71 Anthony Epp

08 Mar



art 1 |ärt|


1 the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

• works produced by such skill and imagination

4 a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice

art for art’s sake used to convey the idea that the chief or only aim of a work of art is the self-expression of the individual artist who creates it.

To this I would add: or the self-designated art critic to ponderously ramble on about what the artist was trying to communicate. I’m specifically relating this to paintings. I would also include myself in this, but hopefully without the self absorbed attitude. I’ve written a few poems over the years. Actually it feels a bit pompous to say I wrote them. More accurately, I transcribed them as I just started hearing words and had to grab a pen so I could write them down. I guess that is what I would classify as Inspiration, but more on that later.

Can’t it just be a pretty picture the artist felt like painting?

I’ve included the definitions, or parts of them, not to fill space, but to hopefully clarify what I’m thinking to others, if not just for myself. The art ‘critic’ comment comes from a more red neck point of view. It bugs me when people try and say what an artist was thinking when they created something, especially when it was finished a couple hundred years ago. I just want to scream, “Stop sounding like a pompous ass!” Get out of my way and let me enjoy it myself, or move on to something I do enjoy.

Another reason I included the definitions is some of them stood out to me. I had never thought of defining things that way. I’m specifically referencing #4. I’ve always thought one needed to have natural talent to create art, knowing that one can learn more to further refine their art. Yes, that is practice, but #4 doesn’t reference anything I’ve associated with art before. It’s not talking specifically about producing an item of pottery, a painting, composing a song. It is talking about being skilled at a specific thing.

Huh, that means that working an assembly line can be art; cooking in a diner; waiting tables in a diner; collecting trash, and any other seemingly mundane activity I don’t typically give much thought to.

But now that I think of it, cooking/waiting tables in a diner is art. Before liberating myself into the coffee world, I was in restaurants for 17 years. Most of those 17 years was spent in fine-dining or upscale styled restaurants. Many of these were high-volume to the point of having to hold steaks on the side because there was no more room on the grill. But thinking back to my short stint in a diner style breakfast kitchen in a hotel, WOW! I started there to fill in while the other two guys recovered from an accident and a brain tumor. When they got back to full speed, it was a fairly silent ballet that blew me away. They were barely moving, yet food was flying out of the kitchen. They took ‘economy/efficiency’ of movement to a level worthy of being called art.

Before getting my degree in Culinary Arts, I was a Music Performance Major. I loved performing. Not because I’m sort of spotlight-loving-diva, but just to pass on the Art I had worked hard at practicing. I’m referencing #1 here. I wasn’t the one in the spotlight in front of people, which is probably why I never had ‘stage fright’. Now I did get nervous about performing, but never till just before I would start playing. Bugged me to death as I had no time to deal with it, just push on. The music was front and center, I was just the one channeling it so to speak. I think this was better than taking anything available to alter one’s perception of their environment. I remember in my solo performances for contest, I would completely loose myself in the music. By this time, I have worked the song so much, I could see the music in my head, not that I was looking at it like a photograph or reading it like sheet music, it was just there because it was so much a part of me by that time. As soon as I would lift my bow to the violin strings, I would close my eyes, breathe, and start playing, getting lost in the music and letting it take me where it would. When I was done, it sometimes felt like coming out of a trance. I ran sound the same way; even adjusting things on the soundboard with my eyes closed for an entire song.

When I go to a performance by someone I admire, as much, or sometimes more, my enjoyment comes from how they are while performing the music and not what they are performing. Watching a talented musician lose themselves in the music, and having FUN doing it WELL, adds so much to my enjoyment. I would even venture so far as to say it is a worship/spiritual experience. (Oh boy, I think I just came up with another topic to post on.)


creativity |ˌkrē-āˈtivitē|


the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.

Here we go again with another misconception of mine. I’ve always linked Creativity with Art, making something pretty. So this made me sad as I never really thought of myself as creative. Boy was I wrong. Knowing this years ago could have saved the hassle of a lot of self esteem issues. I could make different things, and some of them were even pretty or tasted good. But that was because someone else told me what to do and how to do it. I thought you needed Inspiration to do that.

Because of all the music theory thrown at me when my parents started me on violin at 3.5yoa, Dad (taught band & choir 17 years) voicing his pet peeve at people wanting to play the song like they heard on the radio instead of “reading the music”, I’ve always been great at sight reading music. This is a problem when trying to play jazz or blues. Playing music from sheet music never seemed especially Creative to me. Once you got the notes down, it was just a matter of following the director. But jazz/blues involves actual personal Creativity, or at least a different form of it. I enjoyed the semester I was able to take jazz lessons, but it was a struggle. I was so used to “READ THE MUSIC” that to ‘get over myself’ so I could create music that wasn’t written down proved more difficult than I imagined. Now, I know all the key signatures, their scales, and chord progressions, but being told to ‘just play in this key’ tends to make me musically stupid in a hurry.

Go ahead, play. You’ll hit some wrong notes, but so what. It’ll come eventually. Yeah, still not something I’m able to do yet, but wish that I could. Some of my favorite times at Bluegrass festivals are the jam sessions that pop up at the end of the day. I so wish I could join in as it looks like they are having so much fun ‘just playing’ and seeing what happens.

I did a little better in the culinary and coffee worlds. In these, and the music world, learning the foundations will help you know where you can take it, Creatively.

In food, I love it when chefs take ingredients people would never think of putting together, even turning their puzzled nose up at the idea, that turns into an incredible dish. My favorite way to exhibit Creativity in food is to stand in front of someone’s open refrigerator and cabinets for several minutes. Then I start cooking. It’s fun to watch the perplexed look on peoples’ faces and tell them, “I don’t know.”, when they start asking what I’m making.

After I learned the foundations in coffee and all about scientific stuff about milk, and developed a skill for duplicating it consistently, I could start creating Latte Art. It could be said latte Art is more for the person doing it, proving that they can, than it is for the creation of a better tasting drink. Whatever design appears does absolutely nothing for the taste of the drink. It just proves you did the milk and espresso correctly. It does make the drink look more appetizing. And since we eat with our eyes first, it lets the customer know that things are done correctly, and hopefully leads to better tips.


inspiration |ˌinspəˈrā sh ən|


1 the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative

• a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea

2 the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

• an act of breathing in; an inhalation.

#2 Huh? I would never have considered the simple act of breathing, Inspiration. But then I’ve had a lot of my long held misperceptions challenged in writing this. That goes a long way to changing my perception of life.

The simple act of breathing is Inspiration. This is an act I never think about, except when I have a cold, but happens continually, automatically even. Thinking about everything that takes place while breathing really does prove out why it is included as a definition for Inspiration.

This should make it much easier to be Inspired.

a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea

This is how I’ve always defined Inspiration. This is what has driven my poetry. I almost said ‘written’ again. Yeah, sure, I held the pen or tapped at the keys, but I was only recording words nobody else was hearing. So I thought this was how writing was done. This is also why writers really amazed me.

How do they get struck with all these words? Song writers too. Where do all those notes and lyrics come from? But getting to know a decent number of writers via Twitter, I realized that too is another misperception blown to pieces. I still find it somewhat hard to believe a person can sit down at a designated time and say, “OK, now I’m going to write.”

But where does one find Inspiration? As I’ve learned to shed some of my more legalistic background, I’ve learned Wisdom and Inspiration can be found anywhere, not just in the specific religious world in which I was raised.

Can one just ‘decide’ to be inspired? I think so, in that one can decide to look for it.

Until recently I was working an early morning opening shift at a coffee shop with a great view of the sunrise. (I posted many of these on Twitter.) The amazing colors and cloud formations were truly beautiful work of Art. I chose to be inspired by the beauty to focus on the positive throughout the day.

Watching cooking shows gives me Inspiration of the different things I can do with my food. It also gives me the Inspiration to find my Creativity and come up with unique coffee beverages. One season special we did at a shop came out of watching Alton Brown do a show on pepper. He was describing the Szechuan Peppercorn (& how it’s not really a pepper, but part of a flower) and he was using the same words we were using to describe our espresso.

So I let Inspiration ignite my Creativity and started to figure out what the completed recipe would taste like. We were coming up on winter so I wanted it to be warm and comforting. Szechuan Pepper has a broader flavor profile and a much more subdued nature than White or Black pepper, more of a warming flavor than a hot flavor. Now what else would help round out this flavoring and mix well with our espresso/milk combination and yet let the coffee flavor remain dominant. I went to my favorite place for flavor Inspiration – Penzy’s Spice. It’s a bit overwhelming and headache inducing your first time in the store, but it’s a treasure trove of goodness. (Yes I can get a little existential about food/coffee)

Keeping in mind the flavor descriptors of our espresso, I looked for anything to compliment and contrast those flavors. I finally landed on Chinese 5-spice powder and French Basil. After a few trials and willing guinea pig customers, the Winter Spice drink was put on the menu. As long as I could convince people to try it, they loved it. I can understand their concern. If I wasn’t adventurous with food, I wouldn’t think putting ‘pepper’ in my coffee would be very tasty either.

I’ve come the realization that Inspiration isn’t something I have to (or should) wait for. I can seek it out by putting myself in situations that are inspiring. Look at, read, listen to things that can lead me to Inspiration so I can let my Creativity out and make Art.

Now if I could only get inspired to clean my kitchen.

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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Creativity Guest Posts


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