Thursday, August 13, 2015

Taking a Break


I've been talking about taking a break from my art.  So much so that I was beginning to wonder if I should quit blogging or just change the name of my blog to something with "caretaking" in the title.  It's given me a new perspective on my art.  How important it is. And isn't.  (life is like that--with all that contradiction!)

my brother asleep on the couch before we left--
Thankfully, this caretaker got a much needed break.  My brother graciously took care of my dad for a week and my husband and I took a little road trip.  Now you know I love a road trip!!  We decided to pack up the car and the bikes and take a bike tour of each place we stopped. What I won't do is bore you with the details.  What I will do is tell you I was able to sketch quite a few times during our trip.  I went ahead and packed my supplies as an after thought, not sure I would even take them out.  The  last few times they sat in the suitcase.  This time I took some time to sketch and once I started I found the spontaneity of sketching very enjoyable.  


Tom taking a little time to fly fish.  Its hard to sketch things
are in motion, but that's half the fun!


Tom is very patient while I sketch and I think he could tell that the time I spent doing that was recharging my batteries. As I got into the second day I began to get excited to find what I could paint next as a memory for that day. I've taken sketchbooks on most of our vacations, but it's hard to find time unless the person you are with is tolerant of your passion!  Luckily, Tom has a few of his own!






I planned to infuse our trip with art by stopping at galleries along the route (we never hit even one!!) and the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, we stayed to long in the Ohiopyle State Park and didn't get time to see the museum, but I will get there someday!  One of the highlights for me was a trip to Falling Waters, the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright home designed for the Kaufman family.  We have visited Taliesin in Phoenix and one in Chicago, so I have a list I am ticking off.  To say that it was amazing is understating.  From an artistic/creative point of view, the man was genius.  It's just my opinion--but wow!!  He definitely thought outside the box and had vision.  I have been bowled over every time.  The highlight of this tour was sketching the house from the vantage point below the falls, the view that is most famous.  I only had about 20 minutes to rough it in and get a bit of color and I finished from a photo in the hotel later.  I wish now that I had left the sketch rough and unfinished as it was when I left.  I never like the paintings I do from photos as well as those from life, but I have this need to "finish" them!  Maybe some day I will learn! 


Visiting Falling Waters got me thinking about how "living a creative life" is all encompassing.  Creativity is all around us if we have eyes to see.  Wright was famous for designing homes that echoed the elements of the nature that surrounded it.  Using those same elements in the design and construction, he sought to bring an organic feel to his design. He pioneered "open concept" living and among many quirky ideas, felt bedrooms should have low ceilings and be small to envelope you and make you feel secure while also feeling confining so you would spend most of your time in the open spaces.  How often do you think of your environment in those types of creative ways?  As I reflected on his view about how important our surroundings are, I was challenged to look at art with different eyes.  That house was art, with a capital A. In the bookstore I even picked up a small booklet with sketches and architectural drawings for many of his most famous designs.  I love the drawings that were at the time only concepts on paper.  The beginnings or fleshing out of ideas.  Concepts made visible on paper before they were made out of physical materials.  It made me value my sketchbooks all the more meaningful.

Home now, I need another vacation because biking, touring and driving everyday were exhausting!  I told my husband that our next trip will be by a beach with a book and a drink with an umbrella in it!!  But this was a nice break and gave me some time to indulge my creative side. Taking time away gives you fresh eyes and an appreciation for the every day.  And it's good to be home again!!  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gifts of Time


I have been given a gift.  The gift of time away from the art I love.  Time away helps us appreciate things.  I think it had become so much of my identity that I lost some of the other parts of me.  I mourned like a spoiled child for a while.  Even though I chose to care for my dad, and I knew it wouldn't be easy, I didn't expect to lose my desire to make art!  It was probably depression at first.  Then I lapsed into apathy.  Now that things are more routine I just don't have time.  Other things have taken it's place.  And its Okay.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Art, Life, Work, Blogging, Caretaking and What I've Learned About Myself...

The other day my dad asked me why I didn't paint anymore. I was a little surprised he noticed since his memory continues to slip away.  I told him I was a little too busy right now.  But I'm not too busy to fit in other things.  So why don't I paint anymore?

I read a blog the other day by another artist who was so candid about his personal fears and past/present experiences, I was inspired by the courage that took.  So I decided to be a little more courageous here.  And tell you why my blog has been so quiet.

I think to everything there is a season.  I miss teaching and painting, especially plein air.  I miss blogging about it.  You can't (or I can't) keep a blog fresh with new subject matter if you're not in the game.  And for a while, I was angry I didn't have the time or energy to do those things.  But even when I found the time, I didn't do them.  It was then I realized it was a choice I've made to do other things.  More important things.  

Caring for dad has been life changing.  I've realized how selfish I am.  I've realized how blessed I am. I've realized how sad aging is and how devastating Alzheimer's can be. But I've also been given a gift of time with my dad that I wouldn't trade for any painting!  We are very fortunate his mind has stayed as stable as it has.  It could be from my stellar care taking, (if you know me, you know thats a little joke. I'm doing the best I can.  Some days are better than others) but more likely from the drugs and the fact that dad always kept himself physically fit and was mentally always sharp as a tack.  While his mind continues to fade, it's his body that will ultimately betray him. He's ninety, it's not a shock. But I'm noticing tremors in his hands and the shuffling of his feet is worsening.  Recently, a bout of pneumonia nearly took him from us. 

I tell you this on a blog about living a creative life, why?  Well, because once an artist, always an artist!  Adapting is the name of the game in life.  Many times I've had students entering a new stage in life and wanting to fulfill their passion to paint.  Often I had students with illness or disability use my classes to take their mind off their illness or condition.  Some use it to strengthen their minds or coordination. One student told me that as she aged, she knew she would always be able to find a pencil and paper, so it was a skill she could do no matter where she went or how life changed!  That's so true!  So why am I not using my art more to cope, as therapy or as an outlet?

The truth is,  I could find the time if I wanted to.  To be fair, I haven't "quit".  It's just that my time is not my own so much now.  Much like going back to work full time and just not having enough free time to fulfill all the many passions I have!  Someone asked me how my art was going and as I began to tell them it really wasn't, my hubby jumped in and reminded me (as he told them) that I'm out in the garden and in our home creating beauty, just in a different medium!  How sweet was that?  

So it's true that life has limits.  I traded one thing for something else much more valuable.  I have those skills and when the time is right, I will make use of them again as God calls me to my next challenge!   While my focus may have changed, my passion to create hasn't.  I believe we are created in God's image and the first thing God tells us He did was create.  That means it's important!  I am happiest when I am creating, but even God took a break!  

So since this blog is titled "Living a Creative Life" not "A Painting A Day", maybe I'll post some other ways I've been living a creative life.  Art is everywhere if we just have eyes to see.  I believe we need to surround ourselves with beauty and creativity.  In our homes, our yards, our minds, with what we read and how we entertain ourselves.  In everything.  Art enriches our everyday life and as the auto signature for my emails says "Art washes the dust from everyday life"--Picasso.  

I think a lot of the art I used to do was driven by the need for new work to show, enter competitions or teach a new class.  I think those things were very helpful to keep me painting and putting my work out there.  I saw improvement through the years and I had some small success.  It was rewarding, but if I wasn't married to such a hard working guy, I couldn't have ever made a living out of it without a lot more effort.  I'm sure I would have been a Sunday painter with a "real" job. I also noticed that when it becomes something you must do, even art becomes work.  Even if you love it.  Work, well, is work.  And work is good.  I just think some people have this idea that to do what you love never has a down side. 

Anyway, I digress.  Take away all that impetus to make art and I'm left with my own ambition.  I've learned I'm not that ambitious!  I have plenty of time to make art.  So why don't I?  Why does it create stress for me to think about making art?  I don't know.  I simply have no answer for it.  One of my favorite quotes and something I'm continually reminded is "The only constant is change."  And in time, this too shall pass, I'm certain of it.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just Do It!

Sometimes, you have to "just do it"!  Remember those old Nike commercials?  If you're too young-Google it! But what if you're not inspired?  We all struggle at some time to get into the studio. What do you do if  you find yourself putting it off?   I don't know about you, but I have a million reasons not to paint.  Here are a few things that derail studio time and how to get around it.

The studio.  Or the kitchen table as the case may be.  What is a studio?  If you have a dedicated space for your art, consider yourself lucky.  If you have to set up and clean everything up each time in order to use that space for something else, that in itself will be a good excuse to never start. I would suggest, if at all possible, finding a small area where you can leave your art supplies out.  A place for your art to call home.  If this is not possible, there are ways to make it easier to make art.  For quite a while I kept a sketchbook, paints, brushes and a palette in a bag stuffed in a closet.  It was accessible and at the ready but also easy to pack back up and put away.  I transitioned from that set up to a card table in the family room.  That way my unfinished paintings could call to me! My point is, make it easy to access your supplies and you will be more likely to get them out and make art!

Fear.  Its real.  It’s silly, but real.  Ask yourself--Could it be fear? Fear of failure? I tend to expect each attempt at painting to produce a masterpiece. What if I bomb?  You will.  Why can’t paint the way I want? You won't every time, or maybe not right away.  Maybe your expectations are unreal. (We can't all be Monet.) But that’s silly and I’m going to give you some ideas to help you get painting again.

You know you need more time in the studio (practice) —but you avoid the studio because you cant paint the way you want.  You cant paint the way you want, because you don't get in the studio! And so the cycle goes.  The effect is that you never even start.  How do we get past the fear?  You silence the voices that tell you you are no good.  Who really cares?  So you aren’t Picasso?  Who is? What constitutes good art?  Who says what is good and what is not?  Dare I say, YOU DO!!  So stop beating your art up! Let go of all the negative feelings and thoughts and let the art be art just because it is!  Art is expression.  Nothing more or less.  And your expression is just a valuable and good as anyone’s. So kick the fear to the curb and make some art. 

Start small.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.   Do one small painting a week, or a month or a day.  A small work.  A large sheet of white paper or canvas is scary!  A 4 x 6 postcard size piece of paper is doable!  In fact, its easy.  It takes less than an hour (unless you’ve got serious perfectionism issues!)  and is not very scary to fill a smaller format.  By working small you don’t feel you are wasting expensive materials.  You are free to experiment and be imperfect.  Imperfection is a gift you give yourself. (see the above paragraph about fear) Trust me.  When you learn to embrace your imperfect self and your imperfect art, you can learn to love whatever you do.  It frees you to bravely express yourself! And working small helps us take small bites of time to do what we love.  

Do what you love.  If you do what you love, your more likely to enjoy yourself. But if you don’t like what you produce, keep at it!  I’ve never been able to do a crocus to my liking.  So, in keeping with my own advice,  I finally put my studio together, (I've had it torn up for nearly two years) silenced my inner critic, and got in the studio to paint some small paintings. I love flowers and spring is the time for flowers!  While I know flowers are not for everyone, for me they are timeless.  Their beauty enchants me.  How can I not try to capture the beauty I see?  I also love people and love to paint portraits.  These two subjects provide me with plenty of things to paint!  So find what inspires you, what you love.  Is it color?  Is it landscape?  Or birds?  Paint what you love and you will be more likely to get in the studio to get the practice you need to paint the way you want!

 And last, art is risky.  Or is it?  Hey, driving to work every morning carries huge risk!  In light of the risks we take every day, how risky is art, really? What are you so afraid of?  So be bold.  Be daring.  Take risks with your art!  Use new materials.  Put on music and paint what it makes you feel.  Try a landscape if you do portraits.  Let go.  Or tighten up.  Be yourself, or paint like someone else. Do it in -gasp- in public! Use your art to enhance your life.  Take risks with it.  If you cant take risks with your art, where can you? In my life, the purpose of my art varies. One thing my art does is bring adventure.  It enhances my life as I learn to look at life differently, through the eyes of an artist and I can take art with me everywhere.  From looking at light and shadow differently, to sketching on location.  Life is art and art is life.  Take it with you wherever you go--even if its  just a penciled sketch on a napkin in the airport!! 

So, get in the studio. Kick fear to the curb. Start small.  Do what you love and take risks!  Here are three paintings using those very principles. I set up my studio, silenced the voices that keep me from painting, got out some scrap paper and made a few 6x4 boxes and painted something I love!  I've never done a crocus to my liking, and these still aren't.  The first is loose and free.  I like it, but its not my vision.  The next one is more controlled. Its not my vision either. The final photo is the same painting with pastels added.  I had nothing to lose and decided to take a risk so I brought out the pastels and added some here and there. Still not crazy about it , but the idea is, I painted three small paintings and no one was injured in the process! (you can try this at home!) I keep at it and I've learned that eventually, if I keep after it, I will capture its essence in the way I envision.  

I hope this helps a few of you get in the studio.  One more thing I might add here.  The studio can be a lonely place.  Sometimes we need the encouragement of people who are like us! That strange breed called ARTISTS! They understand you! Take a class or join a club.  Find some friends and meet to paint.  But whatever you do, MAKE ART!!

Happy Painting!  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring is here!


 
          Snow Baby



It's spring!  Yes it is! Yes it is!  You have to believe!  I believe, I believe.  

Well, it doesn't take much to believe in the inevitable.  Spring will always come.  I take great comfort in the seasons and thier ever changing rhythms.  Always changing yet constant.  Constant change.  Yup, that's life.  Don't get comfortable, you won't be there long! 

 If you've read this blog at all you will see the themes in nature inspire much of my work and life.  I see so many metaphors between life, art and nature.  Life has seasons too.  So as in nature, I find myself in a "spring" of sorts.  I see my life changing from a rather bleak winter season to a slightly less harsh spring season--which can only lead to a summer season! I'm seeing small hints of color in the drab landscape.  Most of all, I see promise.  

February began with the painting a day challenge.  I didn't even try one last year.  It would have just been too much.  But I felt "springy-er" this year!  I chose February instead of January because my son was married in January and it was too busy.  But what a lovely way to start the new year!  And I had a mini spring for a week, since the wedding was in Phoenix!  Nothing but sunshine, warmth and celebration!  I was not looking forward to going home to Ohio in February.  So I figured February would be a good time to do the challenge and its two days shorter. Plus, I'm just not a fan of February.  By February im sick of winter and spring is a ways off.  It's usually pretty snowy and cold and gloomy. Im just over it. So let's give February a new look with a painting every day. 

A painting a day is just not easy.  And I got some nasty upper respiratory thing that really laid me low and I missed a few days painting.  But here's the thing--I got back to it not because I'd lose face or to prove something (although there's that!) but because I missed it!  I looked forward to painting every day!  And that hasn't happened in a long while. I found joy in sketching and watching the paint move with the water. I looked with new eyes for inspiration without desperation.  That's new too.  There's pressure to preform and to do it well when others are watching.  I let that go.  Well, as much as anyone can.  I really just enjoyed the process. 

Side note:  my version after February was over: "gosh that was fun!"  Tom, my husbands version is quite different. His version is of my running around saying "I can't find time to paint today" or " I'm just not inspired". To be fair, that was true at first.  Until I got sick and couldn't hold my head up!  Being sick always reminds me what a gift being well and able is!  Refocuses my view!  Whew! 

Doing anything for 28 days develops a habit.  I've had worse habits!  A friend sent me a TED talk about doing something for 30 days and I've added the links here: http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days?language=en
It's so true.  And how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!  

Now that I'm back to painting, I figure I'll get back to blogging.  Neither will be regular or have the drive they did before, but like I said, spring has just begun!  These days I'm taking it as it comes.  

Let me also say that the response from everyone was awesome. I appreciated all the kind comments and support.  I hope it inspires you to feed your creative side.  If you want to jump start it--take small bites for 30 days!  

Paint on! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day 22-28

Hello and welcome to the last week of the 28 day challenge.  This was a challenge for sure.  Each painting took at least 45 minutes.  I'm not sure why, except people would be seeing it and I was more careful than I would be if it was just for me.  My sketchbooks are for experimenting, working out problems with future painting and just for fun.  They are not as detailed or finished.  I rarely take that kind of time with my sketches, saving the careful painting for paintings I may show. Maybe next time I can let go a little more and show you the goofy, wonky sketches. 

That said, I enjoyed the challenge of doing more detailed sketches.  This time around I found I was better able to focus on finding inspiration.  I chose subjects based on what moved me that day and tried not to worry about whether it would be interesting to you or easy to paint and vowed to post it even if it bombed.  The only time I didnt was when I painted my son in law and he looked like someone beat him up!  That was a pride issue on my part and I didn't want to embarrass him! 

So lets talk about the last weeks sketches -- Day 22--


I bought some inspiration at the grocery store this week.  As I said before, I like to work from life.  These sunflowers screamed at me from across the produce section and I knew i had to paint them.  (I must have gotten them very fresh because these puppies are still perfect a week later!) I felt like this was really tight and I've worked hard to paint with a loser look, so it was interesting that all these paintings are all so tight.  Oh well.  Going forward I kept a focus on working a little looser. 

Day 23--


My dad fell asleep on the couch and the cat crawled up on him and fell asleep in the sun.  There was a lot of detail that I didn't have time for, like the cat and hands.  But I was pleased with how the face came out with the play of colors and the sun on his forehead. I also felt that this was a lose painting and I like that. I call it "Cat Nap".

Day 24--



Again from the grocery store the other day, I bought some beets.  I love to paint the colors in beets.  There are rusts, and purples and deep burgundy reds. And lets face it, who can resist the shape of leaves?  Its hard not to get carried away with all the details in the leaves, but I thought I kept them lose while keeping the detail on the beets.   I especially love the tap roots. 

Day 25--


This little sketch I did straight with a pen from a photo. I usually have to restate the lines I screw up and it ends up looking very messy, especially with architecture. This came out pretty well and I didn't restate much.  Its really small in comparison to the others, I think its maybe 4x5. 

Day 26 --


I had something else in mind for the day, but these were singing in the sun on my kitchen table where I've been painting for these weeks.  They are in a box, and I hated the box I painted, so I took it over to the sink and just washed it off!  Then I liked it just that way so I framed it with line and called it a day!  

Day 27--

Well, I don't a have day 28.  I KNEW I missed one!  Ok, I owe ya one!  But here is the last one, day 27. I have some pussy willows in a jar and like all the other things that are from nature I paint, I was thinking about why Im drawn to it.  I like the hard bark contrasted with the soft puffs and wondered if I could convey that feeling.  I loved the curves of the branches.  This painting was very meditative.  Something about the colors and the line.  The contrast of dark color and hard edges with light color and soft fussy edges.  I kept it to three branches because I wanted it simple.  I think this was one of my favorites from the 27 days.  

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the sketches.  Try it yourself.  Its addicting!  





Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 14 - 21

Its been ten days since my last post and I'm sorry I didn't get to it Friday, but Ive been lucky to paint the paintings so blogging was secondary.  I even had to skip a few days and ask for grace, due to an upper respiratory infection that sent me to urgent care with a fever.  Even after the z-pack, its still taken this long for me to get my energy back.  So I am two day's behind on my paintings, which I plan to catch up in this, the final week.

This had been good for me to get the juices flowing again and to become reacquainted with my passion.  I must admit, when I opened my long neglected pallet, there was mold on two of the paints and the rest were dry as bone.  I've never had them mold before, but I have an airtight palette to keep the paints moist in between use.  I've just never gone long enough for them to MOLD!

And I've learned a few things: 1) Do not paint something that does not inspire you.  It will show in the work  2) I love to paint the figure and portrait above almost all else  3) I love architecture too and 3) a regular habit of painting keeps you motivated.  This has motivated me to continue to keep my sketchbook handy and I am going to try to work in a few paintings a week at least.

And now, on to the sketches:
These are numbered by the order, not the day anymore!

 Day 14

I did peruse my photos on Friday before the week and pulled out some inspiration.  This was a great little church in Spain I've been meaning to sketch. As I've said, I've been fortunate to have a father with wanderlust who has taken his family all over the world.  I wouldn't have ever seen and done what I have had he not made it possible.  Anyway, this was one of the many photos of churches I want to sketch.  While I would prefer to sketch on site, sometimes a photo works too!  This is quick, sloppy and wonky, but I like it!  Thanks dad!

day 15

Another photo I took years ago.  As you can see, its a beach photo.  Its been so darn cold, I felt like it might warm me up.  It didn't!  I loved how the sun hit the figures, but all I had was a grainy black and white on copy paper from another attempt.  This one is better.  

Day 16 

A  friend emailed me a picture of her daughter in this chair.  I loved the angle and the foreshortening.  I love that the leg is larger and the head is small as it recedes.  I love the yellow chair.  And I finally did sand in a way I liked.  Also a beach scene.  I somehow feel colder!  But I love the painting. 

Day 17

Also from a photo (obviously) of trumpet vine.  I love the graceful curve of the vine and the shapes of the flowers and buds.  I love the shape of the leaves, but didn't have time to include them.  Another day another painting!

Day 18

A simple pen and watercolor of some summer zinnias.  Are you seeing a theme here? ( summer-warm weather) Ha!  I'm not a fan of this but some days if you make art at all, even bad art, its still a good day!

Day 19 & 20

From a photo.  I started this before and never got in there to finish since its so detailed.  I lost interest.  I have to admit, I dont like the left page at all.  Its how it looks in the photo, but I find the green and white overhangs and the rock building much more interesting.  It was also raining so there are no shadows and light.  I counted this as two days since it took much longer and spans two pages.  

Day 21

And my last offering.  I feed the birds all year.  Among my favorites are the Junco's.  I love thier dark tops and white undersides.  They also feed on the ground, so I snapped shots against the snow.  Simple and fun. 

So, that completes 21 days.  Going to try to do 28 for all of February.  I went the the grocery and have some inspritation I can work from!  Stay tuned!