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Tapping into creativity with Sharon Furner, feature artist

By Shelah Miner

Have you noticed the beautiful new banner that appeared as soon as our summer issue came online? I keep wondering what the girl in the painting is reading; is it a large-print copy of the scriptures, or the newest issue of Domino?

The genius behind that beautiful painting is Sharon Furner, a Maryland artist whose work is characterized by “vivid color, spontaneous brushwork and imaginative design” (www.sharonfurner.com). She began her painting career as a young mother, and her artwork has provided her many opportunities for travel, outreach, and community service.

Over her career as a visual artist, Sharon has developed a talent helping others discover their own creative powers. She quotes Annie Dillard, who says, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Sharon continues, “This simple truth applies to all of us who yearn to live lives filled with creativity.  Dismiss the fear, let go, free-fall, and our wings will drop us onto paths beyond our wildest imagination.  We can only create what is deep within our soul.  It is in the act of creation that the challenges, the answers and the satisfaction are met.  The fearless leap, the unfurling of wings puts us on the path.”

Here’s Sharon’s top ten list of ways that we can tap into the creativity which lives in each of us:

1. There are times that we all live lives of quiet desperation.  I have had my share of bleak moments.  I thought these times of challenge would affect my sense of productivity, color and energy.  But the more looming my personal problem the brighter and more vibrant my palette became.  I have come to think of COLOR as a healing art.  It has never let me down.

2. Travel with an openness to the greater whole. Travel is a spiritual adventure to understand where humans live, work and play.  My mindscape is filled with scenes of real life: a family sitting on a bench on a hot day slurping ice cream cones; a tiny hut of miniature proportions, women huddled around a cooking pot–toothless, sweet faces smiling, sharing local gossip; and recently, three nuns solemnly walking the grounds of the World Trade Center, in deep contemplation.

3. Love humanity. Understand beyond those people we are comfortable with, who are “like us” to those whose lives defy imagination.  It is important to show respect and concern for my sisters in the Congo, Kosovo, Rwanda, Afghanistan and all areas on this earth where there is injustice, war and poverty.  I want to understand what these women’s lives are about.  This translates to very personal, intimate paintings that I only put into an art journal.

4. Read and study those things you are truly interested in.  Create your own masters degree in writing, art, music; explore all facets of an artist or subject.  This past year I decided to absorb all that I could about Vincent van Gogh, through well-written biographies, his personal letters, art books and visiting museums where his work hangs.  This summer I had the rare opportunity of walking in his footsteps in many of the places he painted. I could feel his spirit everywhere. This past year trying to understand him, his work, his vision and his depths of illness will greatly affect my painting in the next months.

5. Stay open to Possibility–be a Possibilitarian, believe in yourself.  Know that anything and everything can add to the richness of an artistic life.

6.  Share, it is a necessity.  The blessings of my life, my many opportunities to be creative must be shared with others. There is no other option for me. I truly believe in the Power of One.  It takes but One person, One experience, One caring, One lifting of another’s burden to make a difference.  The best day of my week are when I am sharing art.  (I could give you some examples here)

Tithe a portion of your earning if you are a paid artist, writer, musician, so forth.  Give to a cause you personally believe in.  GIFT a story, a poem, a painting, an hour of music to those who need a lift in their lives.  Be their WINGS for a moment.

8.  Keep a journal. Although I keep a written journal, my favorite journaling is ART journaling.  This is my private space to explore ideas, figure out how someone else paints, paint, sketch intimate scenes like the women I wrote of earlier, keep notes on what I learn, read, think, add photos, clips from magazines and papers, glue down ribbons and pieces of paper that hold meaning.  Art Journals are big, they are messy, they are a private place to just be…they are full of Possibility.

9. Intersperse “serious” art with the fun and whimsical.  Make time for “let it all hang out” painting days.  When I want a complete diversion, I turn to painting “fine art” for children.  For a few days, I can slip into the imaginative world of a child and paint what I think they would love to look at.  It is total freedom!

10. Don’t be afraid to begin–create with a sense of awe!

About Shelah Miner

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) teaches English at BYU and French at a Salt Lake City middle school. She has an addiction to her Audible account, hates making dinner, and embraces the chaos of life with a husband, six kids, a dog, a lizard and four rabbits.

12 thoughts on “Tapping into creativity with Sharon Furner, feature artist”

  1. Thank you, Sharon and Shelah!

    I love your story of creating your own Master's degree. And I love the art in this issue. I have not thought about color as healing before, but I can see what you mean.

    Thank you for making Segullah beautiful.

  2. The colors in this art take my breath away. I only wish we could afford to print Segullah in full color!

    I love, love your words about sprouting wings during a freefall. As one who has jumped off many a cliff, I agree a hundred percent, and thank you (and Annie D.)for your eloquent description of the process.

    Elder U. would be proud!

  3. The one that grabbed me, "Share, it is a necessity. The blessings of my life, my many opportunities to be creative must be shared with others."

    Wow, I never though about it that way. It is not only important but necessary. Sharing what I create takes so much courage. I need to silence the voice that says, "How will they react," and think of it as giving of myself to them, just like serving.

  4. I think everything you've said is the perfect way to describe a creative person. I especially love your emphasis on loving others–striving to understand those who aren't like us, giving freely of what you create, paying attention to the greater whole. Really inspiring. Thank you!

  5. Shelah and Sharon, this is amazing. I feel like I need to reread it in order to absorb even more wisdom. I have been inspired to journal (and to do so with more of my whole self) and to think about possibilities for my own personal master's program. Thanks!

  6. Your art and insights really are remarkable. I like the idea of sharing your talent, too. I went to a ceu training today and at one point we were asked when was the last time we were doing something where time stood still, where we were thoroughly engrossed in what we were doing. As I thought about it, it was when I was creating something for somebody else. All of what you said rings so true for me–thank you!


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