Category Archives: inspiration

Long time, no write

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been writing a ton. But I certainly haven’t been writing here, have I?

It’s been a wonderful, yet incredibly busy fall season for us around here, meaning me and my family. I continue to struggle, as we all do, to fit it all into these 24 hour segments we call days… and have yet to find the formula that allows me to do it all and stay present enough to enjoy it.  Such a work in process… and I guess that’s where I’m at these days, trying my best to give myself to the priorities that I’ve set for myself and then seeing the beauty and accomplishment in the messy incoherence that ensues. I figure if I can do that, I’m in pretty good shape.

Well, this is my habit, to take stock toward the end of the year. Not a bad habit, but it can turn melancholy if I let it, so I won’t. A few of my favorite things that I did this year- that sounds more cheerful.

I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel Valley… What a fantastic group of artists. Such a beautiful place.

I developed a body of work that I am in love with… a rare thing for me; I am so critical of my own work. The slow down in sales has facilitated my spending more time on and with my work. So there is a silver lining.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November… 50,000 words in thirty days, with only a few vague ideas in my pocket- it felt like jumping off a cliff, and I survived! I created my parachute on the way down. Challenging, invigorating, terrifying. I’ve never written that much in my life. My daughter did it too- I couldn’t have been prouder.

So what did I learn the most from? Definitely NaNoWriMo- hands down. I’ll be taking every skill I practiced back to my studio. For example: you don’t always need to know where you are going to get somewhere. Let surprises happen. Let the work take charge instead of bending it to my expectations. Spend time with the work every day. Sit down and work, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. Trust that I have something to say. I usually just have to get quiet enough to hear it myself.

I’d love to hear from you- what did you do that was new this year, and what did you learn from it?

Catching Up

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We don’t get a whole lot of fall color here on the mid-California coast. But I am savoring fall, anyway. This is my favorite time of year. 

After a long bout of illness this summer, I “came to” sometime in early October, and realized that my blog (among many other things) had been sorely neglected. So in the spirit of catching up a bit, here are some things I’ve been up to. I somehow managed to pull together my show here in town at Enso; we had a wonderful opening and I received loads of positive feedback. I’m now busy preparing for another show coming up in February. So, I’ve been working in my studio, if somewhat sporadically. Earlier this month, I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel, and got some wind in my sails. The retreat was wonderful, and I met many other artists from all over the country. The speakers were great- hearing Tony Scherman speak was definitely a high point for me- and members demonstrated techniques, which was also interesting. I came away inspired and full. On my drive home, I pulled over several times, because I had to write down everything I was thinking before it got away. Just download into my notebook. Somehow, talking with and listening to other painters helped me crystalize some of my own goals, which have been fuzzy for a while. 

And now, after the buzz has worn off a bit, I realize that it is fine and well to think about painting, but a time comes when it is painfully obvious that I’m doing more thinking than painting. And that it is time to shoehorn painting back into my life, an hour at a time, and re-set some priorities. It’s never ending- the process of picking oneself back up, brushing off, and walking back into the studio.

Inspiration and Ownership

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 In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me.” An idea is not diminished when more people use it. 

(from creative commons website)

I love the quote above. Such a good reminder.  In this time that we live in, when there seems to be a mad rush to define everything as private or corporate property, it can seem a little odd, or risky even, to just….. well, give things away. And I’m only human. What if someone “steals” an idea from this website and uses it for their own work? I can get carried away by that worry, from time to time. I’ve also talked to other artists who fear something being taken from them when they post their images or techniques online. But that in itself implies that we all “get” our ideas and “produce” our images in a vacuum. The fact is, we are all, every day, influenced by ideas and images out there. We can’t help it. 

Notice I put the words “steals”, “get” and “produce” in quotes- these are all concepts of ownership. And it really begs the question: are we the static “owners” of our ideas, or are we only the temporary guardians of our ideas before the go out into the world in their viral fashion, and produce more ideas?

 I am reminded of something that my favorite drawing teacher once told us- that we each have our own mark, our own hand. For better or worse, I could try and try to make a mark like you, but it would always still look like my mark. It would look like me trying to make a mark like you, but me still being me, it would most definitely be my mark. 

An important and intriguing thing to think about: how do we walk that line between individual protections, and protecting the open sharing ideas, which fuels all creativity?

Inspiration: walking and seeing

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“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”   -Rumi

One of the trickiest things, I’ve found, about making images is the simultaneous need for experience and innocence. On one hand, we want to bring our years of experience to bear in the studio. On the other, we want to be able to see as if for the first time; an adventurous and inventive eye must not be hobbled by what it thinks it knows and sees.

This summer, I’ve been walking the same route through the fields, almost daily, and like to practice seeing things with a fresh perspective. A few times, I’ve taken my camera, and it has been so fun to look through that magic window and see how limiting the view can sometimes expand how I see. 

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Artistic perception is this great elastic thing that must be exercised to stay limber and responsive. Ironically, doing something repetitive is sometimes just the thing to practice keeping things new.

One Year

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This post is to celebrate my daughter’s work. This past weekend, we drove down to Valencia, near L.A., and dropped her off at Cal Arts for a month long intensive art program (one of the more terrifying and exciting things I’ve done as the mother of a 15 year old). These are self-portraits she drew- exactly one year apart. The one on the left was finished last week, the one on the right last summer. I just think it’s such a testament to our capacity for growth. That truly, we are hardwired for growth. And hard work. It is rare that Alexandra is not either drawing or carrying one of her sketchbooks around. She lives for graphite. She would probably eat it if she could. If there were more hours in the day, she’d spend them drawing. I bought her three sketchbooks to last her the month she’ll be gone. She fills them so fast, I can hardly keep up. 

She inspires me.

Journaling and Dialoguing

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I just have to tell you all how much I’ve been enjoying your comments lately.

I began this blog with two goals, or intentions. The first was to simply get down my thoughts and ideas as a record for myself- as a way of journaling. Keeping this blog has given me a place and reason to think deeply about what I’m making, why I’m making it, and why other other people might want to look at it. It’s been a reason for me to write it all down, and share my progress. Even though it is a digital journal, floating in cyberspace, it lends a feeling of solidity to my ideas and history for me to look back on. 

My second goal was to find some community, and begin a dialogue with other artists and people interested in art. When you comment, this digital journal becomes a conversation. My monologue becomes a dialogue. I go look at your blogs and websites, and gain inspiration and insight.

So- thank you for sharing your own thoughts about what you’re making, why you are making it, and what our art is for. Your comments make my day.

Leap…..

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Sometimes, the hardest thing is simply beginning.

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And once I begin, it is rare that I want to stop. As I approach a painting session, or a block of time in my studio, or begin a new painting or body of work, my doubts and insecurities often crowd me, beckoning me toward some other soothing activity like working in the garden or reading a book. Baking cookies. Catching up on email. Cleaning the toilet.

No, really, it is fascinating to me that after 20-something years of painting, that I can still have these feelings. It’s like that squirmy, resistant feeling you get right before jumping into a cold lake or swimming pool. After jumping, I always get a little rush of adrenaline, and then have the thought that it’s really quite nice. Wonderful, even. 

How do I get to the other side of those feelings with my artwork? I remind myself to just begin.  Then I give myself permission to do something other than painting in my studio if I just do not feel the flow after a little while. I could tidy my studio, or do some preliminary drawings, I could go outside and photograph, make some color charts, write in my art journal. Whatever. But almost always, I find myself caught up in the riptide of creative momentum, and I paint. 

“Leap, and the net will appear”

-Unknown

Momentum, Revisited: Routines and Habits

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What makes a routine work? 

When I first started writing this blog, I had recently been to a yoga workshop, taught by Rod Stryker, called “Yoga of Fulfillment”. One of the most powerful things I came away with was the idea of a “Samkalpa”.  Samkalpa means a resolution, a resolve, or an intention. Mine is defined by my desire to have momentum in my studio time, and to feel the thread of fearless creativity running through my life, weaving what then seemed fractured, together. Since then, I’ve supervised the building of a studio in back of my home, to better integrate painting into my busy family life. I’ve been much more productive than I’ve been in a long time, and have at times felt the momentum running strong.

I’ve always gotten my household and homeschooling “work” done in the mornings, and eked out a few hours of painting in the afternoon. Most days. Much of the time, this works great, and I love the way my studio warms up in the afternoon, and the sun through the skylights. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how the first things I do in my day pretty much always get done. I don’t find myself wondering first thing in the morning, “hmm….. I have time to either take a shower or brush my teeth. Which one do I do?” But I do find myself having that mental converstation with myself over, say, painting and exercising at 4 in the afternoon. Or painting and seeing a friend. It dawned on me that the things I do first are- literally and figuratively- the things I put first. So I’m experimenting with getting out into my studio earlier (after I’ve brushed my teeth, of course!), and working a bit longer. It feels strange and different. But productive. 

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of it is not checking my email before I go out to work. But if I do, before I know it, I’m reading the New York Times online, or catching up on my blog reading- and there goes an hour. Or two. Ahem.

So I’m curious about you artists out there- what habits and routines do you have that help you get your creative work done? How have you changed unproductive habits to productive ones?

Show Opening: Working in Wax

Here are some pictures from Wednesday night’s opening in Walnut Creek. It was a good crowd, and I was able to enjoy some really interesting work, and talk to other artists.  I’m sorry I am not able to credit the work shown in these pictures. I need to go through the many artists who are on the postcard, look them up online, and I’ll put them in the ever-growing sidebar under “Artists I Love”, so that you can go learn more about them if you are interested. A big thank-you to Eileen P. Goldberg who curated the show!

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I can credit myself, though. Those are two of my pieces, above, and to the left.

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Another of my pieces, off to the left, above the crackers and cheese.

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Inspiration: Creative Process with Elizabeth Gilbert

I was going to share pictures from the opening last night in Walnut Creek, but that will have to wait. (Just till tomorrow, I promise- so, so much fantastic work!) First, I have to share this video, from TED, of writer Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) talking about creativity, and the possibility of re-inventing our perception of it. It’s funny, and bone-true, just like her book. And it’s worth watching if only for the description of the poem and the poet… you’ll see. It took my breath away.  *Thanks to Beth for sending me this!!