Three weeks ago I finished a three piece commission that I labored over for over 2 months. They are three 12 X12 acrylic paintings of the two dogs and one cat of my late Father’s wife, my dear “Ma Penny.” I was pleased with them and so was she.
Completion is a good thing. You’ve put in the time and effort and then you find yourself done! After the initial feeling of euphoria and accomplishment, however, there you are. What now? It can all be a bit disorienting. There is a favorite John Lennon saying I have “It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive.” What next? Where was I with my own personal trajectory?
Luckily I’ve been in this spot all too many times before. Here is my recipe when you wind up in a “grey zone.”
Don’t panic. Be still.
Write in your journal
Do some cleaning/tidying in the studio.
Look for inspiration from the work of others. Pinterest is my favorite source of visual inspiration.
Do some warm-up exercises- no expectations. Scribble, splash, write lists of words that fascinate. Dedicate them to the gallery of the recycle bin or the collage box.
Eventually, the creative fairies take the bait. Like seagulls when you throw a piece of food to one, another will come until you have a flock of them around you.
I finally came up with the following work (after cleaning out my paper files & filling up my garbage can full of warm-ups…….)
I’m a master of avoidance. Once I’m in my studio I”m ready to roll but getting there past all the distractions and excuses can be tricky business. Really, does laundry need to be folded and put away first? The “Thing” that needs to be manifested from your psyche in words, paint, ink, or whatever medium you work in is the priority. Here is a system that works well for me…
Make an appointment for an assigned studio time. The earlier in the day, the better. Your cell phone is not invited.
Enter studio, close door set timer and say to yourself “for one hour I will focus on nothing else but THIS.”
Do not answer the phone, check email, or do anything not essential to your project on your computer- NO EXCEPTIONS!
Work, work, work for one hour and then STOP. Continuing for more than this often leads to overworked material.
Take a break for at least a half an hour and do something mindless like weeding or doing the dishes. Stretch and get outside for a breath of fresh air. This acts as a reset for the creative part of the brain that’s been working hard.
Repeat steps 1-5 if needed
Most of the time I can get an amazing and satisfying amount of work done in a focused 60 minutes and I’m good for the day. If I have more to do, I find that by taking a break I come back to work reenergized with “fresh eyes”. I also use the timer method for unpleasant tasks around the house in 15 minutes increments (ex. cleaning out the fridge- ugh). You can accomplish great things in a small measured amount of time!
When I am being creative I feel I am in my place in the world. Be it writing a poem, printmaking, painting, or creating something out of clay that’s when I feel the most “in my skin” no matter where I am at. This is my upstairs studio in my farmhouse in rural Oregon.
Although I consider myself primarily a printmaker, I like to do whimsical illustrations from my imagination with black India ink lines and brightly colored watercolor. It’s like creating my own coloring book without the concern of color splashing outside the lines. These little paintings are usually based on something out of my life. The piece below is a composite of fond bath time memories. Emmy Lou, my beloved long hair tabby (RIP), would often come sit on the edge of the tub and watch me as I languished in the water. Then we would be joined by a dog, or perhaps two who would take a nap on the rug beside me.
Another example of ink line and watercolor is the piece below I recently published in my post, “Daily Visitor”. It is of the stray cat, Lizzie that comes to the door every night to be fed. I like to exaggerate the features of animals and people to add to their personality
Simple pleasures recorded with ink lines and colored water.
How did it happen that the U.S. government has forgotten the well being of its own people? I watched the “March for Our Lives” rally broadcast this morning from Washington D.C. heartsick hearing the Stoneman Douglas student speakers express their pain from the mass shooting at their school. Equally heartbreaking was hearing their frustration from the lack of response from leaders who have done virtually NOTHING after the myriad of massacres that have occurred in schools and public spaces across the US in recent time. I substitute teach part-time in high schools. It’s sad that every time I walk in the door I feel I am not in a safe place anymore. Students feel that every day.
There was a pivotal point in one student’s speech where he said we should “arm teachers.” I sucked in my breath saying to myself “oh not this.” The student went on to say, however, that teachers should be well armed with pencils, paper, books and good enough salaries to teach. The crowd roared. As an educator, I know how underfunded our education system is in this country. We fund wars across the globe, give tax breaks to the rich, but neglect the safety, education, healthcare, & mental health care of our own people. WE MATTER.
If anyone can make a change in this country, these kids can. They have started a movement and I am right there with them. For now, all I could do was write a blog post & make a picture (but that’s what artist’s do).
I love making monotypes These are one of a kind prints, not produced in an edition format. Currently, I work on a gelatin plate that I made myself from Knox gelatin and glycerin. It has the feel of a flat gummy bear. The ink is rolled on and then I press the paper down on the plate. Stencils and textures applied to the plate make interesting patterns and shapes. At times I have a concept in mind- other times I work from my intuition alone. When I see a composition forming, I apply finishing touches with stamps, stencils, and colored pencils. Sometimes I apply collage elements.
Every piece I make is an adventure. There are no mistakes. If I don’t like how a piece is turning out, It can cut up and be turned into greeting cards, bookmarks, or go in the collage box for use in another piece.
My particular process can be pretty involved. I have tried to document most of the steps.
It takes a certain amount of energy to sell ones work- at least as much as making it. After the New Year, I have given up such notions to just play and experiment with printmaking, clay, and mosaics. It’s liberating to just experience a process without attachment to profit or outcome. Play is undervalued in our culture. It is so rejuvenating.