Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mind is a Funny Thing

I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
                                                                                                         ~ Miles Davis

Blue Sea Stuff - 6" x 7" oil on canvas

Because I'm still in the process of setting up my new studio after our move, there's not space for my easel yet, so I've been painting on my pochade box instead. I'm still trying to put into practice everything I learned from that recent color workshop I attended. I'm pretty pleased with this piece. Not the most elegant title though.

I'm now on my 6th day of daily creative play. You'd think it would be easy. What could be easier than playing? Especially when the play involves what you love. But the mind is a funny thing. As soon as you put a label on something - "you have to do this every day." - it can become just another item on the to-do list. Or the play becomes burdened with expectations. Judging sets in. It starts to feel forced, not fresh. I have to stay very aware of what's going on in my mind and keep my thoughts from heading in that direction!

Here are a few of the results from my creative play:

Creative play - ink & watercolor

This one I really had fun with:

Creative play - ink

I was googling about creativity and found some exercises designed to spark one's creative mind. One of the exercises involved pairing random adjectives, nouns, and verbs together and then illustrating the resulting phrase (I'm embarrassed to admit I don't remember the exact source/website for this exercise). My phrase was "Tall flower crying."

(During my online research on creativity, I also ran across this article, "The Creativity Crisis" from 2010 in Newsweek that talks about the need to teach creative thinking in school. Fascinating!)


Those mean little flowers! Even the bug is getting in on the teasing!

Creative play - monotype print

While I was looking for something else the other day, I found some of my printmaking supplies. Play time! 

I think my biggest challenge to sticking with this daily creative playtime is going to be getting over the idea that I'm not doing anything worthwhile. It is amazing to me how hard it is to break free of that ingrained work ethic and just allow myself to experiment and explore!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
                                                                                           ~ George Bernard Shaw

Creative Play #1

Okay, so it's kind of a cheesy title for this post and not terribly original. There's a song, there's a movie, and who knows what else. But somehow it also felt appropriate for this post. Yesterday was my birthday, and it happens to be the year before the big mid-century mark. I had expected next year's birthday to be a bit of a cage-rattler, but turns out I got a preview this year. Woke up with a headache and it went downhill from there*. You know: the whole questioning what I've done with my life thus far thing.

I've been continuing to ruminate over what I talked about in my last post, and all of your comments have given me lots more food for thought. (Thank you so much!) Last week I also had an idea floating around in my head about wanting to have more creativity in my life. Not the serious "must paint something worthy" type of creativity, but more the kind I seemed to have an endless supply of when I was 13 or 14, before it became buried under the chaos of growing up. Remember creative play? Creating for the sheer joy of it? (artist Belinda Del Pasco just happened to talk about creative play in a very timely, beautifully articulated post last week on her blog here) Seems that we have to give ourselves permission to play as adults. So I'm giving myself permission. Every day. And I will be posting the results on the blog, perhaps not every single day, but certainly more often than I've been posting lately.


So this first play session, completed today, was simply a matter of asking "What if?". What if I put watercolor on Bristol paper instead of watercolor paper? What if I add some india ink? What if I scribble the paper with some clear wax first? What if I blow on the ink and watercolor before it dries? Some may say that it's a waste of time to play and this piece will never be fine art, but through playing and exploring I found effects I really like that I could recreate in a "serious" piece later. Plus, and much more importantly, I had fun and the world could sure use more fun.

Another detail

Hopefully after a year of play, when the big Five-O rolls around, I'll wake up that morning thinking 49 was the best year yet, and eager for more.

*I should note that my birthday was not a complete let-down. My husband took me out for dinner to one of my favorite restaurants and we tried their chocolate layer cake for the first time and oh wow! Gooey, chocolaty and huge; this thing should be illegal! I felt much better after that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bison Color Study and Thoughts About Blogging

I never met a color I didn't like.
                          ~ Dale Chihuly

Bridger Mountains as seen from Bozeman, MT at dusk

Oh dear, I have been neglecting my blog. Partly it is Life zooming along at breakneck speed, but also partly feeling less than inspired about what to post. Back in late April I attended a fantastic 4-day color workshop for oil painters in my beloved Montana, so you'd think that would give me some blog-worthy material to share with you, but the writer's block has remained stubbornly in place. We also moved across town to a new home, which has provided endless excuses for me to procrastinate.

My new studio space is clearly a work in progress.
Can you spot the cat sleeping peacefully amongst the chaos?

I've been feeling very restless artistically, and went through a couple of months of wondering what my artistic purpose/direction was. I don't know that I've really sorted that out yet, but at least I'm feeling more energized about art again. However, I'm still not clear on my focus for blogging. 

Back in 2006, I started a blog to be able to participate in Illustration Friday, and then in 2009 I used the blog to track the 100 Painting Challenge I undertook with support from Laure Ferlita over at Painted Thoughts. At that point the blog became the "Inner Artist", to reflect my journey in reclaiming my long-buried artistic soul. However, 6 years later and "Inner Artist" doesn't seem to fit me any more. I'm certainly not saying that I don't still struggle with self-confidence and fear, or that I've "made it" as an artist, but I think I've moved beyond the original intent of this blog. So now what?

Workshop color study with blue-violet and yellow-orange as my main colors. The middle column of color
is made up of the neutral shades that were mixed from those two complementary colors.

Blogging experts say that you should figure out your niche, what makes you unique amongst other bloggers and focus on that. I'm not sure exactly what my niche is, but one place to start is to consider what in this blog has been successful. What is it that people come to my blog for? Looking over my blog statistics, the most popular post of all time was about a weird rock formation I saw on the Oregon Coast. Had nothing to do with art.The other most popular posts were of some daily sketches early on and a few posts from the 100 Painting Challenge. Looking these over, I am not finding any clear cut niche that these posts reflect.

Okay, so maybe figuring out my niche is going to take some time. Perhaps I could think about this from another angle and consider why I blog. Certainly one of the reasons I blog and read other artists' blogs is to be inspired by and connect with other artists. Blogging is a wonderful way to participate in an artistic community for people like me who live far away from cultural centers and resources. I definitely want to continue to have an artistic community. However, with more and more demands on my artistic time, it is becoming very challenging to make a regular habit of commenting on other artists' blogs. This seems to be a common problem that a lot of artists are running into, so at least I don't feel like I'm the only one dropping the ball, but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect people to comment on my blog if I'm not commenting on theirs.

Workshop final project - Bison painting using new color knowledge

Ideally I also want to blog as a way to reach potential customers and direct them to my website or an internet shop where they can purchase my work. Again, living far away from cultural centers and resources means I have very limited options for trying to sell my work. The internet could be a lifeline for me, but again, what's my niche? What would make me stand out amongst the thousands and thousands of other artists out there? It gives me a headache to think about.

So if you are still with me on this long rambling post, thank you, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on all this. What brings you to my blog? What kinds of posts have been the most interesting or helpful here? If you are also a blogging artist, what have been your challenges with blogging? Did you figure out your niche and if yes, how? If you leave a comment to this post, I promise to be more conscientious and leave one on your blog, too.*

*Obviously obscene, mean, or spamming comments will be ignored.