creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cavafy's Caress Update

This weekend I present a brand new creation based on the beautiful and sensuous poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy at the Affinity Gallery in Long Beach. The video will give you a nice introduction into who the renowned gay, Greek poet was.

About the production. Last spring the curator/owner of Affinity Gallery, Chevalier Tony Clark, invited me to create a performance based on the works of Cavafy to coordinate with the exhibition of famed photographer Stathis Orphanis' new book called "My Cavafy" - in which the photos were inspired by Cavafy poetry (btw: Stathis will be on hand at both shows to sell & sign copies of his beautiful book).

So, I wrote a script that utilized Cavafy's poetry to give a glimpse into his sensual life and was  set to do the production, but had to cancel due to a throat surgery last summer. Flash foward to a month ago, when Tony Clark contacted me again to share he had a new gallery space with an interesting stage set-up, and so, I went back to Cavafy's exquisite poetry and developed the work further.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to know Cavafy more intimately. The process has brought me closer to a sublime poet's words and world.

And I look forward to sharing many of Cavafy's most revealing and powerful poems to you on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 2pm and 7pm! AND NOW BY POPULAR DEMAND AN ENCORE PRESENTATION ON MAY 7th, at 6pm!!!

For more information about The Affinity Galleries -
To purchase tickets:

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's Spring Cleaning Time

A gentle reminder that with spring comes the infamous "Spring Cleaning" - a perfect time to purge items from your house and body that have been stored up during the winter months. Sadly our current society is one that builds up a LOT of STUFF quite easily. We collect all manner of bits and pieces, odds and ends from our lives that end up cluttering our lives. In addition we eat all manner of foods that contain hidden or unknown amounts of preservatives, sugars, fats and garbage that doesn't do the body good. Some of the most popular reality shows on TV deal with hoarding and obesity, which likely make us feel a bit better that our situations aren't as bad. So I offer you a few tips/suggestions along with some recent pictures on the theme.

1. BIG/LITTLE SWEEPS - "Sweep" through your house and do a quick assessment of the overall situation. Find out which areas need the most work and get a sense of the time required to make the changes you want to accomplish. Make sure to give yourself a chunk of calendar time to achieve your goal, and do lots of little sweeps in the pockets of free time. Don't overdo it or stress yourself out in the process - little sweeps are great and give a sense of accomplishment.

2. BRIEF MORATORIUM - Give yourself a break from buying or receiving any new items. Whether it be for a week or more, set a little time period to halt new clutter from coming in while you get rid of the piles. Resist the temptation to bring ANYTHING in, ticket stubs, little trinkets — it all adds ups. And try not to do any shopping for a period of time, which includes groceries. Have fun making use of all the items in your cupboards to clean it out. You may be surprised to find some items with expiration dates buried away! Do the same with your body, give yourself a break and do a short term cleanser to rid the body of unneeded toxins. Many religions and spiritual practices have the idea of “giving something up” for a good reason.
Marianna receives the refreshing aspects only Nature can provide
3.PLAN A PAMPER/ NATURE ReTREAT - Is your schedule filled to maximum with various activities? Give yourself a healing, relaxing break from it all. In the winter I like to do “Hibernations” where I escape from the outside world for awhile, but this is Spring, so go forth and connect with nature - a “ReTreat” if you will, because it is a treat upon your body and spirit. Whether that comes in the form of taking a hike, gardening, rolling down a hill and rubbing flower pollen all over your body (grin), or like these pictures reflect, a dip in some natural hot springs - getting ourselves in touch with Mother Nature in the spring puts us in direct contact energetically with the flourishing, rejuvenating aspect of Spring! You just can’t get a better healing than from the Source!

4. MAKE ROOM FOR CREATIVITY - If you don’t have a clear workspace to make art, you are less likely to be able to make art. Make space and dedicate a space for the making of your work. It sounds simple, but clear spaces get cluttered VERY fast when we see a opening to set things down. Do your best to keep a space open and if you don’t have a dedicated station for your creativity, now is the time to designate one.

5. CREATIVE RE-USE - Consider making art out of your junk. Perhaps you have some rather interesting items lying around that are broken or really aren’t that useful, but you like how they look and so haven’t gotten rid of them. These hard to part with items could be put into a large box and when the time comes, use them to for some assemblages and multimedia artwork. Just don't let them gather up for long or take up space. I’ll go more into depth about this in another blog another time…

Many more tips to come in future Your ReBegin blogs! Hope this has inspired you to tap into Spring in whatever form your creativity musters!

Some natural healing spot like this can be found near you - seek it out...
...and it will welcome you with open arms.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A "Jack" Status Update

I thought I would let video express this weeks blog post! But just a reminder in text form: Cavafy's Caress takes place on April 2 with two shows at 2pm and 7pm at the Affinity Gallery in Long Beach.

More information and tickets can be found at this link:

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This week continues the debate over being a Jack of All Trades versus a Master/Specialist in terms of creativity and art. I received some great responses to last weeks post, with many people shocked that the historical phrase in its entirety really reads:  Jack of All Trades, Master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.” Funny how that  really changes the meaning - conspiracy anyone?

In a perfect world I like to think there is room for both Jacks and Masters, where both are equally valued for their expression and contributions. Another way to view the concept is to think about those characteristics in terms of width and depth.

A Jack of All Trades sets his/her vision wide. The Jack is a type of outward explorer, who makes discoveries and collects experiences that can be added into the mix and type of art they create.

A Master sets his/her vision deep. They hone in on a subject, going inward to discover rich treasures deep within, which adds layers of value and skill to their specific work. Both of these approaches are useful and important to utilize at different times in order to have a three-dimensional life!

I think for some Jacks, going deep into any one subject can be challenging. Perhaps our minds get impatient, we receive new creative stimuli that spurs us on to a new project, or the labors of one direction don’t seem to be very fruitful at first so we switch gears. However, going deep in one direction and sticking to it serves to make a person better. It requires time and patience. I recommend picking up the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It probes into the subject of what makes a person a success, debunking a lot of myths and misperceptions we have about what it takes to succeed.

In one of his chapters he discusses the “10,000-Hour Rule” based on a study by Anders Ericsson, where anyone can become a so-called expert in a field once they have put in that much time.
He uses the Beatles as an example. Before the Beatles fame, they played over 1200 performances - some 270 of those times were from 5-8 hours shifts at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. Because they were playing the same music over and over, they had to develop their style and play with the songs in new ways to keep it fresh for them.

John Lennon believed “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long. Being foreign, we had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over.”

For a Jack who likes to do it all, it’s just going to take time, lots of it, but slow and steady wins the race, right? Note: I’m only about 9,950 hours away from becoming an expert blogger - although I've been writing blog-like email updates for many years, so maybe make that about 8,950 hours to go.

Several years ago I received a huge lesson on the importance of depth and the development of a series when it comes to making art.

Alexej von Jawlensky, "Schokko", 1919
I went to see an exhibit at the Norton Simon Museum by the artist Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky, a Russian expressionist painter who was a key member of art movements known as The Blue Rider and The Blue Four. The artists shared a common desire to express spiritual truths through their art and were bold with color and form. Jawlensky is not as well known a name as his peers, Kandinsky and Klee. Which is likely because the Nazi’s deemed his work to be degenerate, which had more to do with his Russian background than his wild style.

Most of the works I saw in the exhibit were abstract and way ahead of their time (early to mid 1900’s). Also on display were a large number of similar paintings of an abstract face. I went from face to face and wondered to myself why he was so fixated on creating a series of works of what seemed to me to be rather boring and simplistic. Why did he have to do so many of them? Why not just make a few and move on to something else? I started to get tired of them and was beginning to lose respect after so enjoying his other works. Then I moved into a new room…and there on the wall before me was  a quote by Jawlensky that read:

“I knew that great art should only be painted with religious feeling. And that was something I could bring only to the human face.  I realized that the artist must express that within him which is divine. That is why the work of art is visible God, and why art is ‘a longing for God’”

The face  he was painting over and over was often called “Savior’s Face” - and represented for him the face of the divine. I then came to a final painting of the abstract faces on the walls, and I froze in place. Something about the painting glowed before me with a pure and undeniable spiritual energy. It was beautiful beyond my comprehension. I took a picture of it, but the digital image holds nothing of the original essence, so I won’t even try to show you which one moved me so. I'll just say that it was powerful enough to bring me to tears in humility and awe.

Had he not painted dozens of faces before this one, he wouldn’t have perfected the form and created the “one” that contained so much divine energy that moved me to tears in the way it did. By developing a series of paintings, he was moving deeper and deeper into the form. He wasn’t creating a very wide variety of works, but he was mastering the one form by going deep into it. Another quote of his on the wall explained that he was not interested anymore in his life to go wider in exploration, only deeper. The repetition of the face became a meditation for him and gave him further revelations about life.

So for all us Jacks out there, while I encourage us to be who we are and explore far and wide, I also encourage us to stop every so often and dig our roots down deep so we can experience the divine! And so that we may someday gift someone else the experience of bringing them to tears from the sheer and overwhelming divinity of art.

More to come!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Philippe Halsman. Jean Cocteau, “Jack-of all-trades”, 1948
This week I begin an ongoing and multi-faceted debate over the concept of a Jack of All Trades in the world of art and creativity versus a master/specialist.

First of all, I must admit I loathe that phrase, often because someone is using it to describe me. They think the use of such a platitude will inspire me to spend more time mastering one artistic form, but they’re really just annoying me because they’re missing the point: some people are meant to explore many artistic endeavors!  There’s a lot of evidence to show that being a Jack of All Trades/Renaissance Man is a genetic trait, and our brains are wired to respond to different stimuli. While there is much wisdom and truth in that phrase, because we might not be the best at any one genre, that’s not to say there aren’t wonderful benefits to being a Jack.

Jean Cocteau was an internationally acclaimed avant-garde artist of the Parisian scene probably best known nowadays for his novel "Les Enfants terribles" or his landmark black and white film "Beauty and the Beast" whose design style has been copied in many forms. In addtion to writing and filmmaking, he was also a very accomplished artist, playwright, poet, novelist, designer, and of all things a boxing manager!  A famous photograph of Jean Cocteau by Philippe Halsman even depicts him with 6 arms doing different things called "Jack-of-all-trades." You could say he was quite the Jack.

So was Leonardo da Vinci, with a long list of credits to what he spent his time doing. If he had merely stuck to being a mathematician and engineer, we would have missed out on several of the most iconic artworks of all time. However, it’s interesting to note that while he’s most known for his paintings, he actually only completed a relatively small number! He was constantly trying out new techniques that failed and was a known procrastinator! While he invented all manner of things and made some amazing discovers in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics, he failed to publish any of his findings! Still, do people cry out in anger for Leonardo being a Jack? He’s known as the quintessential Renaissance Man, and perhaps that distinction makes all the difference, for he successfully integrated his many skills and disciplines into a mastery of his own that many can admire beyond his lifetime. If he didn’t explore all his various interests and experiment widely, who knows if his works would have achieved the sublime level they are known for.

Leonardo's self-portrait
Now I am by no means elevating myself to the grand level of JC or LdV, but they're indeed men I admire and look up to in my quest to explore and evolve my many interests. I used to be quite proud of my excellent multi-tasking abilities, as if I were some kind of proficient juggler. But there is a lot of evidence now that while it may seem more productive to do more than one thing at once, it actually prevents people from getting things accomplished and at a lesser degree of excellence. Indeed, it can be maddening at times to be a Jack and feel like little progress is being made because everything has been worked on a little, but nothing finished. I want to do so many different things that my goals can seem to shift from one month to the next from a over-stimulation of creative ideas, and as I move on to the next hot project I leave another one behind, incomplete. I recently read a book called “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher that opened my eyes to my situation and outlined some possible strategies that people can use to help maximize their own specific traits. I’m seeing dramatic increases in getting things completed - like my weekly blog!

One of those techniques that I find most useful, is “The School Day Model.” Remember how you learned things in school? Did you spend an entire day studying math or history? No, you spent about an hour, then the bell rang, and you went on to the next class and next subject. The same principle can apply towards your creativity. Focus intently on one subject, one genre for a period of time, then take a break and go on to another subject. I find that writing for several hours, then shifting towards making art, then business matters, etc., works quite well. Instead of multi-tasking, I focus for short bursts at a time, just as we have learned to do since we were young.

Sher outlines a new way of categorizing people who are interested in a lot of subjects as “Scanners,” or people who like to scan a wide variety of interests. She also presents the strong case that the Cold War had much to do in the demise of the traditional Renaissance Man because the U.S. had a new mission to outrun the Soviets in the Space and Arms Race, which required people becoming specialists. People who became experts in their field have lead to major advancements in science and medicine that we’ve all benefited from. However, in some ways we’ve moved forward a bit too fast in that race, too fast in the constant advance of technology over human and natural rights. Perhaps we need some time to slow down and catch up as a society – for not every advance has been a step forward in the right direction. In the race to succeed, we’ve also burnt through a vast amount of resources and the planet and it’s yet to be seen if we haven’t dug our own graves as a results.

We definitely need Masters to take us farther than we ever thought possible, but we also need the Jacks to hone their abilities and to be encouraged to bring together their various skills to come up with practical, balanced applications. Jacks could be the hybridizers of the world, the ones who bridge the past wisdoms with future advances.

In researching this weeks subject matter, I also discovered that the above phrase was incomplete. The full phrase reads as follows:

“Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.

Are we living under some kind of conspiracy where the abbreviation was put in place by the “masters” in order to keep the “Jacks” feeling bad about themselves? Regardless of how we got to this point, the path forward is clear. We need to both width and depth in our exploration in order to map out a clear future. We’ll discuss more of that next week…