373: How to Nourish Your Creative Being: Cultivate An Artistic Hearth & Home
Wednesday January 17, 2024

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In unforced or unexpected moments, ideas, solutions and connections appear at the forefront of our mind providing a sense of relief, exhilaration and celebration we may have never thought possible.

Such wondrous moments indeed do seem to the onlooker and to the unaware individual to appear magically, and while there will always be an element involved beyond our control, the good news is we have far more contribution to ensuring such ahas happen and happen more frequently than we may have initially thought.

The paradox of being a professional creative in any field that must produce work outside of a robotic construct, so this stretches well beyond that of a traditional artist, although most certainly, this need of creating an artistic hearth and home is essential to an artist of any medium, is that the day and life needs to have structure in order to create the freedom to discover and then to bring to being that which is discovered by the undistracted mind.

From writing to parenting, to teaching to engineering, to designing whether in clothing, décor or in the graphic arts and even to leading or managing people in any career field, creativity, remaining open to receiving the ideas that wish to be discovered, is present and powerful. And it is up to each of us to nurture an artistic hearth & home for it to be discovered on a regular basis. Because it can be.

As we continue to move through the first weeks of the year, our intentions remain clear and all of our efforts, each small regular change of habit contribute to the bringing to fruition the change or outcome we seek. Most importantly, we must enjoy the journey in order to remain upon it which is why I wanted to bring today’s episode/post to you.

When we thoughtfully and with intention curate our sanctuary to be an artistic hearth and home, we not only provide security and safety for ourselves to reside throughout our days and in-between our trips to work and life outside of the home, we also create warmth which encourages us to grow, expand and evolve in ways we have never been but now know is the next best step, the step that keeps niggling at us to let be and to stop holding back out of fear and doubt.

So how do we go about cultivating an artistic hearth & home?

1. Create an enriching environment

Authors of Your Brain on Art, Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross share research that reveals a more enriched environment contributes to better neural connections. Where we live, work and play contribute a vital importance to the quality of life we live, and thus, the ideas and discoveries, connections and ahas, that do (or do not) cross our paths.

From continuing to practice in your musical field of preference to what you physically surround yourself with ensuring that it provides the nutrition and support for the life you wish to live. So for example, if you began taking music lessons as a child, continuing practice regularly will further increase synapses and gray matter in the brain as you age which is all to the benefit of long term good health and thus being able to make seemingly disparate connections, solving puzzles that arise in everyday life and coming up with new ideas and ahas. As far as decorating, while we will talk it about it more in #6, beginning with the food we have available to eat, knowing why we have the food we have, as well as quiet and calm we need to relax both our mind and body when we are in our sanctuary.

Further and more expansively, engagement in any art form or arts education has been found in multiple studies to be associated with “improved cognition, social, and behavioral outcomes in individuals across the lifespan, in early childhood, in adolescence and young adulthood, and in later years.”

When it comes to the auditory environment of your sanctuary, what is it? Does it clutter and depress or uplift and sooth? Does it exacerbate or inspire? Frustrate or delight? From the music we play, the volume of the television when we watch and what we watch (do we watch ads? why? turn them off as we discussed in this post earlier this year). As well, the sounds your home makes – does it make sounds or is it running and functioning as it should? Caring for our homes preventatively and as necessary will also ensure we do feel safe and secure and all is running well.

These are fundamentals, but the behavior and respect and how the inhabitants speak with each other are ultimately immensely powerful in the quality of calm and rejuvenation we either feel or do not feel. Be thoughtful about the boundaries you set, who may enter, what is accepted, but also how you communicate these boundaries and how we listen to others when they communicate theirs with us.

2. Instill a regular practice of gratitude

“Flourishing is about living an authentic and full life. It’s feeling present and alive by noticing and appreciating what you already have around you . . . “Your Brain On Art

When we practice extending gratitude as an everyday habit, we gradually, but permanently, see the quality of our entire lives change. We become less desirous and more grounded in awareness. Our wanting less reflects our ability to be responsive rather than reactive as we are thinking for ourselves instead of following or feeling we are less than if we don’t have [insert latest advertised or sponsored item/activity/etc.]

Gratitude shifts how we view the world we find ourselves in at every moment which that in and of itself is the practice of being present. And when we hold ourselves in the present moment we step outside of our myopic perspective of how we previously viewed the world and begin to realize so much more, and often that so much more is amazingly great. From your body working as you want it to, warmth in your house on a cold winter’s day, money to pay the bills with, fresh food from the market, the list really could be endless.

The practice of gratitude will change everything if you choose to see this simple tool as worth your investment of conscious effort. And as it pertains to cultivating an artistic hearth and home, we free ourselves from feeling we do not have enough or we are not enough and realize we have everything we need. This sets our mind free, and we explore, wander, and then create.

3. Step out amongst nature everyday

“I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.” —Frank Lloyd Wright, as cited in Your Brain on Art

When we step out amongst Mother Nature throughout the seasons, our senses become enlivened “through the uses of color, shape, smell, pattern, touch and sight”. We continue to carry this knowledge and awareness of how we felt, what we saw, how the air tasted, etc. with us when we return back inside to work or complete a project, and while we don’t know when it will help us make a discovery, that knowledge, especially when regularly experienced, remains with us.

Ceramicist Frances Palmer shared her daily routine in her book Life in the Studio, and one of the first things she does each day, well before most of the world has woken, is to step out into her garden to capture photos for inspiration but also just to be outside amongst the flowers and Mother Nature. Providing nourishment each time, she then steps back inside for breakfast and then to begin working in her studio.

“Awe is embedded in our DNA. We are literally hardwired for it.” —Dacher Keltner, author of Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life

And one of the best places to discover moments of awe is Nature. Keltner goes on, “Nature is the wellspring of so much of our awe, and human beings have been aspiring to bring this feeling into the built environment—meaning anything that is human-made—since the earlier drawings decorated the walls of our caves.”

Figure out a regular routine in which you will step out into nature. This may be daily or weekly, but make it often. For me, as I have shared before, it is my regular morning walk with the pups that immediately wakes up my brain, settles it from worrying or wondering about anything and keeps me in the present moment so that when I return to the office, whatever the task is that I have to set my mind to complete, it can do so without distraction.

“Truth be told, Camille Pissarro was nobody’s pupil, but he understood the import of [Jean-Baptiste-Camille] Corot’s fundamental advice that landscape painters should work out of doors and not huddled up in studios; go out for a walk, he would say, the muse is in the woods.” —Anna Muhlstein, biographer of Camille Pissarro, The Audacity of Impressionism

4. Reduce the number of Daily To-Dos

Why? In order to create mental space, we must be cognizant of how that same space becomes cluttered and often we are the director of enabling it to happen and feel “normal”.

The skill of saying no to a schedule you have kept for years that seemed normal, regular, whatever acceptable adjective you want use to normalize your decisions, but if you need to make changes in order to cultivate an artistic hearth and home, it often begins with the decider, and that is you.

On my daily must-dos, I will often only have two significant items I need to complete to ensure my jobs of expectation are done and I feel productive at the end of the day. The tasks may take some time such as producing a podcast episode, easily four, sometimes five hours, but there will usually only be one other have-to, such as going for my weekly grocery run, that I will need to do following the task. By consciously planning my days so they are not overbooked, I give my mind space to regularly and consistently come up with creative content, and I also have a practice of capturing those ideas, because often they are not ideas for next week’s content as that would have already been planned. They will be ideas for next season’s content, even next winter’s content, or simply next week’s This & That post.

By both having the mental space to discover these ideas paired with a system for easily capturing them so I can refer to them later (and know where they are saved), I have created space for creativity to be part of my regular routine.

Remain open and fully present in order to discover moments of Awe

“[Awe] heightens your curiosity and creativity. And it has the capacity to make you more generous, tender, empathetic, and hopeful.” Your Brain on Art in discussion with Dacher Keltner about Awe

5. Heed your curiosity and nourish it

Pick up that book, watch that documentary, visit that store, listen to that lecture, travel to that destination and take that tour or see with your own eyes whatever it is that has your mind filled with wonder which is urging you to learn more.

Part of creating an artistic hearth & home is leaving space for discovery or places in your home for you to discover the ideas that wish to be found. For me, permitting myself to buy or check-out books that grab my curiosity leads me to wanting to create cozy reading snugs in my home so that I will linger longer and even when I think I may be too busy, these snugs (by the fireplace in the winter, in the living room by the picture window during warmer months, in my office next to the bookshelf for easy access and encouragement to take a break from looking at the computer screen) beckon me to sit down and stay a while because they are comfortable and ideally situated for a cuppa on the small tea table beside the deeply stuffed chair cushions. All I have to do is grab that book of interest at the particular moment and plop down.

Wherever your curiosity leads you, whatever nourishes your curiosity, for me it comes from books, but many other sources as well, investing in these sources is just that, an investment and not a luxury. Gradually begin to cultivate a space in your home or garden or wherever you would engage with the curiosity – your shop, your potting shed, your atelier, your studio – that is near irresistible to not step into and stay for a while, or a long while.

6. Welcome Mother Nature into your home – literally or artistically

“From simple elements like houseplants or botanical designs on wallpaper to the structural choices that frame views of nature via windows . . . when we come into contact with plants and vegetation, with water and other natural elements, it immediately reduces adrenaline, blood pressure, and heart rate.”Your Brain on Art

One of the simplest ways to welcome Mother Nature into your home is to let natural light into your sanctuary. Create and/or furnish in your preferred aesthetic a way to live with the natural daily light she gives us.

One of my morning routines that I look forward to each day involves opening all of the curtains in my home. This both signifies the start of the day but to myself I am also saying thank you. Thank you for a variety of reasons: One, that I am alive and healthy to see and witness a new day, but also whatever the weather may be, I imagine the gifts it will bring to us – whether the garden, the community or how I will organize my day, and I am humbled in that moment because I am reminded I do not have control over the weather, but I can work with it to nourish the life that fuels me. Again, this is absolutely free – letting natural light in – but it also serves to teach us of the gifts Mother Nature provides if only we choose to see them as gifts.

“Happy are they who see beauty in modest surroundings where other people see nothing; everything is beautiful, what matters is being able to interpret it.” —Camille Pissarro

Interior decoration choices will also foster an enriched environment, and while they might take time to bring to fruition due to both finding what you realize will work best for you but also fitting it into your budget and giving yourself time to save, rest assured, it is not a frivolous pursuit to create your sanctuary to be a space of beauty that involves touches of Mother Nature’s inspiration.

7. Choose to engage and/or visit in art/cultural events and activities

In 2020, a study conducted by the University of London involved tens of thousands of participants in the UK revealed “that people who participated in arts activities more than once a week, or who attended cultural events at least once or twice per year, had significantly higher life satisfaction than those who did not.” This finding was consistent across socioeconomic levels. And it is just as wonderful to note, “people who engaged in the arts were found to have lower mental distress, better mental functioning and improved quality of life.”

Consider this a tool, a regular tool in your toolbox of how you nourish well-being and reduce or eliminate unnecessary stress as a preventative nature. Yes, you can definitely go to these events or partake in art activities following a stressful event, but why not engage willingly to enrich your life rather than improve your life? Without knowing what we have avoided that would have been unwanted, we are caring for ourselves well, freeing our mind to come up with creative discoveries that are waiting for us to find them.

8. Remember that beauty, the aesthetics that surround us, is a necessity

“When we encounter beauty, other considerations disappear; we attend to it with all our being. It takes us away from our humdrum thoughts, our chores and our worries. Such an experience contains the reassurance that all is right with the world and also produces a heightened sense of belonging . . . Although the experience may be fleeting, beauty leave a trace in the mind that survives its passing.” —Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well Gardened Mind

Each one of us gravitates and therefore defines beauty as something unique to our life journey. Our taste will be our own, and when we figure out what it is, through trial and error, and also by reflecting upon places and situations that instantly we felt in such a way that we desire to create in our sanctuaries now, we inform the decisions we make as we customize our sanctuary (here are quite a few posts/episodes on this topic).

Studies led by Samir Zeki, professor Neuroaesthetics at University College London discovered that “our experience of different kinds of beauty —whether it be music, painting or even mathematical equations — produce the same patterns of activity in parts of the brain associated with pleasure and romantic love.” So when we then remember what Sue Stuart-Smith shared in the above quote, investing in our sanctuary’s décor aesthetics is an investment in ourselves and the quality of our regular creative work.

9. Eliminate the clutter

And I do mean eliminate, not just reorganizing it and putting it away again. The theme of the first week here on TSLL had to do with simplifying kicking off with the post you see below. In a handful of the items in the list included in this particular post the nudge is to make sure what you have, you use and finding a place for it so that your visual aesthetic is not cluttered which will distract the mind from being free. We need a free and open mind, one that is at ease knowing all systems in our lives and home are working as they should so that we can explore and give space to ideas coming forth that we had never thought of before.

Strengthening our synapses, as mentioned above in reference to music, but we can also strengthen our cognition in a variety of other ways beginning with forever being a learner and welcome temporary discomfort as we challenge ourselves to learn new skills, gives our mind the flexibility to stretch explore and see if something else we hadn’t thought to connect might work together in a way we hadn’t initially imagined.

So no, taking the time to declutter and situate your space is an investment in a nourishing artistic hearth & home, and to ensure you aren’t having to tend to this task regularly, actually eliminate the extra and unnecessary stuff!

10. Select and stick with rituals that work well for our creative needs

In episode #372, Simple Rituals to Enhance the Everyday and the 5 Characteristics of Simply Luxurious Rituals, I shared a handful of specific rituals that enhance my own daily creative work routine. It has taken time to polish and tweak, eliminate and add before I eventually arrived at all of these, but the journey itself has been informative because I would observe how it affected my work output and creative ideas.

The rituals we engage with will nourish us if we know ourselves well and stick to them. One of the reasons is simply, they free up our mind. A reoccurring benefit is the liberating of our mind so that it isn’t pressured into creating when it isn’t able or ready to. And the beautiful gift of rituals is that they are tasks and habits we enjoy with the byproduct of gifting us something we didn’t know we were looking for, or at least, didn’t know we would find.

It is important to point out that every moment that our mind is free isn’t going to be full of a barrage of ideas, solutions and discoveries, but when we make it a daily habit to clear space so we can work and be free of energy-depleting, thought-monopolizing distractions, we will find more and more ideas come to us, and it is up to us to do something with them – whether to record them in a journal for later recollection and application, or putting them to use in the present moment. Either way, it is our regular approach to our daily routine that has been curated with intention, thus creating our artistic hearth and home that becomes the launchpad for regular creative output for our work and life.


Episode 331 2

Watch the trailer below:

Watch the round-table discussion:

~Explore more episodes of The Simple Sophisticate here.


10 thoughts on “373: How to Nourish Your Creative Being: Cultivate An Artistic Hearth & Home

  1. Shannon, I appreciate your consistency in the excellence of your posts. This morning we woke up to snow (I know not so unusual to folks in Bend), and Charlie Brown and I struck out early and once his deeds were done, he made a BEE-line for the hearth of the gas stove.

    My daughter just wound up a visit here for a week, and is on her way back to Minneapolis, so snow is not an issue! I have read your rituals and posts to her over time, and we share our fondness for alone time, with gratitude for our good fortune in the mix.
    But snow on our island is not all that frequent, so we are prepared, but always surprised when it happens…

    Loved this post!!

    1. Joan,

      Delighted to hear you enjoyed this episode/post and tickled you are enjoying the occasional visit of snow that has arrived in Victoria. Thank you for sharing 🙂 and give snugs and love to Charlie Brown. Love his name!

  2. I just have to comment here about the film NYAD. I watched it over two months ago and meant to recommend it to our TSLL community. I thought it was outstanding for the acting, cinematography, and script. Annette Bening and Jodie Foster deserve awards for their performances. I do hope they receive more than just a nod. Their friendship is deeply felt in real life as well in the friendship of Diana and Bonnie. One cannot come away from this film and not be inspired for Diana’s tenacity and accomplishments, and the power of female friendships. I highly recommend this film. Thanks Shannon for your review.

    1. Karen,

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience with this film. As you know, I concur with everything you have shared. Bravo, bravo, bravo and a type of film – female friendship to support and believe and cheer on each other so one another can live their full potential as much as they dare to do. Absolutely grateful for the example Diana Nyah as set and for the actors who said yes to share the story.

  3. Shannon, what wonderful content in this podcast! There were quite a number of “Aha!” moments for me while listening. You put into words the home environment my husband and I desired and worked to create for our children while they were growing up – summing up our determined/haphazard efforts in one post! I would have savored having your bullet points and books as resources to pull my dreams and efforts together more concretely.

    It has been rewarding to see each of our five now adult children incorporating the arts and creativity into their daily lives. They have learned, as have I, that it is essential to their happiness, contentment and growth.

    1. So wonderful to hear Janet! Thank you for sharing and indeed your thoughtful efforts of intention to cultivate such a hearth & home most definitely paid off. 🙂 So very happy for you and your children. xo

  4. I very much enjoyed this subject and format. As much as enjoyed the podcast, I would like to print the written version and can not find a way to do this. When I attempt it with my usual print command, I only get a blank page.
    Can you please let me know how to be able to generate a printed copy.

    I am so pleased that I am subscribed to your blog at the high level. I find SO many of your posts to be both inspiring, practical and useful.

    1. Belinda,

      There isn’t a way to print the page directly. But all you have to do is copy and paste the text to a word doc. I hope that helps. I am tickled to know you enjoyed this episode. 😌

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