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September 2013

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Life and art...

We've been discussing life and its effects on our creativity on the Everyday Matters discussion list, and the subject hits home at present.  If you are not a member of that lovely and supportive list--where I have made some truly wonderful art friends--it's here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/everydaymatters/ (for some reason Firefox is on strike and it wouldn't make a live link, sorry...)

Life--stress, busy-ness, business, exhaustion, depression, loss, illness, obligations, worries, and even lovely things like vacations or big life events--all these affect us.  All of them can get in the way of our ability or our willingness to make art.

Funny, the article on painting through pain I wrote for Watercolor Magic a few issues ago got the greatest response of anything I've ever done in the public forum.  I BELIEVE in doing that.  It HELPS, and I know it.  It directs our attention outside, it allows us to focus, it distracts us from the squirrel-cage concerns that have us blocked.  I painted and sketched through my husband's illness and death, 10 years ago.  I sketched through my own surgery scares, last year, drawing the cat scan and X-ray machines and even drew as the anaesthetic took effect, pre-surgery.  I've sketched or painted through every major life event for the past 30 years.  It HELPED.

So why is it so difficult right now?

I want to.  I think of things I'd like to do.  I bought flowers to paint, and they're brown and dead now, unpainted.  Yesterday the plan was, since the weather was too grim to paint plein air, to go out to lunch and paint indoors, in our old historic hotel, or in my friends' tea room at Scandinavian Country.  But what did I do?  Curled up in bed, ate crackers and cream cheese,  and read.  For the second time this week. 

For a workaholic who firmly believes in work as a cure for what ails you, this is odd.  For someone who knows the healing power of art, it is MORE than odd.

Yes, I've painted this week--three little sketches, all three of which have been shared here.  But it was hard.  My heart isn't in it.

Today it's sunny; the crocuses have shivered their way out of the frozen ground and tiny pale green spears contrast to the burnt umber soil.  There are a thousand things I could do.  I hope I find the energy or the incentive to get out there.

Comments

i have to rejoin all my lists including Everyday Matters.I can't get on them now that i've changed one of my yahoo email addresses to make Flickr happy.
I should visit groups more..i feel like a hermit!
Finally backing up to answer this post! Life kind of swirled on...

Sometimes feeling like a hermit doesn't sound all that bad.*G* But yeah, Yahoo can be a pain...
Maybe you need to allow yourself "quiet time," perhaps to grieve for Moggy?

Or perhaps you're just processing Spring Fever early...?
I probably did...but I mostly worked through it.*rg* Thank you, girl...
i believe that sometimes the body just reflects what's going on in one's life. you have had so much going on the last few months that your poor physical being just needs to catch up. i used to "hit the pits" every three or four months, and i would have about two days of dark, deep depression. i'd just tell the family to leave me alone, and assure them that i just needed to wallow for a while. after another day or so, i was fine. ironically, i've done some of my most prolific writing during those really dark times. and out of the dark comes new light, new vision, and new breath.

i prescribe another day of triscuits and cream cheese. then you can kick yourself in the sofa, and do stuff. even the toughest need to recharge, you little dynamo, you!

Forget crackers: Sit and have a cupcake, dear!

I think I agree with our friend Ms. Normal - give yourself time to be sad, for heaven's sake! What with the sweet kitty and all the drama with the people around you, perhaps you need time to get over being stressed. You wouldn't want to burn out, right?

That being said, I agree that I myself usually 'work through the pain' - only lately I've seen the wisdom in taking life a little more slow and deliberate when things get really crazy.

Re: Forget crackers: Sit and have a cupcake, dear!

Definitely do NOT want to burn out, you're right. Been there, don't like it!

A cupcake sounds like a marvelous idea. Chocolate, with cream cheese filling...oh yeah...
Heh. I didn't feel much like a dynamo, but I had SO much stuff I had to deal with that I just had to DEAL with it. Two days lying about was all I could manage...

Interesting about your darkness bringing forth such fruit though!

(Anonymous)

I agree with Abbie. You've got to listen when your body and spirit tell you they need a rest from doing visible things. I'm quite sure there's a lot going on in your psyche that you can't see yet, but it will all surface soon enough.
The darkest hour is before the dawn. Rest. Rest and trust in your process.
Xoxo,
Xoxa
Thank you, sweet Xoxa. I wish I had had time for more...I'm feeling a bit blurry around the edges! I did have to take it some easier though, because my back hurt like crazy! It's still a bit twinge-y, but better...
From your most recent post it sounds like things have improved and you're up and around but I thought I share a couple thoughts. First, it sounds like you're dealing with some really hard life and death stuff, which is exhausting and scary so give yourself a break!

When I have those rare days when I don't want to do ANYTHING, including art, I know that I've reached the bottom of the well and it's time to refill it. I've also learned that when I'm tired, things that might seem fun and easy seem like impossible challenges. I've tried to stop pushing and trust that those days are rare and temporary (I'm pretty driven too so I know how scary it feels to not feel that drive to Do).

I've also been thinking a lot lately about how you're one of the rare watercolor artists/teachers who have been at it a good while and are still actually in the trenches, so to speak, painting and drawing on a regular basis. The teacher whose workshop I recently attended admitted to only doing 2 paintings a year, and teaching the rest of the time, like most of her peers.

You are much more of an inspiration to me because you still have the love and desire for the doing of the art, not just the teaching. I think so many of the "Workshop Circuit" watercolor gurus don't really paint more than a couple "real" paintings a year to enter in shows to keep up their signature memberships to give them street cred for doing their workshop. They've found their niche and they do their little show-offy thing at the workshops and demos.

But you just keep on painting and drawing and learning and generously sharing what you know and learn, with the world, but as a working artist, not just a workshop guru.

So take it easy, refill the well, nurture yourself and the energy and workahohlic drive will be back soon, I promise (and know it from experience!)
Jana
You gave me a great deal of food for thought, Miss Jana! I've been mulling over your answer for a day or two...it really blew me out of the water. (And I'm not really good at giving myself a break, but I gave it my best shot.)

(Well, not actually my BEST, but a shot anyway. Mostly I got back to work on the classes...)

I can tell that you're driven, too, so your viewpoint is especially valuable to me. I hate dreading my work, and thinking of something I want to paint and then think...naaah, not really. So much more wonderful when the sight of morning light on your kitchen sink makes you itch for a paintbrush!

I am REALLY amazed about the teachers on the workshop circuit painting so little! I enjoy teaching, but basically I teach to EAT, and I paint because I have to. Want to. Need it. I'd paint whether I taught or not, and did, all those years I wasn't teaching or showing or anything but painting. (And writing books and articles, to eat, but you know what I mean...) I can't imagine how dry and joyless it would become if I ONLY did it for demonstration purposes.

That's why I do books the way I do. I usually paint FIRST, maybe with a very rough idea of what I need to cover, but THEN I write the text. If I painted to fit the words, they'd become mere illustrations, and I'd hate them. (Not that I haven't worked as a commercial illustrator, I have, and I've enjoyed it. But I need to paint TOO.)

And FWIW, I don't enter shows, generally speaking, and I don't have signature memberships in anything. I was in Watercolor USA a couple of times back in the 70s or early 80s (I think! Don't hold me to dates!) but the anxiety level's too much for me. Just don't care about being a signature whatever...I wanna paint.*G*

And truthfully, I didn't like what it did to my ego. I'm horrendously competitive, so the best way to prevent that kind of ugly (for me) situation is not to compete, except with myself.*GG* (I'm not even any fun to play chess with.*G*)

I don't think I'd ever really be a workshop guru, anyway, really. I used to get SOOOooo nervous and anxious. I'd make myself sick! I'd lose my voice the first day! I think you have to be a special kind of sociable, and I'm not...kind of a hermit. That's why teaching online works so well!! LOVE it.

Mind you, I'm thinking about teaching a workshop or two in person, coming up in the next year or two. I love the travel part, and the seeing new places!*GG* But I'll get stage fright, sure as anything...

Anyway, sweet thing, thank you so much for the kind words...