Monday, August 08, 2011

I have a New Blog!

Just in case you've missed it, I wanted to share with all of you that I've started a new blog! Why? you may ask. Well, I wanted a place to write only about my thoughts on art and spirituality, to have a more focused purpose in writing a blog. So, I might still post here occasionally, but most of my time will be spent there. I've made a lot of good friends here, so I would love it if you would join me. Please click the link below. :)

(I've also written a little eBook called "What is it? A Short and Friendly Guide to Understanding Abstract Art." You can get that, free, on my new blog too.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Lessons from an illness

This is Sammy, the cat who recently adopted us.
I think I need to take lessons from him on how to really relax. :)

Looking at my last post a month later, it seems I focused only on the negative aspects of acute bronchitis. And while it was indeed frustrating to be so sick and so unable to paint, or really do anything much, for over a month, I did find something positive to hold onto from the experience. And I don't mean the cough that sometimes still plagues me.

What I learned during that time was the importance of being able to stop doing and just BE.

I rested, I got enough sleep at night, I drank a lot of tea, and I let myself not care that I wasn't getting anything done and just focused on self-care. I even gave up caffeine because it made me cough, and made it hard to get the rest I needed.

As a result when I did finally start to get well, I felt better than I had in years!

I don't consider myself to be a workaholic or anything like that, but I usually feel like I'm not doing enough, because all around me our high-paced high-paced modern society tells me that I really should be moving faster and doing more at once than I usually do. And even though I don't agree with that, I still can find myself feeling guilty when I'm not running full tilt. But because I was sick, and didn't really have a choice, I could LET myself act on my real beliefs. I could give myself time to be self-aware and take care of myself. I could LET myself not be pushed around by this culture of do, do, do.

These past few weeks I've been catching up on a lot of the things I couldn't do during that time. I'm back in the studio working on a couple of commissions, taking a marketing course, getting back to my Yoga classes, and steadily catching up on the neglected house and yardwork (since my husband was sick at the same time, we were lucky when we were able to get the dishes done, and much less mow the grass). And I can feel my lessons from illness fading.

So I'm writing this post to remind me of these lessons, and to keep them with me so I remember to make time for downtime before it's forced upon me. Downtime would probably be a lot more fun if I wasn't coughing up a lung. ;)

And what about you? Do you let the pace of our modern society guilt you into doing too much and not letting your self BE? Does it take an illness to let you feel like you can give yourself the gift of self-care?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Back to life...

The day after I wrote this post, I started having the same symptoms as my husband. I went to the doctor and luckily I didn't have pneumonia, but I did have acute bronchitis. And now, nearly a month later, I'm finally feeling truly well again. The bad news is that means that it's also been a month since I've painted. Now I'm facing a huge amount of Resistance to breaking free of illness-induced inertia and getting back to my life. I tried to go to my studio and paint one day last week, but my coughing just got in the way.

So, tomorrow, I'm going to try again. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pictures of Amocat Cafe Show

These are some pics I took after I got my show at Amocat Cafe all set up last week. My work will be on view there through the end of May, and there will be a "meet the artist" reception this Friday, April 29th from 5 - 7PM.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cafe show

After all that talk about routine and structure, this past couple of weeks it's all gone out the window. My husband didn't just have a bad cold, he came down with pneumonia(!) and suddenly my priority changed from being an artist to being a full-time caretaker. (How you mothers out there do this all the time I'll never know! Just a few days of it nearly sent me over the edge.)

So now trying to get back into the swing of things. I'm already getting back into my studio routine, so maybe by next week I'll be back on topic and routine with my blog too.

In the meantime I'd like to let you know about my upcoming art exhibit! It was originally scheduled for June, but got moved up to this month(!) so I've had to scramble a bit, but I should have everything ready to hang this Friday.

This is the postcard I just made for the show, and just sent off to be printed. The image is Ether Light, a painting that will be in the show and which I completed late last year. It's acrylic/mixed media on a 30" x 40" canvas. The location of the show is my favorite coffee house, Amocat Cafe, which also just happens to be right around the corner from my studio in downtown Tacoma. This is a very good thing! (Some mornings it's an essential thing.) My paintings will be on display there from April 16th - May 31st, and we're planning a "meet the artist" reception on April 29th, 5 - 7PM.

PS - this painting was a real bear to get a good photograph of, so I owe a huge thank you to local photographer Jason Ganwich for doing such a great job!

Friday, April 01, 2011

End of week check-in

I was going to write an end of month check in, and I probably still will, but today I just have to say that this week is really testing my patience. And I know that this is not going to show me in my best light, but I need to whine a little bit about it.

So last week, I lost a lot of studio time because I was sick. My husband got a much harsher version of whatever cold/flu/whatever I had and is still sick. I'm trying to be a patient caregiver, but I think I've hit the wall on that. He's been home, coughing and looking miserable, all but one day this week. I'm used to a certain amount of alone time during the week which helps me stay on an even keel, and this week I did not get that which has left me feeling very bristly. Because of his coughing, I'm running on broken sleep, and since he's needed the car, I've lost another two studio days. (Today he needed the car to finally go to the doctor, so hopefully it will be worth the lost day!) I also had an orthodontist appointment that meant I had to skip my Yoga class on Tuesday, and the adjustment to my braces is still hurting 3 days later, so that's not much fun either.

Thanks for listening. I'm ending the week on a very frustrated and disheartened note, but hoping for better next week.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thoughts on Routine: Part III

Okay, so after a week of most of what structure I've managed to build being dismantled (my catching a cold, my cat needing to go to the vet, my husband catching my cold), I will attempt to share what that structure (usually) is.

As I said before, my routine is a constant work-in-progress, but one aspect that has been a constant for several years is that I work best in the morning, so morning is my studio time.

Another constant has been that, in spite of heady visions of painting dawn til dusk (or heck, why not midnight), seven days a week, sustained by creativity and paint fumes alone, I can really only work for about three (or, on exceptional days, four) hours at a stretch. And it's almost impossible for me to return to painting once I've done that much. And as for the seven days a week? Well, not so much. A really good week is me working in my studio five days a week, but usually it's more like three or four.

The hardest lesson I've had to learn has been accepting this structure (and then remembering that I have accepted it). To not push myself to be somebody else in order to fulfill my unrealistic vision of what a "true artist" does all day (which only results in meltdowns and having to start over again). I'm sure there are some artists who work this way, but I'm learning that it's okay that I'm not one of them. When I was re-reading "Creating a Life Worth Living", one novelist that the author interviewed works in much the same way as I do (except he does write seven days a week and views weekends and holidays as annoyances). The day I read his interview I felt such a sense of relief. And when I next headed to the studio I gave myself permission to only stay for an hour or two. Ironically, I stayed longer and worked harder just knowing that I was allowed to work less!

Now, the rest of the day is another matter. When do I do marketing and research and all the stuff that surrounds the making of art but isn't the making of art? What about the parts of my life that aren't art-related? I'm still working on all that. I'm finding some tools that are helping me with all this, and I'll talk about those next week.

Friday, March 25, 2011

End of week check-in

This week wasn't so stellar. I had a cold (finally getting over that, I hope) and one of the cats had to suddenly go to the vet (she seems to be getting better too), so I only got to the studio one day this week - today.

But I'm not feeling too bad about this week. I think it's because I have a good feeling about where my art is going right now, and I managed to do some sketching and planning while I was stuck at home so I feel like I did accomplish something. And I've somehow managed to keep self-judgment in check so I can actually acknowledge that.

And, fourth week of two blog posts a week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts on Routine: Part II

color sketch "sprout", acrylic/pencil/oil pastel on paper

Last week, I wrote about wrestling with the concept of having a routine, finding a schedule that works for my creative life, and today I want to return to that topic because I have more thoughts about it.

One of the things I've found most helpful on this quest for a structure is hearing about other creatives' routines. Not only does this give me new ideas to try, but, more importantly, it reminds me that we are all different. And therefore we all have different approaches and techniques that work for us, and they are ALL VALID! What a relief!

Sometimes, when I forget this, I just get so overwhelmed with all the advice about how an artist should arrange their day, and so angry and judgmental with myself when I can't seem to live up to someone else's expectations about my structure. There is soooooo much advice out there - paint (or write, or sculpt, or…) every day, paint first thing when you wake up, stay in the studio all day every day, treat it like a 9-5 job, etc, etc. And don't even get me started on how we're told we should use the internet. I'm not saying these are bad ideas, I'm just saying that they are not one size fits all. And trying to keep up with some of these ideas just because we think we should, well, it just causes pain.

Thankfully, I was re-reading yet another of my books about the creative life (Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd). Throughout the book she interviews creatives of all types in all sorts of fields (novelists, artists, filmmakers, designers…), and they are all successful, and they are all different. Some rise early and create for several hours, others work 2 or 3 hours at the same time each day, and one writer only works when the urge to write becomes too strong to ignore, usually at the end of the day.

And then today in my Yoga class, my instructor had us meditate on this topic of structure and expectations, internal and external, mental and physical. She allowed as how structure can be a good thing, but when held to too rigidly and without consciousness, it can also cause painful constriction. She reminded us to pay attention to what is and to release expectations of what we think it should be. By letting go of expectations, we can actually move beyond those expectations.

Next week I'll try to share my structure (a constant work-in-progress) with you. I'd love to learn about yours too!


Friday, March 18, 2011

End of week check-in

This week was much better.

I spent quality time in my studio three days this week, and the other two I got to spend with my husband when he returned from his business trip to Austin. I even went to my studio this morning in spite of some strong Resistance that was telling me, quite reasonably, that my time would be better spent at home today.

I was rewarded for my persistence with a note from my studiomate telling me how much she loved the painting I had just completed yesterday! She's never left a note like that before, and it really made my day. :)

And, week three of two blog posts per week!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts on Routine

color sketch - acrylic/pencil/oil pastel on paper

Recently I've been wrestling a lot with the topic of Routine. Schedule. Habit. Trying to set one up, trying to keep to it, and oftentimes just plain giving up on it as soon as I get just a little bit distracted. Since I stopped being anyone's "employee" about five years ago, this has probably been my biggest challenge. I don't have anyone to tell me what to do but me, and I'm a very lenient boss.

Why do I keep trying? Because I know that I can't just wait for Inspiration to strike, or she never will. When I do go to my studio consistently, I might have three crappy days of painting followed by one fantastic day, and I know that the fantastic day was only possible because of the foundation I built by showing up for the three crappy days. And if I don't schedule the necessary time for this, then I don't treat it with the respect it needs and I'm too easily talked into doing other things and letting other people's scheduling needs trump my own.

Something I am finally learning though, through oft repeated and torturous lessons, is that my scheduling needs are just as real. I may not have to report to an employer, but I do have to pay respect to my Muse or she gets really miffed.

But I also know that if I push myself too hard to meet my (unrealistic) scheduling expectations that I burn out and give Resistance a crack to wedge itself into. So what I'm really seeking here is balance. But how to achieve this balance?

I'm working on it, and it's made me very curious about other creatives' routines. Do you have a routine? Do you work on your art every day? At a set time? For a set number of hours? Or as the muse takes you? What really gets in your way? Do you have any tricks to get yourself working even when you're not in the mood? I'd really like to know.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another check-in

So this week wasn't quite the gold star week I was planning on. First, there was the giving in to Resistance I spoke of in my last post. Then I had an orthodontist appointment the following day. And then the day after that Wade unexpectedly needed our car for work (and I was too lazy and wimpy to brave the cold, wet day and take a bus), so I didn't get to my studio until yesterday. I did go then, and I went again today, and I might even go tomorrow. Usually Saturday is errand day for Wade and me, but he's in Austin at SXSW Interactive this weekend, enjoying temperatures in the mid 70s and margaritas – oh, I guess he's working too ;), so I'm thinking I might restructure my weekend a bit.

And, this makes two blogposts this week.

So, not a complete loss, but want to do better next week.

Monday, March 07, 2011

More Resistance

Order Out of Chaos, acrylic/mixed media on canvas, 24" x 18", ©2010

Today, Resistance got the better of me again.

After having such a great week last week, my guard was down and Resistance struck. It struck by weakening my resolve through lack of sleep (got up at 4:00 this morning and couldn’t really get back to sleep), and through it’s strongest tool and ally, Fear. I’m about to start a new series of paintings and I’m scared that I won’t be able to do it, scared that I’ll fail. And since I was feeling pretty sure of myself after earning that gold star last week, I let consciously re-committing to my work slide, and my focus and intention became unclear.

Result: muddle-headed fuzziness. Fuzzy muddle-headedness? Either way, you get the idea.

After a couple of hours of wallowing in the fuzziness, I made some coffee and set about reclaiming what I could of the day. I knew that studio time wasn’t going to happen, so I decided to focus on the stuff that surrounds my painting time but that I procrastinate doing, often to the point of forgetting all about it. In addition to some other things, I’m preparing a couple more submissions for competitions, I’m writing this blog post, and I might even get around to updating my website a little.

So, not the day I’d hoped for, but not a total waste either. At least I didn’t give in to the pull of the sofa magnet.

I’ve been working with some tools lately that are helping me to work through Resistance (though, obviously, it’s a constant fight) and I’ll write about those soon. For now I would like to share with you one of the most powerful quotes I found in The War of Art:

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work.

–Steven Pressfield

Friday, March 04, 2011

End of week check-in

I'm working on a longer blogpost, but since I want to stick with my goal of writing two posts a week (and I might not finish writing it in time) I've decided to have a brief check-in here.

My priority for this week was to get my focus back on my art, treat it with more of a professional attitude:
• Went to my studio and painted every day this week!
• Photographed some of my new pieces and entered a competition.

I also wanted to work on setting and meeting goals, and on reaching out to people:
• Posted one of the two promised blogposts earlier this week, and this is the second. And I am working on another.
• Commented on friends' blogs for the first time in months.
• My husband and I made plans to go to the movies with friends tomorrow.

I think I've earned a gold star. :)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The War of Art

color sketch: tempera/pencil/crayon

“The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” –Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

As I said in my last post, I am giving blogging another try. Kind of at a a loss as to where to start. I guess I’ll just start with where I am.

It’s a familiar place, one I’ve been to many, too many, times - stopped in my tracks by Resistance.

A couple of weeks ago, I let down my guard and I caved to Resistance: that lying voice whose purpose is to keep the artist from doing her work, and which sounds only too reasonable once it gets hold of your insecurities and fears. As a result, I only managed to get to my studio one time in over two weeks! Of course, the longer I was away, the worse I felt and the harder it was to go back.

Finding myself unable to combat this bout of Resistance on my own, I turned once again to the book that taught me to call it that in the first place, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. What a lifesaver this book has been! I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of it when I was still a bookseller about nine years ago, and I turn to it again and again as I traverse this strange path I’ve chosen.

When I was only about 20 pages in, I could already feel myself getting stronger, and I knew I’d be back in the studio in no time. (Which I am!) It also made me realize that not only is Resistance holding me back in the studio, it’s keeping me from getting really serious about putting my work out there. I’ve let it stop me from setting goals for myself, and from truly treating my art as a career.

That stops now.

Since I’ve decided to blog at least twice a week this month (a goal!), you’ll be hearing about how I’m working toward achieving this. I know I’m not the only person struggling with Resistance - everybody does. It’s my hope that by sharing my journey, I can help others too.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's try that again...

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that I had a horrible day yesterday. It all had to do with a car repair that took way to long and me being stranded in a coffee house in another city all day. Seriously, SEVEN hours! Anyway, I've already gone over that story many times, to anyone who would listen, in order to try and vent the anger and frustration away, so now I want to focus on something good (I think) that came out of it.

Actually, I was kind of surprised by how deeply this whole experience upset me. Sure, anger at being treated poorly and frustrated that my day was wasted seemed natural, and I was a bit worried because it was snowing so I was afraid I'd be trapped away from home because of the delay. But it went further than that and I started to experience a bit of a meltdown sitting there in that coffee house. After about the 5 hour mark, I could barely think of anything but how alone (in the world) I felt, and, not to be overly dramatic or anything, I became nearly consumed by fear and panic. Even after I got home and was safely ensconced in my warm bed I felt pretty shaky.

Okay, so that doesn't sound so good, does it. (And it's probably made at least a few of you wonder whether I should look into changing my meds.) Well, the good part is I think it's motivated me to move beyond my hermit tendencies and try to reach out more to people, including here on the internet (thus, this blogpost). There have been times when blogging has actually intensified my feelings of aloneness, so this is a test. In order to really give it a fair test, I am committing to blogging at least two times a week for the month of March.

Please, don't leave me hanging. If you're out there and you're reading this, please let me know I am actually not alone by leaving comments to these postings. Even just a "hi" would suffice (or a "like" if you come across them on Facebook).

Thank you for your time and patience, and for still being there after my long absence.