Art Break – How I Ease My Stress

It was a bright and sunny day today.  It was a great opportunity to break from my studio to stretch out my legs and get some sunshine.  I’ve been practicing martial arts for the past year now and I’ve learned some great techniques/forms that one can utilize for stress reduction, as well as strengthening the body.  If “art” is in the name of the activity, I’m pretty much in!

Here’s a demo of one of my favorite forms.

Week 3 — Recovering My Power

The Artist’s Way, Week 3

“This week may find you dealing with unaccustomed bursts of energy and sharp peaks of anger, joy, and grief.  You are coming into your power as the illusory hold of your previously accepted limits is shaken.  You will be asked to consciously experiment with spiritual open-mindedness.”

Week 3 suggested an encounter with anger, joy and grief.  Not that I looked forward to delving into any anger issues — that was my first reaction to the sentence.  Reading through the chapter, my perception was misguided.  The chapter had more to do with recognizing where the anger originated.  Am I upset because I didn’t get to play today? Or because I hadn’t yet eaten? Or because whatever was said or not said triggered a feeling of regret or some pained memory of childhood misdeeds? Whatever the cause, having a sense of where the anger resided allowed me to focus the feelings and direct it to an engaging activity of “Let’s do something about it.”  This week was more about taking action then analyzing every neurotic childhood experienced faults.  There was some of that and it was not the main focus, at least for me.  Last week’s lesson was about having fun and enjoying what I do.  This week took me further and had me creating lists.  Now for friends that know me, a list is about the last thing I care to create.  Yet I found that lists have served me in the past during my success as a software developer, so why would it not serve me now, as an artist?  It’s a way for me to stay organized and frees up my creative brain to focus on the current task and then go back to work on the next.

During the course of the week, there were bursts of anger, joy and grief.  Did it affect my work week? Sure it did!  Having the awareness of my feelings helped to tone them down.  I was able to work through them.  Knocking out two-thirds off my list, created an otherwise gloomy week of rain and cloud-filled days into a hopefully productive week.  It makes finding rainbows in the sky that much more enjoyable, instead of burying my head in a pile of tasks not knowing where to start or end.

Here’s one quote that helped me through the week:

Being a professional is doing the thing you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
— Julius Erving a.k.a. Dr J.

Rise and Shine

Another Project 100 inspired paintings from Day 18, 19 & 20 — The Migration. Returning to the source of inspiration, I’ve modeled the radiating mountain-scape with its snow-capped peaks and ranges.  Mount Baker provided the inspiration for this triptych.  Being surrounded by the Cascades and being up high makes these mountain-scapes worth painting with gorgeous bright colors and rolling clouds that illuminate sunny mornings.   I love to wake up to these sunlit days.

These paintings are mounted onto my hand-made custom frames—prepped and ready to hang on your wall.

Currently, this painting is being displayed at the 3rd Street Flats in McMinnville, Oregon as featured art for one of their rental units themed, “The Pearl”.

{ Click on image for larger view }

Week 2 — Identity Recovery

The Artist’s Way—Week 2

This week addresses self-definition as a major component of creative recovery.  You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires and interests announce themselves.  The essays and tools are aimed at moving you into your personal identity, a self-defined you.

This week’s journey was a long hike up a zig-zag dirt path through a thick forest with the end of the trail out of sight.  That’s what it felt.  Early in the week, I had the high from the previous week’s painting outburst.  Will I continue with the energy and flow right into week 2?  It didn’t quite happen like that.  Instead, upon doing some of the exercises, I found myself re-evaluating my daily habits.  That line of questioning led to self-denial about my lack of discipline towards my own self-care.  Laying myself on the couch for a quick nap and slowly becoming a sleep-filled afternoon, Sarah’s out stretched hand and words woke me into alertness.  “You said you wanted to finish some paintings today.  I’m here to help you achieve that.  Let’s go!” That may not have been her exact words, yet it sounded an alarm in my mind and told me to accept her hand and move towards my easel.  Sleeping as a way of procrastination was not going to win today.

Often I have succumbed to “I’m tired” and “I’m sleepy” to forego my plans for the day, like finishing a painting.  It has to do with self-care.  When I’m in the thick of my worry-filled mind, I will put aside activities that give me joy and bring fun to my life.  When the exact opposite is required.  I take myself too seriously at times and that is a detriment to my creativity.  It came to a head later in the week when watching a movie with friends.  It was one of those situations where every scene reminded me of some scene in my life and I could not join in the laughter—that my friends so easily were bursting out loud.  Why should I laugh at my failures or the so called eccentric artist self-absorbed in his own reality?  Well doh!!!!  It dawned on me that I was self-absorbing and had to laugh at that absurdity.  Quite ridiculous!  I started to enjoy the movie and found great humor in both the sequences of events leading to that moment and the movie’s message to me.  “Have some FUN!”

That was the plan for the rest of the week.  Enjoy life.  Share the moments with people I love and have some fun.  Making home-made gluten free pizza and dancing sure helps put life into perspective.  That made finishing 3 more paintings for the week quite gratifying. It turns out that the zig-zag path does lead out of the thick forest and one can enjoy the journey regardless.

“Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” — Eddie Cantor

Week 1 — Creative Recovery

The Artist’s Way, Week 1

“This week initiates your creative recovery.  You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical.  The readings, tasks, and exercises aim at allowing you to establish a sense of safety, which will enable you to explore your creativity with less fear.”

That was the short description of week 1’s objective.  The focus was to identify core negative beliefs that creep out from the confines of my mind.  Because they are creeps!  They’re quite spontaneous and often times very subtle.  Without proper attention to them, I could spend the rest of my day wallowing in fear, regret and/or downright frustration.  In the past, I would be replaying the overwhelming, screeching voice in my head. “You are a failure!” “You’re not good enough!” This time, these voices were an old friend – an old boyhood chum, who’d run the playground with you in holed sneakers and dirt stained shirts through pouring rain.  His voice was a sly whisper in my ear making off-the-mark comments, instigating the fear — “that wasn’t what we wanted.”  “We weren’t meant for that kind of life.”  “Who needs that crap!”  “Who cares!”  Oh, the talks. Different voice, same message. So sweet to the ear with only thing as its prime objective—to build a blockade to full creativity.

Julia Cameron has a great way of explaining her concepts with her personal story.  She’s been there and she’s successfully unleashed her creativity.  One of the items I’m finding helpful and really appreciating is her idea of Morning Pages.  Each day I wake up and write 3 pages of whatever comes to mind.  The mundane to the frustrated ego to the affirming thoughts of possibility to the universe.  These are private pages to help unleash my self-absorbed mind.  Late last month in December, I started jotting my dreams each morning.  This exercise allowed me to build on that dream journaling and turn into a mental release.  I don’t reread them, nor do I share them.  That’s one of the covenants that Julia recommends.  It creates a safe place for “my creative self” to be free and explore.   I’ve found myself experiencing that little kid, growing up and being told “you’re too small” or “you’re too skinny”.  My family didn’t mean to disparage my ego with these statements.  The statements were true.  I was smaller than my brothers and much skinnier. My younger brother was at my height throughout our youth.  The constant messages molded in my mind that I was too small to do anything—not big enough for the tasks.  There it is “I’m not enough.”  That was my core negative belief.  Once identified, then Julia makes the point to replace that negative belief with a positive affirmation.  It’s helping, it’s supporting my recovery.  I repeat it to myself constantly throughout the day.  I end my morning pages with the affirmation.  It’s a step towards my happiness—creating art.  Freeing myself of screaming whispers.  Creating a new best friend, a happy artist friend.

This is week 1.  I had several cranky moments of frustration, a day of procrastination, and several bouts with my “not enough monster.”  I also finished 4 paintings and started 2 more.  Am I on my way to recovery?  I would hope so.  I’m trusting the process and continuing forward.  One step at a time.

Koi Companions

Zen Series painting depicting two koi.  Their eyes meet and recognition is immediately conveyed.  Two companions laugh at the wonder of their chance meeting.  It’s about to get fun in the fish pond.  They swim and enjoy their moments together.

{ Click on image for larger view }

Sunrise over Three Sisters

This Project 100 inspired painting is from Day 18, 19 & 20 – The Migration.  The first painting depicted a surreal Cascades mountain-scape.  This time around, I wanted to portray the Three Sisters near Bend, Oregon.  The mountains naturally give a great composition for a triptych—creating a separate mountain-scape for each mountain and yet contributing to the whole.  I loved the rising sun and its illuminating rays of sunlight onto the mountains.  The bright colors are used to create an energetic upswing of radiance.

This painting has been mounted onto one of my hand-made custom frames.  The wood frame has been prepped and ready to hang on your wall.

{ Click on image for larger view }

Finding My Happiness

Happy New Year!  It’s a 2011. Time to evaluate the past year and plan for the next.  2010 was filled with many challenges for myself — striving through health, struggles with creativity and rediscovering my artist.  It is said that “we are the sum of our thoughts,” then 2010 represented my fear of being the archetypal “starving artist.”  Physically and realistically I was not starving, although spiritually I exhibited this archetype.  I was lost; unable to sustain full creativity — let alone pick up my paint brush at times.  Call it “Painter’s Block.”  My creative well was drying and my starvation for inspiration resulted in creating an unhealthy physical body.  I was sick; sick of not creating art.  I realize now that I’ve tied my passion for Art to my entire being.  Art has always been my passion and thus my life.  The latter part of 2010 found me rediscovering the joy of painting and my desire to create art.  For 2011, I want to continue on this path of “Finding my happiness.”

As far back as I can remember, creating art has always made me happy.  This last year showcased this fact.  I was told by friends and family of the remarkable difference of “seeing me in my element.”  When painting, I was free to explore my emotions and release onto the canvas.  This was not the case with the other parts of my life.  I was regularly cranky and behind my smiles & laughter was an angry child.  Angry that things were not as I envisioned them.  I started wallowing in that anger and that crept into my creativity.  I for one thrive on my personal happiness and when I am not feeling that way, my creativity is blocked.  I’ve learned from my one hundred days of painting, that I can paint regardless of my mood.  This past year provided a challenge to that notion.  I was finding it more and more difficult.  “Finding My Happiness” for 2011 is my theme — my mantra for creativity.  With that theme in mind, I hope to portray the uplifting, the inspiring, the joy and the exuberance for life in my paintings.

To assist me in this adventure, my friend turned me on to the book by Julia Cameron w/ Mark Bryan, entitled The Artist’s Way.  After reading the introduction and first two chapters, I discovered that there is a 12 week workshop of “discovering and recovering” one’s creative self.  The opportunity is presenting itself and this time I’m walking through the door.  This week marks the first week of my journey.  I hope to share with you my insights, foibles and discoveries during the next 12 weeks.  This is an exciting adventure and I’m nervous with anticipation on who I’ll find at the end of this 12 week journey.