Monday Motivation

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

-Ray Bradbury

I think this is one of my favourite quotes, and what I struggle with constantly. Being self- conscious, over-thinking, when I really want abandon. Abandon at the canvas, abandon at the page, abandon in singing. I recognize when I’m hesitating, when self consciousness tightens its strangle hold. And I recognize the antidote: To act! No matter the outcome! Have the courage to suck, and suck some more! Dare to be lousy!

But then I get self conscious. Sigh.

The Heart of the Matter

Last week I had a long conversation call with someone who is very close to me. She is a mother of two, an accomplished designer, an entrepreneur, and not yet forty. She shared with me that she was experiencing a powerful push to express creatively, but didn’t know what to do or how to start. This surprised me a bit, knowing her background and her work. I knew her as a creative person. The question she asked me was; what do you do when you feel blocked? In general my response was to say that there is no “one way” to open up creative channels. I said sometimes we need to do something else, step away and do some other activity that’s even unassociated with what ever work we are feeling blocked on. To be stimulated by outside observations; a market, a walk somewhere new, taking some photographs. Another way, I said, is to just plunge head first into the work. If it’s a blank canvas staring you down, make a mark- any mark. If it’s an intimidating blank page, write something- anything. Just mark the surface, if it’s music, make a noise-any noise. Break the spell, disarm the preciousness.

She said she had a guitar and a piano in the house and she felt a strong compulsion to learn at least one of the instruments. She asked me which I thought would be the best to start with. I said either, although the piano has all the notes laid out, perhaps easier to pick out melodies, and to learn to read musical notations. The guitar can be a challenge at first, the physical act of contorting your hand to make the different chord structures, and getting blisters on your fingertips. She said she was leaning more towards guitar.

She asked if she should sign up and take classes or go to YouTube? I said, either one. If she scheduled lessons for the guitar she may find it could set up a discipline to practice regularly because someone will be expecting to hear what she had practiced. On the other hand, she is a busy mom and business woman, and covid restrictions, using YouTube might be more accessible to get things moving.

Then our conversation got deeper, and to the heart of her question. And because I’ve known her from childhood I had sensed she was grappling with a bigger issue in her intense desire to learn the guitar. Her father was a musician, and he played guitar. She was very close to him but lost him to cancer when she was thirteen. Over the years, and perhaps especially now watching her own little girl go to piano lessons each week, I believed she was feeling another layer of grief. She is not only still in mourning for her dad, as expected, but there is the regret of a missed opportunity to have had bonded with her dad through music. That is what is stirring her now. She said, with emotion in her voice, I never asked him to teach me to play, why didn’t I? If she had expressed a desire to play the guitar then, she felt there could have been something more shared between them, something that would link them on a profound level. But when we are so young, we don’t think of these things, there is always time. Until there isn’t.

Then she said something that I found so bittersweet and beautiful; “I’m afraid of what will come out of me if I do learn to express through music.” She has so much love; and sadness, and regret, and gratitude, and grief, and longing- all so big and deep, that there was a kind of fear that she could be overwhelmed and unprepared for how that would manifest for her. And so rather than move towards picking up the instrument and begin to learn how to play, and risk opening a seam in the tender garment that holds her grief, she holds still. She feels blocked. But she understands where it’s coming from.

I had also suggested The Artists Way book and by doing morning pages the clarity I was able to derive from doing the exercises.

This is how important a creative practice is to us. It has a place, serving us through spontaneously frivolous and joyful abandon, but also serves as the vehicle for what is abstract to us; those big, nebulous emotions and subconscious whispers, an outlet for our questions that cannot or will ever have a definitive answer; questions that will never fit into any category, but that must somehow be reckoned. It facilitates our journey. It can clarify our understanding. It can link us together through our constant search for ourselves and who we are. That’s what Creative Expression Outlets do for us.

Believe Me

I’ve been slow to understand that a belief in ones self and abilities is the foundation to everything worthwhile. And I mean slow- I’m sixty-two. It would’ve been great to figure this shit out when I was a nineteen year old art major, I might’ve gotten somewhere with it. But I saw myself falling into this debilitating pattern of believing that I didn’t have the “Real” talent or skill, or confidence. But others? Sure. They must be more, know more, smarter. I could not see myself as a professional artist. So I didn’t take my art seriously; including the art education I had received, sorry mom, dad, or any other talent I may have, like singing. I coulda gone places, I’m pretty sure now. This belief pattern has stifled years of the opportunity to build on a creative, artistic life. Drat. And thanks for nothing, hindsight.

In High school I was put into an art majors program. Upon my graduation my art teacher wrote on my transcript that I need to pursue this, that he didn’t want to see me become a Sunday Painter. I didn’t become a Sunday Painter. But maybe I should have, at least I would’ve painted once a week!

After graduation I went on to Banff School of Fine Art in Alberta for a summer session. When my parents asked would I like to enrol for a year, I said – no. I had a (fricken) boyfriend back home. I still get nauseous when I regurgitate this memory. Not the boyfriend, at the time he was great, but, me turning this opportunity down turns my stomach to this day.

An aside to that story: My boyfriend was also an art student and we went on to college together that September. In our second year he was accepted on a student exchange to Florida for the year. I wasn’t and stayed behind at our Vancover Island College. So, there ya go.

During my solo second year at college towards a degree in Fine Art, I became involved in theatre. I sang for the first time on stage, I joined a band that had a loyal following. When then it came time to continue on to University to complete my BFA, I bailed. Because I met a man. Oh to go back and slap my young self.

But I continued with sabotage. I was a champ. Every move I made where I had the potential to launch myself in a worthwhile endeavour, to finish my degree, to paint madly and mount a show, to sing, I’d never take the bait. I always felt I wasn’t enough, that I was an imposter, or that relationship was more important.

This has been my life’s pattern.

So, what troubles me is why we lack belief in ourselves. Part of us knows we are qualified or talented or skilled, but some other part of us says naw, you better step aside and let the other more qualified, talented, skilled do the thing. Even when the road before us is clear. I know I’m not alone in this, it’s a universal neurosis. How can we be our own worst enemy? If anyone should be rooting for us it should be – US! If you can’t find a supportive friend in yourself, then where? Who? Why do we self sabotage? It’s what I did throughout my entire youth, my twenties ….and thirties……and….ok, my entire life thus far.

That pattern stops here. Ok, it’s a process. I’m continuing to work through it, and I am making inroads into what has been blocking me.

I’m asking more questions than having answers for because I’m still searching for the answers. I had mentioned somewhere earlier in a blog post that I’ve been working through The Artists Way book with the goal to tease out some of these answers. It’s been instrumental for me. I still continue with writing my morning pages, a year now. I think by doing that work it has brought me to this point where I can see things a bit more accurately. It’s enabled me to stand stronger in my convictions to recover what I tossed mindlessly aside, who I am, in trade for not being abandoned. To please.

I’ve maybe disclosed more than anyone probably cares to hear, but it’s all about self reclamation here. Creative Recovery. I need to hear it. Am I exceptionally talented? Not at all. And that’s what’s important for me to understand. That it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you think I am or not. But the work I do is important. It matters.

Am I too late? No, there is no time limit, there is no age limit. It’s about picking up where I left off, except this time I have intention. An awareness about myself. Finally. But I have it, so that’s a start. That’s a good start.

Rainy Day

Just back from Salmon Arm visiting my daughter, her husband and my two granddaughters, one of which we celebrated her third birthday.

The card I made for my granddaughter. She’s obsessed with dinosaurs. Knows many of their names, since the age of 2. Genius.

I managed to get the final glazing done on a batch of mugs and bowls before I left. Still working on getting the size of my mugs right, and to get that perfect “Lip” on the rim. I use underglazes to create my patterns and designs, the final glaze is a clear glaze on the bisque ware.

Here are the under-glazed pieces before I coated them in the final fire glaze:

Here is one of the mugs, bisque fired and ready for final fire glazing. The size is better, I’ve been more aware to make the mugs on the large size to compensate for shrinkage. Most of my past mugs have come out of the bisque fire rather teensy.

The same mug painted with the final clear glaze. Looks kinda crappy, but it will be clear and the images beneath will shine through when it comes out of the final fire.

Then there is this bowl. I was attempting my first ever large bowl when it suddenly collapsed. I was about to pull it off when I noticed it fell into a pleasing way. It had a shape. It could still be something. I thought, meh, fruit bowl?

So I left it on the wheel for a day to set up, and then removed it to a board to dry further so I could clean up the bottom. Then I painted a poppy image on it, and hope for the best! Below is the bisque fired piece.

I hadn’t played my guitar or had done any writing over the week I was away in Salmon Arm, a house with two toddlers is a BUSY house. Now I’m home, that’s deathly quiet, and back to my creative practices. On this stormy, rainy October day it was spent in the kitchen making tomato jam and figuring out what treats to make for the ghosts and goblins that will be coming by my door in a few days.

Cheers~

Sketchbook

Part of what I noticed I let lapse over the years of not drawing on a regular basis is my weakened observation skills. I used to spend a lot of time looking at things. I would notice tiny details like the curve of someones lip, or the shape of a hand, the light as it fell across a room. I used to be able to remember scenes, notice certain details and later make a drawing based from that scene. Not implying I drew from a photographic memory of something I saw, but using elements and pertinent details that caught my attention and then make something out of it. Because I was paying attention, I was noticing things, images were saying something to me. Over time, I seemed to have not been so observant. Well, maybe my focus had simply moved.

I pursued a culinary career which requires hard work, working fast, and long hours, product driven, and  rush-rush -rush; I recognize that I’ve been rushing around and overly occupied for so many years in contrast to how I once was when I was an art student. Of course there was only me to think about then. Job and family, there is no sitting and looking long at anything except the back of your eyelids after a long day.

The human figure has always been my favourite subject, challenging with its shape and line. As an exercise I did some quick pen sketches of some of the News guys the other night. Because their images flicked back and forth and their positions changed quickly I had to be quick. Good practice to train my eye hand coordination, and observation skills.

 

Quick Draw

I was flipping through one of my sketch books I haven’t opened in a while looking to  nudge this latent passion of mine, to reawaken and stir up what was once something I took great pleasure in, what came second nature, what I went to school for. Before Busy happened. I never would have thought, because I took it for granted, because I could always do it, how hard it is to begin again. To shake that muscle into fluidity. To obey.

The struggle is evident in the quick sketch I did last night, a self-portrait, using my iPhone as a “mirror”. It’s buried most definitely, showing how tight and self-conscious it comes through. I have a lot of work to do.

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Don’t Explain

Zana Age 3
Zana age 3

When an individual asks the artist to explain what their intent or meaning was when creating a particular piece it really is none of that individuals business. That would be robbing the individual of their own interpretation, which ultimately is the only one that matters.

Art should never be publicly explained. I don’t want to read about what the artist was thinking when showing their work or who influenced them. The work is what it is regardless. How would knowing change how you perceived the work? Inevitably my viewing is going to be different anyway, and different again from the person standing next to me looking at the work. What I see and how their work affects me are in the realm of my personal experience.

That is the message of ART, we view art work through our own life experiences and no two experiences are the same and so will deliver a different meaning and interpretation to each viewer.

If the artist’s intent is recognized and understood by the public exactly as the artist intended, fine. Still ultimately Art is SUBJECTIVE.

Sketchy Past

 

Self Portrait 1980
Self Portrait 1980

When I was going through the contents of the storage area in my basement I came upon some of my old sketchbooks; needless to say as soon as I found them I became lost in their pages. There was a time when I was always observing, when I would quietly watch and be moved to capture. I had time to engage in this, and as I went through them it was as though I had forgotten I  could ever have done that.

It’s a queer thing to feel so estranged from an element of one’s life that once occupied many years. I had gone to The Banff School of Arts, I had begun a Bachelor of Fine Arts at college until being a  single parent and making a living trumped any solitary artistic studies or pursuits. It just felt selfish somehow if I were to try to continue on with it seriously.1966288_10152257067730733_1897994913_o

I now feel that I might just be at a juncture in my life to pick up where I left off.