Emotions & Creativity

messy mind - © Virginia Shurgar HassellA recent viewing of the movie “Inside Out” left me contemplating the validity of the “science” behind the premise. A young girl is suddenly left with troubling emotions after Sadness touches her core memories and taints the colorization. It seemed like the typical Hollywood oversimplification of a HUGE batch of study. I also know that some highly creative people came together to create the movie. Creative people can sometimes have a reputation as being highly emotional, and not necessarily in a positive way. Tortured Artist. Van Gogh. Curt Cobain. Hemingway.

Do you have to be highly emotional to be creative? Can you be happy MOST of the time and still be considered truly creative? Do you have to be somewhat tortured?

Turns out there is starting to be some science in that area. This link is to a very interesting article on research into what emotions make us more creative, in Harvard Business Review.

Another short synopsis on Creativity and Emotions, from PBS.

And one more on how creating a sense of emotional connectedness to what you are trying to learn or create makes it easier to accomplish with creativity and zeal.

The answer? Do you have to be angry, anxious, sad, jubilant to create? It isn’t that simple. As stereotype would show, creativity often appears messy because it is messy, even on a brain-wave level.


Need to get this down to move on…

I work to music. Pretty much always. So, this week has been low and wet. I’m hoping this purge helps the sun come out.


Stevie was ankle deep in it this week, but here he was swimming.

Johnny C begins this one with a story of the Mississippi flooding his Arkansas farm when he was a young boy. Read Rising Tide to get a bigger picture of this.


Led Zeppelin – The Rain Song… maybe Robert Plant knew when to get out, as he left Austin this year.

And I love Tina Turner’s version of this song, Ann Peebles wrote, I Can’t Stand the Rain.

Randy Newman makes me teary.

George Harrison brings back the Sun

Applied Land Restoration Logo

Once in a while, I am the lucky girl that gets to work on a project that is not only satisfyingly creative, but also emotionally fulfilling. Just checked that one off the list!

Applied Land Restoration is a wonderful group, based in Little Rock, that in a nutshell, helps restore damaged or fragile areas and return the land to a healthier state. They needed to give the sense of a wild area, create an icon using the acronym and also show the full name. I am very pleased with the outcome.





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Circle Unbroken

Often, when I really can’t work on something I should be doing, I follow a rabbit hole down some song I’m listening to. Most of the time, I end up tweeting in a running line, what those songs lead to.  I just spent 16 hours in a car by myself and that led to a LOT of musical rabbit holes. It was really needed. On that drive, I thought about my friend who was burying her Daddy too early. It reminded me of how much music affected my grandmother Elly’s wake. The Oxford American Music Edition had just come out. We cranked up Will the Circle be Unbroken, by Pops Staples and the Staples singers. Picture a huge family doing the congo to that song after the graveside service. The locals thought we were lunatics, but it was a perfect way to say goodbye.  Johnny and June Cash sing it with Pops here:

The amazing news is that Pops daughter, Mavis — amazing on her own — and her sisters are releasing the last Pops Staples album now. They let Jeff Tweedy, who has produced some of her albums help them fill in some missing holes. Here a nice interview backstory.

And  a nice documentary about the making of the album…

So… to circle back to what this has to do with what I do. Music, design, collaboration, inspiration, and passion. These artists are different… different backgrounds and histories. Their combined enthusiasm and drive spread and infect others. I feel it all the time from music, other designers, nature, friends. Keep your eyes and ears open and you can’t help feel the circle. Twenty years ago, that song got under my skin and it is still coming around to make me feel something.

Buy the new album from Waterloo Records and the new Oxford American Music Edition featuring the music of Texas. You will be inspired too.

Creativity — Group or Individual?

Airport line crew, lawn mower, reception, radio intern, hostess, production artist, designer, senior designer, chief bottle washer, home manager. I’ve worked happily in many different situations, with large groups and as individuals with sole responsibilities. The past 13 years, I have been working on my own, and mostly fulfilling all of the requirements of my job. Luckily, I have a network of amazing talent from my past to bring in on projects that require different talents, that I would not have known if not for the group creative situations that I met them in. Writer 1 — spent many early happy hours brainstorming for client presentations. Writer 2 — met later and was able to enjoy her writing from afar and know good work when I saw it. Photographers — met while working in small groups, producing books. Web/interactive designers — again… small groups. Social Maven… marketing guru, public service activator, and it goes on and on.

Although I often hated (yep, I can own that strong word) to deal with one or two people in various groups, we couldn’t have pulled off the huge projects we made without a wide and varied talent pool. And as hard as it is to admit it, those difficult personalities often challenged me to be better at what I was doing to prove my point.

Now, even though I am much more connected to a much wider ocean of information, visuals, educational tools, I can often feel like I am in a creative fish bowl. I sometimes am questioning my judgement because I haven’t passed the work around to my feedback crew. Are they saying they like it because we are friends now? They are just being sweet. bahhh…

In my children’s school, more and more often the kids are working on group projects and being taught to work well together and bring each other up. I love that. But I also see some frustration when the individual idea has a harder time coming out. How do we teach kids to work well together but still be as creative as possible on their own? Do they have to reserve that for private work?

So, is it better to work in a group and want to bludgeon each other once in a while, or to work in ones head and send it out blindly into the world?

I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Really. Talk to me.

Paris When it Giggles — Worth the Wait

Two long years ago, a good friend and amazing writer friend, Jill Coody Smits, asked me if I would illustrate a book she was thinking about. Of course, I didn’t hesitate. I have always thought of illustration (of a certain graphic, digital style) as my most favorite part of my career. We decided to fit the book in and around our different work schedules, family lives, etc, and that worked out great. Slow but great. I have been studying historically successful creatives — writers, artists, scientists. I am curious about the Lean In idea but feel that I do more of a Lean Over the Cliff Edge kind of dance than an lean in, which meant we did our work in the stolen wee hours or in place of paying client work. And I’m so, so glad I did it. It is not often that a client or collaborator will give you free reins on a project or trust you as Jill did. I hope the result is evident. Please check it out and give us your feedback!  Kindle coming soon too!


Paris When it Giggles on Amazon

Travel guide, sound track, tips and tricks, hidden gems, and a lovely little story about the realities of traveling in this amazing city with a 5 year old along!

Your Work Outlives You if you are Careful

Heller dinnerware
When I was a little girl, my fraternal grandmother had an amazing set of Massimo Vignelli designed Heller dinnerware. Even though it was tough stuff, we kids were only allowed to use it on special occasions. She loved the colorful, clean-lined forms and we coveted them like crazy. Vignelli died this last week at the age of 83, a few days after Maya Angelou and my dear friend’s father Joe Cunningham. It was such a sad week in the loss of a true design visionary, a life-living missionary, and a tour-de-force father. As my life was crashing along at it’s usual frenetic pace, I was barely able to pause to reflect on these events. But, as I read an article on Massimo by Gizmodo, outlining some of the amazingly long-lived designs that he produced, things that you and I have looked at a zillion times without thinking about it, I realized how much our lives are touched every day by the actions of someone that might have left us such a long time ago. If you are careful, thoughtful, kind or wise, excitingly challenging, or daring, inventive or manipulative, you will likely leave a huge impact on the people around you or even possibly the world, for a long, long time. I always try to think about longevity and timelessness in my designs, as much as the parameters allow, but I can only hope to make marks as the three that left last week.

Some of the ageless icons that Vignelli created were the Ford Motor Co logo, the original American Airlines logo and the Bloomingdales Big Brown Bag. If you can’t instantly picture those icons, you have been under a BIG rock.



Have some FUN with your Work

There aren’t many real rockers left anymore. Not many as huge as Bruce Springsteen. I loved this skit he did with Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young. He dons 1970s Bruce hair, glasses and wig and really does it. He obviously can really get the humor, and he doesn’t do it half-way. You get the full, scratchy, Springsteen angst. Watch the magic, and then see Fallon talk about how it was set up. Magic. Now, think about your own industry… are the giants able to laugh at themselves, or able to see past their own image? Have FUN. It’s good for you.

via Jimmy Fallon on Youtube

via CBS on Youtube

Art in Nature — Casting Fire Ant Tunnels

This is just too beautiful and weird to not pass on. Have you ever wondered what an ant colony might look like if you could magically blow away the surrounding dirt? How about in beautiful aluminum?

A tiny, tiny bit of sympathy goes out to the fire ants that lost their lives in the creation of this study, but I have suffered enough bites to let it go easily. So, is the caster the artist? Or are the ants?

Branding a Company beyond Overused Images

When a past client comes back to me for unrelated, new work, or passes my name on to one of their trusted people, I always feel great. What a vote of confidence to get repeat customers. So, I was thrilled to get to help Nancy Boekman brand her new boutique yoga center in Terrytown, Austin. Nancy and her husband hired me a few years ago to complete a concept that they envisioned, but this time she was setting me free with only minor parameters. Yeehaw!

She wanted a modern look for her modern center, without the traditional imagery that most yoga studios use. I kept that in mind, but also showed her a few that were more traditional so she could be secure in her vision.  The brand she chose was by far, the most unique in the bunch and the colors that she will be using are also just as invigorating. No sage, pale pink or purple… she’s hitting some strong, energetic looks with a base that is calm and clean.

The final brand has several different color options she can use:

Austin Kula Yoga - Blue

Austin Kula Yoga - Green

Austin Kula Yoga - Red

Austin Kula Yoga - Yellow

And if you are interested in the first round choices, here you go!   This give you a general idea of the options available with a design from the initial concept to the final production.  Austin Kula Yoga, 1st round comps

Waiting 30 years for validation — sometimes a life’s work takes a long time coming

Yesterday, physicist Chao-Lin Kuo, got to tell his colleague, Stanford physicist Andrei Linde, that proof of his inflation theory (the idea that our entire universe was created in an instant — the Big Bang — in which everything we know actually expanded FASTER than the speed of light, thus inflation), that he formed in the 1980s. The look on his face as he comes to realize that his life’s work has been finally proven is priceless. If only all people, creatives, scientists, machinists, writers, lawyers, parents, etc. can have an experience like this during their lives.

I love that his wife, also a physicist, gets it before him!

More info from NPR here.