We talk about art daily. We deal with art daily. We see art daily. What exactly is art? Does art only encompass a certain field of fine arts, or can it be understood and applied more broadly? As fine artists, we are oftentimes faced with such questions coming from our friends and colleagues. Most recently, we received an email from one of our readers who was shocked to learn that the piece Dirty White Trash by Tim Noble and Sue Webster were considered art, just like some of the most famous pieces by Michael Angelo or Leonardo da Vinci. Today, we are extremely proud to talk about art in more general terms, and not just custom portraits. With our friend, we will discuss art and writing from Hawaii.
Art and Writing from Hawaii
Courtney Turner is a phenomenal blogger, observant writer and wonderful friend. Life, culture and landscapes of Hawaii and, specifically, Maui inspire her to take writing, blogging and artistic writing to a completely new level.
In today’s post, I am pleased to feature an interview with an expert in the field of art, writing and blogging. Courtney Turner, also known through her blog Maui Jungalow, was so kind to share her insights into art, writing and various art challenges.
When I first came across Maui Jungalow, I was deeply impressed by the style, quality and content of writing. Courtney’s blog reveals much more than just life in Maui. Her blog reveals genuine passion for the culture, traditions and history of Maui.
My conversation with Courtney showed me yet another side of how inspirational she is. Through her initiatives, Courtney brings the world of art together in so many different ways. For instance, she participated in three editions of A to Z Challenge not only promoting art, but connecting with other bloggers, writers, painters and other artists.
In the interview, I talk with Courtney about her passion for art, advice for aspiring bloggers, challenges she came cross along the way, and various art challenges that she participated in.
Adam Ziemba: How do you define art? What’s art for you?
Courtney Turner: Any creative expression is art. It could be music, painting, acting, whatever allows a unique expression.
AZ: What was your path to discover passion for writing?
CT: I don’t know that it was a path. I think life is kind of circuitous. I’ve always been writing even if it was a journal or a rant just to myself. I began writing more about Maui after being involved in a group with The Artist’s Way, which is a great book for artists at any level, or even people who don’t think they are artistic.
AZ: What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
CT: When I first started my blog, I didn’t know there were other bloggers on Maui. Especially bloggers who were blogging about living on Maui, not just writing for tourists. As I got more involved writing and blogging, eventually I had to use social media, because blogging and social media go hand and hand, which brought me into contact with a lot of bloggers on Maui and throughout Hawaii. I’ve met lots of wonderful people I would never have otherwise met.
I would also caution writers and bloggers to be very careful about how they present information. Initially it may seem like no one is reading your blog, but because it is public, your words can affect other people. For example, one piece that I thought was very positive was received differently because of assumptions I had made – for example, what dining options were available (vegetarian, gluten free, or vegan) because I hadn’t found the information on the website. A friend of mine who blogged wrote a critical piece that caused an uproar among other friends, even though she stood by her facts. The tone that one uses is as important as the content.
Also, be careful with pictures that are not yours. There is a scam going on with photos in which the owner of the website is told the photo they have downloaded violated a copyright law and the scammer wants hundreds of dollars. Obtain permission for photos, buy stock photos, or use creative commons or copyright free photos.
When I first began to blog, it didn’t occur to me to read other blogs, because I was more interested in sharing my thoughts rather than reading other people’s work. But seeing other blogs also makes one a better blogger. Being part of a blogging community like the Maui Bloggers Network or the A to Z Challenge, provides support by having people to share links with. For example, two other bloggers and I wrote about the same bookstore, and we ended up sharing each other’s links on our blogs.
AZ: What are some pieces for advice for aspiring writers, who want to become like you?
CT: I recommend looking at The Artist’s Way and joining a group if possible. It’s worth going through the 12 weeks of exercises. Don’t compare yourself to others, which is easier said than done. Even if other people are doing the same style of art or writing about the same subject or painting the same flower, each version will be unique. No one else sees it the way you do. Notice what’s around you. If you get stuck for ideas or how to write, then pretend you are talking to a friend and imagine what you would say.
AZ: I have really enjoying reading your blog Maui Jungalow, and especially your posts “How to walk on Lava and Upset Hawaiian Birds,” “A Visit to a Quintessential Jungalow,” Local Beef Can Be affordable,” and “Landscraping and Green Passion Fruit.” Looking at those topics only, I could tell that it’s not a typical tourist guide. It’s about life in Hawaii. How did you decide to blog about life in Maui in such detail and depth?
CT: I think that this is who I am. I have so much information on Maui and Hawaii that I would like to share with the world. The ideas for blog posts come to me naturally simply because of where I live. That said, even if I left Maui, I would still have a stockpile of ideas and photos for blogging. Also, Maui is changing so much, that I want to capture some of what exists before it disappears.
AZ: You have participated in the A to Z Challenge 3 times, and you are likely preparing to participate in the 4th edition this year. How did you first hear about the challenge?
CT: I initially heard about the A to Z Challenge on Twitter. I was involved with a few writers on Twitter (because I do writing) and Dan Miller from Impression Evergreen found my blog on Twitter and encouraged me to participate in the A to Z Challenge. I had also seen the hashtag # AtoZChallenge in my Twitter stream, via writers like Damyanti and Toby Neal. Damyanti answered a lot of my questions about this blog challenge started by Arlee Bird. If you are interested in a worldwide blog hop, it is a great opportunity to participate this April.
AZ: What inspired you to participate in the challenge?
CT: There are a few appealing components of the A to Z Challenge. Firstly, the idea of the challenge was really fun. There are 26 letters of the alphabet which you need to elaborate on. When you look at the calendar, you will see that the month of April coincides perfectly with that number, if you do one letter a day, except for Sundays. Secondly, I really liked the challenge because of the variety of people involved. The A to Z Challenge encompasses everything and everyone, all over the world. I found professional bloggers along with people who had never blogged before. The challenge is also really well organized, and teams of people will check weekly to see if people are keeping up, though they are supportive if you are a bit behind but are actively trying.
AZ: What were your themes in the previous A to Z challenges?
CT: I had a few themes in my A to Z Challenge, each revolving around Hawaii and Maui. Once, I expanded on stereotypical clichés about Hawaii like hula, surfing, and Elvis. Another time, I wrote about interesting facts, not commonly known to vacationers, about Hawaii and Maui. This past year, my theme was A Beginner’s Survival Guide to Maui, which was inspired by reading a blog post by Island Gypsy Hawaii.
AZ: What do you personally find most challenging in the A to Z Challenge?
CT: There are a few challenges. In 2013, my first year, I struggled to keep up. It was difficult to write and post something substantive six days a week while at the same time responding to people’s comments and visiting their blogs. On Sunday, I would manage to catch up with my posts, but I would still be behind on bloghopping – keeping track of comments and visiting other people’s blogs. In this challenge, you want to reciprocate on other people’s comments because they are making the effort to visit you.
Also, keeping up with housework and other personal responsibilities is very difficult during the challenge, unless you have help.
This past year, I had a more organized method of keeping track of other people’s blogs. Therefore, it was a bit better. I was part of a team by Zalka Virag which checked on 20 different blogs each week to see if other participants were keeping up. I left them comments and words of encouragement.
If you’re interested in participating, I recommend trying to write and schedule your posts in advance, so that April is mostly visiting blogs rather than trying to keep up with blogging. Again, I realize this is easier said than done! Also, there are special A to Z Challenge chats on twitter during the month of March which help answer questions about the challenge. The hashtag is #azchat.
All other imagery in this blog post are a courtesy of Courtney Turner from Maui Jungalow.