A Patchwork Fall

A Patchwork Fall
"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art." ~Paul Cezanne~

February 5, 2015

Recharging my Art Batteries

Wife, mother, referee, nurse, cook, laundress, time-out enforcer, maid, dishwasher, lawn care specialist, gardener, research director, referee, artist, newsletter editor, primary worker, recycling coordinator, referee...

As so many of us do, I wear many hats. Mother and wife are the most important hats. Research Director puts food on our table and a roof over our heads. Dishwasher, laundress, cook, lawn care specialist, gardener, etc... are all necessary to keep our household running. Referee, referee, referee...well, that's what you get with two little boys in the house! Newsletter Editor and Primary are voluntary jobs, but I try to do my best. Unfortunately, the "artist" hat, because it is my personal pursuit and not something that currently provides much benefit to my family other than "making mommy happy," often gets put on last and in the moments when I can eke out a few hours to myself.

I am trying to carve out regular painting time in my life, work it into my schedule, keep my studio space clear, and actually utilize the time when I manage to make it.

However, as many of you have also undoubtedly experienced. Sometimes, when I finally get the time to myself to pursue my painting, I find that I am lacking energy. The desire is there, but sometimes the "inspire" is not. I've done so much running around taking care of the needs of my family, my employer, my church, volunteering at my child's school, etc... that I find my "batteries" have been depleted.

So, how do I recharge?

I have discovered that I am re-energized about something when I am surrounded by like-minded people. I think that may be true of many of us. In order to try to keep my "art batteries" charged, I have tried to work art-related activities back into my life. The first thing I did was accept a position on the Utah Watercolor Society (UWS) Board last May for this 2014-2015 year (and I will probably continue in the same position through the next meeting year). I am currently the Newsletter Editor. Yes, it takes more of my "free" time, which is at a premium. BUT...it also ensures that I make time every month to attend the UWS board meeting and then stay for the regular membership meeting. This is a great source of inspiration! It's not just the association with other watercolor artists, but also the wonderful demonstrations, tips, techniques, and knowledge that are passed to us via the artists who are generous enough with their time to do a presentation each month. Every time I sit in a meeting watching a demonstration, listening to the dialogue, and seeing the creation process of another artist, my batteries are recharged. I go home inspired and with a desire to create despite exhaustion! 

UWS provides so many great opportunities for this. This week, we had Southern Utah artist Spike Ress, who drove up to Salt Lake to present to our membership meeting. I tend to forget how many nice and humorous people there are in the world, and that each person has their own brand of humor. Mr. Ress was no exception. His wit along with his incredible watercolor skill made for a great presentation as we watched a masterful landscape painting come to life before our eyes.

The biggest takeaway I got from this presentation was remembering that there are always three things to think about in a painting:
Color (warm and cool)
Value (light and dark)
Edges (hard and soft)

Color and value, of course. But, edges are SO important in watercolor, and something that I think a lot of us forget to give conscious thought to when we are creating. I loved this reminder!

Spike Ress demonstration at UWS Feb'15 meeting

Spike Ress demonstration at UWS Feb'15 meeting

Spike Ress demonstration at UWS Feb'15 meeting

Last October, one of the first UWS meetings of the year (and one of the first I had been to in nearly 7 years), featured Barbara Nechis, who was also the UWS Fall Workshop presenter and juror of the UWS Fall Show. Again, I was surprised by the amount of humor that accompanied her presentation, which I enjoyed immensely. I was so inspired after her presentation because I could see how some of her technique might be woven into my own creative process. It left me with a renewed sense of determination to make time to paint!

My main takeaways from this demonstration were new ways of layering paint and washes, mingling color, and using several brushes so you don't have to waste your paint with each application. 

I also loved this thought:  "A painting is never finished until the artist is dead!"   :)

Barbara Nechis demonstration at UWS Oct'14 meeting

Barbara Nechis demonstration at UWS Oct'14 meeting

Following Ms. Nechis' October UWS presentation, I decided to carve out a little art time for myself by signing up for a November mini workshop given by Tom Howard, who also happens to be Past President of the UWS. Again, I enjoyed myself immensely for two days that were dedicated to painting, creating, and surrounding myself with art. I even came out of it with a couple of small paintings and a new way of using sketching and transfer paper to create my compositions and remembering to paint the negative space. It was a very informative time, and left my art batteries feeling recharged!

Here is one of my little paintings from the Tom Howard workshop.

Alstroemeria painting in progress

finished painting

Tom is an instructor who offers constructive suggestions but never criticism. As he would say "Because that's how I roll."  :) I enjoyed this time immensely and was happy to get two new little paintings out of it, one of which I gave away as a Christmas present to a dear friend. 

The point of all this? I have realized that, in order to keep my art batteries charged, I have to surround myself on a regular basis with artists. If I don't do that, it is too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of keeping my household and family running. Important activities to be sure! But, it is also important to try to find a balance, to make time for myself to pursue this passion that I hope to move from the "hobby" stage to a "part-time" stage and then, eventually, to a "full-time" pursuit. But, even if I stay in "hobby" mode, I feel it actually makes me a better mother to show my children, by example, that it is important for us to use the gifts we have been blessed with. They might be the gift of song, art, words, athleticism, or something else. But, if we don't practice our gift, hone it, and continually work to improve, then we are not fully appreciating what we have been given.

As in a line from one of my favorite children's stories "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney "You must do something to make the world more beautiful."