I would like to say my back is better, but I am still trying things. I will not give up. Meanwhile I am easing back into painting. And what do I paint after a break, when I'm feeling rusty? My comfort zone/food: apples.
My little painting shelves are now empty of new work, and all I've got left are larger paintings I just haven't posted yet. I haven't painted in over a week - trying to give my back a rest. I don't know if it's working, but gosh my pickleball game is getting better! (ha) It's the one thing that doesn't seem to hurt my back. So don't be surprised if you hear soon that I've gone pro! Not. But I AM enjoying it.
Two of these cups I made in my recent pottery class - the polka-dotted one on the left, and the turquoise one trying to hide. They are both incredibly impractical to drink out of, but I really enjoyed having them pose for me. It's almost as if they were made for it. : )
This is from a trip to San Francisco a few years ago by myself. One of the things I love about downtowns in cities are the big shadows and occasional channels of light that break them up. I had fun with the warmth seeping into the shadow areas, and they sky reflected off the windows and metal hatch(?) on the sidewalk.
On a different topic, I used to recommend Feedburner at my workshops as a free way to set up a newsletter. Unfortunately that feature will end soon, and they are recommending that anyone still using it download their email lists if they don't want to lose them. : (
I found an amazing masseuse in town who is working on my back, and it is finally feeling better! She suggested that since I do a lot of lifting of my right arm to paint (which uses my back muscles) that in addition to strengthening my back with exercises (which I've been doing for years), I should also strengthen my front, for balance. So I've added pushups and a few other things to my morning routine. This is still early on for me, but I think it's a great idea, so I thought I'd share in case it might help any fellow artists out there.
I made this knobby vase years ago, in Eugene, but didn't glaze it until my recent class here in Missoula. I don't know why knobs and polka dots appeal to me so much, but they do, as I have made several versions, and own many polka dotted things. Are these preferences imprinted on us at birth? Or are they acquired somehow?
I'm back to painting apples for a little while. I have to say, I miss Central Market, a store in Austin with a huge and glorious produce section. We don't have anything like it here in Missoula. But I make do. "Make do" ... what a funny phrase.
One of the things I've noticed about the journey of painting is that when you start out you see things in bits and pieces. In essence you're (mentally) zoomed in on just one area at a time. This was me too, by the way! As you paint more and more, you start seeing things as connected, zoomed out, whole - and as this happens you can relate each thing to another. This is when you can paint a scene that lives and breathes.
Or maybe it's just the wine talking. It is evening as I post this.
I painted this in gouache first but wasn't happy, so I tried again in oil. I'm much happier with this version! The image has a lot of subtle value transitions, and those are quite difficult with gouache because as colors dry they can change in value. With oil, for the most part, what you see is what you get, dry or wet.
Here's one from Florence that I've been saving to paint. I don't have a ton more references of people before I run out, so I have to admit I've been taking it slow. Because who knows when I'll be able to travel again, much less find people walking around without masks! But hopefully soon, right? Right?!
One of the suggestions my OT (occupational therapist) made for my work environment was pretty simple - take more regular breaks. When I get into a zone I will work for many hours without even realizing it, so that's a problem. I thought about setting a timer, but that's so disruptive, so I decided instead to break at more natural moments. It goes something like this for a small painting:
come up with the composition - break - draw it on my panel and lately I've been mapping out the values somewhat - break - paint for a while, and when I run out of tea - break - finish painting - break - repeat
During breaks I stretch or rest or get more tea or love on my dog. It's a very complicated system, I know. But it's working, and I think it's helping. At the very least I feel a little more balanced and sane.
I grew up with cats, but my husband is allergic, so we've had dogs together. Now I find that if I'm around cats again, for any length of time, my eyes start the itch and my nose runs. I wonder if I was always allergic, or if it came on later... I still love on them when I see them because it's totally worth it.
I've been dealing with back/neck issues for years, and am just finally starting to accept that maybe painting is exacerbating it. I've been taking a break to see if that helps, and also hired an occupational therapist to come to my studio and look at how I work. He had some suggestions that I am just starting to try. I'm happy to share them if they work - only time will tell. But hopefully it means I can get back to painting! Here's one that's been sitting around.
I read an essay today by a great writer I just discovered, Lily King. She talks about the difference between teaching and writing. But I think it applies to any kind of teaching/creating.
She says she loves teaching, but that she “cannot approach any kind of writing with [her] English teacher brain. That’s the brain that wants to analyze, find themes and metaphors and motifs and irony and resonance, to deconstruct and reify and measure authorial distance. That brain expects perfect and immediate cohesion (or deliberate disruption) of all fictional elements. That brain needs to be banished from the process - or at least from writing the first draft.”
“Because that brain cannot create a thing. All it can do is dissect and evaluate and criticize. When you are writing something new, when you are in the blank-page stage, what you need, all you need, is your creative, sensual, wide-open brain. Your creator, not your critic.”
I have a new friend here in Montana who does wonderful work that is very different from mine, Pamela Coughey. You may have seen her videos on Youtube. She talks a lot about "playing," as the first stage of creating, which works very well for her subject matter. I have seen her take a long bendy peice of metal, tie a brush to the end, dip it in ink, and start a painting with the random marks this makes.
We were chatting about all this the other day and I realized that I have a play stage too! When I buy stuff at the store to paint, I bring it home, put it in my shadow box, move it around, cut it up, try out different colors of paper, raise and lower my box, change the light, etc. - essentially "playing" with my stuff until something starts looking good to me. Then I enter the next phase, which requires actual THINKING about how I can "fix" the stuff that isn't working. Ever since I realized this, I've been having more FUN with the play part of the process, and not getting as frustrated if it takes some time for things to come together. For some reason just the word PLAY makes me feel like a kid again!