One of the gifts of the past year was more time in my schedule. I used some of this “extra and unexpected” time to work on a long-anticipated passion project of mine-enhancing my creative spaces.
I now have three distinct workspaces in my home designed for the variety of creative practices I do. I’d like to share with you one of my updated spaces-the painting studios.
This is where my paintings are created. This space is all about the execution and creation of the paintings. It contains three large tables, painting supplies, work-in-progress storage, and storage of completed works. It has space for displaying finished work, a large painting wall, and room for packing work to be shipped.
As I was planning this project, I realized that previously my studio was quite organized with all my “Art” related supplies in mostly one area. However, now I intentionally wanted to section out specific areas with specific tools for specific projects. Rather than one large general zone of “studio art supplies”, I wanted to divide the area into work zones, where I would have all the supplies I needed for whatever specific creative practice was at hand.
My creative spaces needed deep sorting, purging, and updating for the work I was doing now. I also was intentional about checking to see if I needed “infrastructure” to make working in the different zones comfortable. I asked myself “What were my lighting, seating, and storage needs in this space?” Then, I made lists and repurposed or purchased the needed items.
With a project this big, needing skills I don’t have, I knew I was going to need help. One of the best parts of this project is that I got to work with my husband and sons to complete the bigger construction projects. We got to solve problems together, learn new skills and use new tools. Collaborating made this project something memorable.
I had been envisioning, making lists, and dreaming about updating this space for a long time, and had even started bits and pieces of the project. But, there comes the point when it is time for the ACTION needed to bring a big project to completion.
This process involved long hours of painting (rolling and trimming with primer and two coats of paint on rough foundation walls), researching (how to paint metal support poles???), multiple trips to the paint store and hardware store, moving heavy furniture, and lots of painting drop cloths everywhere. In addition, I was purging, organizing, deep cleaning, and rearranging all the things!
It wasn’t done in one day, it took months. It wasn’t all “exciting” work- more like sweat, long hours on a ladder, and lots of physical labor.
I’ve found this updated and reclaimed space has grounded my creative practices, even more, creating a container that holds my creative practice solidly and beautifully. This container of space helps me to retain my creative rhythms and helps me move more smoothly throughout the variety of creative practices I do.
I encourage you to take a hard and long look at the spaces you use for your creative practices. Who knows what you might see and how you might be inspired to try something new???
If you’d like the opportunity to see the new artwork that this updated studio space helped to birth, my new solo show, Inner Freedom, will be opening at the Ankeny Art Center on Tuesday, October 5, 2021. The show is free and open to the public from Oct 5-Nov. 24, 2021.
We’d love to have you join us at the Opening Reception on Thursday, October 7, 2021, from 5:00-7:00 pm. There will be snacks and drinks and I’ll be there to chat and answer your questions about the show. Stop by and enjoy!
I think we may be in a “Gravitational Waves Moment“. Recently, I’ve been looking back at all this last year has held since the pandemic began to alter our lives. Last March I was excited to launch into a great schedule of spring-fall outdoor art fairs. I was the featured Artist-of-the Month at the Octagon Art Gallery in Ames, IA. On March 6, 2020, I gave an hour long presentation at the Business of Art Conference titled “Building & Organizing Your Art Practice & Art Business from the Inside Out”. And then, the very next week our world began to shut down.
It was heartbreaking to watch all the art fairs cancel.
But, it was much more heartbreaking to see pain and loss blanket our culture.
I’ve been painting my way through these pandemic times. I quieted my writing and sharing. I took the time to look hard and long at my mission and vision statements. I remodeled and deeply organized my studio spaces (watch for photos in the future).
These times of change and disorientation have felt tumultuous.
We’ve lived through a roller coaster experience featuring a range of emotions and thoughts.
And, now here we are…a year later. Still waiting…cautiously hoping that things will improve. Wondering how all the changes we have weathered will morph or coalesce into something new?
This winter I’ve been working on a commission piece I’ve titled “Gravitational Waves Moment”. Gravitational waves are the ripples in time and space that are generated with two large objects (like black holes or neutron stars) collide creating huge forces of energy in our universe. Gravitational waves are invisible to the eye, but are now detectable and measurable by highly sensitive lasers here on earth. In 1916 Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational waves existed, suggesting that the fabric of space could be caused to ripple by very powerful forces.
When life changes, when a culture experiences massive changes and upheaval, when things collide or form something new, ripples of unexpected energy may be sent cascading across the canvas of our lives.
Maybe we’d rather not be in this place of change. Sometimes we may want so simply squint our eyes shut, like “if I can just not look, not see what is going on, I might be able to avoid it.” But, what we turn towards and see, we can work with and even begin to work through. We can be curious about our thoughts and the emotions around the change. The collisions can invite us into the newness.
What changes might we be led to walk through?
Where might we be led into next?
What situations, patterns, relationships, or tasks might we be invited to leave behind or initiate?
Gravitational Waves Moments can redefine us and can take us to new places. They can take us on new journeys, and reveal deeper parts of ourselves. Hopefully, Gravitational Waves Moments, can prompt us into a growth trajectory creating new and expanded ripples of energy for the road ahead.
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
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,
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.