Some Things Never Seem to Change

I’ve been working on a creative project the last few days. You know that mythical creature, the crazed artist, who blocks out the rest of the world for periods of time and whose living quarters are a jumble of tools of the trade and discarded work and evidence of intense activity?

Damn!

Yeah.

Oh, and recently I got an e-reader. Not being a technically inclined person, I’m proud to say that I managed to get it up and running and have downloaded a book onto it.

And I’m still eating healthy and home-cooked and have the trashed kitchen to prove it.

So, this weekend I’ll be doing a bit more housecleaning than I intended.

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Lovely Day

This was the first day comfortable enough weather-wise for going out without a coat. The heat was turned off all day and the windows open a crack.

I was out for four hours, either standing or walking which is way longer than I’m used to. Now, I’m not unreasonably pained–lots of water, some magnesium, rest and a heating pad is what I’m prescribing myself.

Three of the basil seedlings are now in larger pots. They are rather small to be moved but were getting cramped in the shallow container they were germinated in.

My diet will be changed in a month or two and I prepared for that by looking at recipes and also at cookware while I was at the co-op shopping. The healthy skillets online are over $100 if you can buy one separately from a set. I found a $30 one and will wait until I can use a 10% off coupon next week. I simply haven’t been using one except for a cast iron skillet which I dislike cleaning. I’m afraid to use the non-stick, inexpensive ones. I’m pleased with the progress I’m making but am also cautious.

Then I went to the public library for the first time since last autumn and they’d moved the dvd’s around. (I have plenty of unread books at home.) I found four so that will give me a break from hulu. While I’m resting, my mind wants diversions.

I haven’t been doing more than thinking about art lately, so I went to an open workshop to check the work of four young artists. Three of them were there and I got to watch them work for a bit. Most of the paintings were not my style and that’s O.K. I’m middle-aged. They seemed pleased that someone bothered to look at their stuff since it was a Saturday afternoon and most people were doing other things.

Midlife And Our Best Years Are Ahead Of Us

It’s possible. It matters whether we believe it or whether we believe it’s all downhill from here, that we’ve had too many losses and the world has become too weird. Yes, there will be inner fears and pain and outer gloom and evidence of decay and destruction. We can acknowledge how we feel and then refuse to dwell there.

Some of us have had quite a tragic and difficult life and it’s tempting to feel like there’s something inherently wrong with us. We might just not have what it takes to be fulfilled. If we are intelligent and worthy, wouldn’t we have figured out more about how to get what we want by now? Self-help books and blogs about success give ideas about what worked for others and we might notice that there are some things those folks take for granted, things that we believe are lacking in ourselves that will make the whole thing we might want to change or try, fail dismally. Maybe we feel too old, that life has passed us by and what’s left is the quiet desperation. Especially if we don’t have the temperament or personality or energy of the people with the how-to’s.

That’s a place I don’t want to stay in for long and I don’t really want to hang out with people who dwell in those places, although I wish them well. Maybe we simply don’t have all the information yet. Maybe we haven’t been reminded lately about how wonderful we are and that we have more choices than we think when it comes to creating a better life. Even if we’re no longer twenty. Or thirty. Or forty. Or fifty.

There can be lots of obstacles and problems we’re facing, but there’s also some areas where we are succeeding and learning amazing things on our own. For me, some insights and order to my health challenges became clear for me today. I’m on the right path. I’m doing it!

After my checking out and relaxing yesterday, I worked towards my goals today and stayed on track until……. Sometimes a sparkling delicious diversion shows up and we get to choose whether or not to explore it. Of course, we are responsible and want to keep our commitments. I mean like when today, I could read in the how-to novel writing book that I’d planned to study or play with the google art project that I just discovered online. Choosing the art site, I could have spent eight hours there. What would you have done?

Not all of the art is sparkling for me but there were Van Goghs I’d never seen that are exquisite. And Turner’s paintings. And Cezanne. There are paintings by an artist that I’d never heard of and now I’m going to do more research. It’s amusing that when I was younger, I didn’t know what kind of art I “should” like. And now I know it’s fine that I like the Impressionists better than modern art.

What’s really amazing is I just looked out my window and the city view I always see looks beautiful, like art, after having looked at the paintings online a little while ago. When we have experiences like that, it surely has a positive effect on our health and our future. It draws life through us.

We can choose to have an outlook that our life can continue to be enhanced, although different, rather than just being diminished. Does it really work for us to be cynical, jaded and bitter?

Observation and Fatigue

My acrylic painting has just been stored and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I do much better. It’s scary starting with art again after plus thirty years. This week I’m trying to schedule an hour daily to focus on it, even if it means just showing up.

This morning I hid the painting after calling it finished, stored my paints, etc. in an easy-to-get-to place but off my computer desk and recognized that I might best learn to draw again in some sort of structured way. I got down my 1985 copy of Bert Dodson’s “Keys To Drawing”.

When I lived in Boulder County Colorado, I liked to go up to Nederland and spend the day. I liked the altitude and being by the big reservoir. Having spent the first 17 years of my life with the Mississippi River nearby, it felt unnatural to be so far from big water in Colorado.

Once when I was wandering back to town and near the shelter area I saw a small group of people drawing. It was a class and usually I’m very shy and reserved but not this time. After chatting with the art teacher a bit, she told me that she was self-taught and had learned from Dodson’s book. So I bought one and put it on my shelf where it sat and was moved to three different apartments in two states.

As scary as it is, I don’t learn when I don’t even try–hence the scheduled hour daily now. (Honestly I couldn’t think of another word besides hence).

I began looking through the book after clearing up the disappointing painting project and was drawn to a little section about observation and fatigue. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’m interested in rejuvenating from burn-out and fatigue.

Drawing is more about observing the object being drawn than the medium on which it’s drawn. Dodson says fatigue is inevitable and often comes on before we realize it. One sign is a sudden awareness of time. Another sign is awareness of distractions. He says at these times it’s best to stop. Wow. I have never seen this information before and it easily translates into a tool for the rest of my life.

Now many times, I have to slog my way through something just like we all do. It is useful to be conscious of the increase in tiredness though so I can make the good choices that are available to me. With drawing, as I walk the fine line of overcoming my fears and also taking care of my health this is a micro-detail that will serve me well.

This sudden lack of focus and anxiety about time also happens when I’m reading or on the computer. He didn’t mention hunger, but sometimes I feel suddenly very hungry. Dodson recommends when drawing, to select areas of interest in the subject and concentrate on them first to bunch up both energies and time. The rest of the drawing can then be treated with simplicity. Kind of like being wise in prioritizing my activities.

Craft Day

It worked out well to do bookkeeping and business on Monday in longer blocks of time so yesterday I planned to spend time with my art and a craft project I’ve been thinking about.

Working on the craft project made me happy and I forgot about all the problems I need to solve for awhile. Part of why it worked out was that my fingers were more dexterous than usual. I first noticed it when I put some post earrings in while waiting for the computer to get going. It usually requires patience and time but I inserted them easily for the first time in years. And without looking in a mirror.

Later when I threaded a needle several times to sew by hand, that went well also. Slow, but it wasn’t frustrating. I also had the stamina to handle the ironing board several times.

The painting didn’t go so well. It would make more sense to practice drawing for awhile but I want to paint too. I’ve been taking digital photos of the various stages and in hindsight, I see the best stage was three photos ago. Then they look progressively worse to me. The best thing to do, I guess, is set it aside and enjoy doing a painting of a person. Which is what I feel like doing.

The biscuits I made from a gluten-free mix taste good and I have the energy to bake like that, but it has aluminum phosphate in it and I’ll be looking for a healthier brand mix.

Today I intended to get a lot of housework done but the day is half gone and I’m not feeling well. I have a sore throat and less mobility than usual. I guess I could force myself but that hasn’t worked so well in the past. I know many people say you have to have structure, schedules and goals, but when I think back to my most productive times last year, it happened in bursts of spontaneity. Just like farmers and like occupations need the cooperation of the weather, if my body doesn’t want to go along with the plan and it can be reasonably postponed, it makes sense to do so. I have noticed that I do better as the day goes on and perhaps there will be some sort of compromise here.

It seems like when I get further along with my structural alignment exercises, it might relieve some nerve pressure to my hands and I could become more productive. I have hope.

Fabric/Mixed Media

Recently while going through things I found an old box of laminating sheets. They are slightly yellowed and close to 20 years old. When I got them years ago I obsessively laminated a lot of items for a little while and then moved on to something else.

A little over a year ago, I used some of it to laminate a cancelled stamp from 1904 and a note that was written at that time. The letter was mailed from St. Louis around the time of the World’s Fair to my grandmother before she was married. I have a small stack of letters to her and she seems to have been rather popular with the young gentleman, something I’d never heard about. She passed when I was six years old and I remember her as very reserved.

I sewed the laminated items onto a small quilted wall-hanging I made by hand. I enjoy doing that even though it’s very time-consuming and I am not at all a good quilter. I doubt if I’ll ever be and it isn’t really a goal of mine. Since it’s art, I don’t believe the hangings need to be sturdy–I just like the way they look.

The wall-hanging is pictured above. There’s a tiny mesh bag that jewelry or something came in and inside of it is a small plastic bag that has a curl of human hair. A young man had sent Grandma a lock of his blonde hair in 1904. The note paper had absorbed any oil and the writing was slightly smudged. The hair was understandably a little brittle. I typed up a little hello note back to the boy in a time-travel kind of way and attached it to the vintage looking fabric.

The letters are all written in pencil and the various handwritings are difficult to read. Grammar and punctuation are poor and the content is a mix of casual, mundane and formal. There are letters about social events, picnics and dances that people traveled to on horseback. Most other old letters I’ve seen in books and museums are from educated and sophisticated people and I was a little startled at the simplicity of these.

I haven’t read all of them–I have to be in a certain mood to read them, I guess because it’s family and they are gone now.

This afternoon I printed a copy of a painting I’d done and also a copy of a photo I’d taken on acid free paper, laminated them and got out my fabric stash. I’ve moved past the part where my lack of manual dexterity and quilting skills makes this a waste of time. I want to do it. I like making things out of found objects.

The Art Room

Yay me! I’m following through on bringing more artistic expression into my life. No matter how long it takes.
I’ve noticed that even though the morning is an awkward beginning for me, whatever I engage my mind in, I’m in that mode for awhile. When I write “morning pages” in longhand it activates that part of my brain and then it’s easier for me to read and comprehend what I’m reading.
That’s not so good for me physically though, if I want physical accomplishments that day. Which I certainly do.
So yesterday morning, after I was finished writing, I gently tore myself away from the sticky track of words and began coloring in my coloring book.
The coloring book calls for colored pencils. I got the book at an art fair held in a local park this summer. The one I chose was Wetland Critters. The artist is Sue Coccia. It’s difficult to stay within the very intricate lines. I can feel how good it is for me although I don’t have words to describe that.
When I was finished, I intended to do some needed maintenance activities in my apartment. Instead I wanted to mess with the painting I’m working on now–an old stone bridge and it’s reflection in the water. I took advantage of the ease energy of doing it while it was available to me. Frankly I’m overwhelmed by approaching artistic expression after more than 35 years.
The process felt good but the painting looks too splotchy and ill defined now. My hands tremor but I think I’ll get a tiny brush and use dark gray dots to define some of the areas. And I’m still wanting to paint people.
I’ve been diagnosed once with ADD. Also random, exasperated people have accused me of having ADD when I wasn’t being who and how they wanted me to be. Unless they’re paying me or supporting me, I don’t care anymore.
And I don’t label myself although in my research (I love to research for solutions–thank you, internet) I have found techniques that are useful to me.
One of the descriptions I’ve read–and it’s like how my brain works–is that if the brain were a house, and numbers were like an upstairs bedroom and words were like the kitchen and social interaction were like the hallway, most people could just walk from room to room. Some people with so-called ADD can access those rooms but it’s like they can’t just walk through the doorways. They have to get a ladder, crawl out a window and place the ladder against the outside of another room, climb up and crawl through the window.
That’s how it is to varying degrees and I’m learning to improve this (one of my many, many projects) and that’s why many goal setting techniques recommended for the masses do not work for me. When my schedule is somewhat flexible, I need to consider what I’ve got going for me–and which room I’m in.
When I have commitments and obligations to other people, I am very, very conscientious, considerate and dependable to the degree that I can manage. I work harder at it than most people, often to my detriment.
I am a survivor and I have a certain kind of intelligence that has gotten me this far, even with the lack of information and support about the best way for me to navigate in the world.
And when I get better at my own navigation, I’ll be someone who understands what it’s like for many other people who are struggling.
Things are not as they appear. And I have a huge, huge clue about how it’s not wise to judge other people.
And I guess that’s of way more value to me than people who are now appearing to be way more functional than me in the 3D world. Bless them, I’m glad many of them are operating so efficiently.
So when I find myself in the art room of my brain, I’m going to play. Even if it looks like I’m making a mess.

A Few Thoughts About Being an Artist

Well about me being an artist anyway, or rather where I’m at with taking it up again after decades of longing and neglect.
First, I’m going to skip over blame, excuses and explanations.
What I’m noticing is how messy it is (the acrylic painting part), which I didn’t recall. Also, I’m aware that I’ll basically need to learn everything again, which I’m willing to do.
The part that I do remember is how beautiful everything around me looked when I was seeing things as an artist and that seeing experience is showing up in small glimmers.
What doesn’t bother me at all (as far as my own artistic endeavors go) is hearing how local artists in my area have had to give it up full-time and about all the feelings and thoughts that went into those decisions.
Art and culture is very important. My ancestors were not into art at all, but both my grandfathers who were born in the late 1800’s and were mainly farmers played musical instruments at gatherings because that’s how it was back then.
I’m not discouraged to take my journey through it now. What makes it interesting to me is the varying degrees of nervous system interference I deal with now and the effect it has. Yes, my hands shake sometimes and my manual dexterity is not so great. And I’m still not discouraged.
I love looking at nature and also beautiful objects. It’s been a surprise to me to find that I want to do portraits instead. I always believed them to be a lot harder to learn to do. Then I noticed that five of the last seven pieces of art I bought had people in them, unlike the earlier pieces I collected.
The results I get may not be what I would wish but when I think about the process it feels like a cool drink of water or better oxygen.
I haven’t looked at the artist’s blogs on WordPress yet but I have noticed three lovely paintings in the archives at the Rural Idiocy? blog done by Emma. No, I don’t have the linking thing down yet. One painting is of a stormy outdoor scene, another a pearl onion and yet another is of a duck egg on some sort of old object.
They are beautiful and I’ll be looking through the archives for more.

Christmas

It’s a holiday that my family of origin celebrated in a very modest way. When I left my childhood home, I didn’t bother much with it as far as decorating and entertaining goes. There are many different  nuances of the traditions and now so many things changing for people rapidly.

I guess it’s simple for us to just continue on without questioning the way we celebrate unless circumstances or strong awareness impels us to make changes. After reading some blog posts by people I admire about the little traditions in their homes, I’m considering crafting my own to make the holidays more meaningful for me.

The people I used to celebrate with are all gone now. These days I’m fine with going along with whatever the people I’m with do to celebrate the holidays.
When people are alone, it makes a difference whether or not they offer a certain quality of life to themselves. It doesn’t have to be more complicated or elaborate or expensive or more work. If you’re somewhat lacking in imagination (like me) you can experiment in a thoughtful way and allow it to evolve.

This afternoon I was alone and so I got out my paints and unfinished canvas panel and painted a bit. The actual painting part took about twenty minutes and the gathering of stuff and cleaning up took longer. The cap broke on my brilliant blue shade and I taped it back together. There are lots of reasons I could find to give up beginning art again but this will be a year when many of my excuses of the past won’t really apply. The only thing stopping me would be inner resistance. It was awkward but I feel a bit pleased with my effort this afternoon and intend to kind of make a habit of doing some sort of art often. Like I’ve been doing with my writing.

One of my received gift books is the fourth novel by Charles Finch called “A Stranger in Mayfair.” I really enjoyed the first three, detective novels set in the Victorian era, and this one is pleasant to read as well.  It’s a book I’m wanting to last a bit longer than the pace I’m going through it. 

Unachieved Goals–So What?

Well, it’s my life.

As I mentioned recently, I’m still learning how to set goals that have clarity, actually mean something to me and are reasonably achievable. In my younger years, there was no shortage of overbearing and well-meaning people to tell me how I should be living, peer pressure, expectations and overwhelming demands. Now I have more space and can hear my inner voice more often. The rules are changing and the formulas don’t work for me and yet, I’m still here.

Some of my goals were achieved last year. I’ll bet that’s true for most people who made plans. Those same people may have accomplished a lot more than they are giving themselves credit for. I doubt if most Americans are as lazy as some accuse them of being.

What did I learn about the three major goals I wrote down that I haven’t moved forward on yet? They are still important enough to me that I’m going to continue going for it. When a goal doesn’t really resonate anymore, it’s time to let it go. It happens–people and circumstances change and sometimes something more appropriate comes along.

Today I looked at my self-imposed, overloaded to-do list and I could feel the anxiety welling up inside. That isn’t the way I want to live. It’s unnecessary and it doesn’t help–it’s just the way I learned to be from anxious, uptight people who believed that life’s a struggle.

Self-talk is important. Most people can figure out appropriate, encouraging self-talk when they remember to do so. I know I’m my own harshest critic and that only leads others to treat me that way.

Many people are finding that their true values are coming into focus more clearly what with all the changes happening. Being able to inspire oneself according to one’s values is a gift.

So, I responded to other things this year and can keep my priorities as a carry-over without feeling like a failure. The exercise/physical therapy thing which I’ve mentioned. My body is not my slave, I’m just going for feeling safe and at home in it.

Art has been important to me all my life and I’ve gone decades without drawing or painting. I dream about it. Last year I finally painted two small pieces and began a third. I had forgotten everything and it was awkward. My fingers are often stiff and my hands sometimes shake. It was a messy thing to do in my small apartment. Yet, I want to continue to do it. So yes, it’s on my list of goals again.

Making a big deal of it or taking it too seriously is not the point. It’s just some direction and structure.