Someone encouraged me recently that as an artist I should be noticing that I notice what I notice. I’ve been noticing lately the many reasons why I paint. There are so many reasons NOT to paint…but, why have I chosen to dedicate so much time and energy to the practice of painting?
One reason that I paint is that it is a sensory experience for me. I experience the vibrancy of the colors flowing out of the brush across the canvas and the feel of the lines pouring out as thick paint moves across the surface.
But, creating art is also so much more than that for me. When I am creating, I take the time in quiet to listen to my own internal landscape and translate it to the canvas. I allow what’s inside to flow out through my hands. I process my world in a healthy and life-giving way.
Painting is meditative and centering. It is a time for me to sift through what is important and what needs to fade away. Sometimes it is a safe place to wrestle with unknowns and mine the depths of my life experiences-the good, the bad, the gifts and the tragedies.
I take this long, hard journey deep inside my thoughts, my heart, with brushes, pigment, water, and time. I paint this inner excavation-down through the layers past all the junk that gets in the way. I take these sensory, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and intellectual journeys time and time again through the years.
The finished painting is not the journey. The journey encompasses so much more. But, the painting is an important by-product of the internal processes. Maybe it’s like the postcards sent to friends and family along the way while traveling?
So, I’ve taken these journeys…why could that matter to anyone else?
Isn’t it self absorbed?
A giant waste of time?
A waste of precious resources?
A waste of art supplies?
Who really cares?
How can a few more paintings in this world make anything different?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg hinting at issues that creatives battle against. They are only the beginning of the thoughts that can and do haunt or stop our creativity from flowing into our world.
Because I can. Because it is part of me being alive in this world. Because it keeps me healthier. Because I am human. Because you are too. Because art reminds us of who we are. Because it helps us all to heal. Because it activates our senses. Because it reminds us that we all have stories. Because it builds community around us that helps us survive the perils of life. Because we all have the task of figuring out who we are in this world and what kind of life we wish to create. Because we are all in this journey together.
I have three exhibits available for viewing the next couple of months. Freedom from the Core is on view at the Becoming Free Semeiotic Gallery in Chicago, IL. This gallery space is a beautiful and historic church building in north downtown Chicago. The exhibit will be on view until October, 2019.
Nuances of Freedom is on view at Harvest Vineyard in Ames, IA. They will be hosting an Artist Talk & Reception on September 15, 2019 from 12:30-2:30 pm. Come join us at the Harvest Cafe if you’d like to hear more about my work.
Finally, I have my last couple of art fairs of the year this month. This weekend I’ll be Rockbrook Village in Omaha, NE and on September 22 you can find me at the Octagon Art Festival in Ames, IA. This will be my only Iowa art fair this year.
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.
What kinds of problems are you struggling to solve on a daily basis? What areas of your life and work need innovative thoughts? A recent problem I was invited to solve by one of my artistic communities, the central Iowa based Paintpushers group, was to create two paintings with the theme of “Light & Dark” for our yearly group art show. I was given a couple of canvas sizes to choose from and a deadline for completion and exhibition. And, then time, to contemplate and create.
Often times when we are faced with big problems to solve and looking for truly innovative ideas, the project can seem so overwhelming it is hard to even know where to start. I started my creative process by asking myself big picture questions like “How do I visually represent the vast concepts of ‘Light & Dark’? How do I put color, line, and form around such abstract concepts? What comes to mind when I think about light and dark? What do they represent to me?” These big picture questions are a good place to start while grasping vision for innovative ideas, but only the first step.
Over the early months of the project, I let my mind drift around the concept of light and dark. I thought about the concepts of light and dark aesthetically, philosophically, emotionally and spiritually. I read current news reports, ancient scriptures, art history books and novels. I wrote notes in my sketchbook along the way. I spent time drawing what felt like random abstract shapes in my art journal. I had conversations with artists in my Paintpushers group. I worked on other paintings for different shows. I interacted with my friends and family. I went to yoga and took walks. Basically, I call this the “marinating phase”. Like a good steak, ideas need time to marinate. Ideas need time for the thinker to research and to draw connections from a variety of sources.
My thoughts around the topic grew deeper, actually more confused. “Is one painting all light and one all dark? Do they each have elements of both? Who am I to try to paint Light & Dark? What wins Light or Dark???” And, now I was sinking down into the messy middle…cross pollinating ideas, the sorting and eliminating concepts. I referenced my own experiences and I looked for the universal connections. For example, I know that I have personally experienced light notably masked by grayness/darkness-a light marred by dark shadows. I know, too, that this is the experience of humanity-a universal experience for all of us. I know that each of us gets to choose where we will focus in the midst of these complicated realities-will it be on the light? Will it always be on the dark? Will it be with eyes open wide to the reality of both?
I started wrestling through the emotional and spiritual roadblocks to solving my problem. I asked myself “How do I let despair, anger, evil win and block out the light? Do I pretend that everything is sunshine and roses putting on a false front of uber happiness that is unsustainable? Can I acknowledge the beautiful, tumultuous experience of having both light and dark simultaneously appearing in my daily life often times at a mock rate of speed as I do something as simple as scrolling through my social media feeds? And, how on earth, might I somehow be able to translate these larger questions through paint?”
As I was working through my own personal, “why and how” questions, my fellow Paintpushers members were asking themselves similar questions. I find it kind of fascinating to watch this process of corporate creativity and innovation. What happens when you take a group of visual artists with numerous personalities and life experiences and ask them to commit to exploring the same topic-in this case creating two pieces of work with the theme of Light & Dark? What happens as each individual artist lives through the wrestle of how they might interpret these concepts with their own media, personal symbols, textures, and color choices? What happens when we all finally commit to doing the work and start creating?
For at some point in the innovation process, the creator actually needs to commit to the work. Decisions start to be made. Tools come out- in our case…we begin to draw, sketch, paint, pull brushes out, uncap paint pens, order canvases, commit to size of panels, pay fees, sharpen pencils, fret, and plan. We apply the paint, pencil, and charcoal. We start with 1st layers, obsess, stare, avoid, research more. We add more paint, take photos, turn work upside down, paint over, look at it from across the room, and complain about the process to anyone around us. And, then we finish. We declare a painting complete. We photograph and varnish and sign and title and add wire to the back.
But, then this creation, this innovative solution to a problem, this personal interpretation of a theme, needs to be shared, needs to leave the safety of the studio, needs to make its way into the world and the artist needs to let it go. What happens when a group of creators come together and shares this new body of work corporately imagined, but executed in the privacy and quiet of individual studios? My answer to this question is growth-growth is what has happened. Growth and transformation and innovation-new ideas and images have been welcomed into the world.
The process of innovation is fraught with ups and downs, sideways maneuvers, emotional upheaval and uncertain outcomes. But, for each of us that undertakes the creative process, we transform a bit of who we are in the process. Taking invisible concepts like “light” and “dark” and making them visible-that is what artists do, but the process for how we actually do it is sometimes quite a mystery to the artist themselves while in the middle of the process and almost always to those around the artist.
However, this process does not need to remain a mystery.
I read so much about how our culture is deeply in need of innovation, but I fear we have much to learn about where true innovation comes from. The worlds of education, business, government, health, science all have deep needs which will take innovative thinkers to solve.
How does change, transformation, and innovation happen in our communities and businesses?
What if artists become the teachers of innovation and problem solving?
What if artists would teach other people this process of corporately imagining new things- how to ask big picture questions, how to research and draw connections, how to live the wrestle and commit to the work?
What if artistic communities become the model for sharing explorations and incubating innovative ideas together?
And while the Paintpushers “Light & Dark” show at the Heritage Gallery for 2018 is now history, the process we took to achieve the innovating work in this show is something we can repeat over and over again in the many arenas of our lives. And, it is a process you can adapt to your own problems-your own situations in need of solutions and innovative answers.
This month is your last chance to catch me at an outdoor arts festival this year! I start out September this weekend (Sept. 8 & 9) at the Rockbrook Village Art Fair in Omaha, NE.
My only outdoor show in Iowa will be Sept. 23 in Ames, IA for the Octagon Art Festival.
Your final chance to enjoy the fresh air and an outdoor art fair where I’ll be exhibiting is the beautiful Peoria Art Fair in Peoria, IL on Sept. 28, 29 & 30. Come and enjoy an art fair-we’d love to see you.
So many of you have been asking “How was your show in Aspen?!?” Well, friends it was a true adventure. My first art show in the mountains and as expected it was BEAUTIFUL.
The park where the show was held was full of lush green grass and next door to the gorgeous John Denver Sanctuary Gardens. The garden is full of huge rocks carved with the words of John Denver’s songs and other inspirational quotes.
Early in the morning before the show, I walked the trails through the garden, beside the babbling brook, and in the midst of hundreds of blooming wild flowers-it revived my soul.
I might have needed some “reviving” after the days leading up to the show, full of packing and loading, and then many miles through the mountains with our new trailer. We got up each mountain but we might have gone reallllly slow through a few mountain passes with our truck feeling the full weight of the load.
The quality of work at the show was outstanding, but we were beset with a few challenges from nature-rain, hail, and forest fires which caused the closure of the Aspen airport for the weekend.
Truly a weekend to remember. I was so grateful to have the help of my husband and two teenage sons who helped me. After we were done at the show, we got to enjoy hiking and eat some great pizza together!