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….

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Return from Simplicity

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Our lives are frittered away by detail…simplifly, simplify.   Henry David Thoreau

Transitioning from my art retreat at Ghost Ranch,  New Mexico back to my home base has not been an easy one (see my last post).  For one blessed week, I did not have to drive, deal with purchasing or preparing my food or tending house in my basic camp style lodgings.  My life was structured with making art, eating communal meals, hiking and other activities that were provided.  Cell phone service was non-existent and Wi-Fi sketchy. The news of the world was kept at bay.  I did not miss any of it.

So I am back.  I do enjoy my own bed, my partner, my dogs, but dealing with the complexity of daily life again is daunting.  Not only are there the domestic chores that my house and yard present, but then there is the pile of mail, email, computer tasks for my art and other business that needs tending.  It is easy for my creative pursuits to get put on the back burner.  This modern world we live in is rife with distraction.  I miss the simplicity of life at Ghost Ranch.

But, this is my reality.  For the last week, I put my head down and got into bull-dozer mode catching up on everything from laundry to weeding the garden.  Now I am back to finding more balance.  I have to schedule my art time and keep it sacred less it gets eaten away.  This is a constant challenge.  If I don’t write or create something every day I get moody.  It’s a spiritual food.  After being away, I realize that my life needs to be simplified so I can concentrate on those things most important to me.  Next year the garden will be smaller, we will get more help around the yard.  I will be purging the house of lots of stuff that is no longer needed and take myself off mailing lists.

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Escaping to an Artful Landscape

IMG_0875Everyone should have a special place that brings a sense of belonging and rejuvenation,  where you can leave the cares of the world behind and just focus on nature, relaxation and creative pursuits. I just returned from one of my special places, Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center in Northern New Mexico where I attended a pit firing workshop.  Being there is like stepping into a Georgia O’keefe painting.  She lived and worked on this very property.

Here I am with a tribe of other creative and like-minded people.   We are hikers, writers,

singers, welders, quilters painters, printmakers, and ceramic artists.  The ideas and energy we share in our individual workshops and at communal mealtimes is infectious.  This is important to me as an artist for I work alone and need an inflow of new inspiration to keep my own creative fires burning.  There is a camaraderie that is quickly built in a brief week here.

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The Artful Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

— May Sarton

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It’s hard to imagine that in March my garden was seven big wood boxes full of brown soil, a blank canvas so to speak.  Now it’s a tangle of vines and plants that spill over those same boxes. There are five varieties of bushy tomato plants, at least as tall as me.  The bean teepee, full of romano beans, towers over six feet tall.  There is kale, chard, dill, hot peppers, onions, cucumbers, basil, zucchini, strawberries, beets, cardoons, sunflowers, and marigolds.  Two of the beds are now empty, the garlic being harvested earlier in July.  The peas have died back and the lettuce and arugula have gone to seed.

Planting a garden is a statement of hope, sowing seeds that bear the promise of food and Garden Basket2.2flower.

Planting a garden is a creative act, painting with a palette of plants, considering what varieties will complement the other, then executing the plan with hoe and shovel instead of a brush.

Planting a garden is work.  The soil must be amended, supports constructed, seeds and starts planted.  Then the beds must be mulched, watered, weeded and then harvested.  But then the payoff is the abundance of delicious fresh food it provides for the rest of the summer.

Garden Basket3Planting a garden is an alchemy of human interaction with natural processes.

A garden does not need to be big or complicated.  Even a couple of tomato plants on the porch or herbs on the window sill is better than nothing.   It’s gratifying to tend plants and watch them grow. For children, it’s an especially enriching experience.  To be able to feed oneself and share the bounty with others is powerful.  Gardening is an anchor to the Earth. You don’t get that from a grocery store.

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Intuition and Finding Your Inner Penguin

penguins-429128_1920The 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.

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Between Endings and Beginnings

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.”

  1. Don’t panic. Be still.
  2. Write in your journal
  3. img_0705-2.jpgDo some cleaning/tidying in the studio.
  4. Look for inspiration from the work of others.  Pinterest is my favorite source of visual inspiration.
  5. 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…….)

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Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

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