Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Handmades

Two handmade Christmas-gifty things I must share because they give me such joy.  First, my mom surprised me with a box that had a hat and two scarves she knitted for me.  They are super soft and she even spun the yarn for the blue one!

 Thanks, Mom!

And second are these paintings I made -- the result of a wild hair that I had about a week before Christmas (i.e. a moment of gift-giving desperation for Erik -- the man who needs/wants very little):
Before my painting journey began, I'd purchased several practical items for my bird-enthusiast partner, but none of them seemed special enough.  Since I knew he was interested in putting more artwork up on his office walls at work, I decided to pull out my paints and see what I could do.

Hmmm...yeah...that sounds a little too spontaneous and easygoing for how it really went down!  I was very excited and motivated at the outset--the planning and dreaming stage--but also pretty scared that the paintings might not turn out and then I would be headed back out in panic-mode with all the other last-minute shoppers.
The first day up in the studio (the part where I actually sat down and got my hands dirty) was, in all honesty, horrible.  Seriously, if I wasn't for the fact that I had a very good reason for diving into something with so little time and so much uncertainty, I would have left maybe 30 minutes into the process.  Everything was taking longer than I wanted and none of it was easy.  Wah, wah, wah.  :-)

Although I can definitely be  aware and mindful of all the internal ramblings of my inner critic, I'm not so good at turning down the volume or "making friends" with my critic when it comes to these types of endeavors.  Sometimes it amazes me how something I love like art-making can awaken such strong feelings of aversion.  For instance, when I was working on the underpaintings for the birds, I was having an absolutely fantastic amount of aversion to what was appearing before me on the canvas despite that fact that I know from past experience that an underpainting will always be messy, sketchy, and less-than-perfect.  That is it's very nature!  I know that painting is an exercise in faith and trust, as much as it is properly mixing colors and applying a particular technique.  Especially for the mostly untrained artist like myself (but I'm sure this is true for all artists), there's always an element of "wait and see." 

In the past, I've tried to "work with myself" in ways that approach a sort of gentle rationalization and reasoning, much like a parent trying to nicely tell their child that they needn't be upset or cry about something.  Well, I've learned that it doesn't work.  No matter how patient and gentle you sound, it still amounts to invalidation!

I don't feel as if I've come up with all the answers for myself yet (by any means!), but I did find with this project that matter-of-factly acknowledging the discomfort and continuing on with the work, persisting despite the bad feelings (and not denying or trying to beat them away), really seemed to be the most helpful thing.  (Well, that and a deadline!).  And eventually, my mind went from the constricted, pin-point vision of stress to an expansive, light-filled, open-minded glow.  At last, I was having fun.  I was in flow -- that lovely state where time is irrelevant and I was swimming in the joy of creating.  It was so great and I can see what some people just fall in love with their craft; they live and breathe it.
I'm looking forward to the next painting opportunity -- not so much to see the final product, but to see where my internal process takes me.  If I cross paths with stress again (and I'm sure I will), at least I know it's an opportunity to meet it, greet it, and just keep going.  There's usually good stuff on the other side.