Daily Archives: November 5, 2015

Time Out for Art: Getting Back Into It


work in progress2015

This is not a great work of art.

It’s not even a finished work of art.

It’s just a beginning…but that’s much more important than it sounds.

I’ve complained a great deal, over the last year, about having no time to work in the studio. Other obligations and commitments have filled my days. The longer I stayed away, the harder it was to start again.

Creativity in any form – whether writing, painting, parenting, teaching, performing or climbing a mountain, for heaven’s sake – needs to be practiced. Otherwise it is diminished. Skills may get rusty, but they are not lost. What is lost is confidence: that ability to get “into the flow” where everything comes easily, where right choices sing and bad decisions don’t paralyze.

When creative practice has been neglected, it is HARD to get back at it.

I’d been struggling with it for quite some time.

I kept pencils and paper handy for sketching. I tried to get back in the habit of drawing every day. I acquired and read several books on artists, techniques, and overcoming blocks. I went to the studio to just sit, to become more comfortable with it again. I watched the entire PBS series on art in the 21st century. I collected scraps and detritus and papers that might work in collages. I lined up paints and oil pastels. I made stacks of papers. I clipped magazine pages.

It seemed like I couldn’t get past the “preparation” into actually “beginning the work.”

I’ll tell you what finally worked.

A friend had me over to dinner. She was here on Beaver Island for just a short visit so, though I was very busy and quite tired and kind of depressed, and figured I’d probably be lousy company, I didn’t cancel.

I know it was a lovely meal though I can’t remember what we ate.

She brought out colored pencils and coloring pages designed for adults, with patterns rather than pictures. We colored as we talked.

She showed me her new work and asked about finding direction, figuring out what to do next, and how to know when something is finished. I advised her not because she needed my advice (her work is lovely) but only because she asked. I told her things that had worked for me, or that had worked for others. I told her about some games I had played with students, to get them to loosen up in their art.

I remembered a disc, like a game would have, with a spinning pointer. Instead of things like “move ahead three spaces” or “return to START,” it had techniques or materials to incorporate in the artwork. The more we talked, the more we both got excited about the idea. We set aside the coloring pages and started making lists of methods and materials. As we divided our circles into pie-shaped wedges, we alternated method (grid; strong horizon line; collage) and materials (watercolor; oil sticks; sewing notions). Our lists varied, but had several similarities.

We passed ideas back and forth for several hours. Before the night was done, we had arranged to work on same-sized canvasses, to keep in touch through the winter, sharing images and progress via Email, to create at least fifty new works, and to finish it off with a joint show next summer! It was wonderful!

Not only that…I actually ordered the canvasses. I gathered the materials. And…on each of my days off this week… even though I had a dozen other pressing obligations…I actually put on my painter’s clothes…went in to the studio…and began working! It was fantastic!

So, though this little painting has a ways to go yet…I feel that I am well on my way!