3 Things I learned from BB King & Lucille

3 Things I learned from BB King & Lucille

Sunday evening, February 1964. My world view changed. The Beatles opened up a passion in me that continues to this day.
Before school was out that year I was part of a band called the Radiants. We were musicians. I was a guitar player who played bass in our band because no one else would. Dare I compare myself to Paul? No, that would be very cheeky indeed.
 
As a teenage guitar player I wanted to be a rock star. We all did. You couldn’t swing a dead accordion without hitting a rock and roll group starting up in San Diego. It was … how should I put it … cool … very cool.
 
The very next year, my rock guitar ambitions were hijacked by the son of sharecroppers from Mississippi. He was born Riley Ben King but was nicknamed Blues Boy and later became King of Blues.
 
There was something about BB’s music that rang true to this middle-class, white, city boy. There was simplicity. There was feeling. There was storytelling. There was life. I was wreaked; still am.
 
Today whenever I pick up a guitar I instinctively find some blues patterns to play. It’s home. It’s true. It’s beautiful.
 
Just last week BB King left us at age 89. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He received 15 Grammys. BB developed diabetes and in his last years he had to sit in a chair whenever he played … but boy did he play! And all his friends wanted to play with him.
 
 

Here are 3 Things I learned from BB King & Lucille, his faithful guitar

 
 

1. Find your voice

 
Within the first bar of “The Thrill is Gone” you know who is playing. You could always tell when it was BB & Lucille together.
From his 1st album, “Singin’ the Blues” in 1956 to his last, “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” in 2012 BB’s music was his and we knew it.
 
For us creatives, BB taught us to FIND OUR OWN VOICE.
 
 

2. You don’t have to do everything

 
As a guitar player, BB was a soloist. He let the rest of the band fill in while he sang and caressed Lucille into joining him.
I heard a quick conversation between BB and Bono. Bono had written a song for BB and him to sing and play together. As they were figuring out how they were going to perform this new song BB tells Bono, “I never did learn how to play chords.”
I don’t think any of us knew or cared. He stirred us without chords.
 
For us creatives, BB taught us WE DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING.
 
 

3. Enjoy riding with your friends

 
Everyone wanted to play with BB. Everyone wanted to go on a ride with the King of the Blues. And it was great to watch. Seeing superstar guitarist exchange those knowing smiles on stage with BB said it all. And why not? They were making music with BB King!
 
BB has collaborated with many other guitarists to produce great albums but my favorite is the one he did with Eric Clapton in 2000, “Riding with the King.” Could there be a better title?
 
For us creatives, BB taught us to ENJOY RIDING WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
 
 
We are going to miss BB & Lucille. Words are not always easy to find when expressing a loss like this.
The very next day after BB’s exit from life’s stage, his friend and fellow rider, Eric Clapton, shared this open video with us.
 


 
 
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Feeding An Artist

Feeding An Artist

There will be times when we Creatives need to put down the brush, slip the camera back into the bag, or slide the keyboard away.
There will be times when we Producers of art need to take a break from production
There will be times we need to be CREATIVELY FED.
 
So what is involved with FEEDING AN ARTIST?
 
Although a nice glass of wine and a good variety of cheeses are nice, Feeding an Artist goes beyond the physical.
We need to feed:
◦ Our soul
◦ Our spirit
◦ Our imagination
 
I’ve written about nurturing our Creative beings in previous posts. This week I am simply going to share a few quotes from other Creatives. I am very well aware of the possibility that you could quickly scan, appreciate a few, disregard the rest, and return to your busy creative life. If you do this, you may miss that nugget of creative wisdom that could open a new and exciting flow of art.
 
To enter into the Creative Conversation with these quotes, ask two questions.
1. How does this quote impact the RECIPIENT of art?
2. How does this quote impact the CREATOR of art?
 
 

FEEDING AN ARTIST

 
 
Albert Einstein
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Imagination is more important than knowledge.
 
James Barrie
To die will be an awfully big adventure.
 
E. L. Doctrow
Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.
 
Lewis Carroll
Today isn’t any other day you know.
 
Albert Schweitzer
Any profound view of the world is mysticism.
 
Tom Stoppard
Every exit is an entry somewhere else.
 
James Dickey
There are so many selves in everybody and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong, for the creative process.
 
Ann Kent Rush
Creativity is really the structuring of magic.
 
Dorothy Bernard
Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
 
 
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Becoming a Famous Author

Becoming a Famous Author

I posted the above photograph this week on several Facebook Groups I am a part of with this caption:
 

Some authors win the Pulitzer Prize. Some authors get a big contract.

These are great, but I was the subject of my granddaughter’s independent study project.

 
I had many, many Likes & Comments; about 100. Apparently the photo and the topic resonated with many people.
 
 
In March I started receiving emails from my granddaughter, Sophia. It started off with, “hi its me sophia your grand kid.” That alone told me I was in for some fun. She chose me as the subject of her Independent Study Project. Many of her research questions revolved around me being an author and my books. One book in particular is important to both of us, The Cats’ Gallery. Although I was the writer, Sophia supplied the artwork … without knowing it.
 
When our daughter was having our 2nd grandchild, Marsha flew out to Colorado to help with the ensuing chaos. She brought her iPad with her and spent maybe 10 minutes showing 3 year old Sophia how to enjoy some games and a painting app. When Marsha came home she showed me ALL the pictures Sophia made … around 30. They were fun, colorful, and very expressive.
 
I was just finishing my 1st book, a humorous memoir about growing up as a Baby Boomer, but after seeing Sophia’s artwork I knew immediately that I would have to write my 1st Children’s Book. I wrote The Cats’ Gallery and published it as a Kindle eBook and paperback book. It is about Sophia being an artist, but not too sure if others outside her family appreciated her work. Then one night she comes out of her bedroom to see all the neighborhood cats having a Gallery Opening showcasing her art. Oh, and just in case there is some confusion, this is actually fiction.
 
Sophia was pretty surprised to receive her own paperback copy of a published book with her artwork. Just last year she read it to her class. Shortly after I got an email from her: “Grandpa, I think I might be famous.” And now she is making me famous … at least in her elementary school.
 
One of the first blessings I received from writing this book came from Sarah, Sophia’s mom. She said that after being part of the creation of The Cats’ Gallery Sophia now really believes she is an artist. Perfect!! Maybe Sophia can be one of the artists who survives into adulthood with her creativity still intact.
Of course the second blessing, and the best, was having Sophia think me worthy of her Independent Study.
 
I’m not the only one who thinks this. Here are some of the comments I received from posting this photograph. I know I am in danger of appearing to be bragging, and maybe a little, but I was moved by how people were touched. I think there is something we can learn from this.
 
– Best accolade you could ever hope for!!! Way to go, Granddad!
– Now that is the best meaningful recognition of all!
– Most prestigious honor there is! Congrats!
– That’s the best Preston! No better award! Congratulations!
– This is great! Congratulations!
– Wow! You couldn’t get a better seal of approval Preston. Congratulations!
-That smile is the biggest reward you could have.
– That’s better than any of the other prizes
– This is the “GRAND PRIZE”!
– How cool is that? Way cool!!!
– MARVELOUS!
– Awesome
– THAT made MY day!
– Very COOL!
– Outstanding Preston. Congrats.
– Absolutely priceless. …. Congrats…you have arrived!!!
– Preston, some rewards are truly priceless
– Preston that honor is the best you can get
– So you won the most coveted prize! Congratulations!*
 
 
So why all these Likes & Comments? Why did this photo and the topic resonate with so many people?
Maybe because we know there are more important things than creating art for the money.
Maybe we create art to connect with others.
Maybe the creativity found in all of us draws us to something much bigger than we think.
 
Having my granddaughter think enough of me to be the subject of her Independent Study Project is priceless. It is a bit humbling. I have a lot to live up to.
We create art because we have to create art. And sometimes magic happens.
 
BTW … did you know I am famous in an elementary school in Colorado? Very cool indeed.
 
 
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ART is the EXPOSER

ART is the EXPOSER

ART is the EXPOSER.

 
 
When we throw ourselves into creating our art it often reveals 2 things:
1. Where we are in the mastery of our chosen tools of creativity
2. Where we are as a person
 
 
Both of these require honest observation. It is much easier to think our art is fine and we are wonderful people. But as we know, growth seldom takes place without pain. And so we avoid self-critiquing. And why not? For many years now we have been told that we are beautiful inside, maybe even perfect. Everyone gets a STAR. Everyone gets a TROPHY. Everyone is a WINNER.

And then we act surprised when a person grows into an ENTITLED ADULT. Our society promotes and reinforces the ME. The COMMUNITY disintegrates for the benefit of the ONE. Has it always been this way? Maybe. But maybe we nurtured this destructive worldview in recent history.

A few Sundays ago while savoring a morning coffee, reading the paper, and enjoying weekend conversation with Marsha, she pointed out an article by David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, entitled When Cultures Shift.
 
 
David started his article by contrasting Johnny Unitas with Joe Namath; one purposefully unglamorous, the other zealously flashy. This contrast illustrated the cultural shift from self-effacement to self-expression: the latter what I will call “me-ism.” David refuted the commonly held belief that this shift all came out of the 60s. He takes us further back to the new opportunities that surfaced right after WWII. (I, for one, appreciate some of the finger pointing of “me-ism” being expanded beyond the Boomer Generation.)

David gave further examples of this cultural shift through popular books, popular psychology, and the social media. If I could distill his article down to a phrase it would be: It is no longer WE, but ME. And here is the quote that I highlighted in yellow: (Very analog of me, don’t you think?)

You build your career by building on your strengths, but you improve your character by trying to address your weaknesses.

 
 
Do you see the glaring assumption? We have weaknesses! We will always have weaknesses. We are not perfect. We don’t always deserve the star or trophy. And painfully enough, we are not always winners. (If this is new to you, inset your favorite expletive here.)
 
 
So what does art have to do with all this?

ART is the EXPOSER.

 
 
The viewers / listeners of a piece of art can be moved outside of themselves. They can enter new worlds to explore thoughts and emotions that are revealed only by stepping away from the status quo and the unceasing me-ism. Just this morning I read a letter of C. S. Lewis in which he told his friend, Arthur, that the music he recently experienced “really carried me out of myself.

But what about the CREATIVE, the one who produces the art? What happens to us when we truthfully tackle a creative expression? We see our frailty and the frailty of our fellow sojourners. Our response to this will be informed by our cosmology. ”Is it all about ME … or WE?”
If I am the focal point, I really don’t take into account what others think, or want, or need. I am about satisfying me. Behind this crumbling door waits madness.
If my art is not exclusively about me but we, I then have an obligation to bring stories of health, hope, and joy to those who interact with my art. And I am unable to do this without accepting and addressing my own weaknesses.

Is art more than the beautiful image on the wall? More than the enchanting melody from the hall? More than the engaging story from the comfortable chair?

I guess it all depends. Is it ME … or is it WE?
 
 

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Give It a Try: Becoming a Creative Part 5

Give It a Try: Becoming a Creative Part 5

The above image is a NEW PIECE OF ART from Dan Cautrell

 
 

This week we are going to listen to the 6th and final segment from an interview I did with Dan on Becoming a Creative.
Dan is a friend, fellow hockey player, owner of FUSION PRESS STUDIO, fun & irreverent Facebook poster.
 
 

In this 4 minute segment of Becoming a Creative, Dan and I discuss GIVE IT A TRY.
 
 

Here are some key phrases from our talk:

 

Art as an Exploration

 

Art as a Vocation

 

Being creative in every aspect of life

 

The value of being creative

 

The Stealth Artist

 


 
 

More Info

 

Dan’s Website

 

Dan’s Facebook Page

 

 

Previous Becoming a Creative Interviews

 

Part 1 –  Define Creativity
 
Part 2 –  Rewards of the Artist
 
Part 3 –  Obstacles to Being Creative
 
Part 4a – The Creative Process
 
Part 5 –   The Creative Process
 
 

What do you think?
I would love YOUR COMMENTS on this post.
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If you would like to Join the CREATIVE CONVERSATION, SIGN UP to receive my weekly blog.
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I’m Preston McCracken, join me in ENLARGING OUR LIVES.