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What do Maple Syrup and Creativity have in common?

life as an artist online courses parc andr├ę citro├źn May 11, 2022

The video above is a montage of dozens of videos created just prior to and following the shedding of my old skin.  Parts of the video have been posted in prior blog posts.  I find it useful to see where I started and where I find myself now.

May 11, 2022

What do Maple Syrup and Creativity have in common?

At the end of a long day, I craved something sweet.  I'm not a big fan of refined, white sugar, though I'm just as much of a sugar junky as anyone else when I indulge.  I can't eat just one cookie. 

I decided to make a batch of my favorite treat, Sunflower Brittle.  It uses maple syrup as a sweetener. The recipe is in Super Natural Simple: Whole-Food, Vegetarian recipes for Real Life by Heidi Swanson. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the recipe.

While mixing the maple syrup into the dry ingredients, I reflected on my productive day in the studio. My mind wandered back over the nine months since my afternoon in Parc André Citroën in Paris.  Without realizing it, somewhere along the path through the park I traded my body and mind in for a different model, one that processes my experiences differently. The new body/mind is able to tap into multiple layers of experiences spanning seven decades and expressing the experiences while decoding the mysterious meanings that they have for me.  Perhaps what I feel is that I finally outgrew my skin and shed it to allow for greater growth.  The new layer of skin was quite tender at first ... and continues to adjust to the unfamiliar way of processing experiences. However, I'm finding that the visual language of my art comes more easily and more directly.

My attention returned to the bowl of seeds, spices, minerals and syrup being stirred by the wooden spoon in my hand. I saw a similarity between the functions of maple syrup and creativity.

Nature works its magic over a period of time.  Seeds are the result of a mother-seed sprouting; finding soil, water and sunshine; growing stem, leaves and buds that blossom to produce more mother-seeds. Spices come from the root, stem, seed, fruit, flower or bark of a tree or plant and are then ground into a powder or particle.  Salt in general is the result of weathering and volcanic activity. When water comes into contact with rock then weathering processes start – these leach (dissolve) the soluble elements preferentially out of the rock (sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium etc). (quoted from Maple syrup differs in that it is not the result of harvesting and/or grinding.  Maple syrup is the result of human interaction with the substance nature has provided, the sap of a tree that has grown for many years, surviving weather conditions and storms.

Creativity is much like maple syrup.  It is the intervention of a humans' experiences of nature, their environment and their interactions with other humans ...  layered one upon another, year after year, decade after decade.  The experiences are always unique as seen through one set of eyes and layered upon that individual's previous experiences.  The interweaving, the mixing of the ingredients, can bind these experiences together to produce a unique work of art.  That interweaving, the gathering together and holding together of fragmented experiences of one's life is Creativity.

Yes, my life has become quite strange since that afternoon in Parc André Citroën.  I don't regret shedding that old skin.  I spent most of my life trying to shed that skin to see what might be beneath it. Now my inner artist and I share this new skin , a skin that is happy to be free and to feel the direct rays of the sun, the drenching of rain, the gentle breezes and ferocious gusts of the wind.  Along with shedding my old skin, I shed the fears that kept me clinging to it; the fear that I might never see the reflection of my soul in my own work; the fear that my naked emotions expressed through my art would meet with more rejection that I could tolerate. Both those fears now rest in the past and are no part of the present.

When I last posted on this blog, I thought I would have returned my focus to updating my online courses.  Obviously, that didn't happen.  Too much pure creativity has been happening ... and continues to happen in my studio.  I've spent my life preparing for this stage of creativity and I don't plan on putting any limitations or restrictions on it.  It is for this reason that I changed the dates of my updated classes to be available in 2023 rather than this year.

Over the last few months, since I removed the original courses from my site, I've received several inquiries about the original online courses being made available again in 2022.  The inquiry from John yesterday morning was enough of a nudge for me to put them back on the website and make them available until January 1, 2023.  At that point, I'll switch (or at least I'll plan on switching) to the updated courses that will be offered once or twice a year during a specific period of time rather than everyone starting at different times and being at different stages of the courses.  Regardless, when you take a class, you have access to that class for as long as this website exists ... which I'm imagining will be another ten to fifteen years.  After that, I really can't predict.

Here's a link to the store to see the classes I've made available again for 2022. 

 Online Courses in 2022

The Skillshare Courses are still available on an ongoing basis and I will probably be adding more mini courses to Skillshare throughout 2022.

Recipe for Sunflower Brittle:   (I always double the recipe)

2 cups raw sunflower seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 Celsius) and place a rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the seeds, cayenne, salt, and maple syrup in a bowl and mix until the seeds are completely coated.   Pour the mixture into the center of the baking sheet and use a spoon to press it out into an even  1/4-inch-thick (.6 cm) thick layer.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges are deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let the brittle cool completely; it will crisp as it cools.

Smack the baking sheet on the counter to break the brittle into shards. If your brittle isn't breaking up, put it bake in the oven for 10 minutes more, then cool and try again.  Once the brittle is absolutely, completely cool, it will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month. (Mine vanishes before the month is up.)

You can make variations by substituting pepitas and/or adding sesame seeds and a bit of turmeric and black pepper.  You can add nuts and other seeds, too.  Keep the proportion of dry ingredients to maple syrup the same and it will always work out and be yummy.


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