The Art of Wabi-Sabi

wabi-sabi-4

I recently became acquainted with this word through my online “Year of Painting class.” Alena Hennesy, the instructor uses this word frequently as she illustrates her process of intuitive painting on her videos.  Wabi-sabi in short means “perfectly imperfect” Let go, let the process unfold.

I tend towards the perfectionism.  As I watched the warm-up video and then looked at other’s work being posted I was paralyzed with fear.  This process was way out of my comfort zone- but part of the reason for taking this class was to loosen up.

I started my first piece resisting the urge to recycle my first attempt mid-way and start over. Eventually, I worked through my fear, completed and accepted it.  The piece is too bright and busy for my tastes, but others found it pleasing.  It can only get easier after taking the first step.   I started a small, scary journey and finished, perfectly imperfect.

Wabi-sabi, another of my words for the New Year.

img_1752img_1753img_1754

I was Supposed to be Blogging About My Artwork

Two weeks ago I received a message from WordPress…..

“Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com.  You registered with WordPress.com two years ago.  Thanks for flying with us.  Keep up the good blogging.”

This gave me pause on the passage of time and where I’ve come since I originally set up my blog.  Having failed to embrace other social media-Instagram and Facebook with enthusiasm to promote my art, the advice out there said: “you need to blog about your artwork.”  Okay, I thought, let’s give that a go.

Up went my first post, The Artist Demystified” on June 4, 2017, not really about my art but it was a start.  I was stunned to get one “Like”  and then double stunned when I received a “follow.” Wow, somebody read and identified what I wrote.  Then I found the WordPress Community Pool and the Weekly Photo & Writing Challenges (now extinct and sorely missed).  Then I found other bloggers and that I really liked to write and share my writing. Then I found (again) that I really hate self-promotion just for self-promotion’s sake. 

Now I’ve officially let go of the idea that my blog exists to promote my artwork since I really wasn’t doing that anyway.  If someone wanders over to my Etsy shop and purchases something, fabulous, but that’s not why I’m here.  Blogging has become a grounding force in my life

This is pretty much a blog about sharing my thoughts and experiences with others.

May my writing spark some resonance in my readers and bring forth some smiles through this process which I so enjoy.

I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BLOGGING ABOUT MY ARTWORK

You know, make a splash

With Google Analytics

Get followers

Boost sales on Etsy

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

But then I discovered blogging as an art form

Blogging just to blog

Sending my words out into the universe

To maybe catch hold on the edge

of some other celestial being

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered other bloggers

With their words that fed me

And then found a hold

In my celestial body

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered that I just liked to make art

…… not so much the selling 

So I think I will continue to make

And I will continue to write

For no other reason than it feeds my soul

The Magic of the Deadline

“The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline”        Unknown

img_1606

When I was teaching middle school science my life was run by daily, weekly, and academic calendar deadlines.  When I walked into my classroom door every morning I had to be ready or suffer some really awful consequences.  (Students can smell when you are unprepared).

I longed for retirement when deadlines no longer ran my life.  Finally,  I could concentrate on my art and the other things I had left simmering on the back burner.  It didn’t take me too long to realize that unless I imposed my own deadlines upon myself, my dreams would still languish on the back burner.  As unpleasant as they can be, deadlines can provide a sense of structure and accomplishment- that is if one sticks to them.  Otherwise, count on suffering a hit to your self-esteem.

bieszczady-1002402_1920It’s been a learning process. One thing I’ve realized is to have a series of deadlines mapped out.  Otherwise, when you finish one there is a sense of disorientation that can set in.  Paying for guitar lessons and showing up weekly has definitely insured progress.  My writing and visual arts practices have been trickier.

I usually get one blog post out every week and try to work on either a poem, essay or journal entry every day before I get out of bed.  Recently I joined a neighborhood writing group that meets monthly so I need something for that.  Then I go online to find publications soliciting for entries and mark my calendar with the deadline.  I have had 3 pieces published in the last 2 years with that strategy.

Artwise I just made a huge (tight) deadline applying for a juried membership in Print Arts NW, the regional printmakers association.  It was a lot of work but success!  I was accepted this week and now can put work in their holiday show.

My continuing challenge is structuring my home studio time with deadlines to be more productive.  Having a flow chart posted with milestones has worked before and I’m going to try that again.  Stay tuned…..

 

alien-1295498

Deadline

Dead Line

Sprawled flat in your path

Like giant road kill

Small, undetectable from a distance

Looming larger and larger

Until its great heaving, behemoth body

Brings you to your knees begging

For mercy between pathetic sobs

And muttered excuses

All the while knowing full well

Relief will only come

When you shut up and scale the smelly beast

Head down, focused

Heaving with all you’ve got

Step by step

Leaving all your whining behind

blocking your ears from the siren sounds

Of your favorite distractions

Eventually, you make it

Drinking in the expansive view from the top

Wondering why you made such a fuss in the first place

Until scanning the horizon

You notice a small lump

Blocking your path in the distance

adventure-1867970_1920

 

 

 

 

 

Being Your Own Artistic Cheerleader

animal-1353073“Be fearless and know that when you feel doubt it’s okay. It’s not bad to be scared. It’s not bad to question yourself. It’s just part of the process. You’re going to be fabulous. You are going to be great.”

Harper Watters  (black, gay, ballet dancer)

It’s taken weeks to get back into my creative practice after weeks of travel and other interruptions.  Unlike having the structure of a regular job, anyone who travels the creative path has to be their own boss.  You alone have to give yourself the goals and the deadlines.  Generally, not having a social structure for encouragement, you also have to be your own cheerleader.

My two dogs think I’m the absolute best as with my spousal equivalent.  Even though I am grateful for my live-in fan club, to get my muse excited I keep a steady stream of motivational media around.

Currently, I am enraptured by these two books:

It’s Never Too Late to Begin by Julia Cameron51gfo6g52pl

Julie Cameron is a pioneer in inspiring people to get over creative blocks and to discover and pursue their passions.  Her book, The Artist Way published 25 years ago became my bible. In this latest book, she focuses on people in their midlife and beyond.  Through memoir writing and exercises you can find clarification and motivation as an older adult.  I am finding such inspiration in this book!

51oqhsbebjlWild Mind, Living the Writers Life by Natalie Goldman

I’ve always stayed away from writing books because of all the rules, which by the way, at this point in my life I think should be challenged.  Natalie is a maverick in the writing world. She demystifies the act of the writing and will get you sitting down and writing your heart out.

 

Podcast of note…If you are going to listen to one podcast on creativity, listen to170x170bb  The Creativity Habit.  Podcast # 50 on Satsuki Shibuya was earthshaking: “ Getting sick, losing everything and finding real success as a full-time artist.” Amazing listen.

IMG_1554Finally, I am using my phone as a cheerleader.  Inspirational notes on sticky notes don’t work for me.  I find them becoming invisible shortly after I put them up.  Now I am setting alerts on my I-phone for times throughout the day.  When I get an alert, I check my phone and find an inspirational message just for me.  Try it out.  You might find it as effective as I do.

44175727_310704246410070_6752099803299979285_n

Reclaiming Your Spark: Elizabeth Gilbert On What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Passion

After traveling for over half of September, I have returned home to find I’ve lost my creative mojo.  It’s there but it’s not ready to come out of hiding.   Writing? Art?  I am just not motivated at the moment and despite my best efforts- it’s not happening by forcing it. After reading this piece by Elizabeth Gilbert today I’m taking a different tack.  I’m off to clean out the shop building so the right side of my brain can sort itself out.

Reprinted off Oprah.Com

201004-omag-liz-gilbert-949x534“I’ve always considered myself lucky that I do not have many passions. There’s only one pursuit that I have ever truly loved, and that pursuit is writing. This means, conveniently enough, that I never had to search for my destiny; I only had to obey it. What am I here for? No problem! I’m here to be a writer, and only a writer, from my first cigarette to my last dying day! No doubt about it! 

Except that two years ago, I completely lost my life’s one true passion, and all my certainties collapsed with it. 

Here’s what happened: After the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love, I diligently sat down to work on my next project—another memoir. I worked hard, as always, conducting years of research and interviews. And when I was finished, I had produced a first draft that was…awful. 

I’m not being falsely modest here. Truly, the book was crap. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was crap. Moreover, it was due at the publisher. 

Demoralized, I wrote a letter to my editor, admitting that I had utterly failed. He was nice about it, considering. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” But I did worry, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no passion for writing. I was charred and dry. This was terrifyingly disorienting. I couldn’t begin to know who I was without that old, familiar fire. I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself. 

My old friend Sarah, seeing me so troubled, came to the rescue with this sage advice: “Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.” 

She was not suggesting that I ditch my passion forever, of course, but rather that I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes. When passion feels so out of reach, Sarah explained, curiosity can be a calming diversion. If passion is a tower of flame, then curiosity is a modest spark—and we can almost always summon up a modest spark of interest about something. 

So what was my modest spark? Gardening, as it turned out. Following my friend’s advice, I stepped away from my writing desk and spent six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt. I had some successes (fabulous tomatoes!); I had some failures (collapsed bean poles!). None of it really mattered, though, because gardening, after all, was just my curiosity—something to keep me modestly engaged through a difficult period. (At such moments, believe me, even modest engagement can feel like a victory.) 

Then the miracle happened. Autumn came. I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when—quite suddenly, out of nowhere—I realized exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version of Committed—a book that I now love. 

Gardening, in other words, had turned me back into a writer. 

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.”

 

IMG_0027

The Art of the Creative Blahs

thermometer-398735_1920It’s another hot smokey summer in Oregon.  It appears that temperatures of 90 and above and forest fires are the new normal.  Summer used to be my favorite season here but now that the jet stream has settled further south, spring and fall will get my vote.  Then air quality has been so poor you really don’t want to be outside doing much.

Motivation has been difficult.  My studio does not have air conditioning.  If I don’t get work done first thing in the morning, it doesn’t get done.  I think I’m getting summer cabin fever.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Rather than just push through it, my usual MO, maybe I should learn to roll with it and make this season the one to read, watch movies, and write more?  Maybe this is a good time to relax my expectations and go with the flow….

female-100319_1920

Continue reading “The Art of the Creative Blahs”

The Art of Earth, Wind, Fire & Water

IMG_0819 (1)While I was at Ghost Ranch two weeks ago (see my post “Escaping to an Artful Landscape”)  I took a 5-day long pit firing workshop.  Long before we had electric and gas kilns to fire clay, indigenous people including Native Americans, extracted their clay from local deposits and fired their ceramic ware in pits they dug into the earth. Wood, droppings and other combustible materials were placed around the pots and then

fresh-pottery-fire-pit-pit-firing-technique-alex-mandli
Image courtesy mikusa.com

covered with shards, moist clay or more wood.  The pit was then lit on fire and tended for hours.  This is the oldest known method of firing pottery.

Though pit fired ware is generally not as sturdy as those fired at higher temperatures in modern kilns, they can be quite beautiful- especially if the surface is burnished beforehand.  Depending on where the pot is in the pit can affect how the surface responds to flame, smoke, and oxygen. The addition of other salts around the pots can also create colorful patterns. Ceramic artists today are modifying the basic techniques and achieving

e-lazo-4-cotton-string
image courtesy Eduardo Lazo

stunning results. I’ve been attracted to this method since it is so primitive & close to natural processes. Beautiful useful and decorative items can be created using only the four elements (there is water in the clay).

Due to time constraints and high fire danger at the time, we had to modify our firing methods.  Instead of digging pits we had to fire in galvanized tubs and had to fire for shorter amounts of time.  Our pieces did not achieve the range of IMG_0882colors that can be possible.  Still, I understood the process, had fun,  and plan to try this behind my home clay studio.

Below are are some of the pieces I made during the workshop.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_0858

The 3 sheep were inspired by the black sheep running loose on the ranch.  I identify with black sheep!