I just read the transcript of Bob Dylan’s speech last week at MusiCares, when he was honored as their Person of the Year. It’s part of the annual Grammys events.  I wish I could have watched him, but it wasn’t broadcast on television.  However one reporter, Randall Roberts, thought to transcribe it, and the LA Times published it.  Its a hell of a good read.

Pink Fuschias

“Fuchsias” ©Jill Rosoff 2011, 6″ x 17.5″

I think it’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  It is almost as if its a redistribution of wealth, that everything that we take in, visually, aurally, emotionally, spiritually, through taste, through feel, through smell, all of it can come back out of us in the art we make, if its painting, cooking, making music, writing, or any other creative endeavor, all of it reflects what we have learned so far.  My artwork is influenced by so many things, by what I learned growing up, what my parents taught me, what I saw in museums, what I tasted.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve usually got a cup of coffee with me while I’m making art.  I’m influenced by a great latte.  Yup, I said that.  

Dylan talks about the music he listens to, how he hears the songs and then writes something that reflect them.  Read especially the part about the “Come all ye” songs, and what he wrote after that.  You’ll have a V-8 slap-your-forehead moment.  I look at Van Gogh, and Thiebaud, and Klimt and Diebenkorn, and so many more, and then I indulge in them as I paint my paintings.  Going to museums to see the actual work of these artist heroes of mine is like plugging me in, I get all excited and fascinated and wish I could paint right then and there.  Thank goodness for my iPhone, I can now take notes on it.  But I still often take a notebook into a show with me to jot down things.  Musically I try to channel Gabby Pahinui as I struggle to get my fingers, which are ingrained in American folk music rhythms and patterns, into playing Hawaiian slack key guitar.  Its my new, great struggle.  

Read the transcript here, even if you don’t subscribe to the LA Times online, you can read up to 10 articles a month there for free.   I’ve downloaded it so I can go reread it now and then.  So can you.

And if you live in or near Orange County, CA, come take one of my watercolor workshops!

Haven’t been painting?  Egad.  Can’t be so!  Yes, I take breaks from painting.  But I rarely take breaks from being creative.

Spring was been busy this year.  I taught two six-week workshops at #Orange Coast College’s Community Education division, one on Flowers in Watercolors, the other was Watercolor Still Lifes.   And I have just finished a new six-week workshop on painting Cityscapes, and I’ve got two more slated for the Fall semester.  I also started a new part-time job with a non-profit in April, which has been very stimulating and fun.  I announced a new line of scarves for my Blooming Silks:  “Layers” which I will be showing at the Contemporary Crafts Market in Pasadena, CA over Halloween weekend.  And I went on a trip in June.

It’s the trip that I want to share about today.  To begin with, I love Hawaiian music.  My family has listened to Hawaiian music my whole life.  My mom got us started, she went to Hawaii with her family when she was a teenager in the late 40’s, and learned to play the ukulele from the locals.  Gabby Pahinui has always been one of my music heroes, and the guitar style he played is called Slack Key, or ki ho’alu in Hawaiian.  If you have seen The Descendants, you’ve heard this music, it’s the soundtrack to the movie.  Other favorites are Ray Kane, Dennis Kamakahi, Jeff Peterson, George Kahumoku Jr., and Kimo West.  Just to name a few, there’s so many!

I’ve played guitar since I was a kid, my dad taught me how.  My family used to sing and play together, along with some friends, mostly folk music, a little bluegrass, and some early rock and folk/rock.  But I’d always in the back of my mind thought it would be so great to learn to play slack key.  Well, a couple of years ago Mom and I went to a slack key workshop organized by George Kahumoku Jr. in Maui, where the instructors are some of the slack key artists whose music I been listen to.  I was in heaven for a week, inundated and overwhelmed with the beginnings of the slack key style.  It was so wonderful, that we went again this year, and if possible, this year’s workshop was even better than the first one.  

View from the room

First off, this was the view from the lanai of our room.  We woke up to this each morning, drank our coffee here, dried off after swimming, sipped on cocktails, and sometimes just sat in peaceful awe.  We went swimming and/or snorkeling every day.  We didn’t take a computer, so I was happily unplugged.  

We were there for the music.  For a week we were immersed once again in Hawaiian music and culture, eating lunch and dinner with the whole group, and sometimes breakfast, and swimming when we took breaks from workshops.  There were classes for six days, mostly in slack key guitar or ukulele, but also in lei making, kapa cloth making, and hula.  Mom was taking classes on the uke, I of course on my guitar.  Every evening, after dinner, there was a kanikapila, or jam session, where everyone played and sang  together.  

Here’s a shot of most of our faculty one afternoon, as we celebrated the life of musician and songwriter Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, who this past spring lost a short, intense, battle with lung cancer:


David Kamakahi, Jeff Peterson, Herb Ohta, Jr., George Kahumoku, Jr., Richard Ho’opi’i, Laurence the sound guru, Jason Jerome and Led Kaapana.  This room was where we had our kanikapilas each night, over 80 of us sitting in a huge circle, playing slack key music together.

The last day of the workshop we performed at the Ki Ho’alu – Slack Key Guitar Festival 2014 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Wailuku.

group shot

Group shot of the workshop, ready to perform at the Festival.  Photo by Scott Hillman

Here’s a great video from the same workshop 3 years ago, so you can hear the music.  This is from the workshop 3 years ago, and features George Kahumoku, Jr., the late Bob Brozman, Led Ka’apana and Herb Ohta, Jr.  George, Led and Herb were all teaching again this year.

I was watching Jon Stewart recently when his guest was astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.  Its a remarkably cool building on the West Side–if you haven’t seen it, put it on your list.  And it’s not all that far from Zabars….the makings of a fun day in NYC. Tyson is smart, interesting and funny, all great qualities in a person, he’s one of those people I’d love to have a conversation with.  The thing that struck me was when he quoted Albert Einstein about creativity:  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Hmmm.  Still, the more I’ve considered it, the more I’ve come to agree with it, adding only that knowledge increases the potential of the imagination.

Now I’ll admit that from my artist’s vantage point, I think that its in the arts where creativity resides.  There is scholarly work that reports that kids who get to play in areas of the fine arts are more creative thinkers in adulthood (please keep the arts in the schools!).  So while at first the idea that Einstein would be talking about creativity was a little wacky, it actually makes total sense.  Every endeavor to create or define something is a creative process.  His theories of the universe came out of incredibly imaginative thought processes, magical journeys down new paths of thought.

All of this got me thinking of who else might have said interesting things about the subject. So I’m looking for who might have expounded on creativity and the creative process, and I’ll post the ones that I really like here.  If you find one you like, would you please send it to me?  (Use the comment button below, and if you wish I’ll be happy to keep confidentiality, just tell me in your comment, since all comments are manually approved in order to be published).

Getting back to Albert Einstein, though, makes me think of my dad.  Dad was a tremendously bright and curious man, interested in all sorts of things in the world and in the people he met.  He was one of those people who could figure out all sorts of things, from fixing a bike to fearlessly navigating a British camper with right hand drive and marginal visibility only via the side and rear view mirrors through Northern Europe.  His all-time conquest?  I think maybe it was driving that camper at speed up the Champs Elysee and around the Arc d’ Triomphe during rush hour.  Teeth-grittingly exhilirating, one of those times when you’re watching through fingers over your eyes.  He was completely rapt in the moment, concentrating.  When Dad was concentrating on something, as he’d go into his figuring-things-out zone his tongue would appear and curl up, covering his upper lip.  I crack up when I find myself doing the same thing when I’m puzzling something out, or when my sisters, my brother, and my niece and nephews do it.  I especially love seeing the kids doing it while they’re working something out in their heads, Dad lives in them.

When I got old enough that ‘how come’ questions were long past being cute, when I or my sisters or brother would ask Dad a question about how something worked, he’d reply, “When you take physics you’ll understand that”.   Thanks, Dad.  I’ll go Google it.  And so of course there’s Albert Einstein, involved in discussions about creativity.  I wonder if his tongue lapped over his upper lip when he was pondering the universe?

More art next posting.

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