Today, after seven months of extreme pain, I am getting cortisone injections in my right shoulder. This will be followed by a period of rest and then continuation of physiotherapy and though I am nervous (last time the treatment was extremely painful in my left shoulder) I am also looking forward to the results. Just need to be remember to be patient as my previous shoulder injury took two years until I had almost complete mobility. I think I'll be able to handle the physio much better once the pain is relieved. And I really, really hope adhesive capsulitis never, ever returns. Wish me luck!
Being an artist is really hard...but I do believe we are often harder on ourselves than others. Though there are those days of rejection or negative criticism that can feel devastating, it sometimes helps to remember that even Monet was considered unskilled initially. But I don't think art is more challenging than anything else...if you want to become a professional in any field, you have to work hard, to study, to practice, and to begin at the beginning. I love hearing stories from people who have been in their line of work, whatever that may be, for many, many years. How they began at the bottom and worked their way up. How they kept trying and trying until they succeeded. How they faced and overcame challenges. How they kept learning. How they were inspired by those who came before them. How proud they are of their accomplishments and how they would do it all over again. That is what I hold on to whenever I feel defeated. Not only does time loom ahead, which can feel daunting, but we are so fortunate to know that there is so much to create in that time.
I think one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as an artist was to learn to work without any regard to the outcome. I think that this is why I love working in layers...I just keep adding one colour and pattern on top of another....no mistakes or judgement at this point, just more of everything. And once I have completed the ground, I can add something, anything, on top of it and do it all over again to my heart's content. The layers make the paintings more interesting and seem to remove the pressure to create something perfect on the first go. I had the most interesting conversation with my doctor this week. He talked about how the lack of knowledge and understanding, basically fear, seems to be the root of most problems in our society today...both physically and emotionally. I think it's this same fear that keeps us rooted in the deep need for perfection in ourselves and in our art. Whenever I watch children with art supplies, they usually don't really listen to direction, but rather are so excited to begin and then to share what they have created that it is a joy to watch. It is that childish enthusiasm that I want to hold on to in my own exploration.
I've often been asked the most interesting questions which really help me to think about what I do and why I do it...I would love to hear your responses, too.
How did your interest in art begin?
I have always been fascinated with art...I remember as a very young girl, I think I was 5 or 6 years old, our family spent a month in South America and there was art everywhere...pottery, paintings, mosaics. We travelled to Mexico City and the vision of a large building with the mosaic of an eagle still stays in my mind. I saw artwork by Indigenous artists of the region in my own community and it still influences the work I do. My biggest challenge was to decide what would be my focus as I'm in love with every art form. But, no matter where I lived and what I was doing otherwise, I always found time to paint with acrylics on canvas.
You mentioned a year-long hiatus...how did you come back to your art?
I went through a difficult time of disappointment in the art world which caused me to rethink this life of an artist. I sold and gave away everything related to art for a year but I was miserable. I thought it was depression, as there is a history of clinical depression in my family but my husband and daughters encouraged me to paint again. It was the best thing that ever happened to me...I began experimenting and playing once again and totally stopped worrying about the world of art outside of my home studio. I began to create for the sake of creating once again.
How do you motivate yourself as an artist?
That's a tough question as my greatest challenge is not to get into my studio but to get out of it. Perhaps it is because I created a habit of hitting the studio very early in the morning, before anything else in my day, which began 22 years ago when my first daughter was born and I worked full-time outside of our home (I was the Practice Administrator of a busy dental office). I also think that continually learning through workshops (even those not directly related to the visual arts such as English and writing) along with reading about art, art practices and artists definitely motivates me. Visiting galleries, especially public galleries in my case, seems to help when I feel like I'm in a bit of a slump.
What's become more difficult and what is easier after over twenty years of practice?
I think one of the difficult things is allowing myself to try new things when certain practices, images, etc. become a kind of trademark for me. Just allowing myself to experiment instead of relying on what has been successful for me. The easier thing is not being so concerned about what others think about my work. I find that no matter what I create, there is someone out there who connects with it, too, and I think that is why I'm meant to do what I do.
How do you deal with a project that doesn't work?
That is very interesting as there have been many of those through the years...in some cases I didn't follow through and in others the work wasn't well received. In both cases, I allow myself a little break, time to grieve the amount of work that went into a project, and then push past it by working on something else. Sometimes I burn work that I'm not satisfied with and on occasion I paint over it, and other times it just ends up in the trash. I now chalk it up to learning and growth but it used to devastate me. Letting go of attachment certainly helps.
How do you schedule your time and how do you overcome distractions?
I find that beginning my days in the studio works wonders for me...even if it is just to tidy and plan. The days I work at the library, I find that having spent that time helps me to face my day with a positive attitude (very much a meditation) and when I'm working at home it just seems that ideas beget ideas. It's quite wonderful really. These days with my shoulder injury it's been nice even to sit and read in that space. I stare at works in progress or completed pieces and my mind begins connecting ideas that I sketch out or daydream about until I can't wait to work.
Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Policital and Social Union when she was thirty-five years old. Though any rebellion in history utilized similar tactics, particularly destruction of property during protests in order to force politicians to hear their argument, she was considered radical because she was a woman. She encouraged women to join the war effort and to fill factory positions and, in turn, these contributions helped convince the British government to grant limited voting rights. Her parents were abolitionists and she encouraged her mother to bring her along to her first suffragette meeting when she was fourteen. Eventually she married a lawyer who supported the movement,and had four children, several whom went on to follow in her footsteps. Unfortunately she didn't live to see equal voting rights for women.
I have been researching my family history as every generation of it was born not only in a different country, but often on different continents as well. In the 1500's officials in western Europe attempted to purge the group through massive killings due to their religious beliefs and cultural traditions, they were relentlessly persecuted throughout the 16th century until the 1700's in various parts of Switzerland but were welcomed in the Netherlands, They then began to settle in areas of Russia and the Ukraine by invitation during the 1800's but suffered severe persecution including mass murders and expropriation of their land through the Russian Civil War in the 1900's during the Bolshevik Revolution. Many were also sent to Siberia and Kazakhstan and many others to gulags (forced labour camps) by Stalin through mass ethnic deportations during the Second World War. Many fled to Canada, the U.S. (known as the Amish) and Paraguay (where my parents were born and raised). Because they were often forced to flee with nothing but their families, they learned to live a simpler life, living off the land, often land that others found of no use. Trying to document all this history and culture that was adopted along the way has been an interesting challenge. I'm curious to see where this leads.
Awhile ago I saw a wonderful photo of a sketchbook filled with the most interesting small sketches to set intentions for the year and I loved that idea. As most people know, I like to select a word to guide my year (this year it is 'reservoir'...a reminder to fill up before overflowing) instead of making resolutions but this year I thought this was a lovely way to add to that practice. I am a visual person...you should see my packing lists when I travel as they are always filled with mini drawings of clothes, art supplies, etc. (my husband has always found it amusing)...so this fits the bill nicely. I decided that the page should really be based on my guiding word for the year so this is what I've got so far...not sure if I'll add to it or not, but I do enjoy looking at it. And it was definitely a peaceful activity...meditative. By the way, if anyone knows where I may have seen this, I'd love to get a link.
P.S. A special 'thank you' to Nanci for reminding me that I saw this on Mary Wangerin's blog The Turquoise Paintbrush.
I've been giving a lot of thought to creative resistance lately...maybe it's because I keep adding layers to these canvases without having any idea as to what I want to do with them, or maybe because of my shoulder injury which makes creating more challenging...or maybe because that's what artist's do, resist taking the next step. This seems to fall under several titles including artist's block or laziness but I think it has more to do with fear, Fear of making a mistake, fear of failure, fear of wasting time and money and materials. And though I know that the only way out is through and even though I have done this thousands of times, I still struggle. So, what I try to do is to keep working, even if it's on something else entirely. Whether it means working on other canvases or drawing or reading about art and artists or going for walks with a notebook, it seems to help. I'd love to hear how you deal with resistance.
When I first learned about Helen Keller I wanted to read everything that I could find out about her...thank goodness for public libraries. It amazed me to learn about this woman who rose above the challenges she had to face in order to become the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. It is believed that she either contracted meningitis or scarlet fever when she was a toddler which left her both deaf and blind and fortunately, her mother read of an account through Dickens' writing of a woman who overcame those handicaps through education. They were then was directed by Alexander Graham Bell to a school where they found Anne Sullivan who became her teacher and friend. She became a political activist and prolific author as well as a well-respected lecturer. I was terribly pleased to find out the our birth dates were only a few days apart and, of course, I loved her support of the women's suffrage movement. It's been interesting for me to see my daughters look to her as a role model and to find out that my husband also hit the library to learn more about her as a young boy.
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +