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The Sacred Circle of Creative Influence

Yesterday, I flew. I had wings...I circled over Niagara Falls, downtown Buffalo, saw the grain elevators from above, and I shared this experience with a friend and fellow artist, Edreys Wajed. We were piloted around in a four-seater prop plane by our friend and local Yelp Manager, Alex Levine. He's been asking both of us to fly for a while, and we finally followed through. What an experience - a warm spring night, with the sun setting on the horizon, the whole of Western New York laid out before us. As you can imagine, this led to some reflection.

The people you surround yourself with are the main influences in your life. For good or for bad. And I've been noticing all the positive ways my peers influence me. Edreys and I are a perfect example. I heard about his work seven years ago, and loved it immediately. He drew the images for, and sang, this song 'Get Free":

About a year later, I met him at The Art of Hip-Hop at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. After being mostly-distant Facebook friends for years, last year I encouraged him to join in the daily drawing challenge going around online. His drawings were always so good, I wanted to see what he might post. Little did I know it would spur him to draw every day since that day, producing some of his best work yet. He recently made the decision to quit his teaching job and get back into creating (all kinds of things) full time. He even chronicled his challenges and successes at Buffalo's very first Creative Mornings talk. Go, Edreys!

This past Tuesday night, I was privileged to participate in another great iteration of ArtLab- my art group ELAB's monthly open art critique- this time at Gary L. Wolfe's studio at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center. (Gary is working on a series of paintings for a show called "Who Told You That You Were Naked?"- recalling both ancient religious traditions and modern issues of privacy, surveillance, and self-awareness.)

During ArtLab, one of our board members, lawyer Bill Altreuter, read from a new story he's writing. One of the characters was an artist, and he asked for feedback about the way he depicted her daily life: was it realistic? In the discussion that followed, I realized that I was not spending enough time in the studio (the character "Jenny" was lost in the act of creating, forgetting her surroundings as she immersed herself in the work), and I resolved to get back on the horse the next day. My main issue tends to be distraction- digital and otherwise - so I turned off my phone, put on some "focus" music, and painted for four hours straight the very next day.

I was so thrilled to realize that Bill's art had influence my life- and my art. I texted him to let me know, and we also set up a coffee date to discuss writing.

Finally, my close friends in ELAB, Marissa Lehner, Tara Sasiadek, Marcus Wise, Yan Shmatnik, Candice Pack, Leslie Fineberg and Kisha Patterson have deeply influenced me as an artist. They've invited me to participate in shows with them, critiqued my work and helped me have the courage to leap further into my art life, and each of them have, in turn, done the same in their creative practices. It's exciting to see the sacred circle of influence change us all.

This is one of my favorite aspects of Buffalo's creative scene, and why I use the word "Confluence" in my business...because we're all coming together, influencing one another, a rising tide raising all ships. It's a beautiful thing to take part in.

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