My dearest creative hearts,
I’m sitting at my computer desk gazing out of my window on a gorgeous fall afternoon- it is an unbelievable 72 degrees on Nov. 4. (I am born and raised in Iowa and we are long trained to start most any conversation with a comment on the weather!) And, now that the gorgeous weather conversation has got us going…what’s really on my heart and mind is a recent artistic challenge I’ve been wrestling with.
One question I have been frequently asked is “Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?” Now to be honest- I’ve met these requests to paint with more neutrals with a variety of responses…down right ignoring them, laughing them off, feigning interest while internally shouting “But I DON’T paint neutrals, they are boring”, followed by a crossing my arms pose while internally staking my claim “I paint COLOR!” Occasionally I would let myself wonder, maybe I could try it, but then a whole other host of excuses and fears would rise up. I would worry that in light of my earlier work with bright colors, I “shouldn’t paint neutrals” because it might dilute the signature colors I usually put on my palette. Artists are trained by professionals and gallery owners to do consistent work in a recognizable palette and style so that people can easily recognize the work-deviating from the known can create marketing challenges. But, underneath all the mental gymnastics, what I think was really going on was fear- fears I wouldn’t figure out the technical difficulties of switching to a new color palette, fears the paintings wouldn’t be beautiful (what if people don’t like them?), fears that maybe people would think maybe I was “going through a hard time” if I starting painting gray paintings. Oh- the power of fear to block our creative experiments!
I wish I could tell you that I was so self aware that right away I just started painting neutral paintings. But the reality is that I had to personally do the steps to the creative process that I have taught in my classes so many times throughout the years. One benefit of having painted for many years is that I am becoming more knowledgable about my own resistance patterns to creativity. Sometimes I can’t or don’t take the time to step back and figure out what is going on internally, to really digest what truly is getting in the way.
What finally helped to break my creative roadblock was taking a walk to one of my favorite places-Lake Red Rock. I explored again old territory by doing a slow walk across the remaining section of Horn’s Ferry Bridge that still rises above the Des Moines River.
I allowed myself to go and hang out at a place I have been hundreds of times before, but this time I saw it with fresh eyes. I walked the planks searching for inspiration and sure enough I found it-under my feet.
The weathered boards…
The creative cycle going full circle- a problem to solve, making something new from something old, letting the past speak into my future, letting my specific place in this world inform my art and inspire new creative leaps. A settling of my spirit in knowing that this series of work is authentic to me and my story and my places. And, that the seemingly simple requests for more paintings in a neutral color palette took me on a creative ride back to pieces of my own story.
You have the opportunity to purchase one of the new “Horns Ferry Bridge” series at any one of these three upcoming shows in central Iowa or by contacting me directly at the studio- just send me an email (email@example.com) if you are interested.
2016 Art Show Schedule
I’m also working on a collaborative painting with artist Chris Vance for the upcoming Paintpushers show “Collision”. Painting in progress now- make plans to see the collaborative piece and meet all the Paintpusher artists at the opening reception on Dec. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club!
2016 Art Exhibits
This summer we joined our extended family on a day trip to the local amusement park. Of course, the older kids wanted to head to the brand new roller coaster the minute they entered the park. As they sprinted across the park to be first in line to try out the multiple upside down twisting “Monster”, so aptly named, I somehow thought I should be the “adult” and safely accompany them on the roller coaster ride. The line was short early in the morning, but once safely strapped in the ride…the anticipation was long…what was I thinking?!? Trying to booster the enthusiasm of my fellow riders, I was all confidence, but inside…I was seriously wondering if I was thinking straight by putting myself in such a situation. The ride took us straight up-and then straight down and head long into a series of upside down twists which resulted in us hanging in mid air only secured in place by the heavy lap brace.
The sense of weightlessness, which seemed to hang on and on, is what got to me the most, a sense of such powerlessness while being flung through the air- really wondering if we were going to be hanging like that for a lifetime. I survived the ride. I even kind of liked it, but to be honest, I let the kids take another aunt along for the next ride and decided to keep my feet on the ground for the rest of the day.
Here in the studio, I just finished a couple of BIG creative goals. The kind of goals that were totally out of my comfort zone with possibly big ramifications for my creative work. They were “next level commitment” kinds of goals-incredible opportunities, but each one took me for its own internal emotional and creative roller coaster ride through the waiting to start, fretting, and repeatedly putting myself physically in the seat in front of my computer. Completing the goals meant multiple times at my studio work space over a series of months- battling out individual steps that were uncomfortable, forcing me to make creative decisions, causing me to ask for help, and making me commit in specific directions.
If you asked me if I was glad I did it, the answer would be YES on all accounts (riding the Monster and completing my creative goals), but they weren’t comfortable processes and they pushed my limits. The process of creativity can throw us for a loop-sending us through a roller coaster of emotions as we complete our creative goals-causing us to face the unknown, our numerous fears and our own perfectionism. I’m quite sure my finished projects aren’t perfect. I’m quite sure they could even be a bit stronger, but this is where I am today and for today all that is required is that I took the ride and said YES to the next step in this adventure called life.
We are so pleased to announce that Melynda Van Zee’s original paintings are now being showcased at Boat’s Home Furnishings in their Showrooms. You may visit Boats Home Furnishings at 620 Franklin Street in Pella, IA. Their gorgeous front windows are a treat as you stroll down the downtown streets of Pella and once you step inside there are so many more beautiful things to see in their expansive showrooms.
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.