This post is part “How-To” and part “Creative Life Lessons.” I had been talking about putting this chalkboard up since my studio-office was in the last studio-office (which is now our son’s room). I… More
I’m always thinking about, and talking about, “staying the art.” This is my tried and true method for keeping the gremlins at bay and my soul full.
There are ebbs and flows with art, as with anything, and so it is with the holiday season. It is so, so, so easy to say “Fugheddaboutit!” – drop the pencils and pens and markers and paintbrushes and notebooks and ideas, and just take in the holidays for all of their wonder.
But then … that’s too difficult.
It’s too difficult to let those things go without losing momentum, calling forth the wolves of fear and the creativity-killing gremlins. Lord knows, I am busy and it would be very easy to sleep in until 6am in order to catch up on lost sleep, to focus my time solely on family gatherings and food and fun, to channel all of my energy into these last two weeks at work before a two week vacation, and to say “Hey, I get 2 weeks off, so I will just MEGA MAKE then!”
But if I just stop because of those reasons?
- I’ll be super sad
- I’ll be very easily irritated (just ask my wife)
- I’ll have a tired soul
- The ideas bursting in my head that can’t come forth in the tangible world will make me feel excited, then sad, then mad, then guilty, then lost and uninspired
So it isn’t worth it to drop everything, but I also know that I can’t continue to work at the same pace as I do the rest of the year, without losing my mind. And I am getting close … this morning on the way to school, I looked at the passenger seat and noticed my drill sitting there. Why did I bring a drill to school?! Losing. It.
It’s now about a shift in perspective.
I am doing the following in order to feel successful, to feel growth, to honour my need and desire to create, and to stay in the art while stepping back a bit:
- I’ve focused my “to do” list on things that will bring me creative freedom: exploration, the things that have been tugging at my heart but I haven’t been fitting in (for me, right now, that is a few traditionally painted pieces over the prints I’ve been making for my shop, commissions and some writing/illustrating passion projects)
- Continue to carve out some time. It just may be less. Be okay with that. Last week, I worked from 5am-6am on my picture book dummy, and then at night, I worked on a commission. I was filling every little space with making art, and by the end of the week, I was exhausted. This week and next, I’m finding that time, acknowledging it, and then only choosing to fill it with art for some of the time. I need to remember to breathe.
- Get lost. Light a candle and play some great music. I love discovering new music with Youtube’s autoplay – I start with something that I like and a few songs in I am usually discovering something new. With the candle on the table, I’m breathing and experiencing the moment. It is a bit of a ritual, and I love getting lost in those moments.
- I’ve given myself permission to explore and fail. I always have this in the back of my mind, but I am REALLY focused on it right now. Frankly, I think I am trying to fail and rule out what isn’t working for me. While I’m painting, I keep saying to myself, “Self, if this sucks, just don’t show anyone. If this is a failure, you can paint over it.” I’m trying to remind my deepest self that it is NOT wasting time to make failed art – just making it is a success.
- I’m journalling. I always WANT to journal and talk about it, but I have yet to make this practice stick. I usually don’t know what to say or write about, and feel awkward telling things to myself, so instead I have recently been making a page per week that I add to over time. I ask myself a question and I look for answers in my every day experiences. Which brings me to the next point, because this has been the focus of my journalling …
- These last couple of weeks – which, by the way, lead up to me realizing that it was
time to step back and just make – I’ve been intentionally seeking out beauty. The little things. THAT is inspiring – when you notice the nuance of the light or the way the snow lilts in the air; the inflection of a two year old’s voice or the whole-body-smile of a ten week old human being. Finding this beauty will shift perspectives, big time.
- I don’t have a massive list of projects or goals. My list is more about being in the art, making stuff, and being present. Listening. It’s about taking some time to think about it, without a big product at the end. In essence, this is what all making is about, but of course, at some point we want to have something to show for our process. The next two weeks, though, aren’t about product, but are most certainly about process.
- Find some little fun projects that relate to the holidays. My wife and I have, for the last ten years, been making each other an ornament for Christmas. We go to the art store and we each have 5 minutes and $10, and we secretly race around the store looking for what we need and stealthily purchase the materials, then make-make-make in our alone time and give the gift on Christmas Eve. This fun activity keeps me thinking creatively, but isn’t about something I will post or share or sell.
- Make something with someone else – like a kid. I painted last night with my 2 year old, and he mostly directed me. We painted on a hardboard canvas with watercolor over crayon scribbled, and then he suggested that we add salt. The results were really quite pretty, and since I was making with him, there was no pressure – it was just about being together. But, my soul was filled.
In order to stay creative and in the art over the busy holidays, we need to focus on the art – not on skills, not on techniques, not even on the finished thing that we made, but simply being in the moment, being in the art, and being a creator.
And most importantly – remember to listen.
Call it style or call it your look or the feel or whatever you want – we are talking about Voice. Writing or art, it doesn’t matter.
Your voice is the bit of you that is scientifically undetectable, until you have found it. It’s the little curls of lines and the way you turn a phrase. It grows and shifts and evolves over time. It’s the innate YOUness that radiates through your work.
To find out what your voice is:
1. Take a selection of the pieces (words or art) you just love from the last few years and look at them together.
2. Ask: Which are the ones I’m proud of? Which excite me?
3. Look for: commonalities between 3-4 pieces (or more – you’re looking for a pattern, be it color or line work or how that line curves, or a general vibe that you can’t name but you can see; you’re looking for how you weave a sentence together and how that works with its neighbours to become a paragraph and a page or a chapter; you’re looking for how you whittle words stylistically and when it works and when it doesn’t).
4. Consider: what don’t I like and how do I address that? Remember to give it some breathing room: do not analyze the thing you made or wrote last night.
5. Forget it all and just keep working. Your youness can’t be nailed down and it shouldn’t be caged. You need to keep working and it will show itself more and more. The issue is when you focus on style or voice over the practice of writing. Just make and let the voice rise up.
6. When you have stopped trying to “find your style”, your style will somehow find you.
7. Enjoy the process.
8. Repeat every few months or years.
9. Remember to show up.
I’ve often thought about what the ultimate strategy for creating might be – you know, like it is some magic bit of alchemy. I thought that knowing this secret would mean I could just make great stuff without even trying.
I thought, if I tell everyone I’m an artist and a writer, then when I finally sit down to make said art and words, they will just flow.
But it’s not a faucet. It takes work.
I’ll let you in on THE biggest, best-kept, hiding-in-plain-sight secret to it all.
Just show up. When you show up, you’re not really just showing up. If you do it regularly enough, it becomes a practice, and that takes discipline, and that is what happily creating is all about.
You show up. You arrive with an intention: to create. Whether it is for five minutes, half an hour, an hour, or if you have the luxury of a half day (or, gasp, a day?!): you arrive intentionally and you create.
And then you do it again.
Until you can proudly, confidently say: I am creative. I make things. I make things up. I tell stories, I sing songs, I make the world beautiful and thoughtful.
Want more strategies to increase and improve your creative time? Check out these other posts:
Don’t forget to check out my new Etsy shop, too! There are 10 different prints, with more coming soon!
Fear. Elizabeth Gilbert says you can’t live without it, but recommends you tell it to pipe down and keep quiet. This is a work in progress for me.
So, I ordered an art printer, and set a date to open an Etsy shop. December 1st – that’s in 4 hours. I went through my art, I made some new pieces, I tweaked and repainted ones that were good, but not good enough. I have test printed dozens, and tried to get the word out there.
Fear keeps whispering: “Who is going to even look, let alone buy?!” And I keep saying: “Shut it, man!” Because the thing is, the worst thing that happens is that I don’t sell anything and I get to use this fancy printer all for myself.
I’ve changed the way I approach making art. I’ve been working – soul work – to make art JUST for me. It’s always better that way. And I figure, if it’s better, someone else might want it in their world, too. So I am putting it out there to them, whoever they are, so that they can have a slice of my happy art.
The truth is, I’m terrified! When you put your art and ideas out there, you are vulnerable. You’re open to the criticism of strangers and you worry when no one shares or likes or comments. But the bigger truth is: my soul is begging me to expand my making, and share my positive vibes with a larger audience. So, here we go.
Fear wants us to fail. It wants us to doubt and curl up and watch Netflix until we are zombies. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good Netflix binge – but I love making stuff (up) more. So I am sticking it to Fear and going ahead and posting my listings and offering a bit of my own magic to anyone who wants it.
Just be kind!
So, I give you three options for a simple, whimsical and yet sophisticated design.
Hang it in a white or black frame and it will pop! Office, entrance, kids rooms, the kitchen, anywhere people gather or where you to be alone – this will remind you: be kind. To each other, to yourself, and to the places and things around you.
The weather outside is getting a tad frightful, but art can be so delightful! This sweet guy is stuffed in tight and ready for some Canadian winter fun!
I created the bones for this piece 2 years ago, and brought it to life for this Thursday’s shop opening. At 8×10, this print will remind you all winter why the snow isn’t so bad.
Here’s a peek at my process, while we’re on the topic of Let It Snow:
Check back tomorrow, because I am posting more sneak-peeks!
Eat What You Love/Love What You Eat is the first print I am sharing in my countdown to Shop Opening Day: December 1st! That’s Thursday, friends!!
All of my prints, for December, will be set at $25 for an 8×10, and I will be posting a Coupon on Wednesday to help you save and shop small!
Eat What You Love/Love What You Eat is about indulging, and if you’ve been following my blog, Instagram, or Facebook page, then you know that this is what I am all about. I am living my life joyfully and with wide eyes. While this image shows a happy chef dancing amongst his creations, it is also about being the happy chef who dances amongst your own creations.
So dig in!