I love to look at Flickr and tumblr. My contacts there are wonderfully talented, and if I knew them well enough, I’d never stop telling them how their artwork is a constant source of inspiration for me. I learn from them and their art, and I’m grateful.
Most of the time.
I say that because, while I’m usually inspired, sometimes I’m just plain jealous:
“Ooohhh, look at those paint layers! I wish I could create something so subtle.”
“Now, why didn’t I think of that color combination?”
“Sigh. It will be years before I can draw that well… ”
Have you ever wondered if social media was invented just so you’d know how much better everyone else is? Have you ever logged off Facebook because you just couldn’t take seeing yet another photo of someone else’s beautiful kids in a stunning vacation setting?
You know what I mean.
It’s enough to make you throw your art journal and pencils in a deep desk drawer, lock it, and toss the key. Or almost enough, anyway.
Although I get discouraged, I keep drawing, collaging, and painting anyway. And then I go back to Flickr or tumblr to post it all.
Oh, no… Do you think I create envy in anyone when I post my journal pages online?
Nah. No way.
I just finished page five of my journal for The Sketchbook Project 2014. But I have no idea what I’ll do on page six, or seven, or the front cover.
And while I have a working title–Petal and Stem–I’m not yet sure how I’ll letter that.
Hmm… I have a lot of art to do!
In case you are wondering, this is not how I usually work. In fact, for each of my three previous submissions for The Sketchbook Project, I had every page carefully planned. I had already decided on a title and had a cover design all worked out for each one before I ever put pencil to paper.
If that seems a bit strict–or even forced–let me assure you that it wasn’t. The ideas for those previous books simply arrived in my mind fully formed. It just happened.
But this time, it didn’t happen. I waited a few weeks, and still, nothing. I started to worry that if I didn’t find inspiration soon, I’d run out of time. What to do?
I decided to just start drawing. And here I am, at page five! I am trusting that the book this journal wants to be will reveal itself page by page. I hope inspiration will come at some point, but maybe it won’t.
And I am ok with that, which is surprising. I’m used to being in control! But it feels good to let go, too, and try trusting the process.
My creative output has slowed down a bit–that’s for sure. Remember when I wrote last May about having just five minutes at a time? It’s kind of like that.
But this time I am not as focused on “finishing something” in the short amount of time that I have. I don’t rush. Instead, I savor every free minute I can manage.
This means that I could be working on a single, simple, drawing or collage for weeks at a time. Often it seems like nothing is really happening. I keep at it anyway, but it’s like going back to writing business correspondence by hand and mailing it when you could just send an email. (Can you imagine? Talk about a slow down of the economy!)
But, since I am not counting on any financial remuneration for my artwork, that ambling pace is ok. I’m the only one to set any deadlines or expectations on my work. And without the pressure to get something done, I can slow down and stretch the time out, enjoying it more. Right now I find that it’s satisfying to work that way, even if I have less actual work to show for it.
I’ve said before that this is about enjoyment, pleasure, exploration and discovery for me. Finding all of that in a new situation needs a new approach. Most of our modern lives wouldn’t tolerate a slow down like this. But my art can, so I take advantage of it.
There are a handful of reasons why I like this antique cameo. Of course, I appreciate the expert carving; that’s one. And then there’s the fact that it shows Petrarch, and I am named Laura. And then there’s the setting.
The setting suits the carving well–I have seen beautifully carved cameos in poor settings, and wonderfully ornate settings that overwhelmed the lesser quality of the carvings they hold. But the best part about this one is that it is a little “off.”
The pearls are NOT precisely at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock the way you first assume they are. Draw an imaginary straight line across the face of the cameo, from one pearl to the other sitting opposite it. You’ll find that the line isn’t perfectly straight; it’s a little angled.
And so, a design element that could be static and stable adds movement instead. The pearls seem to slowly dance around the setting. And it’s so subtle! Most people might assume that the pearls line up neatly in pairs and would never notice (except maybe subconsciously) that there’s another kind or balance and rhythm at play here.
My brain surgery ruined my balance. So beside having a hard time with stairs, and running, and stuff like that, it’s a challenge for me to carry an open container of liquid without spilling it.
A quick trip down the hall to the coffee bar at work becomes an agonizingly long journey on the way back with a cup of hot tea in my hand. I slowly proceed, not wanting to spill the sloshing, turbulent, hot liquid on my hand (ouch!), on my dress (how sloppy!), or on the floor (and–oops–stain the carpet).
But there are two things I’ve learned to make the trip less hazardous. One: use a cup or mug with a lid. Two: don’t hold the cup so far away.
This second one seemed counter-intuitive at first. Since I didn’t want to spill that tea on me, I figured I should hold it at a distance, right? And the farther away the better.
That was what I assumed, until one day when I, by chance, had to carry my cup close to my body. (Always up for a challenge, i was trying to manage my phone and a few notebooks, too.) Sure, there was still a tempest brewing in that cup, but it wasn’t nearly as close to spilling over as usual. I was actually safer from spills that way.
I wonder how this might be applicable to life. What if the things we were afraid of, the ones we thought might hurt us, the problems that persistently pursue us…. What if we stopped pushing them away? What if we held them close, examined, and accepted them? Maybe we’d have more control over them that way. And we might be safer.
Late last year, I signed up (with about 5000 other people) for The Sketchbook Project Limited Edition. The idea was that one page from each sketchbook submitted would be included in a book to be released in December. (This book would be instead of the sketchbooks traveling, as they usually do.)
Sure enough, in December I received the book that I had pre-ordered, and after several passes through it, I finally found an image of one of my pages. (Hey, it had been a few months, so it took a while for me to recognize it!)
I’ve wanted to post a picture from the book–which is still available from Art House Co-op (http://shop.brooklynartlibrary.com/)–for ages now. Today, I finally got around to it. There I am!
For more images from the book, check out my Flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laura_rivera/sets/72157628121505564/
And I signed up for the Sketchbook Project 2014, too. Maybe you should! Check it out! http://www.sketchbookproject.com/sketchbookproject
The other day I listened to a friend vent. And that’s ok–isn’t that what friends are for?
Heaven knows–I’ve had many friends who have let me whine and cry and yell and complain about my life. They’ve listened to me, and then did me an even greater favor: they forgot all about it.
They knew that those fears, anxieties, crazy thoughts, and self-doubts needed to be let out for one big reason: those thoughts weren’t me. My situation wasn’t me. They knew that “letting it all out” was the best way for me to leave it all behind.
When we’re possessed by our bad thoughts, we can fall into the trap of thinking that since our mind created them, they must be part of us. But they aren’t. We can’t let them hijack our mind and soul.
We need to get free of those demons, and find friends that will help us do that.