Category Archives: momentum

Potential

IMG_3481 That’s a tall stack of potential. I’m so excited to dig into this bundle of mini-panels. They measure just 6 x 6 inches. Fifty of them. When I first started writing this blog in 2008 (has it really been that long?!), I started a similar project. I’d taken a break from working with encaustic and wanted to start again. How to incubate the new ideas I had in mind?

We had a piece of smooth plywood leftover from a house project, so I asked a friend if he’d cut it up for me on his table saw. The result was 36 eight-inch panels to experiment with. Over the course of working those 36 panels, my ideas were tried, edited, and developed. A whole body of larger works grew out of that series of tiny paintings.

I’ve been drawing experimentally this past year, and am continuing on these panels. Silverpoint and water media on gesso. I’m going to gesso all of them today, and work on all fifty at the same time, rotating around as intuition dictates, and see what happens.

This is a wonderful way to explore a new medium or idea, to play around without committing very much space or time or materials. I highly recommend this approach. Last time I did it, I went from this….

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To this…

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To this…

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I just never know where it’s going to take me.

Looking Forward 2014

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This morning I walked past my open green waste bin and the discarded flowers that lay at the top caught my eye.  I threw them out last night and they were rained on a bit.

If my last post was about looking backward, this one is about looking forward. January has been such a lovely month.  I don’t really do new years resolutions, but I usually do a big studio clean, take inventory of my life, and make some plans, set some goals.  That sort of thing.  So in that spirit, I’ll share some of my thoughts/aspirations for 2014:

  • Steer myself out of ruts, and try new things.  Small things, certainly.  Large things, hopefully.
  • Draw more.
  • Stay present.
  • Take some road trips with my son.
  • Read more books.
  • Slow down and notice beauty in unexpected places. See above photo.
  • Write more.
  • Experiment more in the studio.

Looking forward…

Double Life, and a Studio Clean-Up

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January is just whizzing by me.  Surely, time moves faster as you chase it.  And I feel as if I have been chasing it, with so much to do, and trying to fit it all in.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to just stop, and breathe.  And slow down the moment.  And pay attention.

For months now, I’ve been simultaneously preparing for war and peace, so to speak. ( I think it’s an Einstein quote, and he actually said, ” You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”)    For about a year, now, I’ve been going to school part time to complete a certificate in technical writing.  I’ve also been trying to increase my hours in the studio, ramping up my practice, trying to make a go of being a full-time artist.  The sensible fall back plan, and the big dream.  I feel like every day I get up and just throw myself at it all.  There is rarely a sense of completion, because there is always something more to do.  I just keep setting little goals, and moving forward.  Inch. By. Inch.

There are financial pressures.  I don’t know if the artwork can answer them. It seems to be gaining traction, but I have to wait and see how it all shakes out.  I really want to be able to jump in with both feet into… something.  But for now, I must simultaneously prevent and prepare.

Painting and technical writing might seem at odds with one another.  And it does feel like I’m living two lives, or preparing for two futures, or even two potential selves, sometimes. Each activity exploits different parts of my personality.  But the two things also compliment one another in remarkable ways.  When I was working my way through my foundation technical writing courses, I was struck with how the skills I was learning could be directly applied to all of the writing that I am required to do as an artist- statements, bios, website copy, etc.  Active voice, defining audience, elegance, efficiency, specific language, direct style.  My studio notebook has become my constant companion, and I’ve learned to just get it all down, and edit later.  My editing class sharpened my attention and further developed my appreciation for brevity and specificity in my painting practice.

Right now, I’m taking a course in Information Graphics, and I find myself asking different questions in the studio.  Questions like “What is the question that the work answers?” and “How do I shape the data to answer the question?”.  It’s all pretty interesting stuff.

NewYearStudio

 

One of the things I always do in January is clean my studio, and this year was no exception.  I also tried to create a “clean” area, over to the right, for a drawing space.  I’m trying to have a corner that isn’t covered in wax and paint splatters! (I know–good luck!) I’ve also added the memory foam mat on the floor, because all the standing takes it’s toll.  If you don’t have one of these in the studio, get thee to thy computer, and order one.  They are heaven.

Well, then, back to work!  I have a data set to download, and some paper cutting to do!

Long time, no write

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been writing a ton. But I certainly haven’t been writing here, have I?

It’s been a wonderful, yet incredibly busy fall season for us around here, meaning me and my family. I continue to struggle, as we all do, to fit it all into these 24 hour segments we call days… and have yet to find the formula that allows me to do it all and stay present enough to enjoy it.  Such a work in process… and I guess that’s where I’m at these days, trying my best to give myself to the priorities that I’ve set for myself and then seeing the beauty and accomplishment in the messy incoherence that ensues. I figure if I can do that, I’m in pretty good shape.

Well, this is my habit, to take stock toward the end of the year. Not a bad habit, but it can turn melancholy if I let it, so I won’t. A few of my favorite things that I did this year- that sounds more cheerful.

I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel Valley… What a fantastic group of artists. Such a beautiful place.

I developed a body of work that I am in love with… a rare thing for me; I am so critical of my own work. The slow down in sales has facilitated my spending more time on and with my work. So there is a silver lining.

I participated in NaNoWriMo in November… 50,000 words in thirty days, with only a few vague ideas in my pocket- it felt like jumping off a cliff, and I survived! I created my parachute on the way down. Challenging, invigorating, terrifying. I’ve never written that much in my life. My daughter did it too- I couldn’t have been prouder.

So what did I learn the most from? Definitely NaNoWriMo- hands down. I’ll be taking every skill I practiced back to my studio. For example: you don’t always need to know where you are going to get somewhere. Let surprises happen. Let the work take charge instead of bending it to my expectations. Spend time with the work every day. Sit down and work, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. Trust that I have something to say. I usually just have to get quiet enough to hear it myself.

I’d love to hear from you- what did you do that was new this year, and what did you learn from it?

Catching Up

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We don’t get a whole lot of fall color here on the mid-California coast. But I am savoring fall, anyway. This is my favorite time of year. 

After a long bout of illness this summer, I “came to” sometime in early October, and realized that my blog (among many other things) had been sorely neglected. So in the spirit of catching up a bit, here are some things I’ve been up to. I somehow managed to pull together my show here in town at Enso; we had a wonderful opening and I received loads of positive feedback. I’m now busy preparing for another show coming up in February. So, I’ve been working in my studio, if somewhat sporadically. Earlier this month, I attended the IEA retreat in Carmel, and got some wind in my sails. The retreat was wonderful, and I met many other artists from all over the country. The speakers were great- hearing Tony Scherman speak was definitely a high point for me- and members demonstrated techniques, which was also interesting. I came away inspired and full. On my drive home, I pulled over several times, because I had to write down everything I was thinking before it got away. Just download into my notebook. Somehow, talking with and listening to other painters helped me crystalize some of my own goals, which have been fuzzy for a while. 

And now, after the buzz has worn off a bit, I realize that it is fine and well to think about painting, but a time comes when it is painfully obvious that I’m doing more thinking than painting. And that it is time to shoehorn painting back into my life, an hour at a time, and re-set some priorities. It’s never ending- the process of picking oneself back up, brushing off, and walking back into the studio.

Inspiration and Ownership

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 In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me.” An idea is not diminished when more people use it. 

(from creative commons website)

I love the quote above. Such a good reminder.  In this time that we live in, when there seems to be a mad rush to define everything as private or corporate property, it can seem a little odd, or risky even, to just….. well, give things away. And I’m only human. What if someone “steals” an idea from this website and uses it for their own work? I can get carried away by that worry, from time to time. I’ve also talked to other artists who fear something being taken from them when they post their images or techniques online. But that in itself implies that we all “get” our ideas and “produce” our images in a vacuum. The fact is, we are all, every day, influenced by ideas and images out there. We can’t help it. 

Notice I put the words “steals”, “get” and “produce” in quotes- these are all concepts of ownership. And it really begs the question: are we the static “owners” of our ideas, or are we only the temporary guardians of our ideas before the go out into the world in their viral fashion, and produce more ideas?

 I am reminded of something that my favorite drawing teacher once told us- that we each have our own mark, our own hand. For better or worse, I could try and try to make a mark like you, but it would always still look like my mark. It would look like me trying to make a mark like you, but me still being me, it would most definitely be my mark. 

An important and intriguing thing to think about: how do we walk that line between individual protections, and protecting the open sharing ideas, which fuels all creativity?

One Year

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This post is to celebrate my daughter’s work. This past weekend, we drove down to Valencia, near L.A., and dropped her off at Cal Arts for a month long intensive art program (one of the more terrifying and exciting things I’ve done as the mother of a 15 year old). These are self-portraits she drew- exactly one year apart. The one on the left was finished last week, the one on the right last summer. I just think it’s such a testament to our capacity for growth. That truly, we are hardwired for growth. And hard work. It is rare that Alexandra is not either drawing or carrying one of her sketchbooks around. She lives for graphite. She would probably eat it if she could. If there were more hours in the day, she’d spend them drawing. I bought her three sketchbooks to last her the month she’ll be gone. She fills them so fast, I can hardly keep up. 

She inspires me.

Leap…..

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Sometimes, the hardest thing is simply beginning.

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And once I begin, it is rare that I want to stop. As I approach a painting session, or a block of time in my studio, or begin a new painting or body of work, my doubts and insecurities often crowd me, beckoning me toward some other soothing activity like working in the garden or reading a book. Baking cookies. Catching up on email. Cleaning the toilet.

No, really, it is fascinating to me that after 20-something years of painting, that I can still have these feelings. It’s like that squirmy, resistant feeling you get right before jumping into a cold lake or swimming pool. After jumping, I always get a little rush of adrenaline, and then have the thought that it’s really quite nice. Wonderful, even. 

How do I get to the other side of those feelings with my artwork? I remind myself to just begin.  Then I give myself permission to do something other than painting in my studio if I just do not feel the flow after a little while. I could tidy my studio, or do some preliminary drawings, I could go outside and photograph, make some color charts, write in my art journal. Whatever. But almost always, I find myself caught up in the riptide of creative momentum, and I paint. 

“Leap, and the net will appear”

-Unknown

Momentum, Revisited: Routines and Habits

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What makes a routine work? 

When I first started writing this blog, I had recently been to a yoga workshop, taught by Rod Stryker, called “Yoga of Fulfillment”. One of the most powerful things I came away with was the idea of a “Samkalpa”.  Samkalpa means a resolution, a resolve, or an intention. Mine is defined by my desire to have momentum in my studio time, and to feel the thread of fearless creativity running through my life, weaving what then seemed fractured, together. Since then, I’ve supervised the building of a studio in back of my home, to better integrate painting into my busy family life. I’ve been much more productive than I’ve been in a long time, and have at times felt the momentum running strong.

I’ve always gotten my household and homeschooling “work” done in the mornings, and eked out a few hours of painting in the afternoon. Most days. Much of the time, this works great, and I love the way my studio warms up in the afternoon, and the sun through the skylights. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how the first things I do in my day pretty much always get done. I don’t find myself wondering first thing in the morning, “hmm….. I have time to either take a shower or brush my teeth. Which one do I do?” But I do find myself having that mental converstation with myself over, say, painting and exercising at 4 in the afternoon. Or painting and seeing a friend. It dawned on me that the things I do first are- literally and figuratively- the things I put first. So I’m experimenting with getting out into my studio earlier (after I’ve brushed my teeth, of course!), and working a bit longer. It feels strange and different. But productive. 

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of it is not checking my email before I go out to work. But if I do, before I know it, I’m reading the New York Times online, or catching up on my blog reading- and there goes an hour. Or two. Ahem.

So I’m curious about you artists out there- what habits and routines do you have that help you get your creative work done? How have you changed unproductive habits to productive ones?

Avian Brilliance

Could anything be more beautiful?

My mom and dad came for a visit recently, and when my dad walked in, he was carrying this. Found under the tarp for their wood pile.(Thank you, dad!!) I felt a little badly that these poor eggs were abandoned, but I will look forward to painting this nest.  This nest is in fantastic shape- and the avian architectural brilliance is always startling. Every piece of grass and animal hair is woven- just so.

As for me, I feel like I am starting to weave myself together as I come off from a busy busy couple of months.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me and made sure that I knew that this blog matters!

Sometimes I forget that my most artistically productive times are fed and nurtured by things that I don’t always give credit to.  Like walking, gardening, knitting, exploring, reading,  relaxing and playing with my family ….  and doing nothing. Sometimes I want to be efficient and productive, and I replace that quiet nothingness or repetitive, rhythmic (but seemingly mindless) activity with something that delivers a more quantifiable something. And I feel my creative juices eventually start to dry up….. I suspect that the physics of our souls are very very different from the physics of matter. Or perhaps I just need to get smarter about what kind of productivity I want (or need) to invest in.  So, though I know there are times when I just have to “get things done” that aren’t particularly nurturing to my creativity, it feels really really nice to get my feet back on the ground and create some margin for myself. One of these days I’ll get it through my head that creativity needs *space* to happen.  That sometimes it takes a whole lotta nothin for the best things to happen.

I can’t sign off without introducing you to my new blogging partner.

Meet Mouse.

Our new kitty, and the terror of the neighborhood. He totally owns everything around here (including us), eats at at least 3 houses, and chases our neighbor’s cats. And he’s only 5 months old. This is not necessarily a good thing. But this cat redeems himself with a personality the size of Texas. He is a study in fearlessness. And goofiness. 

And this cat knows all about margin.