The only thing I've been consistently inspired to do during this brutal winter in Michigan- is stay under the covers and burn the roof of my mouth with multiple cups of boiling chocolate milk- favorite winter past-time. But it's frustrating to see my basement loaded with paint, stretched canvas, and new brushes and not be at all motivated to paint. I've studied artwork and photographs and have created a huge pile of resources to get my life together and paint... but instead i just find myself continuing to search for that one piece of inspiration- as I continue to burn my mouth. Little did I know it would come from my boyfriend who took an interest in wanting to learn how to paint. I gave him a few pointers on a piece he wanted to do, and within a week he'd created four beautiful trout paintings. His latest painting he had worked five hours straight to complete. This takes a lot of focus, and it can be tiring mentally, physically, and at times, emotionally. Especially when things don't come together the way you want. I'd watch him mix colors a dozen times, only to give up and move on to another part of a painting. He'd analyze the layers and textures and practice how to create them, critiquing each approach. He finished his last painting only to say he felt cranky, tired, and didn't think the colors matched. Obviously it didn't take him long to pick up on the bittersweetness of painting. It took me a long time to be content with knowing I was never going to have a painting or drawing look exactly the way I wanted it to. It doesn't matter how good any artist is, this part can drive you insane and, at times, leak into other parts of your life. Artists especially are fully engaged in detail, aware of imperfections, and analyze art and life from so many different angles. It's ANNOYING! Who cares how the apples and oranges are displayed at the fruit market and whether or not they use cool or soft lighting, that your mailbox looks like a mini-me of your house, or that your soap and candles match the color of your bathroom towels. It took me a long time to accept the imperfections and let myself see what HAS come together in a painting. Often times the imperfections create the character and if I didn't embrace those imperfections, painting would be too frustrating to keep doing.
It's been quite a busy summer filled with family and friends visiting on top of traveling to new places. I just got home after spending a couple weeks in Montana, Wyoming, and Washington. I saw an incredible amount of beauty and wildlife- 2 grizzlies, a black bear, dozens of bison and elk, bighorn sheep, fifteen mountain goat (all of which surrounded one of my campsites), bald eagles, 3 osprey, a hummingbird, grouse, and plenty of trout! Wadding the pools of the Gallatin River in Montana was my favorite part of the trip. Time slows in the wide Montana valleys providing time to reflect on life and where time can be spent best when I return to Michigan. The landscapes before me were breathtaking as I found myself teary eyed looking out at Mount Olympus in Washington. All throughout Yellowstone, Olympic National park, and the North Cascades- I felt so small and insignificant, yet welcomed. One could easily be forgotten in the wide rolling mountains of Montana- where one's scream no doubt would be muted by the peaceful flow of the rivers below or absorbed in the dense sage that grows throughout. Who am I to this place? Why is it here?
I haven't painted in about a month, not because I don't have the drive to, but the warm weather has finally made it's way to northern Michigan. So I can't help but take in the art of this beautiful place that I live instead of sitting in my house with my brushes. I've tried painting outdoors which usually I enjoy, but it can be distracting. I find myself torn between sitting in place while breeze hits me as I paint, or riding along with it on my bike. Summer isn't my favorite holiday, but it is a time to refresh myself with the senses and sights of the season.
"Writing is when I let the hamster off the wheel and let it run loose for a while, wherever it wants, sniffing around. When I write, I believe the risky thought that all the ideas might have a place, instead of just running themselves around and around in a circle. Writing gives me a place to use all the flashes and thoughts and rabbit tails that rattle around in my head making me crazy. Writing is my best chance at happiness, and it is the riskiest thing I can do. But that's how life is. The riskiest things always yield the best, most beautiful things." - Shauna Niequist
I often over analyzed making a choice. Worrying what if I fail, what if things don't turn out as I'd hoped, wh. What if I regret this. Thinking instead of just doing. Looking back on most of the things I "played it safe on" and didn't try- like studying abroad or moving out of state or running all four years in college- those are things I regret. Not so much what I did, but what I didn't. Of course I had great experiences in the path I've chosen, but how would I be different. I'm glad I chose to get a degree in nursing and not fine arts. I am comforted in the stability of my job with time off to enjoy my hobbies as an artist and runner and horrible bread baker. But what if I just went for it, became a graphic designer, or created medical illustrations, or worked as a landscape architect or interior designer. I think I would have done okay, but would taking that sort of risk in today's economy be worth it? Would I have the same passion for painting if the stress for making an income was part of my motive. I don't think so. Would my paintings be the same with that type of motive? I'm not sure. So for now, the riskiest thing I will do is put my paintings out for the public to see, share my babbling blog, and see what happens :)
When I paint, I feel adequate. When I paint, I feel blessed. When I fill a blank page, it fills me.
Sometimes it fills me up so full, I forget to eat. And I realize my water bucket needs to be changed, and I retreat to the kitchen. Sometimes it fills me up so full I can't sleep because so many thoughts are racing in my head on what to paint next. Or I feel completely refreshed within as if I've already slept 8 hours. I've never been high, but I imagine that when I finish a painting the feeling is pretty similar. It's at least similar to that rush of endorphins I feel after a run.
Maybe it's easier to explain in terms of running, in what that "high" is like. Where it's as though I can feel the size of my lungs, like they've been stretched of all the kinks and my breaths are relaxed and easy. Where I rest at the end of a trail or a creek and my senses widen. The sound of crickets become so crisp , I can hear every leaf of a maple brush against one another , and the water rubbing the riverbank rock turns into a rhythm, while the cars of a busy city become distant and forgotten. My heart beats with a purpose when I run. It begins to pump more than blood, but this familiar joy. And while I run, I forget that I am moving, life is on pause and I am in control. Sometimes I feel weightless, like I'm breathing in helium and my stride is effortless. Other times I feel heavy and hear the force of every step. But everytime I run, I'm reminded I'm alive.
Similarly when I paint I become so focused and engaged in the act, that I forget a bit of lifes chaos or I see a bird for more than a bird, or a fish for more than a fish. I see how their structures are made up of lines and shadows, every feather and scale has it's place, their colors become mixtures of paints and water. I become so tense and ironically relaxed in filling a page as it fills me. I'll break to step back and see each line, shadow, scale, and color come together - sometimes they don't though and it's obvious and I tweak it, or the imperfections add character and I am content. The painting is never an exact replica of the animal or whatever it is that I am painting, but more an expression of a certain feeling about it that leaves me full.
I've been eager for a little more fulfillment lately ... actually I've been feeling that way for awhile. I've been unsettled in searching for a focus outside of my primary work setting. I work as an RN on a Cardiothoracic Critical Care Unit. I enjoy what I do, but when I leave work I leave work at work.
I enjoy quite a bit of hobbies, but maybe too much to possibly given 100% at all of them. Which can be frustrating. So often my painting has been put on the back burner for running. Probably because I am more confident in running and my potential than my painting, until recently. I've accepted more praise towards my art work lately and finally I've decided to take it a little more seriously in trying to sell it. I've kind of a denied my art for marketing material, maybe not so much because I don't think it can sell, but more because the business aspect is so foreign to me. Who is going to buy my stuff out of the zillion talents out there for something that has no functional purpose but to hang on a wall in your house... or is there a functional purpose. To make you feel the great indoors in your home, to have a connection with a bird or fish portrayed in someone else's work. And I don't have quite the salesman personality, so that is a bit of a learning curve. So here we go.