During this time of new realities we are living in, one healthy way I have found to process the changes in our culture and find my way back to my creative work is by taking frequent walks in nature.
This spring and summer I have made repeated walks around and around the circular path of my neighborhood park planted with a wide variety of interesting trees and a small natural prairie area.
One Saturday night this spring at the end of a challenging week, I stopped mid-walk around the park as I spied one of the wood benches. I didn’t sit on the bench, I laid down on my back sprawled across the bench-feet dangling over the arm. This is not normal behavior for me. But, I’d had it. I was overwhelmed. I closed my eyes, listened to the wind, and took a moment to just be.
Eventually, I opened my eyes and looked up. There was a tree reaching its branches out over me. I thought “Those leaves are beautiful dancing in the wind. Are those leaves aspen leaves? Do we even have aspen trees in Iowa? I know they are prevalent across the mountains in Colorado, but here in Iowa?”
And, that train of thought led to words, and then more thoughts led to more words, leading to this poem.
Maybe the birds always sing at this vibrant level in the spring
Maybe the crabapple blossoms always smell this sweet
Maybe the trees always burst forth this brightly green
Maybe the breeze always brushes across my skin this freshly
Maybe the taste of grilled anything has been too overlooked
Maybe the Aspen leaves have always quaked this splendidly
Maybe my ears have not been tuned in
Maybe my eyes have grown dull by not seeing deeply
Maybe my nose has been too bent to the grindstone
Maybe my taste buds have been too quickly satisfied
Maybe my skin has been trapped inside for too long
Maybe my presence to reality has been misplaced
Maybe having the world stop for a while has allowed nature to awaken
Maybe having my world stop for a while has helped me to pay attention
Maybe having life interrupted has led me to profound observation
Maybe having new rhythms has helped me to calm incessant noise
Maybe having moments to ponder gratitude has revived empathy
Maybe having a new reality
is not the end of everything
but a shift to renewed beginnings
Melynda Van Zee ©2020
Unraveling Towards a New Reality
Enjoy a peek inside my studio process as I created the painting, “Unraveling Towards a New Reality.”
Here’s to shifting to new realities and renewed beginnings!
Stay well friends,
A Swirl of Changes and Challenges
What a swirl of changes and challenges we have been experiencing in the past days and weeks!
It comes as no surprise that art fairs across the nation have been canceled this year for the safety of all the artists and the art patrons. I’m disappointed to not be able to see so many of you in person this season!
In light of these changes, I hope you will join in me in alternative ways to enjoy color and creativity which I have included below:
- Check out my Available works for purchase on my website. After you select Purchase on the piece you would like, complete the contact form and I will be in touch to arrange payment and shipping or delivery.
- Attend the online version of my “Creative Core workshop by signing up to join my “Create from the core” Facebook Group here. Once accepted, you can access the free “Creative Core” workshop on the Group page. You can also find the “Create from the Core” Facebook group by going to Melynda Van Zee Studio Facebook Page. This workshop was created when a previously in-person workshop was cancelled earlier this spring. In the workshop, I include art journal prompts and easy art journal ideas for you to explore your own creativity.
Thank you so much for your continued support.
How creative people discover what to create next seems like a perplexing mystery for most people. I’m often asked, “Melynda, how do you figure out what to create?” or “How did you come up with the ideas for these paintings?”
Trust me-I understand how difficult the answers to these questions can be. During the winter months I have more flexible time, so I spend many hours in the studio navigating my own rough waters to creativity as I find my path to new work. This process sometimes feels like crossing a desert or braving the wilderness as the blank canvases are laid out before me ready for whatever is next.
Through trial and error, I start to find the answers to what is next when I dig deeper internally and spend time in the quiet. I try to give myself permission to wander into my own stories, and engage the things I’m naturally drawn to and love.
Digging Deeper by Art Journaling
But how do artists actually do those things like “digging deeper” or “engaging the things I’m naturally drawn to?” One really important way I explore my work on a deeper level is art journaling. An “art journal” may not be really the right word for what the books I work in look like. They are more a cross of a sketchbook or notebook filled with images, color, text and sketches. For me my art journals really function as an idea generation book.
So I’ve been spending a significant amount of time lately with my art journal/idea generation books. I’ve been cutting images out of magazines, arranging and gluing images to journal pages, and then adding layers of text or paint. Somehow in this very intuitive process of selecting images I’m drawn to, arranging them with poems or written text, and adding color, I start to see themes emerge. I start to notice which colors continually attract my eye. I start to see images that repeatedly show up. This practice of art journaling helps me look inside at the things that deeply interest me. It is one key that leads me down the path to discovering my new work.
Stephen Quiller says in his book Watermedia Painting “I can walk into a museum, look at a painting, and know immediately if Winslow Homer, Edward Degas, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, or Johannas Vermeer created it. Why is that? I believe it is because they spent a lifetime of sketching, taking notes, and studying; in short, living their art. As they matured, their marks became more distinct. There came a point when they mastered the craft of painting and let this mastery serve their power of expression. Yet they kept probing deeper inside taking risks, and finding uniquely what they had to say. They all got to the point where their knowledge of craft, their study of other masterworks and periods, served so they could most fully express their vision. In short, they got to the point where they could let their subconscious and spirit take over.”
Sustaining Creativity-Intentionally Taking Time to Slow Down and Restore
Sustaining creativity takes intentionality and occasionally taking extended time to slow down and restore. So this fall, I committed to going on some weekend retreats and I spent more extended time in my studio engaging in my creative practices. After months of art shows, exhibitions, travel, moving and hanging art around the country, I could feel internally this longing to slow down and re-engage my creativity in a deeper way. It’s not always easy for me to stop and rest, but I knew I needed a season of longer and deeper quiet. I needed time for restoration and rejuvenation, that was a bit more than my normal weekly creative and self-care practices.
Art Journaling, New Supplies, Inspiration Boards
Over the last few days and weeks, I spent time working in my art journals, while watching the maple tree in my neighbor’s yard turn a glorious shade of scarlet. I experimented with some new art supplies. I cleaned through old files. I unearthed old ideas, thoughts and projects. I sought inspiration in books. I painted, cut, glued, sketched, and jotted down insights. I replenished the art supplies I had consumed during the year.
I made an inspiration board from cut-up magazines and art reproductions I love.
Quiet, Walks and Organizing
I went on walks in the prairie taking photos as I went. I cleaned up and organized my studio space, desk and office files. I sorted and put away all the things where they belonged. I spent time in quiet and solitude.
After engaging in these practices of paying attention to my daily world, my personal physical spaces, and looking deep within at my own interior life, it rejuvenated my creativity. Doing these practices with intentionality helped me to be ready to begin my personal painting process again.
“It seems to me that a large part of painting is longing,
a fluid movement ahead,
a pouring forward towards the unknown,
not a prying into things beyond
but a steady pressing towards the barriers,
an effort to be on hand when the barriers lift.
A picture is just an on-the-way thing,
not something caught and static,
something frozen in its tracks,
but a joyous going towards what?
We don’t know.
Music is full of longing and movement.
Painting should be the same.”
Hundreds of Thousands: The Journals of An Artist by Emily Carr
And, so I’m now creating “on-the-way” work as I transition into a new season of possibilities, opportunities and challenges. We often under recognize the power of these practices to heal our weary bodies and souls, while simultaneously sustaining our creativity. But, this type of work allows the creativity to rise to the top after the internal sifting work is done.
Sustaining Creativity from a place of Quiet and Rest
I’ve been capturing this moment in time full of open-hearted space in color and texture on canvas. I’m creating from a place of quiet and rest rather than creating from the space of deadlines or exhaustion. I’m pouring forward towards the unknown right now. It’s never easy to step into the unknown…it being “unknown” and all…but, my deep underground work of creative and restorative practices makes my creativity sustainable and pulls me into the unknown future. It doesn’t follow a straight line. It is not linear work. But, it is fruitful. And, since we are all heading into the unknown together, I’d rather go in posture of “joyous going” while meandering my way here and there, listening deep and following the inner movement of my rivers of inspiration.