Sunday, July 28, 2013

Contemplating Closure

a break in the fence
I've spent many quiet, solitary days in reflection over the last few weeks, and while it hasn't been especially productive in the painterly way, I continue to feel like I'm making progress on my creative life.

I'm finally feeling more of an urge to reread old blog posts from my year of creativity. It's been a slow, but happily enlightening process. I didn't realize that could be what was missing as I went from being totally consumed by a daily creative project to being in a state of "now what do I do with myself?"
Suddenly there is a sense of closure (though slightly bittersweet), and I feel as if I may be getting closer to articulating what I learned in the past year of mindful creating.

I get the sense that this was mostly just interesting and important to me, and perhaps to a few fellow travelers of the creative path, but still I'm so glad I documented the journey. It's how I made sense of things, and now I can sit back and witness the evolution of my 365 Days of Creative...and the evolution of my creative soul.

I keep thinking: I'm so glad I wrote down that thought and snapped that photo and painted that picture! I have in my possession the artifacts of a year in the life of my creative spirit. Among the artifacts are poems, photographs, artful expressions in a mix of medias, and personal essays about my creative process. It was all born from authentic creating, from trial and error, from the voice of a wide-eyed beginner. Sometimes I don't even recognize my own voice, my own thoughts. "Wow! I had that epiphany?! Gosh I'm deep," I joke to myself.

Now, my big questions are, what do I do with all the by-products of my creative year- the learning that came from the creations? And do I really want this bittersweet closure?

There is a slight ache in my heart from the feeling of detachment from that prolifically creative me that thrived on making art of my everyday. 
Is this really something I want to close the lid on? I feel like there is a way back down that rabbit hole if I want it- a break in the fence that I can slip through.

I can't help but feel deep down in my gut (even without much evidence in my mind), this is more of a beginning than an ending...
and not so much a closing, but a great big opening of possibilities.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stress and the Creative Process

O.K., bear with me here as I go off on another therapeutic journal rant...

The thoughts that creep into my mind during art making sometimes contradict what I know to be true about pure self expression, and that is causing me an unnecessary amount of turmoil these days.
I am well aware that I am creating a great deal of my own stress by placing demands on myself to love my art. If I don't "like" what comes out, I get discouraged, I get frustrated, I get stressed out. It still happens- on a fairly regular basis, even after trying to convince myself (and everyone I know) that it's ultimately more important to create for the sake of creating!

Sometimes when this stress gets too big, I simply paint over my piece and start again. (On the good days.) Sometimes when this need to create something "worthy of my time" (ugh, yes that's what my brain likes to think!) is not met with positive results, I retreat. And on the especially difficult days (like today), the thought of stepping willingly into this anxiety prevents me from showing up all together. How downright silly is that?! Not making for fear of what I'm making not turning out? REALLY?! I'm still having these apprehensions?!

How does an artist overcome this? Is it just a matter of practice? Do I just keep smacking my head into all the typical reasons people don't make art?! Or am I dealing with a personality issue here? After circling back to this same lesson again and again, will I ever learn to surrender to the process?

Here's where it gets really scary for me. I worry that if I can't handle this myself, how do I ever expect to teach others to navigate the ups and downs of the creative life? What kind of hypocritical teacher would I be?!

I have to remind myself (ever so gently) that I'm still learning how to be an artist and how to be brave in the creative process. Respecting my creative process and loving my art are two very different things, after all.

These are the thoughts swirling around in my mind today. And as I contemplate how to change my thought patterns from being so attached to outcomes, the words I wrote yesterday in my art journal suddenly take on new meaning...

I am always trying to make "good"
trying to make "good"...

What if
for just a small part of each day
I committed to
just showing up
and being with my art?

Being present for each moment of the process rather than trying to force the outcome,
Being mindful of the simple gifts that present themselves on my art journal page,
Being OK with exactly what my art is turning out to be
right now.

What if?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Art of Just Being

On my walk today I found this sidewalk scrawling, and it made me think...

art journal spread: acrylic, ink, water soluble oil pastel, stabilo pencil, found paper & photo of sidewalk graffiti

For me, art is one way of just being. What is your way?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Harnessing My Chi

watercolor pencil 
It's been a little over a month since my 365 project  wrapped up, and let me tell you, I have had to exercise insane amounts of patience while my muse is off gallivanting on her summer vacation. She's due to return any day now, but in the meantime, I've taken my own little mental vacations- an evening here, a weekend there- to just decompress.

It's not that I haven't been inspired. I have a bounty of ideas to pull from, but somehow the days have slipped by without much art getting made. I blame it on creative burnout. I showed up for myself so much over the last creative year of my life that I simply needed a break from showing up. A year ago, I would have let my inner critic tear me a new one over this "wasted time," but now I just tell her to take a hike. I'm harnessing my chi. 

I must admit though, a few weeks is enough for me to recognize that I deeply miss that intentional  connection with my creative spirit that occurs when I dive deep into the creative process. While I know that showing up and committing to some play time with my paints and papers may very well bridge the gap between burnout mode and creative connection, my cluttered mind makes me hesitate.

But rather than getting depressed at my lack of creative output, I've been spending time combating the mental & environmental clutter. I think I finally (finally!) recognize that this just needs to be a regular form of maintenance in my creative life. Instead of waiting for the physical and mental clutter to pile up and spending days or weeks working through it, I need to check in with myself on a regular basis. I need to move some things around. I need to move the energy around to keep a healthy flow.

This week, it's looking like this:
Organizing ephemera for collage, cleaning up the project files on my computer, sorting through a mass of photos, and writing affirmations against all the unproductive thoughts that inevitably creep in during such down time.

I've been jotting all these little tasks and affirmations down in my daily planner as a way to recognize that I am making progress in my creative life. I know these baby steps benefit my greater good. They've kept my antsy inner critic at bay, and they've allowed me time to process the swell of emotions that came (rather unexpectedly) with the culmination of my last big project. Best of all, they are all efforts towards creating space, both in my environment and in my mind. Space allows for clarity and clarity is what I need to decide where I'm going to focus my energy and attention next.

I know all these organizing tasks will get forgotten when I'm off and running on my next passionate project, so I'm simply looking at this ebb in my creating as time that I've been blessed with to get things in order. I remind myself, yet again, it's a necessary part of the process. I'm learning that the creative life is not just about flinging paint and producing satisfying works of art. Though we may wish the bulk of our creative time was spent at this,  it also takes daily maintenance to keep our minds open to receive inspiration and to keep our intentions aligned with our values.

Creative energy ebbs and flows. How do you harness your chi to get the energy flowing back where you want it?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Art of Giving a Hoot

It's been a while since I've put brush to canvas. Today I got a glimpse of my wily muse while putting brush to ceramic.

One of my tutoring students turned 16 today! (I feel old.) I took her to a paint your own pottery studio to celebrate her budding creativity. This cute little place is just a couple blocks from my house. I've driven by it dozens of times since it opened, but didn't think it was "my thing." Finally, my hypothesis has been confirmed: If you've lost your muse, do something out of your ordinary creative to rekindle the spark.

We had the best time picking out our ceramic pieces, and experimenting with paint colors and stencils. I painted this darling little owl for the birthday girl. The lacy flower design is actually a lace stencil technique that I learned today. I'm dying to try it out in my mixed media paintings. Can't wait to see my piece glazed and fired. I'm all fired up to get back into my art studio now!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Delicate Miracle

I've been in Las Vegas the last few days, taking care of my mama after her knee surgery. She is recovering faster than we expected and would probably be up dancing if I wasn't here demanding that she rest.

I was dreading the "dry heat" of Vegas summer, but we've been blessed with cooler temperatures because of the rains. Rainy summer evenings are one thing I do miss about this place. The smell of the damp desert earth rising with the heat reminds me of my childhood summers. The sound of cicadas with their constant humming strikes a chord with me, like some comforting sound therapy.

A barefoot walk in the grass after the rain helps me to ground myself in this place that I used to call home. My ankles itch from the tall blades.

After lots of prayer and negotiation, I have finally managed to get my mama and both of my brothers together in one place for the first time in four years. (It's a long story.) I am in quiet disbelief as we sit piled onto my mama's bed browsing through old black and white family photos from Poland. I want to jump and cheer for this momentous gathering, but I don't want to break the peace of the moment or disrupt whatever delicate miracle is keeping us all here. So instead I smile to myself and give thanks for rainy Vegas summer nights.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Observations: On and Off the Yoga Mat

After a second session of oceanfront yoga, I feel a deeper understanding of how the practice can benefit my life. Something has clicked and I am so grateful for it.

In yoga, it is said, the way we do anything is the way we do everything.

I am finding this to be very true. I am learning to be more observant of my natural reactions in my yoga practice, in day-to-day living and in my creative process. This is what I have observed:

I don't often give up. I push myself through the challenging parts, but I still have to remind myself to breathe. I catch myself clenching my jaw and holding my breath. I try to push through discomfort. I commit. But I am always aware of my unsteadiness. Balance often eludes me, but I try to find center and pick myself up when I fall. This happens on and off the mat.

My thoughts wander constantly until I choose to be mindful of the moment. Letting my thoughts go where they will while breathing through the mental chatter, I simply try to observe and relax. I am learning to mind my mind. I am learning to listen to my body, to recognize when it is time to rest in child's pose or push myself to stretch further. I am learning to set intentions that align with my values.
This too happens on and off the mat.

How we approach resistance is very telling. When my body resists an uncomfortable pose, when my mind resists positive thoughts, when my will resists the work I need to put in to move my creative dreams forward, I become keenly aware of my shortcomings. This makes me anxious. It throws off my focus. I know this must keep me from making faster progress, but yoga and life are both a practice. I don't have to be perfect. I just have to continue to breathe.

Yoga is teaching me to breathe through resistance and to get out of my own way. This is exactly what I need in my life. I am grateful for the spark of connection I am able to make with my day-to-day living and my creative process. I am surprised at my emotional response to it all. Above all, I am trying to be patient with myself as I build strength and find clarity, on and off the yoga mat.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fruits of My Labor

As I read through my learning in my old blog posts from my year of creativity, and enjoy some garden-fresh fruits and herbs, I'm finally reaping the rewards of seeds I planted.

I've been nurturing my creative dreams and my little garden alongside each other. The fruits of my labor, both in the garden and in my creative life, are tasting ever so sweet! Gardening is teaching me patience and careful observation of nature. I harvest delicious things to eat. The creative process and building of a creative life are teaching me patience and careful observation of my own human nature. I harvest a growing body of work and confidence in my creative abilities.

I journaled and made Bruschetta Salad to celebrate this beautiful summer day, ripe with possibility.

This refreshing and energizing snack is a healthy spin on traditional bruschetta, low carb, no oil or salt added. Simply toss a handful of your favorite teeny tomatoes with a few leaves of torn basil, 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts and 1/8 cup of fat free feta cheese. Add a spritz of fresh lemon and a dash of pepper to taste. The flavors are amazing together, even minus the mozzarella and bread!

The growing season has just begun! What creative seeds are you nurturing or beginning to harvest?