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.

Every Picture Tells a Story

This is Baby Monkey. My little girl’s best buddy. Her constant companion for the better part of her life. So loved is Baby Monkey that I worried about her safety, constantly checking to see that she hadn’t been left behind at stores, hotels, airports. The perfect size to clutch in a chubby little 3-year-old fist, she went everywhere with us.

But my little girl isn’t 3 anymore. She’s 6. Tall, headstrong, funny, bold. Baby Monkey stays home most of the time nowadays, no longer making trips to the grocery store and school. Recently, though, after a long day out my daughter said, “I want to go home. I want to go home and see Baby Monkey.”

Still special. Still loved.

In Full Bloom

I just finished this commission and I love it. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. However, it began the way many of my paintings began.

It began with love.

A couple. A wedding in an exotic locale surrounded by the people that love them best. And flowers. Beautiful flowers.

Five years later, that wedding is a marriage- no longer just a celebratory statement of love, but a daily, quiet, steady, continual recommitment to a relationship with kids, a mortgage, and all the trappings. And through that weekday love, the memory of that wedding, and those flowers, glows bright.

Five years. The flower anniversary. As a gift to each other they chose this: a daily reminder to hang in the heart of their home of that beautiful day, that embrace of family and friends, and those flowers.

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

IMG_0817

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

IMG_0818

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

IMG_0826

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

IMG_0820

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.

Trust me, it all connects.

For about a week now I’ve been attempting to NOT multi-task. Harder than it seems but surprisingly effective. Crazy as it sounds, I feel calmer and I actually feel like I’ve gotten more done. Even on days like last Monday when my dog licked a 10″ square portion of oil paint off a painting I’d been working on for two hours (FYI in case this happens to you- feed them and give them peptobismal. This is on a vet’s recommendation. She didn’t have a recommendation for what to do about the painting). I even managed to (for the most part) not multi-task when 20+ family members came into town for my daughter’s second birthday. It’s amazing how much nicer… calmer life seems when you’re really doing one thing at a time. However, I discovered a secret hidden area where I multi-task.

My brain.

That sneaky brain! Always trying to think about something else while I’m doing something entirely different. So, I’ve been working on mindfulness. Life’s too short and too precious to let moments slip away unnoticed while we’re not looking. So, several times a day I’ve tried to stop my inner narrative, my to-do lists, etc and notice where I am. Chances are it’s no place obviously special, but inevitably when I stop to notice there are special things about it. My brain is hyper. It’s hard to teach it to sit still for long. But, a little reminder several times a day, focusing for just a few scant seconds at a time, and I already notice it’s calming down.

On the subject of focusing on one thing at a time, in my latest painting I (mainly) focused on one color. White. I JUST finished it about 20 minutes ago, but I’m eager to share it.

IMG_0734

“Dare to Dream”
12″x16″
Oil on Linen

Man I love color!!! Look at all the zillion colors you can find just in white! Sorry, like I said, hyper brain. Anyway, this was really fun to do. And clearing my mind of all distractions and just looking for that myriad of colors imbedded in white paper and a white background was a great lesson in mindfulness. Tada! This blog post has come full circle. Namaste.

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.

New in the Gallery

Don’t you love those errands that take you to an enjoyable part of town on gorgeous early fall days? Last week I dropped off some pictures at Little House Galleries in Homewood. Little House resides on Linden, one street over from Homewood’s main shopping destination. If you’re in the Birmingham area, go by and check them out! Tell my paintings I said, “Hi!” and grab a cup of coffee at O’Henry’s Coffee.