Summer time and the livin’ is easy

Ah, it’s summer. Time to relax, unwind, enjoy complete freedom and fun, right? Right?? That’s what everyone else is doing, according to the always accurate, always honest world of social media. And clearly that’s how it SHOULD feel according to every magazine and television commercial out there. So why do I feel like I can’t catch my breath? Probably because I’m human. Or more accurately, because I’m human and I have two small people in my house.

ALL.

THE.

TIME!

Why won’t they leave me alone???

I’m just kidding. I really am. Sorta. I am so acutely aware of how quickly these moments pass and I truly want to enjoy them. But to be honest I enjoy them a bit more when I have a few minutes to gather my thoughts and I enjoy them a lot more if I have a chunk of time to paint.

I’m working on that, though.

That balance. That flow.

Because isn’t that life? Things just aren’t going to line up smoothly all the time. Right now it’s for the wonderful reason that my children are tiny and school is out. At some point it may be for a harder reason. Who knows?

But I do know I have to paint. I have to find that time for my work. If I don’t, I stagnate. Then I’m no good to anyone.

So I’m working on it. And hopefully I’ll have something to share with you soon. But for right now I’m movin’ a little slow.

Out with the old… eventually

 

Christmas 2014 when my daughter was 3, my father-in-law and his wife gave all the grandkids boots. What a hit! My little girl wore hers constantly- I even had to talk her out of wearing them on the beach- and they quickly became her trademark. But, like kids tend to do, she’s growing. Quickly. And by this past Christmas it was time for a new pair. They were replaced by a pair of brown boots with colorful stitching on the sides. She took to them immediately. It took a little longer for me. They were so grown-up and I wasn’t ready.

She’s getting so big, so fast. The 4-year-old in brown boots is so different from the 3-year-old in pink boots. So different and yet the same. I love watching her grow up. I love watching her change. But it also breaks my heart a little. So when I requested she pick out some things to give away and she brought me her pink boots, I almost cried. The sentimental packrat in me wanted to hold on to them… just because. She’s right, though. It’s time to move on. But not without commemoration and one last look.

Pink Boots- watercolor journal entry

Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter…

 

Molly's Tree- pen and ink doodle

Molly’s Tree- pen and ink doodle

There’s a certain pleasant tension, a pressure of life that’s seems palpable in Spring. Moist air weighs on tender new grass, which in turn stretches up toward the sun. Buds push their way through branches’ fingertips and unfurl into fleshy leaves. Tulips and daffodils press their way upward through soft, fresh dirt. It feels like all of nature is pulsing. Can you feel it? Whether you realize it or not I bet you can. Is your step just a little lighter? Do you long to shed un-needed layers, whether of clothing, flesh, or sadness? It’s Spring. Get outside and soak it in.

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Daffodils- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

Violets- watercolor sketch

“Wasted” Day

The day did not look promising.

Mother’s Day Out (along with all other schools) had been needlessly cancelled due to the threat of “inclement weather,” which in the end, presented itself only in dreary rain. I had a to-do list a mile-and-a-half long, restless energy, and a two-year-old who wouldn’t even let me check my email without destroying things in a bid for my attention. Frustrated and focused on “not wasting the day,” I buzzed around her, attempting to check items off my list, snapping and sighing in annoyance. And then little arms wrapped themselves around my legs. And then a little voice said, “Mommy, can you hold me?” And then I got smart and stopped wasting my day.

Instead we snuggled up on the couch and watched a movie. We made a dozen marker drawings.We used up all her finger paints and created a mural on the wall of the bathtub. Then we rinsed it away and used up some fancy bath gels I was saving for a rainy day (What better opportunity?) and splashed around in the foam.

And the wasted day became a success.

It’s all about balance… well, mostly

ImageArt is a pretty sedentary activity. Luckily my other love is exercise of many different forms. One of my favorites- yoga. Often times during the relaxation period at the end of class when my thoughts are flowing gently ideas are formed, solutions uncovered, connections made. This morning, however, my revelation came during a balance pose. Having a revelation during a balance pose, by the way, can make you topple, so I gently tucked in the back of my brain to ponder over later. Now is later.

Imagine this: You’re trying a pose that seems unfamiliar, unnatural- say, for example, something on one foot (or in this case, on your head). You wobble, you teeter. Then what do you do? You laugh self-consciously or panic, you scrunch up, you shrink in, you become smaller. Do that, however, and you most assuredly will fall. However, if you keep your poise, lift up, expand with control, stretch out and grow you have a much better chance at success.

It seems to me that the same thing happens when we meet challenges or unfamiliar territory (or even just awkward situations) in life. If we become self-conscious, fearful of failure, insecure, and shrink into our small, seemingly safe little box, we most assuredly lose our balance. Instead, expand with control (“with control” being the optimum phrase here). Stretch. Be strong and test your limits. You still may fall, but I can almost guarantee it will be with more grace. And if you don’t fall? Congrats.

I’m not writing this from a position of authority. I’m really writing this TO myself. This is my challenge for myself in the upcoming year- to live expansively, generously, openly, un-self-consciously, without fear and shrinking… and if I fall, to fall with grace, then get back up and try again.

Oprah can do it, why not me?

I’ve discovered a few new favorite things and I’d like to share them with you!

#1- Grey palette paper

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Who knew it would make such a difference, but it’s SO much easier to see color against the neutral grey than against white. Worth the tiny bit extra. The brand I’ve been using is Jack Richeson and co, inc “Grey Matters Paper Pallette.” There are probably others out there, that’s just what my favorite art supply store, Forstall Art Center in Birmingham carries.

#2- A nice palette knife

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For far too long I’ve been thrifty (*ahem*, cheap) and made due with a plastic palette knife that wasn’t even the right shape. I would show you, but I actually threw it away after I used this one. It was one of those long, flat ones that looks like it’s made for buttering toast, not mixing paint. Again, who knew it’d make such a difference?

#3- Gamblin’s Solvent Free medium

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This is new and I love it. I used to use Liquin, but in hopes of keeping my studio as non-toxic as possible, I had to kick it to the curb. So far this seems like a great alternative.

#4- Bristlon Silver paintbrushes

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These brushes have great loading capabilities. I can put as much or as little paint on my surface with ease. Plus, they seem to hold up really well. That’s really saying a lot because I can be TOUGH on some brushes.

My Virtuous Vice

I have a vice. It’s probably one a lot of you share. Like many vices, it’s hard to resist. It’s not normally seen as a vice. In fact, in this culture of more more more, it’s typically viewed as virtuous.

Multi-tasking

The following is a true story, and typical:

I put on moisturizer in the morning. While waiting for the moisturizer to soak in, I begin brushing my teeth. When I reach for the toothpaste I notice a cup on the bathroom counter than needs to go in the dishwasher, so toothbrush in mouth, cup in hand, I head to the kitchen. When I get there I realize the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, so one-handed (I’m still brushing my teeth with the other hand) I begin unloading the dishwasher. Teeth brushed, dishwasher half-unloaded, I return to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and put away my toothbrush. While there, I realize I never finished applying my make-up. Powder on, mascara out, I realize I never finished unloading the dishwasher. Mascara applied quickly, I return to the kitchen where I find my husband, unaware that the dishwasher was half-unloaded (because really, why should it be??) putting dirty dishes in the with the clean. Amidst all of this there is also some toddler juggling going on. This. Should. Not. Happen.

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So, in a quest for sanity, peace of mind, and just all-around efficacy, I’m trying to rid myself of my multi-tasking ways AND as I’m going to tell you all about it (Didn’t you know I would?).

In a Rut?

A friend of mine is in an art rut. Man, do I know that feeling!! I’m sure everyone out there has at some point or another. You’re not excited about anything you’re doing, it feels like a chore, but then if you don’t do anything at all you get that stressed out, tight, sad, tangled up feeling. Do you know what I mean? Those are the best words I can use to describe it.

I’ve noticed, though, that if I just keep moving, once I come out on the other side of an artistic crisis my work is better for it. In Walking in this World (the follow-up to The Artist’s Way) Julia Cameron points out that often what we refer to as break downs should really be thought of as break-ups, like an icy river breaking up in the spring. Once I was able to think of it that way, these periods of creative drought didn’t feel so scary. These ruts are not permanent. They’re just bumps and valleys we have to pass through to come out on the other side. It’s like the Pilgrim’s Progress of the creative life.

But, in the meantime, while we’re in them, they stink. So, here’s a list of ways I’ve found to help me keep moving through artist’s block:

1) First and foremost- Relax! This is not permanent. You are not doomed to forever live in a desolate artistic valley, devoid of creativity. Forget about your “responsible” reasons for needing to create (“I have a show coming up,” “I need to sell some more paintings,” “I’m trying to build my portfolio,” etc) and remember your real reason for creating. I paint because I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t. Period.

2) Do something that’s not your style. I think there’s a lot of pressure on artists of all kinds to have a recognizable “voice.” To have a style that people see and say, “Oh, that’s Erin Hardin’s work,” or whatever. That can get stifling, though. When I got thoroughly stressed out and bored by my super detailed paintings on metal, I started creating these little, simpler paintings.

I didn’t care in anyone even saw them. I just had to do something. I had to paint because, like I said above, I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t.

3) Change your surroundings. Can you reorganize or redecorate your art space? If you normally paint in the basement, can you move it to the kitchen table for a while? This may also mean…

4) Changing your medium.  If you normally paint, draw. If you normally draw, try watercolor. Or do something completely different like writing a detailed description of the cashier at the grocery store, the smell of the rosemary by your front door, the vase you got as a wedding present. You have a zillion facets to your personality and to your creativity. Explore them.

5) Try thinking of life as art. If you can cultivate a creative mindset in things that you might not normally think of as artistic endeavors, not only will that mindset become a habit, but also it will spill over into your studio life. Explore a little bit. Take a different route to the grocery store and enjoy meandering. Beautify your surroundings. Plant some fresh fresh flowers and enjoy the feel of the dirt. Try not to be so goal oriented and enjoy the process. You’ll get the same end result but with a better journey. Notice and appreciate the multitude of things that make life beautiful.

Most of all, just keep moving. You’re committed to your art and like any relationship it will go through ups and downs. Weather the downs and you will be rewarded with higher ups. Would any relationship be rewarding if it was always placid and stagnant?

What about you? Do you have a favorite tip for beating artist’s block? Please share! We could all use a little help sometimes.

Scary Diversion

In our house October is scary movie month. Almost every night for the entire month (after the little one has retired, of course) my husband and I watch a scary movie, or at least a scary t.v. show. We run the gamut from campy silly to scary horror.

I know this is an art blog and way off subject, but I thought you might want to put down the paintbrush and grab some candy corn and join me. Here’s what we’ve watched so far and my rating, in case you’re interested. Ratings are shown with * on a 5 point scale (I hardly ever give anything 5 stars, so 4 is really good).

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By the way, who decided this looked like corn?

Cabin in the Woods: Fun movie. Kinda scary, fairly gory, very witty- a different view on the whole “scary movie formula” (you know- the dumb blonde, the athlete, the good girl, the goofy friend, the smart one, etc.) A Joss Whedon creation…he pretty much does no wrong, so his movies and show are always a good bet. ****

The Awakening: Really good. It has that quiet, creepy style of The Others. Not gory. Scary while you’re watching it, but it doesn’t leave you feeling afraid to turn out the light. ****

Hellraiser: Terrible. Supposedly a classic, but the acting was distractingly bad (I know that’s a campy scary movie requirement, but this one wasn’t even trying to be campy). *

Ghostbusters: What can I even say? It’s Ghostbusters! ***.5

I Sell the Dead: Witty, campy gory, fun to watch. Dominic Monaghan (you know, Charlie from Lost, Meri  from Lord of the the Rings) stars. ****

Intruders: Really really good. Another one that keeps you feeling creeped out while you’re watching it, but doesn’t leave you terrified. ****

Clue: I forgot how fun this movie is. Just quirky enough to watch with a group of quirky friends who don’t like actually scary movies. ***.5

Trick or Treat: Favorite Halloween movie. A comic book style movie involving several intersecting plot lines. Kinda scary, but not nightmare inducing scary. Good scary fun. *****

As for scary t.v. shows, we’ve been watching an anime cartoon called, Blood. We haven’t watched much of it, so I can’t rate it, but I like it so far.

Enjoy!