I absolutely love creative people who throw their creative energy into the work of other artists, and Emily Lupita is one of those people. Please take a few minutes and enjoy her words and wisdom today.
The Artist’s Alphabet: 26 Words to Encourage Creativity is a hybrid project that brought my love of painting and words together. It combines a collection of my “Lupita on a Journey” paintings with a painting I made of each letter of the alphabet. All the letters are connected to a word that I felt encourages creativity or represents an important aspect of the creative lifestyle. On the facing page of each painting / letter / word combo is the word’s definition, which I edited to better fit my idea of what each word means to me as an artist and writer. I designed it as a tool for children learning to read, but I also hope it can serve as a sort of colorful sanctuary for adults, a place where they can go to embrace the powerful versatility of a joyful child’s creative mindset.
The book is dedicated to my mother, artist Juana Maria Plum, and starts with a design I made of a favorite quote, “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life” by M.C. Richards.
Signed copies are available in my art shop at http://www.EmilyLupitaStudio.com and unsigned copies on Amazon.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
Books, reading, and writing were central elements of my childhood. My parents, two brothers and I lived on a self-sustaining homestead in the countryside of rural Iowa. We didn’t have running water until I was seventeen and had almost no modern electronic conveniences, so our collective imaginations were the most exciting thing around and that’s were we spent most of our time. We read books, put on plays in the living room, and went on narrated walks into the wild landscape that surrounded us. My mother is an artist and we had a special long, rectangular table dedicated to painting and to all sorts of craft projects from making our own fishing lures to chiseling animal figurines out of wood. My father is a bardic poet who recites long stretches of oral poetry from memory, and some of my earliest childhood memories are of him teaching me to memorize lines from his poems by repeating them in rhythmic patterns while waving my hands like a conductor before an orchestra. When the two of them got together on a creative roll, it was a true wonder for their three children to behold and, still, I go back to those moments of wonder when I’m on the verge of creating something new.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine???
In the mornings I wake up early and sort of stumble downstairs to my art studio. I like this because it feels like I actually wake up painting. Once I’m through the mist and fully awake, I spend time working on my memoir manuscript, The Poet’s Daughter, for about an hour. It is a slow process that I’ve come to enjoy – etching away at it line by line for years. Each night I do a writing exercise where I open my Artist’s Alphabet book to a random page and write about how I want to manifest more of that particular word in my life. Some of my favorite words that keep appearing to me are gratitude, imagination, perseverance, and wonder.
4. Who are you reading now? ??
Right now I’m reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Love, love, love. I’m also reading her Facebook page posts, which are excellent and seem to arrive just when I need the bursts of encouragement and words of wisdom.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those???
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This book was one my parents used to read to my brothers and me as children. I love the illustrations and how the timeless story speaks to readers of all ages. The Spanish version, El Principito, was the first book I ever read in Spanish, my mother’s native tongue, and opened up her world of language to me in a whole new way.
Dubious Angels: Poems After Paul Klee by Keith Ratzlaff (Anhinga Press, 2005)
In this beautiful book of poems, Ratzlaff writes stunning lines as a reflection of the angel artwork Paul Klee drew during the 18 months leading up to his death. Ratzlaff gives a voice to these angels and the combination of art and poetry together on the page is inspiring. I come back to this book over and over when I want to contemplate the larger questions, as Ratzlaff writes after Paul Klee’s drawing “Last Earthly Step,”
For we are a dream of instability
For we are a drama of horizontals
How we last and are last
How our hair goes disguised as a shroud in the little wind
Relics: Deep Mythic Image Poetry by Joseph S. Plum (Dreaming Deer Press, 2013)
As a child, I listened to my father recite his bardic poetry from memory and as I grew older, I would try to remember the lines myself and then run to my room to write them down so they were not lost forever in the forest of his mind. After decades of trying to convince him of the value of his art and how important it was (to me and many others) that his poems be preserved in the written form, my father finally agreed to let me type them out. This process took years and consisted of him saying the poems aloud in a trance-like state as I recorded him during different visits to my home studio. I then transcribed the recordings and went about editing the hours of transcriptions into lines of poetry. The final result is a manuscript of many hundreds of pages, with more added each year as my father continues his annual visits and recordings.
Relics: Deep Mythic Image Poetry is the first book created from this massive manuscript. Because his genre exists so far outside the modern arch of poetry, I created my own press, Dreaming Deer Press, in order to publish it. I have since published three books and have four more of his books in different stages of the editing process on my desk. These poetry books are the culmination of a lifetime of effort to record and document my father’s gift, and symbolize to me the power of perseverance and the mysterious bonds of love between a daughter and her father.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform???
It’s taken me years upon years to build my writing platform. One example: I have this memoir about growing up with a wandering poet / father who rejects modern interpretations of reality, and I’ve been writing it since I was eighteen and first left the nest. Looking back at the nearly twenty years that have passed between my first written reflection as a teenager to my essay collection today, it feels as if each line of those early manuscripts was actually another board slid across that platform to give me a better vantage point of what I want to say. Finally now, I feel like I have built up a solid enough foundation to have gotten into the actual writing of the story, but who knows how far up I really need to go to see the whole picture.
7.What is a typical day like for you? ??
I’m fortunate to be able to teach and work from home now after many years in more traditional 9-5 teaching and administrative positions. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I spent this time writing and painting. Mid-morning I get into teaching, emails, social media, and doing custom design work for my art business, Emily Lupita Studio. By afternoon I move on to household responsibilities and late in the day my husband and I go for our daily walk with our dogs around the neighborhood.
8. Describe your dream writing space? ??
My dream writing space is full of morning light, with soft music playing and two dachshunds resting at my feet. The people I love most in the world are still sleeping upstairs and coffee is brewing in the kitchen.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond???
A writer I admire once told me that “a good book cannot be created by sheer will and determination.” I responded by taking it all to heart and mulling it over for a few years. But ultimately, I found this to be rather opposite of what I have come to believe about creativity. I feel that it is our will, I call it our creative spirit – that feeling of urgent necessity that we simply must keep on writing / painting / dancing / sculpting / taking pictures – that moves us forward in any sort of creative endeavor. Otherwise, why would we put ourselves through this rough and tumble process of producing art from a blank canvas? What else could be pulling us into this pristinely beautiful yet harrowing landscape? In the end, I had to reject this critique as not fitting my own version of the creative process and moved forward without it.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Find a place you love and go there to create. It can be a physical place, a spiritual place, a mental place or a combination – this doesn’t matter so much as long as it is a sanctuary for your spirit. Visit often. If you can’t find this place, invest the time and effort needed to create it for yourself. Never let anyone else redecorate it or relocate it without your permission. It is yours and yours alone to cultivate as a safe place for your inner artist to create – treasure this sacred space always. If someone tries to invade or destroy this space, stand strong, channel the great wizard, and proclaim, “You shall not pass.”
Emily Lupita is the owner of Emily Lupita Studio, her art & design studio based in the greater Atlanta area. Emily Lupita’s latest book, The Artist’s Alphabet: 26 Words to Encourage Creativity, was published in 2013. Her creative writing awards include the Faulkner Gold Medal for the Poem; the International Poetry Award from the Atlanta Review; the Pearl Hogrefe Recognition Award for Creative Writing from Iowa State University; and the John Allen Writing Award from Central College. Emily Lupita’s creative inspiration comes from the many years she’s spent traveling across five continents, including three years in Japan and leading multiple academic programs to Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, and Turkey. She currently teaches Cultural Diversity courses for the University of Phoenix. You can find more about her work on her website – http://www.EmilyLupitaStudio.com, like her page on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EmilyLupitaStudio, and follow her on Twitter – https://twitter.com/EmilyLupitaArt.