Does Your Work Matter?

I frequently find myself questioning the worth of my creative endeavors.  It’s like being on a tight rope and then making the mistake of looking down and then falling.  Truly am my own worst critic.

Today I received a gift via Austin Kleon’s newsletter in my inbox to help counter those doubts.  Thank you, Austin for posting these wonderful words of wisdom from Martha Graham…

A story about meeting choreographer Martha Graham for a soda, as told by Agnes de Mille in Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham:

I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be”.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.”

“No artist is pleased.”

Ok..let’s get on with it then!

Standing at the Crossroads of Should and Must

What is the metric of decision-making in our lives?  What bearing do we follow?  How do we hear our inner guidance among the cacophony of others? How does one approach risk?  Navigating one’s life is tricky business.

Artist/author Elle Luna addresses this very topic in her recent book “The Crossroad of Should and Must, Find & Follow Your Passion.”  I was listening to her interview on the Beyond podcast and perked up my ears.  I don’t think I have ever heard anyone address this issue in such a concise way. Rather than head vs heart or gut vs brain she defines the quandry as what you SHOULD do VS what you MUST do.  This could be as huge as choosing a profession to choosing to take a break and read for 30 minutes, or should I finish this blog post or go out and work in the garden? (I chose the former.)

I purchased the book and have been very pleased with both the content and its presentation, a mixture of type, Luna’s illustrations, handwritten text, and memorable quotes in a recycled tag board binding.  It’s a quick reference to navigating the yearnings of one’s soul.

Age has made that process easier for me to distinguish between the voices of head and heart as I have the luxury of looking back over decades.  Still, it is always nice to have a guidebook when you have lost your way.  I’ve added it to my bookshelf alongside The Artist’s Way and Austin Kleon’s books.  It’s worth a read- especially if you’re a creative type.

Check it out!

At the Crossroads                                                                          

I choose

having tasted the straight, well-traveled road of should

and the starvation that came with it

the unmapped one calls to me

a winding path fraught with obstacles

marked with warnings

I have only my compass

traverse unknown terrain

and stumble often as

scars collect on my body

brought to skinned knees

by vista after vista

but I am satisfied with my choice

and despite injuries

I revel in the challenge

my curiosity sated with memories

feeling fully alive

on this road I’ve taken

and that has made all the difference

Check out my other blog, onesweetearth on sustainable living

Photos by author- most from the book At The Crossroads of Should and Must

The Art of the List

“It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive” 

John Lennon

There’s a grey zone between creative projects, that high of completing something big and the low of “Now what?” 

To ease out of the “what now “ doldrums I find great solace in making lists.  I find them grounding from to-do lists, not-to-do lists, to grocery lists.  I feel better with a rock-solid list.

This go around I decided to make a list of my symbols that I use or would like to use in my imagery and my writing as metaphors or prompts.  Here is my latest list.  Feel free to use any of it you like…

*all visuals in this post are from my daily planner or sketchbook

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…….)

Continue reading “Between Endings and Beginnings”

Perspective From a Creative Eddy

IMG_1416The studio is cleaned and I am occupying myself with small tasks
IMG_1418 that have gone by the wayside in favor of loftier goals.  That would include painting my hallway, mending, making greeting cards, and doing a bit of experimentation with using my slab roller (for clay) as a printing press.

eddies1
photo courtesy empiricalzeal.com 

Taking stock of my situation, I am in a creative “eddy.” As a kayaker, I find that the sport and rivers offer so many metaphors for life.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, eddy, it is “ a circular movement of water, counter to the main current, causing a small whirlpool”.  You find these on the back side of rocks or behind a point that extends out into a river.  Sometimes you get sucked into them inadvertently, and other times you purposely “eddy-out” to get out of the flow of the river to rest and regroup
Continue reading “Perspective From a Creative Eddy”