Tuesday, December 19, 2017

At the Milonga

In my novel, Tango Lessons, the main character spends some time dancing tango in clubs. We call any place where one can dance tango a milonga. So one would never say, “I’m going to a tango club”, instead it would be “I’m going to the milonga.” Then the location could be added. “I’m going to the milonga at Canning”, for example.
I was sorry that there was not enough space within the story line of Tango Lessons to embellish the events of the milongas because it is a rich environment for anecdotes and soap operas.
The drawing in today’s post is one I did on a cocktail napkin at a milonga in Buenos Aires. People no longer smoke in tango clubs (I never thought it was possible to stop Argentines from smoking, but the air is now clean in every milonga), but when I started going there in the 1990’s I’d have to hang dresses out for days to get the smoke out of them, and a shower and hair wash was required every night.
The cartoon illustrates the competition that exists among the women, who always outnumber the men. Also, the men can get away with being old-style machistas as much as they want to be in the milonga. They may prefer to dance with younger women. Or they may limit their dances to women of a certain advanced level of dance. Usually, foreign dancers have a better chance in that regard because many Argentine women did not learn tango in a class, they learned from going to the milonga. Foreigners, then, may be a bit more sophisticated or have advanced foot work because of having good instruction.
Then, there is seating. The person who is the patron of the event has made an investment in having good dancers attend their milonga. So they put the best dancers in the front rows, and unknown or less qualified dancers will be seated at tables back from the floor, less visible. Considering that men do not walk over to a woman to ask her to dance, that visibility is very important.
Now we come to cabezeo (this is all in Tango Lessons, by the way). This is the eye contact ritual that takes place as the invitation to dance. So my lady in the cartoon has built a curtain of smoke to insure that anyone looking at her table will be able to make eye contact with her and her alone.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feed the animals

On the other side of the deep intimacy of the creative process, one is hurled into the lights and camera lenses of marketing and sharing one's work. This is the hardest part of the process for many of us so-called "creative types". Marketing and selling a book is very different from selling fine art. For one thing, paintings hang on the wall and exhibit themselves while you are off doing other things. Books sit on shelves, pile onto tables, rest in hard to reach cyber pages. They are much harder to be seen.
In the case of self-published books, there are no marketing departments to do the "social work" of getting the book seen and heard and read. I've learned to be patient with myself in accomplishing all the required support a book needs. It's going to be a slow process. I wasn't a marketing major. I didn't grow up with a computer screen in front of me since I was five. Social media is not second nature to me, in fact, trying to be consistent in social media taught me that I am shy, and that I would rather do creative things than connecting things. Show offs are really great at social media, people who like to be seen, people who like to be looked at. Let's face it, some people will do anything to be looked at. I was taught that such a characteristic made a person vain, perverse, and maybe even vulgar. Be that as it may, the Kardashians have proved that vanity can be a money-maker. I don't fit into that social media climbing genus or specie. (If you are a reader of this blog you know I'm often too shy to write too often.)
I am, however, very sociable, and that is a great help when presenting to classes or bookstore audiences. The interactions have been heart warming.
I love hearing from people who are reading or have read Tango Lessons. (I don't get many notes from readers of Freeing the Creative Spirit anymore.) And this is the real kernel in this post, the difference between being a painter and being a writer in getting feedback. We may be different types of animals, but both writer and artist egos love to be fed.
At the moment I have 6 reviews in Amazon, all 5 stars. Well, let's face it, most of them are friends. But they count! And every now and then I get an email from a friend or family member to say they are having a great time reading Tango Lessons. It is a wonderful feeling. I want to know exactly where they are in the story and what reactions they have to certain characters, and where do they think the story is going. But I cannot ask, I just content myself with a kind of self-satisfied realization that tells me I have given the world something that didn't exist before.
In the ACCI Gallery interview I said that the moment I saw a projection of Monet's painting of Rouen Cathedral in the Mist, I suddenly understood that painting/Art was magic. The artist, the writer, is a conjurer. We create something out of nothing and then we give it to the world as a gift.That is our form of magic. I'm sure you have experienced some magical excitement in response to some work of art, or perhaps a work of animation or music. All our art forms are magical means of transporting us beyond the hard, cold, ungiving surfaces of life.
So I'd like to encourage you to feed the artists. If you see a piece of fine art that you admire but can't afford, leave a note for the artist with the gallery person. (Someone once left me a note tucked into the stretcher bars on the back of a painting! That was great!) Write a fan letter, or email. You have no idea how much it means. Our art has a life of its own. It meets people we never meet, so we love to know that someone out there cares about that work we do all alone while the rest of the world is playing golf, going to a street fair, taking a nap, playing basketball, listening to jazz or all the other great things people do who choose not to write.
I started to write this blog in order to pass along my new Amazon Author's Page. The page has a bio, some photos, a link back to this blog. I think one can email the author that way, too. It's all new to me. Here is the link: amazon.com/author/adrianaadiaz
Thanks for reading. Maybe I'll hear from you some time.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Yours Truly in the Spotlight for ACCI Gallery -November, 2017

A C C I   Artist Spotlight  

Adriana Diaz is a true creatrix: a prolific mixed media painter, novelist, creative life coach, dancer, and teacher. Her creative magic is in bringing elements of the physical sensuous
world into her paintings, to awaken viewers to the world around them, expanding their presence and sense awareness of the physical world. With this heightened sense of physical presence, Adriana believes we can become more appreciative and literally in touch with the sensual and spiritually alive nature of the inanimate world.
Adriana describes herself as a "crayons first" kid, moving on to major in art, and ultimately becoming a creative life coach, which she practices alongside her painting and writing. She fondly recalls seeing the image of Monet's "Rouen Cathedral in the Mist" at age 18 as the moment she realized that art could be magic. Being of Spanish heritage, Adriana claims a kind of connection to the Spanish painters: Velazquez, Goya, Picasso, and the Catalán artist Tāpies, as their work combines the plastic and aesthetic elements of fine art with their personal political presence, something she strives to achieve in her own work. 
Wuthering Heights, Mixed Media Acrylics, 36" x 36"

Adriana finds a kinship between the process of painting and the act of writing. "The physical act of writing often shows up in my paintings as marks and 'found languages,' developed spontaneously without forethought. This connects me to the cultural anthropological phenomenon of languages held within the body of the earth. As if our ancestors put them there for safekeeping, intending them to be discovered by their children's children. The marking also connects me to the scribe who in ancient times was the one who recorded or transferred stories through pictures, then marks that became language."

Adriana rejoined ACCI Gallery in 2015 after an extended hiatus, and has since been an active member and volunteer on the Events committee. She finds the dialog, sensibilities, and work of other artists to be wonderful catalysts for her thinking and imaging. Making intellectual and artistic activities available in the East Bay, meeting other artists and being part of the joint creative presence at ACCI Gallery are part of what keeps her creative spirit engaged.


River Psalm, Mixed Media Acrylics, 36" x 48"

To the Ramparts: Mixed Media Acrylics, 18" x 20"
Find both of Adriana's books on Amazon:

Freeing the Creative Spirit, Drawing on the Power of Art to Tap the Magic and Wisdom Within


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tango Lessons

Well, I am branching out, attempting to fulfill my creative potential, just as I encourage others to do. We are capable of far more than we think.  Most readers know that I wrote a non-fiction book titled Freeing the Creative Spirit in the 1990’s, and now I have taken another leap into the world of the written word, I have written a novel titled Tango Lessons.
            Tango Lessons does not teach the reader how to dance tango, but it does offer some deeper insights into tango as more than a dance. I tapped into the spiritual and political things I have learned and experienced as an apprentice to the dance. I bring together things from the real world of tango with a fictitious tale about a woman who goes to Argentina to learn about the tango, but more importantly she travels to that foreign land in search of a lost relative, an elder who it appears may not have died in the Spanish Civil War (as the family had presumed).
            The journey comes at a time when she has lost the life she's known. Her twenty-five year marriage has ended in divorce. Her only child has gone off to college. And the house she had known as home has burnt to the ground. Raquel Carval is over fifty, full of anxiety and self-doubt. But she hopes to accomplish one important thing, to find the elder brother of her dying godmother before she takes her last breath.
            The challenges she takes on were unimaginable. She didn't realize that thousands of people in Argentina are looking for loved ones who disappeared more than twenty years ago. She didn't realize that she embodied the courage and beauty of a woman capable of creating a new life, or of accepting a dangerous, even life-threatening mission for the sake of justice and truth. 
             We had a terrific launch party for Tango Lessons. Yes, of course, we danced a little tango, and we ate empanadas and drank red wine. It was a very heart-warming evening for me, to feel supported by friends who I'd not seen in years. Most of them had no idea I'd been working on a book about tango for over ten years. 
            If any readers of this blog are working on a writing project, I want to support you for your courage and determination. Writing is a solitary undertaking. And a book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction requires research, planning, time lines, thinking and rethinking. Then there can be months, even years of editing. And in this market, months or years can be spent shopping it to agents or publishers. I finally decided that self-publication was not a sign of failure, but an act of independence.
When I finally held a copy of Tango Lessons in my hands, the success smelled even sweeter than the first time I held Freeing the Creative Spirit, which was published by a big publishing house. I knew that without any other forces behind me, I had stayed with the project for the long haul. I had never given up. I made every hurdle push me to make the story better, the writing more direct. Because it is a story with a good deal of Spanish dialog, the spell check program quit early on, so I had to reread and reread for spelling errors that are easy to lose track of. The book designer's program then took out the italics that were editorially required for the Spanish, so I had to read with a pair of literary tweezers to reset the italics. This blog is the only place you will learn about all that, unless you come to a reading. It's important to include those details of the creative process here because that's what this blog is about. 
           You can see that beyond the years that I put into studying tango, Tango Lessons still had a lot to teach me. And every time I get another email, phone call, or Amazon page review I am rewarded a hundred times over. Readers tell me they can't put it down. They say they stayed awake into the small hours of the night because they had to finish it. Turns out, I wrote a page turner! Critical appreciation is important, of course, but there is also a great feeling to know that the reader is caught up in the story, that the heroine's life matters to them. Literature has the power to instill hope and inspire courage. If I have done some of that, I know the ten years were worthwhile. Hope you will read it and enjoy it.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

After The Quietude

I’ve been away from blogging for a long time. I think of it as a sabbatical away from the blog. I was not uninspired. I was quiet, and in that quietude, a number of deaths befell my family. I think of my family as a tribe, the tribe that offset the state of being an only child. I had many aunts and uncles, many cousins. And best of all, I had my grandparents. They were my greatest treasure, and I haven’t yet learned all the things they taught me though they’ve been gone from me for many years.
About the quietude: I was filled with too many questions to write about things I thought I understood. Why didn’t I ever realize that the more family you have, the more people you are going to lose? That’s what happened in the last year and a half. The landscape of my family has sadly changed. Here in this blog, I try to bring creativity into alignment with life’s daily challenges. But I was simply filled with questions. I guess the biggest question I confronted was what does creativity contribute to loss? That is to say, can creativity actually help us survive loss?
I once believed that art making would help me survive anything. I believed that art was such an important path that if one turned everything into the service of art, the pains of life would have an ultimate purpose. Today I see that there are two paths to that purpose: First there is the power of the process: the act of creating relieves the emotional pressure building up physically and spiritually. In that regard the content or quality of the content has very little meaning. If it works to help the individual survive, then its purpose is served. But if I think about Van Gogh painting to ease his loss, I recognize that the second path of art mediating pain is of value to anyone who experiences one’s work and is also touched or influenced by it. In that case, someone else’s loss is valuable to all of us, though we certainly do not wish harm or pain to anyone.
Creativity is valuable to us when it allows us to let go of overwhelming emotions or images that may torture or haunt us. I am very pleased when someone connects with one of my paintings, even more pleased if they buy it in order to continue communing with it. In the sale of something I created to alleviate pain, the sale allows me a deeper level of letting go by removing the manifested image and object from my view. I may not forget the event or the loss, but a part of the energy it provoked in me is released and eventually sent away.
Amazingly, that which pain manifests may bring comfort to someone else. This is true for literary arts as well as visual arts. It is perhaps even a greater part of musical composition and performance, as well as film and theater.  Maybe that is a definition of art, something done with such skilled truthfulness as to pass along a shared dimension of the human experience, albeit beautiful or brutal.
Thanks for reading.
The image at the top is a small journal painting titled "Dolor de Corazon".