Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Is Art Like Riding A Bike?

Last summer I bought a bike.  I haven't really ridden much since I got rid of my old bike.  No time, other things to do.  But I've always loved to ride.  There is something about riding a bike.  (and swinging on a swing--)  I love being outdoors riding with the wind in my face.  So what does riding a bike have to do with art?  

Well, I hadn't ridden in quite a while.  But I was never worried that I couldn't ride again.  You know the expression "its like riding a bike-once you learn, you never forget."  So I hopped on and off I went.  Have you ever taken a few months or maybe a year (or many ) off from doing art?  Did you forget how to do art?  No, it's like riding a bike!  You might be rusty and a little wobbly, but it all comes back to you.  You might need to ease in by exercising those creative muscles slowly back to their former strength.  Your physical muscles have memory and so do your art muscles.  They will return with some work.

And what happens if you take a fall?  I recently took a spill that hurt my ego much more than my body. Joggers and traffic all witnessed as I stopped short and went over the handlebars.  I have a nice imprint of the skid resist sidewalk on my thigh, a sore hand and other minor injuries.  But what hurt more was being witnessed!  I haven't talked to a biker yet who hasn't had an accident.  Get back on the bike!   Staying in a safe gym on a stationary bike takes me nowhere.  I may get exercise, but there is no scenery!  No sunshine and blue skies.  

The same goes for your art.  Do you fear being witnessed?  Afraid to paint in public or show your work?  Afraid to fail or hear critical comments?  Just as every biker will experience an accident, every artist will have a critic and a painting (or many) fail.  Just understand and accept that it's going to happen.  Knowing this takes some of the sting out of it.  Others have gone before and done the same.  Get back to the art!  There are experiences out there you won't know until you get out of the studio! 

What are your goals?  At first, I wanted something to get me out of the house, give me some exercise and relieve some stress.  After that initial period, my goal was leisure and pleasure.  Soon, I amped it up for cardio.  Now, I'm riding with others and it is a lifestyle change I hope carries into retirement since you can ride at almost any age.  Biking is an activity many take up as they get older.  It's much easier on the knees but can still give the benefits of other forms of exercise.  

When I look back on my growth as an artist, I noticed those goals changed over time also.  I took classes to get out of the house and away from a toddler.  Mental health was the key here!  I enjoyed it and did well.  Then I amped it up and began to show and join art groups.  I began to teach and win awards.  Today, I'm finding other artists to interact with and have realized that my art can be taken anywhere I go in life and during any stage and any age. I may not be doing my art for the same reasons today, but it is something that enriches my life.  

Exercise helps us with balance, which we lose as we age.  Riding a bike is great for this since you literally balance the whole time.  Excercise helps relieve stress and gives us a feeling of well being.  I notice my art balances me too.  I sometimes don't realize how much balance art brings to my life.  Art is an outlet for me and if I neglect doing it for myself, for fun, I become unbalanced.  Exercise and art balance you mentally and physically.  But your Art can become unbalanced as well.  When our focus becomes the finished product and not the process.  Or when we paint for sales or ribbons. Maybe we get in a rut and don't challenge oursleves.  By exercising our creative selves and getting out of our comfort zone, we find balance.

Equipment.  Enough said?  Do we need another reason to shop?  First it was the bike. Then came the  stuff.  My husband teases me about my biking gear.  I have the helmet, gloves, glasses, clothes and heart rate monitor.  I didn't get it all at once.  I added to it as I found the need.  But I'll tell you what, I'm glad I had that helmet and those gloves the other day!  My glove looks a little mangled and while I didn't hit my head, it reminded me how quick accidents happen.  You need to be prepared with the right equipment!

If you are just starting to make art, take a class and invest in some good materials.  It certainly makes the job easier and art making is hard work!  You need the right equipment.  Why make it harder with limited skills and sub standard tools?  You don't have to buy the best.  But you are making ART, you are an artist!  It is important.  Whether for your mental health, personal enjoyment or to show, make the best art you can with the best materials you can afford.  Having said that, a standard 2B pencil and a sketch pad is really all you need to make art.  But you can make a lot of different marks with a lot of different pencils!  

Give yourself the gift of making art.  I started riding again for the reasons I stated above.  But right away I noticed when I rode my bike I left the responsibilities and care of others behind.  For a time, I was alone and in my own world.  I was enjoying this time carved out of a busy life, just for me.  That's the mental health.  I was relieving stress but also getting much needed exercise.  I don't need to go into the health benefits of regular exercise.  I'm sure, unless you live on another planet you've heard.  Physically and mentally, it is a win, win activity.  

Making art is another win, win activity.  Have you ever noticed that you lose track of time and go into a "zone" when you are creating.  Studies show that making art improves cognitive function and memory and reduces common symptoms of dementia.  It strengthens problem solving and critical thinking skills. Creative activities reduce stress and depression.  Creating increased blood flow to the brain by 10%, especially to the pleasure centers, similar to falling in love. Studies on people with chronic illness show that helps balance their loss and gives them relief from the illness for a time.  Making art produces a meditative effect.  Heck, making art is just good for you! 

So, I hope you either get your bike down out of storage or dust off those old art supplies.  Preferably both.  If you are already actively making art, think about how you can change it up and exercise a different muscle group by joining a group, having a paint date with a friend, taking a class, buying that new easel.  Keep it fresh and fun.  But above all, do it for you!  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Learning to Draw and Paint Flowers

I'm starting my series on Flowers in Watercolor.  This is the first one explaining how to draw a cup and bowl shaped flower.  You can read it at Empty Easel.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Time With Dad


So, along the lines of the Bloom Where You're Planted post, I've found a few new blooms on the bush.  Some time with an old friend painting in the park was just the ticket last week.  Angela and I have been painting together for many years, since I moved here almost thirteen years ago.  She, a speedy oil painter alongside me, a slow watercolorist.  We both like to paint the same things and always enjoy each other's company.  But these last few years we haven't gotten to do it much at all.  Hopefully we can do this with some frequency since we both found a little time in our busy schedules.

It's funny, I had almost decided to just give art up entirely.  Gasp! Art for me has always been a joy and an outlet. Other times when I had a rough patch I may have quit painting for a time, but I never felt as though the artistic spirit had left.  Maybe it took a backseat, but I knew it would return, front and center.  And it always did.  Before.  It's hard to explain.  But as time dragged on and I just didn't enjoy it, I figured maybe it had run it's course.  That happens, right?  There are other things.  Pursuits and interests I haven't gotten to yet.  Maybe I would find a new passion?

So I resolved to just give it a year.  If, after a year (plus the past year) my attitude had not changed, I would just move on.  In the meantime, I didn't force it.  I left it alone almost entirely.  I have never done that in 25 or more years!  But I guess I needed a break.  And time. Time to give priority to other things. 

The second bloom to open was this recent nagging thought that I need to sketch and paint my dad.  One of the things I tell students is to paint what is around them.  Anything and everything!  Still, I really was in no mood to paint or sketch beyond my obligations until the last few months anyway. But time, that measurement of minutes, hours, days, months and years.  It changes things.  Time moves on and you can't stop it.  Once it's gone, it's gone.  I realized I had an opportunity in time.  Time with my dad.  How could I best use that time with my dad?  As I thought about that, it was pretty obvious what one of the opportunities here is!  Bingo! 

And so, as time marches on, I have so many opportunities.  Small gems hidden, barely visible.   The task is to mine these gems each and every day.  The other night, it was fishing.  I sketched him and painted as he watched my husband fish.  The painting was awful because of the paper in the journal I used, but what a time we had!  We roared with laughter while my husband "fished" his lure from a bush!  The other was a sketch done from a photo I snapped the other day because I loved the light against a dark window.  

So, as I think about fathers day I realize I've been given a gift. It's not the new inspiration or the art spirit come back that is the gift.  It is this time with my dad.