Tag: art therapy
I am an extremely sensitive artist type person. Fear, anxiety and self doubt can cause stagnation in my abstract art practice, and life in general.
But thankfully, I have found tools to help get past these times of sluggishness. One of these tools is surfing. There is nothing that puts me in the moment and shows me my place within the universe quite like being in the waves.
Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing yet another one of my essays, How Surfing Helped Me Turn My Fear and Anxiety into Confidence. Take a read and comment below and/or share if it resonates with you.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Don't forget to get outside and play after all that turkey and pie!
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After 18 years of working in restaurants, hotels and busy offices, suddenly I find myself able to pursue my passion of abstract painting…working all alone in my kitchen studio and home office and well...loneliness happens.
Sometimes I talk to myself more in one day than I speak to other people. I’m not kidding. I talk to myself out loud throughout my work day because, frankly, I get tired of the quiet. I listen to music pretty much constantly, but sometimes I just want to hear other people’s voices. I’m not quite desperate enough to have the TV on all day but man, do I yearn for humans sometimes.
Before jumping full time into my career as a West Coast abstract painter, I worked in many different environments. Happening restaurants, bustling offices, full Yoga studios…I’ve had so many different careers but they all had one thing in common: I was always around people.
While I'm in the studio, I often day dream about being outside. Loneliness can make me wish to be anywhere but where I am.
Now I find myself alone in my house all day. Sometimes I relish in the quiet. Sometimes I feel the silence is WAY too loud. As a person who battles anxiety and depression, that quiet can sometimes feel utterly stifling and although I have a loving family and many friends, I can begin to feel pretty darn lonely.
Compound the physical loneliness with the fact that my daughter just turned 16, now has a car to get herself around and a very busy school and social life…well...I’ll just say that this year has been full of more transition than I was really ready for or expecting to deal with. Transitions are always harder than I think they will be. I knew that working from home and being self-employed was going to be challenging to begin with. But throw in early empty nest syndrome and suddenly I find myself alone in my work AND in my role as a Mom.
Just me...alone and thinking away.
Oddly enough, the loneliness can make it hard for me to motivate to be around people. Weird, huh? It’s like the sadness can wrap itself around me and I just don’t want to have to talk to anyone, even though all I really want are for people to be around. I also find that when my friends reach out to me, it’s always at inopportune moments…like in the middle of my work day. I vacillate between irritation when my friends call to wondering “why is no one calling me?!” Oh Lord…
I started working with a marketing firm who tells me that I should be posting pictures of me doing fun things with my friends once a week. I guess potential collectors also like to know that they’re buying from a well-rounded popular artist. Well guess what…I have lots of photos of me making art alone in my studio but very few of me doing fun things with friends. Queue violins here.
Oh me oh my! Whatever should a lonely artist do? Well, having good cries every couple of days is a release, but does that really help me battle the loneliness? Now, don’t feel too sorry for me. My life really is great. I have a loving and supportive family, amazing friends, and an incredible opportunity to follow my dreams. Unfortunately, knowing this only makes me feel guilty in my loneliness. So now I’m lonely, sad, AND riddled with guilt. Oy.
I am an extremely goal oriented, organized, efficient person. My social life has never needed managing. I used to have dinners, parties, coffees and live music dates multiple times a week. It used to be effortless, but life has changed. I’m older, not drinking anymore and immersed in my art work. Now, 9 months into my new business venture, I am realizing that perhaps I need to apply new strategies when it comes to being around people on a regular basis.
When THIS is what I'm thinking about while I'm working, it's time to go outside and play.
5 Ways Artists Can Battle Loneliness:
- Schedule a coffee, a hike, a dinner, an anything – Duh. This is so obvious that I’m not sure why it took me so long to do. I schedule everything from exercise to social media posts so why it took me so long to realize this is beyond me. I now try to schedule time with a friend at least once a week even if I have to do it a few weeks out. It’s good just to get dates on the calendar.
- Allow social media to boss me around– I mean, I already do. I have to post to social media every day and to do that I have to have content to post. So, I’d better be getting in my studio to make art every day or else my followers are going to get bored with me. Since I have been told that I need a friend post once a week, that means that I actually have to be physically next to a friend at least once a week in order to have photographic proof that I’m not an isolated hermit.
- Talk to my family when they get home – This is harder than it sounds. The 16-year-old, while she still seems to like me ok, doesn’t want to be bombarded with me talking at her as soon as she walks in…or at all really. My husband gets an ear full when he comes home. It continuously surprises me how many words come out of my mouth when I’ve been alone for a whole day or two. He’s a very patient and kind man and gives me ample time to vomit words before we surrender to exhaustion, fall down and go boom. Bless him.
- Talk to a therapist – Yeah yeah yeah. I went back to her this week after not going for about three years. I’ve gone on and off since I was 13. I won’t go way into this except to say that if therapy works for you, as it does for me, every couple of years a check in is a good thing. And let’s face it, talking to a therapist is different than talking to friends or family. I don’t have to censor myself at all, which can feel really liberating.
- Get outside and play – I know…this is on every single one of my “How to cope with _______” lists. But it’s true. Being outside helps with just about everything. Sometimes, I get up and go for a morning walk before anyone else in my family is up. Oddly enough, it’s alone time that I feel is really good for me. I don’t have to think about work, or anything in particular at all. I just get outside and get some exercise while the sun is coming up. I suppose when I’m in tune with nature, I feel I’m closer to something bigger than me and that is very comforting.
So yeah…I get lonely working by myself. I am getting better at applying old strategies to my loneliness, which is merely a new problem that old solutions will work for. I’ve just never in my life been in tune with this particular issue as much as I am now. As I’m typing this, new solutions are presenting themselves: I’ve just been invited to a meeting with 6 other professional artists this evening. So, I can now add to my list of strategies: “Get involved with local artist community.”
It makes sense…I mean…anyone who works alone is familiar with this particular struggle. Why should we have to struggle alone? So, I’m going to motivate and reach out more so I freak out less. Because even though I’m living my dream I’m also going through new experiences and transitions. Change is hard and loneliness can happen, even in noisy, crowded rooms.
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As a West Coast abstract artist, I am, by default, also a small business owner. Even when my gut is telling me the answers, I find that I yearn for outside approval before making decisions regarding my business. It's time to stop.
I am a well-supported individual. I always have been. I have the love and support from a team of people who want nothing else than to see me succeed. I have always felt this support, especially from my parents, my entire life. They supported me when I wanted to go to art school, switched majors to business, became a yoga teacher, a stock broker, when we decided to move 2500 miles away… I am a well-loved person. I am so grateful.
But now that I'm 8 months in since I quitting my day job to focus on my art, I am asking myself the question “Am I listening to too many voices?”. Feeling so supported is a wonderful thing, but I wonder, does it change the way I listen to myself? The past couple of weeks I have felt a bit stuck. Like, in every way. It has been difficult to make decisions and therefore, my forward momentum has been like moving through molasses.
Now, I am fully aware that my idea of “productive” is probably way beyond a normal level of productivity. My Mom and I were joking the other day that the reason that I didn’t cry when I was born, but instead lifted myself up with my arms to get a good look around, was because I was trying to figure out where to start multitasking. I have always been a “doer”.
For the past twenty years or so, I have had jobs where my checklist was clear and straight forward and I spent my days with a great sense of satisfaction as I moved from one task to the next, checking the items off my list. Five years ago, I brought my art practice and business development into my routine and every day I checked off items. Make art, check. Build a website, check. Set up Instagram and Facebook business, check. Incorporate mailing list and send eblasts, check. Write blog, check. Attend business webinars, check. Setting everything up was not hard for me. It was just another to do list.
I made a decision to make smaller pieces in order to create a lower price point rather than reproductions because it felt right for me, despite advise from loved ones saying otherwise.
But then I quit my day job to work on my art business full time. Suddenly, the check list items became more ambiguous. Like, Revise Bio and Artist Statement…ok, with what changes? Grow social media following…sounds good…how? Start working on different series of art work…uh…won’t I confuse what I’ve already done?
Then there is my support team. They are awesome and each bring something different to the table in the ways of life and career experiences. But what happens when I try to talk things through with the people who are closest to me and they don’t say what I hope to hear? Or suggestions are made that are simply not in line with the business model that I’ve been investing in. Do I go and change everything around based on their advice?
I’d like to focus on a fragment from the above paragraph: “…and they don’t say what I hope to hear”. Basically, by admitting that I’m hoping for certain advice to come out of their mouths, I am acknowledging that I already know what I think the answer is and I am just simply passing it by another to reinforce what I have already decided. When the opinion is different, it just confuses and frustrates me.
I think I’m at a point in this process where I know what is best for my art and business. The problem is that I have always had such an amazing and enthusiastic cheer squad, that I have become habitually reliant on passing things by my support team. It’s almost like it’s not real until I talk to one of them about it, whatever the “it” might be.
Even at this point in my process, just finishing the under paintings, this choice felt right for me.
It is because I’m scared. I’m scared of making the wrong choices. Of spending my time and focus on the wrong items. Of failing. Of letting them all down.
Maybe, in a way, I feel the need to pass every little detail by them because it takes some of the burden away. If they give me advice, and it turns out to be the wrong choice, then part of the responsibility is taken off of me and put on them. Just typing that makes me feel like a coward.
Recently, I’ve been feeling as though maybe I need to keep things a little bit closer. Maybe I need to proceed with actions based on the instincts within me. For example, I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for “entry level art” and the idea of reproductions keeps coming up from one of my support team. The problem is that I have wanted to build a business making only originals. The idea of creating cheaper reproductions is not attractive to me. I can’t finish the paintings the way I want. I can’t wrap the paint around the sides of the canvas. I can’t hand sign the back. It’s just not the ideal model for me.
I’m not throwing the idea completely under the bus, but I know that I need to try to build my ideal business and right now, I’m not sure I want to invest the time and energy it would take to get high quality photos taken of the pieces for reproduction. To research all the different print on demand companies. To test each one by ordering the reproductions…and on and on…
I would rather invest that time in creating small originals. And so that is what I’ve been doing all week. Now, I will say that I did have an hour-long conversation with my Mom (the Head of my Cheer Squad) about this that enabled me to make this final decision. She asked good questions and at the end of it, I had clarity. So, I’m not saying that should become an island.
I am so glad that I put energy into this project. Not only do I have a new series of work in the form of visual meditation paintings, but I also have a great price point for the holidays and for "introductory level" art.
What I do think is that when it comes to my art and business, that my instincts are usually correct and that I need to learn to trust them more. Because of that, I think it may be time to talk less and act more. I need to trust my artistic voice and my business gut.
It’s difficult because in the past, I haven’t always made the best decisions. But in looking back, most of those decisions were based on what I thought other people would want me to do. As Polonius says “To thine own self be true.” How can I be true to myself when I am constantly reaching outward for approval? It’s a bad habit.
Going forward, I am going to only ask about things that I have actual confusion about. Not things that I know the answer to and I’m just hoping that someone else will agree with me so I’m sure it’s right. I already knew the solution. What I risk is confusing what is already clear, and that is just a waste of valuable time.
If I wouldn't have made the decision to do this, I wouldn't have my Seagulls painting. (Detail of Seagulls can be seen at top of this blog post.)
I am my own CEO, CFO, Creative Director, Marketing Manager, PR Executive and Board of Directors. I also have an Advisory Council. Not every decision must be passed by them. They are there for support and guidance, when needed.
It’s intimidating being my own boss. If I fail, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. But failure is just an outcome of being ballsy enough to try, so what’s the big deal? Faith in my own abilities is a muscle that I need to exercise. I have a feeling it’s one of those things that will get easier and easier the more I do it. So today, I begin.
The detail at top is Seagulls 36x36 Acryllic and Paper on Canvas.
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Through the practice of Abstract Expressionism, my inner control freak has loosened her grip on my life and my loved ones.
Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing my article titled How Expectations Can Drive People Away and How to Let Go of Control.
I once was my own worst enemy when it came to being fixated on outcomes. Being so focused on what I thought "should" happen all the time led to constant disappointment and a feeling of isolation. Through the practice of my art I have found that stress truly is optional.
Once again, I am completely humbled by the response to my writing. I have received emails, DMs and comments from people who know and struggle with the constant disappointment of expectations never being met. Please take a read, and if it resonates with you, feel free to share.
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Being a self-employed West Coast abstract artist is a dream come true but staying on task and moving forward means being consistent and disciplined with my routine.
School is back in session. Amen. Hallelujah Brothers and Sisters. For those of you who have children, you definitely know the struggle of keeping a routine during the Summertime. If you have children and work from home, you REALLY know this struggle. And if you happen to be a parent, who works from home and is easily distracted by outdoor adventure and activities…well…you get it…
I think all-in-all I’ve been pretty good about keeping forward momentum this Summer. At the same time, I’ve also been trying to get in a decent amount of ocean time, relaxation and fun. Now that Summer is in its twilight and school has started, I’m really excited to get back to my work routine.
It's hard to work when there is fun to be had and meadows of flowers to run through... Photo by Jayden Becker.
Routine: noun - A regular course of procedure without which I aimlessly walk in circles pretending to be productive...and then go surfing.
Last blog post I talked about one of the most asked questions I get as an West Coast abstract artist: “Where do your ideas come from?” Today, I’d like to talk about the second most asked question I get: “How do you stay on track working from home?” This is, apparently, a common struggle for anyone who doesn’t have to punch anyone else’s clock but their own. Unfortunately for the question askers, I cannot totally relate to this struggle because as long as I have a good routine in place, it isn’t hard for me at all to stay on task.
However, after being asked this question for the 80th time, I have been giving it more thought, and I realize that I do have a few things consistently in play that help keep me accountable to my routine. Here are a few of the strategies I utilize to keep me on track.
- Social Media is my Boss. I post to social media every day. Almost without fail. In order to be able to post new content every day, I have to make new content. Meaning, I have to be actively creating abstract art in the studio. If I haven’t gotten in the studio and made a healthy amount of progress throughout the week, I have nothing to share with my followers. I do keep a back log of images that can be used in a pinch in case of illness or a surf report that cannot be ignored, but for the most part, I try to stay productive.
- Calendar it out! I keep an electronic calendar that I put my weekly tasks on. Monday is blog writing day. Tuesdays, I collect website/social media analytics to make sure I’m going in the right direction. Wednesday and Thursdays, I reach out to media and influencers and check out education webinars. Friday I schedule social media for the week. Blog posts go live on the first and the fifteenth, work in progress/studio sneak peaks are eblasted the second week of the month and new available work for sale email is sent the third week. And yes, I’m aware I missed most of these for August…dern ocean kept calling me back for more! It’s Summer for Pete’s sake…we’ve all got to give ourselves a break every now and again…
- Progress in the studio yields more progress in the studio. Huh? Well what I mean is that the more art I create, the more I want to create, the easier it is to get started and move from task to task. The comments and likes I get on social media motivate me to share the next steps. The more I’m working, the more ideas I get, the more techniques I discover and the more excited I am about working.
I mean come on! Summer goofing is hard to pass up!
Photo by Jayden Becker
Having a routine leads to progress. Progress equals growth. Growth makes me excited and excitement creates a desire to work more.
That being said, I’m SO very glad that school is back in session because the degenerate surfer in me was starting to more and more choose the surf over the work. And while I am in full support of engaging in the activities that keep me inspired (as surfing does), I’m also aware that mid-August thoughts of renting the house out and living in the surf van are not the healthiest for my work ethic.
So, it’s time to pull back the reigns, turn up the hustle and get back to a proper pace. Here’s to the new school year, more progress, growth and excitement. Let’s rock and roll. I'll try not to get too terribly distracted by the pretty flowers.
Photo at top is Shrimp 36x36 Acrylic & Paper on Canvas. #2 in my Louisiana inspired series.
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For this West Coast abstract artist, dealing with rejection is just part of putting myself and my art out into the world.
In the past week, I have received 2 rejection emails for articles I wrote, very little response to a social media challenge that I’ve been working 2 months on, and an art show that yielded no sales. Oy…all of that sure doesn’t feel too good on the old confidence level.
If you know me, you know that I have a very healthy work ethic. I’m a goal oriented doer. I have the ability to get more tasks done in one day than most and this didn’t change for me, as it does for some, when I started working for myself at home.
So, when I received a flurry of rejection this past week, the work horse side of my ego took a supreme hit. “What the hell?! I’ve been working my ass off! Doing ALL THE THINGS that I’m supposed to do to grow my business. Why isn’t this working?”
Being a professional abstract artist means consistently putting one foot in front of the other, but sometimes a rest is in order.
I received advice from my artist group and my mother (who is a novelist) that it might be time to take a little rest. This is not my instinct. My default to “failure” is to work harder. But this advice, mixed with exhaustion and a touch of sadness, led me to take a few days off.
After two days of loafing around, one cheeseburger with tater tots, a carton of chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream and more episodes of “The Good Wife” than I care to admit to, I was ready to get back to work with a renewed sense of optimism. That makes rejection recovery sound pretty simple but I have to note a few things about dealing with “failure”:
By doing the following, I am able to renew my creative energy and confidence and get back to making abstract paintings.
- Shift your perspective, Woman. I need to stop using the word “failure”. These periods of time when more people are saying “no” than “yes” are not total defeats. I’m new at what I’m doing. The fact that I’ve only been at this 6 months and have had multiple acceptances (2 shows under my belt and another in August, articles published, press from local media…) and multiple rejections mean one thing: I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is putting myself out there and which also means I’m going to hear the word “no" often…but I also have heard “yes” plenty of times too.
- Chill Out, Lady. My Mom told me that early in her career, she and another writer friend of hers decided that when rejection hit particularly hard, they deserved at least one day of feeling sorry for themselves and room to mope. I’m a sensitive artist. Sometimes ignoring negative feelings is not effective for me to move on. I have to honor the crap-ass feeling. Usually this happens when I’m more tired than I realize anyway and rest and relaxation is exactly the remedy.
- Get back on the damn horse, Artist. This week I continued work on a botanical and nature inspired series that I’m doing for my August show. The style of abstract painting is different than what I have been doing and the change was refreshing. I’m also deciding that it might be time for a strategy change in my marketing and PR efforts. I still haven’t found all of my audience and after six months of my current tactics, it’s probably time to move on to new ones.
That doesn’t mean I’ve failed! It means that I’m making progress. I know more now than I knew last year and I will learn even more in another 6 months.
I am a sensitive artist by nature. Sometimes exhaustion, frustration and sadness just have to be honored in order to move forward.
By now, you’re probably all familiar with the old WWII British motivational poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I’ve seen many satires of this poster all done in red and white with the crown at top that say things like: “Run Around and Freak Out” and “I am Latina! I Cannot Keep Calm!” I often thought there should be one for artists that says “Keep Painting and Cry Often” (maybe with a cheeseburger on top instead of a crown).
All joking aside, sometimes the emotional release is necessary for continuance. So is rest. And the funny thing is that once I cried, ate junk food, slept and binge watched Alicia Florrick, I was able to be calm and carry on. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to glimpse defeat in order for the fire of persistence to start burning again.
Rest and relaxation allows me to take flight once again.
And so, I shall close with a silly poem as #4 on my list should be “don’t take myself so damn seriously”:
As a professional West Coast abstract artist, I have many tools in my studio. But the most important tool I have is a willingness to experiment.
Put me in the middle of an art supply store and for an instant, I am a six-year-old in a world of wonder. I see possibility in just about every product offered and my fingers will literally start to buzz. It’s a visceral feeling.
I feel incredible inspiration just walking through the aisles and what I’m thinking is: “just hold onto this feeling until I’m back in the studio”. This doesn’t just happen in the art store, but also browsing interesting products online such as stencil cutters, gold leaf kits and different shapes of paper punches. I could easily spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on all of these products and in fact, I have. (See unopened stencil cutter on bottom shelf).
However, time and time again, when I think about the most important and most regularly used tool in my arsenal, it’s not something physical. Rather, it’s the flexibility of my creative mind AKA a willingness to experiment. Without this tool, my art would be pretty monotonous and boring.
I started this series the same way I always do. By painting the canvas and then papering with different shaped cut paper.
Not becoming attached to my abstract art is the first step to experimentation.
Early on in my abstract art experiment, my mentor told me not to allow anything to become too precious. This was something that I was quite familiar with as a lot of my pencil drawings and illustrations were so detailed, that I wouldn’t even allow my hand to rest on the page for fear that the graphite would smear. I was so high strung and bound up about a lot of my life when I got back into art, and I didn’t want that feeling to override the rest, so I began drawing with my left hand.
By doing this, and without even knowing it, I had learned the lesson about not keeping my art too precious. I was yearning for freedom in many places in my life where the need for control had become overwhelming. In art, I found a safe place to practice this freedom without there being any consequences. Nothing mattered. I could literally piss on my art and no one was going to tell me that it was wrong. (Although it’s not the most original idea as Andy Warhol did that back in the 70’s.)
I wanted to try something new so I taped all 6 of the little canvases together and painted the next coat as if they were one painting.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about just doing anything when it comes to art; about changing it up when stuck. The essence of this strategy is not being afraid to “ruin” anything. I used to get so attached to my art. Not so much anymore. There have been pieces here and there that I have kept but for the most part, once I have a good photo, I’m happy to separate with it to a good home.
Without experimentation, I would pretty much be making different iterations of the same piece over and over. B-O-R-I-N-G! I would rather experiment and find the next really cool technique, even if it means painting over what I just spent 3 days working on. What’s the worst that can happen? I end up painting over the entire thing and start from scratch. Musician and song writer Allen Toussaint lost nearly his entire body of work and his beloved Steinway in Hurricane Katrina. Do you know what his reaction was? Something along the lines of: “That’s ok…I'll get another piano and I’ll just write more.” YES!!!! No fear. No attachment. Just continuing creativity.
That day, my Mom gave me a little round tin that had all of these cute tiny cookie cutters in all different shapes. Inspiration ensued.
The only abstract art rule I follow is that there are NO RULES.
I once overheard an artist at her exhibition talking to a patron about the workshops that she teaches. She said, “I tell my students that they absolutely CAN’T use paint right out of the tube. They HAVE TO mix it and make it their own.” I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on any statement about art that has the words “can’t”, “have to” and “shouldn’t” and also any sort of art “rule”. There is no such thing. As a person that used to live a pretty high risk life, art is a safe haven for me in that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are no “bad” color combinations. There is no governing board of artist laws. The coolest thing about being an artist is the absolute freedom to experiment.
Estival #4, 8x10, Paper, Acrylic & Graphite on Canvas. Even that dark blue bubble like shape was due to experimenting with new "tools"... like the lid of the tin.
So, if you’re stuck on what your next move should be, or if you know the piece isn’t finished but you’re scared to ruin what’s already there, go and paint something bold over whatever it is your stuck on and that’s too precious to change! Use the paint right out of the tube! Put black next to blue and while you’re at it, wear a belt that doesn’t match your shoes and white after Labor Day! Let your freak flag fly and express yourself any damn way you please. And if anyone ever tells you that something about your art is “wrong”, first swallow the urge to tell them to go f*ck themselves. Instead, simply smile and say that “wrong” is in the eye of the beholder.
All you fearful artists out there, repeat after me: “THERE ARE NO RULES IN ART THEREFORE MY ART CAN NOT BE RUINED!”
I'd love to hear about how you experiment. Feel free to comment below!
I'm a West Coast Abstract Artist who struggles with anxiety and negative thinking.
Thankfully I'm not alone. I wanted to thank Tiny Buddha for including my article, "My Proactive 8-Part Plan For Beating Anxiety and Negativity".
The response to this has been overwhelming. Thank you all for commenting, sending messages, emails, etc. I am truly humbled.
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When sitting on the sofa, eating crappy food and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t improve your mood, it’s time to take a different approach to attitude adjusting.
I have just come off a week-long gloom binge. I wasn’t feeling well at all. My work wasn’t satisfying, my home life irritated me, exercise was an unattainable motivation and food…well…if it wasn’t made from sugar or high levels of sodium, I wasn’t interested.
As a sensitive and moody artist who is prone to anxiety and depression, it can be hard at times to pull myself from the depths of my own head. Once I’m there, the darkness can wrap around me like a blanket which, oddly enough, can feel rather comforting. Instead of craving things that would improve the situation, I hunker down, binge on television, cry in the shower, eat ice cream for dinner and procrastinate doing anything that could possibly be good for me. It affects my productivity in EVERYTHING.
Last week, while in the midst of a down-swing, I continued working on a painting and although I worked on it every day, I didn’t make much progress. That is kind of indicative of how my mood affects my day-to-day. When I’m in a negative head space, everything seems to take longer and my actions don’t seem as productive as I know they can be. It’s like everything is done in vain which depresses me even more…OH THE DRAMA OF IT ALL!
On Friday, after my 12th biscotti, 7th grilled cheese sandwich and 4th failed attempt to get to the gym, I had to do something. I chose to take the same attitude towards my day-to-day that I take when I’m stuck on a painting. JUST DO ANYTHING. Seriously. The more different, the better.
Just as in abstract painting, contrast can also be the solution to depressive moods. Trying something opposite to instinct can help.
I decided to approve my teenage daughter’s proposed 8-person sleepover. I know what you’re thinking: “WTF?! You’re fighting the doldrums by inviting a slew of crazed teenagers over?!” Yes, that’s exactly what I did. To justify this decision to my melancholia, I told myself that I would now have the weekend to finish cracking out on crappy food, as that is what the human teenager consumes at a sleepover.
What I was hoping is that all of these fresh faced, energetic, silly-as-hell children running around my house would totally obliterate the misery problem at hand. You try being stuck in a funk on a Saturday night when girls are being dragged across the floor laughing hysterically, sporadic dance parties are popping up on your front lawn and THIS is standing in your kitchen:
The point is that it got me out of my spin cycle. I woke up in my van Sunday morning (yes, I gave up the comfort of my house to the juveniles for the night) and joyfully cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs for a mess of youngsters. I found it amusing (instead of frustrating) when an iphone was found under one of our cars, when I realized that two entire jars of pickles were eaten by one 90-pound girl (ew) and when I was repeatedly asked for something to eat while I was in the middle of cooking a meal.
As it turns out, my Mother was right…it really is important to get outside and play on a beautiful day.
That afternoon, I got outside for the first time in a week and gardened (another one of those activities that is so hard for me to start, yet feels so good when finished). Monday, I woke up and rocked that painting, continuing on in a completely different direction from where I started. I had been painting in a pretty dark pallet so I took a light blue and painted over about 85% of my painting.
When in doubt, just do anything.
After a brief panic attack, (and another biscotti) I took the canvas outside and started sanding the paint down. Layers of texture and color slowly emerged through the light blue, creating a dreamy, twisted, complicated junglescape. Out emerged something I never could have planned or imagined and it was beautiful.
When I needed a break from that, I got on my bike and hauled ass on the bike path for about an hour. In that time, I was able to release most of the remaining dark cloud that I had been dragging around. It was really hard to pay attention to the blahs when I chose to engage with the outdoors for a minute. It’s Spring, Moody Artist! For Pete’s sake, go outside and play!
Today is Tuesday and I still feel my bad mood hiding out and waiting for an opening to creep back in. But instead of engaging with it, I’ve decided to write about the ridiculousness of it all. After lunch, I will incorporate some darks back into this painting and then I’m going mountain biking.
Detail of the painting after working a dark blue back in. Sometimes you just have to keep doing the opposite thing until you land where it all comes together.
The only constant mood is the changing one
We all go through ups and downs. If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years being human, it’s that there is no such thing as an endless good or bad mood. They are all temporary and part of a much bigger picture. It’s where we choose to focus that’s important. I’m always amazed when a once huge problem doesn’t seem quite so big when I don’t stop and stare at it. I mean, it’s Spring in Southern Oregon…I’d much rather stop and stare at the wild flowers.
Sometimes, it seems such an easier choice to curl up on the sofa and continue on with the pity party but right now I have to take the 180 degree turn that will get the spark back into my eyes and the motivation back into my hands. If I choose to remain stuck in my mood, that’s all I’ll be…stuck. Just like with my painting, I have to take action and I can’t wait to think of the “perfect” solution. Just shake it up! Throw caution to the wind, paint onto the canvas, and when in doubt, and if it’s available to you, laugh with a bunch of goofy kids (I hear puppies work too).
When you feel stagnation set in, what do you do to get unstuck? Let me know in the comments below. Goodness knows I need all the strategies that I can get!
Painting at top is Blue Music, 36x36, Paper, Acrylic and Watercolor Crayon on Canvas
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