Friday, July 25, 2014

Just Read: "Your Creative Brain" by Shelley Carson, Ph.D

As part of an upcoming course on creativity, innovation & imagination I'll be taking next weekend, I've read a great book called "Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life" by Shelley Carson, Ph.D.

I was excited to read this book because, when I thumbed through it, it had quizzes and activities and I really love a book that gets me up and doing things rather than passively trying to muddle through and make sense of some dry textbook. The quizzes are short and the activities do not take long and can be done a little at a time. Hey, I read it and I have four kiddos at home for the summer!

This book was nicely written and accessible with clear examples and humor thrown in. I really enjoyed reading the book--it doesn't feel like a dry textbook. That being said, this book isn't fluff. It is chock full of information about seven different creative pathways or brainsets all people have and can use in life. After identifying which brainset(s) you are strong in and those you may want to develop, Carson delves into each, clearly describing each in detail, the neuroscience of each, and when you may want to access this brainset. She then gives exercises that will help get you accessing these brainsets even more.

Now all of this cognitive mumbo-jumbo may seem a bit heavy for your summer beach reading, but this book is worth the look, I promise! As a teacher and a mom, I am constantly looking for ways to encourage creativity in the children around me. As an ART teacher, I am usually told by people that they aren't creative. I've always thought that this couldn't possibly be true. OK, not everyone can paint with oils or write a symphony, but creativity exists well beyond that! Creative does not mean artistic.

I was so inspired by the text, that I created a poster for the classroom based on Carson's ideas for establishing a creative environment (I'll see if I can make the poster available for download later in the summer--it's on my to-do list!).

This book is a wonderful tool to help you access creativity in your own life--no matter if you are artsy or not, and is great food for thought as you are planning for the next school year. Do you want to recognize, encourage and appreciate the unique and diverse talents of those around you and build an environment of creativity in your home, classroom, or place or work? Then check out this book!

Follow "Create Art With ME" on Facebook!

Hello All-

I've been enjoying the summer with my kiddies, so haven't been posting nearly as much as I'd like, but here's a quick one: I have created a Facebook page for "Create Art With ME Art Classes." I haven't posted too much on there, but I have a couple of great articles on creativity that are must-reads! So, stop by and check out "Create Art With ME Art Classes" on Facebook or click the little box on the left and it will bring you right to my page.

I hope you will follow me--I'd love to share artsy articles and art happenings from New England and hear from you!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Tommy McHugh - The Empty Chair - Revisited

While I was reading the newest book for my next grad course, "Your  Creative Brain, " by Shelley Carson, Ph. D., I learned about an English artist--Tommy McHugh. He came about being an artist a little later in life--after he suffered a couple of strokes. Before his strokes, he was a builder and it is said that he didn't have any artistic tendencies. After his strokes, however, he became a prolific writer, painter, and sculptor.

I enjoy more abstract pieces, so I really enjoy his work--it has a dreamlike quality that reminds me of the swirling thoughts that go on in our brains--or, at least in my brain. McHugh explained that this creative work helped him process the waves of thoughts and images that started to come into his brain as he was recovering.

McHugh was as passionate about encouraging people to be creative as he was about creating his art. He said, "We all have it--we just don't believe we can do it." He explained in this video that we can direct our paths both in life and in our minds. We can unlock the cells in our brains and do more. He encouraged people to break through whatever is keeping them from trying new paths: self-doubt, money, fear of judgement…and just do it. He explained that once you start accessing those cells in your brain and creating new pathways, more creativity will come.

Imagine if you were given a gift such as this…what would you do with it? You have been. Ready, set,  GO!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just Read: "Imagination First: Unlocking The Power of Possibility"

I just finished reading the book "Imagination First: Unlocking The Power of Possibility" by Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon. I have to say that I didn't know what to expect from a book on imagination--I think of myself as a pretty creative, imaginative person, so I didn't think I necessarily needed a "how-to" book on imagination to get me going. I also wasn't sure if people who aren't imaginative would be able to develop their imaginative thinking just by reading a book. 

While not a beach-read, this book is relatively easy to digest.
Do you need to own it? Maybe not, see if you can borrow from your library
and then make the call once you've read it.
The book itself is easy to read and discusses the 28+ Practices that people can use to develop their imagination. It isn't meant to be a how-to per se, but offer you some thoughts on creative thinking that you can then apply to your own life. The authors state that practice (actual repetitive "doing") makes the 28+ Practices more meaningful and, like working out, exercising and building your imagination is not about being "done" but about staying loose as you practice again and again.

What I liked about this book is that, although I'd consider myself an imaginative person and a creative problem-solver, this book helped me to outline some of the tools I use every day and have come to just assume everyone else uses too. I like the challenge of designing with limitations (Practice 6)! I constantly hoard bits of eye-candy and quotes and ideas (Practice 7) that allow me to create a bigger "pool" of ideas and inspiration from which to draw from. I love calling up my 85-year-old grandmother and talking to her about my schoolwork (Practice 10)--it allows me to get down to the nitty-gritty and think about the basics of what it is that I am learning or teaching that week.

I also enjoyed reading this book as a parent as well as an educator. I don't know it all and sometimes I can get caught up in the junk of running a household or getting through the lesson before the class is up and miss some of the little details with my children and students that would encourage creativity and imagination. I think this book encouraged me to slow down and make sure I am not killing the creativity and imaginations of the people around me (obviously, I would never do that on purpose, but when my child comes up to me at dinnertime to show me a picture she drew, I could take a minute or two to ask a couple of questions about it and really look at the picture--dinner can wait!). In the classroom, I can design lessons that help my students break away from the status quo of constantly seeking the "right" answer and allow them discern where right and wrong answers matter (spelling and math) and where they don't.

As an educator, this book provides some interesting ways of thinking and encouraging imagination in ourselves, our classrooms, our teams, and in our communities. Here are a couple of ways I am inspired to use the information gained from this book in my life:

  • Watch what I say to people when they are sharing their ideas with me--make sure I do not "kill" their creativity and imagination. Use phrases such as "Yes, and…" to draw out their ideas and allow them to expand upon them.
  • Take more risks in my creative thinking--ask "What if…" more and encourage others to do the same.
  • Make more of my art lessons open-ended and allow the students to "finish the ending."
  • Work more with others--collaborate.
  • Focus on the process and not the end result.
  • Create a safe environment in my home and school where mistakes can guide us.
I think this book is a valuable resource for an educator, an administrator, or a parent to not only encourage imagination, creativity and innovation in themselves but also in others. As a parent and as an educator, I know I have a certain power with the lives I am entrusted with. I want to make sure I am encouraging critical thinking, passion and imaginative learning.
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