Archives for category: art and the artist

I am sipping my coffee – an eggnog latte, my fond seasonal weakness coffee-wise each autumn as the Yule season begins. Thanksgiving… holiday parties… Hannukah… the Solstice… Giftmas (more commonly called “Christmas”)… Festivus… Boxing Day… Kwanzaa… it’s a season rich in celebrations and merry-making. Oddly, it wasn’t what I was thinking about over the weekend, in spite of Thanksgiving being just days away…

I sit in the stillness of a local co-work space, alone with my coffee. It’s quiet. The usual background music is not playing, and the stillness feels complete, interrupted by occasional trucks passing on the street outside. I came into “the office” early this morning to avoid waking my Traveling Partner. He’s put in some heroic hours laboring in the shop, making it ready for the new (larger) CNC machine that will arrive soon. He was obviously exhausted by the end of his day, yesterday, and I sometimes rattle about rather noisily in the mornings. It’s not any particular inconvenience to go into the office and give him a better chance at deep sleep, and when he actually asked me if I would, I readily agreed. So… here I am. 😀 Getting some quiet time to write, and sipping on a delightful holiday beverage. It’s a promising start to a Monday.

There have been a lot of items in the news (I’d say “lately”, but truly it’s a relatively common thing) about various celebrities, sports figures, cultural icons of one sort or another, and some problematic tidbit – something they’ve said, or not said, or some bad act (some such are fairly petty or trivial, others quite horrible). We lament the fall of our heroes, when we’re honest enough to accept their human failings at all. Other times, we can’t accept what we’ve seen/heard… and we make excuses for their shitty behavior, or seek to explain it away. We do it for star athletes. We do it for actors. We do it for politicians. We do it for friends and loved ones. We do it for the gods we created in our own image.

I didn’t link any examples, and that’s intentional; we all experience this toppling of our heroes at some point, even if only in the discovery that our own parents do not know everything and don’t get everything right, or perhaps that first time we correct a teacher on some small detail of a subject we study passionately, that they were simply incorrect about.

…It’s hard to separate the art from the artist, isn’t it?.. To separate the author from their story? To separate the musician from their music? The soldier from their service? We are each so human…

Why the hell do we so often set ourselves up – and each other – for failure by creating a heroic caricature that no one could possibly measure up to? Why is it so difficult to “hate the sin” and still deal with one another entirely humanely? Why are our expectations of one another so complicated and often so unreasonable? What are we even doing here??

I only have questions on this one. Catchy bon mots and conveniently pithy slogans of one sort or another came and went with my thoughts over the weekend. I never really got anywhere besides “human beings are not heroes and neither are the gods they create”. We begin life with no perspective, experience, or wisdom, but commence judgment and decision-making immediately… we age and our thinking changes over time as we do, but entirely too late to change our previous decisions or actions based on flawed thinking. If we’re fortunate, we get somewhere good with all that mess. More often, it’s … complicated.

I remember how I felt upon learning that John Lennon mistreated women. “Heartbroken astonishment and disbelief” describe the initial feeling, but it quickly morphed into just disbelief, and from there? Apologist nonsense. Took me awhile to get to a place in life where I could both enjoy his music and also accept that he was a flawed human being, possibly even one I could not personally respect and might not wish to hang out with. Some of his music remains personally meaningful to me, in spite of who he was or may have been. This is just one example. There are so many others! (You, too?) In some cases, I couldn’t get past the human being behind the art, and I avoid it altogether. It sort of depends on how great the art, and how terrible the failure, sometimes. Over the years, I’ve become much less inclined to make excuses for human failings, and also much more inclined to be compassionate. It’s… complicated. I do think that when we insist on super-gluing our heroes to their pedestals in spite of their failings, we set ourselves up to treat people around us more callously – because we’re insisting on preserving the lie of heroism. There are no heroes. Only people. Some people are pretty fucking horrible. Other people are damned nice. No people are living embodiments of perfection in life (don’t argue, just look closer), and we’re each having our own experience. We’re walking our own paths, doing our own best, and generally hoping the outcome will be good more often than not. Can we each do better? Yeah, probably. Having a “role model” feels helpful sometimes. Making our role models over in the image of a god or a hero is probably not. (It’s also probably a lot of weight to have to carry, being someone’s hero…)

What do you value? How do you live that value in your life every day? What do you need a hero for? You have the path ahead, you have the choices in your hands, you have this day. Topple your heroes, then… become the person you most want to be.

Begin again.

I am sipping my morning coffee, thinking about my afternoon tea. lol It’s a bit meta, isn’t it? I’m okay with that – I do some of my most personally useful thinking in this way.

This has been a good weekend of self-care and partnership. My Traveling Partner and I spent time in his shop together working on a project – the first “from nothing to something” project to come off this new CNC machine. Exciting! It’s a small thing – a trivet. I needed one in the kitchen, though, to avoid setting very hot pans on our countertops, which are not stone, or made from stone, just some ordinary enough surface that could be at risk of damage from excessive heat. I like to take care with things.

A useful reminder of my partner’s affection.

This morning, I slept in – like, properly actually slept-in later than I might ordinarily, and also quite late considering when I crashed for the evening (and without even reading for a few minutes!). I woke feeling not only “well-rested”, but also feeling that my “mental buffer” was entirely cleared out of things needing to be processed from recent events. Lovely. Self-care win. A big one. If the only reason I’m “sleeping in” is that I went to bed very late, or slept very poorly, it’s not particularly worthwhile – it’s just me trying to get enough rest. This time, I definitely got enough rest, and a little more than that. 😀

I see a sunny autumn day beyond the window. My coffee tastes good. I feel loved. There is a smile on my face.

My partner ducks in for a moment to see how my morning is going so far, and asks me to check my oxygen on a pulse oximeter. I use the one on my phone and quickly verify that my oxygen level is “in the green zone” – I’m breathing. Yay! 😀 When my anxiety flares up, even “in the background”, the resulting experience of “hyper vigilance” sometimes finds me “holding my breath” without intending to, after some in-breath or another, as if alert for a threat, waiting, watchful… for some reason, my partner is very sensitive to this detail in my experience, and at some point when a change in my chemistry or pheromones becomes detectable (this is our theory, not confirmed through convincing medical research, so please don’t change your life over it) and if we’re in the same room he’ll fairly reliably have an allergy attack over it. We’re ruled out other more obvious things, so this is where we’re at with that. It vexes us both. For me, it’s mostly an irritating circumstance that breaks my focus when I’m asked to check my oxygen, which is … annoying and also saddening (to potentially be a cause of my partner’s allergies). For him? For him it’s worse, I think; he suddenly, unexpectedly, can’t fucking breathe. Crazy. I hope we figure it out. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s one of our day-to-day challenges. People have those. lol

It’s the last day of a lovely long weekend. I’ve got some errands to run, and a plan to make baked ziti for dinner. Life being lived. Lovers loving. Time passing. There’s still time to get into the garden… to read a book… I’ve got a list of inspired work to get started on in the studio, too…

…It’s time to begin again. Pick something. Do the thing. Repeat.

There are so many tea-related metaphors. I’m more of a coffee drinker, frankly, which you probably know if you’ve read more than one or two of my blog posts. I do occasionally drink tea, though…

Proof I do drink tea. Sometimes.

Here’s a thing, though; tea has been around a very long time. It has ancient origins. The idea of having a cup of tea to relax, or as a pick-me-up, or as a shared moment among friends, or a celebratory or thoughtful ritual, is not new. (This is going somewhere…)

…I mean…damn. Have some tea. Think about how that connects you to your ancestors – and the world!

Life has been “busy”. My anxiety has pushed me back into therapy, because although I worked a long time to manage my anxiety generally (in the face of trauma, stress, and emotional pain), I haven’t actually done much to deal with my anxiety in the face of … success and contentment and a pretty good life. Turns out, that also massively aggravates my anxiety! Fuck. Seriously? Well, shit.

Even a lovely colorful pleasant life rich in love and joy can be a source of stress.

One of the things I had talked over with my therapist is this idea that I feel unprepared for things to go well, and as if I am constantly vigilant, waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, which is a weird source of anxiety, seems to me. I also gave voice to my frustration that I’m struggling to stay on track with my meditation practice – in spite of my awareness and direct experience that it is profoundly helpful for managing my anxiety. How is that even fair? lol

All through the summer, I explored area parks and nature areas with my camera. Thinking, walking, taking pictures of flowers, trees, and birds.

I zoomed in close-up to examine small details.

I developed favorite spots as the weeks passed. I switched up my routine to put me out on the trail with my camera almost every morning for a hour or so before work. It did a lot to inspire, soothe, and entertain me. It met real creative needs that I’d been struggling to meet well for rather a long while. I still do it most days, even though the sun rise is (much) later. I start my work day later, too, and stay closer to home on work mornings (saving the further away spots for weekend mornings). I’m grateful that I can.

Just this morning, at dawn, I had a realization…

I think I’ve been “getting too close” to the issue at hand, and as a result failing to find a thread that connects some of it in a useful way, with other things that are also going on with or around me…

It’s easy to get too close to something, and miss the important details I’d easily see if I took a step back.

I drink a lot of coffee in the mornings. I often write in the mornings. I do camera walks in the mornings. I feel fresh and wide-open to possibilities in the morning. Once my two coffees for the day are over, I’m generally pretty well wrapped up in work, or moving on with a list of things that need doing, or errands that want running. By nightfall, I’m exhausted, irritable, in pain, and struggling to find emotional balance. There’s a lot of time between the end of that second coffee and the end of my typical day. I’m going to start stopping for a cup of tea in the afternoon. 🙂 An easy moment from which to begin again, to reset, to reconsider, to reconnect with myself… I plan to make a commonplace ritual of it, as so many people do, and I will seek to be very mindful, and deliberate, and take advantage of the break in my routine each day to really pause, reflect, and appreciate my circumstances.

…If nothing else, it will use up the tea in my cupboards, and give me a reason to use the tea cups in my porcelain collection. Delightful. Self-reflection, a break in the afternoon, and delight?? Sign me up. (Oh, wait, I already did…) A new practice. Sometimes it takes a bit of new along with the routine to find my way along the path. Something with which to begin again. 🙂

Weird day. Weird week. I think one of the most challenging things about learning to manage my mental health and emotional stability over time has been also holding on to an understanding that I can do 100% of my best, make a ton of progress, gain resilience and emotional intelligence as an individual – and still struggle enormously in the context of any one relationship with another human being (who is on their own journey, having their own experience). It’s that parenthetical that gives it away, right? We’re each walking our own hard mile. Each having our own experience. It won’t matter much however much self-healing and emotional recovery from trauma I do in some relationships; that other person’s own pain and trauma is going to have a lot to say about how much we’re able to understand and enjoy each other. Sometimes that sucks. It’s certainly complicated. I can’t do much about another person’s journey besides doing my best to be a considerate fellow traveler.

I sit with that for a minute. Grateful to come as far as I have. Frustrated when it is clear that some days, in some interactions, the “us” is affected by elements outside my direct control. Yesterday (was it only yesterday? I check my email for confirmation, yep, yesterday), I had a seriously difficult day. Some of it was me. Physical pain sucks ass. Anxiety is a motherfucker. Expectations can throw a wrench into the best machinery and shut things down until the details of a shared understanding emerge. At the end of the day, yesterday, I took a minute to look at stats on this blog; I couldn’t recall if I had posted and if I had, whether I was just bitching pointlessly and creating new drama from old drama. Oddly, a different post had been linked as one that was viewed, and since I find it interesting where the curiosity of folks who read my blog may take them, I clicked the link to see what I had been writing about that day

…You may recall that I’ve said I write for myself, as a way of reaching out to myself with hopeful reminders, and useful tips that I may one day lose track of…? Yeah, this was one of those lovely moments of serendipity, and the blog post that was linked seemed almost to speak directly to me now:

Don’t sit there being miserable, filled with frustrated rage, stalled, wounded, or oppressed. Choose something different… and yeah, maybe even if that means walking away from everything you have chosen before, to choose differently, with greater wisdom, with more self-reflection, with greater awareness, and more commitment to the person you most want to be.

…Maybe you need to hear this…? You did not “ruin everything”. You are not “a complete fuck up”. You are not “the reason all of this went wrong”. You are neither master of the universe nor the single cause of all the world’s ills. You just aren’t. You aren’t that significant, actually. Neither are you unimportant. You matter. You just aren’t to blame for every fucking thing. Ever. Let that shit go? If nothing else changes, today, in this moment, you can choose to let  that shit go…

…Yeah. Wow. A bit on the nose, and I really really needed to hear that – and I needed most to hear it from me. I’m pretty fucking hard on myself, sometimes. Far more so than is necessary. Too often I internalize someone else’s emotional experience, take it completely personally, getting more hurt and more angry and more painfully aware that they (may) be taking something I’ve said or done quite personally themselves…without seeing my own error. Messy. Messy…human…and fairly fucking stupid. I mean…yeah. Easy mistake to make, and once a human primate is convinced that someone has wronged them, it’s fucking hard as hell to get them to walk that back and reflect on the part they played themselves in how things went sideways. I’m not pointing fingers here – I’m talking about me. Why would I be breaking this down if it were actually about what some other person did or said? The most I can do about that is bitch about it. If I focus my thoughts on my own words and actions, and reflect on the differences between those and what I might expect from the woman I most want to be, I may be able to understand myself more deeply – and do better.

…Let’s be super clear on an important detail, though; I’m not trying to be the best version of me that anyone else has in mind. I just want to be the best version of me that I can, myself, envision. She’s probably still not “perfect” – and I’m quite certain some of the things I like most about her won’t at all be what anyone else wishes I would become. I’m okay with that. It’s me that I have to satisfy. When I look back on this life, the only scorecard that counts is the one in my own hand. “Was I the best person I could be? Did I make time for the people I love? Did I do some good in the world? Was I the woman I most want to be?”

…Moving on…

I woke this morning wanting to paint. I finally got around to it shortly after 2 p.m. My Traveling Partner wanted to hang out, and our mortal time together is too brief, so I put off painting to hang out. I’m not sure that was 100% my best decision-making… I tend to fall short on self-care first, and where I currently am mental/emotional health-wise, I need this time with a canvas in front of me and a brush in my hand. Fuck I love that guy, though, and he’s got his own stress to wade through. I definitely want to be there to give him the support he needs when he needs it. As individuals we are so… similar and also so different, it’s easy to get taken-over by each other’s emotions. We are definitely at very different “mile markers” on our journey, and neither one of us has a map. Complicated. There are verbs involved.

My head is full of inspiration, sitting here in my studio. My painting playlist is loaded up and my ears are filled with yet another layer of inspiration. In spite of the stress of the week that is ending, I feel hopeful and grateful. It’s a good life, in spite of my challenges. I’m fortunate to be where I am in life these days. I’m aware of how fleeting good fortune can be and I do my best to stay humble and to prepare for whatever may lie ahead on life’s journey. For me, though, hope and joy and love and gratitude are rarely the well-spring of my artistic inspiration; these feels are so much more than enough on their own. It’s the hard stuff, the darker stuff, the hurts, the trauma, the tedium, the tears, the unexpressed anger that so often push me to my studio. Funny… how is it those are the things that seem so hard to express “appropriately”? Canvas and paint = no censorship, no excuses, no holding back. Art doesn’t have to worry much about being polite in good company, or taking care not to hurt the feelings of others. It can just be what it is. Strangely, even knowing this about myself, what hit the canvas today, so far, has been very much about this tiny hopeful flame that ignited within me very recently. It’s complicated (what isn’t?). I don’t know quite what sparked it, and I very much don’t want to extinguish it. So… I tend “my hearth” and look after my heart, and I take some time to put on canvas what I can’t put into words so easily.

…She’s not finished yet…I don’t know what to expect from her once she is. She’s a late addition to a series I’ve been painting for awhile. You get to see her “first” (well, after my Traveling Partner, who looked in on my progress a few minutes ago from the shores of his own journey).

“Every Dawn a Beginning” 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, glitter, and resin details. 2022

It’s time to begin again. Again. May there ever be a new beginning.

I’m an artist. A painter, primarily. I have a regular “day job” as an analyst, and have for many years – it’s just easier to support my lifestyle and my creative endeavors with a bit of steady employment, versus attempting to use my creative endeavors to support my lifestyle (for me – your results may vary). I sat down with my coffee this morning, after a lovely “camera walk” at a new (nearby) location and a coffee with my Traveling Partner, and I began scrolling through the past year’s pictures taken hither and thither with the purpose of updating my “all the art” photo album, and the “new art since 2010” album. Google Photos politely and helpfully took me to the last items that were updated to each album as a starting point to the scrolling.

…That was more than a year ago…

I scrolled… and kept on scrolling. I scrolled through pictures of flowers in my wee garden, and pictures of garden efforts that were varying degrees of success. I scrolled through seemingly endless pages of pictures from camera walks over the course of the year. I scrolled through pictures from multiple business trips and a trade conference. I scrolled through pictures of weather, and pictures of “why not?”. I scrolled through pictures snapped in retails spaces of items to share with my Traveling Partner for inspiration, or to gauge interest. I scrolled through holiday pictures, camping pictures, lunches, brunches, and coffees with friends. I scrolled through pictures of birds, squirrels, racoons, cats, dogs, snakes, and deer. I scrolled through pictures of beach trips, birthdays, and miscellaneous adventures here or there. I scrolled through pictures of my partners shop as it developed over time, and pictures of projects he completed there. I scrolled through a handful of selfies, and numerous pictures taken in order to confirm “is this the one you want?” while I was running errands. You know what I mostly did not scroll through? Pictures of new paintings. There just weren’t many. Two? Four?

I look over my shoulder at work in progress, and the most recent completed work… minimal. 7 pieces? 9? Not even 1 per month for the 14 months of pictures I scrolled through, and most incomplete or not photographed. Damn. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling (for quite a while) this certain specific feeling of being “crowded” or “imposed upon” by the day-to-day demands of living a full life. I’ve failed to nurture this part of myself, and that’s honestly a massive self-care failure. I could do better. Time to reflect on the experience of painting so much less for the entire time I’ve had a dedicated studio (in any living space in which that has been the case, frankly)! It makes no fucking sense. I created the space to work in… why am I not working in it?

…Is it a lack of inspiration? That seems unlikely given the number of hastily dashed off notes to myself about things I want to paint, and the number of pictures I’ve taken specifically with compositions on canvas in mind.

…Is it lack of time? That’s an easy out; life is busy, work takes time out of my day, and there’s certainly plenty of work to be done to maintain our quality of life…but…do I really lack the time? I suspect not – but I’m sure not using the time I have to paint (or, let’s be real, to write on the regular).

Is it lack of will, interest, or materials? All pretty practical, but no. I’ve got the materials, the space, and the time available… My interest hasn’t waned. I can’t dismiss “lack of will” entirely; if I had sufficient will-to-act, I’d be in the fucking studio painting, would I not? I find myself wondering what’s up with that?

Being true to the artist I am, I see the effort, the will, and the self-care time going more to walking with my camera, out on some trail, breathing the fresh air, getting some exercise – and these are good things. I can’t complain that I’m treating myself badly. Those walks definitely nurture my creative side – and a camera is far more compact to travel with than paint boxes and an easel. It is a very different sort of work, though. For me, painting (note: I’m primarily an abstract impressionist, more or less…) is a way of communicating things I don’t have words for (and that’s really saying something considering “all the words”). When I stop painting, I start trying to force emotions into words I don’t have. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this eventually tends to result in mindless nonsensical chattering of streams of consciousness that are distracting, confusing, or meaningless for whoever happens to be stuck listening to me babble. (Do I sound as if I’m being hard on myself? Consider the burden on someone who lives with that, though… how tough would this be on my Traveling Partner, a very reality-bound engineer-sort?)

…Perhaps that’s the key. This partnership. This amazing love I share with my partner. I am reluctant to yield moments I could stand near my partner just breathing the air he exists in for something so self-centered as painting. That’s not fair to either of us – surely I would resent that over time, and that could undermine this profound love I feel for this singular human being. We both want to hang out together approximately every minute of every day – realistically we both also recognize that won’t actually work. It’s also not particularly emotionally healthy. So. There’s that.

I guess I’m just saying, I really noticed that I’ve “failed myself” a bit on this detail. There are paintings and ideas for paintings in my head, living in a space that has become crowded with them, distracting me and making it tough to properly communicate whatever else is going on (most especially related to any of those notions/thoughts/ideas).

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

The other day, in response to a moment of stress and heightened background anxiety, I retreated to the emotional comfort of my studio… and got to work on a new piece. Fuck that felt good!! “She discovered the answer was within her all along…” Omg. So trite. So… ridiculous. I think on the number of years I painted on the floor…or in some corner…or on a kitchen counter or dining table, any space I could use that had enough room to work. I could do better for myself. I felt so much less anxious just getting some color on canvas… something to think about.

Meta Luna, 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas w/glow & glitter, 2022

So… new job, new habits. It’s a new beginning and I’m not wasting it. I made a point to start getting my hands manicured again – and I’ve stopped tearing at my cuticles (again) or biting my nails (again). Nice. I’m keeping an eye on work hours and setting health boundaries with my time. I’m putting my errands and to-do items at the top of my list each day and refusing to allow myself to push myself further down among my priorities. Feels good.

…This is perhaps a lot of words to say “it’s time to begin again”… 🙂