Taking Stock

Last year at about this time I talked about setting goals. I tried not to call them New Years resolutions, but we all know that was what I was making. It’s exciting to start anew at the beginning of the year and plan to be better, but more often than not our resolutions become a kind of tyranny of ‘shoulds’ and if we fail even once to comply with our self imposed rules we mentally shout at ourselves until in a complete failure of confidence we give up. After which we call ourselves dispicable names until next year.

So this year, no goals, no New Years resolutions. There are some things I’d like to get better at–there always are–but I won’t mention them here or anywhere else either.

Instead, this year I’ve decided to take stock of what I did accomplish in 2018.

Paintings:

 

In 2017 and early 2018 I had a terrible time painting. I felt as though I did nothing but repeat myself, and everything was boring and lacklustre. In the summer I had the privaledge of visiting the studio of Lorenzo Dupuis,  I love his egg-tempera paintings and I began riff off his work. (Steal like an Artist, eh?) And just like that I was back and excited to work. In 2018 I paintinged more than ten paintings in oil, acrylic or egg-tempera. This is a small number compared to my usual output, but I’m so delighted to be back.

Sketches

 

I filled up a Moleskine sketchbook and part of another sketchbook with drawings. In totally this amounted to more than seventy analog drawings in 2018. There were many more digital drawings.

Digital Drawing/Painting

I’m not going to post my digital work because my last two post featured digital artwork, and surprise, I can’t remember which works happened in 2018 and which works came before. Note to self: Include dates in file names.

Writing

There were times in 2018 when I was pretty discouraged about my writing.  I’ve been writing fiction for over ten years, and during those ten years I have submitted work to various publishers. I’ve had some near misses, but to date nothing has been published. Yes, we live in the age of self-publishing but when you no longer have the day job the expense of edits was more than I could manage. Ten years is a long time write and have no readers. This depressed me no end.

Nonetheless, I rewrote and revised my 75,000 word young adult fantasy novel, The Spell, as well I wrote and revised a Boomerlit novella (35,000 words) I called Hannah’s Hearing, and I’m in the midst of  a major revision of my time travel novel The Chronos Project.

It turned out I couldn’t stop writing, drawing or painting even if I had no gallery exhibition in the works or a publisher for my stories.  Why is that?

I suspect there are many answers, but one of them for me is that as long as I’m learning and creating, I’m alive. More alive than at any other time. I live in a vivid world of my own making, and I swear to you that the ‘process’ of painting is a form of deep meditation. Time disappears and scratchy everyday problems fade away. How could you not pursue that?

This was my first year of retirement from my day job. Surprise, surprise, retirement calls for a bigger psychological adjustment than expected. Also, two close family members died, both in their fifties. My husband got a promotion and a pay raise. My grandchildren and children are wonderful. It was the worst of time and the best of times, as is every year.

So, at the beginning of this New Year, I’m super proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2018.

Take a look at what you’ve accomplished. I bet you did a heap of great things in 2018 that you forgot about. We tend look at our failings more than the positives in our lives. That might be something worth changing. Hmmm….

On Inspiration

2018-09-21 15.55.58
Blue Moon Rising, 2018, acrylic on panel

I read books on creativity all the time. I’m not sure if it’s because I, somehow, want to be assured that I’m creative, or whether I want to understand what goes on in that process. Either way, one thing that comes up time and again, is the admonition not to rely on inspiration. In fact talent and inspiration are two terms that almost everyone disses.

I understand it to an extent. Talents aren’t share equally among everyone, and we don’t want to make anyone feel bad because they were born with a little less of a particular talent than someone else. And there is in the creative community this idea that the talented rely only on their talent and don’t work hard. That’s wrong I think, but I’m going to leave that for another time.

Another thing that books on creativity disparage is inspiration. I’m not saying you should sit on your duff and wait for inspiration before you attempt your creative project, but for heaven sakes if it comes along grab it with both hands and enjoy the blessing.

In my last post I noted that I’d finally painted something I didn’t hate. I made a tiny beginning. Then a day later I had the opportunity to visit Lorenzo Dupuis’s studio. What a wonder! I still feel all melty inside when I think about his luminous work, and I was/am inspired. For months and months I’ve been feeling as though I’m repeating myself or taken what wasn’t mine from others. Now, there is a path, a way to learn, a voice to find and I’m going to follow that inspiration. And surprise, surprise there are hints that I’ve been moving in this direction for some time. Yes, I’m worried that my work will look too much like Lorenzo’s, and guess what, he worries that his work looks too much like someone else’s. Creativity is a funny circular thing. Accept your talent, your inspirations and make something of it!

I’m Back and I’m Fizzing

Fire

Lac Green Nord in the Province of Quebec, Canada, is an oasis. And doesn’t this fire look relaxing?

The only thing is that I’m not very good at relaxing, and to be honest when you are the playmate of a five-year-old granddaughter you don’t relax much. Little Maya who wakes up at 6:00 am told me earnestly on the evening the day after we arrived, that it would be a very good thing if I woke up earlier like she did.

Yes, Milady.

But sometimes it’s not about relaxation. It’s more about changing the input. If you keep feeding yourself the same mental diet day after day your creativity starves from lack of proper nourishment. Because I’m a head person (someone who lives more in thought than in the physical world), it is a good thing to change things up and try a sensory diet for a while. On this holiday I had every opportunity to add experiences to my mental diet. I plunged into the water, screamed when I was splashed, slapped Horseflies, whirled on a tube being towed by a boat. I went to a parade and visited family in a care home. I did no writing, not even my morning pages, and very little drawing.

At home now I have so many ideas and plans that I have to calm myself down and take a step back. I know from experience that in this stage of the creative process I will not be happy with anything I do, and everything will go too slow, and soon enough I’ll despair.

Therefore, I will pick the peas and shell them. I’ll write this blog. I’ll make a little careless drawing, and I’ll read the next chapter in The Chronos Project, (my time travel novel)  and consider how I can improve it. I’ll go slow.

Give yourself the grace of going slow at times. And you don’t have to be brilliant all the time either (she said, though she finds this hard advice to take).

Oh, and I did make these two scribbles, because, hey, creativity is like a drug. It’s not easy to stop and thankfully stopping isn’t necessary.

Walking with a Camera

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For a while now I’ve been taking a walk early every morning. I do it because it’s beautiful outside and because I think it’s good for my mental health. And who knows, it might just keep my hippocampus strong for longer.

I’ve been writing and drawing, but nothing exciting is happening on that front. I’m in the learning stage of things. I realized I needed to get a better handle on light and value and it occurred to me that taking my camera walking might help with that. You look with a whole other attention if you carry a camera. It was wonderful to find that all those boring things, I walk by in alleys, are quite beautiful with the right kind of attention.

Hope you enjoy them too.

Continue to Learn, Learning to Continue

Freckled Girl
Freckled Girl, digital, photo reference from Pinterest

A few weeks ago I wailed about not being able to paint. I’m not going to tell you that it’s all come back to me and I’m flying. But I am painting, and I’ve been completely immersed in it all week long. Everything is different, the medium, the style, the type of painting, but I’m learning, and I’m old enough to know that learning is one of life’s most important things for me. If I’m not learning, I lose interest and everything is washed over in blues.

Above is a digital piece worked in a painterly realistic style.

My whole art education was about abstraction with elements of either the sublime and/or expressionistic. I feel like a traitor to my education,  and my mentors, but man, there’s a whole other world of art out there.

I’ts Canada Day here. Au Canada!!

canada-flag-8x5

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

But Painting JacksonYou know that optimistic post last week? And the excitement about trying comics the week before?

Bleh! Crashed and burned.

Something has happened in my studio practise. Something I haven’t been able to talk about because I keep thinking ‘don’t be such a baby’. It’s been going on for months and months now. For more than a year.

I can’t paint.

This week I tried again. As before my efforts ended in disaster with me in terror, sure that finally it’s gone forever, this thing that has sustained me my whole life. Gone in waffley washes, in screeching colours that subside in mud and wander like zombies across my panel.

“Alright,” I say, “You can still draw. So draw. You can write…well, you can sorta write.”

And all the dominoes fall.

So last week ended on a way down note.

I don’t mean for this new week to follow its path. This morning I wrote my morning pages, I went for a walk and I hit reset.  I will remember to breathe. I will go gently and be kind to myself. And I’ll do it all again tomorrow and the day after, and the one after that…

We often admonish each other to be kind to others. Life is hard. Remember to be kind to yourselves too.

Creativity: How it Works

Globe atop the Turler Cosmos Clock
Globe atop the Turler Cosmos Clock

 

 

 

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a partial manuscript I call The Chronos Project that I plan to revise.

The story is about Anna Wassar, a young ethics enforcer who works at a time-shifting facility, where historians of all sort shift to other time periods to do research in their particular field of interest.

Anna becomes aware that someone is bringing treasures from the past into the future, and that if she doesn’t stop them, the Temporal Ethics Commission will shut down the Chronos Project.

Anna shifts to 1940s Germany in pursuit of her suspect, and things do not go well.

Okay, not a bad premise. Maybe a bit Timecop, but the theme is different and I like it.

A number of years have past since I wrote the first version. Hey, I even tried a second version, and one hundred and twenty thousand words into it I still couldn’t make it work. Time has passed and I am ready to give it another try.

I printed the whole thing and  began to read it back to front. To my surprised I have many excellent scenes, and surely I can…but Anna, Anna doesn’t have enough agency, and what about the murder bus and the children at Görden at Brandenburg an der Havel? How am I going to make that all fit?

Never mind. I’ll be systematic. I will separate the story into point of view sections (there are five–OMG, way to many?) and then I will read each section and see if I have a decent character arc for that character and we’ll go from there. Right. That’s a plan.

Days pass and I don’t work. “Nope, will not,” says that recalcitrant brat in my head. “Can’t, can’t, can’t. Won’t! You know what? I don’t really like writing. I don’t want to write, anymore. Heck, I’m retired. I don’t have to do hard work and I won’t. Done. I’m done.”

Except that I begin to wake up dreaming writing. Yes, thoughts in another characters head, third person.

Then this morning in my journal:

Sunday, 3 June, 2018

(ping)

It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty, delta day

I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was bailin’ hay*

And I’m there. Yes, in the Mississippi delta, but no, not only there, but where ever the work is hard, where the air smells of fresh-mown hay, where dust lifts off a roadway and hangs in the air, where heat shimmers in the distance of—my daddy’s farm. I’m home.

(ping)

In an instant I remember others who catch me like that. Stephen King is one. Always, his words make me feel as though I’ve lived them myself. I’m two-hundred and eighty pound, gay Julianne Vernon,  in my pickup truck, horse trailer behind, driving down a quiet highway. In the distance I see a car stopped on the roadside, and I know what to do. I’ll stop and lend a hand. It’s what I do, what I’ve always done. It will be my undoing, but I don’t know it yet.

Synchronicity

I look over my Facebook feed and I see a post by a printing company. It’s a link to a blog post by Meribeth Deen. Meribeth talks about writing mentors and how we all need one, and maybe if we copy their words they’ll bring us to our words, and—ding, ding, ding.

I know what to do: Read Stephen King’s words, write Stephen’s words, and then write Anna Wassar, just a little, not much, not a great long thesis, just as much as I can see in a one inch frame.

That’s how it works, creativity. One small thing leads to another thing, and still another and these things spiral and gather, swarm, swoop and excite and suddenly you can’t wait to write, to paint, to dance your dance and sing your song.

 

*In 1967 Bobby Gentry wrote and performed Ode to Billy Joe and I loved that song. Bobby sang it beautifully, but what I loved most was the story. A whole and complete story in the lyrics of a 4 minutes song (it was longer in the original writing). It had everything necessary for story, including a mystery. What were Billy Joe and that girl throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge?