Creative Process-ing

Art journal page in progress

Art journal page in progress

It's been a long while since I've posted and I've been super busy. I have four new large pieces in the works, I'm finishing up a color theory class and a photoshop class and I'm right in the middle of teaching an art journaling class, which I am loving! I have one piece a local show and several pieces in another. {Yay!} And in my "spare" time, I've been learning how to design surface patterns. Lots of creative activity on top of regular Life, which fuels me and feeds my soul enough to handle the "everyday" challenges.  

I've been thinking lately about what I would do without my creative activity. Probably go crazy! Or at the very least be a bit grouchy and unhappy. Over the past several months, I've had a few weeks that were taken up with other activities that needed my attention, some were family things. After about three days of not painting, I found myself feeling restless, a little irritable, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I started to become unfocused and unorganized. A little scatter brained. If a week goes by, I start feeling angry and resentful. Ugh. It's a terrible feeling and state to be in! Painting is like water to me, three days without it and I'm dying. I must paint. Whether I paint well or not is not really the issue. I would like to paint well, which I hope will come with practice. But whether I paint well or paint badly, I. must. paint. 

Isn't that strange? I have no explanation. I only know what I feel like if I avoid or cannot paint for several days and what a relief I feel after I do paint. I spent years trying to "find my way" after realizing in my 20's that I had been living someone else's life, someone else's dream, someone who was no longer in my life. I was rather shocked to discover that I didn't even have a dream for myself! I resolved that my 30's would be different, though I had not a clue as to how to go about changing things. I only knew I wanted to be at home--in my place, in my relationships and in my work, my work. Little by little, I started paying attention to what I wanted and what I didn't want; what made me feel joyful and what made me feel sad or angry. Slowly, I began to make different choices whether they made sense or not. Once I reached 40, I had started to make art on a more regular basis and had begun pursuing an artistic life.  I suspected that I'd found my path although I had trouble calling myself an "artist" and still struggled with my self-esteem. I had no idea how I would know when I'd found my home, but I knew it must be there. The first time I heard the phrase "follow your bliss", I was in a yoga class and wondered what the heck "bliss" was! It certainly couldn't be the surfac-y happy feeling that is so fleeting. So what exactly was it and how do you "follow" it? Had I ever really felt "blissful"? I didn't think so. What was "bliss" to me? It must be a bit personal for everyone, right? What did I want? To be surrounded by beauty and to create, came my answer. So, I decided to practice seeing beauty all around me, do the next right thing, follow my strong impulses and focus on my work (art making). It was a rich, deeply moving, uncomfortable, heart opening, mind altering, life changing experience which lasted two years before it became "real". As a result, there were a lot of changes, some uncomfortable and some welcome. I now know that I am on MY path and have every intention of following it wherever it leads. I'm working very hard, harder than ever in my life, and I'm happy. I feel that I've finally found my Home. I learned that the decisions come first, then action in practice and the feelings follow later. Had I not made a commitment to see things through whether or not I experienced any kind of feeling, I may have quit, thinking that home was an illusion, non-existent, a fantasy. 

What I love about teaching art journaling is that it makes art accessible for everyone, and I get to have the honor of supporting someone through their process. The creative process doesn't have to be the deep, earth moving process that I had, sometimes is just an outlet for stress or creative release or simply playtime. But no matter what kind of process one has, it is sacred to witness. Because art is a reflection of the inner life of an individual, a personal expression which no one else can truly replicate. Your marks are your marks made with your hand. Because no one else has your hand, and no one uses their hand quite like you do, no one else can truly make your marks. They might look similar, but they are not the same. This concept shows up glaringly so in art journaling. No two people's art journals are the same...ever. Isn't that incredible?!? Blows me away. I can teach one technique to ten students and see ten different results. And that amazes me! And what amazes me more is that often I see things in others' work that I would never have thought of! I love that! Art is therefore, truly collaborative, wholly individual and utterly mysterious. 



Art Journaling Class Begins in 1 Week!

Art Journaling class at the Petaluma Arts Center starts one week from today, on October 28 and I can hardly stand it! I'm sooo excited! Blank art journals, supplies, paints, inks, pens, adhesives, etc. are all gathered up and ready for a creative journey. There are just a few spots left in the class if you are still thinking about registering. If you're on the fence, come on over! You can register here, or call Hilary at 707-762-5600.

Basic Drawing and Overcoming Fear

"If you hear a voice within you say, 'you cannot paint,' 
then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Vincent Van Gogh

I've been taking a basic drawing class at my local college this summer. I've always wanted to be able to draw and have had a fear of drawing for too many years. I knew if I didn't confront my fear, it would continue to hold me back in my art making as well as other areas of my life. Do you notice that as well - that fear in one area of your life can affect other areas too and the longer you avoid facing it, the more firmly rooted resistance becomes? Well, I just didn't want to be held back any more and I really did want to learn to draw. So, I decided to take a class to learn some skills and technique as well as place myself in a structure of accountability. 

My fear came from when I was young, early high school age and I wanted to take an art class. My mother commented that I couldn't draw. She probably didn't know it, but I was devastated. But being a quiet, rather non-communicative kid with little-to-no self-awareness, I accepted the comment and it became a part of the story of who I thought I was. Fast forward a few years when I began to paint and I began to feel the urge to draw, I ignored it saying to myself, 'I can't draw' (never mind the fact that my notes in school and college were covered in doodles and sketches). This is how our brains work, they stick with the story you're telling yourself no matter what the evidence until you begin to question what you believe to be true. Finally, the desire became so strong and I noticed that the resistance to drawing was holding me back (read: causing frustration and pain). I firmly believe in questioning your beliefs and testing things out to find your truth. I have also found a great tool in making a change to your story, if your mind is resisting the change, and that is the Experiment. It is quite helpful to say to yourself, "I'm just going to try this and if it doesn't work at least I will know for sure." For some reason, I find that my mind quiets down, affectively saying, "OK, go ahead and play for a little while, let me know when you want to be serious again and we'll get back to work" So, this is what I did. I said, I'm just going to take a drawing class and see what happens. Maybe I'll like it and maybe I won't but at least I'll finally know.

Guess what? I loved it! The voice that played on repeat, "you can't draw, you can't draw..." didn't last long. It reminded me of the Van Gogh quote above. [Van Gogh is my muse and that quote I take as his personal advice to me.] It isn't about being able to suddenly draw well (as you see in  the pictures. My drawings are not excellent drawings, nor was I trying to create excellent drawings. Most of the class, I didn't even have time to create an excellent drawing. But they are a good start to my drawing practice and they are proof, if to no one but myself, that I have gained a few basic skills and techniques to being able to draw. And, as Steve Martin said,

"just stick with this, just keep playing, and one day you'll have been playing for 40 years, and at this point, you'll know how to play."

His comment is about more than discipline. It's about consistency, it's about just showing up to do the work, it's about process. And it didn't take Steve 40 years to know how to play. If you've ever seen him play in person like I have, you know that he plays excellent blue grass as well as giving a great show! The reason I'm sharing this, as well some of my drawings, is to share my process. As an arts educator, I've heard way too many, "I can't sing...I can't draw...I can't paint..." or the ultimate lie, "I'm not creative." It's important to be able to practice without expectation and to see improvement in your work. When I was playing and performing the clarinet and when I taught music, there was no waiting 20 years until everyone was good enough to perform a concert. We practiced music we were developmentally ready for and then we performed it. In music, it is as important to learn how to perform, how to be seen as it is to develop good technique with your instrument and learn how to play well musically. The same is true of dance. When my daughter was learning ballet, jazz and hip hop, we went to many recitals and delighted in her progress as well as that of her fellow dancers. So, it is also true of visual arts as well even if it has historically been treated differently. I think it's important, (although admittedly extremely vulnerable just as it is in the other arts), to experiment and try new things, to take creative risk and to share your process and progress. Hopefully in sharing my process and progress, you will be encouraged to embark upon your own creative process, whatever the medium. You will have the confidence to begin wherever you are currently, knowing that if you simply keep showing up to practice, you will eventually be able to be competent.