Tuesday, December 23, 2008

start by starting

Our bathroom accumulates a variety of magazines that I never have time to read in the other rooms of the house. The other day I came across some words of wisdom in one of them: "You start by starting." These words are quoted from Meryl Streep who just happens to be my all-time favorite actress. I believe everything she says. This advice is especially meaningful for me now because the last couple months of my year are usually spent taking a break from art. I call it refreshing, recharging - a switch of focus from me to one of spending time with family and friends. It feels much needed but it also creates the problem of getting started again at the beginning of the New Year. And, when I'm not painting, everything seems a little bit wacky.

I guess changing traditions makes me wacky too. This week my emotions have run from the excitement of the holidays to feelings of loss that this year, because of icy roads, my siblings and their families won't be at my house for Christmas Eve. Instead, we'll have our loud and crazy Italian Christmas Eve here on New Year's Day when hopefully, driving conditions improve. I look forward to it but it will be different and that bothers me. I like traditions to stay the same. I also like to plan. I have found that plans for the future based on the wisdom of past experiences have the best chance of working out.

Oh oh. Now that I see this controlled, comfortable way of living in print, it bothers me a lot. I must need to read Art and Fear again. I want to begin my next year of art with a new attitude. I want to forget about expectations.

After much pondering, here's my advice to myself for the New Year to help me get started again and to help me live more in the NOW, both in my art and in my life. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it may be helpful to you too.

1. Give it up. All the stuff I worry about and plan for may not happen.

2. Trust. All the stuff I worry about and plan for may not happen, but something that is even better for me absolutely will. (Take a moment to reflect on the past here. Hasn't every dark cloud had a silver lining and perfect timing?)

3. Try Something New. In these slow economic times, when my work is not "selling like hotcakes" remember to paint for myself, instead of to satisfy a gallery persona or a tradition of past work that has sold. A new medium, a new subject, and a new approach: experience the NOW, the process. Forget about the end result.

4. Clean and organize the Studio. Find those tucked away mediums and forgotten painting surfaces. Use them.

Actually, I have been doing this cleaning and organizing for the past few weeks and it has brought me to another problem. I have a lot of frames I didn't know I had. Finally, they are organized by material (metal or wood) and inventoried by size and description. My last bit of advice is to "start by starting." Go to the easel. Paint with abandon. Experience the NOW with fresh eyes and materials, but paint in a size that will fit one of those frames!

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