Sometimes it’s NOT about the Product

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Sometimes it’s the Experience

I was fortunate enough, in these past ten days, to visit my lovely daughter and her family in California. The Monterey Peninsula is beautiful, Especially at this time of year. In my part of Canada we, still, have snow on the ground and though we have gorgeous spring and summer wildflowers, they are often of the retiring type–small flowers, delicately tinted. Not so in California. Is there a wild flower in the world that speaks out as much as the California poppy? Perhaps, but I haven’t visited that land yet.

My daughter is an excellent artist, and one of the things we did together was to sit side by side with our sketchbooks, drawing the natural world around us. My results weren’t stellar, but the experience was sublime!

Eeyore? Pollyanna?

Thoughtful 2016Worry, 2017, encaustic on canvas

It seems to me that young adults and old adult have something in common. Fearfulness. When we’re just emerging into adulthood, we have no idea how to negotiate all the pitfalls of taking care of ourselves, fending for ourselves, making a place for ourselves and being someone. It’s all flailing and floundering and fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and nobody special will like us. Ever.

In the middle years we kind of sort it out–at least a little. And if we haven’t sorted it out there is no time to do so now, because now we’re in it to the armpits and there’s not time to let fear hold us back. That career needs building and the family needs care. It’s a doing time.

Then comes later adulthood when somehow your back to not knowing quite how to get on in the world. Things swirl around and past you at such speed that you’re left standing slump-shouldered, mouth hanging open wondering what now. You have no idea how you got to this ridiculous place where it scary to go for a walk in case there is ice on the sidewalk, and you’re worried that your grand kids might think you smell funny.

These things can lead to many Eeyore moments for young adults and old adults alike.

I’m not going to suggest going all Pollyana,  but when life get shitty I would suggest finding something that makes you laugh, and then build on the things you know you are good at. There’s something you’re good at, always something, and if you push the limits on that thing you grow, and that is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. Immerse yourself in what you are good at, and when you’re feeling like you could just about handle something else, give it a try. Be optimistic. Optimism won’t kill you you know and if you lose, try again, or try something else and maybe put ice skates on when you go for a walk.

Calming the Storm

Sax Player

I am slowly going crazy, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Switch.

 

When I was in art school we were taught almost nothing about the business of/around producing art. This was university. This was art. Business didn’t come into it. You created and if you were any good someone would notice.

Wrong.

But that’s a topic for another week.

When I began to write I went to a class, then I joined a writers group and checked out all the blogs on writing I could find. Correction. You cannot possibly go through all the writing blogs on the internet in one lifetime. Writers write and they love to write about writing. And writers write about the business of writing. In fact, they are very vocal about this topic, and the number one go-to seems to be social media. You must build a platform on social media.

Dutifully, I joined all the social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, Pinterest and later, Instagram.

At first, I liked Facebook. My children and their families, who I adore, live far away from me and this was a way to keep in touch with them. It was wonderful to see how the grandchildren were growing and the things they were doing.

Something unfortunate began to happen.

Let me say that I tend toward the naive, and I’m sure others would have caught what was happening much sooner than I did. I noticed it first during the last American election. The screaming and calling out, the unfriending. The writer community really got caught up in it. And I did too.

Then bit by bit I realized that everything had become a POLARIZING issue. I also realized that often in the slavering rants the facts had gone missing.

I find this beyond stressful and have had to step away.

So, what do you do when the world becomes too much? Too miserable? Too Awful?

Writer Chuck Wendig writes about it on his blog Terribleminds. He has his way and I have mine. I research. I make as sure as I can to have the facts. I do my best to be thoughtful and moderate, I listen to alternate points of view and I look for reason, and most of all I step away from the screen. I draw, I paint, I write, I read, and I listen to music. (right now, Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer. I know, stupid lyrics but I like the rhythm.)

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of interviews and reviews of Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now. It might not be your thing, but something positive is nice for a change.

Tracking Your Creative Production

Dissatisfaction

Shortly before the end of 2017 I was feeling dissatisfied with my creative output. We, as creatives often make these fuzzy goals in our heads, and then when somehow those fuzzy goals don’t magically become reality we get down on ourselves.

Plan

I decided to do two things.

  • Get a calendar and set more concrete goals.
  • Give myself a red star every time I met a writing goal, and a blue star every time I met a visual art goal.

Now, you can do all this on a Google Calendar–well, if you don’t care about the sparkly stars. I decided I needed both. I use the Google Calendar to set goals. When I’ve done a particular item I cross it off. But even better is my old-timey paper monthly calendar. I don’t set any goals there or write in any appointments. Instead, I write down what I did, and if it’s writing I get a red star and when it’s painting I get a blue star.

Results

Shiny! Shiny! I’m astonished at how many shiny stars appeared on my calendar. Maybe I did more work because I was keeping track of it or maybe I’ve been working hard all along and didn’t give myself credit.

Even last week when I was laid low by that nasty flu, I managed the three digital pieces above and the analog drawing of a “rocker”, as well as revision of four chapters in my comedic boomer novella, entitled Hannah’s Hearing.

What about you? Do you give yourself the credit you deserve? Go ahead. Give yourself a gold star!

 

Third Time the Charm

Marie-Lyon

Painting by Marie Lyons, Welcome Summer, acrylic, 13.5″ x 13.5″

On January 31, 2018 I retired for the third time.

When you’re an artist you often can’t wait to lose the day job and do what you really want to do, but I can tell you there are perils to having all that free ‘alone’ time. It’s much harder to keep yourself going and organized than you might think, and it’s especially difficult if you are energized by social interactions.

Work is not the problem here.

Most creatives can’t help but work, but the isolation, and the fear that you’ve missed the boat–that the world has moved on in your creative field and left you behind–is a pretty miserable thing to contemplate.

I think young artists experience this too and I know only one answer to that kind of misery.

Keep on keeping on.

It might sound like the definition of madness, but you’re not going to let that bother you, are you?

The painting above is by Marie Lyon who began her art study when she was 53. She’s now, 88 and continues to work. Read all about her at Debra Eve’s Later Bloomers. She sounds like a fun lady.

Believe in Your Art

 

A few days ago I posted a drawing on Instagram, and a lovely artist, Laureen Marchand made kind remarks on my drawing ability. Laureen is a fine artist. Make sure you check out the beautiful art on her website.

A Caution to Mentors and Mentees

There was a time, during my studies, when my fellow students thought perhaps I relied to heavily on my drawing virtuosity. A stunning concept for me because I knew nothing of such virtuosity. The criticism was kindly meant, but I have to admit it left me floundering for some time. I didn’t, however, let it end my love of drawing, and my intuitive belief that some of the work I was creating was quite good.

A little warning to Mentors, take care with your words. Speak kindly and make sure your mentee understands. And you who have the good luck to have a mentor, remember no one knows everything, and you must not blindly believe everything you’re told.

Love drawing? Go for it. Love figurative work? Do it. Love the swirl of colour? Create it. You have a gift. Use it.

It’s a New Year!

Cezannes Jar
Cezanne’s Jar, Collage on Canvas, Eve Barbeau

Every year, at this time I get a little manic. It’s both a delicious and slightly uncomfortable feeling made up of anticipation and fear, of potential and possible failure.

Okay, so failure goes without saying. You’re going to fail this year. I’m going to fail, but man! Look at all that potential.

We can try anything. And, I’m biased I know, but how about trying something new in the “Maker” arena today?

  • Do you like to cook? Learn to make something delicious.
  • How about electronics? Go ahead, order that Raspberry Pi kit with Arduino, and make something.
  • Sew a new dress.
  • Write a short story.
  • Paint a picture. Sure, go digital, that’s fine.
  • Throw a pot!

Hey, not like that. You know I meant for you to create a pot on a wheel or hand build one if you prefer.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of having made something.

Sometimes you fail, yes, that’s life, but you always learn, and that is the most exciting part of it all. You learn.

I already know I’m going to take David Schmid’s course on mystery writing (The Great Courses) and a whole lot of classes in psychology.

What about you? What are you planning to learn and make this year?

The artwork above is one I made some years ago. I used a process of sticking down many little bits of paper (on canvas) until I began to realize an image of sorts. This one came out looking a bit like a Cezanne painting.