's (and other's) presentations on the Hero's Journey? For me, that's the journey that's best taken with every work of art. I'm every character in Oz -- Dorothy, her friends, the witches, the Wizard -- all of them. Ego is friend and enemy at the same time. Ultimately the creation of art involves conflict, resolve, resolution, transformation and return; and then I do it all over again. See? It doesn't end.

There are ways to transform the struggle with ego into artistic subjects in themselves; but again it has to done from the standpoint of love and the sharing of transformative processes.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lisa Redux

Lisa Redux (nude study)
soft and hard pastel on Canson paper
18 x "24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm)
Had our beautiful model had the superhuman ability to hold her pose for six hours instead of one, and had not shifted her position during the break (and had I been more confident in drawing her in pastel), that painting might have looked more like this. As I'm dissatisfied with how I rendered that first drawing, this is a do-over partially from memory. I recall vaguely that she wore a nose ring that day; but I'm taking a wild-assed guess that I placed it in the correct nostril.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Participating for the First Time With MPAF's Annual Membership Exhibit

The re-opening gala reception at Pacific Grove Art Center last night was a gas. It seemed to me that some hundreds of people showed to view art and photography, from the miniatures that lined the halls to the walls of the four exhibit galleries. I was honored to participate as a new member of the Monterey Peninsula Art Foundation. My appreciation goes out to Jan Zeigler, a fabulous organizer, who got my Where It Hurts Now chiaroscuro composition entered into the exhibition at a late date. She and my fellow artists have been so warm and welcoming to me, first to the Seaside Artists Association, and then to MPAF.

My appreciations go out to the organizers and volunteers of the Pacific Grove Art Center, all those whose names I can't yet all recall, those who hung and illuminated our art so, well, artfully -- truly showing our work literally "in the best light". Thank you to our pianist, helped create a perfect comlimentary ambience.

Finally and surely not leastly, my appreciation goes out to my dear friends, old and new, who attended last night or sent their well wishes. I felt extremely supported, blessed and supremely elated.

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone. And thanks to my good buddy Terry Lee for taking this shot:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

If You Don't Hear From Me Over the Week...'s not that I've ignored you, or that I'm unappreciative of your visiting. I really am grateful when you stop by to view my art, and I love getting inspiration, enjoyment and sharing of ideas by viewing all the varied works here online.

But my old warhorse of a desktop computer is more like Don Quixote's old mare nowadays; and I fear she'll drop dead altogether if she doesn't go into the shop for major repair starting today.

Lots of good things to be thankful for, though. Shiva-Shakti-Ganga Maa is hanging at Medusa's Emporium and Gallery through mid-July (see below), and my Where It Hurts Now will be at the Pacific Grove Art Center starting today through August 28th as the newest participating Monterey Peninsula Arts Foundation artist. Maybe some wealthy benefactor and lover of the arts will actually buy them. What a concept.

Since I can't work on anything digital this week , I'll be concentrating on traditional media and doing some major reconfiguration to my home studio, including tackling that rats' nest of wires, cables, accumulated susuwatari and dog hair under my desk. But building my new website will have to wait a little longer.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Life Drawing Session at Open Ground Studios

15-minute charcoal and pastel sketch
This afternoon Open Ground Studios held its first -- and absolutely wonderful -- Figure Drawing Session, which will happen every third Saturday of the summer. Our model Lisa was very professional, competent and lovely.

1-hour pastel drawing 

Several rapid 5-minute poses, a 15-minute pose culminating in a 1-hour study comprised a great afternoon of making art.

I highly recommend that artists and creatives in the area contact Denese Sanders regarding the Open Ground Studios summer classes and workshops. Participate in and support this vital community resource.