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What would you call it?

Artists have an interim space in the continuum of practice when they improvise as an exercise in discovery.

I’ve always been opposed to using the word "play" to describe a mental space that is much more serious and essential to creativity and is misconstrued by outsiders as a sort-of down time.

I even challenged my students recently to find a new way to express this inner space more accurately by describing what happens when an artist leaves the exit door open with possibility, when the proverbial box has no lid, when the tangle of ideas knits together.

The last two weeks I've been outside the studio, spending precious time with my son-in-laws, daughters and grandchildren. While I relish the contentment of being with family, I am always engaged in art process. I can't leave it behind.

To dabble a bit in my "spare" time, I brought a book to read, (not a page) and my sketchbook received one entry while watercolor painting with biggest boy. The flat, vinyl brush bristles and unsaturated pigments in the plastic tray of colors were uncooperative, but it's just "play," right?

While I relied on my camera to keep record, my heart and eyes remained open. My beguilingly innocent grandchildren, who range in age from ten months to almost five, are flowers blossoming in real time. Watching them did remind me over and over to stay in the moment with them because what I was witnessing was indeed real creativity.

Here are some of what they would call play (in my words)

anticipation, excitement, discovery

gathering and giving



sharing, chasing




dancing, singing, babbling, communicating.


drawing alligators

stirring pudding and licking the spoon.

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