Creativity Cards

Back of Card
Back of Card

I’m always looking for inspiration – something to help me see in a new way. A few years ago, while at an art retreat, I had the bright idea of collecting “jumping off points” from the participants. My plan was to make myself a deck of cards that I could pull from when I felt blank or stuck.

Back of Card
Back of Card

I’ve been making cards off and on. Just this morning I made about ten. I’m actually altering a real deck of cards, so the pieces are small, easy to handle, and quick to finish. Having spent years on a single quilt, I always get a kick out of something I can finish in ten minutes.

Front (Idea Side) of Card
Front (Idea Side) of Card

Front of Card
Front of Card

Here is the list of ideas I am using for my cards. They are not in any particular order. Some were donated by art buddies, some were borrowed from books, and some are my own. Maybe you will find something that makes your muse sit up and take notice.

  1. My brightest color

  2. Change dimensions

  3. Who am I?

  4. The voice in your head needs a face.

  5. Carve a stamp

  6. Dwell in radiance

  7. Use an art supply you already own – one you have never (or rarely) used

  8. Amplify a feeling. What color is it? What shape? Which animal?

  9. Remember your roots.

  10. Make a mess.

  11. Use your non-dominant hand

  12. Honor a favorite (book, person, animal, movie, flower, etc.)

  13. Wonderous light

  14. Just begin again.

  15. What does your muse look like?

  16. Use today’s junk mail.

  17. Scribble – then find the hidden pattern

  18. Let it flow.

  19. What does the angel of death look like?

  20. Draw something you see every day.

  21. Surprising interpretations of future artifacts.

  22. Design clothes for an animal.

  23. Mismatched animal parts.

  24. Face a change.

  25. Make the familiar new.

  26. Make a 1-inch square hole in a card or piece of paper. Use it to select a piece of a painting, photo, or ad. Start with this image.

  27. Work with apple green, violet, and black or silver.

  28. Acknowledge how you feel.

  29. More is more.

  30. Open your closet.

  31. Turn it on its side.

  32. Sunbeams streaming through an open window and falling on a sleeping cat.

  33. Craggy mountains, their heads wreathed in clouds, their feet planted in the earth.

  34. Waves crashing against a stoic wall of rock.

  35. Bloom.

  36. Rip compelling images from a magazine and make a collage.

  37. Paint each nail a different color.

  38. Look closely at the patterns on insects, beetles, and butterflies.

  39. Wad up a piece of striped fabric to make a flowing pattern, and go from there.

  40. “I have me a pocketful of memories.” Carl Sandburg.

  41. Myopia

  42. Victim of a kind heart

  43. Stuffed with sorrow

  44. Galloping snails

  45. Solemn summer

  46. Silly spring

  47. Watchful winter

  48. Ancient life today

  49. My worst nightmare

  50. Windows in-between

  51. Austere autumn

  52. A table fit for a king

  53. Walled in by dreams

  54. Color floor

  55. The hope of devastation

  56. Who do I want to be?

  57. Where do I want to go?

  58. Add a completely different material OR start with one you never use

  59. Found poetry (based on Julianna Coles’ method): Use a timer. Spend five minutes randomly clipping words, sentences, and phrases from a magazine. Spend ten minutes making a poem using some or all of the collected words. Don’t think or plan!

  60. Celebrate something simple, like a soda can pop-top, a staple, or a rubberband.

  61. Write a letter to your muse.

  62. Start with a poem or quote.

  63. Adult-erate a nursery rhyme.

  64. Listen to your heart.

  65. Fragile

  66. Make a tiny shrine.

  67. Write down a secret, then cover it up

  68. Color study: pick a color, take a walk, notice everything that is that color. At home, play with the list/images/color

  69. Write

  70. “If I were…” Pick an animal

  71. Depict what is in your way.

  72. Depict what you want.

  73. Use a color you hate.

  74. Clapping waves

  75. Change something in your work space, then get back to work (i.e., turn the music on or off, move beloved objects around, or sort a drawer or box)

  76. Spend $5 (or less) at the dollar store, and use what you bought as a starting point

  77. Call a friend

Back of Card
Back of Card


Our backpacking trip was beautiful on many levels. The big picture views were stunning – mountains, lakes, meadows, sky — but things were just as delightful when looked at the scene up close. I was surprised by the number and variety of wildflowers growing everywhere – in the meadow, along the streams, in the cracks of rocks, and on the slopes above Lake Emmaline. Naturally, I took a ton of flower pictures. (A ton of pictures translates to 50 or 100. My total photo count for this 48-hour trip was over 300…) It’s hard to pare them down, but I want to share a few of the more extraordinary ones.

The Colorado state flower is the Colorado columbine. While the name has taken on unfortunate negative connotations, the flower itself is stunning. I was delighted to see several examples on our hikes, including a little patch of them on the slope facing Emmaline lake.

Colorado Columbine
Colorado Columbine

Tucked between some rocks nearby, Kurt spotted a tiny pink flower that I’ve identified as moss campion. I put a pocket knife in the frame for scale.

Moss Campion
Moss Campion

Kurt also found a little garden of red, blue, and yellow flowers (which I have yet to identify). You couldn’t see them until you were standing in the space between two boulders.

As we hiked back down from the lake to the meadow, I noticed this plucky little flower growing inches from the edge of a receding snow bank. The tenacity of some of these flowers is inspiring.

Before going up to the lake, Kurt and I took a short hike around the meadow and saw several different wildflowers along the way. The first was this parry primrose growing right on the edge of the stream.

Parry Primrose
Parry Primrose

The Rydberg penstemon was in a sunny space along the trail. I took a lot of unsatisfactory pictures of this flower, but finally got one that was clear.

Rydberg Penstemon
Rydberg Penstemon

We saw scarlet paintbrush all along the trail from the car to the meadow.

Scarlet Paintbrush
Scarlet Paintbrush

This patch of narrow-leaved penstemon gives you a sense of the abundance of the flowers during our hikes. All the shots I tried to take of banks of wildflowers were disappointing at best. The flowers are so small, they disappear in photos taken from a distance.

Narrow-leaved Penstemon
Narrow-leaved Penstemon

Why Armadillos, Part 4

This week’s topic at Inspire Me Thursday is polka dots, which dovetails beautifully with my armadillo theme, because I happen to own a handmade, polka-dotted armadillo. (How many people can say that?) Made for me by Donna Faivre-Roberts, doll maker extraordinaire, as a going away gift when I left Ithaca, this cutie is about 4 inches long and completely needle felted. Ain’t he sweet?

Needle-felted armadillo by Donna Faivre-Roberts
Needle-felted armadillo by Donna Faivre-Roberts

Clever Found Object Art

I just found out about this on my friend’s sheep and wool friendly web site. Click here and here to see pictures of a herd of sheep made out of telephones by Jean Luc Cornec on display in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s a wonderful example of seeing the common place in a completely new way.

The Trees of Emmaline Lake

I came home from the trip to Emmaline Lake with a slew of botanical photos. The wildflowers were booming thanks to the ample run-off from this winter’s snows, but I want to look some of them up before I post a few. So today’s post is going to be some art shots I took of trees we encountered. (Note: I haven’t bothered to look any of these up, so maybe I don’t need to know what the wildflowers are either…) The most interesting trees were on the peaks surrounding Emmaline Lake (approx. 11000 feet).

One of the things that fascinates me about the plants in the mountains is their tenacity; they grow in the most unlikely places. I saw wildflowers blooming just inches from the edge of snow drifts, trees reaching out from steep, rocky slopes, and stunted trees permanently bent by the winds that blow over the ridge they are growing on. But the all time winner was this plant below. I don’t know if it’s a tree or not, but it is growing out of an old tree stump that is right in the middle of a rushing river.

After that, the trees that interested me the most tended to be dead already – smooth or gnarled with twisted trunks and branches. Both of these were up near Emmaline Lake

These exposed tree roots were hanging out from under a clump of scrubby bushes on the slope we climbed to get to Emmaline Lake. (Note: Kurt and I did not approach the Lake on the official trail. In skirting a snow field, we wound up blazing our own trail on a slope nearby.)

There were also beautiful dead and dying trees down in Cirque Meadow and in the woods on the Emmaline Lake trail. Here are the ones I thought were interesting.

Cora, Adventure Dog

Cora is an eleven year old German Shepherd with the energy level and mannerisms of an eleven month old puppy. I adopted her from the SPCA in Ithaca, NY. She’s been with me for nine years now.

Cora loves hiking, walking, catching frisbees, and chasing rabbits. She is easily distracted (I think she has doggy ADD) and most of her misbehavior occurs when she stops paying attention to us because something more interesting has come into view.

Cora was great on our backpacking trip. To begin with, she was a total trooper about the backpack. It wasn’t easy to get it on her; every time I tried to slip the pack on over her head, she would drop her chin. I eventually outsmarted her. I put her in a down so she couldn’t get away from me. The amazing thing is that she didn’t do anything to try and get it off once I got it on. During the hike in, she was her usual, bouncy self, keeping an eye on all five people in our party as good shepherd should. She acted as if she were completely unaware of the pack.

Instead of looking at the camera, Cora is looking down the trail that Dana and the girls have taken

On Friday, she went up to Emmaline Lake with us. Since it was just a day hike, she did it without a backpack, but she took a real beating anyway. The hike from the meadow to the lake is reported as two miles but was actually much longer. The trail hasn’t been cleared out yet this year, and there are lots of fallen trees that have to be climbed over or around. Cora likes to jump onto or over these. As the trail got steeper, it also got rougher. The rocks got bigger so that we went from hiking to climbing. Cora did a lot of jumping and scrambling to get up the rocks. Being strong-willed, she repeatedly headed off in the wrong direction and had to back track to get onto the proper trail. I think she may have covered twice the distance the rest of us did. Fortunately, the destination was worth the trip.

Adventure Dog on the rocks overlooking Emmaline Lake
Adventure Dog on the rocks overlooking Emmaline Lake

On the way back to camp, she perked up some and I realized she had been struggling at the top due to altitude sickness. Her breathing had been much more rapid than usual, and she began to be reluctant to do anything that required going up. As we went back to 9800 from 11000 feet, she became more spry and less recalcitrant. She did, however, take advantage of every rest break she could get.

Whenever we had our food out to cook, we never had to worry about the chipmunks coming into camp and stealing it. Cora was always there, sharp eyes glued to their smallest movements. She would stand up whenever she saw a chipmunk near our camp, and the tiny squirrels would take one look at her and head back the way they had come.

Cora guards our camp
Cora guards our camp

Cora slept in the vestibule of our tent at night. She rarely moved all night long.

Cora in the vestibule, as seen through the tent's netting
Cora in the vestibule, as seen through the tent's netting

After we broke down our camp for the journey home, I put Cora’s backpack on her and we started down the trail. We realized Cora was in trouble in just a few steps. Her hind quarters were shaking and sinking as she tried to walk. She was so tired and sore from the mountain climb the day before that she couldn’t handle the extra weight. So Kurt added her pack to his. Unencumbered, she did fine on the two-plus mile hike back to the car. But when we got there, she had to be lifted into it. She’s been sleeping a lot over the last two days. Still, I’m sure it won’t be long before the question “Do you want to go for a hike?” gets the usual excited response from her. I know I’m raring to go!

The Trip to Emmaline Lake – Overview

We’re just back from a two-night backpacking trip in the Rockies. It was my first official backpacking trip ever and I came home loaded with good memories, lots of photos, and dreams of trips to come. I’ll be posting stories and pictures over the next several days.

The Cast of Characters: Kurt and I went backpacking with his grad school friend Dana and her two daughters, Sarah and Molly. We also took Cora along for her first backpacking/ back country camping trip ever. We bought her a doggy backpack so she could carry her own food and water.

Kurt and Cora on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Kurt and Cora on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Sarah, Dana, and Molly on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Sarah, Dana, and Molly on the Cirque Meadow Trail
Me having my breakfast
Me having my breakfast

The Route: We took the Cirque Meadow trail in the Roosevelt National Forest to (where else?) Cirque Meadow. It was stunning and made for an ideal camping spot. Here’s the meadow with Comanche Peak in the background:

Cirque Meadow
Cirque Meadow

Here’s my tiny two-man tent and Kurt’s backpack:

Here’s Dana’s three-man tent, with Sarah and Molly inside, reading. Kurt and I had serious tent envy. Not only did we like the design of their tent, but it was twice the size of ours and one-fourth of the weight! I think we’ll be buying one of our own very soon.

Kurt, Cora, and I enjoyed our outdoor time together. Here we are having breakfast on Friday morning before making a day hike up to Emmaline and Cirque Lakes.

The Destination: Emmaline Lake. It was our plan all along to hike up into the mountains to see Emmaline Lake. Dana picked the destination from a slew of suggestions given to us by a well-informed National Forest Service ranger at the local info center. The full story of this hike will be in a later post, but to give you a tiny taste of the beauty we discovered at the end of the trail, here’s a picture:

Kit and Cora at Emmaline Lake
Kit and Cora at Emmaline Lake