Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Home Run, 36″ x 12″ x 2.75″, Mixed media collage on deep wood panel

Having spent my recent Saturday night at a minor league baseball game, I have begun thinking that as an artist I am no different than one of those players dressed in a striped uniform. I too must warm up, size up the opposition, determine how to play the game, learn from and correct my mistakes, and still pull off a win before the 9th inning.

Play Ball

Last Saturday we got there a few minutes early and everyone seemed to be frantically throwing balls to each other. But I could tell something else was also happening. I knew that with every throw they were also checking out the opposing players as well. It’s what I do every morning in my studio. I look at what’s on the easel or table and hope I’ve left myself a note as to my thinking the day before. If not, I miss the ball and have to chase the grounder. Do I start by reviewing new art by artists I love? Do I write about the art I am working on? Do I sketch? Do I start with a collage or just random painting? Sometimes it feels pretty frantic, so I imagine it looks that way as well. And yes, at some point during the day, I will definitely check to see what other artists are up to, though they are not opponents since no one is keeping score. Are they?

Right Off the Bat

It is always important to determine direction—to know what to do next. Am I working on a new painting or finishing one that is not yet complete? If I have made mistakes (never…), can I correct them easily or will it stretch into overtime. Every once in a while, a painting will come together quickly. It is probably because I have carried the image around in my head subconsciously for days or weeks. You would think that such a painting would be my home run.

Out of the Ballpark

But my home runs are different. It not a hit the first time I come up to bat. It’s the third or fourth time with 3 balls and 2 strikes. It’s the painting that I struggle with the most and that finally comes together. The others are just base hits, a double or a triple. When you put hours and hours into a piece and it finally feels right—when you know it’s good, that is the home run. Then you really feel as if you’re floating around the bases to home.

Sometimes I do strike out. And every once and while, I give up on a particular piece. It seems overworked and tired. But I immediately start again, sometimes on the same piece with a different twist. You see just like baseball, art gets into your blood. It becomes essential to your everyday life. There is no season; it’s a year-round pursuit. You are always in training, always playing the game.

So when do I get the striped uniform?

How I Found Time

Just playing on paper on the new easel.
Just playing on paper on the new easel.

Actually the phrase “found time” is ridiculous. As far as I know there are only 24 hours in a day. The biggest difference is how you use your time.

I Get Up Early

My husband and I get up at 5 a.m. No we are not runners or photographers who like the morning light. We are grandparents who want to make certain our grandsons are cared for until school begins at 8:15 a.m. and this particular daughter can get to her job as a health care professional by 7 a.m.

While occasionally it feels a little like a burden, that is rarely the case.  It usually feels like a gift—a gift of time we hadn’t counted on. And while we do this only four days a week, we tend to maintain the schedule most days. I get the luxury of the “extra” time every day, but my husband gets the “benefit” of an hour with his grandson. We wish this were the case for all three of them.

I Do Not Focus on Emails

On the days we linger in bed until 5:30 a.m., we both get to enjoy the quiet of the morning. This  means we can get things done without the interruption of phone calls. My husband writes music and reads, and I try to spend as much of this time as possible in my studio reading, writing, and painting. With no one else up you feel that you are hours ahead of most everyone else. I also know artists that paint at night, usually after 10 p.m. Again, it is quiet and they can focus on the brush strokes, the colors, the composition without a plea for their attention.

Of course, there are days I get to paint a lot more, but this morning time is time I can generally count on. The trick is that to accomplish this, I must not look at emails or facebook, etc. until at least 9 a.m. or at the very least be disciplined enough to limit myself to 10 minutes. It is way too easy even for me to get sucked in to the magic hole of the internet.

I Still Get 8 Hours Sleep

Trust me; I am not suggesting you get less sleep. You will find us in bed by at least 9:30 p.m. almost every night and often before that. In the end, it is a matter of choice. Finding time is about prioritizing and rescheduling. So while our choice is eliminating most television and a bunch of internet, it may not work for others.

I Focus on the Rewards

Even if it is an hour a day, for me it is worth the rearrangement of a few things. The older I get the more I hate hurrying and hassle, so anything that makes life a little calmer is worth trying. And believe me, the time I get provides pleasure, insight, and sanity. Not bad rewards.

Creative Source or Distraction?

The large bulletin board that occupies a wall in my studio. Today it’s a mishmash.

What I stare at each morning before I begin work is the huge bulletin board pictured here (about 4’ x 8’). It once occupied my studio at McColl Center for  Art + Innovation when I was fortunate enough to spend 11 months there as a resident several years back. Later I decided to hang it in my home studio.

Throwbacks Can Be Helpful

While the contents change from time to time, the simple structure and its flexibility does help to keep me focused—and inspired. I’m sure there is an app for doing the same thing, but I still need the quality of touch. We know writing something down helps us remember. And as a former writing instructor, I believe something happens between yours eyes and fingers and your brain.

When I look up this morning, the bulletin board contains in the center a picture of my brother who died last year and to the side photographs of my mother and me when she was less confused. There are quotes that inspire me, and awards that gratify me. Artwork by my grandsons is tacked along the bottom. It is a mishmash today. I doubt that I would focus anyway this close to Christmas, but I have noticed that it helps to constantly look at elements of my current projects.

Sometimes the Switch Is Always “On”

It is amazing to me how many artist friends say that they are ADD, that they have difficulty focusing. I’m showing my age here, but I’m not certain there was such a diagnosis when I was in elementary school or perhaps it was the small size of my school. From the comments on my early report cards I certainly had the symptoms of this “ability.” I won’t call it a disability because as current research indicates,  it is just seeing the world from a different perspective—and don’t we all do that in some manner. 

From the second grade on my report cards would say,“Patricia can not seem to sit still and focus. She will wad up clean paper just to get up and throw it in the trash.” In the third grade, there were at least three comments about talking too much. The final was “Patricia is a good student but she does entirely too much talking!” Talking continued to be a problem for me. It wasn’t until high school that I became really good student and surprised many teachers by being a member of the National Honor Society. I had figured out a few ways to focus that worked for me. Go figure.

So this large bulletin board is my saving grace for both creativity and focus. If I only want to think about color, I can fill it with color. If there is a subject that interests me, I can pin up everything about it (and I help the pushpin manufacturers).

But for right now, the bulletin board is a jumble of all sorts of ideas and so is my brain. All I want to know is how many more days until Christmas.

Naming Our Children

Like most artists, paintings are somewhat like my children. I have a lot of time and effort and angst invested in them. So I want to send them into the world well equipped for any struggles they might encounter.

 

IMG_20180922_085638029
Untitled, “10 x 8” Mixed media on paper

Continue reading “Naming Our Children”

Studio Mysteries and Other Confessions

Studio mysteries and other confessions.

artonthefloor
The beginnings of a mixed media painting—on the floor.

Actually, there are no mysteries in my studio. There are no special brushes, no perfect paints, no easel at just the right height. It’s not even a huge space. But I am grateful to have a dedicated space in what was once an attic. Still, I work any place I can— table, bench, or floor. And my back testifies to that.

On the Table

Most of my paintings start on the same Home Depot table you probably use at Thanksgiving. You know the fold-up, fold-out variety with the handy carrying strap. My own tables have been used at Christmas—minus the paintings of course. I have added wheels to a couple of them so they can move around easily. An easel that would hold 3-inch deep wood panels would be great, but I haven’t figured that one out yet (How do we accommodate the sides?). In the past couple of years I have been working a bit more on paper, building up texture with paraphernalia and gesso. Because I am often pressing in found objects to create texture, I still need a firm, hard surface.

BeneathMyFeet
Still not finished, but getting closer.

Beneath My Feet

My artwork is constantly moving— from table to either wall or floor for drying, viewing, and gaining perspective. So while I can hang a cradle to stare at it, I usually use the floor for my work on paper.

thecat
The faithful companion—sometimes.

If I leave a piece overnight, I must be careful: to be certain to first turn the light on the next morning to avoid stepping on artwork, but most importantly, to pick up all extraneous art materials to avoid enticing the cat (She is easily motivated.).

She will play with and has played with every thing I leave on the floor from paint brushes and charcoal pencils to tubes of paint and bits of fabric. And of course, her personal favorite is string.  It has not escaped my notice that a few of my pieces may have cat DNA attached.