17 episodes

An exploration of different ways to stay creative and get past obstacles when making art.

The Creative Shoofly Podcast Thomas Beutel

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 2 Ratings

An exploration of different ways to stay creative and get past obstacles when making art.

    Busting Creative Blocks with Meditative Ideation

    Busting Creative Blocks with Meditative Ideation

    In this episode, I discuss meditative ideation, a mindfulness practice that I've honed over the years to combat creative block. It has transformed my creative process, and I think it can unlock new realms of inspiration for you too.
    Links mentioned in this episode
    Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
    How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas, a TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi
    The Wisdom of Not Knowing by Estelle Frankel
    The Artist's Way by Julie Cameron
    Some of the above are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission.
    Thomas: Welcome to the Creative Shoofly. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist, and in this episode, I'll be discussing a mindfulness practice that I've honed over the years to combat creative block. It has transformed my creative process, and I think it can unlock new realms of inspiration for you too.
    Today I'd like to tell you about a dream-like technique that I call meditative ideation. The essence of the technique is to calm the mind, get the voice in your head to stop talking, and to be quiet enough to invite inspiration in, and to invite ideas in. I've been using this technique for a number of years now, and as a result, I rarely experience the blank page syndrome or the creative block that I used to have.
    I think everyone struggles somewhat with creative block. For many people, and this might include you, creative block is not often a lack of creativity. It's usually due to too much focus.
    Now that might seem strange, but being overly focused on a problem will prevent the flow of new ideas. Focus form of creative block. Focus blocks to allow those ideas to emerge.
    I used to struggle with creative block quite a lot. I'd sit down and say, okay, I need an idea, and then I'd wait, and I'd wait, and I wouldn't think of anything, and then I would go off and start criticizing myself. My monkey mind would just keep on talking and putting myself down. It would say, “You're a creative person, what's going on with you? Why can't you come up with a single creative idea?”
    I'm sure many of you listening have experienced this type of self-criticism, and it sure isn't conducive to creative thinking or being inspired.
    Things started to change for me when I read a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She has a wonderful concept of how inspirations work. In her telling, inspirations are living things that go around the world looking for creative people to make them manifest, to put them into action.
    The idea of inspiration shopping around for creators really resonated with me. I just imagined a great idea looking at a sea of humanity and saying, “I pick you, Thomas, because I know you're a creative person.” It feels kind of flattering, actually.
    So I began wondering, how do I actually invite inspiration in? What would the process look like?
    At about the same time, I listened to a TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi. Her talk was about the default mode network of the mind. This is a part of the brain that jumps into action when you're not focusing, and not paying attention to something in particular.
    A lot of people say that they get their best ideas when they're taking a shower, or they're going on a walk. The way it works is when you're in a very relaxed state, and the mind isn't focused on anything, the default mode network starts making connections between all kinds of different places in the brain.
    The point that Manoush makes is that so many of us don't allow our minds to idle to the point where the default mode network can come in. And the connections that are made are where inspiration comes from.
    Or, as Elizabeth Gilbert might put it, this is when inspiration finds you because it knows that you can make it manifest.
    So after seeing the TED Talk, the question I asked myself, could I simply close my eyes and empty my mind enough to engage my default mode network?
    This was an intriguing idea. I had already been doing a daily meditation for

    • 16 min
    Role Playing for Multipotentialites

    Role Playing for Multipotentialites

    This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist. And in this episode, I talk about how role-playing can help reduce the chaos and distraction that often plagues us as artists.

    • 17 min
    Scrum for One

    Scrum for One

    In this episode I explore a productivity method for creativity called Scrum for One.
    Scrum for One by Dustin Wax
    Photo credits
    Rugby player image: Hassan Omar Wamwayi
    Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about the creative process. In it, I explore ways to avoid creative blocks and procrastination.
    If you're a fellow multipotentialite, someone who has many different creative pursuits, you might relate to the struggle of juggling different projects at the same time. This episode in particular might interest you if you have a multitude of creative projects going on at once. I'll be talking about a planning technique I use called Scrum for One.
    It's the beginning of the day and I've just finished my first cup of coffee. I'm on my iPad, scrolling through the news, scanning through my Instagram feed, and then watching some new videos on YouTube.
    The news is depressing and boring. Instagram is full of amazing artwork that causes me to focus on my lack of productivity. And YouTube? Well, it's just full of people ranting.
    I look at my phone and realize that I have only two minutes before my first client meeting of the day.
    But you know what? My client work goes smoothly. I'm a member of my client's technology services team. And we use the Agile methodology to guide our software development. It seems to work pretty well. As a team we're working on many different projects at once and Agile helps us stay focused and productive.
    The day is busy, so by the end of the day I'm mentally exhausted. I end up doom-scrolling on my iPad again. I'm not making any progress on my many personal creative projects.
    The contrast between work and my free time is palpable. At work I'm focused and productive and I feel supported, in large part due to the team successful use of Agile.
    And so I start to wonder. Even though Agile is intended for teams, could there be a personal version of Agile?
    It's a strange question to ask whether you could apply Agile to your own artistic process. The myth of creative work is that it has to be magical and spontaneous. We make up that you can't force creativity, that you need to wait for the muses to show up before you can do any meaningful creative work.
    Multipotentialites in particular thrive on spontaneity and novelty, so being tied to a process or methodology might lead to a lack of excitement. The idea of using a methodology like Agile for personal creativity can be quite intimidating for some people.
    Perfectionists might also shy away from such a process. Agile emphasizes using the tools, materials, and time at hand, instead of waiting for the perfect moment. For perfectionists, this might seem like a constraint that limits their ability to achieve perfection in their art.
    But my curiosity is peaked. So I Google Agile for personal use. And the first article that shows up is Scrum for One by Dustin Wax. I'm intrigued, so I read on.
    Agile puts a great emphasis on constant feedback. Dustin explains that the term scrum comes from rugby and represents the team huddle after each play. In agile, the daily standup meetings give team members the ability to report on progress and identify any needs going forward. The meetings are typically no more than 15 minutes long.
    In the Scrum for One model you check in with yourself every day. This could be in a journal or a diary or on a simple notepad. You make notes on how your projects are going and you identify any needs going forward, perhaps noting something that you might want to research or noting a tool or material to add to a shopping list.
    The daily check-in is also an opportunity for self-reflection. “How did I do today? What worked well? What can I do better?”
    This enhanced self-awareness is one of the primary benefits of the model. It helps you identify things to improve. You make frequent adjustments to your work habits instead of waiting until the end of a long project to figure out what you can do bet

    • 11 min
    You And I Make A Thing with Michael Tarnoff

    You And I Make A Thing with Michael Tarnoff

    In this episode I collaborate with artist Michael Tarnoff to make self-portraits inspired by Chuck Close.
    O'Hanlon Center for the Arts
    Michael Tarnoff's Instagram
    Chuck Close Website
    Wikipedia Entry for Chuck Close
    Procreate for the iPad
    Interlude music: https://www.heise.de/select/ct/2017/13/1497796312321798
    Michael's Self Portrait

    Thomas' Self Portrait

    Original Photos
    Thomas: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist. And in this episode, I'm continuing my improvisational experiment that I call You And I Make A Thing.
    I invited my friend Michael to come up with a theme or project that we could do together. I hope you will enjoy hearing about our project, as much as we did doing it.
    My guest today is Michael Tarnoff. Michael is a painter, a mixed media artist, as well as a photographer and all-around creative person. Welcome Michael.
    Michael: Thank you for having me Thomas.
    Thomas: Yeah, I'm glad to have you, Michael. I'm curious, before we get started, I'm want to know if there's some creative project that you've been working on or you're planning to work on right now?
    Michael: Well, you know with COVID, things changed for me artistically [00:01:00] as far as access to my painting space and such, and I've been doing more photography and small works. And right now, we're in the mountains in the Utah area and I've been fascinated with ice and snow and cold and what happens with nature with that.
    So I've been thinking about, in the back of my mind, a series of photographs and just thinking about them as a series of what nature does in the cold. Because I never really lived in the cold and witnessed it.
    Thomas: Right.
    Michael: There's just fascinating things like when the fog comes in and then the cold comes in. If there's just the right amount of humidity, ice crystals form everywhere and it looks, it's just, it's magic.
    So I'm just kind of keeping my eyes open for that and just being witness to the magic that nature creates.
    Thomas: Well that's great, that sounds like a real process of discovery.
    Michael: It is, it is. I love that you say that because where I got most of my art learning [00:02:00] from, not so much teaching but learning I'll call it, was at O'Hanlan Center for the Arts in Mill Valley. And the founder Ann O'Hanlan, one of my favorite sayings of hers was, “Exploration comes first, discovery perhaps later.”
    Thomas: Ah.
    Michael: And it’s just, it's so true when it comes to art and life.
    So it's really, this really is a process of exploration and discovery, with, I mean the medium is nature and the cold and what, how it's so much different from the temperate Bay Area.
    Thomas: Right, right.
    Michael: Yeah.
    Thomas: And I've been following you on Instagram, and your photographs have been just brilliant.
    Michael: Thank you.
    Thomas: For my listeners, I'll put a link to Michael's Instagram in the show notes. Well, exploration I think is a good segue into what we're going to be doing today, which is You And I Make A Thing. And as you know, what my goal here is to come up with [00:03:00] something that we can do together, either something that we do in parallel or something that we actually collaborate on.
    And Michael, prior to our conversation today, I've asked you to come up with three things that you might be interested in doing, and I've done the same. And what I was thinking of is that we'd just bounce back and forth with our ideas and then we'll see if we can coalesce on something that sounds like fun.
    How about that?
    Michael: That sounds great.
    Thomas: Why don't you start with something that's on your list.
    Michael: Okay. Let me preface it with saying that when you asked me to think of these things, it actually was harder than I thought it was going to be. And I couldn't because I'm just I'm so spontaneous with my art. I actually never think about what I want to do ahead of time and just

    • 42 min
    Should I A.I.?

    Should I A.I.?

    In this episode I explore Artificial Intelligence and some of the issues around artists using AI in their creative process. I hope you will enjoy hearing and thinking about these issues.
    Links For Further Reading and Viewing
    Tech guru Jaron Lanier: ‘The danger isn’t that AI destroys us. It’s that it drives us insane’
    Bill Gates: The Age of AI Has Begun
    IBM Technology: What are Generative AI models?
    The ultimate list of AI tools for creators
    How to use ChatGPT to improve your creative process
    Generative AI for Makers: AI Has Truly Arrived — and It’s Here to Help You Make and Craft
    Artificial Intelligence Art School Meltdown | The Looming Crisis
    Eric Schmidt talks about concerns around AI
    Links to books and websites mentioned in this podcast
    Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts, by Jaron Lanier
    You Are Not A Gadget, by Jaron Lanier
    Creative programming workshop with Sonic Pi
    DeepL Translator
    Hashtags #processing and #p5js
    Some of the above are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission from them.
    [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly Podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. In this episode, I ask myself, what do I do with all these AI tools that are becoming available? How should I use these tools in my creative process? And how do I maintain integrity as I do?
    These questions might be on your mind too, and I hope that I shed at least a little bit of light on the topic.
    I am recording this in March of 2023, and there's been an explosion of AI announcements. All of a sudden, AI is everywhere. Everyone seems to be talking about it, and it feels almost like it's being jammed on our throats.
    Yeah, we've been using Siri and Alexa and Hey Google for years now, and we know that recommendation algorithms have been limiting what we get to see on social platforms and in places like Netflix.[00:01:00] But while those services are a form of artificial intelligence, we were quickly jaded about how mediocre and dull they were.
    But the latest AIs come in the form of image generators like Stable Diffusion and chatbots like OpenAI's ChatGPT. And they seem lightyears ahead of those earlier tools. And scarier too.
    The AI image generators in particular caused quite a stir in the art community when they were introduced in 2021. Not only were these AI tools creating an image in minutes that would take an artist hours and days to create, but the tools were trained on images found on the internet, including images that artists had posted themselves. That felt a lot like theft.
    But these are clearly creative tools. And they have me thinking about creativity and the ethics involved. Can AI help me in any of my creative processes? And if they can, how should I be [00:02:00] using AI?
    The recent hubbub really started when the latest version of ChatGPT was launched in November of 2022. That was ChatGPT 3.5, and people took notice of its impressive capabilities. ChatGPT gained a hundred million users in just a few months. To put that into perspective, Gmail took five years to get to a hundred million users.
    In just the last few weeks, there have been a number of follow-on announcements. ChatGPT was upgraded to version four. Google announced their chatbot called Bard, and they're also integrating AI in their workspace tools.
    Microsoft released Bing Chat as an alternative way to find information with Bing. They also announced that they would be including an AI tool called Copilot in their office suite, meaning that you'll be able to have AI assist you when you're creating content in Word documents [00:03:00] and PowerPoint slides, and also when you're sending emails using Outlook.
    Many other companies announced that they're integrating AI generative tools into their existing products. Canva announced that they're adding AI so that you can use text to describe a design, and it'll create a Facebook cover page, a YouTube profile picture, YouTube intro and outros, In

    • 18 min
    Mind Maps are Liberating

    Mind Maps are Liberating

    In this episode I talk about how I use mind maps and why I find them liberating. Mind maps are an important part of my creative toolbox, but my mind mapping process is a bit different from the traditional form. I hope you will enjoy hearing about it.
    Links mentioned in this podcast
    A Writer's Time, by Kenneth Atchity
    The above is an affiliate link and I may earn a small commission from it.
    Mind Map Examples
    My original mind map for this episode. I wrote the first draft directly from this mind map.

    This second mind map is for a podcasting workshop that I will be giving at Hunt and Gather in May 2023. I developed this into a traditional outline and from there I created slides for the presentation.

    Hello and welcome to the Creative Shoofly podcast. I'm Thomas Beutel. This podcast is about exploring the creative journey as an artist, and in this episode, I want to talk about mind maps and how I use them in my creative process.
    What I like about mind maps is they're quick, they help me discover connections, and they help me overcome my inner self-editor.
    I don't know about you, but I get stuck a lot. I get blank page syndrome when starting a new project. I have a vague idea of what I need to do, but I don't know what I should write down first.
    The tool that first comes to mind is outlining. I think most of us learned outlining in school and outlines can be good, but I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about the order. What comes first and what's next, and does this belong in a sub-bullet or in its own thing? And does this thing even belong here? Outlining is one hard decision after another, and I find that trying to make an outline from scratch is a big struggle.
    So I find myself avoiding starting the whole process. I distract myself with something else like surfing, YouTube, or seeing what's been posted on eBay today.
    But a while ago I discovered mind mapping. It's not a new technique. It was created by Tony Buzan and became popular in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. I think I first picked it up in the ‘90s when I was reading a book about creative writing.
    I don't recall the name of the author or the book, but it emphasized that mind mapping promised a better way to organize ideas. It promised speed and ease. it also promised liberation from that voice in your head that was always saying no, which I thought was quite a claim to make. How could a breakthrough tool for making organizing easier also free your mind?
    And if it really does that, why isn't everybody using it?
    I think there's a natural reluctance to try something that few people are talking about. No one I know or met was using mind maps, and if they were, they weren't telling me. I don't know if mind mapping is taught in school today.
    It certainly wasn't in my day. I imagine that a mind map would be a hard thing to grade as a teacher because each mind map is so unique to the person making it.
    Some folks probably also wonder how it is relevant to the creative process. They might ask whether anything is really wrong with the standard approach of outlining and making simple lists as an organizing principle.
    When I mention mind mapping, others also say that it's far too complicated. When you go online and look at examples of mind maps, a lot of them look like works of art, like a beautiful tree with a thick trunk and gorgeous multicolor leaves. People have also told me that mind-mapping software is too complicated and too expensive.
    My answer to all of these concerns is to just keep it simple.
    For my mind maps, I use paper and pen, and they're definitely not works of art. I rarely use color and unless someone asks, I don't show them to anyone. In fact, once I'm done with them, they usually go in the trash.
    You're probably listening to me now thinking if they go in the trash, how can they be useful?
    Well, let me explain. For me, mind mapping is about getting as many ideas down on paper and out of my head as fast as I can. I start in the center of

    • 10 min

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Food for Thought, and for Your Creativity

Thomas talks about creativity and his struggles with creativity in an everyday, relatable way while also digging into ideas and theories about our creative spirits, why we create, why we don’t create, and why we are all creative in our own ways (even when we think we’re not). A nice combination of talking and listening to a friend, and learning new ideas from someone who is exploring these areas himself, and exploring them, too, with other creative friends. Thanks, Thomas!

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