Sunday, August 27, 2017

Getting Feedback

BTW 9  Oil/mixed media on paper  12x12" © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

BTW 7 Oil/mixed media on paper 12x12"  © 2017Janice Mason Steeves

In my last blog post, I wrote about how difficult it's been to get into my studio after a very long hiatus. I debated whether I'd write that blog post because it felt like I'd be showing all my vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Maybe not the smartest thing to do as a painter of over 30 years and as an art teacher and coach. When I'd finished writing it, and my finger hovered over the word "Publish", I thought of these things. Much debating went on in my head in that hovering, the inner critic's voice being most negative of all.

BTW 2 Oil/mixed media on paper 12x12"  © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

I'm so grateful to have pushed the "Publish" button. I received many beautiful personal emails written by people who had recently been through periods of personal illness, or members of their family had, and they had become the caretakers of those family members. Others wrote with similar stories about being pulled out of their studios and their creativity by life events. Like me, they worried that their creativity had dried up, never to return.

Many others offered advice. Some sent personal emails, some posted on Facebook, some made comments on my blog. Amazingly, much of the advice was the very advice I'd given my students when they went through dry periods. In fact some of my students wrote offering me my advice back!!! Ha! I guess I needed to hear it reflected back to me.

And others wrote to tell me just to be patient, that I'd gone through two big operations and I needed time to heal. They assured me that creativity was in my blood and my very makeup and that it couldn't possibly dry up.

One friend who is a well-known Canadian writer, wrote to tell me that she is also in a period of stasis. She suggested an exchange: that by Wednesday of this past week, she would send me two paragraphs that she'd written and that I send her a small painting or the beginnings of a larger one.

BTW 4  Oil/mixed media on paper 12x12"  © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

Ahhh, I'm so grateful to have received all of these touching emails. Every one said something I needed to hear. I especially loved the exchange idea.

BTW 5   Oil/mixed media on paper 12x12"  © 2017 Janice Mason Steeves

All in all, the responses energized me. It's as though a weight was lifted from my shoulders, as though I didn't have to bear this burden alone. But of course I do. It just felt as though I had some wind beneath my wings (to steal an image from a famous song). Soon afterward, I got back into my studio to work. I am working without thinking at whatever the hell I feel like working on.

"MY DEAL WITH THE CREATOR IS THIS: I'm dragging a sack of old worries, hurt, anger, doubt and fear up a long hill trying to get to the other side, to relief, to healing.

CREATOR SAYS: 'If you need a hand, I'm here. You pull and I'll push.'

I SAY: 'Really?'

CREATOR SAYS: ' I promise that I will always be there to help you. But there's a catch.'

I SAY: 'What's the catch?'

CREATOR SAYS: 'You have to pull first.'"

                                                      Richard Wagamese from the book, Embers

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Commitment in Life and Art

My son was married two weeks ago. It was a joyful, beautiful wedding. He's 42. It's taken him a long time to find the love of his life. But he waited. And they found each other.

And the week before that, I attended the 50th wedding anniversary of old friends. A heart-touching celebration.

I think of commitment when I think of these two events so closely connected in time. Only I think of my commitment to being an artist. I've been pulled out of my studio this past 7 months because I've been healing from two knee replacement surgeries. It's difficult enough to get back into the studio after a vacation or a brief illness but after a 7 month hiatus, only working off and on, I find it agonizingly difficult to get back to work. It's a push-me, pull-you situation. I want to get in there and yet, when I do, I don't know what to do. Creative ideas start to spring forth the more you work. And they quickly dry up when you're not making work.

I've given students in my workshops the great advice to just get in there and play after a long hiatus. And it is great advice. Only it doesn't seem to be working for me just yet. When I can't seem to play, I just go into my studio and tidy up, move things around, rearrange stuff. Just be there.

But one thing I do know, is that I'm committed to making art. I know that I will get back in my studio. I know that the ideas that are percolating in my head will eventually come out.

So I decided to try to inspire myself with wise quotes:

OK, OK, OK, I'll begin.