Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Putting On My Writing Hat

Put On My Writing Hat
acrylic, sharpie, on paper moleskine

Yesterday, I decided to do some sketching. I drew a self portrait from a quickly snapped digital picture. I know the chin is too prominent, but that's what happens when you use sharpie. You're stuck with it, more or less.

Sketching turns out to be a good way to start my day. I don't know if I will make it a habit, I only have so many minutes before I have to get going on my regular days, and there are always so many different things that I'd like to start off with. But this day, a day off of work, turned out to be a good one.

Getting ready to nano, I am starting to get my outline together. It's never as much time as I want, but it's what I have. I put my hat on, my "writing hat", before I got started. It kept my brains from wandering all over the place when I was trying to write. I know it's probably silly, but I also think that it might be a good sense memory-association to cultivate. Hat goes on: girl goes writing.

I took my hat, pulled together a writing folder, gathered up my index cards, collected my pens, printed out my previous notes, and headed to the cafe, where I stared out the window, drank a latte and ate coffee cake, and began a snowflake outline.

The funny thing is, I only had a couple of hours to write, but while I wasn't writing, I got so much else done. Cleaning and cooking and working with kids and painting and blogging.

It is so terribly hard to sit down and start writing when you haven't been writing and you are out of practice, but when you actually get started, the momentum can carry you forward in all sorts of productive ways.

And that's what I'm working on, getting a creative momentum going, building up those good writing habits, pulling together the supplies I need, getting out the ideas so that I am not stopped by "what do I do next." And staring out the window, mulling things over. That too.

What do you do to get your creative momentum going? Do you have creative habits? Talismans? Schedules?  Routines?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Girl, Creation and Destruction

The Girl,
acrylic on paper
8.5" x 5"

Since I have decided to both work and stay home (it's a fancy trick, involving part time and weekend hours and  a sometimes babysitter) boy oh boy is it hard to get creative work done.

To be honest, this is probably why I haven't been keeping up with my blog as much as I used to. I just have a load and a half on my plate. The kids, oh the kids. You know, it never really gets easier... or it does, but then their needs change and you have to adjust everything all over again.

But for all the frustrations, and for all that a kid can wreck your living room and anything left within reach of grubby little hands, a kid is also a fountain of creativity.

Since having kids, I have learned how to do all sorts of things that I always wanted to and had never bothered to sit down and try. From baking a chicken to making a stuffed animal to writing a novel and taking it through the draft process, I have never been more creative.

Well. Aside from the three years of pregnancy and infanthood, and these last few months that have not been kind to my writing or painting. Ok, so periodically, the creativity hasn't been that good, but overall, parenting has added a whole new level of creativity to my creating.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and when you're a mother, everything is about necessity.

I NEED to have something creative for myself outside of creativity. I NEED to leave something for my kids, a body of work or an example of work ethic. I NEED to make something for dinner though I haven't been to the grocery store. I NEED to use my childfree time productively. I NEED to make something cute for Christmas presents. They NEED something to make them feel special. They NEED a fun birthday party despite a slight budget. They NEED to allow their imaginations to run free. They NEED that toy they see so it's lucky I can figure out a way to make it.

Really, the needs are endless, and it's those needs that inspire my creativity. Sometimes the needs are theirs, sometimes they are mine, but since becoming a mom, my life has been much, MUCH less about what I want, and much more about what I and my family need.

Right about now, I need to get back to my writing, to remember my creative routines, and to take myself more seriously as an artist and a writer. I'm not really sure how I'm going to balance this need with the needs of sticky fingers, and hungry bellies and clingy arms... but I need to figure it out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Boy, Inspiration and Frustration

The Boy
acrylic on paper, 5"x8"

Ah, inspiration. And frustration.

Here I am, thinking about being creative again, wondering how to get back to the daily practice that I used to have. Trying to remember bits about who I was and who I am, and daily, I have these little beings running around, getting in the way, teaching me things, demanding stuff, making me bigger, shrinking my life down to size.

Art and Transformation. For me, that is what it's all about. It is a spiritual practice that centers me and grounds me and allows me to experiment and explore. It helps me believe in myself. It helps me understand the world. Art allows me to interpret my life, it also allows me to share with the world my thoughts and feelings and spirit and energy. Art builds us up. My life is built upon art.

But I can't separate this art from my children. I can't separate myself into the mom and the artist. Sometimes I wish I could. I wish I could go back to when it was just me and I could spend hours, days, weeks, even months in the pursuit of my various artistic tendencies.

Now, when I create, I always have to consider my children. They are always at least in the back of my mind. I have a timer waiting to go off, to tell me that it is time to be a mom again. Or I have toys scattered around my house, even on my desk, reminding me that I have duties.

Once, I was told that it was impossible for a woman to continue to be an artist once she has kids. That is not true, I thought then, and continue to believe now. It is possible for a woman to be an artist with children, but the way she is an artist changes. What are the changes? Who does an artist who is a mother, a mother who is an artist have to become in order to synthesize her double identities?

I think art may help me understand. I think if I didn't have my art, I might easily be swallowed by the role of mother.

But then, maybe this kind of struggle is not limited to being a parent. Sure, being a mom is kind of an all encompassing state, not just personally, but culturally, too. The role of motherhood is huge. But don't all artists have to struggle with balancing their artistic lives with their real lives? I had a similar struggle as a teacher, or as a younger woman living my life, falling in and out of love, searching for happiness and meaning.

Perhaps accepting that being an artist and living our human lives can be a struggle, a balancing act. We all have external demands and internal demons. How do we handle them all to create a creative and personal life that is fulfilling?

How do you balance your life and your art? Where do you struggle?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

La Frida, or Remembering My Heroes

La Frida, Articulated Paper Doll
with diego, monkey, flower, apron, heart, and shawl accessories.
Giclee Print, metal brads and embroidery floss

You see this here? This is my commitment. Two posts in a row. Sometimes I forget that I have made a commitment and I get lazy and sit around watching tv or surfing the internet. Sometimes my laziness has a purpose and I am really stirring some sort of pot inside of myself, waiting for the ingredients (that have already been added) to come to the right temperature, to meld, to transform into just the right kind of stew.

Right now, I think I'm kind of in the taste testing phase of my stewing.

Is this the right flavor? Has it been cooking long enough? Do I need to add something? Am I missing an important ingredient? Am I patient enough? Am I stirring it enough? Heat too high, too low?

How do you like my metaphor?

Well, yesterday, I posted a picture of my La Pintura paper doll, the artist inside of me. The desire to create, to throw myself into new images, messy paint, visual passions, color, etc. Today, I show my little Frida doll. She, I suppose, represents those people who have inspired me in my life. If I'm speaking artwise, it's not just Frida Kahlo, but also Van Gogh, Lucien Freud, Kiki Smith, Klimt, Egon Schiele, Degas, Rothke, Chagall, Rousseau, Basquiat, Alice Neel, Gaugin, and many other artists that I've loved over the years.

Today, I've spent time on my pinterest boards, looking at art, paintings, photographs, portraits... I love to let what I love inspire me to create. This is part of what my art is made of. Those that have come before, those that have influenced me at different times of my life.

But if I want to be creative again, I can't let myself stop with just looking at what other people have done. I can't just be a consumer of art (and writing and movies and tv and music) I have to actually start using my rusty creative muscles. Not only should I consume, but I should also produce.

And here is where the difficulty happens.

How to get from the unformed, stewing ideas to the active creation?

What else am I doing today?
I am writing lists.
I am brainstorming.
I am sketching.
I am using exercises or prompts to start low stakes projects.
I am crossing media lines, going from art to writing to photography and back.
I am joining communities to support my creativity.
I am doing, not just watching and waiting.

It's time, I guess. Do I have it figured out? No, but am I taking the steps to make my ideas concrete? Yes.

This is where my stew metaphor falls apart. Oh well. I have to get back to work, I guess I can't fuss with the stew anymore.

Is anyone else joining nanowrimo or art everyday month in November?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

La Pintura On The Way Back

La Pintura, articulated paper doll.
paper, giclee print, metal brads

Long time no see.

I've been in hiding. Well, not really in hiding so much as in a fallow period. Busy with daily life and silent on the outside. But at the same time, I feel a lot of work has been going on under the surface, even if my forward momentum seems to have stalled.

But the way my life works, I've found this is actually a normal part of the process. Again and again, I've gone through quiet, struggling periods of life, where art is silent and the transformation process is dark and quiet.

It would be easy to get stuck there, to think, "I have creative block," or "I give up," or "I just can't do it, my life is too difficult to allow these goals in." But the truth is, my goals as an artist and a writer are not just something that comes from the outside, they are a part of me. Even when I'm not painting or writing, I still feel that urge, and it gets stronger and stronger until I have to work my way back. Because I am just who this Paper Doll says I am. I am The Painter. And I am The Writer. I am the Artist even if she's quiet sometimes.

So here I am working my way back, trying to find the right steps to take me back to creativity and productivity. That's okay. Remember, this si part of the process. I'm beginning to remember creativity as a choice, a daily choice. I'm beginning to remember myself as the creator, even at the end of the day when I'm exhausted and have been taking care of other people all day long. Part of taking care of myself is creating things.


So then. The baby steps I am taking are towards recommitting to art and writing. I have begun painting again, little things in my journals. I took out my new-used sewing machine for the first time and gave it a whirl. I went back to my old novels and read them over to get ready for a new commitment to nanowrimo.org.

Yes, I'm going to try to write a novel in November, again. I am very worried, to tell the truth. I've met the goals every year for the last five, but this year, my habits are so poor and my mind is so out of writing that I am concerned that I won't be able to get the writing juices flowing and actually sit down at the computer every day.

So I am afraid. And that means I have to do it. Is fear what has been stopping me all along? Am I just using busy-ness and fallow-ness as an excuse for not doing it?

Well, I'm going to try again. I'm going to go for the daily commitment. And I might as well do Art Everyday Month, too. Commit to a daily creative practice and it will come back, I know this. Because for all I've been "The Mom" all this summer and autumn, I really am "The Artist." I am "The Writer." I am "The Painter." It's just who I am, and I am going to find a way to integrate all these parts of me. I just am.

Wish me luck.
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