My sketchbook is a part of “SKETCHBOOK. An exhibition of artist’s books” at the 33 Contemporary Gallery in the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. The exhibit opens tomorrow on Sept. 15 and runs through October 14, 2017. My sketchbook with the hand painted turquoise green and gold cover (middle sketchbook pictured below) includes a selection of random sketches, art journal pages and color studies created over the past three years. Keeping a sketchbook is such an integral part of my creative process, but I rarely share them. My sketchbook is the “behind the scenes” place where so many of my paintings and other creative activities are generated.
Dear Creative Friends,
Over the last days and weeks I’ve been revisiting my “WHY?”
Why do I paint?
Why do I feel the deep need to create?
Why do I share my art?
Why do I love to inspire you to create?”
While it is not out of the ordinary for me to go back to these fundamental questions, I’m well aware that this latest bout of deep thinking has intensified since I’ve been faced with deciding on a title for an upcoming art show at the Ankeny Art Center in October. Over the winter my goal was to concentrate on painting, but now I’m at the stage of stepping back and looking at this body of work and pondering such things as “Is there a cohesive theme here?” and “What are the common threads?”
The reoccurring thought that hasn’t let me go was the word “FREE”.
What does it look like to paint free?
What does it look like to freely live an abundant creative life?
What does it feel like to live and walk in internal freedom?
What does it mean to live free?
I hope I’m never done exploring the answers to these questions. I hope I revisit them over and over again coming to deeper conclusions and convictions. But, for now, I’m acknowledging that this, too, is a journey and I don’t need to have all the answers today.
What I do know is that I long to continue to say yes to my creative freedom, to say yes to painting freely from that which is within me waiting to come out in line and color, and to say yes to living my life free to make choices that are healthy for me.
I’m also keenly aware that the the contrasting side to this journey involves simultaneously exploring the things that stop me from living and freely creating with passion. It is within this juxtaposition that we live as humans-this is where the juice is…the messy middle as we each walk our pathways toward freedom.
Mark your Calendars now: Please join us for FREE: Pathways Toward Freedom, a solo art show by Melynda Van Zee at the Ankeny Art Center,
1520 SW Ordnance Rd, Ankeny, IA, October 3- November 29, 2017. Artist Reception Thursday, October 12 5:00-7:00 pm.
Dear Creative Heart,
I’m sending out this letter a couple of days later in the month than I usually write. We just got back from our summer vacation.
This is what I did on my summer vacation…
Yes, we fish. We go to a beautiful cabin by lake in Canada and fish. Fish for “monster walleye” as my boys like to say. What you see here is me with one of my monster walleyes (I caught a few and a nice big pike too). Check out that huge fish in my hand and my big smile of accomplishment, but what I want to point out is what you don’t see in this photo…
What you don’t see is all the hard work to get to this point…all the steps involved in getting this smiling photo with a big fish from a fishing trip…
And so it is with creativity and making…
When someone walks into my art booth and admires a finished work, they don’t necessarily grasp all the steps required for that piece to hang before their eyes. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How long does it take you to finish a painting like that?” That is an extremely difficult question for artists to answer. How do you account for all the of the labor involved in each piece from conception, beginning sketches, gathering supplies, multiple layers of paint and dry time, to stopping and starting and analyzing along the way, to finishing details like final layers of isolation coat, painting sides black, two protective coats of varnish, titles, and hanging wires? How do you factor in the care and feeding of the artist-emotionally, physically, spiritually? What about the sacrifices of others who help and support our creative processes? (Not only did my grandparents teach me to fish as a child, but they also helped me order my first paintbrushes from an art catalog). All of these tasks and steps are hidden inside each of the paintings on the wall and behind each snapshot of a smiling fisherman with a prize fish in hand.
Dear Creative Heart-don’t underestimate the system of tasks and steps that support your creativity. Dedicate time to finding your own “monster walleye” and please share the big smile with us all.