Get Creative This Halloween

With Pinterest and tumblr becoming more common and popular, it pushes the everyday person to want to take Halloween to the next level.  This means decorating the entire house instead of just the porch and front room, and only making Halloween themed food for every celebration, as well as only wearing homemade/DIY costumes.  These things are super hard to achieve, and somewhat unrealistic for the average person who isn’t amazingly artistic like everyone on Pinterest seems to be.

A new trend that has begun on Pinterest is to paint a pumpkin instead of carving one.  This trend is a great and easy idea that people of all ages and skill levels can easily achieve.  It allows you to be more creative if you want, but it’s not a necessity.  Both simple and complicated designs look great on a painted pumpkin.  And as a bonus, if you mess up then you can just repaint the entire pumpkin orange and start over instead of being stuck with it, like when carving.

Oddly shaped pumpkin I painted as a strawberry

Another bonus of painting pumpkins is that it allows you to get creative with the pumpkin you pick.  There is no longer only two options of short and fat or tall and skinny pumpkins because those are the only two that look good with a carving, now any size and shape of pumpkin works because you can use its shape to your advantage.  If you get a curved pumpkin you can make it look like a strawberry.  If you get a hourglass shaped pumpkin you can make it look like a skeleton head, or a triangle pumpkin can be a witches hat.  These are all also super cute and creative ideas that take little to no skill or time to achieve.

The only potential downside to painting a pumpkin instead of carving it is that you can’t put a candle in it to make it light up and be able to see it at night.  But that is easy to get around by putting several candles next to it or a lantern or really any light source, to be able to show off your pumpkin in the dark.  This means that there is no downside to painting a pumpkin instead of carving one.  Will follow the new trend this Halloween?

Writing as Self-Care

Lately I’ve been pretty into self-care. Recently, I’ve been doing more yoga, and it’s definitely always made a positive impact on my life, especially when I can stop and just let myself breathe for a little bit, instead of letting myself get overwhelmed by circling my head around the infinite number of things I need to do before the end of the month. And I’ve been telling myself that I need to buy some actual yoga classes from a studio instead of just going around doing the free classes (thank you yoga studios for free classes though, they are the absolute best), although my wallet definitely does not agree.

But because of this increase in going to yoga, I’ve also just been thinking about self-care in general, in that it seems like in college I’ve always been stressed. It’s like I operate constantly on a small level of stress, and it always rises, and sometimes deflates, but never actually goes all the way down. And then the best way to deal with it is to read all the click-bait: “13 gifs of The Office that is College Life” or “15 tweets that completely explain how you’re doing in the semester right now.” We constantly circulate these posts of self-pity because we know that everyone else is doing as poorly as we are, and somehow twist it into entertainment.

But I remember a time before all this, in high school. I think it’s easy to think about high school as “the easy days” but also never wanting to go back (because let’s face it, high school sucks). But to me, high school wasn’t easy. It was honestly probably just as rough as college is now, just in a different, more naive way. I went to a college prep school where I was one of the top students, and even though I failed AP Calculus and only passed AP Chem because our teacher pitied our class, I still maintained just being shy of the top-ten percent my senior year (I was ranked seventh out of sixty-nine, so if you round up, I was). But I’d be lying if I said that was easy. I was stressing about getting into college, doing as many clubs as possible my senior year, as well as trying to take as many AP Classes without killing myself. I was crazy busy, even if now it seems like I barely remember it.

But the difference between me then and me now is that I wrote. I have multiple journals, both handwritten and typed, starting from middle school all the way until senior year. I documented much of my life, often because it was a lot harder to talk to my friends, and I grew up as an only child. I used my journal as a way of keeping my stress levels low – once I poured my heart out to my journal, I always felt a whole lot better.

Not only did I keep a journal, though, I was constantly writing. I have about a million different documents, some with bits and pieces of long forgotten projects, some filled with pages dedicated to one idea. I was always thinking of ideas, always writing them down, always staying inspired. I constantly looked up new artists, new music, looked for new books to read, bought more books to read. In some ways, high school was my most fertile time for creative exploration. I wrote poems, I wrote song lyrics, I wrote short stories, I wrote essays – but I never wrote because I had to. It was always just for the pure enjoyment of writing.

But now, in college, it feels selfish to want to sit down and write just for fun when I could be working on the next three papers I have due, or the discussion posts, or even my pieces for this blog. The weekend I cranked out over 20 pages of a story for the Hopwoods, my roommate told me how proud of me she was – not just because she liked the story (which made me so happy because part of me wondered if a lot of it was sleep deprived nonsense) but also because I sat down and wrote this entire story that still has places to go in a little over 48 hours, ignoring all my school work in order to focus on this mini passion project in the middle of the semester. She saw how happy it made me to work on it and to talk on it, and how inspired it made me.

But writing like that can’t always happen – I still have those papers to write. Sure, maybe if I want to go to graduate school and join a creative writing cohort, that’s what my life would be like. That’s not reality, though, and the truth is I have to graduate and find a job.

In some ways, I think that writing, reading, and staying creatively engaged was part of my self-care in high school. I may not have done yoga to calm my mind, but once I wrote a short story where the characters were probably too close to real life for comfort, I felt like I had gotten the problem off my chest. Maybe it wasn’t resolved, but it calmed my mind. And I miss that, I miss using my anger, my sadness, my happiness as fuel for writing, if only to keep me writing. Because although I feel like I’m constantly writing something in college, I still haven’t gotten to stretch my creative muscles out as much as I would like.

But the good news is I’m graduating, and even with job searching and part-timing and every other crazy thing that life throws at me, I know that I can always fall back on writing. Even if my self-care methods change, that love that I have will never change.

Stretching Yourselves Whole Again

We all know the phrase, “I’m stretching myself too thin.” As college students, it’s sometimes hard to comprehend all that we’re actually doing and accomplishing in a day while fully wrapped up in papers, studying, parties, clubs, interviews, applications, volunteering, office hours, and hey, um, don’t forget sleeping, eating, and breathing! Rinse. Repeat.

Yogi Tea Quote via pinterest.com

And I say, it’s about time that we “stretch ourselves whole” again.

Image via traveltherapytours.com

 

 

 

So let’s chat about physical fitness for a minute. Ever since I came to college and am no longer a part of team sports like I was in high school, I’ve become very phase-y. First, there was the running phase. That wore out. Next was the strength training YouTube videos. That quickly ran its course as well. I’ll always have dancing and walking in my pocket because to me, I never feel like I consciously have to be aware that I’m “working out.” We are all different beings, though. So whatever your exercise plan is, you do you.

But one thing we should have in common is stretching. Stretching is in a category of its own. It’s like tea in physical form. It can warm your muscles and your central system, while relaxing you to a calm. The heat from the mug can sometimes be painful to touch, but the more you adapt to its fire, you find it comforting and embrace it. It’s good any time, morning, noon, night, when you’re sick, when you’re sad, when you’re cold, when you’re stressed, when you’re chill, when you’re in pain, when you’re bored, when you’re among friends.

Image via mojosavings.com

Okay, enough of the tea metaphor, you get my point. I’m not even talking about hot vinyasa yoga, I’m talking basic gym class stretches. Taking a moment to rub out the kinks of the day, to drink in the quiet, to listen to how your body feels and connect mind to body. We force our body to work so hard through the day. Stretching is your way of giving back to it. It’s the best non-vocal way of saying, “Thanks” (which is probably better – because can the body actually hear itself talking to itself? Philosophers, physiologists? What’s your stance on this?)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What does stretching have to do with art?” Stretching is a practice of stimulating both mind and body at the same time, just like painting, writing, acting, dance – only at a slower pace. The carpet or mat you stretch on is an open canvas where you can let your mind wander, explore your imagination and discover yourself. It’s active, just like all types of art. There’s no correct way of doing a stretch. You listen to your own limits, follow your own desires. It’s recommended to open the window, breathe in the fresh air, scratch the carpet, draw with your fingers as if you were carving imaginary loops into the ground below you, hum to yourself, transport yourself to a far-off sandy beach in your mind while traveling deep into your heart. The more senses you can engage while stretching, the better. Stretching is your time to be positive, to be graceful. Allow yourself to be surprised. In the time that you could watch a V-Sauce video, you could also generate waves of positivity and possibility within your body.

Trust me, even through this hippy-dippiness, begin and end your day with a quick stretch. You know how satisfied you feel after you sneeze or yawn? Stretching is like a slow-motion form of your body yawning. You will love how you feel and you will find that joy steeped throughout your day [okay, tea jokes are now done!]

Best wishes for this final exams week, everyone!

P.S. Here are some of my favorite stretching videos on the InterWeb (if you know any others, please share them in the Comments below!!!)

The Artful Sharer

We are in need of a revolution. No, I’m not talking Bernie Sanders; no, this is a revolution in creativity. To remind ourselves that art is a vital aspect of hope and that we must utilize it if we want to change the way that we view the world.

It seems like every time I open a new webpage these days, I’m flooded with Facebook fights over colors of coffee cups, posts of people taking pictures of their cell phones in dingy bathroom mirrors, presidential candidates talking talking talking without any action, and terrible acts of hatred pockmarking this earth, scarring it, destroying it.

Keep scrolling and it’s a wonder why we’ve all become so cynical of the world.  Yes, it’s important to keep a finger on the news, but when we get so bogged down with it, is there any hope of returning from the deep end?

I believe there is, and so I’ve decided to start bringing hope to the world in my own little way. And that way is through art.

At the beginning of the school year, I stumbled upon a few blogs that dedicate themselves to exploring art and other visual cultures, such as photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art. These blogs, such as Colossal, My Modern Met, and Laughing Squid to name a few, are already doing what I want to do: they are hunting down all of the amazingly innovative and passionate and beautiful things that people globally  are creating and sharing with the world.

I want to bring it closer to home, and share these little nuggets of inspiration and hope with my world. About once a day, I try to share at least one link to Facebook, highlighting anything from:

...The Largest Art Festival in the World: The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale

to

Giant Urban Flowers in Jerusalem That Bloom When Pedestrians Pass Under Them

and sometimes natural art, produced by no one other than Mother Earth –

The Crooked Forest: A Mysterious Grove of 400 Oddly Bent Pine Trees in Poland

Throughout the constant scrolling of anger and suffering and irritation at the world, I hope that these posts remind my friends that art can be powerful. It can lift us up, it can bring us together, it can confuse us and spur heated conversations in their own way, it can be magical, it can be an escape. But most of all, it is a way to communicate with the world in a non-violent way. It’s a way to tell people that they have the ability to create beauty, to change people’s thinking, to challenge the way that they see the world. To remind people that among the bad, there is good stuff happening, too.

Take the events that happened Friday night in Paris. Jean Jullien’s simplistic image of the Eiffel Tower holding up a circle of peace went viral within 12 hours.

Peace for Paris – Jean Jullien

In an interview with NPR, Jullien says, “I turned on the French radio. I heard that there was an attack, and my first reaction was to draw. It’s this sort of moment where you don’t necessarily try to understand everything coherently. It’s more of a state of shock and sadness and anger and all these very sort of raw feelings. So for me, it’s just sort of trying to summarize these feelings in one image with my way of reacting,” Jullien says. “I shared it online as a reaction, not really thought through at all.”

What’s interesting is that he didn’t want it to be viral. He felt uncomfortable being in the spotlight as the “creator,” benefitting from exposure during this time of tragedy. But, his reaction achieved the revolution that he had hoped.

Jullien says, “The idea was just for people to have a tool to communicate, and to respond and to share solidarity and peace. It seems that’s what most people got out of it. So in that sense, if it was useful for people to share and communicate their loss and need for peace, then that’s what it was meant to be.”

The takeaway? The size of the action doesn’t matter: it can be a larger-than-life fabric flower that lights up at night; a powerfully minimal black and white peace sign, or a simple Facebook share. All that’s important is that the art brings people together, it makes them notice what’s going on around them, it makes them feel agency in the world, that they can make a difference by doing something. This Earth is amazing, yes in a tragic way that it can be so self-destructive, but mostly, because of the billions of people who have the power to share a little art with the world in any way or form that they can.

P.S. Sharing art is wonderful and definitely can lift people’s spirits and hearts. But, generous donations can also provide resources and necessities that human beings require. Please if you can, support the French Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, or Friends of Fondation de France, Inc. Thank you!

 

 

Wolverine Halloween Creativity

Halloween at the University of Michigan. My favorite time of year. Houses are hopping with cliché Halloween playlists and frats are pulling out the big guns with dry-ice drinks (for anyone 21 and over) and spooky spider webs. Everyone’s on their A-game, excited to show off their more creative sides. And let me tell you, the Wolverines are bursting with creativity. No matter who you are, an athlete, engineer, psychologist, or writing major; you’re probably doing everything you can to one-up your classmate for the best, most creative and inspired Halloween costume for the big night, I mean week, of scares.

One way I like to admire Halloween on campus is to stop by Ragstock, the neighborhood place to go for all things costume related. This year, I needed to grab some last-minute essentials for my costume, so I had the perfect excuse to go. While there, I had the chance to see what Michigan students would be wearing this year. Of course, there were the traditional sexy cops and spaced out hippies, but I was more interested in the people hanging out in the “make-your-own-costume” section. There, I found students gathering vests and boots and face paint galore, not to mention fake blood and teeth, anything metallic, and pirate hook hands. I got excited and started paying attention to all of the potential costumes I would be seeing this weekend.

First, I saw a faux fur vest. At the same moment, someone else saw it and shouted, “it’s perfect for my Macklemore costume!” Then, in line I saw someone else checking out with that very same vest. Another Macklemore? I thought. But I was wrong. This person was buying the vest for his couples costume, and I don’t mean a tribute to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. In fact, he didn’t need the vest for himself at all. Instead, he was picking it up for his friend. They were going as Parks and Recreation‘s popular duo Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa Saperstein, which, if you ask me, is an absolutely perfect and creative use of a faux fur vest.

Next, I saw someone carrying around a big curly wig from the more psychedelic section of the store, but no fringe or bellbottoms. Turns out, this student was going to be the late, great Bob Ross, the iconic PBS painter we all know and love for his small obsession with trees. What a unique way to use a wig! Another girl picked up a gold body suit and exclaimed, “I’m going to be C3PO!” Someone else grabbed some fake blood and explained to her friend how it would turn her shark leggings into a shark attack.

All of these were great ideas, and I left with the distinct feeling that I needed to find a way to make my costume, an ode to Cleopatra, a little more creative. With this thought in my mind, I found myself listening to every Halloween costume idea I heard around campus. These ideas were largely pun-inspired and equally creative, and I loved every one of them. One girl used a dress slip and taped Freudian terms on it to transform herself into a Freudian slip. Another girl found a hard-hat and jumpsuit and wore a shot glass necklace and earrings to be a “miner in possession.” Someone else was going to go with his significant other as robbers who were “partners in crime.”

Thousands of Halloween costume ideas have been publicized online on places like Buzzfeed and Pinterest, and I know I could look at those for some extravagant and creative costumes, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t really care what those people are wearing this year. Instead, I love to take a stroll through the Diag, stumble into Ragstock, or hit up a costume party. That way, I can appreciate the brilliant minds of my peers, the people I surround myself with every day. They are some truly creative people.

Happy pretending, Wolverines!

Creating a Space to be Creative

You read that right people. Today we need to delve into the topic of creating a space that is worthy of your presence and helpful in getting your creative juices flowing. It’s all about the vibes that you enjoy and the kind that gets you thinking about being productive.

Let’s talk solely about bedrooms, dorm-rooms, whatever place you may sleep, eat, and attempt to do homework in. This is an essential place in which you should find yourself being productive in. I know some people love going to the library to study or a coffee shop, but let me tell you, when that winter storm hits the streets (and it will), your thoughts on leaving wherever you reside will be nonexistent. Therefore, having your room be as helpful to your life as possible is so very important.

1. Make it comfy

Feather down pillows, 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, down comforter. Aaahhh.

Comfort is always key. Your bed, should be a mountain of fluffy clouds that, when jumped in, you lose all memory of what it is you need to be doing. Therefore, when you have your bed piled perfectly high with the right amount of comforters and pillows, stay far, far away from it. I mean it. Find a stool, a chair, a desk, or anything that you can sit on that’s sturdy and is forcing you to sit upright in. This is important for when you are doing your work. You can work endlessly on projects, schoolwork, writing, drawing, or whatever else you need to get done, and when you will undoubtedly reach your wit’s end, cannon ball right into that mass of comfort.

2. Have Pictures/Words that You Enjoy Surrounding You

Robert Rauschenberg// This image interestingly combines text and image in the form of the text being part of the image : The stop signs, and traffic signs. This is a rather easy way to combine text and image, and is effective because people will recognise it straight away.

What I mean by this is: have an image from your favorite editorial posted on your wall, a quote from a favorite movie taped to your desk, or a painting that you’ve created hanging above your bed. Surrounding your space with images or words that inspire you is a great way to visually stimulate your mind. They indicate moments of creativity from others, or yourself, and staying inspired is always important in any creative space.

3. Don’t Underestimate Lighting

This is actually pretty cool because it counts as wall art but I love the soft glow that you end up with for the light!

Lighting can make or break a work environment. From dim and super bright, to yellow and blue, lighting is an important way to determine a space’s ambiance. Yes, you may need to see when you do your work, but can you relax your mind enough to think clearly with that bright yellow light shining? That is the question. Have varying lighting options so you can choose what kind of creative space you may want to work in.

These are just a few tips that have helped me decorate my bedroom, and create a creative space in which I can be productive in. Of course, it is all about what you enjoy surrounding you and inspiring you, and I encourage everyone to take into consideration how the environment you reside in can make or break your creativity.