Friday, July 22, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Remember when you went back to school and you had to write your first paper on what you did on your summer break?  I must say I am enjoying my summer!  Right now half the country is in this terrible heat wave that does not look like it will give way anytime soon.  I am in one of those unlucky states.    My grass is turning to straw before my eyes.  (bright side:  I gave up watering)  I have to hit the pavement before 8 am for it to be cool enough to walk my dogs! (bright side: I'm not wasting the morning)  In short, it's  H O T!  And so I changed my blog background to cool pool water!
Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not complaining.  I'm getting to a point in my life where I'd rather have this than cold.  But as cold with winter, the heat forces me inside to the AC.  (and what did we do without it?  Can you remember?  I can- and it wasn't pretty!)  So inside I've been.  My current ride has no AC so I patiently wait for my real ride to come home from work before I venture out, hopefully into the cooler evening air. (long car story- bright side: I am forced to catch up on all the indoor stuff I've neglected due to the "busy's" or outdoor needs)

So you would think I'd be in my studio painting right?  Well, you would be wrong.  Why is it so much easier to think about doing something than to actually do it.  I mean, it's not like I don't love doing it.  It's not like I don't have things right there waiting and ready. It's not like I'm out of the house!  But I just walk right by.  I've painted plein air a total of once.  It's almost the end of July-I think I missed the perfect weather!  But you know what, "it's all good!" as my son says. 

"So what have you been doing?" you ask.  Well, I've been redecorating.  You know, painting and organizing and arranging/fixing stuff.  We have a wedding next summer and the house was looking a bit run down and my tastes have changed.  And I've been reading.  There's no time for much pleasure reading when teaching and doing the regular routine.  I've been cooking.  I get out of the habit when I'm busy and we eat poorly.  I've been purging.  Not food :), but I had a huge garage sale and got rid of most of the stored stuff in the crawl.  Now THAT was freeing.  And visiting with friends.  And when I look at what I've done, it's all creative related since that's just who I am.  The decorating, cooking, reading, seeing friends.  All pleasures and things I find enrich my life.  Things that get the squeeze when time is short. 

In The Artist's Way it talks about taking artist "play dates" as it were.  Having experiences that don't involve actually creating are one of the exercises she uses to stimulate and rejuvenate a blocked creative.  I realized in a way that's what I've been up to.  An extended "play date"!  Like taking a vacation from my vocation! While I'm not feeling blocked, I was feeling a bit frenzied.   

So I write this not to catch you up on what I am doing with my summer.  I write this to remind you that its OK not to be doing what you normally do and take a break. In fact I recomend it.  Do I recommend you take long ones-like an entire summer?  That's relative to your situation.  After that busy May/June with all the classes and the Decorator Show House, I really needed some time off.  There are times in life when the break is forced.  There are also times in your life when you just need some perspective and some distance or a rest.  And to everything, there is a season. To be honest, I am still painting with a group of friends once a week.  The photo above is a quick study I did recently.  It's been nice to have that one activity and those great friends and no pressure, just art for me.  But just that one thing.  For now.

 I know myself well enough to know I wont stay away from it all too long.  It calls to me and eventually the voice gets pretty loud.  The urge becomes too great and I begin to clean a palette or sketch an idea and there you go!  I don't know about you, but I become restless if I have not enough creative outlet.  I'll bet you do too.  Ever thought about that?  That restlessness is telling you something.  For my dad it always signaled the need to travel.  For my friend Lindi, she makes a meal that feeds her soul as well as my belly!  For my sister, she spends hours making handmade cards that are works of art and labors of love as wonderful as the gift.  For my mom, she used to write and I stumbled upon her poetry the other day.  That is a wonderful insight into her soul.  My soon to be in-law Christy gets the urge to throw a party!  Tom MUST golf!  (maybe not creative, but definitely an urge that must be met)  Everyone needs their creative spot scratched! 

So, soon I expect to be restless.  When my mother died I did not feel restless for a long time.  Then one day there it was.  So in the wisdom of my years I know the tide will always come back in. The voice will be so loud I can no longer ignore it.  For now though, I am going to enjoy the peace, the heat and the AC!  Have a great summer whatever you do!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Much of what I do as an artist is serendipitous.  Meaning that not every piece is a masterpiece.  Much like life, I just keep making the best decisions I can and I hope will turn out well.  The more I know and the more experience I have as I move forward in life, the better my decisions and the more often I have a successful outcome.  But in my art the really good pieces almost seem to paint themselves.  I often feel it is a spiritual experience.  I cannot make a mistake and it is a thing to experience. Yet I cannot, for love, money or blood, recreate them...The other stuff I can...

This is the experience my fellow artist all have.  In fact, I have not met one that does not share this experience.  I had one say they enjoy a 2/3 success rate, two out of every three.  Mine is a bit lower.  Quite a bit.  Which leads to the discussion about what success is, really.  But that's a whole other blog...

Last weekend we took the dogs to the river.  Max, my retriever loves to swim for sticks.  Cloe, my schnoodle loves to roll in smelly stuff!  Anyway, my husband handed me a piece of driftwood to look at.  It was beautiful.  Gnarled and warn down by the water. Who knows how long it floated, what kind of wood it was, how far it traveled, what had shaped it.  But it was a work of art. 

I remember thinking I could never create something so beautiful in all its raw simplicity.  (and you know nature moves me!)  That God himself had a hand in the design of this piece.  There was lots of other driftwood to be found on that riverbank, but none that was so beautiful to me.  And I wondered about the process I personally go through to create.  Each piece having a different journey along the currents and meeting unique forces that shape them, but still flowing in the same river of my personal creative experience.  Some of those results are good.  Some of it is awful!  And every so often, I get some fine "driftwood".  And it gives me a lot of joy!  My happy thought is that when we create and that happens, we share something with a much larger creative force.  Serendipity?  Call it what you will.  The driftwood is on my coffee table...