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When I was younger, I was an artist that expressed myself in several art forms. Eventually, I immersed myself in college with a variety of idealistic goals, special education, dance + art.The days of yesteryear when a creative spirit could attend college and be a dreamer. I could work part-time and pay for most of my college expenses or summer workshops. My parents did not have to sign school loans. College was affordable for everyone. It seems like a lifetime ago for me as well as for the young dreamers of today which includes, my kids!

When I graduated in 1982, I was free to explore and create my  destiny. The best part, I did not have school loans that put me in debt for the rest of my life! The world was so different back then. Now you can’t be so free-spirited and explore your options, you need to be focused. College is just too expensive to “explore” and “dream” that is sad. It concerns me; we are fostering a world of people who don’t know how to escape and experience the “flow” that comes with a creative endeavor. You know those times, where you look at the clock, and it is 1 pm on a Saturday. Next time you check it is 6 pm, and you don’t know how that happened, That my friend is the creative flow. If you ever have experienced it in your life, it is the most amazing feeling. You can’t count “tv watching” and “social media computer time” as a loss of time! I am talking about where you “create” something “new” that has not been done before by you or anyone around you. Something that “evokes” expressions such as, “That is beautiful”, “a neat idea,” “solves our problem” or just plain WOW!”

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All careers have “creative flow.” Creativity is not owned by artists; it is found in many professions. It can be a “passion” about something you care deeply about in your life. A person can create a not-for-profit that offers solutions to a problem in our society. An engineer can design a prototype that makes our life easier.  The ability to exhibit “creativity” can be tangible or intangible!

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I love creating in my garden as I did years ago in other creative endeavors. I no longer move as beautifully as I did in my youth. Just a fact. We all get older in this world. My “grand jeté” days are gone.  My leaps are now  done on my bike. Part of getting older is finding new ways to fill old needs. Biking helps me fly through the air….but I have struggled with my creative flow….how do I find that again. I was watching a TED talk a few weeks ago with urban Guerrilla Gardener, Ron Finley. He sees his garden as his canvas…

“Gardening is another form of art and I plant for beauty. I want all kinds of different heights and color pops. Vegetable gardens to me are boring as hell; I plant like a mosaic” Ron Finley  (read more about him here)

His lecture inspired me to see my garden,  soil or empty beds as a blank canvas. My garden is my art. I now express or  paint with plants, nature + stir emotions with what I  create in my garden. My creative collaborators are  nature.

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There are many arguments about the difference between “craft” and “art” which I won’t debate in this post. However, I will debate the “gardener” and the “artistic gardener.” well, to me there are gardeners that are good at growing things. They know how to add this  to the soil or move a  plant at the right time of the year that I call “technical stuff.”…they are the gardeners…but the “artistic gardener” are those that use their “creative talents” to create a garden. They think of timing, color, texture, shapes, movement, and emotions.When you visit an “artist gardener” most often you find yourself wandering, touching ,wowing + can’t get enough. Their gardens inspire you to go home and create…..You can’t help yourself!

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And….I found my answer. ….my garden is where I lose track of time….I also find I lose track of time when I  research a plant, or try to find the perfect plant  to “solve a problem,”  to “create a mood” or evoked a feeling…..I have found my creative flow again, it is my garden, and on days, I need to fly well, I ride my bike fast on the river!!! I call it my river grand jeté “…it never ends!!! I finally have found my place to stand in a world that is ever-changing, as I am….

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..if you garden as I do….. think of your garden as your canvas + you are the artist that makes it come to life!

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

51 comments

  1. I know we have had this conversation before – but it is so lovely to see it laid out like this in a post – accompanied by your beautiful photographs! I like the thought of you sprinting on your bike alongside a river doing grande jetes in your imagination!

    It has taken me a life time to realise that I AM an artist and that I create constantly, whether it be in the kitchen where I cook without recipes, or in my decor where I build vibrant colour palettes into every inch of my house or in my art room where challenge myself on a daily basis to get better at sketching, drawing and working with paints. I know now that anyone who creates beauty around them is an artist – and you my friend are an artiste extraordinaire!! It’s a wonderful way to live! xoxo

    1. awww-Pauline:-) yes, we did have this conversation last week ( you reminded me:-) + it is something we need to remind our “creative souls” every so often-it is so easily forgotten. You are so right- an artistic soul never stops creating even when their body or opportunities are limited:-) It is the core of our being!!!:-)

  2. i have only experienced “the flow” a few times in my life and it’s an incredible feeling, never in the garden though 🙂 About 30 years ago I lived next to a retired couple and the woman used to paint but hadn’t for years, she would lament that she couldn’t get herself to sit and paint anymore but when I told her I thought that’s what she did in her garden she was really surprised…she did indeed paint the most beautiful garden with her whole body and soul. This sounds like you 🙂

    1. Wendy-coming from a “creative soul” as you-MADE MY DAY!!! I bet when you are creating your soaps you are in the creative flow:-) Or creating recipes in the kitchen to use from your garden. That is just as creative as the garden growing. I am hoping to get more into the cooking “creative flow” side next year. My problem is I hate doing all the dishes after-LOL
      “indeed plant the most beautiful garden with her whole body and soul”….perfect! LOVE IT:-)

      and one more….all those “finds” you make into new things—now that is a “flow” thing!

      1. Well, I am glad I made your day 🙂 🙂 No, I have to admit to not feeling in the flow now when I make my soaps, ever since I started selling them there is a pressure there I didn’t feel before when I was simply making them for my own fun. Painting is the one thing I lose myself in but rarely do it, I have 4 pictures all waiting to be finished from 2 years ago 🙂 And I agree about the cooking thing and the dishes, our meals are far more simple now…you get past it don’t you?!

      2. I don’ t know if that pressure is something you get over or you have to find a “balance”??? for you are selling to the public. Remember the old saying ” The customer is always right.”
        I remember selling at art fairs when I was younger( Before kids). I was not married and had all the time in the world to do my “thing”. I feel family and other things get in the way as we get older. It just becomes more difficult. It could just be a hump that will pass, too:-) I sure hope so because I love your stuff!!!

      3. It just becomes more serious rather than a leisure activity… like it’s easy to do baking for your family but if you start selling it there’s a whole raft of other things to consider, takes a lot of time, you need to buy more ingredients and store them, need to work out packaging, costs, where to sell it, how to advertise etc – all a learning curve! 🙂

      4. I know what you mean-that is why when you start out small it is easy to adjust:-) If you can:-) Sometimes you have to jump in feet first if you need the money to survive!

  3. My husband is a creative gardener, and when he goes out, he loses complete track of time. He’ll say he’s going to be doing something for ten minutes, and I know that five hours later, he’ll wonder whatever happened. He loves it so much, and we have a beautiful garden. Me, I love the insects, butterflies and dew drop patterns, but I prefer to watch.

  4. Gorgeous iris photos, Robbie! You are an artist with the camera as well. 🙂 As you could guess, I look at my gardens as a giant palette with plants as my paint. Nothing is so wonderful as being in the flow of the creative force, time does disappear! I think those moments are why we are here.

    1. awwww…thank you + I would say you are an artist with your camera:-) It is good we all find each other out here over the cyber fence:-) Just think of all our “dancing” monarchs this next summer around our tithonia sunflowers! Yahoo-the best dancing is by bees, butterflies and others:-) Nature is the best choreographer!

  5. What a wonderful post and as usual, beautiful photos. Of course, as gardeners, we are all artists creating our own little bit of paradise.

  6. I should have guessed that you were an artist too Robbie – your garden is so beautiful, you obviously have that artist eye. It is like a collage on so many dimensions.

  7. Such beautiful photos to illustrate your post, Robbie. The iris with its rainbow of colours is a perfect choice for painting your garden canvas. By the way I think vegetables are every bit as beautiful as flowers. Our Botanic gardens have been known to incorporate vegetables in the flower beds. They looked gorgeous.A potager garden, full of vegetables, is a work of art, and far from boring.

    1. aww-thank you but nature paints them, I just capture them in a moment of time:-)The flowers are like precious stones to a jewelry artist:-)
      I totally agree “a potager” is the answer to a beautiful garden:-) Mixing it up is an endless palette! Margaret above shared this quote- ” Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts”….wow-now that is a quote I will remember forever:-)

  8. I have always loved the anonymous quotation, “Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts.”

    1. :-)A garden is great art:-) for our palette is filled with so many choices:-) How could someone not get lost out there in the flowers:-)

  9. Robbie, I guess I take this for granted. My garden has always been a canvas to me. I love to draw it in my sketchbooks, too – just like a canvas. It unfolds onto paper from my head. I love days where I can submerse in the creative flow of the garden and let it speak to me and tell me what I will do that day – not the soldier-like mission of weed and stay focused which I admit happens to me more and more often because of filthy “time.” I always tell people I am not a schedule person! I like to go with the flow of the day but I do admit it is not always “productive.” I am so glad you have found your flow! I am very interested in this Ron Finley! I must go visit your link. You always introduce me to such great things!

    1. awwww:-) Oh that must be so much fun:-) The first time I read your blog-I knew you were an artist just from the pics-beautiful garden! We just dug ourselves out of a 14 1/2 inch snow storm this weekend-but not as bad as what was out east last week-heard 32 inches! YIKES! I totally get going with the flow:-)

      1. Snow is good fertilizer Robbie – good for the soil! Shoveling is not good for the back (unless it’s soft, loamy garden soil ha ha). I hope it’s spring soon!

  10. Oh my gosh I forgot to joke with you about how I lose time down here in Cedar Key! I call it island time. I am thankful my phone displays the DAY OF the week, the date and time. Ha ha.

  11. You are so talented and I thought the Iris were totally divine!
    Oh how I wish that my creativity in the garden was backed up with knowledge about what to plant and where! Despite coming from a family of good gardeners I always feel that I fail to produce the bounty of crops which my Grand mother did. I suppose now we are all trying to be artistic in our designs as well as being productive.
    I think the reason I am happy in the garden is because I can be totally spontaneous and yet the results come along quite slowly and I can always dig up, or thin out, or move the results if I dont like how it works out. It was never like that with my painting. Water-colour painting requires control and timing and if it goes wrong there can be no painting over it without ruining it.
    Nature is gentle and kind and forgiving and the pleasure she brings as she resides in your garden as you create your totally unique magic with your special planting and design, gives me more pleasure than I can possibly convey.
    Karen x

    1. :-)Karen, you are gifted with “words” as well as an artist in so many ways.A garden is “forgiving” ( I agree!) and lets us make mistakes:-)I learn from my mistakes.This summer, my monarch count went up and they just danced all over the garden every afternoon! Their performace started at 2pm and what a show it was! We can create beauty for us + then other creatures use our creation- to give us a show! You are so right our garden “gives more pleasure” than anyone can express, but you did a beautiful job in your comment! I could not of expressed it any better:-)

      1. beautifully said Fran:-) A “creative mind” is something that needs to be nurtured ( sadly not in education today) + when you are out there losing track of time + thinking about how to solve a problem-you are in a creative flow:-)
        People often say, ” I am not creative” for I don’t do this or that…creativity is something we all have + if it is not nurtured than we lose it or feel insecure to “try” something or tell ourselves, “that won’t work” before we even “experiment”……..an artist uses their creativity to makes something…sometimes it is “original or similiar” or sometimes it is a “craft art” but as I said above, that is for another debate-craft artist vs artist etc….I feel when we create something beautiful it is “art” and a garden if it “evokes” feelings and looks beautiful it is art:-) I call it living art! Functional gardens are okay, but a “potager” design was created to mix beauty with functionality:-) It is an endless palette:-)
        I just adore the quote above by Margaret Gordon she put in her comment- “Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts.” so beautiful:-)

  12. This is exactly what keeps life exciting, what keeps us moving forwards when we might start questioning where “forwards” actually is sometimes. I think when we keep testing the waters and pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones and our understanding of what we are and where we are going we arrive at a place where we lose track of time. That exciting place where we lose ourselves in something that excites and delights our sensibilities. Sanctuary has suddenly become that place again for me. Little things tucked into the garden and whilst I couldn’t ever consider it “artistic” it excites me and I lose myself inside that space. My mind wanders away while I am watering and ideas pop into my head and pretty soon an hour or so has gone and I find myself thinking about what I want to put where…Your garden is completely beautiful and is, indeed, art. You are so right to say that anywhere someone has put their passion to good use for humanity is creative endeavour 🙂

    1. + to add sometimes art can be “ugly” but it gets you to feel something…had to correct myself! I love Salvador Dalís (Surrealism) and some people hate his art, but I adore it for it is “his” and original! + I am one that loves the avant-garde. Some people argue it is not art-but to me it is:-) It always is in the eye of the beholder…we all have our own likes and dislikes:-)

      1. And what makes someone’s passion flutter makes someone else twitch! 😉 Dogs are immune to “art” and admire every garden with room to dig and run 😉

    1. awww-Tamara-you are too kind!!! I loved all the flower pictures ( my special one was perfect) + your blog is one of the best gardening blogs. I love your posts and photos + you make one always think:-)I just love stopping by but lately, I have been not as active visiting blogs for life gets too busy this time of year. Busy Growing + Growing + UGH-shoveling snow! But spring is just around the corner-thank you so much- I am honored to grace the pages of your beautiful blog:-)

    1. Hi Lrong! Have missed you in cyber space gardening. I Just stopped by your blog and you posted:-) I do miss your beautiful photos + posts from your garden. I know when you are busy it is hard to
      post. You are surely missed:-) A compliment from an artist as you makes my day!!:-)

  13. As we slowly gear up for another growing season, thank you for this important message about the art of life! When we were young, old folks would say “kids today!” to suggest that young people didn’t know how easy they had it compared to their elders. Nowadays, it’s the kids that have it so much harder. Somehow I do not think this is progress. *sigh*

    1. I totally agree:-) I really feel for people coming out of college today-they can’t explore careers:-) Geez, who the heck knows what they want to do for the rest of their life when they are 17 yrs old:-(When I went to college people could work a summer and pay for a semester of college. Shoot, we had our books on loan( University Wis system) + had to return them at the end of the semester. I remember going to a large room to register and all the books were there for you to pick up after you got your schedule! If they were damaged then you might be fined. Some of the college books cost up to &300.00 a class or more! You might take up to 5 classes a semester- I can’t imagine. They estimate since 80’s it goes up at least 6 percent a year!

  14. My garden is my canvas, novel, sculpture and science lab. There is no gardening without art. I lose myself in my garden and often don’t come in until it’s become so dark I have no other choice. As for college, the expense is keeping people who still aren’t sure what they want to study from attending and people often end up in careers that don’t reflect their majors. Access to education shouldn’t be a privilege.

    1. I love your comment!!! I could not agree more:-) I have been known to be out past dark and my neighbors wonder about me-LOL. They ask me often-do you ever go inside:-) then when I am not out and about for a few days they ask where is she:-) The college thing needs a lot of work + I sure hope they figure it out soon before we fall too far behind the rest of the world for education is something that all should enjoy:-)

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