WIP WEDNESDAY: Session 3 an Idea

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This week’s work in progress is an idea. I am happy with where I ended on the roses, I have not actually traced the sunflowers, and I didn’t devote the time in the studio that I would have liked. What I have done is make a shift in the way that I think. I am considering how to make installation work combining sculpture and painting, it is an idea that has been on the back burner for quite some time now. I want to do a series about my experience (or lack of) with my cultural heritage(s) and examine how that tenuous connection has affected my life. I’ll share more when I can articulate my thoughts better, but that’s the idea that has been buzzing around my head.

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Good fit for the Work Room

Another work in progress this past week has been me. I have been struggling to prioritize my life around art and even prioritize myself. I frequently get lost in the roles and relationships I have with others and don’t consider what I need to be happy or successful. I am making a concerted effort to center my thoughts and process my emotions, and spend time working out my own issues. I can already tell this shift in focus is beneficial because I am starting to think creatively again. The majority of my background thoughts have always been occupied with scheduling chores and how I can fix problems for others. It’s not constructive studio time when your brain is split between trying to tackle solutions for other people and trying to reform your own artistic process. Reshaping the way I think is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but well worth it for the ability to create new ideas.

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Bouquets of paint brushes interrupted by some flowers

Anniversary Mountain Get-Away

June 1st marked our third year together as a couple and our first year of cohabitation. After missing our last anniversary due to work we wanted to something special, special and within a reasonable budget. We considered our options and since flash floods eliminated any camping possibilities we decided to go to our favorite place nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains: a lovely little house homed by one of the most successful couples we know, Jared’s grandparents. It might seem a bit unconventional but I can think of no better way to celebrate our time together than by being with two people who have made it work for over 64 years of married life.

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Surrounded by rows of flowers and a lovely garden, their home is a lovely respite from our routine and a wonderful chance to spend time with some of our favorite people. I have been treated like nothing less than family since I was first introduced to them – I’m even referred to as their “adopted granddaughter.”

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Our plans settled, we packed up my truck on a Thursday afternoon and headed to the Mountains. When we finally emerged from Atlanta traffic and started entering more rural territory, I could feel myself start to untense and relax. The sun was slowly beginning to settle into evening and it cast a beautiful golden haze on the landscape, illuminating the mist and gilding the trees. Every mile that rolled by seemed to melt away any pressures or anxiety that remained.

We got to spend some quality time with Ma and Pa and rejuvenate ourselves as well. Adjusting to their daily schedule proved quite beneficial; we went to sleep earlier, got up earlier, and had meals earlier too. That alone added hours to our day. Every day we had tasty homemade country meals with farm fresh veggies. Ma even took us to the local produce stand where she gets said veggies, and of course I managed to pick up a new plant to add to my menagerie. Later, we drove into town and toured an art walk in the historic square. We even had time between trips to work in our sketchbooks.

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Something about the atmosphere and probably the lack of responsibilities made it a lot easier to focus on art. Stepping back from our daily lives and adjusting the perspective helped me shake off insecurities about my art. If you make art out in the middle of the mountains and no one is around to judge it, does it matter if its good or not? With this in mind I was able to concentrate on the parts I liked. I’m one of those weirdos that actually enjoys watching paint dry – I love seeing the color-laden drops get sucked down into the fibers of the paper and how the touch of a shadow suddenly adds dimension to a subject. Suddenly, I enjoyed making art again and I didn’t care how it looked. Okay, I cared – but at least not to the detriment of my momentum.

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Interestingly enough, working on art again did something to my state of mind: I felt happy again.

Not to say I was extremely unhappy to begin with (perhaps a touch of ennui) but I started to feel whole again sitting at that table painting a rundown rock shop. It was like I was missing a part of myself and I hadn’t fully realized. This feeling of completeness in turn was also making me a better partner to Jared. Feeling incomplete left a raw edge on me; I would get irritated more easily at insignificant things and I had a hard time letting go of things that bothered me. It’s like your brain is trying to fix what is wrong but can’t find the source of the problem so it vents that energy into really dumb things.

Though we both still have a lot to work on to be as great a couple as, say, Ma and Pa, being true to ourselves and our art is definitely a big step in that direction. This trip was exactly what we needed it to be and I look forward to more years ahead.

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Creative Atrophy

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It’s six in the morning and I am sitting in my studio. It’s a mess, and not in the creative fury of thoughts and action kind of way either. It’s wrecked in the dusty, disheveled –I didn’t know where to put these things so I stacked it on my dried out watercolor palette ‘cause it’s not like I’m using it anyway– kinda way. The atrophy of my creativity is painfully apparent.

When I’m working it’s understandable to not have creative energy after 12 hours of physical labor. Weekends between working days can also be a mad race to complete all the washing, cooking, and shopping for the busy week to come.

But I haven’t had a union gig for quite some time (as is the nature of the film industry). I tell myself that work will pick up soon and I should be take advantage of all the down time but somehow days and nights pass and I still manage to avoid just sitting in my studio. I’m always able to fabricate a list of other chores that needed attending; there are meals to prepare, laundry to catch up on, rooms to destroy with the pretense of “organizing”, and of course, plenty of shows to binge.

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It is not about energy I have, or the chores I list that keeps me avoiding my studio. I have put so much pressure on the need to make something “good” that I haven’t actually enjoyed the process of drawing or painting in quite some time.  My future feels like it hinges on my ability to create good work. It becomes overwhelming when each drawing or painting feels like it needs to be the piece that starts the portfolio collection that will jumpstart my career. I want very much to be a successful Artist, able to sustain myself fiscally with what I produce, spending my days making and creating. I find it difficult to just start a piece with all the self-imposed expectations looming overhead. I know I am going to have to set aside my trepidation and embrace works that won’t be up to snuff.  There will be a lot of bad and mediocre pieces while learning to make great ones.

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So these are my first steps toward learning to accept failure as an instructor and allow myself a reasonable pace to discover who I am as an artist. There isn’t really a straightforward life model for growing into what I want to become. As I chart my own path in making creativity a career I’ll share my process and everything else in between that sustains and inspires me, here in the Den of Leaves.