Friday, March 28, 2014

Double Edged--Life Lessons from Brain Research

Sketch and parts for my most recent sculpture

Learning to manage myself, again and again, I am attracted by every shiny experience, material, idea. I know I don’t have the energy, time, or money to explore them all. Now I’m without the obligation to make enough money to support myself--money making being the force that seems to drive most activity in this country. When I was previously self-employed as an artist, I tried to balance what I wanted to make with what I thought the Public would want to buy, having to return to health care four times to insure that I could reliably pay my mortgage.

Muslin body--experiment for another piece

The OT jobs were never about the joy, ONLY about the money, although some were less onerous than others, and I met wonderful people. Being in charge gave me some satisfaction, until again and again I was driven away by higher management that stifled me. I have Always Been an ARTIST, and my years doing craft shows to make a living gave me the best work satisfaction. Thankfully, I have been able to continue some art work in the background all through the 50 years of jobs and saving, making me a world-famous doll maker/writer and a locally-known painter and sculptor rather than simply retired or unemployed. I do continue to present my own internal challenges regarding where to spend my time and energy--so many possibilities!

Apoxie Sculpt held with T pins to hold the chopper upright

I’ve just read MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor…who describes the exceptional serenity she experienced when her left-brain hemorrhage quieted her constant self-talk…Monkey Mind, in her case Mean Monkey Mind. Both sides of the brain are required for creativity--the constant flowing stream of ideas and possibilities (right brain) tempered and forged into fruition by the linear left brain.

There are two seasons here in the Northwest, the light and the dark. Later this year I must make specific plans for surviving the darkest months, December and January, with some carry over on each end. I remember from past instances of being self-employed realizing that I am photo sensitive, and need to plan around that challenge. 

Painting the stripes, dilute acrylic paint

As during my previous incarnations of being self-employed, I like to get up early (as long as there’s some light) and take care of business. I’m learning to mother my own self and also cut myself slack for lying in the warm cocoon of bed and listening to the news or reading. Dark, windy, rainy mornings continue…it would be easy to fall into the black pit of depression. I remind myself to stop trying to “fix” anyone but myself. The Romantic Ideal of one person who will love us totally and be everything to us, and us to them, has not worked for me. I combine a group of friends and family, as well as my own self-love to put together my perfect life.

I painted the handle of the chopper to match the red stripe

The book my friend, David, gave me, DAILY RITUALS: How Artists Work, demonstrates a wide variety of approaches to life and creativity/productivity. I am still honing my approach. The principle of discipline and regular work habits plus walking, dreaming, driving, and showers for composing and solving problems. Routines to prepare one’s body for productivity. The luxury I’ve gained with “retirement” is time to research people/paintings/ideas of interest that cross my path…along with sitting outside to eat lunch or read…learning how the left brain gives us the chatter and negative self-talk, but Dr. Taylor says that the negative message can be diffused after 90 seconds. We have to stop the negative message going round and round and wearing a groove in our circuitry.

Double Edged, for right and left hemispheres 

Build the rituals and habits that work for you. “Art is Work” Milton Glaser, but So Rewarding!

Crocus and a yellow fire hydrant on one of my inspirational walks

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Growing Pains--and Joy

Close up of the surface of my painting table--Inspiration Everywhere!

She asked me how old do I feel…the typical question. For the first time in my life, I feel my age, 67, not 35, not 18. But I’m trying not to harbor any pre-conceived ideas about how I Should feel at 67. This process of growing into the present phase of my life, the Now, is full of pain and joy…or appreciating all the hard lessons I have learned over my years and struggles with my relationships with the world, its people and demands, and being over and over drawn back to the work that gives me the most joy, is endlessly fascinating…working with Art…

Self Portrait, Phase 2, after messing it up
Self Portrait, Phase 1

I am tempted to escape into quilting, arranging pretty colors and patterns, and that does support my eye and my habit and gives me products that others can enjoy and that will keep them—and me--warm, a practical application of my skills and energy. I am finally having a quilt made from a top of bright colors and fruits, a cover of pieced fabric with a history as a tablecloth for a Mexican-themed Thanksgiving, and cloth gathered from when I was a teacher at International Quilt Festival, the patterns reflect my various life incarnations…and I am giving to myself, to have it made up, so I can USE it, not try to sell it…in the summer nights here.

Use the Good Stuff--a block for another personal quilt

Quilts are Visible Histories. When I was a child, the Depression was as real to me as my mother’s memories and stories. My grandmother taught me to sew, and my mother’s friends gave me scraps of the fabric from their dress making…that was still a real part of women’s lives when I was a child. Now slave labor in distant countries makes it un-economical to create our own clothing. Most mothers must have regular jobs in addition to mothering now, 

Icon inspired by Picasso

I continue to find myself tempted to spread in many directions, join a group of Surface Design artists, a city committee to plan the waterfront…I was very involved when the project first started, painting to music at the Juan de Fuca Festival. I taste--I pull back. The long drafting table in my bedroom calls with more Graphic Grannie Commix ideas. I did indulge myself in playing with the Miro show at the Seattle Art Museum, even though I haven’t seen it in person yet…a portrait of him from a photo in his own Miroesque style, but probably not the Artist Trust GAP grant application, since I already have the supplies for years of potential future work…Stay open, Stay Loose, Go Deep.

My portrait of Miro, based on his style

See more of my art projects on my three Facebook Pages and my other blog: Come join me this weekend, making fabric journals at Quilted Strait, 3/22/14

Fabric Journal with Button grandmother on the cover

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Making Stuff Makes Me Happy

Blue Holes on March 1, 2014

Rabbit, Rabbit for the first of March and the beginning of my 68th year. There are aspects of blue between round, blurred-edged clouds above my curtains…and shocks of sun randomly shooting through. This is a month of many aspects, like me. 

Two sculptures taking shape on my north facing studio table

Yesterday I renewed my passport, just so I’ll be ready to go anywhere, even the 23 miles across the Strait to Victoria, BC. For the first time in years I put my occupation as Artist. Now I can afford to make the little money that most artists make…I’m not comfortable as a huckster…I see what it takes to be known, popular, comfortably wealthy. I sold my extra financial cushion ($1000 a month into forever) for two extra years of freedom now…and I won’t regret that. 

Where is my One? Starts to take shape...use the Good Stuff!

  I’ve been discarding previous commitments right and left, re-visiting my Myers-Briggs INTJ personality style…and as the women in my online Three-dimensional Doll Construction class from all points of the globe say: Nothing we create is truly original, we build from materials and ideas that evolved from others.  We are each a ball of swirling mist of many aspects and no lasting substance…and we find what joy we can in engaging with materials and ideas…and in recognizing each other and this glorious planet in the process.

Starting to take shape...over a period of months

So I will keep making things, reading things, learning things, cooking…Experiencing. There is no hierarchy of value, from quilts to sculptures, from the perfect grilled cheese to Beef Wellington (I haven’t tried that one yet). I write and read every day, and have for most of my life…at moments stringing glittering chains of words/ideas to fling out into the ether…or an image or combination of colors that makes me…and maybe you…stop and catch our breath.

Paperclay hand, painted with acrylic to coordinate with the ceramic face

Today I don’t even mind that my parents discouraged me from going to art school in 1965, because I was way too self-conscious to do any good work. I really had to make a living at whatever I learned in college…and now I DO NOT HAVE TO make a living, just a Life!!!! I can spend ALL my time making quilts and Fabric Journals if that’s what I enjoy, doing yoga, driving around, eating good stuff--as long as I don’t get overweight, because I don’t want the health risks from that. I DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE MYSELF ANY MORE…and I’m recovering myself from having to prove myself to ME…that dual nature/multiple nature without substance that gets me into mental difficulty. I like writing well enough for its own sake to just keep doing it…and reading. Read ALL of Brain Pickings and Alan Watts…the duality that subverts us. Did an essay on quitting my job, and the agony of trying to justify my existence when I am not required to.

Finished piece

 Sampling TED talks…SO MANY POSSIBILITIES~I just had to sit with myself and be patient. I’m getting into the groove, MY groove—no one else’s. Patience, and I see that I am putting out work, and I enjoy that. I wish I’d taken process photos of painting the Emerging 2 sculpture--went from dead white to stripes of mixed interference purple and peach, to covering the whole thing with a watered down peach/purple glaze to stroking with chalk in red, turquoise, tan, and smearing… looks like something made of stone, sort of…well, Enough. 

I can throw away healthcare emails with only a second’s thought now, soon none. I may not become renowned as an artist, but I am quite a bit happier. Patience with myself, and following my instincts to jettison what needs to go, emphasize what’s left…a distillation of the previous 67 years, and each moment fresh and new but built on my past.

All Art, All the Time!

Emerging 2