Through the Densest Forest, There’s Always Something Else

Mostly this metaphor is so I can post this photo of a nearby park. The metaphor is the work that seems so confining always has another vista beyond what’s in front of us.

But there’s something else, too. Before I took that photo, a couple and their two dogs were running around on the grass in the fading sunlight. We can’t forget that life goes on around us, and sometimes we need to enjoy the grass, friends, and sunshine before it’s gone. It’s good to keep working, but life feeds the work.

Feelings of Accomplishment and Their Mostly Good Effects

In the above photo, my friend, Chris, is playing a little Star Wars Battle Pod. Video games are a prime source these days for feeling accomplished—provided we have some sense of progression in skills and scores.

Making art has it built in. I just finished editing the 100th episode of my show (plug: available on Tunes and at itsjustcalledtwobrothers.com) and it seems impossible we produced even this simple podcast for a hundred straight weeks. But most of the things we make come embedded with some sense of accomplishment. This makes us proud, confident, and capable.

It can also make us anxious, wondering if we can pull off a thing in the future, thinking we’re hacks, and that what we’ve made isn’t as good as the stuff we admire. The only solid advice I’ve taken to heart that seems to work for getting past too much of either good or bad feelings is to eschew both extremes and start working on the next thing.

It’s a Zen or Taoist approach, to be sure. It’s nice to feel the good things. But if we indulge in them, it stops the work or leads us to second guessing ourselves. Humility is helpful. If we care less that the things we made aren’t pleasing everyone, we can keep moving to the next piece. And when we feel proud of the things we’ve made, it’s better if we simply move on sooner rather than later and let that feeling motivate us to make more.

Remembering How It All Feels

Sometimes is failure. Sometimes is success. Usually more the former than the latter, but such is creation, maybe?

But one success you can count on is doing the work. Skipping out a day here and there is sometimes just life intervening in your best laid plans. But when we get lazy, hoo boy. Guilt and depression are my punishments, whatever my justifications.

But work now is a gift to future me. And motivation to push past anxiety and get something worked on is easier if I can remember how it feels to not do it. We remind ourselves what it felt like the last time we neglected the work.

On especially rough days, we can begin the Rule of 5: tricking monkey mind by promising we’ll just do 5 minutes on a project. The trick is that it’s never just 5 minutes, you feel the familiar pull of creation and the bliss of flow just a short reach away. Bam, you’re making again.

Periodic Be Kind to Yourself Post

Unless you’ve just forgiven yourself for failing to do something you’d determined to start, or lapsing on a new habit, or any similar creative project, it’s time to do so.

It is very easy to beat yourself up about failure. Today, give yourself a break. It’s okay to have failed or fallen short of your ideal.

The only snag is that—like forgiveness—you want to see resolve to change going forward.

And if you haven’t failed? It’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come and be content. Be kind. Progress and skill aren’t served well by self-flagellation. Good job, you.

My Earliest Work

There it is. I was hoping, when I found the booklet with all my classmates’ drawings alongside mine, there’d be something I could point to and say, “see? It was obvious I should be making art from the beginning.

But I look at that mass of scribbled black and have to say I don’t think it’s particularly telling. It’s weird, I suppose there’s that. But here’s something else: it goes to show that very few of us start any creative path with any shred of expertise. We learn, we try, we fail, we slowly slowly slowly improve.

Cat in the Closet Darkness

That’s him, lying in wait for an unsuspecting leg to pass by. He’s a curious boy, natural for a cat, of course.

But he does something with his curiosity. It’s easy for us to have whims, to imagine just checking something out on impulse, and sometimes it’s the real world around us, but now and then it’s a creative idea. Easy to imagine doing it, harder to get to work.

But for the cat, everything is potentially play. The closet seems mysterious when someone opens it unexpectedly, and even though he’s been in there before, he starts a game of it: the tiny room is rife with possibility. There could be anything in there, you never know. It’s brave to walk in and explore it, somehow.

Try approaching that creative curiosity the same way. It’s a game, it’s mysterious. Maybe others think it’s just a piece of paper. For you, it could be anything.

Lucinda Parker’s Textured Perspective Shifting

Lucinda Parker, Exposed Basalt – Baroque Fugue, 2018

I’m sad I haven’t noticed Lucinda Parker’s work before. There’s a building near our apartment that has two of her paintings in their lobby, which faces the street. I passed by one night recently and they stopped me in my tracks. Her visions are chunky and hard edged, but they fit together and turn in unexpected ways, like I’m seeing them in a dream.

I can’t find a personal website or Instagram for her, but the Russo Lee Gallery seems to be her outlet, and they have many of her pieces to view.

She’s got a visceral style of painting, making lovely rough fields of color that join together in a vaguely cubist way. Similarly, her perspective shifts in unexpected ways. The image draws my eye, but then bends space, pulling me further in. It’s wonderful to experience in the larger works in person.

Enough of This Nonsense

Above is my contribution to Inktober for yesterday. It brought back the genuine pleasure of drawing from reference, near to drawing from life, which itself is near and dear to my heart, close to the core of my artistic center. Because even though I’m not so much an observational painter in general, it’s where I learned how it feels to find the zen place that envelops you in a stasis field of no time and facilitates the process.

This is very cool. Because once you know how to drop into that sensation, you can get back to it easier the more you practice it.

The downside is that you know when you aren’t there. That’s a bit of what’s happened with the daily blog: I kept putting it off until it was past bedtime and therefore easy to put aside.

So. Here’s a renewal marker. It’s easier to keep going than to restart.