5 Lessons I Learned from Viewing 4000 Pieces of Picasso's Art

Me and "Picasso."
Me and "Picasso."

Well friends, JC and I returned to the states on Sunday after a little over a week in London and Barcelona. It was an incredible trip that was jam packed with tours, museums and imagining what life was like in the shoes of some pretty influential, awe-inspiring people. Our days in London and Barcelona had us pulling back the curtain on the lives of Winston Churchill, Paul McCartney (and the Beatles), Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí.

Today I want to share with you some of the lessons that stood out to me as I toured the Museu Picasso de Barcelona. The museum has a permanent collection of over 4000 pieces created by Pablo Picasso. The pieces are organized chronologically so we saw how Picasso's style evolved over the years, step by step. The first section was a collection of paintings Picasso created when he was about 14. The first thing I noticed?

1. You don't become a world class artist without starting with an unusual amount of natural talent. 

"Man in Beret" by Picasso, age 14
"Man in Beret" by Picasso, age 14

2. Talent must be cultivated. Picasso started formal artistic training with his father at age 7. He was enrolled at Barcelona's School of Fine Arts at age 13. And he never really stopped learning. In 1900 he moved to Paris, the art capital of Europe. He was influenced by many other artists and continued to grow.

3. Picasso was prolific. Picasso clearly did not just paint when he "felt" like it. While I saw some 4000 of his works at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the total number of art works he created in his lifetime has been estimated at 50,000: 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and tons of tapestries and rugs.

4. Evolution is integral. Picasso's style greatly evolved from the time of classical realistic paintings in his teens to his blue period (in which he only painted in blue shades for three years) to finally arriving at the cubism he is famous for creating. Change can be scary but it's important to grow.

"Science and Charity" by Picasso, age 16
"Science and Charity" by Picasso, age 16
Mother and Child, by Picasso age 23
Mother and Child, by Picasso age 23

5."Bad artists copy, good artists steal." -Picasso One of my favorite portions of the collection at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was a series of 58 paintings Picasso worked on for an entire year in 1957. Picasso went deep analyzing and riffing on the famous painting Las Meninas by Diego Velásquez. Picasso donated the entire collection to the museum--the only complete collection in one place today.

This is what Picasso said about it: "If someone want to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I'll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas." -Picasso, 1950

Las Meninas by Velasquez, 1656
Las Meninas by Velasquez, 1656
Las Meninas, by Picasso age 75
Las Meninas, by Picasso age 75

Creativity and contribution may not come from a completely original piece but rather a new take on something older. Maria Popova said it so well: “Creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something ‘new.’ From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our ‘own’ ‘original’ ideas.”

I was awash with inspiration walking through the halls of these great museums seeing the work that has far outlasted the lifetimes of the people who brought these great creations to life. I've come back from vacation just a little more determined to leave something useful or inspiring behind one day. They certainly did life on purpose. I want to as well.

Have you ever encountered a performance, piece of art or history that made you want to take action yourself? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 

HSL Monthly Roundup



July came and went in a BLINK. Hello, August! Whether or not August is in fact fall (ok, it's not), it sure feels like it around here. Students are beginning to trickle back to this college town and rehearsals have begun at Alluvion Stage for our fall production of the Little Mermaid. July was a writing filled month over here. I've begun freelancing with Forefront magazine which has me picking the brains of business executives in a variety of industries. Though the articles won't be published until the winter, I wrote four profiles this month in addition to the pieces you can take a look at right now:

HSL Creative Blog 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client In Person
10 Secrets to Getting Started Freelance Writing

The Clutch Guide Endstation Theatre Company presents Always, Patsy Cline
3 Tips for Feeling Confident in an Unknown Situation

Kicker Hail the Conquering Hero: Tim Howard!
Kickstarter Potato Salad
Malaysian Airlines Shot Down over Ukraine
Meriam Meets the Pope
Turkish Women Laughing

Have a fantastic month!

Dichotomies in Career and the Craft

I've noticed several dichotomies in my approach to work lately. I wanted to share them with you because perhaps you can relate. Stream of conscious-style here they are: Hustle and Margin.I'm passionate about hustling to make an impact but I'm passionate about making sure I have margin in my life. How do I work hard to make an impact and also have breathing room? 

Thriving on working with others. Thriving on working alone. I absolutely love creating a story on stage with a creative team and cast but spending my days alone in my sunny home office are irreplaceable. So am I a person who likes to work on a team or work alone? 

Energized by working hard all day. Energized by doing nothing productive all day. Lately I've worked so hard for so many days in a row nothing has been sweeter than watching 3 episodes of the Today Show *in a row.* (God bless that DVR.) Why is it that sometimes doing nothing productive at all makes me just as happy as having a killer day executing my passion? 

Aspiring to influence. Aspiring to seclusion. Part of me wants to leave a widespread legacy. Part of me wants to live acres away from my closest neighbor. Is it possible to be both influential and enjoy privacy in this reality show/social media platform era? 

Being moved by the roar of an audience. Wanting to avoid the crowd after the show. Nothing is more moving than an audience that shows appreciation at the end of a performance. But sometimes nothing can be more uncomfortable than milling about amidst the audience afterward. Why is it that chatting with patrons and taking in their kind words can be so uncomfortable after I've just braved looking like a fool in front of them en masse on stage? 

Do you have dichotomies in your work? Does any of this resonate with you? I'd love to hear your perspective.

Introducing our newest eBook: Social Media for Live Experiences

In 2013 I've gotten the opportunity to dive into one of the most fascinating areas of my work: utilizing social media to enhance live events. Earlier this year I completed my master's thesis that analyzed a famous Broadway Twitter campaign and all summer I managed the social media accounts for Endstation Theatre Company's Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. So I got the opportunity to learn about the integration of social media, mobile devices and live events in an academic context and then a real-life highly practical context. Now I want to share with you what I've learned. I've teamed up again with Ben Stroup Enterprises to write Social Media for Live Experiences. This six-chapter book is a quick read that walks you through marketing a live event (whether it's a play, a church event or a conference) by connecting with your audience through social channels before, during and after the event takes place.

Social media is changing the landscape of communication. How will you utilize it?

6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams

Three and a half years after I finished my bachelor’s degree in journalism I was stuck. My degree could’ve gotten me a job at a fledgling newspaper or perhaps an internship at a magazine. So far it had helped me make about 10% of my income annually. I knew none of that was where I wanted to be. I wanted to have a magical career where I had autonomy and got to help people communicate their stories better. Oh, and I still did not want to give up performing in theatre. I needed more options so I decided to go to grad school. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Here are six surprising ways grad school got me to my dream job.

1. I actually saved money. You read that right. No, graduate school did not leave me $100 Grand in the hole. Quite the contrary--I had a graduate teaching assistantship and got paid (not buckets and buckets but something) to dip my toe into the deep end of teaching while I got an education. By spending 20 hours a week teaching and grading freshmen work, I was able to get a free M.A. and get a stipend that helped me pay my bills and function like a 20-something who was not dependent on her parents. Score. This was an integral next step in the process of getting on my feet and starting my business. No debt!

2. I suddenly got credibility in my field.  Over night, the fact that I had decided to go to graduate school to study communication and media gave me major street cred in my field. Suddenly I was called a social media expert because people saw that I was serious about studying the inner workings of digital media. By studying a subject in graduate school, people saw that I was serious about it. I was no more passionate about learning about how people connect online than I was 6 months before, but now people saw that I meant business, so they listened to me and opted to hire me.

3. I was surrounded by people who got excited about the nerdy things I did. I, perhaps like you, perform better with fierce competition. I didn't know to be grateful for my classmates' commitment to the books at the time (sorry guys) but the fact that I was in small classes with people who were at the top of their classes in undergrad lit a fire under me. We had conversations (for fun!) about marketing, social media, and the digital landscape. We debated advertising techniques and product placement. This not only happened in the classroom, but it happened when we left class and went back to our cubicles, when we went to grab mexican food, and it continues to happen through mediums like Twitter. If I hadn't been surrounded by people who were passionate about this field, I would not be as knowledgeable in my field as I am now.

4. It bought me some time to figure out how my dream and reality could jive. I think this is really the reason a lot of people go to grad school. Not knowing what your next step should be is neither a bad reason or a good reason to go to grad school. For me, going to grad school gave me a little time to better formulate my vision for my future. I knew I couldn't and wouldn't be giving up performing any time soon (or well, ever permanently) but I also knew that during time between performance contracts I could not indefinitely go back to folding sweaters (as much as I LOVED that Anthro discount). I knew I needed a second marketable skill to support my arts habit. Grad school gave me time to figure out exactly what that could be and how I could make it all work.

5. I became a better writer. In elementary school I learned to write imaginatively. In high school I learned how to write a snazzy college essay. At university I learned how to write articles. In grad school I learned how to write a well-researched thesis. All of these different kinds of writing have helped me become a well-rounded writer. The academic writing is no replacement for professional writing but it certainly did not hinder my writing skills. It only helped me improve them. The more ways I know how to connect with an audience, the better.

6. I honed the skill of balancing. By taking classes, teaching classes, and working part-time freelance gigs, I learned the art of managing multiple tasks for multiple "clients" (whether it was 19 year-old students, my graduate school professors, or a client who wanted a press release). This delicate skill of balancing has transferred beautifully into my sole proprietor work. On any given week I knock out work for 8 or more clients. I need to balance deadlines, client personalities and their business goals. Grad school prepared me perfectly for that.

So often today experts are saying not to go to grad school. I know for me it was the absolute right decision. What about you? Did you regret going? Do you have plans to go? What are your concerns? Sound off in the comments.

HSL Creative: a story about discovering your purpose

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

And thus begins the launch of HSL Creative. After 13 years of school, 4 years of college, 4 years of living all over, 2 years of grad school, and finally supporting myself as a freelance writer, social media specialist and actor, this day has come. I'm not starting a new job this week but I am finally embracing what I do and sharing it with the world.

I’ve always been a person who was curious. I’ve liked lots of things and had trouble narrowing down my interests. Choosing one major and one minor in college was challenging. (I ended up with 3 minors. Who does that?) Saint-Exupéry’s quote above resonates with me because I’ve finally gotten to the point where I know what my life’s work is:

My passion is to tell stories. Whether they're ones that I've made up, ones other people have lived, ones I perform on a stage or ones I share in a magazine article, telling stories is what I know I'm meant to do.

So with the launch of HSL Creative, there is nothing left to take away. This is the next step in living a life on purpose. I'm a storyteller. And I look forward to continuing on this journey of sharing humanity with you through the written word.