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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few years ago we packed up and moved our family to a new home in a new city with a new school and new employment. Every day leading up to the move was full of real estate issues, cleaning house, planning for the transition, etc, etc…Moving falls in the Top 5 list of most stressful life events we encounter-it is a time of rapid change.
I created “Catch My Breath” following this period of transition. Painting right through the transitions in my life has been a growth point for me-not waiting until the “perfect time in life to create”, but creating right in the middle of it. Painting helps me to process my life as I live it. I used to think “I’ll paint more someday when…”
I’m excited to share that my solo show “Nuances of Freedom” will be opening December 14, 2018 at the Iowa State University Memorial Union in Ames, IA. This show will feature over 25 of the paintings I created through a process of carefully observing my own creative practice.
One thing I’ve learned after years of creative work-either my own creative work or nurturing the creative work of others, is that paying attention to the little things is important. When I first started out on my own personal creative journey, I thought “If I just had a beautiful studio space, then i could make things” or “If I only I didn’t have to go to work so much, then I’d have the time to create paintings.” These avoidance thought patterns were not helpful to my creative work. I know in my own creative journey that has been just as hard to start a painting if I was in my basement working on top of a door laid over two filing cabinets or in a well-lit sunroom with big windows and a great easel.
My experience is that while “lack of studio space” or “lack of time” are some of the easiest excuses to why we say we can’t do something creative, these are surface level issues. They are rarely the true reasons for why we have such a difficult time beginning, continuing or finishing creative work. There are often much more hidden, subtle, and nuanced reasons why we are not giving ourself permission to pick up the pen, pour paint, or make a life change. We often deceive ourselves that the real reason we don’t create is due to outside forces or circumstances. The reality is that most times this truly is a “inside job”. It is the internal issues that are creating the roadblocks.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been consciously observing the nuances of my own creative process- the personal rhythms, the energy flows and my own internal mindsets. I’ve been asking myself questions like…
“How do I create a life of abundant creative freedom?”
“What structures and experiences will nourish my creativity and support my work?”
The lines, colors, and movement of these paintings are brief moments of captured energy from my own growth process. They are a reflection of the inner changes and experiments I’m exploring as I work to intentionally build a lifestyle of creative freedom.
“Nuances of Freedom” opens December 14, 2018 at the Iowa State University Memorial Union in the Gallery. The Gallery is on the 3rd floor of the Memorial Union located at 2229 Lincoln Way Ames, IA 50011. The show runs through February 6, 2019. The gallery is free and open to the public 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seven days per week unless reserved for meetings. Call 515-296-6848 to confirm open viewing hours.
You may also want to mark your calendar now for the Art Reception for “Nuances of Freedom” on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 from 6-8pm in the Gallery.
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.