Sunday, June 28, 2015

Art, Life, Work, Blogging, Caretaking and What I've Learned About Myself...

The other day my dad asked me why I didn't paint anymore. I was a little surprised he noticed since his memory continues to slip away.  I told him I was a little too busy right now.  But I'm not too busy to fit in other things.  So why don't I paint anymore?

I read a blog the other day by another artist who was so candid about his personal fears and past/present experiences, I was inspired by the courage that took.  So I decided to be a little more courageous here.  And tell you why my blog has been so quiet.

I think to everything there is a season.  I miss teaching and painting, especially plein air.  I miss blogging about it.  You can't (or I can't) keep a blog fresh with new subject matter if you're not in the game.  And for a while, I was angry I didn't have the time or energy to do those things.  But even when I found the time, I didn't do them.  It was then I realized it was a choice I've made to do other things.  More important things.  

Caring for dad has been life changing.  I've realized how selfish I am.  I've realized how blessed I am. I've realized how sad aging is and how devastating Alzheimer's can be. But I've also been given a gift of time with my dad that I wouldn't trade for any painting!  We are very fortunate his mind has stayed as stable as it has.  It could be from my stellar care taking, (if you know me, you know thats a little joke. I'm doing the best I can.  Some days are better than others) but more likely from the drugs and the fact that dad always kept himself physically fit and was mentally always sharp as a tack.  While his mind continues to fade, it's his body that will ultimately betray him. He's ninety, it's not a shock. But I'm noticing tremors in his hands and the shuffling of his feet is worsening.  Recently, a bout of pneumonia nearly took him from us. 

I tell you this on a blog about living a creative life, why?  Well, because once an artist, always an artist!  Adapting is the name of the game in life.  Many times I've had students entering a new stage in life and wanting to fulfill their passion to paint.  Often I had students with illness or disability use my classes to take their mind off their illness or condition.  Some use it to strengthen their minds or coordination. One student told me that as she aged, she knew she would always be able to find a pencil and paper, so it was a skill she could do no matter where she went or how life changed!  That's so true!  So why am I not using my art more to cope, as therapy or as an outlet?

The truth is,  I could find the time if I wanted to.  To be fair, I haven't "quit".  It's just that my time is not my own so much now.  Much like going back to work full time and just not having enough free time to fulfill all the many passions I have!  Someone asked me how my art was going and as I began to tell them it really wasn't, my hubby jumped in and reminded me (as he told them) that I'm out in the garden and in our home creating beauty, just in a different medium!  How sweet was that?  

So it's true that life has limits.  I traded one thing for something else much more valuable.  I have those skills and when the time is right, I will make use of them again as God calls me to my next challenge!   While my focus may have changed, my passion to create hasn't.  I believe we are created in God's image and the first thing God tells us He did was create.  That means it's important!  I am happiest when I am creating, but even God took a break!  

So since this blog is titled "Living a Creative Life" not "A Painting A Day", maybe I'll post some other ways I've been living a creative life.  Art is everywhere if we just have eyes to see.  I believe we need to surround ourselves with beauty and creativity.  In our homes, our yards, our minds, with what we read and how we entertain ourselves.  In everything.  Art enriches our everyday life and as the auto signature for my emails says "Art washes the dust from everyday life"--Picasso.  

I think a lot of the art I used to do was driven by the need for new work to show, enter competitions or teach a new class.  I think those things were very helpful to keep me painting and putting my work out there.  I saw improvement through the years and I had some small success.  It was rewarding, but if I wasn't married to such a hard working guy, I couldn't have ever made a living out of it without a lot more effort.  I'm sure I would have been a Sunday painter with a "real" job. I also noticed that when it becomes something you must do, even art becomes work.  Even if you love it.  Work, well, is work.  And work is good.  I just think some people have this idea that to do what you love never has a down side. 

Anyway, I digress.  Take away all that impetus to make art and I'm left with my own ambition.  I've learned I'm not that ambitious!  I have plenty of time to make art.  So why don't I?  Why does it create stress for me to think about making art?  I don't know.  I simply have no answer for it.  One of my favorite quotes and something I'm continually reminded is "The only constant is change."  And in time, this too shall pass, I'm certain of it.


  1. I completely understand. I was on my back for three months and drugged (pain) and my art from that time is very different, especially as the pain worsened and my hopes were dashed. I did make art, not anything to write home about but more my personal journal, and thought I would not share it. A couple of art friends have posted some edgy wonderful and angry art lately (not their usual) and this encouraged.

    A friend has kept a journal -- pencil or ink mostly, of her time as she cares for her mom, who has dementia. At first she did this to pass the time as she was mom-sitting, and now as her mom is slipping away, she sees it is a lovely odd little book of her memories of her mother.

    Art comes in many forms. Creative outpouring does too. I am looking forward to your posts!

    1. thanks for your encouragement. I am finding my time a mixed blessing. I hope it continues to resonate with others. Art is life, life is art!

  2. Be gentle with yourself - you're doing something very important right now. The urge will come back at the right time and it will be strong enough that it will become a priority. Right now it's not. That's life.

    1. thank you for your kind words Pat, and thank you for reading. I'm sure thats true and I am focusing in on the here and now, because its gone before you know it!

  3. Boy, I sure understand feeling stressed by not doing art. I have my own reasons, but not at all as important as what you are dealing with. I've been a caregiver in the past and at that time was able to use art to keep myself sane. Now I have more stupid reasons that keep me from it. Nobody will notice I am not creating but I sure do. Hang in there - live for today.

    1. Thanks Nancy! I know a lot of people can relate. You hang in there too. This two shall pass!

    2. Enjoyed reading your blog this morning and have enjoyed your painting classes in the past. Having cared for my mother with similar issues, my best advise is "have no regrets". Pour your energies into caregiving and your art will be so much better later because you will have no regrets. You will know that you gave your father all the love that he needed at the time and your paint brushes will flow freely and be filled with inspiration from your journey when it is time to pick them back up again.
      With you on your journey!

    3. I know I'm replying to this post quite late; I only read it for the first time today and, although not timely, I wanted to reply.

      I'm very disabled so I often find when I get the urge to create my body prevents me from being physically capable of doing this. And when my illness is in less severe period I have no urge to create. Its a painful trap between mind and body. I'm now trying to force myself by following some advice I was given - if you can't imagine then take time to learn by replicating a master-work. Don't just copy but follow the artist's creation process. I'm also trying to work on my tone with simple geometric blocks.
      I'm doing this in the hope that anything that gets my pencil (or brush) moving can give the momentum needed to keep it moving whist my body allows. And, with any luck, it will also improve my technique.

      After reading your post I felt it sounds like you used to create your art for other people - teaching, shows etc. I apologize if this is wrong. But, if I am correct, you are now not able to do that anymore, and you are in a position where you would be creating art that is only for yourself. Yet, as we (arty-folk) tend to be our own biggest and worst critics, that can actually be very daunting. Anything you produce will ultimately only be judged by your most feared critic! Mine is truly awful :)

      I know being a carer can be utterly draining, I was a child-carer and now, as an adult, I need one myself. What you are doing is wonderfully generous and kind. Not every disabled person is so loved by their family that the family will put themselves second for them, but I think you must remember yourself in all of this. Taking even just 30 minutes (planned into your schedule, or taken when possible) to do anything or nothing all for yourself is a necessity. I promise that this doesn't make you selfish, just human. I helped my carer develop a hobby he can do whilst with me and between doing the necessities for me (model painting). It makes me happy to see him doing this.

      I think of creativity as rather like a semi-feral pet. It sometimes wanders away for a while when we aren't looking, we fret and worry about whether we will ever see it again, and then one day its just there again, gazing at us as if it never left.

      All of my best wishes for you and your family.