The Emperor Penguins of Antarctica group up in the thousands during the breeding season. Once their chicks are juveniles, the adult penguins depart for open water to feed and bring home nutrition. They have this knack, when they’ve returned from their foraging expeditions, of locating their young among a throng of look-alikes, solely by recognizing their chick’s call in a cacophony of penguin noise. Parent penguins have a knack for listening.
As I’ve aged and my other physical faculties are weakening, my inner voice- my intuition is growing much stronger. Like the parent penguins, I’ve learned to recognize it from the din of voices that surround me in my external and internal worlds.
It’s a skill anyone can develop but in our left-brained, modern culture, it’s not valued nor spoken about much. It requires quiet, stillness, and patience. Intuition is an inner voice easily drowned out by messages we receive on a daily basis- live your life like this, look like this, buy this, buy that, your intuitive messages often running counter to them.
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!
Several weeks ago a friend apologetically said that she could not join me and friends on our annual creative trek to Ghost Ranch Retreat Center in N. New Mexico this July. I started this tradition about 9 years ago when I felt I needed to escape my daily life and focus on just art – no other distractions. Since my initial trek, numerous pals have joined me in the fun.
This particular individual, who had not been there previously, remarked that she had too much work to do on her house, specifically remodeling a bathroom, to take up an artistic pastime at this point in time. I remarked to “Honey, your work on your house IS an artistic pastime and to recognize it as such! Your house is your canvas”.
Too many people separate ART from their daily lives ( I wrote more about this in my post There is “No Word for Art in Their Language”. It does not have to be a sanitized framed rectangle celebrated with appetizers and wine. Anytime a room is decorated, an outfit is planned, a garden designed, or a tasty meal is prepared, one has to think about combining different colors, shapes, textures, (and tastes in the realm of food), creativity is being expressed. There is art in all of those endeavors. I have to say that after remodeling two bathrooms, one kitchen and redecorating my living room, this is some of the work I am most proud of.
No Ideas? Simple…just go on Pinterest, Houzz, or similar websites and steal a few! Below are some of the touches I’ve added to my home “canvas”.
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.
In meditation the goal is to focus on the breath, observing thoughts with non judgement. It is an exercise to become aware of one’s inner dialogue without criticism. According to Yoga International….
” Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself, for letting go of your biases and seeing what is, openly and clearly. It is a way of training the mind so that you are not distracted and caught up in its endless churning. Meditation teaches you to systematically explore your inner dimensions.”
I decided to take the concept of meditation and apply it to my art making, meaning any creative task I undertake. As a visual artist especially, I’ve noticed that I have a habit of letting a stream of negative judgement runs through my mind as I make art. My inner critic tells me “this is not good enough” or “if I only I did this – or that” or some such chatter. This is a perfect recipe for artistic block – and I have been there.
When toddlers begin to walk and fall down, they don’t give up. They try and fail over and over again. Parents cheer and don’t discourage. It’s part of the process of learning. Too bad we give that child-like wonder as adults
As of the New Year I am making art with an attitude of play and experimentation rather than judgement of whether my work is good or bad. If a piece doesn’t work, so be it. I have learned from it. I am mindful to my inner dialogue as I create. When negative thinking enters my mind I say “You are not welcome here. Let me play!”
This week I began an online class, Making Monotypes with a Gellatin Plate taught by Linda Germaine. it’s been the perfect opportunity to apply “The art of non-judgement.”
It’s so liberating. I’m having fun. I can hardly wait to get back to the studio…..
Experimenting….first try printing with a gelli-plate!
Gas molecules will fly all over the place unless held in a container. That’s what I’m like . Unless I am contained in a structure, I am all over the map. As a result, I can feel inefficient and anxious. Ironically it appears that in order for me to “think outside the box”, I need to be in one
For most, they have a structure imposed by a job, school, and/or family responsibilities. That used to be me but 2 years ago I retired from teaching and now it’s up to me to create my own structure. In other words, I get to be my own parent. Scary.
I make several kinds of visual art, play music, sing in a choir, and write, plus take care of an aging farmhouse on rural property. I’m doing a little of this and a little of that. As a result, my work is all over the place with no real sense of focus & accomplishment. I am “showing up” but irregularly without a clear set of goals. So after bumbling around for a while in this new found frontier of freedom, I realize that in order to function effectively I need to create my own “box” for myself to save me from chaos.
Recently I sent for books on the subject. Currently, I am reading , Goal Setting forPeople Who Hate to Set Goals.” This small book by Keith Ellis is helping me prioritize & set measurable goals step by step. Today I am going to sit down, write out my goals and create a visual flowchart to follow. For me, unless I write things down and have a visual posted in a place where I see it consistently, all will be a wash.
Some successes thus far: I have started to get up an hour earlier. That helps a lot. I also for some months now have been following a modified version of the house cleaning and organization system on flylady.net. My house is way more in order and clean than ever before by just following her simple systematic approach. I function much better in a clean, orderly environment.
If you have any tricks to stay focused and organized, I would love to know!