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"In the Studio"
An Interview with Artist Al Harris

(This interview is continued from the November 14 2008 Artellagram...)

Artella: The possibilities to "create art" when you're a novice seem endless -- where's a good starting place?

Al: Each of us has "knowingness," but we forget that we have it. And the knowingness part of you understands exactly what makes your heart sing. When you get up in the morning, you have a lot of choices. Your whole life can be "art." So what do you want to do? You can list your choices for the day on a piece of paper. If you gently scan them, one or two will light up for you; they will have a feeling of slightly more energy to them than the others. This kind of practice can teach you to listen to your inner core of knowingness.

Often, our listening skills are dulled when we let too much of the world's problems affect us. The world's problems are always there. Only the names seem to change from one newscast to another. But you are an explorer and have your own world to explore.

I found that when I actively look for things that light up my life, I withdraw my attention from the day-to-day "chatter," and my life gets happier. It's not that I ignore world events, but that I simply shift my attention from things I can't do anything about to things I can – my own exploration.

The same thing applies to art. Start to explore the things that give you a spark. This takes practice, but it is well worth it.

I once applied this to diet. I went into a Safeway and scanned a group of oranges. I pretended I could tell which one would give me more Life Energy than another. And that's the one I chose to eat. I practiced this with all my food for three months, and at the end of that time I felt quite different – rejuvenated. But it took practice. And at first I didn't know if I was just imagining things. Your imagination is powerful. And you can use it to begin to withdraw your attention from the day-to-day chatter and gently explore what art should be for you each day.

Artella: What have you learned through building your creative business? Did you make any mistakes when starting that would be helpful to someone just starting out?

Al: Persistence is a word that gets talked about a lot. But I found that being gentle with myself works best. Persistent striving never worked for me, because I was doing it all on my own. And that's a lonely way to exist. The universe is a big place and there are many people, beings, forces, currents and energies willing to help you. But knowing that wasn't useful, because I forgot to actively ask for help.

I thought I was supposed to be strong, able to do everything myself. But that's not how it works. A friend of mine loaned me a book that talked about asking for inner guidance. That was a turning point for me. I still had trouble asking, because I wasn't used to it. But the book said that Angels and other inner guides love to help us when we ask them. And that when we get help and thank them, they are even more willing to help again.

So I thought: "What have I got to lose? I'll give it a try." And within two weeks, my life changed drastically. Income that had eluded me started to pour in. My relationships with other people changed. I never tried to change other people, only myself. I discovered we are all connected, and when you change yourself, everything around you changes too.

The main mistake I made when starting my business, was to try to do everything on my own, without all the love that is pouring into each one of us from the universe. So I would say: Don't ignore that love. Don't think it's not for you. My other mistake when I started, was not trusting that this is a beneficial universe, and thinking that I didn't deserve help or love. You can't get help from someone or something you don't trust. So I had to open myself a little bit each day by thinking: "the universe is my friend." Real friends trust each other. I had to learn that.

Artella: Do you plan ahead when you're creating, or does your art unfold more spontaneously?

Al: I once saw a poster of a little boy, staring out a screen door. He had a surprised look on his face, and the caption said: the surprise of God. That image has stuck with me, and it's at the heart of how I work. Expecting the unexpected, and reveling in its wonder and beauty makes life enjoyable and interesting. So I prepare as much as possible for a project, and then I let the surprise of God flow in. To do that successfully, you have to be willing to "not know." It's easy to get stuck on formulas, things that have always worked in the past. But new combinations appear when you do something different, something you don't yet know about.

At first, it may not be comfortable to wait for ideas and inspiration in the middle of a project. But as you practice it, you learn to follow your nudges and see where they take you. That's the joy of it. Discovering new places, new techniques, new ideas. This doesn't really take the place of technique. Because the more technique you have, the more interesting combinations will occur. But at some point you have to leave technique and just go with exploring the surprises. When a real surprise happens, it's joyous. You really know it, because you think: "there's no way I would ever have thought of that."

Artella: How would you describe yourself as an artist? What is your favorite kind of art to create?

Al: My "art" is music, writing, and coaching. At first they might seem like three different things, but to me they're all the same. A Lakota medicine man once told his students that: "To be a successful healer you must become like a hollow bone. Then spirit can come through you and give the person in front of you what they need, instead of what you think they need." So if I can do music, writing, or coaching with that in mind, they each become successful.

The Japanese word for fountain pen means "the brush that writes for 10,000 years." I love that metaphor. Because what it really means is that when you put your whole heart and soul into what you create, your creation has longevity. It donates something to people that keeps flowing. It lets spirit come through your creation and gives people whatever they need in the moment they need it.

You may never know what your creation does for people, but each creation has a life of its own. And the effects can go on for quite some time. So I try to do hollow bone music, and hollow bone writing/editing, and hollow bone coaching.

That's my favorite kind of art.

See Al's wonderful products in The Shoppes of Artella, here.

Want more artist interviews from Artella? Take a look at our eBooks Artist Profiles Assembled and Artist Profiles Assembled, Vol 2, and look at the "Ask the Artist" column every single day in The Artella Daily Muse, our daily online creativity newspaper.

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