Archives for posts with tag: artist at work

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”… 🙂

Another day, another mile… and another cup of coffee, on a new morning. 🙂 Yesterday’s hike was lovely, although the most recent heavy rains left behind reminders in the form of broken and fallen branches, evidence of erosion, and very muddy trails. Still lovely.

I find new perspective every time I walk the trail.

Yesterday was a good one. An excellent hike, an afternoon of baking, some reading, some writing, some time spent hanging out with my Traveling Partner.. a day well-spent. There were enough delightful options for what to do with the time that I could easily have faced some sort of joy-threatening decision-paralyzing moment that could so easily evolve into a not-at-all-grown-up tantrum, but we passed on that “opportunity”, and just enjoyed the day, instead. Doing what I felt like, that day, and not worrying about what I could not get to, or chose not to do was a productive choice that felt good all day. I felt free. Free, too, to give my partner a hand now and then on his project, when asked, without feeling at all imposed upon. Nice. 😀

I’ll walk a mile of trail again today. Haven’t decided where, yet. Same trail, maybe; it’s my current favorite local trail, and even has a challenging bit here and there. Another day. Another mile. I just keep at it. Pain? Yep – my “constant companion” – or seems so. If I let pain stop me, I’d wouldn’t go far. No shaming coming from me, though, if your pain does stop you in your tracks. I get it; pain sucks, and your results vary. Mine, too. I shake an angry fist at my pain all the time, I remind myself not to let it stop me – and I’m 100% made of human. Sometimes pain stops me. I definitely fight it, though. I worry about “use it or lose it” limitations of human experience – if I stop walking for some unspecified time, will I stop being able to? That’s one of the “big fears”, for me. So… I get back out on the trail again, soon, after every bit of bad weather, after every injury, every illness, every distraction that takes my attention from getting back out there, on my feet, one step after another. That mile isn’t going to walk itself. I’ll walk it while I can. 🙂

Sometimes there are obstacles along the path. I make a point to be aware, to be safe, and also… to have some perspective. 😉

If the weather is sufficiently mild, I’ll throw my sketchbook and some pencils in my drawstring pack and stop along the trail, make some notes, sketch some details, and spend the afternoon in the studio. (That sounds like a “summertime” idea maybe, and sure, then too, but… the trails are generally more crowded, which for me is less pleasant, in summertime…and the views are very different in that season, also. Doable in winter so long as the weather is not so chilly that I can’t use a pencil comfortably.) There are a lot of cute tables and benches along this particular trail – well-suited to leisure moments. 😀

…I enjoy leisure moments…

…It’s already time to begin again. 🙂

Actually… I do know better. I can’t claim ignorance on this one; holding on to expectations and assumptions is a reliable shortcut to disappointment. Seriously. I let it go. There’s no value in beating myself up over the poor sleep thing.

I started into the weekend very much looking forward to sleeping deeply, sleeping well, and sleeping in. Innocent enough; I was struggling with fatigue and exhaustion, and the nights just felt too short, no matter how early I went to bed. I was eager to sleep in on Saturday morning, and, while I did so (on a technicality), my sleep was interrupted, restless, and less than ideally restful. Still – a great day of painting followed, so, no matter.

I rather stupidly caught myself still drinking coffee well past 5pm last night. Saturday night. No problem; I am not so tightly held to a “bed time” that the occasional late night would be a problem, right? So. Yeah. Amusingly, I was so tired, right at my usual time to start winding things down, I totally went to bed “on time” anyway. Caffeine? Not a problem apparently…only… my fitness tracker pointed out this morning that actually, I fell asleep, sufficiently deeply to register as actual sleep, sometime past 1 am. Wait… I was asleep enough to be awakened by a bad nightmare, shortly before midnight… wasn’t I? Fucking hell. My sleep, after I went back to bed following my nightmare, was again restless and interrupted. Here it is Sunday. Nothing whatever like “good sleep” occurred this weekend. lol Fuck.

Did I set myself up for failure by becoming emotionally invested in the task of sleeping? Probably. Is that “why” I didn’t sleep well? Doesn’t matter whether it was or wasn’t, actually, and getting caught up in the why of the poor sleep is just a distraction from the more immediate concern; awareness that investing in expectations and assumptions (even about sleep) is problematic. It puts me on a path of being disappointed by day-to-day experiences so commonplace as to be unavoidable. Not helpful.

I woke fairly well-rested this morning, in spite of the short, restless night. The laundry is started (I didn’t get far with it yesterday. lol Artists, amiright??). My studio is ready for me to get right back to work on several projects. I consider a visit to the market, and where the timing needs to fit into my day. When I feel like painting, everything else is a distraction. I am sitting in the studio, sipping coffee… and yawning. Listening to the washing machine chug along.

Inspiration is a funny thing; if I walk away, no guarantee it will be waiting when I return.

I sip my coffee, thinking about art. Interrupted work, like interrupted sleep, doesn’t always turn out quite as planned. Maybe I actually paint more today… maybe I don’t. I can’t tell from this perspective, right here, quite yet.

I pause my writing to put on my painting playlist – maybe music will get me re-engaged in this piece? I put out peanuts and bird seed and sit with my coffee for a few minutes, on my meditation cushion, seated in front of the patio door. Waiting. Watching. Breathing.

Visitors come and go. I sip my coffee and enjoy the moment.

The washing machine clunks to a stop. I get up to move the clean wash into the dryer, still unclear where the day will take me. Feeling rather less inspired that I felt at the end of the evening, last night. I’m neither disappointed nor unhappy; it was a great day in the studio yesterday, and the day, today, is far from over. I just don’t know what the day ahead will hold. What it looks like, from here, may be very different than the day I look back on. Best not to set myself up for failure by imagining the day too clearly or specifically, or falling into the trap of becoming so invested in one outcome, that no other can satisfy. lol

I consider the day, and this moment, here. I decide to begin again.

I pause from my studio time to have another coffee, consider the day, and the work so far, and just to take a needed break. Tables everywhere, a desk, a large easel – and I still often find myself working on the floor. lol It’s not as easy as it once was. Breaks are a good practice. 🙂 I shifted, at some point, from stretching my legs to pacing. I didn’t really notice the change, my thoughts were still in the studio.

I contentedly note that although I’ve spent considerable time in the studio, this weekend, and very satisfyingly so; I don’t have much “to show for it”. It hasn’t been a frenzy of hastily conceived and completed work (one of the ways I commonly work is bursts of inspiration resulting in a dozen or so new pieces over a weekend, then… nothing for months. lol). In fact, this weekend has been a slower, deeper creative spell. I spent time tidying and organizing the studio, lost in creative thought. I spent time sorting through previously prepared backgrounds of various sorts, looking at them with new eyes, and new inspiration. I spent time contemplating a couple major works, still in progress, half-surprised that the slow pace has not frustrated me at all, making notes about next steps, and assembling materials. I spent time working out technical challenges involved in some new work I want to do – some ideas come to life more easily than others. What have I not done? I haven’t actually painted much. Nonetheless, a deeply satisfying creative weekend, savored moment-by-moment, rich with inspiration, and an awaking-from-within, as vague notions become detailed plans, sketches, and notes.

I needed this time spent with and on self. I sit contentedly with an afternoon coffee, reluctant to pass up the luxury of it, even knowing tomorrow is a work day. (I made a good choice, and made decaf. 🙂 )

There is much to be learned from moments, and the day is not yet over. There’s more that I want to do – practical things, like laundry, cleaning paint brushes, and showering. It’s been a busy weekend, and I find myself reluctantly recognizing that I’m nearing the end of my physical resources, for the time being. Maybe for the day, and certainly for now. I allow the acknowledgement of fatigue to become encouragement to take time to savor the experiences of the weekend, at leisure. Breathe. Relax. Consider some detail or another. Feeling the contentment. The satisfaction, and feeling of wholeness. I continue, breath by breath, recollection by recollection. I feel my smile. I feel the comfortable relaxed posture I am in. I take note that I am not in any noteworthy pain at present, only a bit tired. I look around the studio at what I’ve gotten done this weekend. Tube after enticing tube of paint, and dozens of jars of glitter, sparkling bits and pieces, threads, chains, and shards of glass, draw my eye around the room hungrily. It does feel like a sort of hunger – to touch, to arrange, to feel the textures of paint and canvas, to see a thought become a vision – but I am sated already, and too tired, now.

…There will be other weekends…

In the meantime, there are practices to practice, and self-care to manage. For now, that’s enough. 🙂

I spent Sunday in the studio. It was lovely. Music, paint, and chill creative time – an investment in self. New work drying, waiting to be seen in sunlight, and a beautiful recollection of time well-spent. “Being a creative” – probably true for any sort of artist, really – is quite possibly the most precious and “important” part of “who I am” that I could ever think to share; it’s how I tell the stories I don’t have words for. It can’t actually be taken from me – by anyone.

I’ve been in some shitty relationships, and gotten tangled up with some human beings who did not actually have my interests in mind at all, and did not mean me well – but only one of those, ever, has dared to lay an angry hand on my art work. Her existence as a human being colors the way I feel about new relationships, sadly, making me very cautious, indeed. Generally, human beings I have been emotionally involved with have been pretty uniformly respectful of both my creative process and the resulting work. Not that one; it is clear that the behavior is willful, deliberate, and intentionally chosen for maximum cruelty and manipulative power. While that sucks completely, and causes me real pain, I know something she has not yet learned; tit-for-tat nastiness does more emotional damage to the person doing it than to the person being treated poorly. The damage to me amounts to only as much as I permit. Non-attachment is huge here. Having learned that lesson a very long time ago, there’s no reason to interact with her at all. (In keeping with my own admonitions “don’t take the bait”, I am careful not to allow myself to be baited.) Certainly I’ve no interest in game-playing or “pay backs” – what a waste of precious limited life time that would be.

Work in progress, not yet completed, inspired by an X. “Toxicity”.

Walking on from something as dear to me as my art work, when I know it is in the hands of someone who will (or has) destroyed it – and who I have clear confirmation has that potential, because she’s already damaged some of it (and won’t return the rest) – is uncomfortable. It’s hard. No lie. Is all that beautiful work lost? Maybe. It may be that I will have to handle it with a civil stand by, at a later date, or criminal charges, or a civil lawsuit, certainly, it is not necessary for me to “take care of it” myself. For now? I have other things to do with my life, and no interest in being emotionally manipulated. I let it all go. I walk on. I spend delightful leisure hours in my studio, painting new work.

I hear from my Traveling Partner late in the day. We talk. I feel wrapped in his love. That’s a story I will tell on canvas, in colors and brush strokes, for the rest of my life, and it is one that brings me great joy.

So much love it regularly spills onto canvas. 🙂

Pay backs are bullshit. Don’t be tempted into playing that game; you’ve already lost once you allow that toxic mess into your thinking. Stay on your path. Be the person you most want to be. Don’t become a thing you despise because you feel hurt or angry. (I know, I know, there are verbs involved, and your results may vary.) Transcending the willful hurts delivered by another can be incredibly difficult, but… every time you do? You demonstrate the beauty of your fundamental humanity. Taking that “high road”? You show the quality of your character – to everyone. What that person so invested in hurting you thinks about you (or says) is irrelevant, to you, and to the world; they have shown who they are. Let them have their skewed world view, and walk on. “Being right”? Not as important as your life. You don’t need to defend yourself to others, or “prove” a point. Life your life. Live it well. Treat others well. Be kind. Be true to your values. Let go of whatever you have to, in order to break the chains that bind you to another by anything but your own choice to be with them (ideally because you mutually meet each other’s emotional needs in a positive supportive way, that encourages personal growth and nurtures you all).  Just my thoughts on that sort of thing. It works for me.

Another day and week begin. A satisfying weekend becomes a new work week. Clearly, it is time to begin again. 🙂