Thursday, January 12, 2017

Blurry Vision

You wouldn't think that art and eating would be connected, unless you're a chef, but for someone who uses food the wrong way it's absolutely linked. I found myself struggling with food today. Which is stupid, because today is the first day I got to be on a sorta-normal schedule.

I woke up at 5:45AM (just typing that makes me want to throw something) and made sure the dogs were taken care of, that my teenage son was up (this is like a game show, wondering each time if I've won or caught myself a whammy) and then managed to run a two mile HIIT before I saw out my son stumbling to the door moaning about the unfairness of it all as he headed off to school. By 7:15AM I was showered and dressed and making an on-plan breakfast. All was right with the world.

Well, maybe not all. The morning news is enough to send anyone to the doctor to beg for an antidepressant (or a sedative. I joke, but every time I turn on the TV the world outside my door seems to be getting worse and worse. I really honestly do struggle with being informed and being sucked down into a black hole of oblivion and wanting to crawl back into bed because of it.) Still, I pushed forward and eventually made it to my studio. I even had a healthy snack (as I was supposed to) before digging in.

Where I then accomplished next to nothing. I feel like I'm forcing it, but I managed to finish the underpainting on a polar bear (that I decided to paint because I'm not interested in any of the actual projects I am supposed to be working on.) It'll look better when I switch over to color and add depth and... well, color.

8x10, underpainting in acrylic, switching to oils for the good stuff!

And then. Then I had lunch and ate leftovers I shouldn't have, totally bypassing my plans. It kinda went downhill from there, and I honestly just didn't understand WHY.

My daughter still hasn't gone back to college yet, so my routine is not totally normal. But... while I have mixed emotions about that, I realize that's not it. The house isn't clean, the laundry isn't done, the weather is warm and all the snow is gone (and that's depressing to me - I'll even have the windows open tomorrow because it's going to be 70.) Those aren't the reason, either. I'm not thrilled about the world, or certain aspects of my life... everything feels wrong, just slightly off of right, and that's infuriating. But, still NOT it.

Plus, I was on plan until I went into my studio. Heck, I did an ab workout yesterday with my lower body weights that has left my stomach aching like it hasn't in a very long time. I have BEEN ON PLAN even feeling like things aren't right. So what happened?

My studio. I know my art career is bugging me. I know I have ideas of what might make me feel better. But, I realize now that I lack vision. I feel like I want someone to hand me a project, a big all-consuming project that will focus me entirely on it for the whole year. As a self-employed business owner, the only person who can do that is, well, me. And as a responsible employer, I have to say that the employee in question just isn't ready for a big project like that. I don't think she could pull it off right now, she simply isn't there with her skill level.

Just look at this:

These are in-progress paintings that absolutely need to be finished. I have learned that as artists, we sometimes start paintings that will never be finished and they need to be thrown out or reused. These are the survivors of that process that need to be finished, rather than tossed. And I just keep adding to the damn pile! 

Some are old. The planets? Yep, that sucker is from way back in Vermont, a few years I think, but I know exactly how it's going to be finished (and I haven't done a thing about it yet.) There is a big commission piece in the center. There are other pieces I dearly want to finish and just haven't. And the polar bears are NEW additions that I have added to the pile.

I lack vision. I'm creating and starting work, but not actually finishing anything because I lack vision. No amount of cleaning my house, or organizing my studio, or stuffing my face will change that. (Although, to be fair, I didn't try cleaning. Because, cleaning.)

So, I ate today. Did I go crazy and knock back a take-out pizza? No (also, calling a stranger and having them show up with food kind of freaks me out.) I did hit the left over Christmas candy, but probably not to the tune of major damage. Just enough damage. Damage to cause a halt in progress, maybe a backslide ever so slightly. And that doesn't feel good either. Not irreparable, but hurtful to me.

I realize that I ate because I am uncomfortable feeling lost. Like a hiker in the wilderness with her trusty backpack packed with a compass, flashlight, food, water, tent and more - I have all the tools. I just didn't bring the magic wand. I have to work this problem myself, put the tools to work, suck it up and figure it out on my own.

I ate because I am uncomfortable with me. My art is me, and I'm lost and have been for a very long while now. My original plan was to just paint. That's it. Just paint new things, try new things, and voila! New me!

As much as structure makes me itch... oh for the love of sugared squirrels, I NEED structure. Dagnabbit. Worse, I have to give it to myself!

So, I'm taking myself on as a client/artist to mentor. I have mentored several artists over the years, and now I need that myself... even if it's just from me to me. I'm putting together a plan with a schedule, and working out the details. I need to be working toward a goal, and while I don't have a specific goal yet, I can at least put the starting pieces into place.

My hope is that with more clarity and focus (and STRUCTURE) on this aspect of my life, I'll stop trying to eat my way through my kitchen like an 1980's escaped pac-man.

I can do this. I can make things better for myself.

I can do this.

Monday, January 9, 2017

They're Heeeeeeereeeee!

It's Monday... and they're here. ALL of them. ALL. Of. Them. It snowed a little bit in North Carolina on Saturday (stopped snowing by noon), and the whole state lost its mind. They have called off school for Monday and Tuesday, and the roads are a disaster because no one seems to know how to deal with it. Coming from Vermont, this is kind of shocking, but I suppose if you only get snow once a year, maybe it makes sense. I miss snow. Anyway, the family is here and no one is getting out.

I love my family. Adore them. Yet, for some reason when they are here and I decide to go work in my studio, I feel as though I am being selfish or letting someone down.

I know this feeling is irrational, and maybe it's just a mom-thing. (Do guys have this problem? They don't seem like they do.) I remember having trouble even taking a moment for myself when my children were really young. In those days, even a closed bathroom door seemed to cause upset if you didn't sneak off successfully beforehand.

I remember one day clearly where my husband said "Go take a bath! Enjoy yourself!" So, I did! My husband was going to watch the kids and I was going to sit in a tub of hot water with a book and enjoy just sitting there. It was going to be awesome! Me. A Bath. A book! Maybe I'd even light a candle! JUST ME! I was going to make sure I pruned up before I even considered getting out.

Not five minutes later, while the water was running, the door started rattling. One of the kids had figured out where I had gone off to. Then the meowing started, because the cat figured it out too. Had camera phones existed back then, I would have taken a picture or a video. Instead, all I can do is say that I distinctly remember looking at the door and watching little fingers and paws come under the door and swipe at the air on my side, while my daughter loudly cooed "mooooooooooom?" under the door, and my toddler son slapped his hand on it and called out "MOM!" repeatedly.

I resisted for a few minutes, but finally I grabbed my towel and opened the door. Both kids, the cat, and the dog were all at the door waiting for me (and my husband was nowhere to be seen.) When I went downstairs, like a parade with everyone following me, I found my husband watching soccer in the family room. He looked up and said "Did you have a nice bath?"

You know those moments that leave you speechless, and yet you have so much to say at the same time? This was one of those. It was probably good that I momentarily lost my capability to speak, because most of what I would have said would have been... less than appropriate.

I did get my bath, eventually, but I realized that in order to get any "me" time, I was going to have to fight for it and guard it. As the children got older, things like privacy became something I didn't have to fight for because it became more natural and they needed me less. But when I started painting again... well, that was different.

My painting started back up, not as a business, but something I had always done. A hobby, maybe, except it never felt like a hobby to me. If you aren't connected on a visceral level to something, I don't know if I can explain it. I have hobbies, but it's the difference between having something to do, and doing something because you HAVE to and it's just who you are (and without it, you're a half-self, never really all the way "here"). Unfortunately, painting was always the very last thing I could do in a day. Everything else had to be done first, and it was the lowest priority to everyone else.

I realize, looking back, that I allowed my art to come last. I could have fought harder. I also realize that when you have young children, there are only so many minutes of the day and so many battles you can fight. I brought the art more and more into my life as I could, and I went professional with it when my son (youngest) was two years old. I would say it was part-time professional though, because raising children is a full time job and there were always so many things to do just being mom. Never mind when I went back to school and got my business degree, or went to work full time.

Fast forward to now, and I still feel like I'm not allowed to "go work" when the rest of the family is here, especially during the day. I feel like I am disappointing them. (It doesn't mean I don't work, necessarily, but I feel bad when I do.) One of my daughter's first posts on Facebook was that she felt like I was always painting when she had a question. That makes me both feel awful, like I have let her down somehow, and also good because she sees me working and she should see me working. She did get to ask her question though. I wonder what she thought I should have been doing instead when she wanted to ask a question? I may ask her that...

I want both my kids to see that a strong work ethic and that being true to yourself is important. But it still makes me feel bad to not achieve the super-mom status they way you want to when you have to choose and sometimes choose yourself instead.

Anyway, what this all means is that when the family is home, I feel like I can't work. Or, shouldn't work. I feel like now that they're all older, that if they're all home with nothing to really do (a rarity, usually), it means that I'm being selfish if I run off to my studio to work as I had planned. Because they all have their own lives now and I'm at the tail-end of our family being just us, I feel the need to grab these moments like the last fragments of the family I used to have before they glitter and dim into nothingness.

That's not exactly true, though, is it? Yes, this time is fleeting. But it all has been, since they were so little they couldn't exist without me, to now when I just want a moment of their time to tell them I'll always love them, even though they're practically adults. My painting time is fleeting too, though. My time to create something is dwindling every day, too. It matters, too. I matter too, and I shouldn't be the one doing all the accommodation.

Ahh, balance. Still searching for you, aren't I?

Well, on the positive, I compromised and did tax stuff for my business today. So, it was a necessary evil, I felt like I was being punished while accomplishing something (because, taxes), and I could pause what I was doing to accommodate my family as needed.

If I did taxes, is that a win? I think it's a win. Maybe. Stupid business taxes... but I'll take it as a win anyway!

They'll still be here tomorrow, but my plans are to accomplish more in the studio than I did today. I have polar bears that I need to paint! I hope to do that while I still see snow outside!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Come on 2017! (Part Two: Goals)

Yesterday, I established that for me 2016 was a bad year. I also said that I am working on goals for myself. Not resolutions, but goals that can be hammered at with various levels of success without giving up. Part of establishing goals is taking a look at the state of each thing currently. For me, I can only set goals on tangible things, things that I actually wield some control and influence over.

Of course, I'd love to just say "I'll be happier!" in 2017, but that doesn't mean anything. How will I be happier? What makes me happy? What if what makes me happy is completely beyond my control?

The truth is that all goals are in the pursuit of happiness. They fulfill different needs within us that lead to contentment and happiness if we achieve them. They also offer lifelines to us when things start going wrong. Essentially, goals are about making ourselves stronger and able to withstand what life would throw our way, which makes us able to enjoy those moments when happiness is a real thing.

So, with all that in mind, here are my goals for 2017 with ideas on how to achieve them (and they're all important, so order doesn't matter here):


My health deteriorated in 2016. I gained weight, exercised less than I have in 15 years, and I have physical pain and more (some linked to this asinine behavior of mine, and others just a nifty nasty new present the universe decided to lob at my head.) I cannot live like this. I do not want to live like this.

My goals include getting back to the original program that worked for me so many years ago (that I stayed on for a few years, and maintained with.) This should result in significant weight loss, but my real goal is now health (and less pain.) This goal includes my husband, because we're in our mid-40's now and I worry about heart attacks and the like, especially in his case.

I feel like I am starting from square one again, something I haven't felt in about 15 years, and it's depressing. But it's important to remember that just because you are starting again, it doesn't mean you'll stay at the beginning. Eventually, you can accomplish so much and not feel so bad about where you are at anymore. This starting point will be that distant memory soon enough.


Every year, I do an art quilt. This has all the work I did for the year in it, and this is 2016:

What I see here is 99% of the work I completed in 2016, and how little I actually created. Depression hit me hard, and while I mostly made it out of bed, I didn't make it into the studio. My heart wasn't in it, or much of anything. I do see some growth, a gradual switch back to oils (finally!) and a few other things... but mostly, I see that I am lost.

I work in separate genres (surreal and fantasy, and dabble with abstracts still), and while I have been this way for a long time, I have lost my "voice" in all of those over the past few years. I'm not sure why that happened. Maybe it's a natural consequence of growth, and it's normal and you just have to find it again. I certainly hope so.

I had so many goals at the end of 2015, because I thought that is what I needed to focus on in my career. The problem with losing your artistic voice and vision is that more production when you are uninspired and lost isn't possible or reasonable. You think it's the answer because it means money, and you think you'll figure it out while you sell what you create in the meantime. It's the wrong focus.

2017 is going to be different. In some ways, I realize I have lost certain skills, or simply don't have what I need yet. 2017 is going to be about pulling back. I'm going to sort of cocoon myself in my studio and LEARN. I want and need to learn several new techniques. I need to paint, without the intent to sell, without that pressure, so that I can give myself the room to grow again.

Will I continue to sell? Oh, sure, I have a thriving business and that will continue... but sort of on the back burner. It's not my focus for 2017, and I'm lucky enough to be able to take the space to try and improve myself as an artist. I have a long way to go, but to me, this is worth more than selling a painting ever again.

And there you have it, my goals! I thought there would be more, but I think it is best if I stick close to home, simple, and quiet with them.

I have personal goals, but they're kind of vague. I also suspect a lot of my personal goals and feeling better in general will be directly linked to achieving my health and art goals. Mind, body, and spirit. I sincerely want my spirit to stop feeling so wounded. I feel... like I'm bleeding, all the time, everywhere. I don't believe this is linked to just one thing, and I certainly cannot share publicly the deeper thoughts and issues I struggle with, because let's face it, the Internet hordes would crucify me. You cannot be totally human any more, not in person, and certainly not online.

So, I'll simply say that I hope for better. For health, and peace, and balance that 2016 lacked so significantly for me. I cannot control the world, what 2017 will pelt us all with from the outside. I CAN control what happens within my bubble and focus on being a better me.

I expect that I will be doing a lot more blogging about my progress on these goals, because it will be moving in the right direction and I think I would like to share that.

Do you have goals for 2017? Are you ready?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Come on 2017! (Part One: The Downer)

2016 has been hard, don't you think? I don't know anyone that thinks it was a good year. Yet, I had some good things happen in 2016, big things, things that one would think would qualify it as a great year! But they don't.

I was thinking about this whole 2016-perspective-thing last night as a small spat broke out between my kids. We had been sitting outside on our porch, chatting around a little fire-table we got for Christmas (it doesn't put out much heat, so it was a little chilly, but it's neat to have one!) The conversation had been good, everything was pleasant... and then suddenly it wasn't. The evening ended on a sour note, and everyone left. When something like that happens, do you still feel like you had a good evening, or does the sour note sort of ruin all the good that came before and make you feel like you shouldn't have bothered in the first place?

My husband is the type of person who thinks that a great evening cannot be ruined by a bad ending. He immediately said it was a great evening with good conversation, and not to let the ending ruin it. My perspective is that if the evening ends with everyone feeling bad, it wasn't a good evening even if it started out well. That doesn't mean I won't try again, just that this time we missed the mark. I can see the good, but it's more of a lesson about how to maybe get it right next time (because ending bad is just bad, period. It was a bad evening.)

My husband finds my perspective disappointing because I'm not all chipper about how it went well until it went into the ditch and ended up with everyone mad at each other. I find his perspective frustrating because how on earth can you expect me to be all positive about the evening ending in a ditch?

I think we both have valid points, and likely neither one of us is right or wrong. Put them together, that's probably the most healthy viewpoint one can have. The good parts are worth building on, the bad are worth noting and maybe changing things for. I'm trying, hard, to find a way to adopt a hybrid view in general. Not only with last night, but also with 2016. Because to be honest, 2016 has pretty much just flat out ticked me off.

On the positive;

  • We finally got furniture and sorta settled into the house, including finally getting my studio organized and stocked.
  • We went to Paris, something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl!
  • My daughter graduated High School and started college.
  • My son passed his exam and got his driving learning permit, turned 16, and now *gasp* has his first girlfriend. (side note: both positives about my kids have also been hard for me, too.)
  • I made a new friend, a real not just an acquaintance friend.
On the negative;
  • I have struggled a great deal with depression. It got in the way of my art and other goals, and I guess I "let it" although I look back and I can see that I did try. Failed, but I didn't give up entirely either. I'm not going to share more on that.
  • I don't think I like North Carolina, and now I'm going to be stuck here for a good many years.
  • Trump. I don't care what your political leanings are, this is my opinion. I normally wouldn't mention political topics on here, but this is unbelievably far-reaching and has had a major impact and will continue to do so.
  • I gained a significant amount of weight. 
  • Health-scares galore in my family, especially with the kids. Add medical bills to this one, too.
Actually, I'm going to stop there. That's enough. Without going into further detail, 2016 has been miserable for me for 90% of it. Whether it's my fault or completely out of my control, it hasn't felt like a good year.

This is the last painting of mine for 2016. "Wilted" (sold) 6x6 inches, oil on loose canvas. 

This last painting, I did it as an assignment for Thrice Fiction Magazine. It's not really illustrative, it's just what sort of popped into my head. The more I have looked at it this past week, the more I realize that this is pretty much my 2016. How I felt, and maybe still feel. 

So, OK. I can say it. For me, regardless of the good things that happened, 2016 sucked. 

But you know what? Even so, I have a choice. You either have move forward and try to do better, or decide that 2017 is going to suck too. Even with my negative viewpoints, I'm not willing to just toss the towel in on 2017 and give it up. It's MY year, it's not even here yet, and I want to do better.

So, I'm working on goals. I'm working on things that are under my control, at least from my perspective at the moment (who knows what will happen) and setting goals for improvement and accomplishment. Not New Year's Resolutions, because those always seemed a bit silly to me. No, just personal goals that I can make mistakes on but keep on trying without having to say I failed at nailing them perfectly (which is how I view resolutions. They have always seemed like all or nothing.) 

I want to be better, do better in 2017. I need to, especially as it feels a lot like we're going to head into the year with the world falling apart and it's unlikely to get better. If the world is a mess, it's important to pull back and strengthen your base, your core, your safe space and self.

(part two, tomorrow with my goals)