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Costume Closet

I have been playing dress up pretty much my whole life.

I have been being paid to play dress up for about 10 years now.
(I’m a performer, stilter, & face painter)

My inner child is thrilled about it.

Dressing up in costumes is fun, creative, and occasionally truly glamorous, tranformational or therapeutic.

I go out in public in costumes on a regular basis. I love Halloween because everyone else shifts shapes and comes to the party as something new (& hopefully) interesting. So maybe you are not a dress up type but you just want some ideas for Halloween costumes so you don’t feel left out. Or perhaps you are a clothes horse and want to up your game in terms of costuming yourself.

THE TIPS

1.) Choose a character direction that is currently genuinely inspiring to you.

It could be compellingly attractive or compellingly disturbing, but it should be compelling. If it is tired, or more true to the old you, it won’t make you come alive when you wear it. If it doesn’t have juice for you, you won’t really rock it

2.) If you don’t have a great idea, use your friends.
If you are drawing a blank then make a brainstorm game out of it with some friends and bounce off each others ideas until you get one that makes you really excited. Or you could ask everyone you know what their all time best Halloween costumes were, and then just steal your favorite idea. (provided it meets tip 1 criteria)

2.) Give it time. Don’t wait till just before the party/gig/event to pull it together.

If you know you are going out for Halloween or are invited to a masquerade ball or need to pull a _____ themed costume out of the hat for an event soon to come, give yourself as much time as possible to daydream ideas, shop at stores, yard sales & thrift stores, and pull it together. This way you won’t feel stressed and be tempted to sucker out. This way the magic and synchronicity have time to help you get it together. (costume fairy’s do exist!)

3.) Strive for Originality. Don’t go for a made in China ‘costume in a bag’.

Oh it can be tempting to go online or sneak into some halloween superstore and just grab yourself one of those one size fits all costumes in a bag. If you do really want to be a sexy nurse or a vampire or a pirate or some other trendy character- find a way to do it so that you don’t look like the other 20 people at the party who bought the same cheap-o costume. Browse google images for inspiration. Repurpose fabrics & clothes in new ways. Bribe a friend who can sew to actually make you something. It is worth the effort to not look like you came off the assembly line.

4.) It is all about the Face Paint and the Attitude.
If your face paint looks great and you are totally in character, it can make up for a shabby costume. It goes a long way to actually try to be the character your costume is indicating. Get into it. Have a different accent and do things you wouldn’t normally do. That is a huge part of the point of costumes in the first place. Intimidated by the face paint part of this tip? Find a friend who is good at it or look up videos on you tube. (or hire someone like me:))

5.) Bring a Prop and have a Schtick. *
This is crucial for having a fabulous time in your getup and contributing greatly to the overall social dynamic. You will have a lot more fun if your character has some sort of playful gimmick or way to engage other party goers. IDEAS & GENERAL EXAMPLES: If you are a geisha, bring a fan and cool down the sweaty folks on the dance floor. If you are a giant banana, bring a banana and tell people they have a phone call on it. PERSONAL EXAMPLES: I was once a princess of hearts and I went around painting hearts on people with my red lip liner. Last year for Halloween I was a genie and I had this super cool lamp filled with yummy oils and I asked people to touch the lamp and make a wish and they smelled the oils and closed their eyes and made their wish and I told them it would be granted. This was infinitely more amusing than just wandering around looking like a genie. It is all about interaction. Schtick Schtick Schtick.

So, I hope this helps and I hope you have fun creating  another costume for your arsenal.

Artists are known for being the pioneering out of the box types. But then so many find themselves in a frustratingly small competitive mini world going for the same gigs or galleries as their counterparts. Lack of inspiration and lack of compensation are two of the biggest pitfalls to avoid while we adventure down an artists path. With so much pulling back and shrinking going on these days, I think we creative types need to stretch out and think BIGger.

Expanding the sphere of our art is good not only for the creative stimulation the challenge brings, but also for the new sources of income it can generate. In a nutshell, splashing out of traditional containers can be both fun and profitable.

Well the visual artist’s primary canvas is the human eye and perception/imagination field.
The paper and easel and computer screen are common containers for that art, and yet in being small squares, they have their limitations.

EXAMPLES of CANVAS EXPANSION FOR VISUAL ARTISTS:
Tattoo Art, Body Painting, Face Painting, Designing Fashion, Painting Murals, Caricature Sketches, Graffiti Art, Air Brushing clothes and walls and people, Silk Screening, Live Painting at music shows, painting pregnant women’s bellies, drawing your dream home on your lover’s back and taking a picture of it, decorating cakes, doing custom signs for local small businesses…

Musicians primary canvas is the human ear and the emotional and social field.
The live show and the compact disc or mp3 are the traditional containers for this audible art.

EXAMPLES OF CANVAS EXPANSION FOR MUSICIANS
Play in mental hospitals or old people’s homes, teach kids in schools or private lessons, collaborate with other artists on a large public art project, create a music therapy project at a local childrens hospital, go in a tunnel and record your most heartfelt music and sell it to gardeners to play to their plants, make fun little snippets of music for commercials, ring tones, your answering machine…

Performing Artists like actors and dancers primarily use a stage as their canvas.

EXAMPLES OF CANVAS EXPANSION FOR PERFORMERS:
Perform on the streets, perform for your neighbors or block party, collaborate with photographers and film students, for charity events, in beautiful spots in nature, in ugly industrial settings, make up a new theatrical telegram service, work with wild new props, dance with fire, put on a show with your favorite kids for their parents, do political satire miming at the lawn of a federal building, dance at rallies, try go-go dancing, wear a mask and perform on a bench during lunchtime in a big city, teach your art form to kids or under-expressed housewives and businesspeople,  hang up a big sheet at a party- shine light on it and shadow dance behind it, build a stage onto a big van or ice cream truck and take the show on the road…

You get the picture.

Integration Exercise:
(cause it is oh so easy to scarf through ideas with our minds and never build a bridge into action)
Answer these questions in your journal or with another artistic partner.
1.)    What are my main 2 artistic forms?
2.)    What current canvas are they being expressed on?
3.)    What new ideas do I have for other outlets and canvases to explore?
Then circle the most compelling ones. Then do them, or if you are the forgetful type- write them and hang them up in a visible place to remind you of them till you get around to trying them out.

Would love to hear your comments or ideas.

This is the 1st post in a new Series-
Key Principles for Creative Life & Career Design.


FIND INSPIRING (virtual) ROLE MODELS

Knowing what is possible for you in your careers scope and impact is greatly supported by finding exemplary role models who’s works and achievements truly inspire you. They don’t even need to be accessible or alive to act as a muse and guiding force.

“Almost all artists derive succor from the dead. The dead continue to give willingly when the living won’t return phone calls and refuse to remember your name. Holding fast to your creative heritage is a way of building an impassioned support system without dealing with anybody! …Having a deep love and understanding for the men and women whose work has inspired and influenced your own can create a spiritual family that has just as much power as a living friend.” -Carol Lloyd from the book ‘Creating a Life Worth Living’

Of course, it is more ideal is if you can find a role model who is not only alive, but also willing to do some active mentoring with you. These relationships can be hard to come by, and the people worth having them with are often very busy. In all centuries previous to ours, apprenticeships and mentorships were the primary ways that trades were learned. Even though we have come so far from that now, many of us feel a sense of nostalgia, or a yearning for that sort of relationship. And anyone with a good heart who has had a fruitful career wants to find ways to help those who are coming up with similar callings. So if you do find a living role model from who’s guidance you would greatly benefit, create a win-win proposal of how you can also benefit them and then pitch it to them!

My own college experience was more based on mentors and advisors than teachers. I did a self-designed degree program through Prescott College (Integrative Arts major & applied Ecopsychology minor). Each course that I designed had to have a clear objective, a set of activities to meet that objective, method of evaluation, and a local mentor who would oversee the course. I was responsible for finding that local mentor and requesting their help. Even though the monetary exchange was very small, I almost always got a yes, and so for 4 years, at any given time I was engaged with 3 or 4 mentors loosely helping me to achieve the objectives of my courses. It was very enriching to work with so many people already established while I was just a student, including authors and key contributors to my field. One of those mentors in particular became a key advisor to me and is now on my board of advisors for Catalyst Arts.

Now most of my role models are virtual and I tap their wisdom through their books and their examples.


Integration Exercises:

1.) Write a list of 3-5 people who’s career path inspires you and what it is about their work that turns you on.

2.) What would your ideal apprenticeship be? Who is the teacher (if they don’t exist imagine them up) and what are you learning from them?

3.) Make a word document of web sites and bios of anyone you come across who does something either similar to you or something you aspire to do. You can also put businesses and organizations on this list. I call mine ‘Role Models’ and open it up when I need a good reminder of what is possible 5-25 years down the road.