Monday, December 9, 2019

Questions to Ponder and Work on

Gail asked the other day, “What situations prevent you from being yourself? What's holding you back and what are you afraid of?”

A topic we can both work on and compare notes later. It’s definitely food for thought.

I thought about fear during meditation last night, and right on its heels came disappointment. Disappointment I’ve not finished the two books. Does that mean I have to let them go?

I don’t want to! I’m a writer. I had a couple of awesome adventures. Why can’t I tell my stories? It’s a driving force within me. I have to finish, or I feel incomplete … even though four years have gone by for one and three on the other.

The trips and the writing of them are important to me. I also feel I owe the people I talked to while traveling when asking their permission to tell their stories in the book. I thought of publishing/printing and costs … There’s as much work in the next step as there was in the actual writing. How can I pull this off? (Is this the fear?)

My books/writings are good! My paintings are good!

So, what holds me back from being myself; myself as a writer? (OK, this applies to painting, too.)

THE NEXT STEP. That’s what holds me back. I want to write and paint, but once the book is written and the paintings painted, my mind slams into a wall. I know what to do next, and I want it done, but I don’t want to do it! I just want to write and paint.

Oh, I know what everyone says about marketing and all that, and how that’s part of being a writer and artist. I’ve heard all the what-you-have-to-dos and I just can’t bring myself to do it, and it breaks my heart. Yes, I’ve self-published a couple of times already and I do art exhibits, but I just can’t take that step again.

Why? Because I have new things to accomplish. I love writing and painting. I do not enjoy doing the next part. It exhausts and depresses me. So, I’m stuck. And telling me I HAVE to do it to be published, to sell … and I have to change how I’m thinking about it, change my attitude and force myself … just makes me want to throw a temper tantrum or crawl into a hole.

I have to come up with an answer that fits me – or get lucky enough to somehow get a personal assistant who can do all the stuff I’m willing to do … and be able to pay this person. (So far, my prayers haven’t been answered on this one yet, ha-ha, but I’m still asking.)

I refuse to feel like a failure!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Painting Muse Returned; I’m on Fire

I spent an hour in the studio on Thursday after spending a couple days making a new master list of paintings. I figured out how/where to set up the new tracer/projector and looked at a photo projection onto the paper. (This will be a new avenue for me to explore as I often doubt how I see perspective. I’m hoping the tracer will help.) Oops, the tracer doesn’t work on an in-process painting.

Following the Creek work in progress
I worked on the horizon of 19-009. (I’d started it sometime this summer then got distracted by gardening projects. Now, I’m back in the studio!) I titled it “Creek Along the Road,” didn’t like that title so renamed it “Following the Creek.” I stayed to the left side of the scene because this line of trees was slightly more forward than the right side, and the trees a little more prominent. I worked with pastel pencils, then went on to Senneliers.

The road in the photo is paved, but I want to create a dirt road … as if in the olden days. This will be a challenge. I worked the thinner horizon lines and I re-did the far edge of the top creek angle. Three times I tried to walk away, took photos, then saw something to “fix.”

I was back at it the next day, worked for 45 minutes. I'm always amazed when I notice things in the photo needing to be "fixed" that I didn't notice on the actual painting. Still so much to do.

I completed along the horizon and started adding shadows and color changes in grasses. There’s so much marsh grass, it’s hard to tell. I added more colors and hints of the purple grasses. I kept working the far creek banks.

I slipped back in the studio after viewing the photo and attempted to make the top section of the creek look like it’s winding back to the right. (Didn’t take a new photo.)

On Saturday, I took a break from editing to work in the studio. There's so much I want to (should do) like put tarps over the wicker furniture under the deck, get out the outside Christmas lights and work on that while it's a decent day ... but the studio called louder.

I worked all over, just working on whatever spoke to me in the moment. My paintings often come out a little dark (my photos do, too.) I don't know if that's how I see because when I try to go lighter, I'm not as happy with it. It looks like I'm matching the photo colors ... but once the fixative is sprayed and it's matted and under glass, it'll be even darker. Another lesson to figure out.

I ached from standing at the easel an hour. I might have it too high. I'm waiting to finish this painting, then I'll pull the easel out of the corner and lower it ... not as easy as it sounds (for me.)

I always find the learning curves interesting. You'd think after painting for years I'd have it all down pat, but there's a consistent evolution. Mediums changed, my style changes, technique gets better. The journey is fascinating, and I laugh at myself often now.

I’m still struggling with the impressionism aspect with the style. I keep wanting to put in those precise, detailed lines on the horizon like in the photo, but that doesn’t work with what I’m doing now. It’d be different if I was doing drawings but painting with pastels doesn’t allow me to do that.

Yes, I know there are pastel artists who do detailed work, but I’m not that focused. I need the softness, the smoothness. I am not as loose as other artists, so I’m trying to find my own way and develop my own style. 

Today, I was back at it after finishing the editing work and putting together my weekly column for the paper. This fell into one of those “don’t like it” days. I kept pushing until my knees were screaming and I had to sit down.

The photo I took of the progress had me heading back to make a couple of adjustments. There, better! I still have quite a bit to do … maybe I can finish this one tomorrow.

As always, the painting looks amazing from about 5 feet away.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Getting Back on the Artistic Horse

This morning there is a lot less ice in the brook than yesterday. Warmer temperatures and overnight rain melted most.

Yesterday was an interesting day. I fell into being a bit pissed with myself, but I'm really proud I was able to pull myself out. I stopped the downward spiral.

Creek Along the Road -- work in process
I worked in the studio for a while. I've done little this summer as a lot of time was spent out in the gardens. I hadn't realized how far behind I’d fallen with art timelines and note taking. I like keeping track of my progress to see where I struggled and where I made revelations.

I was frustrated when I couldn't find notes on what I'd done earlier -- and then, with the latest painting, I hadn't even started a spreadsheet on it! I can't believe that. I always start a spreadsheet, right off the bat! This means I don't even have a start date. I just know it was after June 4 because that's when I took the photos for inspiration.

So, the afternoon was spent going back through photos, and skimming logbooks and journals. I know I wrote about my work and progress! Why can't I find the notes? Arrghhh! I've struggled with this painting and to have the notes to look back on will help me with future paintings. 

But, in spite of my frustration, I didn't fall far down the rabbit hole this time. I caught myself and even though I continued to look, I didn't totally crash. (See the work with learning to live wholeheartedly is paying off!) I kept telling myself I have to go on from here, move forward. I didn't even beat myself up for wasting the entire afternoon looking for the info. I had to satisfy myself that, at least, I did look.

The interesting thing about yesterday's painting was deciding to spray fixative on the sky. I hadn’t tried doing a quick spray early on to try to stabilize the pastel. I’d been struggling getting the branches of the foreground tree right, and every time I messed up, I’d push tree color into the sky, then have to repair the sky ... again … and I like my skies.

My goal was to "fix" the sky so when I began adding more upper tree branches, I wouldn't muddy the sky with the charcoal and tree-color pastels. I hoped, with a quick spray, the smell wouldn't be bad. Taking the paper outside in the cold isn't such a good idea ... plus painter's tape doesn't hold a second time meaning I'd have to re-tape the paper back to the easel board.

It's not a good idea spraying fixative indoors, either! Even with the air purifier on, the room smelled awful after just a couple of quick squirts. I couldn't stay in there at all. Well, that didn't work. Next time I'll pull the paper and bring it outside no matter how cold. I let the air purifier run a couple hours and the room still smelled. I haven't checked to see how the pastel sky color are fixed, but I'm feeling good about it.

Lessons: Don't let the paintings sit a long time. Start and get it done! Keep up with the timelines and notes for future reference. Go back to spending 10-15 minutes daily or every other day -- I don't have to work for hours at a time.

Goodness, I feel I have a ton of catching up to do. I took almost the entire summer off from painting, distracted with other projects. But I remember how to ride a bicycle. I'm getting back on the horse!

The rain turns to big fat flakes of snow. It took only 15 minutes for a layer of heavy, wetness to lay on the deck and ground, and snow is sticking to branches and evergreen boughs. I took photos when it first changed, but I’m tempted to grab the camera again as the snow thickens on rocks in the brook making the big boulder look like some kind of fresh-water whale.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Living Wholeheartedly: Further Defining What It Means for Me

I came across the term “wholehearted living” from reading Brene Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfection.” Those two words spoke volumes, not in actual words, but in how the term reverberated through my soul. A fire was lit. This was it! This is what I’ve been working towards all along, and I grabbed onto that concept as if it was lifeline.

What first popped up in my mind were words about being a better person, such as: honesty, integrity, kindness, honor, gentle but strong; those qualities that define a good, kind person. Words I feel are important for living a good life. Ideals I want and believe I am. But it’s so much more …

And once I became aware, it began slowly working within me all the time. I’d catch myself in times of stress asking myself how I can live more wholeheartedly. I’d catch myself going down the rabbit holes of frustration and despair, but then those words would ring in my brain and I’d pull myself out. Live wholeheartedly!

I find I’m laughing at myself over certain situations. I’ve never done that before! Things that would upset me for days I am now seeing them in a different light. I’m able to re-look at how I’m reacting, reminding myself to live wholeheartedly and going over the few key words as to what living wholeheartedly means for me.

As time goes on, the life lessons and self-work continue to evolve. Life isn’t reading a chapter, taking a test and being done with it. Life constantly deals out lessons and challenges. It’s a continuing education. So, what does it mean to me to live a wholehearted life?

Wholehearted living does not have a how-to formula. It’s not something with specific steps, not a one-size-fits-all; our lives are not cookie cutters. It’s not about copying Brown’s work into my lifestyle because we live totally different lives. It’s about taking her basic concept and reforming it to my life – mentally and spiritually. Yes, some things ring true, but other aspects I need to change around and put my words to it.

I’m developing my own definitions to fit me at this stage of my life. It’s not about setting my beliefs as gospel for anyone else. It’s taking the concepts resonating in me and turning them into assets for my life.

I am choosing how I want to live my life and I’m “daring greatly” (another term she uses) to talk about it. I’m sharing my experience in how I’m finding my way in this world. I write about coping with life issues; not as a sob-woe-is-me story, but to share how I deal with the challenges and how I’m always striving to be a better person … not to prove something to others, but to live the most wholehearted life I can.

I think about what living wholeheartedly means, and beyond those first words I mentioned above are peacefulness, calmness, patience, resilience, doing the best I can, goodness and determination. There are also the clich├ęs of going with the flow and finding balance. But I also consider: Taking the time to ask for Divine help/guidance; being true to self; allowing for imperfection; looking for joy and beauty every day; loving when I can and forgiving when I can, setting boundaries.

Creating boundaries is a bit of a toughie, but necessary for someone empathetic. Setting boundaries for me means cutting myself of from negativity/anger; not falling into media hype traps and avoiding people/corporations trying to sell me the next best thing.

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean cutting myself off from the world – although I am consciously doing so in many cases. It doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion. It’s about choosing what I can comfortably allow into my life. It’s about changing what I’m thinking about the minute I start falling into despair by some negative comment or event.  

It’s still a work in progress. I’m sure other aspects will surface, and I’ll make adjustments.

What does/would it mean to you to live wholeheartedly?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Emotions, Excuses, and Making Adjustments to Move Forward

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about art … and even been in the studio. (Except to water plants.) Art was kind of put on hold for the summer as so many other projects took forefront. Plus, I don’t like the last pastel painting I had framed. Does feeling that way add to my dragging my feet to get back to painting?

Oh, I’ve made feeble attempts, then walked away discouraged. I lost the creative fire, and with poetry, too. Maybe it was the summer with the creative endeavors and energy going into designing more gardens. I enjoy flowers.

Crowded studio with plants brought in for the winter
Now I’m ready to get back into the pastels ... but I’m hesitant. There’s still one partial painting on one tabletop easel. There’s another I started on the big standup easel (then wiped most off and restarted). There are two others on tabletop easels with a brief hen scratches drawn on.

What’s the matter with me? I get photos and for a moment I’m inspired … then the flames die back. I’ll start something and think it’ll be quick and easy, then the minute I run into a challenge, I give up.

Time for reflection and figuring out the next step in my artist’s evolution.

Time to reorganize and revamp my crowded studio
The other day I returned to one I’d started after my trip to the seacoast in June. This is the one I’d wiped initial workings off. I love the scene. I’m just having trouble getting the perspective.

One of the problems, which I realize I do to myself, is I will take three or four photos from different angles figuring I’ll incorporate favorite aspects into one painting. Doing this means perspective will be off, and I need to make adjustments to create a good composition. Perhaps that is an immediate setup for problems – but I’ve done it before, so why am I struggling now?

I wrote a blog last week on creating structure that works for my size, height, weight, flexibility, etc. Maybe this line of thought works on my studio space, too. I considered the height of my easels and where I tape the paper I paint on.

Three things stood out.

One, I paint standing up and usually tape the paper so it’s eye-level where I can better see what I’m doing. In re-thinking this, I realize this height makes me raise my arms and shoulders higher than comfortable, which in turn, creates tension across my upper back and shoulders. (And it doesn’t help I now have arthritis in my back.)

Two, earlier this year I read about making the work space more up right so excess pastel dust falls off into the tray and less gets out into the air. I adjusted my easels. Now, in thinking about that, along with the easel height, I realize an upright angle is not comfortable for me.

Three, perhaps I should narrow my focus to only one or two paintings on an easel at a time. Part of me rebels at this because this has been one of my quirks of how I work. I’ve used this as part of my rebellion at doing it like other artists.

Pencil sketch of "Winding Through Autumn" -SW
The other day a friend posted a scenic photo I fell in love with and was given permission to use it for a painting. I printed a copy in color and one in grayscale. That evening I did a pencil sketch while watching TV. I was very pleased, not only with the result, but for the fact I usually get bored with sketches and give up!

Time to set up for the painting. Yesterday, I adjusted the angle of one of the table easels, then contemplated the height of the table. The legs are on 6-inch bed risers to raise the height. I’m afraid if I take the table off the risers, the easel with then be too low. I walked out of the room without doing anything else.

This morning I discussed the dilemma with my neighbor. He said we can use blocks of wood leftover from when he just rebuilt the garage steps. This way we can create the perfect height for me to work comfortably.

I’m excited again and can’t wait to get to it!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Deadlines and Feeding My Soul

Working on the summer guide, my big spring project which I only have about two weeks to get done on top of everything else I do, is finally in its finishing stages. Hopefully, I’ll have my end of it done today.

The stress was definitely less this morning (except for the nuisance blue jays) and was the first day this year I had the slider and front door open. I went outside early to put up feeders. I can’t resist the little birds, though I chase off the jays. It was raining, but warm; so warm, I stayed outside to do a morning yard walk-about. I’m always amazed at how much plants grow overnight. Very exciting … except for weeds, black flies and mosquitoes, and my fear of ticks.

I considered moving a few more rocks to create a new flower garden, but with the wetness, the dirt on the rocks, and the fact I overdid it a bit yesterday (my back was sc-uh-reaming last night), I decided against it. But I so wanted to! I stood there surveying my little yard contemplating how I’m going to extend the new garden. I can’t wait … but I have to take my time, do a little at a time. It’s the way I need to work nowadays, and that’s OK.

What is the difference between what I want to do and what I feel I have to do? What I really want/need to do is paint more and when did I last do any real writing, like work on a book? I want to do the gardening, too, before the days get too hot and buggy. These are the things that feed my soul, and I always get extra stressful when I'm not nourishing my inner being.
I went through my pile of accumulated notes the other night. I’m always making lists and writing down thoughts and ideas to work on later, and the pile of paper gets higher. 

There are so many projects and writings I start working on, but they fall by the wayside. It leaves me feeling incomplete, discombobulated. For some reason, that latter word comes to my mind a lot. I think it really describes how I feel often. I've used it often throughout the years. 
The last couple of days I've done my journaling in early evening because I chose to work in the morning to meet dual deadlines with the summer guide and the regular weekly edition. That meant I gave up my meditation time. It doesn't help with it staying lighter later as I'm not getting to my “nesting time” until later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Butterfly Bounce

April 27, 2019
7:20 a.m.

The roar of the brook – no, river – buzzes under the music playing inside the house. I pull back the curtains on the slider to welcome the morning. Oooeee, the water levels had risen over night! No wonder it’s so loud. The huge boulder in the middle of the brook is totally covered over, the water rushing over it in waves.

The torrent rages with lots of white crests as water gushes over rocks and bounces off the banks on its hurry to get to the lake. I consider waiting until the rain stops, but I have to go out now and don flannel shirt, coat, and sneakers.

I take many photos from the deck overlooking the brook, but that’s not enough. I have to get closer and gingerly make my way down the steps to wade through wet leaves and wintergreen with its red berries creating tiny pops of bright color in all the dullness. My feet are soaked by the time I make the 50 feet or so to the top of the bank.

The noise is almost deafening. For a few seconds, I just stare, mesmerized by the turbulence. There are so many nooks and crannies, small waterfalls as water rushes over boulders then splashes in brighter whiteness before gushing on. With all the different nuances I could stand here watching for quite a while.

I work my way a few yards downstream to take photos from various angles, then work upstream. It starts raining harder and water drips off my hair, runs down my face, and soaks into my coat. I make my way back to the house and finish my regular morning routine. But even when settled in my chair, the movement of the water, seen through the slider and between the deck balusters, keeps distracting me. Oh, I love this view!


"Martha's Sunset" pastel painting in process
The garden muse has been winning out, but as it was raining yesterday, I slipped into the studio to do a little art work. I debated the two new floral sketches I’d started and thought about the next landscape, but with three in process paintings on the easels already … I turned to “Martha’s Sunset.”

And again, I contemplated giving up on “Grassy Dunes,” but it’s not letting me.

I have to admit, there’s something fascinating with experimenting and figuring out how to get a specific effect. I get one part looking OK (to me), but then something else needs adjusting. I know I can’t make it exactly like the photo (because that’s not what I do), so the goal is to just make it look really intriguing. There’s a line of trees between the darker ones and the mountain range. I feel I’m struggling, yet, it’s not looking too bad. I’m not even sure how I’m going to do the foreground. It’s rather featureless. I guess I’ll just have to improvise.

In the meantime, I had to get back to editing. There’s a deadline to meet.

By 3 p.m. today and deadline met, I was glad I went out to the brook this morning. The water levels dropped once it stopped raining, and while occasionally the water gushes over the top of the huge boulder, it’s no longer totally covering it.

I do get carried away with taking photos, but I love sharing the beauty of my surroundings through pictures posted on Facebook. It’s my way of giving to the community.

Once more the butterfly bounce carries me from project to project: writing, painting, editing for the newspaper, taking photos, and more. Oh, and this time of year, the flowering gardening adds another component. A little done here, a little done there and I happily follow my heart’s whim.