Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting the Why

Why do you do what you do?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rituals and Routines

I lost my mojo.  It happens every now and then, and its a fairly unpleasant thing to go through. Not to worry, though.  I found it hiding in a dust cloth.

After having painted a couple of lovely little pastels, I hit a brick wall.

Now, I'm not one to give up on a painting easily.  I can wale away on a piece for a really long time before I admit I'm licked.  And I got licked twice last week. O  u  c  h.

So I did what I always do when I get stumped in my studio.  I cleaned 'er up.  Put stuff away.  Actually dug out an old towel, stuck it under the tap and wiped down just about everything I could.  (Those of you who are pastel artists know what a job that is.)
And the weird thing is, I enjoyed it.

It felt good to rearrange my brushes and put them in their proper place on the shelf.  As I dusted my tchotchkes I remembered why they were interesting enough for me to collect in the first place. (Plus, it gave me a reason to use the word "tchotchkes".)

It wasn't just cleaning this time around. It felt like something different.

In her book, "The Creative Habit", Twyla Tharp devotes an entire chapter to developing and honoring rituals.  Gail McMeekin uses several pages in her book, "12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women" to do the same. So does Julia Cameron in  "The Artist's Way".  In fact, most authors on the subject of creativity suggest creating rituals, or at least observing habits that help jump start a desired activity.  (Lest you think I'm a devoted researcher into the creative act, trust me, I'm just lookin' for short cuts.)

I've never really thought much about my rituals. I don't light candles unless I burn supper. (I have a tendency to forget  lit candles until reminded by the charming shriek of the smoke alarm.) Music goes in one ear and out the other, without spending much time in between. On a more mundane front, to me at least, reading the morning paper is simply a civilized thing to do, and getting the crossword done before noon is less a ritual than a clever plan to stave off dementia.  (I'll let you know how that's working one of, where'd I put my keys?)

So what was with the cool vibes I got with my overloaded dust rag?

Without realizing it, I have been establishing a ritual.  I realized that whenever I get stuck artistically, I dig in and dig out. I essentially wipe my slate clean. The junk I've been collecting on the desk top gets neatly put away.  The residue of paintings that put up a fight gets wiped down.  I've even been known to toss into the trash old paintings that I had come to resent.

It's not so much a routine house-cleaning as it is a spiritual cleansing of my creative space.

For the next week, I'll pay attention to my actions and see which ones are routine, and which ones are rituals.  Which parts of my day need greater attention and which actions deserve more respect.

Why don't you the same? Don't just plow through your week hoping Friday will get here sooner.  Pause.  Pay attention.  Seek out the rituals in your life, and make them routine.

@2010 P Scarborough  "New Day", 12x16 pastel

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Give and Take

My mailbox has been full of the nicest letters recently.  Mostly from folks I've never met, never heard of and will probably never meet, they're gushingly complimentary.  I can feel my ego swelling just thinking about them.  I am admired, appreciated, adored even. 

And because I am admired, appreciated and adored, wouldn't I just love to donate a piece of artwork to be auctioned off to further their cause?  Gosh, the benefits to me are many.  I'd find a new audience of adore-ers.  I would be really, really appreciated. My donation would benefit all sorts of currently un-benefitted souls.

And if I don't, surely I'll feel like a chump. (No, that's not included in the letter.  It's included in my psyche.)
Ah, jeesh.

It's spring, and it seems that it's the time of year when charities of all stripes are searching for ways to enrich their coffers.  Typically the artist donates a piece of artwork.  An auction is held. A buyer either a) bids generously because they want to help the charity and hopefully understands they're really getting something in return, or b) goes into the auction hoping for a cheap deal. Or maybe c) the charity posts a minimum bid on the work, so that it must be sold for a certain price or it goes back to the artist. And it does. B and C are not much fun for the artist.

Over at LinkedIn, in the Art Group hosted by Alyson Stanfield, there's quite a discussion between artists about the pros and cons of donating art.  By the looks of it, many of them have had some pretty unpleasant experiences.  

Here's my pet peeve: Besides the annoying tax laws that hinder artists in this area, I find it amazing that complete strangers will ask me to give them something that has great value to me (and hopefully to someone else). Really, do I look that easy that you think all you have to do is sweet talk me and I'll hand over the keys to my easel?

Let me help you out a little here. 

Say hello first.  Maybe get to know me a little.  Because maybe I'm a jerk, and you wouldn't want me to give you anything after all. Maybe our values are absolutely in conflict (yes, I eat meat). I dunno, maybe there's another good reason we shouldn't go into business together. You'll never know if you don't establish a relationship first.

Yes, I donate my artwork.  And I limit myself to a certain number of donations each year.  I do that in part so that I can say to complete strangers with a clear heart, "Gee, I limit myself to a certain number of donations each year. Sorry."

It's harder to say that to friends.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Handsome Husband Plots a Sneaky Plan

It's time you all knew the truth. 
Sure, he's cute and all innocent looking, but behind that innocent face he's a tricky fellow, sneaky and very nearly wicked.
As I was packing my bags to travel to visit my mother recently, HH was preparing to sneak around behind my back.
In fact, he repeatedly asked me what me travel plans were, especially the leaving part. Because he's a clock-watcher by nature, I, who am deficient in that area, didn't think his attention to my departure was all that out of character.  Now I know better.
While I was away, returning to my familial roots, HH was plotting. 
You're gonna wish you were me.
To celebrate Mother's Day, my tricky, sneaky very nearly wicked husband contacted my all time favorite living artist, Hal Haloun, to plan a visit to his studio by yours truly.  I've gushed about Hal before.  His paintings are gorgeous, rich, textural, beautifully executed.  I've stood before his paintings at Kiechel Gallery in Lincoln, Ne. with my nose nearly touching the paint layer, trying to divine his methods.  And now, thanks to my tricky, sneaky very nearly wicked husband, I get to spend a few hours with him.  W o w.

Copyright 2004 Hal Haloun 

An artist, especially this artist, appreciates all the support one can muster.  I've got it. 
So while the Mother's Day gift that I received from HH is incredibly fabulous and amazingly wonderful, it's the kindness and support I get from him in reaching my artistic goals that is the truest gift of all.  And I get it every day.
Didn't I tell you you were gonna wish you were me?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No Whack

Greetings Dear Ones-
I am all out of whack.  HH has been home with me for 10 days and we've traveled together and separately for several hundreds of miles visiting relatives and other strangers.  I've used up all my charm and clever reparte. It'll take everything I've got to get back into the swing of things tomorrow.
So, you're on  your own tonight.  Visit amongst yourselves.  Better yet, leave a comment and start your own conversation. 
I'll re-charge and be back atcha next week.
Until then -