Archives for posts with tag: artist at work

My Traveling Partner and I made dinner together last night. It was fun. I generally do the dinner cooking these days (and my cooking has gotten pretty good), and my partner wanted to share a particular approach to browning ground meat for Bolognese with me that I’ve been eager to learn. So we shared the dinner cooking with that in mind. In general, it all turned out quite excellent, and we enjoyed the meal greatly. There was a point at which he noticed I’d overlooked a detail in my mise en place for the meal – the process of laying out all the ingredients and tools in advance, as “next level” preparation before beginning the cooking. It was a small detail, and easily handled, but it got me thinking about mise en place generally

Mise en place for a recent stir fry

…Now I’m sipping my morning coffee and contemplating how very much “mise en place” can translate as “having my shit together”. lol I mean… for real.

This leads to me contemplating the value in having a plan. Of laying out work before getting started. Of coordinating with others before starting a big project. Things like that – the many ways in which making a point to prepare to do a thing before doing it can make a difference in the outcome.

Yesterday I stopped in the middle of painting a small piece about a big nightmare, and I left my set up all… set up. This will certainly ease me into restarting the work, later this morning. Of course, the flip side of mise en place is … clean up your mess. LOL

The weekend feels so much longer spending time in the studio. It’s lovely. I guess the lesson there is that when I feel short on time, I’ve got to change what I’m doing with the time I’ve got! This is such a relaxed weekend – worthwhile, and creatively nurturing. My Traveling Partner has spent much of it working. Today is Sunday, he may take this one “off” to relax, but maybe not. Starting a business of his own sometimes means odd hours or working weekend days to get a job done for a customer. I watch as projects get completed, a little bit in awe of how he’s able to do and make so many things with seemingly such ease. Pretty impressive.

…I just paint and write…

I sip my coffee and think for a moment about the ease I find in painting and writing, compared to say… making things in a woodshop, or operating a CNC machine (neither of which I have any skills for, as it happens). I’m most impressed by people doing things I am not myself able to do. The things I can do, and do routinely, are less impressive to me. Funny how easily that tempts me into thinking they are “easy” or that “anyone could…”, simply because I find them easy and can do them, myself. It’s worth sorting that out and gaining a better understanding of relative difficulty.

My Traveling Partner and I do have something in common, though, in our creative endeavors; we both set up the work before we begin. Mise en place. Makes sense. I also plan my camping trips and check my gear before I go. I make a shopping list and double check that I’ve got useful “every day carry” items with me before I depart. When I do many housekeeping chores, I “set things up” before I begin. The more skillfully I prepare for what I am to do, the “easier” the doing of it feels. Days when I am distracted, or struggling with “brain fog”, or generally careening through life haphazardly, everything I do is affected by my lack of preparation. Small things vex me on such days, like sitting down to write but forgetting to grab a pen. Or dashing out to the store and forgetting my phone or my purse. lol I’ve learned to “slow down” in the sense that I make a point – more often (even “most of the time”) – to prepare for what I’m intending to do. It just works out a bit better when I make that part of my routine.

“Mise en place.” Getting my shit together. It’s nice to have language for it. 🙂

No idea what today holds… more time in the studio. Some laundry. A trip to the drugstore for some items we’ve run low on. Love and loving, and a great evening meal. So much to plan and prepare for…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll begin with a plan, and start there. 🙂

I’m in the studio this weekend. It feels good to do creative work. I loaded my “painting playlist” for my ears, and my “inspiration slideshow” for my eyes, sat awhile with my thoughts and feelings, then turned my chair to face the window (and my work surfaces) and got started. Yesterday was a solidly good day of painting, with 3 completed canvases, and one background that needed to dry before I could do the foreground work. Very satisfying.

Today, I sit down once again, early in the afternoon with the filtered light of an overcast day brightening the room. Playlist? Check! Slideshow? Check! Ready to begin again? Yes, I am.

Today there is chocolate in my coffee, and an image in my head pulled straight out of a recent nightmare. I “don’t have the words” for the feeling it conveys, so I have to rely on canvas and color to “find the words” for me. Most of the paintings this weekend are bold colors, contrasting details silhouetted over wildly colorful sunrises, sunsets and … this…

new work, as yet untitled

Who is she? Is that her reflection? Is she alone, or following someone else? Is this image a metaphor for a journey, or change? Is this even “finished” at all? Where is she going – and why? Is she passing through a portal to another plane of existence? My eyes come back to it again and again, wondering.

…Funny what gets our attention…

This other thing I have in mind is thus far just a glimmer of a shape, colors, an idea with it’s roots in a terrible nightmare, but on it’s own it’s just an image… a thought. Can I get it on canvas? Will it tell me something I don’t know? Will it help me communicate something for which I lack words? There’s no way to know until I put brush to canvas and see it take shape.

…It’s time to begin again.

Long weekend. I slept in this morning. Enjoyed coffee with my Traveling Partner. Cooked a simple breakfast for the two of us to start our day on. He’s in the shop working. I’m… shopping? Running errands? Doing a bit of housekeeping? Finishing some chore left half-completed? Loitering in the living room hoping to hang out with my partner when he takes a break? The day started to develop down that commonplace path, in spite of having taken the day off (and planned the long weekend) with the intention of spending a major portion of that time enjoying creative time in my studio. A fairly typical outcome for me; I’ve got priors. lol I really do need this time for myself, spent creatively, and yes, also spent entirely in my own head, with my own thoughts, focused on my own needs and agenda. I don’t think I’m unusual that I struggle to follow through on time for myself and my own needs. It’s a pretty ordinary challenge for a lot of people (perhaps especially women, but certainly not exclusively women).

So, today I “held my ground” (with myself) and pulled my focus back to creative endeavors after breakfast. Well, after the breakfast dishes were done, and I’d updated a shopping list for later. Okay, and also after finishing a project I’d left sort of dangling. And, yes, also after I got a quick trip to the store out of the way. LOL See what I mean? This is a tough one for me. Self-care is often most difficult for people who most earnestly need to invest time in their self-care… which makes a lot of sense, if I consider that the reason some of us have this earnest heartfelt unmet need is 100% due to the lack of fulfilling it in the first place, rather chronically. I can do better. I need that from myself.

So, I made my second coffee and headed to the studio. Started up my computer, and loaded a file in which I keep a variety of inspiring images, and items that are likely to “tickle my imagination” and become new work. The slideshow slowly progresses on the monitor to my left, while I write. In the background, I hear my partner handling business with a customer on the phone. It “feels like home”. I breathe in and feel the sense of safety and security of “home”. I breathe out, smiling. It’s a nice place to find myself in life. “This too shall pass…” my anxiety ominously whispers in my head. I just laugh silently; I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, and count myself fortunate to enjoy it at all. The future is an unknown, I remind my anxiety, and I’m okay with that.

I sip my coffee and consider the blank canvas in front of me, and the images in the slideshow. Most of these images are appealing landscapes (mostly my own photography), colorful sunrises and sunsets, and bold flowers shot very close up, filling the screen with silky texture, interesting shadows, and brilliant color. I consider that thematically. Seems like I want to be painting landscapes more than abstraction, presently. I continue to drink my coffee contentedly. Is this “where I’m at” presently?

…My Traveling Partner sticks his head in the open door of my studio to share words about work. I listen, staying engaged and present. I don’t count it as a distraction; my door is still open, by intent. I’ll close the door when it comes time to focus, when I know I’ll want to be left entirely alone with myself. In spite of how badly I know I need that time, I’m also aware that my partner values my presence, and that “feeling rejected” entirely sucks, especially if that feeling is conveyed by someone we love. Finding balance between the shared connected time he (and we) need with the alone time that I need to be mentally well has one very important requirement; I have to make (and take) the time I need. There is a “sweet spot”… but actually doing the verbs is on me.

Self-care is so often almost comedic in its difficulties. I’m the one person I can also count on to be right here with me… and the one person who also knows precisely what I do actually want and need most. Counting on anyone else to ensure my needs are met, with those two details in mind, is… a bit crazy. So… I’ve given up on that. It’s lovely when my Traveling Partner meets needs I have. It’s splendid when my work environment and job meet some of my actual needs. Same with friends, with family, with circumstances… it’s wonderful when needs are met through happenstance or healthy relationships or mutual support, but… learning to count on myself to meet my own fucking self-care needs? That has had soooo much value (and so much less “crazy” to it). It’s too easy to be frustrated when some Other does not meet my needs… but it’s exceptionally foolish to expect them to in the first place.

So. Here I sit. Images and inspiration filling my thoughts, as I prepare for a day in the studio. It’s lovely. I’m glad I made the time – I need this for myself to feel entirely well and whole and complete. I’m even more appreciative that having made the time, I’m also taking the time, to do the verbs. Needs met? Looks that way…

…It’s time to begin (again).

I’m sipping on a class of cold clean filtered drinking water. It’s pleasantly refreshing. I’ve been drinking a lot more water this year (so far). Pro-tip for the women in the post-menopause set; it’s incredibly helpful to stay adequately hydrated if you’re hoping to continue to enjoy an active sex life that may – at least sometimes – include natural vaginal lubrication. lol Lesson learned. Drink enough water, People – we’re made of the stuff!

…Coffee #2 a little later…

It’s a relaxed Sunday. My “to-do list” is relatively short and utterly commonplace. I’ll do some laundry, empty the dishwasher, tidy up here and there. Clean the bathroom. Ordinary stuff. I could resist, resent the practical workload needed to support our quality of life, bitch about it endlessly as I drag myself through these tasks… but… doing so represents rather a lot of wasted effort, doesn’t it? I mean, compared to just going about getting the things done that need doing, with a certain… accepting merriment? I’m feeling both accepting and merry, so I know which approach I am taking today.

Things are quite lovely with my Traveling Partner and I lately. Like, since we had our rather painful conversation “the other day” (more than a week ago?). Feels like we turned a corner on an important understanding of each other. I feel loved. He seems to also feel loved. We’re enjoying a lot more intimacy (and also more sex). We’re having a better time together day-to-day, and taking each other’s humanity less personally. It has proven entirely useful to have had that conversation… so I’m glad we did. I still have to work at some things, as a person dealing with another person. I think we both tend to take each other “personally” now and then over petty bullshit that isn’t personal at all… more to do with quirks in the way we each communicate and express emotion. Taking shit like that personally is a recipe for heartache. So… don’t do that. 🙂

“Inspiration” 24″ x 36″, acrylic mixed-media w/glow and ceramic details, 2010

Right now the two books on my shelf I find having the most day-to-day value in guiding my skill at self-care, and my ability to communicate with, and nurture, my partner, are proving to the The Four Agreements and surprisingly, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. It’s not that these two slim volumes are somehow “more correct” than some of the weightier tomes in my reading list (like Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn), which are certainly worth reading, it’s more to do with immediate practical utility and perspective. There are books that teach us deeply, and there are books that give us quick useful insights that we can apply right now with great results, and upon continued reflection continue to teach us.

…I won’t kid you about The Four Agreements, it has a loose sort of “ancient wisdom” style framework that very practical people may be inclined to approach dismissively. Do you. I’m not here to foist a religion off on you or suggest magical thinking. I simply find enormous value in the very basics of the four agreements discussed, specifically, and also the basic understanding of how our life and culture program us for certain problematic thinking or behaviors that we’d do well to at least understand more deeply (if not change outright). So… with that in mind, yes, I’m a huge fan of The Four Agreements. It “works” for me – I still have to “do the verbs” myself, and it’s not a given that my results are reliably awesome; sometimes it very much matters what folks around me are also doing, thinking, and believing (we’re all in this together, each having our own experience) – but it’s a helpful way to look upon the world. It was The Four Agreements that taught me the most about the importance of not taking shit personally.

The modernity and mildly humorous cynicism of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** is different; it points out some seriously obvious things about why mindfulness does work – and how it doesn’t work (and why). It points out how very individual we each feel, and how “special” we are truly not (as individuals). Each of us having our own experience, and nonetheless all of us quite human, with all the baggage and bullshit that implies. It reminds me to take myself – and the world – a bit less seriously, at least now and then, and re-engages my attention on some of the paradoxes of living well and enjoying that experience.

I mention them both this morning because time and again I come back to them, where this is not the case with some of the other books on my list (which have tended to be “read twice and move on” experiences that provide value, but don’t gain more value with additional readings). In every case, though, I think of the books on my shelf less as “self-help” and more as “self-education”, and it’s with that in mind that I make my selections. It’s not necessarily helpful to just gobble up library books desperately seeking answers – that’s not how these came to sit on my shelf. It’s more to do with learning specific things about how my brain works, how emotions function, and how I can make use of what I learn about those things. Then I move on, working to practice the practices I’ve learned over time that help me build resilience, communicate more clearly, and treat others (and myself) well. Just tools in my toolbox. I’ve still got to do the work.

…Books that don’t demonstrate real value and worthiness don’t end up on my shelf; I just read those and then donate them (or return them to the library they came from).

I finish my water, and wonder “where this path leads?” I’m enjoying the journey. It’s nice to feel this way.

It’s a lovely relaxed Sunday. Maybe I’ll spend some time in my freshly tidied up studio…? It’s definitely time to begin again. 🙂

Sunshine and a clean work surface – like a blank page.

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”… 🙂