The Zen of Creativity


“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”  – Charles Mingus

A perfect example of that is found in sumi-e brush painting.  It is a style of Oriental art that is very zen.  With a minimum of brush strokes, you capture the essence, the energy, the “chi” of an object.  While many of these ancient paintings are strictly black and white, the concepts can be brought into colorful watercolor painting too.

11"x14" watercolor

Cascades of Blue 11″x14″ watercolor               by Patricia Robin Woodruff

The poetry I like is the same way, with phrases that strikes right to the very heart of the feeling.  Like the mystic poet, Rumi said:

“Roses open laughing.”

He describes the beauty and joy of nature blooming in a way that makes my heart bloom open as well.  That to me is the pure beauty and gracefulness of chi in poetry.

So that leaves me with the question, how do we bring our life in alignment with chi?  Meditation and yoga occur to me.  But where I find myself the most in line with the energy of the Universe is through the creative arts… when I am lost in writing a story or time totally disappears while I am painting.  So as an affirmation for this day:

“I open myself to the energies of the Universe.  It is an unquenchable source for me to draw inspiration from.”

– Patricia Robin Woodruff


Poetry That Inspires The Heart and The Hand


I find reading poetry can inspire my own creativity.  One of my favorite spiritual poets is Rumi (usually called by his last name, I suspect because no one can figure out his first name… Jalaluddin… Jalal al-Din… Jalalu-ddin…)  He was a thirteenth century poet, mystic, Sufi, whirling dervish… A person who called God, “Friend”.

Rumi’s poetry constantly inspires me.  I get such a feeling of recognition when I read it. I want to shout a great big “Yes!”  Rumi put into words, the feelings that I feel. It’s the same energy that inspires my art and writing. Here’s some wonderful examples: 

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” 

“Close both eyes to see with the other eye.”

“Roses open laughing.”

You can see why Rumi’s words could inspire a whole series of paintings and collages! A few years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced that the year 2007 was the International Year of Rumi, since it had been 800 years since Rumi’s birth.  He is one of the most widely read poets in the United States, so if you haven’t come across his poetry yet read up on him!


To see more of my artwork inspired by the poetry of Rumi, check out

Enjoy the magic of Rumi’s words and the growth energy of Spring!

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

Refilling the Well of Inspiration


This time last year, I was on the island of Ponza.  I had been studying art in Rome since January and my soul was longing for release from the city noise and pressure of people.  A friend of a friend mentioned the island of Ponza (which I had never even heard of!)  It is often used by the Italians as a get-away, but in April it was still very much “off season.”   A train ride out from Rome and then a ferry out from the town of Formia put me on this beautiful, peaceful island.


The view from my balcony overlooked an amazingly clear blue bay.  I was looking down on the seagulls flying below!  The other side of the bay was topped with a crumbling 14th century fort (which, of course, was explored on the first day!)  It was surrounded by golden flowering gorse bushes and the hum of busy bees.


The next four days were spent hiking up and down hills in the quaint little town, as well as around the wild parts of the island.  I swam in a 2000 year old “swimming pool” carved from the volcanic rock by the Romans, sailed around the grottos and cerulean blue waters of the island and basked in the gentle sounds of nature.

My goal in Rome was to produce 5 paintings a week, and while I didn’t actually do any paintings here on this island, just the thought of it filled up my soul.  When I came back to Rome, it inspired me to a flurry of artistic activity.  You don’t have to travel as far away as Ponza, but as a creative soul, beauty is necessary to create.  If your soul is sapped by your surroundings, it is important to “refill the well” of your creativity.  Find a place of beauty to renew yourself; a cathedral, a park, a walk on the beach… We cannot keep pouring out unless we refill ourselves.  Find a place to refresh your spirit and it will spark your creativity in amazing ways!

Three Tips to Tap into the Spirit of Creativity



Rumi Series “Spirit” by Patricia Robin Woodruff 11″x14″ mixed media: ink, acrylic, collage

There is a certain “flow” or channeling of the creative energy that happens when a person is deeply immersed in their art (be it painting, writing or even computer programming.)  A sense of time disappears, as well as even a sense of self.  There is nothing but you and your creation.

While this zen state can not be forced, there are ways to make it more likely to happen:

1) Ritual – Creating a certain ritual before embarking on your creative efforts can help.  My friend, Barb Baur is a jeweler.  Before working, she lights her candle and says a prayer to the patron deity of inspiration and metal smithing, Brigid.  The candle is a practical device for her to light her oxy/acetylene torch from, but it also prepares her mentally for being receptive to the creative flow.

2) Engaging the senses – Many people find painting to music helps them create.  I find that the scent of incense is a powerful tool to transform my thinking from the mundane to the receptive artistic state.  It also helps to surround yourself in beauty.  Beauty begets beauty.  Beautiful surroundings makes it more pleasant to enter your writing space, or studio.  When we are happier, it is easier to be in touch with that joyful spirit of creativity.

3) Affirmations – Doubt and worry are like fats that clog the arteries of inspiration.  Changing your thinking patterns to good healthy thoughts will let that creativity flow!  I write down positive things that people have said to me and then I tape them up around my desk.  I also hang inspiring sayings and quotes around my office, as reminders to myself.

Next time you sit down to create, try some of these tips and start with this affirming thought:

“I am open to the energies of the Universe/Spirit/God.  Fill my mind and flow through my hands.”