And in the middle of teaching a workshop this week, but thought I’d grab these few free minutes that I have to write a post. First off, if you haven’t seen my other videos and posts about my artist’s residency, it was AMAZING! Truly beyond anything I had imagined. Being immersed in art, living with a group of artists for two weeks was just incredible. I had no distractions other than self imposed deadlines, and the occasional load of laundry, but otherwise I was free to explore, create, learn and be inspired by everything and everyone around me. It was magical. And added plus, in a group of 16 artists, there wasn’t a single prima donna! Not a one. Everyone was beyond lovely.
I’ve been home now for just over a week and already it’s all beginning to fade into the background. In many ways it feels as though I was just there, as in yesterday, and in other ways it feels as though it was all a dream and never happened at all or if it did, it was years ago. Time is strange like that. Still I have both Paris and Orquevaux on my weather app, so everyday I look to see what the weather is like over there. It’s a tenuous thread that still attaches me to that magical place and time. One of these days I’ll remove them both, but for now, it’s a bit like listening to an old phone message from my mother. I know she’s gone, but I can’t bare to delete it.
The piece I created while at the residency is pinned precariously to a large foam board and propped up on a desk until I can put together a more permanent solution for it. I started referring to it as The Beast until someone suggested I use the french word for beast, which is La Bête, and they’re right it does sound better, a bit less jarring, a little softer. Still, there’s something about the forcefulness of “The Beast” that I rather like, so I alternate between the two depending on my mood. My friends in Paris suggested I call it Genesis, particularly since I’m doing a series. I’ve bookmarked that idea for now.
Once this workshop that I’m teaching is over, I’ll get back to it, but for now, it waits for me patiently.
While at the artist’s residency I interviewed a few of the other artists and then ran out of time and so was only able to interview six of them. If you’d like to see what some of the other artists were doing while at the residency, you can watch those interviews on my youtube channel. They are all under the Interviews! playlist.
I also had time to create a number of videos on the process or more accurately my process. Here are a couple of those videos:
It’s hard to believe that this artist’s residency is coming to a close. I have just four more days here before returning to Paris. So I thought I’d do a pictorial recap of my time here so far. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for. Just amazing.
Gare de l’est
On the train heading toward Orquevaux!
My Studio! I can’t believe it!!
Some of the art work in the Chateau left by other artists in residence
And so it begins… getting the work up on the wall.
but now I have all of this space… I can go much bigger!
The view from my studio
Taking a morning walk with fellow artist in residence, Kevin Ford
Throwing some paint around
Working and adding
Playing with shapes, getting in the blues…
Lichen always inspires
Taking a walk to clear my head and get some perspective on the challenges I’m seeing in the piece now that I’ve doubled its size.
The sheer beauty and magnitude of this place…
The boat house
The blue alien is now an ever present “issue” that I work hard to resolve…
Deciding that I have to stitch stuff down anyway…
Boldly stitching the blue insect/alien even though I have misgivings… maybe it’ll look better once it’s stitched down.
Nope it doesn’t. Annotating the work, before adding more blue, because if the blue bits are the problem, let’s throw more on there and see what happens.
The blue rabbit hole continues. I’m so deep in it I can’t see my way out.
Still I can appreciate the fabulous art all around me that covers the walls of this amazing place.
Raclette night and the fabulous Beulah van Rensburg: artistic director
The. blue continues to prove problematic.
But I’m determined…
and when all else fails, start another piece…
Fellow artists put on a puppet show for all of us, to great hilarity and fun!
and then I return to my studio to finish my little study inspired by the lichen I’ve seen on my many walks.
And on it goes… the creative process continues.
The big take away from all of this is that the process of creating is often bumpy, but if you don’t give into despair and just meet it head on matter-of-factly, the process is actually very instructive and can be wonderfully fun. It so mirrors life. Some of the things I tell myself: Don’t take it personally. You got this. It’s a momentary hiccup, what can you learn? This feels uncomfortable, but it’s okay. I’ve been here before and gotten through, I’ll get through this too. Breathe. Be patient and honor the process.
The ups and downs, the unexpected road blocks, the work arounds, it’s all there, just as in life, but making the decision to find the joy, to be present, even when I’d rather not be, that’s the trick. Right now I still haven’t resolved some of the issues I have with this piece, but I know I’ll get there eventually. It’s all part of creating and creating is always wonderful! Hard, but wonderful!
Terror. That’s a word they never mentioned in art school.
Color theory, art history, figurative drawing, these were all pre-requisites; considered the very foundation of any good education in the arts.
Terror? Fear? Not so much. Neither of those words or any words like that, were ever uttered.
And yet… who doesn’t feel fear and even terror, at some point, when creating?
As children, we run headlong, without thinking, without concern, without fear, and we create. Using mud and sand and sticks and our fingers. We don’t pause and reconsider. We don’t think – but maybe this isn’t a good idea. Yet somewhere along the way we learn to be fearful. We learn that being creative opens us up to criticism, anger, even rage and perhaps violence. Suddenly what came naturally to all of us, no longer feels natural. We tell ourselves that we aren’t “creative types”. And yet, I would argue that we are born creative.
Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
Creating doesn’t have to be on paper, it can be an idea, a vision, a way of thinking. Each of us has a unique mind, shaped by our experiences, our interactions, what we love, our passions, where we were born, the families we were born into, the land upon which we were raised.
So where does this terror come from?
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear, fear, fear. We are taught to be “sensible”. We are taught to not “dream too big”. We are taught to not “waste time”. We are taught that to create is a luxury. But what if what we were taught is wrong?
Moving through fear, even terror is one of the most exhilarating, transcendent things I’ve ever experienced. It is what connects me to other human beings. It is what connects me to my creativity. It bonds, unites, and can bring me to my knees. It’s what causes me to rediscover the unadulterated beauty and joy of my innocence, that exquisite time before I learned to feel fear.
If any of this resonates with you, consider enrolling in my new workshop: Finding Your Voice where we will use various prompts, words, exercises and even stitching to break though our fears and find ourselves in our work.
This blog is a reminder of my mother. She was my biggest supporter and commented over the years more than anyone else. It was through this blog that I often kept in touch with her and towards the end it was the one full proof way I knew I could reach her, especially when my emails would go unanswered and my phone calls went to voicemail. I knew she would read whatever I was posting. Over the last few years when she could no longer speak, she would send me things that she knew I’d post here, much to everyone’s delight, because the things she sent were such fun.
Like this video:
And then there was this one that I loved:
Mostly I’m missing my mom and while I know this will ease over time, it’s still causing me to wake up many days feeling listless and kind of “blah”. I know from other periods in my life when I’ve felt down and a loss of energy that doing the things that I don’t feel like doing are the things that often make me feel better. It’s funny how that works. It’s counterintuitive, but if I can remind myself to do those things anyway, I’m halfway there.
It reminds me of when I was the Director of the Aspen Writer’s Conference and had organized to have Michael Crichton speak to kick off the conference. During his talk he was spoke of a work ethic. He was speaking of what artists, specifically writers, but it applied to anyone in the arts, often do. He said, imagine if you were an airplane pilot working for a major airline and got up in the morning and thought – you know I don’t really feel like flying today, I think I’ll sleep a few more hours. – You’d expect to be fired immediately or at the very least given a stern warning and if you tried that again, you’d be out of a job. He then went on to ask, why do artists treat their work any less seriously? If you’re a writer get up and write. If you’re a painter, paint and so on. The point was, our feelings don’t really matter when it comes to getting the work done. If we think of ourselves as an artist then put in the hours and create the art, regardless of the feelings.
With that in mind I keep showing up for the work, regardless of how I’m feeling, because I create. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done. Today is no different than any other in that way. Yesterday I taped a video on this idea, and some of the things I do when I’m feeling low energy, which almost always comes hand in hand with doubt.
Here’s to having feelings and showing up anyway.
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