As a self employed West Coast Abstract Artist who works from home, routine is oh so important to keep me moving forward. But how do I know if the routine needs adjusting?
On September 1st, I wrote a blog on how important my routine is to me and how I was excited to get back to it after a Summer of distractions. Now, I’m going to take all of that back. It is time to BLOW UP MY ROUTINE.
I have always been a goal oriented rule follower. I created my routine and as a rule, I’m going to stick with it until my goal is met. But what happens if my goals aren’t attained. Then what do I do? Well…after having a panic attack (and a carton of ice cream), I think it may be time to re-assess.
Last month I read you off my routine schedule and how it keeps me on track. That’s true. But what happens when I realize that the routine I’ve been adhering to isn’t creating the returns that I had hoped? I’ve been working the same routine for 6 months. Now in the long term, that’s nothing but in the faster paced world of social media, that’s quite a chunk of time.
I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I blamed it all on my routine being screwed up. But here’s the deal…after trying to get back to the routine, I realize that it’s not working. My eblasts aren’t getting engagement, the links aren’t getting clicked on and the social media isn’t growing as quickly as I’d like it to.
So, what’s the fix here? Time to try something new.
I’ve been focusing on multiple platforms and I’m going to reduce it to one. Not that I won’t maintain the others, but I’m going to narrow my focus for a moment and see what it yields. I won’t get into the technical specifics as it’s more boring than watching paint dry. The point is that I have to start looking at marketing like I look at my painting process.
Woah...a scary step, indeed. But a necessary one in order to move forward.
When I’m painting, and something isn’t going the way I want it to, I change it. I take a “when in doubt, do” attitude and I experiment away. Now, with marketing, it’s a bit different as I have to have a period of time to examine and so changes can’t be quite so reckless. However, I think 6 months of a steady marketing routine is time enough to decide if this is working, or not.
The answer when applied to my current marketing strategies is “or not”. My social media growth is slow, my email list growth is non-existent and the website visitors are not beating my online door down. After careful analysis, lots of research and the implementation of some marketing help, I start anew. Let’s see what the next 6 months are going to bring.
It’s time to shake things up and see where they land this time around. *deep breath…and here I go.
The painting at top is Paper Airplanes 22"x28" Acrylic & Paper on Canvas. A gift for my daughter on her 16th birthday.
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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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As an abstract artist, the most common question I receive is "Where do you get your ideas?" Having giving this much thought, I realize that the answer is all around, and inside me.
I am preparing for my third show of the Summer and boy, my soul is tired. I was so excited at the response that I received when looking for places to exhibit my work. It wasn’t expected and so when three different places offered me shows for June, July and August, I knew that I was in for a busy Summer.
I have been working consistently and was able to have completely new paintings for each show. Making the art isn’t hard for me. I don’t really have to wait for inspiration to come. I have a schedule that I’m on the computer the first half of the day doing marketing and admin, and I’m in the studio the second half making abstract art and for the most part, I’ve stuck to it with ease.
The most common question that I’ve gotten is “where do you get your ideas?” and it’s a bit of a tough one to answer. My first instinct is to respond that the ideas happen in the moment as I practice abstract expressionism, which by definition, is spontaneous. But after answering the question for the 15th time, I’m realizing that I may be becoming less spontaneous and more thoughtful as time goes on.
Sometimes the most simple shape can have the most meaningful impact in my abstract paintings.
One of many paper airplane cut outs for my kiddo's birthday gift.
My daughter is turning 16 this month (holy crap) and she asked for a new painting for her room, which we are going to paint and make over for her birthday. When I was beginning her painting, I thought about objects and images that she likes, and a sharp yet light paper airplane shape stuck out to me. And so, I began Nora’s painting with paper cut outs of 16 dark paper airplanes and 16 light ones (she is amazingly balanced for an almost 16-year-old).
The painting came out fantastic. (I'll share it with you all after her birthday.) It was the first time that I used an actual “thing” for my paper cut out instead just a repeating shape like a circle, diamond or hexagon. It was whimsical and fun without being immature and it managed to retain sophistication. And upon completion, my brain was immediately flooded with images from my own childhood growing up in New Orleans and the swamps of Louisiana.
Inspiration may come from many different places but images from my childhood in Louisiana are allowing me to create more meaningful pieces.
One of many different pelicans cut for the first of my Louisiana series. (See finished painting at top.)
I settled on pelicans for a second experiment and began a painting using the same process that I used for Nora’s paper airplanes. I'm so pleased with how it turned out. I have sketches now for a Louisiana series that has images of shrimp, hurricanes, fishing hooks, fleur de lis, snowballs… There are a lot of ideas and this is how I plan on spending my Autumn. I’m can’t wait to dive in.
This series is more personal and I’m finding that it is reminding me of some of my old artistic inspirations that I got from children’s book illustrations. I can’t wait to see how the series turns out. In sketching these images, I began to realize that even in the paintings that seemingly come out of nowhere, just as these Louisiana images came to mind and I was able to observe and collect them into my sketch book, I have been collecting ideas for my abstracts in similar ways all along.
"Shrimp Again?!" A common dinner time complaint from me as a "spoiled by fresh gulf seafood" kid. #2 in my Louisiana series.
Want new creative ideas for your abstract art? Just look around. Observation is an important tool.
So, when I’m interested in finding inspiration, here is my tip to myself: Be Observant. I mean this in a few different ways:
- Observe what gives me a “charge”. I took Nora to see Taylor Swift in 2015 and at one point during the show, her dancers had huge paper airplanes on sticks and they were flying them over the crowd. Visually, it was right up my alley. It was playful, whimsical, surreal and a little magical. I felt a fire of amazement begin to burn in my chest at the visual impact that these simple paper airplanes had on the audience. Nora felt it too…we still talk about how amazing it was thus, the paper airplane painting.
- Observe recurring images in my head. Ever since I was a kid, I loved to watch the pelicans sore over the bayou. When I learned to surf as an adult, I was so excited to see them surf the air currents over the waves. I didn’t know they could do that as we didn’t have waves like that in the bayous. After beginning my pelican painting, I realized that I have a ton of these simple images in my head. They are all special to me and I believe that connection can be seen in the painting. It is more personal.
- Observe all the time. One night I was out to dinner and the server brought over our silverware rolled up in napkins. The napkin rolls were secured with strips of paper about an inch or so thick and were covered in an intriguing prism like purple and blue pattern. I took everyone’s little piece of paper from their napkin rolls home and included them in a painting. I also have taken candy wrappers and foils, wrapping paper, cocktail napkins in pretty prints… Art supplies are everywhere. I’m in the habit of being on constant look out for them.
Unbelievably cool paper used as napkins rings at a local restaurant.
It took about 2 years for this habit to develop. But now, I have to carry a little sketch book with me at all times as when I see inspiration in my head (or on my dinner table) I know that I have to catch it quick or it may be forgotten. Last night I thought of another great New Orleans image and this morning it’s gone. I was lazy and didn’t make a note of it and there it goes. Out into the ethers. I hope I remember it later.
So, if you’re wondering where I begin, the answer is that I simply look around both externally and internally for those little nuggets. Who knew a simple paper airplane or a silhouette of a pelican in flight could be inspiration for a painting? A better question is why wouldn't it be? Thankfully there are an infinite amount of ideas flying around and all I have to is pluck them and put it in my pocket, or in my sketchbook. It’s just that simple.
How and/or where do you find inspiration? Please tell me in the comments below. Thanks for your input! Please share this post if it resonates with you.
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!
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’ve been pushing this painting around as if I’m rearranging a room. No huge, OMG changes but slowly the composition has been coming together and while I know it’s not done yet, I’ve been having fun with this one instead of feeling the dread “why isn’t this coming together?” feeling. I’ve been thoughtful with my brush strokes while still letting my heart guide me. It’s a balance that feels so good when it’s present. Too much heart and the composition tends to get lost and the pallet is all over the place. Too much thought and the painting is tight and has a feeling of being bound. So, I’m feeling pretty good…
…Then I send the in-progress picture to my Mentor. She likes it but says to be careful about being too tidy and that I need to be looser with my brush strokes. I feel frustration coming over because it had felt so good when I was doing it and now I’m questioning that I actually know when I attain that important balance of heart and head and maybe I can’t really recognize it and if I can’t recognize it then maybe I’m not doing it right and if I’m not doing it right then maybe blah blah blah… and now my brain is off to the races. I only need one little bit of doubt to creep in and everything else, all the hard work and that wonderful feeling of balance is, in my mind, shot to shit. Not to mention I’ve already forgotten that she said she liked it.
I have a tendency to lean towards insecurity so by default I take things way too personally and generally assign too much importance to what other people think. This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with my Mentor. She is a wonderful artist and a lovely friend who gives terrific advice. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience. She has guided me to the place where I am now. She is invaluable and I don’t know what I would do without her. That being said, I think that as an artist, I need to be able to draw a line between the soul of the art, and other people’s advice.
Wilamena and I are skeptical of opinions
When someone gives me advice, I tend to take it. Especially when it comes from people that I love and/or respect. Why wouldn’t I take it? They know more than me. They are further along in their careers than I am. I should take the advice…right? I’m thinking the answer is, not always. And that’s the tricky part. How do I know when I should take the advice and when I should continue on as I have been?
My carpenter Husband says that I should use a mask while sanding...that sounds like good advice from a reliable source.
I’m an emotional person who tends to think in extremes. I go from smiling and being amenable to everyone’s advice to feeling resentful and vowing never to take anyone’s recommendations ever again. (Blog on being a tortured artist forthcoming.) I make the best decisions when I can remove my insecurity from the situation and ask the simple question “Is that right for me and my art?” For instance, I’m looking at my piece 24 hours of cool down later and now that the comments are not so raw, yes, I can indeed see that there are areas that are too tight and tidy. That doesn’t mean that the entire piece is bad, for Pete’s sake! Breathe Girl!
Cross Town Traffic 24x24 Mixed Media on Canvas...and she was right...it was way too tight and tidy.
I suppose that what I need to learn is to do is to say “Thank you” and then give my emotions time to chill before making the decision to fully heed the opinions of others...or not. There is a practicality about advice when it comes from a trusted, experienced source but there is also a point at which I know what’s best within my own process. So, I need to practice getting my Om on in order to find my own voice within this sea of people that know more than me. And let’s face it, sometimes a painting needs a little crazy to balance out the practical. That may just be the contrast that this painting needed.
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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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