Illness, death and injury can be seen as HUGE diversions from the things we should be doing. I challenge that and suggest that perhaps being of service when our family, friends and community needs us does more good than harm. Service feeds the soul.
I have officially been a professional West Coast Abstract Artist for 1 year. By treating my art like a small business, I have seen growth that many professional artists have told me they didn't see until about 10 years in.
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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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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How the Tortured Artist Persona is Actually the Process in Motion (even if it makes me want to puke.)
Pain and Art
I woke up this morning feeling defeat. My painting is not coming along easily. I’m running out of regional interior designers to email and art consultants to contact. I still haven’t made that first sale to a stranger that I have put so much importance on. My day job is ending in about a week. I have to make it to the blasted grocery store today. My scalp is itchy and my knee hurts. Bitch, bitch, bitch…
Suffering is Part of the Process
This part of the process isn’t easy. The part where I am nearly physically sick. The part where I doubt myself. Every time I go through the same panic; the same nausea; the same “it will never come easily again!” feeling. I will fail! I will fail! I will fail! I was actually walking around my studio saying “It’s awful! It’s terrible! The most horrible I’ve ever done! I’m doomed!” (Enter thunder clap here.) Oh, the drama!
This is where it started. I like it at this point but it is too "wall paper" like. Time to take chances.
I have been through this process enough to know that over this hump is a real step forward. Past this point, the painting has a history. History ain’t always pretty, but it sure makes things more interesting and it allows room for learning and growth. A painting has to have a past before it can have a present. It is a gestation; a metamorphosis. Even if it makes me want to vomit. I mean…I got morning sickness while pregnant, right?
Well that's kind of cool...but still, something is missing. More chance taking ensues.
Pain Brings Depth to Art
When people ask me if I miss New Orleans, I say that I miss the architecture and the history. I miss the oldness of the place. I miss the ghosts. New Orleans has lived so many lives, both beautiful and frightening. It has so many layers and it is these layers that create fascination and mystery. The ghosts of my frustration bring tension to the party. It creates a mystery to unravel. Otherwise my paintings are just pretty things on a wall.
Detail of the "Oh Lord what have I done" moment.
I figured all of this out while going through this painting’s grueling process. Prior to this painting, I have ridden out this feeling thinking that something is wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me or this blasted piece. I know that I shouldn’t look at it as a crappy painting…it’s not even done yet. Without this step, the place beyond does not exist. That doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to witness. I still feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.
Switching directions is nerve racking but often necessary. Even though it is now muddy and I'm not sure where to go, I already feel better.
Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.” So, I begin today with a cup of coffee and some blog post writing in order to step away from the perceived piece of poop on my easel. I know that with just the right amount of space and by allowing this God-awful feeling to have a role, a thing of beauty awaits. It is part of my process and if I have to shed a few tears sometimes to get there, so be it.
Here and at top is The Bus 48x48 Mixed Media on Canvas. Sometimes you just have to get on and take the ride.
I’m not saying that all artists are tortured or that pain is necessary to create art, but it seems to be the case for me and that’s ok. Anyway, the only thing that’s really wrong with me is that I think something is wrong with me. That has always been the case and if that isn’t a tortured artist quote then I don’t know what is.
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I have not been in the ocean for over 2 months, which is the longest lapse in the past 5 years or so. I have been working on a website, setting up and keeping up with social media, learning how to create ads, reaching out to potential customers and making art. On top of that there is family, which is always a priority, and rest (because if I don’t get enough rest, apparently I go bat shit crazy). What has been lost? Exercise and getting to the coast.
I’ve been trying to be better about exercise and I can gerbil at the gym with the best of them, but I need to get outside. I’ve been thinking about my love for surfing, mountain biking and skiing and why those activities are part of my art practice; part of my formula for creativity.
Me surfing in Del Norte, CA. Photo credit: Christian Dalbec
When I was in art school at Boston University, Professor Peter Hoss http://www.peterhoss.com/, my drawing teacher and the only teacher that I really connected with, made us read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Zen and the Art of Archery. While I haven’t read either in over 20 years (I probably should as a refresher), they resonated with me so deeply that I scored the highest in the class on the written tests pertaining to these books. It boggled my mind that I could see the message in these books so clearly and yet be so uninspired by art school. In the most abbreviated and loose interpretation, the Zen books are about getting lost in the moment. Going to such a meditative space when engaged in an activity that you love, that all else slips away and time melts. Even though I wasn’t happy in art school, I clearly knew what that was like and recognized that I felt it when making art.
Me in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo credit: Chris Goodyear
When I am on a surf board in the ocean, I do not have time to interpret the thoughts in my head. When a wave is approaching me, my body and mind are one and I can only “do now”. It puts me in a present state the same way that flying down a trail on a bike, or down a mountain on skis does as well. There is no time to think about my actions, I just have to trust that my body will react to what my brain observes and know that if I simply relax and roll with it, I have the best outcomes. Engaging in these sports feeds the part of my brain that is able to let go and just be.
Skiing on Mount Shasta. Photo credit: Chris Goodyear
Each time I fill up that bucket of present-being, it flows into every part of my life. My art is richer, deeper and more complex. Balance and composition are not such a struggle. Color choice is not overthought. It is easier to surrender to the moment. One thing flows to the next in a smooth and graceful stream of action and a painting appears.
When I don’t fill up that bucket I am more resistant to that stream. When that bucket is running on fumes, I overthink and swim against the current. I can keep it from running out entirely by practicing seated meditation each morning and getting out to hike, but my brain can still get lost in thought when doing both. I need to be part of the speed that gravity creates or to feel the power of the waves. Engaging with forces that I cannot control results in an overflowing abundance of present sight. I have to focus on, and only on, what is happening NOW. The ticker tape of thought is paused and instinct kicks in. Brain and body work together in a brief moment of synchronicity, where there is no time to question either.
That being said, I best be planning to get to the ocean soon. Even if just for the day. Even if the surf report is less than ideal and that blasted south wind is whipping. I need to get out, paddle around, say hi to the sea lions and literally be immersed in nature. So down the Redwood Highway I go to the wind lashed, foggy, rugged, temperamental paradise of the Northern California Coast. Time to inhale the marine layer and get lost in the sound of the waves. Surf’s up y’all.
Painting at top is Quiver 28"x22" Mixed Media on Canvas - A gift for my amazing surfer dude husband.
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I am in my studio diligently working on my very first commission. This piece has come easily, flowing through me with no blockages. It is an amazing feeling. While I’m in my “zen spot”, I find myself thinking about…my ex. Not what you were expecting, I’m sure, but my functioning dysfunctional family is the reason why I’m here. This happens to me often when the piece I’m working on just falls into place. My brain goes to my family and the first thing I feel is gratitude.
Me and Goody on One of Our Surfing Adventures November 2016
I have been married to the same wonderful man for almost 10 years, together for 12. He is my rock; my grounding rod. He absorbs all of my crazy. Whenever I float into the ethers, he brings me back down to earth but never tries to strip me of my uniqueness.
Photo Credit: Goody
I have a 15-year-old from a previous relationship. She is a storm of adolescent uncertainty with the solid soul of an 80-year-old woman. Her father is one of my best friends and although he lives in another state, we all spend as much time together as we can. When I tell people that we do things like vacation together, I receive looks of disbelief. “You go places to intentionally spend time with your ex?” Yes…yes I do. So does my husband and my daughter is a better person for it. We are family.
Mom and Dad (aka Joe Pecot and Chris Wiltz) They are the BEST
I have parents who this year celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. They have supported me when I wanted to go to art school, when I wanted to drop out of art school, when I went back for a business degree and afterwards when I decided to become a yoga teacher only to become a stock broker 2 years later. They have been steadfast in their love and support for me when I had a baby out of wed lock, when that relationship didn’t work out, when I fell in love and wanted to get married. They embraced a move to Oregon from New Orleans to be closer to us. They believe in my art.
Me and Pumpkin (aka Rebecca Norwood) at The Getty in October 2016
I have amazing friends, one in particular who has been by my side since I was 3 years old. 3!!! Even when I thought we were choosing different directions in life, she never let me stray far. She has been loyal to me even when I haven’t been a very good friend. She knows who I am and says things like: “Well, Marigny, you have always done things your own way. Why should this be any different?” Spoken without judgement…it just is and she loves me for it.
All of them have helped me through my emotional dysfunction: a pretty bad drinking problem accompanied by depression and a general dissatisfaction with life. They are still here cheering me on, loudly. They want me to be happy.
Then there is the work. My art. I have never enjoyed any of the careers that I have tried on. All I ever wanted to be is an artist but I didn’t think that was something that people could actually grow up and be so I practiced not being an artist until I forgot that I actually was one. Now, as I lay pigment down and I feel the vibrancy of the color, I also feel the vibrancy of my life. It’s a beautiful thing. Even as I was just interrupted from this writing to scrub out vomit from a heart shaped trash bin (my poor kiddo has the flu), I can’t help laughing. Yeah, we were supposed to go skiing today but instead I’m cleaning up sick…and that’s ok. It’s all good. Life. Is. Good.
So this holiday season, I am grateful. For my non-traditional family. To be comfortable calling myself an artist. For heart-shaped trash cans (at least it wasn’t all over the floor). To be here on earth doing it all. Happy Holidays everyone. May your dysfunction bring you insight into growth, beauty and acceptance. Amen, Hallelujah and all that jazz.
Photo at top is my first commission completed. Big Top 12x12 Mixed Media on Board
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