8-Week Class: Understanding Your Creative Process

Daniel-Tidwell-300x200Drawing from a background studying literature, anthropology, art, psychology, and spirituality, my work is to journey with you in order to help you listen to your own creative process, your relational style, and your body; in order to better understand what helps you thrive as an artist.

“Tell me about the shape of your creative practice, and I will tell about the shape of your art.”

This is a bold, audacious claim. It is born out of my own experience as an artist and writer. It’s a belief that has been slowly formed through my work with students as a tutor, a teacher, and a fellow practitioner of writing arts.


I am thoroughly convinced that the world is in need of storytellers and artists; poets and prophets, who give birth to beauty and art that unsettles, disrupts, and helps us see anew. And I am just as committed to the belief that our capacity to create compelling art is intimately connected to our ability to stay engaged in our own personal process.


In this class, you will partner with other writers and artists, in a challenging and safe environment, to reflect on, assess, and strengthen your own creative process. You will identify your own strengths and blockages, and will be led through practices to keep you growing as an artist, and to get you un-stuck by working with resistance when it shows up in your work.


Through nonjudgmental attention to what your practice looks like now, we can work together to build on your strengths and to support your cultivation of a thriving artistic process. By attending to who you are becoming through your practice as an artist, you’ll witness your work itself unfold and flourish from a place of courage and authenticity.


This is an invitation to risk–risk to see how a process more aligned to nourishing the shape of your authentic self will change the shape of your work.

Daniel Tidwell is a writer, visual artist, teacher, and theologian, living in Seattle, WA. For the past decade he has worked as a writing tutor, peer instructor, and teacher (among other things). Daniel holds a B.A. in English and Theology, a Master of Divinity, and is currently a student in the Doctor of Ministry program at Seattle University where he is concentrating in spiritual direction. His research focuses on practices of self-care and resilience for artists and writers seeking to create social change. 

Registration Information:

  • 8-week, 2-hour “Understanding Your Creative Process” class meets weekly. Next session will meet Sept and OctClass is located in Seattle, WA.
  • This class is recommended for beginners and practicing artists of all levels. Classes will involve writing exercises, body awareness/movement exercises, and written reflections, but is appropriate for writers and artists of any creative discipline.
  • Cost $30/weekly or $220/course. Up to 3 need-based scholarship seats are available each session.
  • Seats are limited to the first 15 students registered.
  • For any questions and to register, email danielctidwell@gmail.com.
  • This course is taught in English. courses are open to persons age 16 and older of any faith, gender, ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or citizenship status. All learners and instructors are expected to engage with respect for all persons. Written and physical activities will be adapted for the skill level and abilities of those in the class. I am not currently able to offer translation services or guarantee a scent-free environment for those who require those accommodations.

Lent 2015 Week 4: Time

Waiting. Texture. Desert. Time.

IMG_1783How far will we wander in order to go around that part of the story we want to avoid?

What does it take before we follow the contour of turning, to trust our riverbed longing, to receive provision from a source we don’t expect?


The concepts and techniques for this piece have been growing in me for some time. But my capacity to create it had to be born.

There’s a learning curve to trust–to reaching out and looking up; raking fingers across the grit of our deep need for provision.


And I wonder where your own lenten journey has been taking you.


What are you avoiding so, that it drives you into the desert?

What path is being carved out in you by wind and water and time?


And what do we make of our journeys together?–journeys cultural and agricultural; journeys of avoiding neighbors, making them enemies; journeys of faithfulness and breaking faith as we seek to find some way to come through alive, shaded by incarnate spectre of rising sea, eroding soils, and toxic concentrations of the byproducts of our own misguided wanderings through the world.

Where will you look, when you go looking for provision?

Who’s body is beside you keeping time, as you trace out the texture of this journey?


Lent 2015 Week 3: Yeast

During Lent, I am working as the Artist in Residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle. Each week, I install a participative, kinetic piece of artwork connected to the week’s lectionary texts and the theme “Becoming Whole.”

Each week of this residency has posed its own challenges and joys. This week’s element has proven to be the most challenging one, conceptually, to link to the themes of “becoming whole,” the lectionary readings, and the children’s Godly Play story.

Combining the previous elements of water and wheat, this week we set out a bowl of dough beside an open widow between our worship space and the memorial garden where the ashes of many beloved community members are interred. Our action completed, there is nothing left for us but Sabbath–the fullness and wholeness-making of waiting, breathing, and watching the action of the world unfold.

And quietly–in plain sight for those who know how to slow down and look for it–the hidden mysteries of bodies in motion, transform substances and labor into another kind of wholeness altogether. The reality is that the yeast is present, active, working when we can neither see it, or force it to do its hidden work.

For today’s installation there were three movements or actions of prayer:

First, there were the hidden actions–performed by Rosie and me. While the congregation gathered and began the liturgy in the adjoining worship space. The two of us moved our bodies throughout a curtained-off storage area, hanging textiles and creating a sculpture out of water and paper bulletins from the previous weeks of Lent. Our movements were governed by intentionality–driven by the understanding that the piece of art was not the end result of our manipulation of matter in the space. Instead, the art was that we were moving at all–using our bodies to shape something in the hiddenness of a forgotten non-space.

Below is a time lapsed video of this week’s piece.

Second, the congregation was invited, at the time of the third reading, to enter the storage space. The moving partition (a green accordion curtain) was retracted to reveal the evidence of our bodies’ action in the space. In this movement, the congregation was invited to participate through bearing witness to the presence of our bodies and our work. Once the last person exited the space, the partition was closed and we continued with the service.

Finally, the third movement occurred when I joined the children in the Godly Play room. There, we began with a prayer of three breaths, the youngest child leading us in breathing deeply together, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Next, we quietly (and not so quietly) and slowly (and not so slowly) explored the room. We paid attention to what we saw, heard, smelled, and felt. We walked around on tiptoes and on our knees. We shared what we noticed differently as we slowed down and moved through the space in different ways. Some noticed air moving; others commented on the Christ candle’s flame; we were all aware of each others’ bodies moving in the space. Finally, we ended by again praying the prayer of three breaths.

The purpose of each of these actions is, of course, to experientially reorient us to the liturgy, and to call us to turn, to stop, to wonder, and to look deeper into the mystery of how this Lenten journey orients us toward living in our bodies with God and the world as we become more whole.

The actual sculpture part of this week’s work was a playful engagement with the Old Testament concerns with Sabbath, the Psalm’s imagery of a bridegroom’s pavilion and the hidden work of bees, and the gospel’s question about the permanence and impermanence of the temple structure and the mystery of Jesus’ own body as sacred location transformed by death and resurrection.

To get at these things, I wanted to invoke something of a tabernacle, a sacred place of impermanence. I also wanted the hanging fabric to call back memories of crawling into the temporary spaces created by children–living room tents made of couch cushions and tablecloths; or to recast as sacred, the simple rhythms of daily work, like drying laundry.

In the middle of this, the focal point is a hollow tear drop shape, hung in the open doorway of a closet. The shape is formed out of paper bulletins intercepted from the recycling bin, and soaked in water. These sheets of paper, made both pliable and fragile, are then wrapped around a spiral of wire suspended in the air. Inside this semi-transparent structure, hangs a glass bowl, foaming with active yeast and kept warm by the glow of candle, hung below it, an icon of Mary, orans, bears wit(h)ness to the silent actions of papery shelter, water, yeast, and flame.


I wanted to glimpse something of the whimsy, fragility, and sensual holiness of the hidden movements–the secret life of the world–working while we Sabbath, to birth a new wholeness, expanding in precious breath and bodies. Creating this piece, I kept finding myself caught by the presence of moisture, heat, fibers, gasses, light & dark, and time. I am called back to my own body–to remember, that the piece of art is not a static end result, it is the prayer of movements and presence, of bodies and witnesses, of breathing together and slowing down to notice what it is hidden in plain sight.

I am devastated, undone, enchanted, and in awe at the fragility of our bodied life in the world–the tender strength of tissues stretched, of love and ligament, of water and breath that holds us together in sacred communion with one another and the earth. These are holy gifts for holy people.

Lent 2015 Week 2: Wheat

This series of posts represent my weekly reflections and creative process as Artist in Residence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle. The liturgical theme for the season is “Becoming Whole.” This week’s installment focused on working with wheat.

Choices. Grind the grain or plant the seed?

Choices. Breed the wheat for better bread or for easier production.

Yield–to the demand for more or wait, for the divergent genius of genetics to produce another measure by which to judge what is most productive. Today’s bread. Tomorrow’s bread. Both necessary for survival. And spectres of scarcity stalk our pauce imagination.

This week, we are tossed into questions of dependency and promise. Do we trust to faithfulness or take matters into our own hands, forcing our way into what we see as best? It is necessary to eat today, and it is necessary to save seed, plant, and harvest for each day’s tomorrow. And in this dance, how should we understand God’s faithful action in covenant relationship with the world? And how do we understand our own faithful action in response to deep complexity of the needs of our communities?

This week’s installation is another interactive piece called “Ground of Being.” It is a piece experienced in two parts. Congregants are invited to make a choice, to respond from their own locatedness and make the choice: grind grain for bread, or plant seeds for wheat. The wheat berries for both, drawn from the same central bowl. All the while, I kneel on the floor and keep the time, moving my hands in and out, through and with the grain. For this week’s e-installment, I recorded a video of myself, doing the same sort of action.

Frankly, the work with the grain is oddly sensuous–inviting a different experience of the passage of time being marked with my body as I interact with the grain in the middle of a group of people moving around me, taking the same seeds and burying it in soil or grinding it into flour. There’s an intimacy to the action, touching these grains longer than I ever would to simply plant, harvest, grind, knead, or chew.

The video is uncomfortably long. The rhythms, changing speeds, emotions, and movements call out for us to linger. What timetable does the body want on this journey of becoming whole?

Typically, I only experience such prolonged connection with these seeds once they are inside of my body. To externalize this intimacy and dependence and bring it into the public worship space was profound for me as the artist. My desire with this work is to press us into the bind and promise of our interactions on both sides of bodily provision. How are we faithful? How is faithfulness extended to us? What is the relationship between our own reception of sustenance and wholeness and the ability to participate in the wholeness-making of future generations?

What surprised me was the vulnerability of slowing down and drawing so much attention to my body’s relationship with food in the middle of community. I wondered if my body’s work in the space would be enough–if it would fill up what was being asked of me as an artist in relationship with this community. Do these sacramental movements provide the kind of sustenance our bodies need–the real presence of Christ–in the shadows of scarcity that we all face in particular ways?

I welcome the responses and engagements of those who engaged the piece in person or via the video.