The Artist’s Way – week eleven

Overview

A sudden family bereavement last week has knocked us all for a loop and I’m at a loss as to what to do next. But I’m alive and I have to keep going, despite the loss. I don’t want to dwell on it – it feels like I’ve done nothing but talk about it and I’ve got nothing to say that I haven’t already said over and over.

As far as The Artist’s Way goes, I’m still struggling on. I have lingering feelings of “doing it wrong” for taking over a year to do this instead of 12 weeks, but this is my project, not anyone else’s, and – although I want it to be done – I’m not planning on rushing the last week just to get it over with.

One if this week’s exercises is to record your artist’s prayer and use it for meditation. Well, I completely forgot about all that almost as soon as I made the recording, and my meditation practice is less regular than I’d like. Something to works on, and this week’s exercises have given me a better direction for the future.

Regarding synchronisity (something Cameron is keen on, as a sign from a supportive creator), there have been a few things this month. My house has been a constant source of stress for a while now and, as it was coming to a head, the internet lit up with chatter about Marie Kondo. Since my sister had lent me the book, I got stuck in and even the small changes I’ve made so far have improved my mental health considerably. A letter promising a financial windfall – from a legitimate source, and unrelated to last week’s bereavement – arrived just as some unanticipated outgoings left us short.

Morning pages

I’m getting more consistent, and building up a good streak, but weekends still defeat me. I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to fit three pages of longhand into half an hour, but it doesn’t matter. I’m doing my thing, my way.

Artist’s date

I don’t think I did one this month. I went on new adventures, visited new places and made time to play, but Cameron stipulates that this is “artist alone-time”. My play-time this month wasn’t creative, but it was necessary.

I’m slowly getting more comfortable making space for play, though I’m not consistent with it yet, and it isn’t a habit. However, despite what Cameron says, I think there’s space for play-time which other people; I can isolate myself very easily, and minigolf isn’t much fun on your own!

Verdict

A mixed month, all in all. Up until last week, I’d have said it was going pretty well and I was optimistic about the future. I suppose I still am, but – for obvious reasons – I’m feeling somewhat subdued right now.

But I have a plan, and I’m setting goals and working towards them. I’m using the morning pages to identify stressors and dealing with them as I recognise them, and I’m slowly growing into the kind of person I want to be.

Retrospective: Generosity and Greed

This picture had an incredibly challenging gestation. I pushed myself hard and learned a lot about a lot of things – colour, composition, and time management, amongst others – but, in the end, I definitely bit off more than I could chew. While I’m not unhappy with the result, I’ve definitely reached a point where my technical skill is outstripped by my vision.

Original concept
Original concept
Value thumbnails for the second version
Value thumbnails for the second version

I started over twice, the first time working up a low-res copy of a sketch I doodled a year previously on a piece of software I don’t have access to any more. Then, once I’d got to the colour comp stage, I put it aside to work on a time-limited project (Hound of the Baskervilles).

Colour thumbnails for second version
Colour thumbnails for second version

When I came back to it, it was several months later and I’d picked up a new Special Interest: runes. I redrew the thumbnails, trying to do something clever with runes and sigils and compositional armatures that ultimately didn’t work.

Value thumbnails for third version
Value thumbnails for third version

My original plan had been to paint this piece in encaustic (wax paint) on cradled board, but time and space constraints pushed me back to a digital workflow and that brought a raft of special problems. Namely: colour.

Since starting my mental health recovery, I’m fascinated with hyper-saturated colour. What little work I did during my illness was desaturated, bordering on monochrome, and working out colour palettes and exercising restraint weren’t really necessary. Happily, that’s not the case any more. On the other hand, learning such things takes more time than I’ve had and my lack of experience is obvious (to me).

Colour thumbnails for the third version.
Colour thumbnails for the third version

In the end, I’m okay with letting this one go. I learned a lot, I got enough Symbolism in to assuage my inner Fine Artist, and I have a better idea of which areas I need to improve.

And sometimes, that’s exactly what you want from a piece.

The Artist’s Way – week ten

Overview

Since my last check-in, I find myself awash with religiosity. Specifically, I’m more active in my faith and faith community that I have been for a long time. It’s good. I’m happier in myself and whether that’s because of this fresh start or incidental to it doesn’t matter. I’ll take what I can get.

I’ve started a new blog to talk about that because I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m not the proselytising type. There’s inevitably going to be some overlap at some point, though – plants, animals, and the environment have always been Special Interests of mine, and there’s no hard line where it stops being an interest and starts being an expression of faith, especially for an animist dealing largely with fantastic themes. If it works for Miyazaki…

I do consider The Artist’s Way to be the root of this. All of Cameron’s talk about a Creator and how our creativity is our gift back to them and/or them working through us is where it started, so I’ve definitely got something out of this course, even if it wasn’t what I was looking for when I went in.

Morning pages

I’m getting better at doing the pages, even if it’s only every other day. I fired my counsellor in January, and haven’t yet built up a rapport with the new one, so I’m relying on them to figure out what’s going on and what I need to address.

I’m not beating myself up as much about not getting them done every day, but I’m celebrating when I do them and when they provide insight, and that seems to be working. More carrot, less stick

Artist’s date

I took a couple of hours to revisit some characters I haven’t thought about in years. I had to try very hard not to fall into the trap of ‘this has to be perfect/presentable/portfolio-worthy’ and just enjoy the moment, but I still struggle. Character design isn’t something I’ve done for a long time and these characters are so ill-defined that the first big step is to get a sense of who they are, but they’re coming along.

I remember wanting to use them in a comic, if only I could come up with a coherent storyline for them, but the concepts are still fun to play with. An accidental necromancer, an atheist paladin, and an immortal pirate captain walk into a bar…

Verdict

I’m starting to flag, but the end is in sight.

I enjoyed taking some time to sketch without the expectation of having anything presentable. Like when I was playing with the figurines, removing the pressure of making something presentable freed me up to just tinker with ideas. My life is an ocean of stressors, unfinished to-do lists and self-inflicted deadlines right now, and making space to play was exactly what I needed.

The Artist’s Way – week nine

Overview

It took me a long time to read the morning pages. Longer, perhaps, than Cameron predicted (having nine month’s worth of pages rather than nine weeks might have something to do with it, but not all). I didn’t get what I was being asked to do until I did it for the second time, but reading through the pages again, I started noticing patterns.
I’m more confident, “I should”, “I ought to”, “is this how i’m supposed to” feature less and less as the months went on. I still have relapses, but who doesn’t?
Turns out, I also give myself good advice.

I don’t take it, but I dish it out.

  • Keep going
  • Keep making mistakes
  • Routine is a useful tool but a terrible master
  • Aim for effective – elegant comes later
  • Nothing is ever as bad as a first draft
  • I don’t need to make everything a project

My complaints are consistently about time – not having enough of it, wasting what I do have, getting distracted, procrasinating, the size of my to-do list – not exactly a revelation, there. In that vein, the prorities task might be useful if I can make it a regular thing.

The creative U-turns task was brutal. The hits parade of my self-imposed failures. I’m consumed with regret when I look at that list. I suppose that’s the point. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and all that.

Morning pages

Not even going there. This ‘week’ was 49 days long and I did four day’s worth of morning pages

Artist’s date

I’m questioning if I fully understood the instructions given about the Artist’s Dates. I’ve been doing small projects and little crafty things, teaching myself new skills, and trying new media but it wasn’t until after Chrstmas that I actually played about with something.

“Dammit, Sakura, can you not do the Sailor Moon thing right now? The film starts in fifteen mintes!”
“You have failed me for the last time”

I got these hyper-poseable artist’s mannequins for Christmas and I’ve had just phenomenal amounts of fun posing them and making up little stories or scenes. By comparison, planting trees is work, restoring a rocking chair is work, learning a new medium adds pressure to finish the thing I was making. My first week, colouring in, was the closest I came to play and even that was sufficiently close to what I usually do that I couldn’t fully unwind.

This is what Cameron wanted her students to do. Useless, timewasting, not-even-remotely-productive play.
More, please.

Verdict

Nothing revelatory in the exercises this week, but the artist’s date was eye-opening. I’m going to be looking at other totally unproductive play-dates for the remaining three weeks of the course.

I’m starting 2019 with a new slate.
Rereading the morning pages has shown me how far I’ve come and given me some idea of how far I have to go. Okay, so I’m a mess, but all work in progress is a mess. The important thing is to trust the process and keep going.

The Artist’s Way – week eight

Overview

This week has been hard, in many ways. I was on a roll with the morning pages, until I forgot once, and then ten days passed until I got back to it, and I completely forgot to do the affirmations. I’m not happy with how long it’s taken to get through this week; since taking up an evening class, the time I have to work on the weekly tasks seems to have gone down dramatically.

I need to organise my time better, to make space to do the weekly tasks, but also to make time for myself. The ideal childhood and day tasks were fun and I have some ideas of how I can pursue integrating elements of them into my life – when the same desire (structured lessons, more time to do studies and materials practice) comes up in three separate exercises, I should probably act on it!

Morning pages

As I said my morning pages have huge gaps in them where I fell off the waggon and struggled to get back on. My routine had been to write while eating breakfast at work, but as soon as the weekend hit, everything fell apart. And writing t work is dependent on who gets in early and how chatty they’re feeling – but that’s on me, not them. I’m trying to write something introspective in a public place and it’s unreasonable to expect other people not to have a conversation (especially when we’re friends and I am usually interested in what they have going on).

Having moved desks again (the second time in three weeks), hopefully the new space will offer a little more seclusion. My office-mates aren’t such obnoxiously early risers as I am, so maybe I’ll get half an hour to write my brain-dump before I need to interact with people like an adult.

Artist’s date

I leaned about nålebinding this ‘week’, and gave it a go. It’s my first ever attempt at anything like this  – I’ve never been into fibre crafts – but it doesn’t require a lot of complicated stuff – just a ball of wool, a wool needle, and time.

First attempt on the top, latest attempt on the bottom – definite progress is being made in terms to stitch quality and consistency.

Unsuprisingly,  I’m rubbish at it. My stitches are uneven and the one time I tried to make a thing (instead of a chain of stitches), I fastened the wrong sides together and made a Möbius strip. So much for a hat; guess it’s a fancy neckwarmer now! I’m going to keep going. My stitches have improved already and a neckwarmer will be useful as winter draws in. Maybe I’ll felt it to make it windproof (but that’s a whole new skill I have yet to learn).

It’s not perfect, but it’s mine

Verdict

I’m pleased with my new skill, and I love that I’m making something practical for a change. I’m clearly hankering after more structure to my artwork and less charging ahead with finished pieces that are ultimately unsatisfying in their execution. Such morning pages as I wrote are offering a window into my mental health status, so there’s some self-care to do, too.
Although I’m not consistent, I am glad I’m doing them.

If I want to finish the course before the end of the year, I needs to schedule my time better. I’m still playing with new things and kicking around new ideas, so something’s bedding in. I’m aiming to finish Week Nine in a fortnight with a full set of morning pages – watch this space!

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – part 10.5

At this point, my workbook and textbook diverge. The workbook has a handful more “Gestalt” exercises, while the textbook finishes up with chapters on colour and handwriting. This section covers the workbook.

Edwards starts by getting the student to use an unfamiliar medium – ink. The permanence stops the student from noodling at the painting, but also reinforces the value lessons previously learned.

The Urban Landscape Drawing exercise has the student get out and do some plein air work. It highlighted for me the need to practice line drawing fiddly scenes like trees and foliage, the need to work fast – the light changes dramatically on a late afternoon in October – as well as the necessity of preparing for outdoor work. I came in after 45 minutes, when I couldn’t feel my fingers!

Edwards then has the student build up their penmanship, in preparation for exercise 38, A Figure drawing in Crosshatch.

The Imaginitive Drawing exercise felt tacked on, and the paper wasn’t great at handling the volume of liquid applied to it (most of the preceeding pages in the book are now stained with pink around the binding).

The final drawing was a challenge – a detailled value study  that enlarges a 1/2″ square of the subject to a 4″ canvas. I’m not sure I would have felt confident about this when I started but, after working though the book, I’m up for the challenge.

I think it would have been better to end with the self portrait, working these exercises into the main flow of the program, but there’s still two chapters of textbook left.

The Artist’s Way – week five

Overview

This ‘week’ involved a long holiday – a week in Vienna followed by a week with friends – so there wasn’t much time for introspection or privacy. My morning pages suffered accordingly, but I’ve been reading voraciously (albeit off my reading list, but reading is reading). I’ve been physically exhausted by the heat, mentally exhausted by translating/coping with the language barrier, and emotionally exhausted by the lack of exercise.
I am surprised by how much better I feel having got away from work. I think it’s the change in routine and the relaxation of stress – much like the reading deprivation, reducing the amount of input I have to deal with is something I should be seriously looking at.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Making time to write my morning pages
  • Keeping with the weekly schedule

Morning pages

An improvement over last week – I managed two days! Out of six weeks, but still: two days is better than none!
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve not made this a priority and not really worked at making it a habit. Next week, I’m going to make a serious effort to nailing this. The pages have been useful and, when I get to them, I enjoy writing them.

Artist’s date

Okay, so this might have been a cheat – for my birthday, my parents bought me a Big Cat day at the Jessop’s Academy, learning how to use my DLSR. It was a fantastic experience and I’m much more confident about setting the aperture and ISO and not just resorting to some flavour of automatic. Next up: shutter speed!

Verdict

The exercises were moderately easy this week but, despite my lofty announcement that “I’m doing this on my own schedule”, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot by leaving such large gaps between weeks.

I’m going to take a week of making time to write the morning pages (at any time of day!) before starting week six. Try to reinforce the foundations before building any higher.

The Artist’s Way – week four

Overview

This was the week of the reading ban. I decided to update the instructions, given that my copy of TAW was published in 1992:

  • No books
  • No news or articles, via online or print media
  • No phone games
  • 10 minutes of social media/day

The other news to come out of this week is that, via a sequence of coincidences, I have developed a new Special Interest: runes.
After helping out at DragonFest at West Stow Anglo-Saxon village, I chanced upon Lauren Panepinto’s Muddy Colors articles on art and magic [1] [2] [3] and, as a result, I ended up picking up a set of rune stones and starting to read voraciously (after the reading deprivation, obviously).
Between learning the the staves themselves (in all four variations), memorising the ideographic interpretations with all their nuances, learning how to write in runic (and thereby adding Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic to my ‘to learn’ list), boggling over the rune riddles, learning about runic cryptography, practising making bind-runes, and figuring out how I could use a combination of those things in my art, that’s given me quite a lot to play with. And that’s just the rune-work! Let’s not get into my decision to make a Lenormand deck and start tinkering around with sigils.

Reading deprivation

The main thing that surprised  me about this exercise was that I didn’t miss reading books. For anyone who knows me, especially anyone who knew me as the kid who mastered walking, eat and even brushing their teeth while reading, that’s pretty shocking! I definitely don’t have a book-reading issue, but that’s been replaced by a phone-checking problem. I used the Leechblock plugin to curtail my browsing on a desktop and Extreme Power Saving mode to short-circuit the habit of checking apps on my phone and, although my social media use dropped off fairly easily, I was compulsively checking my messages (I decided I ought to be able to talk to people and not drop off the face of the Earth for a week, a mistake in hindsight – if I hadn’t been able to check at all, I might have found the task easier). I worried that I was setting myself up for future issues by simply adding interesting articles to Pocket to read later, but since coming off the deprivation, I simply wasn’t that interested in the articles and deleted them.
Being disconnected from the world definitely improved my mental health and it’s a practice I’d like to repeat periodically.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Keeping to my 10 minute social media limit
  • Checking messenger as a substitute for reading/games
  • Remembering to turn on Extreme Power Saving mode
  • Restraining myself from buying too many books
  • Keeping myself focused on the projects I’m already working on
  • Making time to do my morning pages

Morning pages

A complete wash: between the 4th of July and the 23rd, I didn’t do any morning pages.

Artist’s date

I don’t know if I did a specific artist’s date this week.
Unfortunately, I wrote my checkin in stages, so I’m writing this bit nearly six weeks after I started. I can see from my planner that I made more of an effort to get out of my own head, meeting friends and working on physical, non-art projects – my rocking chair is dismantled, sanded, and ready for new springs, which I ordered this week. Interesting and tiring and fulfilling, but not ‘play’.

Verdict

All in all, it’s been a big week, and discovering an interest in runes and the rekindling my lapsed spirituality gives me things to think about in Week Six, which has a stronger than usual emphasis on faith.

The Artist’s Way – week three

Overview

This chapter has been a nightmare.
Not through the exercises it’s asked me to do, but for multitude of reasons, including the death of a friend, which meant that a lot of things got deprioritised.

Thinking through who I admire and why, some (most) of my choices felt superficial. I know that they were based on the public persona of famous people, but I look up to the persona, not the person. I still love Ray Bradbury’s prose, even though I disagree with some of his personal opinions, and I’m pretty sure Carrie Fisher and I would have very little in common, but – based on what I know of her – she seemed amazing.

In the last few days, I’ve also started dreaming again. Nothing that makes any sense, and nothing that I can recall in the cold light of day, but I did recall having a dream for the first time in years.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • I’m pretty sure Quirk and Robbie are on their way out. It’s sad, but I tried my best. Apparently potting trees from the wild has a very low success rate. They might come back, once they’ve had time to recover. Only time will tell.
  • Real life taking priority. Everything in its own time, but it’s still a little frustrating.

Morning pages

I feel better for writing them, but I’m not sure they’re reaching as deeply as they need to. I definitely felt better about my bereavement after writing about it, but I think there’s more deep-seated stuff that I need to excavate and the pages aren’t touching it yet.

Artist’s date

I honestly can’t remember what I did for this. At one point, I said I was going to learn a magic trick, but I haven’t yet. I baked, maybe? Had a lie-in?

Verdict

This week dragged on so long and it’s been such a mental and emotional rollercoaster, I can’t remember most of it. I know I said working through this in my own time was fine, but I think I’ll try to pick up the pace!

The Artist’s Way – week two

Overview

This one got off to a tricky start. I didn’t re-read the chapter, and so missed out on some of the instructions, and took two weeks to complete this one. It’s okay, I’m doing this on my own and I can go at my own pace.

This chapter, Cameron talks a lot about “crazymakers” (her word, not mine). People who turn up at inopportune times and wreck your plans with utter disregard for your feelings or wellbeing. I don’t seem to have any in my life – they sound like the sort of ‘friends’ I’ve avoided or excised – so, instead of trying to disentangle myself from them, I examined my own behaviour. After all, Cameron said that such people are often blocked creative. I don’t thrive on attention – quite the opposite – and the idea of upsetting my friends genuinely concerns me. I could stand to do better (everyone could, probably), but the person I sabotage the most is myself.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Morning pages

Morning pages

I had a chat with my therapist about them and he thinks they’re probably useful. He also suggested only writing two of them if time was an issue. I was hesitant – I’d noticed that I start to uncover some significant thought processes around the one-and-a-half-pages mark and didn’t want to jeopardise that, but he reckons that the brain – when confronted with a finite amount of time/space – will put off doing the important work until it absolutely has to and that, by shaving a page off my writing, I’ll come to the same conclusions half a page earlier. I’ve been trying that for a few days, and it seems to be working out.

Artist’s date

I planned to go somewhere new this week, but life intervened and I ended up gardening instead (making hay while the sun shines). It’s been a while since I gardened and, in one of those fantastic coincidences, a chance conversation has reignited my old interest in bonsai at the same time that my weeding uncovered some oak saplings that had planted themselves way too close to the house, so I’m now the caretaker of two potted oak trees.

Quirk and Robbie
Quirk and Robbie

Because I’m a shameless nerd, I’ve dubbed them Quirk and Robbie. Quirk (in the foremost pot in the photo), and is a single root ball with with four trunks; pragmatic and fmily-orientated. Robbie (in the hindmost pot) may have become detatched from Quirk while I was digging them up, but is now an independant young thing looking to establish his own identity  (having given them name and personalities, their inevitable deaths as a result of my incompetence will crush me, but that’s future me’s problem).

Verdict

All things considered, this was a pretty chill week. The topics of my morning pages are still varying wildly – ideas for The Story With No Name one day, musings on mortality and grief the next, and whinging about how tired I am the day after. It’s a process and I am finding it useful; the switch to two pages doesn’t seem to have affected that too much.
I rated adventure and spirituality as the weakest points of my life this week, and I’ve been trying to think of ways to fill them up. Meditation has, ironically, been pushed out of my morning routine more often than not because the morning pages ran long. That said, the weather’s nice so I’m in the garden more and been trying to pay more attention to my environment during my my lunchtime walks, and I’m feeling more grounded in reality than I used to.