Contemporary Expression

the last 55 ..
February 4, 2010, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Living An Artful Life, movies, The Art Files

Pedro Ribeiro Simões, used by permission

Here is a list of the last 55 movies I watched via NetFlix.  The films I watched in an actual theater are not included.  These are in no particular order and just because they are on the list doesn’t mean I enjoyed the film but it does mean I picked it out to watch.  I have no idea what this may reveal. What were the last 5 movies you watched?

What’s Cooking?
A Love to Keep
(500) Days of Summer
War, Inc.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chop Shop
Maggie & Annie
Charlie Bartlett
Martian Child
Love My Life
I Really Hate My Job
Smart People
Blue State
Grey Gardens
The Contract
Deliver Us from Evil
Feast of Love
Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Therese and Isabelle
Rails & Ties
Music Within
The Air I Breathe
Touch the Sound
Sunshine Cleaning
Che: Part 2
Che: Part 1
The Pumpkin Eater
Phoebe in Wonderland
Four Minutes
The Life Before Her Eyes
Bottle Shock
Encounters at the End of the World
Shotgun Stories
The Garden
Gospel Hill
The International
Lakeview Terrace
Righteous Kill
The Counterfeiters
The Visitor

Without Art, Writing Would be Pretty Lame
January 29, 2010, 6:00 am
Filed under: Balance, Guest Blog Post, Living An Artful Life

This is a guest post from Matt Cheuvront and is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

I am a true believer that inspiration can come in many different forms – in fact, it really hold no limits – anything and everything around you can provide you with a spark. A good song, a photograph, a line from a movie – I do everything I can to surround myself with these things – making an effort to live a more “artful” life that provides me with those “Aha!” moment of inspiration.

Since writers block is, well, a writers worst enemy – I thought I would present a few things that I do to find inspiration – things that get those creative juices flowing when all hope seems lost – the things I do RIGHT before I close the laptop and put away my Moleskine and call it a day – those moments of resurgence and creative clarity that can be found in the simplest of things. Here are three ways to live a more artful life and find inspiration in the world around you.

Get out of the house

Seriously, working from home can be extremely stifling to your creativity. There’s something about the Seinfeld reruns and comfy couch that inspires me to do nothing more than curl up with my dog and take a nap. This is all fine and well, don’t get me wrong, but when I’m trying to actually – you know – get things done, sitting around the house is the death of me…So get out, head to your local coffee shop, put yourself in an environment with limited distractions. There’s something about the atmosphere of a cozy coffee shop or comfy library chair that just works – there’s like a creative aura floating around that you can’t help but tune into. Changing up your environment can do wonders for inspiring new thoughts and ideas.

Browse Flickr

If you frequent my blog – you know that I am big on visualization – I couple simple and clean design with white space and bold images. Honestly, and this probably isn’t such a good thing from an efficiency standpoint, I probably spend more time looking for the “perfect” photo to go with at blog post than writing the post itself. But I find SO much inspiration in photography – even in the simplest things – I’m a very visual person and I understand that most blog readers connect with a “visual aid” to drive their attention through the rest of the post. Anytime I struggle with my writing, I browse around FlickR or other art websites (Wordboner is another great one) and find all the answers I’m looking for (and more).

Make killer playlists

Music is inspirational…but you already knew that. Every month I take a couple hours and I make a “playlist for the month” – The playlist usually reflects the season, my mood, new artists I’ve discovered, etc. And I use this playlist as the soundtrack for my life. Music is, hands down, the biggest source of inspiration for me. And there’s something to be said for that “perfect playlist”. You’ll find yourself struggling to find the right words and then that epic Arcade Fire song will kick in and all the sudden you’re ready to rock and roll. Devote a little time to putting together some monthly playlists of your own – and opt for the IPod over the TV in the background when you sit down to write.

This is only the tip of the iceberg – but hopefully will give you a little inspiration to get out there and find your own source of inspiration (have you been counting the number of times I’ve said “inspiration” in this post? Yeah, me neither). Think outside the box and never be afraid to use other mediums to inspire your own creativity.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have a “routine” when you sit down to write?

It Takes A Garden grow a community
January 17, 2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Balance, Garden, Living An Artful Life, social media

Joan and I have had a several gardens, some small succulents, some large herbs, some tomatoes, plenty of flowers. Our current garden started the week we moved into the house. Our process: rope it off, plan it out, think about the soil, think some more about the soil and get started tilling and planting.

Our perennial garden is full of bulbs from Brecks and everything else … everything else …  is from Bates Nursery. Nashville is fortunate to have several high quality nurseries in the area but  we have found a consistency of reliable variety to be a big factor in our choice of Bates Nursery.

If you have followed Contemporary Expression for a while, you’ll not be surprised that I strongly feel that everyone should have some form of a flower or vegetable garden as part of  living an artful life. The act of gardening brings a balance and a peace to me that nothing else really is able to do.

I have enjoyed reading David Bates’ blog since his return to the family business it’s filed under News on the website, I get it in the newsletter  form.  When we celebrated our 20th anniversary in the spring of 2008 the kind folks at Bate’s had no problem taking us on under their gift registry as a same sex couple. They had to sorta rig it – but it worked.

When I started following Bates on Twitter I was maybe one of the first hundred or so that found them.  As of today’s post they have nearly 19,000 followers.  Because of the social media consultation work that I have been doing for both corporate and non-profit businesses in Nashville, I quickly acknowledged this success and sent David a tweet to see if he’d spend a little time with us on Contemporary Expression.

Here were his responses to my questions:

  • 1.      What one or two things do you attribute to your large follower base for your Twitter account?  Diligence.  I spend probably 2 hours daily working on my Twitter account.  It all comes down to “The Law of Large Numbers” essentially.  Follow new people, Un-follow people who have not followed back; repeat…Over and over.  I also encourage new followers through our e-newsletter and my weekly radio show.
  • 2.     Do you know what percentage of your Twitter Followers do not live within range to purchase your products?  Currently it is around 80% of total followers.  I have worked very hard at attracting as many local folks as possible, but it is nearly impossible to gain purely local followers.  There are still great opportunities for local growth.  If only 3200 of our followers are local, that represents only about 1% of Twitter users in Nashville, TN.  I do plan to have marketing opportunities through our website in the future, so hopefully there is a way to gain some benefit of this large percentage of “outside” followers.  Again, “The Law of Large Numbers” applies.  If I know I get 20% local followers from all follows, I will need about 80,000 total followers .to just reach 5% of current Twitter users in Nashville.  That is a substantial number of potential local customers, somewhere in the range of 15,000.  We should be able to reach that amount within 9 months, at our current rate of growth.
  • 3.     Do you have a social media strategy as a business?  I have only begun making a push in the social media realm.  I am planning to incorporate a video “how to” presence on YouTube (as well as our up-coming revamped website).  Admittedly, our strategy to this point has been largely “seat-of-the-pants”.
  • 4.      What are your plans to grow your FaceBook FanPage? FaceBook is a different animal than is Twitter.  Twitter is in my opinion decidedly more business friendly.  FaceBook fanpages for business have built-in control mechanisms that Twitter does not have.  I already spend so much time in the Twitter arena, I have sought to find the means to merge all of my social endeavors, Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts.  FaceBook required me to create a personal fanpage to make this work.  I’m not really crazy about that.  I don’t mind having a FaceBook page personally, but it is essentially an extension of my business fanpage. Our email address that was originally associated with our business fanpage, is now associated to my personal page.  I really want these to be separate. I have solicited help on this issue from knowledgeable persons; haven’t found a viable resolution… yet.  Until I am able to find some way to make a FaceBook business fanpage work better, I’m a bit stuck there.

David’s responses were enlightening to me. Diligence and Awareness are part of the life of a gardener. With this insight, I began to realize just how much a good social media strategy is so very much like planning an tending to a garden.  The best fertilizer is a gardeners footprints.

So how does your garden grow? –

*tips for Facebook –

a: Use the two free INVOLVER tools to add your Twitter and YouTube Channel as Tabs.

b: Visit the News for Page Administrators for Quick and not so Quick Tips.  If you are an administrator of a Page, you will be able to choose a username for each Page at There will be an interface for you to choose usernames for the Facebook Pages you administer.

reBlog from 7 Social Media Roles You Haven’t Considered
January 16, 2010, 11:55 am
Filed under: Guest Blog Post, marketing, social media

I found this fascinating quote today:

When you think of social media roles, chances are you think of a community manager or the oh-so-generic “social media manager”, which is usually some function of the marketing department managing strictly social media programs. But there are loads of other potential roles that can integrate or represent social media alongside other business, 7 Social Media Roles You Haven’t Considered, Jan 2010

You should read the whole article.

What’s Your Strategy?
January 13, 2010, 9:23 pm
Filed under: branding, community building, social media

Read more about how to build community for your business, nonprofit or organization on my SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY PAGE

Sketching Out The Possibilities

Room To Think - Sketch 2008

I have been working on a new painting for a corporate client and believe I may have it finished by the end of the week. When I work on a new project I start by sketching and doodling out memories and ideas and then take them to ink sketch and watercolor and then finally to canvas.

Room To Think - Watercolor 2008

I’m not sure when I started this pattern. I didn’t always paint this way.  When I first started expressing and creating through color, I simply started. There was nothing in between the color the arm and the canvas.  This rendered great things and all of them have long since sold and hopefully continue to bring spontaneity to their owners.

Room To Think - Acrylic on Canvas 2008

In the last few years I’ve become more contemplative about my contemporary expressions. The spontaneity is in the work but the thoughtful way in which I play with the color has brought a maturity to my process and I am happy about it.

As I have been searching for employment I have found the same personality in my process.  I’m carefully considering options based on memory and sketching out the possibilities before moving to canvas.

I received last week a note from a potential new life that simply said; “Thank you!” (exclamation point included) Honestly, it made my day.

I received a form letter for another local nonprofit gig that said; “if one of the top 10 candidates, you will be notified in 4-6 wks to schedule an interview.” Here is the thing, two months from now when you contact those top 10 candidates, they will be in other jobs.  – At least I hope so!

So what have I learned to start the new year? Memory, time, and spontaneity can serve you well when mixed together.

How are you approaching your plans this year? Want to share some of your tips and tricks for others to learn from? Leave a comment and let’s chat.

Happy New Year 2010
January 1, 2010, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

its okay to lounge for a little while