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4 posts from July 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life for a Struggling Creative


I have a confession to make, and deep down, I know that what I am feeling is something that most artists and creative souls experience - a deep struggle with creative satisfaction, a feeling that I will never reach my full potential if I don't let myself experience the process fully.


That's a big thing for any artist, experiencing the process.  Enjoying it is very much a part of what drives so many of us to be creative in the first place.  There are times, however, that I don't enjoy the process, and to put it quite frankly, there are times that I just plain hate it.  Why?  Because at times, instead of feeling my way through my work, I over analyze it, I compare it to similar paintings by artists that I hold in high esteem, and then I feel disgusted, unworthy, almost depressed, and this voice inside my head tells me that what I just put down on canvas stinks.


It's a tough struggle, let me tell ya, and if you were to read the ramblings of many a master artist of the past (Monet, Renoir, VanGogh, Cassatt, Degas, Manet) you would find yourself entrenched in a whirlwind of struggling minds, disgusted with their work, afraid to experience the process, afraid to be themselves, afraid that if they were to put on that canvas what they feel and what they want, that they would be regarded as a garbage artist.  I know, I've done the research.  I've studied the art and the minds of the artists I revere. And, here I sit, facing the same struggles. Sometimes, like now, I feel like I know nothing about what I'm doing and will never amount to anything.  I know, it's my pity and my party and I'm entitled to be a pooper now and then.


Being an artist is not as easy as one might think.  We compare our work to every other artist.  We have favorite living, working artists.  We have favorite dead artists.  We have ideas of how we want our work to look.  We want our work to sell frequently and then we find ourselves discouraged when it doesn't.  It is a horrible game our mind plays with us every time we face a blank canvas, or a blank page, or a piece of fabric, or any creative project.  


I'm an unusual creative.  I love doing everything.  I love to paint in oils, and pastels, and draw.  I love to write (duh), I love to express myself through my writing and my artwork.  I love to sew and quilt, I love to embroidery and cross-stitch.  I think woodwork is fun, and pottery too.  I love to feel the clay between my fingers.  I love to teach children (yes, that is a creative process too!) and feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when they "get it."  I just wish I would "get it."  That is why I'm writing about it.  Have you ever tried to teach or help someone else, explaining the process, only to discover that you found the answer within yourself?  I know I have.  I wonder why that is?


I started a painting about 10 days ago, got the underpainting on the canvas, and walked away.  I wasn't motivated.  I thought the entire composition stunk.  Then, I started to overanalyze my work.  This is lousy, and that stinks.  This one is all wrong, and that one is worse.  I'll never finish that portrait of my son because I can't face the struggle within myself that is required to finish it and enjoy the process.  It drives me crazy!  That painting has been sitting on an easel unfinished for 6 years!!!  


What gives me hope at times is realizing that every artist goes through their own internal struggle, no matter what they create - whether it be writing, sewing, painting, cooking, drawing, singing, composing, playing an instrument, or web design, it doesn't matter - there will always be an internal struggle of some kind throughout the process.  Sometimes it isn't much of a struggle at all, and other times it is horrible. Right now, I'm in the midst of "horrible." 


Even in the last week, I've struggled with what to write which explains why I have not had a post every day, and I do try to post something daily because it is my personal outlet and I enjoy it.  My laundry suffers in the process, though. I really hate laundry.  The only thing creative about laundry is folding it neatly.  


I don't mind telling you, though, that my daughter Sarah has been my inspiration this week.  She has helped me to reflect on my own insecurities that will hopefully help me to be more free with my creative energy, not worrying so much about what others think and what collectors want.  I need to paint what I want to paint and not worry so much about what others think I should paint.  


Have I told you that I think Sarah is amazing?  She really is an amazing human being.  She is doing things at 15 that most people only dream about and she is doing it well.  She has goals.  I am so proud of her. The creative energy just flows out of her and she doesn't hold anything back.  She isn't afraid of her work, she embraces it.  She draws and paints.  She writes (a lot) and is writing a book - 50+ pages already.  She composes music for the piano and plays beautifully.  She embraces her creativity better than I ever have.  It amazes me.  She hates criticism even if it is constructive, but she doesn't let it stop her from expressing herself through her work.  It is flowing out of her like water out of a faucet.  Yes, Sarah has many struggles of her own, being a teenager is a tough job, but she is doing a great job of being a teenager, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a student, a budding pianist and composer, a writer, an artist, and a friend. Yep, she is my hero.  I can learn a lot from my little girl, and I have already.  She inspires me to be a better artist, a better writer, a better teacher, and most importantly, a better mother.  I love being her mother.


Learning how to face our struggles constructively can be a tough lesson.  How to face the criticism without letting it completely destroy our process altogether.  No one ever said that humility would be easy, and it isn't, but I truly believe that all creatives need a bit of humility, an open mind, an acceptance of the struggles, and an appreciation for the God given gifts we have been blessed with. The finished product of our life's work may look like it came easy, but much of it was a difficult experience.  I think it is important for artists to share their experiences, bad and good.  It humanizes the creative process and helps others who are struggling to get past the walls they have erected around their work and just let the creative energy flow freely.  I should do the same.  I think I will.  It will be a struggle.  What's the saying - "Easier said than done."

Do you struggle with something?  I'd love for you to share what you experience when you are being creative.  Maybe we can help each other, at least we know we're not alone in the process.


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Walk Through the Wetlands


No, this is not North Carolina.  No, I am not soaking up the sun and sand in Florida ... But Beth is!  Well, sorta.  Beth lives in Delray Beach, Florida and she has a high school reunion in the near future, so she wants to look hot.  Of course, that isn't going to be difficult for Beth because Beth has always been hot - and not because she lives in Florida either.  In my opinion, Beth turned 39 and never aged a day after. Lucky gal.


Being a resident of Delray Beach has its perks.  One of which is you can take a brisk walk through the wetlands with these turtles as you are running away from the alligators and swatting off the mosquitos.  But that's beside the point.  Beth has been taking her camera with her on these brisk excursions in an attempt to lose 5 lbs.  I wish I was right there with her, but for some reason I think the gators would probably get me.


So, Beth and I wanted to share with all of my readers what the Wetlands are all about, and besides, she enjoys the company while she walks. There is the  The Wakodahatchee Wetlands and the  Green Cay Nature Center and both are near her home.  How convenient.  Beth has been whooshing her butt around Green Cay for several weeks gettin' off those pounds.  Green Cay has a 1.5 mile boardwalk course and Beth has been making her mark on every board.  No doubt leaving tread marks from her walking shoes.


Wakodawhachamawhatayacallit is a shorter course, but she's been workin' that one too.  Now Beth, you had better send us pictures from your high school reunion so that we can see what benefits you survived from walking around the wetlands.


Check out those turtles walking on that palm tree.  I bet they have a high school reunion soon too.


Yep, that's quite the course.  I wouldn't have wanted to be the guys who had to stand in all that muck and chase off the gators when they were building the dang thing. In the Seminole language, Wakodahatchee means "Created Waters."  I wonder how they say Mosquito in the Seminole language?    


Beth had so much stuff to look at while swatting flies that she relaxed on her trek around the boardwalk.  Naaah, she doesn't need to burn the calories anyway.


Oh my.  A baby gator.  Just what Florida needs - more gators to scare off all the old people.


Check this fella out.  Her name is "Heron"  As oppposed to "Hison."  Get it?  ha ha.


They have quite the life, don't you think?  I mean, they don't have to worry about the economy or finding a job. They can just hang out on Pickerel Weed and look pretty.


And, did you know that the Cabbage Tree is the Florida State Tree?  Neither did I.  And for that matter, neither did Beth.


There are all sorts of prehistoric creatures wandering the boardwalk in Delray Beach.  This little guy has big ears.


And these guys (or gals) are hangin' out in green gunk.  Better known as "duckweed."  Bet you didn't know that did ya?


I'm sorry, but this stuff is just disgusting.  This fella doesn't seem to mind, though.  He probably doesn't know it's duckweed - as opposed to "heronweed."  It's not like there are any ducks nearby, so what does he care.


"Okay guys, gather 'round.  See that lady over there, she's spending a lot of time taking pictures and I think it looks suspicious.  You, Joe, you keep an eye out from behind.  Ralph, you and Hoocheeman keep an eye out on the East and West sides.  Me and Henry are going to keep an eye out from the front.  Make sure she doesn't take any pictures of the treasure we have buried underneath that dead palm tree, ya hear?"


Oh Lordy.  Beth, if I were you I'd get the heck out of dodge.


I mean really now, is the extra 5 lbs really worth it?


Beth, seriously.  Start running.  Burn some rubber please.  These gators eat old people.  Oh, you're not an old person?  I'm too far away for you to smack me. 


Ol for God's Sake!  Beth, start walkin' girlfriend!  He's got legs too ya know!  Then again, it's not like you are going to drive your car into the swamp.  That's what old people living in Florida do all the time.


Uh, "Hello mister gator.  Watched any football lately?" 


He's thinkin' about it, Beth.  But you look too young.  No blue hairs.  


Maybe on the next pass he'll give it some more thought.   Does she or doesn't she?  That is the question. Only Beth's hairdresser knows for sure.


Beth, you better watch out.  I'm tellin' ya girlfriend, he's comin' around to get ya.


But first he has to find his way through this muck.


Nope.  No sign of him comin' around the mountain.  You're free Beth!  Run!


No peekin' over the edge, Beth - just Run!  Run for your life!  That 5 lbs will be gone before you know it.




Hey!  You over there!  Save me!  Save me!  


"Oh hello there.  Have we met before?  As a matter of fact, I think we have.  Are you following me?"


Aw, look at da babies.  They've been procreating in the duckweed.


What a lovely day.  Especially since you outran that gator and seem to have outrun those vultures planning your surveillance.


Yep.  Looks like Beth had a nice walk through the wetlands.  No gators on this path thank goodness.


And now for your lesson in the wetlands.  And, what is that thing sticking its head out of the water anyway?  Maybe he's the jolly green giant.


There's your answer, and everything you ever wanted to know about duckweed.


Are they running for cover or sunbathing.  Hmmm.  Let me think about that a minute.


I dunno Beth, are you really going back tomorrow?  Better take a slingshot with ya just in case.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Is This All There Is?


What is that song?  That old one that goes "Is this all there is?"  I think I'm having one of those days where I've had too much time to reflect on my life, smile at some of the risky behavior of years past, and mope about opportunities lost that will probably never be.  Yep, it's one of those days.


I've spent my entire life living on the east coast of the United States, with a short detour through Missouri.  Not much to write home about if you ask me.  A very sheltered life.  Yet, in my dreams, I've traveled the world and been to all the places that I've ever wanted to go and experience - like Italy, Spain, Ireland.  


I even had a brain fart the other day and was looking for real estate in Ireland, home of my ancestors, and job opportunities for Bob.  I know, completely ridiculous.  I think.  


Really though, sometimes I just want to pick up and experience an entirely new lifestyle with my family - get the hell out of dodge you might say.


I'm being completely unrealistic but hey, I'm entitled.  Chances of traveling alone or with my family - for a short or a long stint in a romantic location oceans away are entirely unlikely in my lifetime.  Sad, I know.


I envy people who are so blessed as to have the resources to see the world, experience other lifestyles, see the beauty of God's creation from one end of the globe to the other.  How exciting would it be!!


That's it really.  That's my confession.  I want to be swept off my feet in Barcelona.  Kissed in the countryside of Tuscany.  Or spend a few lazy days in Kinsale.  Is that so much to ask?  


After yesterday's post "How to make your own shower curtain" I couldn't help but think "what the hell is so frickin' exciting about making a shower curtain?"  This is the pathetic existence of my life.  At least at the moment.  


Don't get me wrong, I'm happy and blessed.  I have a great husband and wonderful children.  I'm just not as blessed as I'd like to be.  But, I think most of us can make that statement - at least if we're being completely honest.  


I suppose that people who are blessed to travel the world and see the most magnificent places on earth ache for more, wish for something different, hope for something more normal.  What is normal?


I want romance and hot sex in the middle of a lush green field somewhere.  (I've done that by the way - the beach too).  Told ya I was risky.  That was in a past life.


I want to ride a bike (or a horse) down a quiet, peaceful country road in Italy ...


Or through Northern Spain.  I want to breathe the air on that side of the world and sit on this fence.


I want to admire these ornamental trees throughout Italy, then I want to hide behind these bushes with my Big Bear and sneak a kiss.


Oh well, maybe I'll dream about it tonight. 

So, there you go.  From shower curtains to Tuscany to Barcelona, from Kinsale to Dublin and then back to Northern Spain in a day. 

If nothing else, it has inspired me to paint - after I finish the shower curtains of course.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Charlotte Symphony, Spoons, and Lots of Smiles


It was Friday night, July 3rd, and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra was having a free concert in Southpark and there was going to be a wonderful fireworks display too.  So, other than the cost of gas, we decided it was well worth the fun to take the children to hear the orchestra and enjoy the fireworks.  We were also hoping it would not be as crowded as if it were on the 4th.


Wrong.  The place was mega packed.  We drove around for about 40 minutes just looking for a parking space and finally got one about a mile from the concert.  Because it was going to be a very long walk, we decided to leave the lawn chairs and the blanket in the Suburban.  No point in hauling that everywhere with us.  We walked through the crowds. 


And past these nice lookin' young men in uniform.


And the balloons.


We worked our way all the way up to the front of the orchestra and all I wanted to do was go home.  Hate to sound like a party pooper but I don't mix well in crowds, and this was a crowded place.  I'd never survive in New York.


Oh how I wanted to sit down.  Oh boy did I ever want to kick that guy out of his lawn chair and sit right in the middle of the sidewalk.  But then, as we got smack in front of the orchestra, I looked to my right and saw a grassy patch.  Empty.  With room for 5 butts.  Ours.


We had a front row seat.  As usual, Sarah's hair was in her face and she was looking a little too "teenagerish" for me.


Of course, handsome Matthew was all smiles.  Big Bear was sitting on the ground behind me and he made quite a nice, comfy lawn chair.  I knew there was a reason why I married this man.  He makes a great pillow.


What is it about teenagers?  They turn 15 and suddenly acquire this "look" like they're too big for their britches or something.


Then again, there is Glen.  He is the polar opposite of Sarah.  He forgot to brush his teeth and has peanut butter smeared on his cheek from that pbj he wolfed down an hour before.


The best part was that I got to sit back (yes, against my Big Bear) and enjoy the entertainment.  The conductor was a funny guy.


Being the strange person that I am, I couldn't help but think how horrible it would be if the orchestra fell into this disgusting looking, mosquito infested, green, gross, water.  And then I decided I wouldn't think about that anymore.


And, for some odd reason, the flag was stuck in this position.  But, it was still nice to see someone had tried to get it up.  (get your mind out of the gutter.  There is no way I could say that without sounding - wrong.)


Nice lens you got there buddy.  He must work for one of the local papers.


The musicians were wonderful.  The music was beautiful.


And the conductor was very entertaining.  He looked as though he was really enjoying the music too.


The orchestra put on a great show!  And it was Free!  I love Charlotte.


Have you ever heard a guy play the spoons?  Well, I'll tell ya, I've heard one person play the spoons in my life, and that was my former father-in-law Tom LeVasseur, Sr.  He came to our house in Maryland when I was a wee 20 yr old and was marrying his son, Doug.  We sat around our family room and conversed.  Then Doug said "Dad, play the spoons for everyone" and so, we handed him several spoons and he smacked his knees and kept the beat like nothing I had ever seen before - until this past Friday.  Yep, this guy was just as good as Tom LeVasseur, Sr. and he got quite the applause after his performance.  


This fella brought back a lot of good memories from 30 years ago.  Tom LeVasseur, Sr. has since passed away, but I'm sure he is playing the spoons somewhere and entertaining the angels.


The sun had gone down and now the orchestra played as the fireworks display went into full swing.  They were red...


They were white...


They were blue.


And they were beautiful.


And they were big.


And they sparkled.  The kids were so happy. 


I love hearing my children giggle and get so excited over the fireworks.


It made it all worth while. 


I'm so happy we came to the show.  I'm so happy we heard the orchestra.  I'm so happy the kids were happy.


I'm so happy I wasn't standing in the midst of crowds.


I just leaned back against my Big Bear and enjoyed the fireworks.


And the smoke.

Happy Birthday America!

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