Are you "creative", even if you are a scientist? Allow me to cry out a resounding and joyous "YES"!
Creativity is generally thought to be reserved for Van Goghs, or Leonard Bernsteins - artists particularly are thought to be creative. But here is creativity's "dirty little secret": absolutely everyone has the capacity, and absolutely everyone already is creative. What makes one person madly creative is simply their use of that innate skill.
The scientist creates a world for herself of research and precision and investigation. What is she doing but creating! It's magnificent! To take disparate elements and make something new and revealing - ahhhh, that's creativity at its best.
For the artist like me who draws and who sings and acts, our creativity lies in bringing our deepest selves forward, in a communicative dance with our audience.
Whether scientist or artist, the creativity moniker is for everyone. We are creative beings, and always will be. Whether we want to push forward into new territory, challenging ourselves to grow and transform - that is what separates the creative...from the true life artist, that person who makes a work of art from their life.
I did not set out to be an artist. I set out to get through grade school - then high school. And while doing that, I started doodling. I especially loved to draw Snoopys, and I loved to draw abstract patterns. Later on, in college, I had no idea that in looking for something new to do, I would take my art to the next level, and that next I would go up yet another level in my 30's, and so on and so forth.
I am not a Creative because I draw. I am a Creative because I dare to grow and transform and express within my preferred media.
And that is precisely the same for you, whatever you do in life.
Today I made my first loaves of bread.
Not only bread: challah.
Not only challah: but wheat challah.
And it tastes like heaven.
But bread? Who woulda thunk it?
See, now I have my own Mockmill (an at-home honest-to-God stone milling attachment for KitchenAid or Kenmore mixers) to play with, so I knew that eventually I would have to try something beyond using the grain for my yogurt: I was going to have to turn to – gulp! - baking bread. Let me be honest with you: that frightened me. What really worried me the most was the yeast. I had heard that you have to use exactly the right warmth of water, to begin with, so that you don’t either kill the yeast, which is alive (good Lord!) – or leave it unaffected and ruined. Then I was told by a baker friend of mine that her impressive and extensive baking efforts were made so much easier when she bought an oven that has a “proofing” setting.
“Proofing?” I asked. “What is that?”
“That’s where you let the bread rise in a temperature that doesn’t kill the yeast.”
Another opportunity to kill the yeast? Oh gawd, I’m in trouble.
So, imagine my relief when I heard that – thank you, advances in bread science – there is Instant Yeast. For all I know, it’s far healthier to use the yeast that you have to actually activate. But a girl does what she has to do. Instant yeast it is.
Now, I don’t know which bread recipes are good recipes, and which are bad. But I chose a challah recipe that included honey instead of sugar, and touted an afternoon of baking instead of an overnight extravaganza.
Armed with my Mockmill, grains, my new cooking brush, eggs and the rest of the ingredients, I buckled down to get started.
“Hmmm…I wonder how many cups of grain to cups of flour? I’ll do it cup by cup and see.” So I threw a cup of grain into the Mockmill, turned it to the super-extra-unbelievably fine setting and watched it start to grind…
…and then I watched it slow down. Uh-oh.
No! Wait! I’ll take most of it out and feed it in bit by bit! Yeah! That worked! I watched the Mockmill get super happy, and then so did I. Okay. So…8 cups of flour in this recipe???? Well, I’ll just follow the bouncing ball and see what happens. It’s the adventurer in me.
Next, the yeast. The dreaded yeast.
Oh God help me. It says the water needs to be 110 degrees. And I don’t have a thermometer.
Okay – time out to go out to the store to buy a food thermometer. Jeez – talk about dedication to the process!
It’s not until I return home and look at the recipe again that I realize I don’t need a food thermometer for the yeast, because it’s instant yeast, and just needs to be added to the flour, not the water. D’oh!
Oh well, I’m sure I’ll need a food thermometer again sometime? (uh huh, right)
So, yeast ho! That’s done and I start adding the rest of the ingredients. One cup…two cups…uh, this is getting super immovable, this concoction of yeast and eggs and honey. And I have 6 more cups of flour to go! What the…???
[head slap] The water. I forgot the water; I thought without the yeast, it was out. Nope. But okay. Never call me a quitter. Ever devoted to precision, I return to the recipe, and it says water – 110 degrees. So I whip out my new thermometer to determine the heat of the water – HA! I have a purpose for this after all! – before I realize…damn you, yeast!...that the only reason for the heat of the water (at least, the only reason I know of so far, as a non-baker), was for the yeast.
I feel like the kid in the movie Jumanji who runs out to the shed to get the axe they desperately need; finding the shed locked, he sees an axe sitting nearby and starts to hack away at the lock…before he…realizes. [head slap]
I feel a deep kinship with this kid at this particular watery moment.
Okay, okay – I tell myself – you can get by this; this is just kind of a food-based Woody Allen situation – just keep going.
Which I do.
Amazingly, I get nearly everything in except for the raisins I wanted to include, and forgot. And I work the bread, adding in the extra flour I need to make it un-sticky (who knew?!). Finally, I am both tired and satisfied enough to declare it finished, and I set it aside in a bowl with a wet towel draped over the bowl, and give it the required hour and 15 minutes to rise.
I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down. Turn on the telly.
Then I think to myself: Uh-oh, did I put enough yeast in there? (Yeast, you are devilish!!!!) Oh God, when I opened that one packet and popped it into a little tiny measuring thingy, it didn’t tell me if that measurement was the same as what the recipe required!
Oh man! If I didn’t do the right amount of yeast, I just wasted 8 CUPS OF GRAIN!!!!!
Fret, fret, fret, fret, more wine, fret, fret, fret, more wine, fret, fret, fret. Until finally:
OH HAPPY DAY! OH HAPPY DANCE! THE BREAD IS RISEN!
Oh my. It is RISEN! Amazing! I am a Yeast Goddess! I am the Warrior Breader!
I am drunk…er…I mean happy!
It’s time to punch that sucker down. Okay, that’s fun! That tactile experience totally works for me! And then it’s time to make two loaves – make TWO loaves? OHHHHH! That’s why it’s 8 cups of flour! (Lori, didn’t we talk about this with your housemate last night when we looked at recipes together? Shhh – I just forgot; it’s okay, just don’t tell anyone!)
Making “snakes” out of this stuff was not the same as using Play-Doh when I was a kid. But the result was a braid I almost considered tacking to my head. (I get bored with my short hair.)
And then it was time to put it into the oven.
Which was preheated. So I did. And I sat back down. And I let out a sigh.
And about 15 minutes later I realized two things: the recipe called for another resting period – which I had not provided – and I had not oiled the Reynolds Wrap that the breads were sitting on.
Seriously Woody Allen-esque.
Could I somehow oil the thing NOW?
I pull the oven open and look at the bread – ohmygod, it’s already looking incredible! – and I try to lift it from one end to see if I can sneak some oil under it.
Curses – foiled again! (Pun intended.) The foil comes up with it a bit, and the bread looks like it’s going to tear, and I just stop.
Rats! Think, think, think…okay, I get a total flash of brilliance and I take out a new pan (it’s not a pan, it’s flat, but because I’m such a freakin’ newbie, I don’t even know what it’s called!) and I oil it to death! Then I take out the breads on their “pan”, place the oiled pan on top of them, flip the whole contraption over, and take the Reynolds Wrap off of the bottoms of the bread. To my relief, there’s only one tiny area that takes a bit of picking to make this a beautiful-looking bread bottom.
Happy at last, I flip the breads back over onto the oiled "pan", and let them go back to baking for another 5 minutes. It’s a slightly cooled oven, I realize, but they’re already looking pretty brown!
Ohmygod, how am I going to know when they’re done? I mean, I don’t know if this oven runs overly hot, or not hot enough!
So I take a look at the breads and realize they look pretty damn perfect to me, and I take the out of the oven, rap on the bottom (like the recipe says to) to hear if it sounds “hollow” (which the recipe says it should), and to me it sounds hollow enough to Stop the Baking Madness!
... wow ...
I stand there looking at these beauties. One a braid, one a round braid. I did that. It took my entire afternoon and a lot of hilarity, but I did that.
I load them onto a tray and run upstairs to see my housemate. She is stunned. She is also extremely happy with the way the house smells! She says, “I’m going to look up how you freeze a bread and thaw it after, because we’ll never eat all of that, just the two of us!”
Within 30 minutes, I’m running back upstairs with that tray, slices of bread, butter, and honey, and we are chowing down! It’s delicious, it’s delectable, it’s delightful! Ohmygod, if Cole Porter were alive, he would write a song to these loaves!
So, here is what I have learned from my first loaves of bread:
Here, by the way, are my new “children”:
P.S. We’re already halfway through the loaf on the right…
Hi! Lori here! While you're on the site, take a look at the artwork around here, and when you're ready to give a beautiful gift of art, either contact me at email@example.com for commissioned furniture or wall art, or go to http://fineartamerica.com/artists/lori+kirstein and see the options for orrdering a piece of your own!
I'm having a time in my life where nothing feels secure and nothing feels known. But if there is one thing that I have learned over the last three years, it is how to dance.
Dancing is what you do when you don't know what to do. It's where you take your creative juices and you dance the fear, you dance the pain, you dance the joy, you dance the ecstasy - you dance with the divine unknown.
My artwork has always been a dance with the divine. Always.
I never know, when I start drawing, what is going to emerge. But something interesting - to me - always emerges. In fact, my art is the one thing in my life that I have absolute and complete faith in. To have absolute and complete faith in anything is a mercy, a blessing, a miracle, really. For me, it is my art. I just love what I come up with. I don't turn around and doubt it and say, "Well, what if they don't like it?" (whoever "they" are).
So I'm learning to treat my life like my artwork: I don't know what's going to come out of it. I don't know what colors I am going to use. I don't know which rhythms and swirls and shapes are going to emerge. But I'm going to draw. And I'm going to dance.
I was 16 when I saw the movie Yellow Submarine, and it was the artwork that just knocked me off my feet.
Through the 1960’s, Peter Max’s name was a big one. It continued to be big, but I wasn’t tracking him.
In about 2004, at an ashram in San Ramon, California, I saw pictures of Ammachi – a.k.a. The Hugging Saint – painted by…Peter Max! How interesting! I didn’t feel drawn to buy them, at the time, but I always remembered that he was painting pictures of my most powerful spiritual teacher. You bet!
A few years later, I was finished writing a book about Ammachi, and I was thinking about what to have on the cover. Peter Max! I found an email for his business, dropped a note, and his assistant got back to me. After she had checked with Peter, she said, she was glad to report that he would be glad to paint a cover for me.
Sadly, I didn’t have the funds to move forward with that, so that was the end of that.
Then, this week, I saw that he was in town for a “Peter Max Retrospective”. From the 1960’s until 2015. I signed up, and I drove out to the mall. A mall?
Unprepossessingly, there it was: the Peter Max Retrospective. Taking place in a small store that used to be something mall-like and uninspiring.
At the door, a tall, young cop, with folded arms and a look on his face that said, “I’m frickin’ James Bond, so don’t even think about messing with me, or any of this artwork!” It would have been funny, but he was so majorly on duty, y’know? In stark contrast to his youth and seriousness, Beatles music played in the background.
I take a few steps in and the first thing I see is a basketball, boxed in Plexiglas, and designed a la Max. I’m instantly enchanted. I started painting everything from children’s chairs to clocks to candle holders, about a year and a half ago, and seeing Peter’s art transitioned from a wall to a basketball…well, I was enchanted! (I even have a chair that I call my “Peter Max Chair” because someone said it reminded him of Peter Max’s work, which – hey - is only one of the best painting compliments on the planet.)
Someone came up to the table where that basketball was smiling at me; she put down a bottle of champagne and some plastic glasses and told me that Peter had also painted some football helmets which were somewhere else in the exhibit. (“Peter”. I couldn’t imagine calling him anything but “Mr. Max.”) I asked her where he was, and she told me he was sitting at the back of the room at the counter. I wasn’t too eager to see him first; I wanted to see his artwork, plus I felt starstruck and shy. Little did I know that I was going to be floored as well.
His work is vibrant. Lyrical. Restrainedly and deeply passionate. Genius. Mastery itself.
I looked at three or four of them, and I suddenly realized something was happening. I said out loud to myself, “I have tears in my eyes!” A minute later, one of the women who was helping with information and sales, came up to me and asked how I was doing. I only had one thought in my head. I said, to her this time, “I have tears in my eyes!” and instead of smiling in understanding – “yeah! His work is unbelievable!” – she looked so concerned! I reassured her that I was fine, and that his work was just so…vibrant! And I felt so very moved! She said, “Well, mostly people get happy when they like something!” and she smiled at me. I said, “Well, you have two choices when you’re deeply touched by something. Either start dancing, or start crying. I’m a cryer.” And I smiled, but now I was really crying! She brought me a Kleenex. I had to promise that they were happy tears. Good Lord…
I have never cried about artwork in my life. The closest I ever got was the first time I saw Michelangelo’s Pieta. But this time, in the middle of the Kenwood Mall – somewhere between a Victoria’s Secret and a headphones shop – I was crying because Peter Max’s artwork was singing to me!
That’s the best description I’ve got for you. Now, after the fact, I can say that I felt the energy, that I felt the love, but none of that was in my mind. My mind wasn’t involved in this process at all!
All I could do was cry.
What a remarkable reaction. What a remarkable sensation!
I spent most of the next 90 minutes studying each picture’s rhythm, brush strokes, color combinations and choices…
The black-and-white image of 5 or 6 male figures, seen from behind, praying before The Wailing Wall in Israel. Called “The Wall”, I was told Peter had drawn in the 1970’s for a friend’s child’s bar mitzvah.
The four pictures of the four seasons. Distinct, full of movement and sensation.
His take on Van Gogh’s Silent Night. Evocative. Alive.
His painting of Frank Sinatra. Oh, those eyes! That hat! Those sparing brush strokes, next to those brush-loaded slabs of braided color!
His take on Monet’s Water Lilies. Meltingly gorgeous!
His Degas-like painting of dancers. Uncanny.
His painting of…a cow?
His deceptively simple – and absolutely swoonable – painting of an old phonograph. “This is mastery,” I remember thinking.
His paintings of multi-colored angels, both distinct and indistinct at once. And very alive as well!
His 1960’s-style painting of a male character striding in front of the Cincinnati Museum Center. The very definition of whimsy.
His vista-like pictures that have a giant, round, rich red/orange/yellow sun, trees that somehow, magically include all of the colors of the spectrum, and still look like trees, with trunks that go from brown to purple, and a body of water in the center with a minimal and recognizable sail in the foreground. It’s magical. It takes me there. It is a place to live, rather than just something to look at, or see.
…I find I’m still tearing up. I have to stop this.
I go over to Mr. Max – maybe if I do something like talk, I’ll get it together - and he has his back to me. Up until now, he has been talking to one person or another, but now he’s just rising from a chair and turning to pick something up from the counter behind him. So I put my hand on his thin velveted back, and I say, “Mr. Max,” and he turns around. He’s elderly now, of course, and yet somehow I forgot to expect that. He has very large eyes, and he looks one straight in the face, straight in the eyes, straight in the soul, and yet he is very self-possessed, very self-contained. He is warm in his energy, but not touchy-feely. He is very slight, physically, and he moves slowly, with the kind of deliberation that one has at an elderly age when one is still very mobile indeed, and oh-so-very-cool!
I said to him, “I want to thank you. Your work is so vibrant. So…full of life. And heart. I’m very moved.” He gave me a little smile. And goddammit, the tears start again. “I’m sorry,” I say, and he nods. No shaming, no pride, just a nod of “and here we are in this moment together”. I say, “You painted some pictures of Ammach that I saw,” and I watch the realization come slowly into his eyes, “Oh yeah,” he says with a tone of reminiscence, “I did. Some time ago.” Silence falls and I say, “Anyway, I just wanted to shake your hand, and say thank you.” He had his hand on my upper arm this whole time, and he just nodded again, smiled a little smile at me, and I walked away, and he sat back down, and I thought, “I don’t want to go home.”
I walked around that temporary art gallery too many times to count. And every time I turned the few corners there were, I found a new piece of artwork I hadn’t really given attention to.
I knew that I couldn’t leave until I had absorbed these sensations; until I had studied his style which is – I suddenly realized – the next iteration of my artwork; his work is so free, where mine strives for freedom. And I realize I can pull certain things from his work, as inspiration – his ombre backgrounds fading from purple to black, from light to dark red…; his black outlines, his rhythmic fillips of paint suggesting a flower, an angel wing, a tree.
I don’t want to leave.
Oh yeah, I don’t have to!
Suddenly, an elderly woman came up and started talking with me. We were both completely blown away. Sharing that amazement was such a delightful gift!
Within ten minutes, we had become friends. She had lost her husband and was visiting Cincinnati, where her daughter and son-in-law live. Turns out, their family knows one of Mr. Max’s experts who told my new friend all kinds of things about his artwork, like he uses brushes on his canvases that most artists consider too big for the canvas sizes he uses; he loads his brushes with multiple colors and then pulls some of the color out post-brushstroke by using the butt end of the brush.
Rose shared with me that the expert had gone to dinner with them and Mr. Max a few nights before. She told me that the whole time they were out, he barely spoke. “He’s an introvert,” she shared with me. I got that. And I think it’s even deeper than that. I don’t yet know his life story, but I do know about his Ammachi artwork, and I want to assume – given that, and our interaction – that his spiritual side is alive and very well.
I will call my friend Rose, and I will preserve my new friend’s anonymity and her family’s anonymity, because I learned what multi-million dollar (at least! Or maybe more.) business they are in, and they deserve their privacy.
Rose isn’t wealthy, though. Not multi-million-dollar wealthy. She and I were both in awe at how much the pictures cost. From $5,500 – as far as I can tell – up to $30,000 or more. And worth every. single. penny. If I had enough of those pennies, I’d buy every single painting in this “gallery”! Rose lets me know that the cow painting is actually a painting of a cow that Mr. Max rescued from the slaughter house!
At this point, Rose is pulled away by her daughter, and I continue my wanderings.
Eventually, I come across Rose and her family looking at two versions of the same painting – the one with the incredible blood-red sun, and the water with the sailboat on it. *sigh*…. They are talking with the expert woman who is holding one painting up beside the other. I (of course) have to get in on this conversation. I point out that one is larger than the other, that the smaller one is behind glass, and the other is on a gorgeous double-level “frame” without glass, and it leaps straight off of the media and into one’s heart. Oh my…so gorgeous. I go on my way to another part of the gallery to make notes about the Max style so that I can remember my inspirations when I get back to my paints.
Suddenly, Rose is back beside me. She is holding a book that Peter – er, Mr. Max – wrote, called The Universe of Peter Max.
That’s the Peter Max I didn’t know a thing about.
But here’s the real deal, artistically – the thing that made me understand something about why I had teared up, and why I felt so inspired by his work today: A paragraph on that same page revealed that his entire purpose in his life is to live in “freedom”. That is a powerful, powerful word.
Freedom.That’s what I feel in his artwork. And it’s immediate, electric. Real. Authentic. Freedom. But it’s not the freedom of a reckless child. It’s the freedom that comes from feeling its opposite, and rejecting it. It is a freedom filled with the restraint that comes from knowing what is right, and what is extraneous.
Reminds me of what Michelangelo said about his marble carvings: that he just removed what was not supposed to be there.
Once again, my new friend was pulled away, this time by the expert, who had a private conversation with her. When Rose returned, she looked shell-shocked. “They’re buying me a painting.” I said, “Oh my God! Congratulations!” She said, “What on earth am I going to do with it?” which made me laugh. I think she mostly felt overwhelmed, particularly by the cost. It was a $24,950 painting! She kept saying to me, “How am I going to thank them? My goodness!” I kept telling her just to keep that great smile on her face, and she’d be fine…which her daughter overheard and nodded her agreement.
Rose later confided that it was my input that decided which painting they would get for her (yep, it was the sun-and-water painting). So, what is the motto? Something about not being afraid to get involved, maybe. Especially with lovely people.
I offered Rose my card and asked if she wanted to stay in touch. She was as thrilled as I was, and her daughter took my business card – my telling her that I rescued businesses from bad organization seemed to catch her attention - and actually started reading it (there’s a lot of stuff on there). I was impressed! No one really reads business cards, do they? Maybe her big ‘ol business could use little ol’ me – you never know.
So, Miss Rose is going to have a medical procedure tomorrow – and I gave her the name and number of my wonderful Healing Touch friend, Joan Stouffer, and instructed both her and her daughter to look into “tapping” or “Emotional Freedom Technique” on YouTube, to help her with some eye pain she’s having after a different procedure she underwent.
Meeting Peter Max, being blown away by his artwork – a transcendent experience. And this part of my afternoon was a high for me too. No tears, I have to admit - but connecting this way, and to potentially give my new friend some assistance with her health – made me feel so fantastic. Rose told me that Healing Touch is what found the problem she is being tested for tomorrow!
Synchronicity! And I have a new friend!
One last time, Rose was pulled away. She was guided to stand next to an easel that the staff loaded with a black backing that will, no doubt, be put onto the painting when they reframe it, which they’re going to do before they ship it. Mr. Max stood up and came to write her name in silver pen, sign it “Max” and the year, and surround the whole thing in a big heart. They then were photographed standing on either side of that black backing, Very cool to watch.
Her daughter and husband were next. The husband’s name was misspelled, and Mr. Max leaned forward to put in the missing letter. Something about the whole scene was the kind of cute that happens when youthful cute (Mr. Max) invades the worthwhile and easy spending of insanely large amounts of money. As Rose said to me as an aside, “Oh, it’s a drop in the bucket for them…” She had an “It’s not my reality, but…” kind of tone to her voice.
I had to smile. She was as blown away as I was by their wealth!
As we stood there exchanging our last words before leaving, I suddenly noticed Mr. Max’s socks. Multi-colored yellow socks, red shoes, dangling from the end of his exquisitely relaxed long, spider-thin legs.
I was seized of a rampant desire to take a picture of his FEET!
Rose was like, “Do it!” Given that I’d backed her in peeling the painting description off the wall, I wasn’t surprised that she was anxious to back me in this. But there were signs everywhere that said NO PHOTOGRAPHS!
Oh, what the hell. I went up to him – he was again talking to people – and I said, “May I take your picture, sir?” (I get so respectful when I am star struck by perfection and excellence like his.) and he waved his hand at me, as if to say, “Whatever. Happens all the time. Don’t care.” So I took his picture.
I said goodbye to Rose, after hugging her and kissing her on the cheek, and telling her that I would be in touch. She had been introducing me to people as “an artist”, which I appreciated. And she said she’d been watching me and how I was looking at the paintings all afternoon. “I thought to myself,” she said, “this woman…knows. She’s aware.”
I wish I’d been more aware. I would have taken a photo of my new friend.
Rose…thank you for being my “sister” in wonderment. And my new friend.
Thank you, Mr. Max. For absolutely everything.
Hi. I love art, artists of all kinds, and color, color, color. I've been drawing since I was a little kid, and I have never, ever, stopped. My current favorite modes of art are paint on furniture, colored pencils on black paper, and upping my game in Photoshop and Illustrator. I love to work with businesses and solopreneurs who are looking for that perfect way to express a message.