The idea for this site began with a class I started teaching a couple of years ago through a local art group called The Artful Nook in Minneapolis, MN. The class, also called The Found Art Walk, stemmed from the idea of being stuck or not knowing where to start with an artistic project and the premise was simple – we literally walked out the door of the building and began to look for inspiration. I had prepared a sample list of things to look for, but the beauty of the class was that the more we walked, the more we pointed out to each other, and the more we stopped to listen…the more we saw. We took notes, jotted down sketches and snapped pictures and when we returned to the building, I led a series of demonstrations to show ways to incorporate all of these discoveries into our work.
The excitement was infectious and it was so inspiring to see the ideas literally bounce around the room from person to person. By the end of the class, I had another huge list of ideas to bring to the next class. Every time I prepared for the class, I realized there was always something new to see and there were always new ways to use those ideas with different materials in my art journals. I also realized, both from my own experience and through the stories from fellow creatives, that there will always be a need for tools to help us get “unstuck.”
A little bit about me
I guess I’ve always been creative/artistic, but I haven’t always “owned” those talents. As a child, I was always writing, drawing, and inventing things, but like so many others, as I got older I lost confidence in my skills and let them fall to the wayside. When I was in high school, my mom pushed me to take an art class. I will always be grateful to her for doing that because it was my first step down a very long and winding road to living a more creative life. I took many art classes while in high school, but was always frustrated with my inability to draw things “perfectly.” When I entered college, I decided on a biology major, but after two years of organic chemistry and calculus, I decided it was time to focus on something that I actually loved doing and changed my major to Writing Intensive English with a minor in fine arts.
I took photography classes because I figured you couldn’t get more “perfect” than with a photograph of something. But I quickly learned that wasn’t the case and found myself feeling stuck again. Then, for the second time in my life, my mom provided the inspiration and encouragement I needed. During a visit home one weekend, she gave me a book called “The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon.” It changed everything for me. The book is a collection of pages from the journals of the photojournalist, Dan Eldon, who was killed alongside three other journalists in 1993 while covering the famine and unrest in Somalia. He was only 22. Dan’s story was heartbreaking, but it was also incredibly inspiring. Not only was he extremely compassionate and driven, but the pages of his journals opened my eyes to a completely new way to approach art. He tore pictures, threw ink on pages, pasted found materials all over the place and wrote on top of all of it. I had never seen anything like it. And I immediately knew I had finally found my calling as an artist. Ironically, it was the complete opposite of the “perfection” I had always wanted to attain through my art.
Not long after discovering Dan’s work, I received an emulation assignment for one of my photography classes. We were to complete a project in the style of a photographer whose work we admired. I chose Dan. For the first time, I truly felt connected to my art. I felt free, inspired and brave. And it was also the first time during a class critique that I received high praise from my classmates. I’d love to say that this experience gave me all the self-confidence and courage I needed to follow my artistic dreams and after graduation, I lived happily ever after as a successful and thriving artist. It didn’t. But sometimes we need those bumps in the road to teach us lessons that will eventually make us stronger.
After graduation, I got a job in marketing so that I could still use my creative talents, but also start to make some money. I still pursued art and writing in my free time and had a long list of ideas for creative projects that I would complete “Someday.”
Fast forward several years and a few jobs later to 2009. I was working in employment advertising and we were in a recession – not a good place to be. Inevitably, I lost my job. I knew it could happen, I just wasn’t prepared for it to happen when it did. So I began the full-time job of looking for a job. I updated my resume, started networking, applied for jobs daily and felt hopeful. After several weeks, I tweaked my resume, expanded my networking circle, and tried different search options when looking for jobs.
Weeks turned into months. I had a few leads, but they all fell through and my optimism began to wane. I stayed busy so that I would feel productive and useful. But as I rounded the corner into one-year of unemployment, my self-confidence began to plummet. So I turned to an old friend for help – art.
I needed a project and I had been tossing around the idea of starting a blog. In my heart, I knew I wanted to create an art blog, but during the course of my unemployment, my inner critic had grown from a nasty heckler to a menacing, snarling beast pulled straight from the scariest mythological land I could imagine. So I shoved the idea to the back of my mind and went on a walk in search of inspiration. That walk led me to a local antique show where I came across a recipe box full of old recipes, most of them handwritten. The idea of someone’s family recipes being sold off at an antique show broke my heart because they reminded me of grandmother’s recipe boxes (she had 17 of them). So I bought the box and brought it home.
As I read through all the cards, I was reminded of my own family recipes and the stories behind each one. So I started writing. I gathered ideas, jotted down notes and before I knew it, I was launching a blog named The Found Recipe Box. I shared the orphaned cards, pictures of the prepared food, and my own stories that were now attached to each recipe. The irony of this is that I was so scared to start an art blog and share my art with the world because I felt that it was not good enough, yet I started a blog based on cooking, something that is WAY outside of my comfort zone and, quite honestly, I’m not very good at. But with each recipe, I got a little better, I learned a little more and I gradually became a lot more confident. Through that project, I met some amazing people and had some incredible experiences that I never would have had had I not started the blog.
Eventually I found a job. Then I had a baby. Then I got a different job and had a second baby so I had to take a brief sabbatical from that project. I will finish it, I am dedicated to completing every recipe in that box. But something else amazing happened during this period of turbulent change. I reconnected with my artistic side. I finally admitted to myself that I AM an artist and that I absolutely need art and creativity in my life. For me, it is an essential part of my being and one that I have denied for too long. I find it sad and ironic that we can be instilled with such an amazing and powerful gift, yet at the same time possess something as destructive as an inner critic that squashes and silences our gifts. And recently, I have had many conversations with people who have had these very same experiences and have either given up their craft entirely or are trying to hold on, but are worn down from the fight with that cruel inner voice. And so, because of my experiences, because of those conversations, because I know there are so many others out there like me who need art, but don’t know where to start, I am mustering up all the courage I have to silence my own inner critic and start the art blog I began dreaming of many years ago. But, like I said, sometimes we need those bumps in the road and I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today and this blog wouldn’t be what I hope it will become without those years of uncertainty and change.
And with that, I say welcome to The Found Art Walk! I am so excited that you are here. My goals for this project are simple:
- Provide inspiration for a place to start with your art
- Inspire you to see the hidden beauty in the world around us – even in the most unsuspecting places
- Provide support for recovering perfectionists like myself
- Share some of my favorite tools and sources of inspiration
- Create a creative community based on support, encouragement and inspiration
Every weekday morning, after I drop my girls off at daycare, my dog, Murphy, and I take a walk. And every morning we find the most incredible things – simple things – that inspire me to doodle, collage, paint, or write. I have been collecting pictures, sketches and prompts from our adventures and from the classes I have taught, and I will share those here with you. I typically work in an art journal or I write, but I hope that these ideas inspire you no matter what artistic medium you use to create your art. So put on your shoes, grab a journal or a sketchbook and let’s take a walk in search of inspiration!