Spending All My Time Figuring It Out

Is it even worth it? The thing is, if it isn’t, how would I know? All I can tell is that I do—or don’t—enjoy the moment of creating something, and decide if I want to keep going. That might be all we can ask of life.

With that in mind, I’m figuring out where to go in the coming year, what plan to chart up and start, how best to make my way. The planning stage of anything is exciting, and a little unnerving, but it’s often the only way to avoid random floundering or too much time wasting. A little is good. A lot is fine, but not fulfilling. Given a choice, I’d rather work on a long hike with a spectacular view than an easy trail that circles back to the same place.

Keeping in Mind the Old Tropes From New Age Days

I spent some time in my twenties involved in various mystical pursuits. They didn’t go very far, but some principles I thought were useful, and so I kept them even when I dropped the rest of the woo.

One of those is that when you feel you’re standing still, you’re actually growing more than in times of great excitement and action. The concept is similar to that of exercise is general, that training is growth, the competition is when you put that growth to use.

If you feel at all stagnant, do keep this in mind. As long as you’re still working, there’s growth even when it feels like you’re standing still.

The Thing About Winter Is Its Ability to Cause Reflections

Though not mirrors, winters are time for reflection, pondering selves and directions. Who are we? What do we want?

How did we do this past year in becoming and doing? What can we change in the year to come, just around the other side of the solstice point of orbit?

I’m thinking hard, and I don’t know if it’s a deliberate choice.

Pre-Holiday Blahs and Bliss

I must admit, the diminishing daylight and rainy skies is probably affecting my mood, but it’s a tug-of-war with my love of gray clouds and wet gloom. Growing up in Arizona affected me more than I know. Part of that is getting used to an unfamiliar seasonal pattern.

I think about emotional patterns reflecting environmental ones, and there’s got to be a similar phenomenon connected with our work. Motivation is harder, judgment harsher. But. There’s a flip side.

My delight in bright colors and silliness is magnified. I’m hesitant to emphasize this too much—I’m not the best Pollyanna. it’s just another reminder that, like most everything, there are more ways to understand and analyze darker days than just as a mood dampener.

Twinkles Decorate, Underneath Is the Substance

We finished putting up the basics of the “holiday” season, the month long run-up to Solstice—and by definition, the new year—festivals of all kinds. It’s fun and it’s pretty, but it reminds me of so much that’s underneath. Not only the living space itself and the trees, but family gatherings, friends celebrating, and a robust increase in kind feelings.

Those are the important and necessary bits. The rest is a reminder and flourishes. Bet I don’t have to mention how this applies to creative work.

The Weird Days Just Keep Comin’

It feels good to paint again, even if just digitally. I’ve been buried in black and gray and white for a month, and color is knocking me out, again.

In reality, “real life,” the stuff outside of art—and who wants to deal with that?—the coming winter has put me in a mental whirl. I’m excited to work on projects, but I’m also desiring more time to sit and ponder and be bored. I’m not sure which will overcome the other.

I think the next year will be all about disrupting patterns and habits. I’d like to get more out into the world, and I’m feeling more settled into the city, finally. Prospects abound.

The Critical Voice

I see it a lot watching music videos on YouTube or Twitter, comments deriding an imperfect performance or comparing musicians. It’s not that anybody’s above criticism, but it takes less effort to dismiss art than to look deeper than the surface.

It works for painting or visual art of other kinds, too. Things get tricky underneath. Things get weird. There’s subtext, technique, subtleties of all kinds.

Sometimes we get sloppy, sometimes we flub it. But it’s rewarding and helpful to look for the best of any work, to see what is done well or uniquely. Avoiding the bad is harder than trying for the good. It’s a new game that keeps me looking further.

The Sketch Is the Thing

I finally finished the 31 Inktober drawings, only a few weeks late. Sarcasm aside, it’s often worth it to finish a marathon, even when you’re far behind. Discipline can be its own reward.

Not to mention, completing things is precedent for future projects. The more we get used to abandoning the things we start, the easier it gets to never finish anything. (NOTE: This is in addition to knowing when to quit. Sometimes it’s best to change paths, and the wisdom to know when is hard won)

Several of the drawings started as sketches which I drew over for the finished piece. There’s a power in these raw sketches, and sometimes more life than the most polished completed work. A lot of time and effort goes into capturing as much of that life as possible. This is where the art is.

Magic Breaking Through

Fuzzy snow in the dark on my building’s rooftop

No matter how cynical I feel, there’s always something magical about the first snow of the season. Probably because I spent so much time in the Southwest, it’s always been special. Now that I’m here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s normal for most, if not very frequent.

But I want to always be aware of the magic moments. The feeling of them is kin to the wonder of artistic creation and connection.

Anna King’s Quietly Spooky Beautiful Landscapes

Anna King, “Altitude (I)” (detail), oil and pencil on paper and board, 2013

I have an early shift following a close tonight so my time has run out, but everyone should go check out Anna King’s fabulous landscape and building studies. They’re haunting and beautiful, deftly rendered but also gloriously abstracted. Confident strokes and color, all the way.