Friday, February 26, 2010

About Art: Keeping Motivated in the Midst of Winter

On bone-chilling days in northern Wisconsin, wind sweeps the snow in drifts; and darkness of short days prevails. The mind and body slow down. The natural inclination is to curl up under warm blankets and hibernate, longing for the moderate temperatures of spring or autumn. No wonder it’s often difficult to feel energetic and motivated to create artwork in the midst of winter.

Last September Debbie K. from Madison commissioned me to do a pastel painting depicting a ski trail. How thankful I was that she wanted me to create a painting but I put it off until January to begin. I had been busy teaching numerous classes in the fall and then during the holidays I didn’t work in my studio too often.

I entered my studio in early January only to find a pile-up of neglected clutter including used gift wrap; and papers I needed to sort through such as entry forms for juried art shows having submission deadline dates already passed.

However, I vowed to be more organized and productive; and to embrace winter to its fullest this year and I’ve had better results - a higher energy level to create more art. What did I do differently? I listened to the message I received in a fortune cookie: Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.

You have to begin somewhere. I picked up one piece of paper at a time and either tossed it in the recyclable bin or threw it out. Clearing clutter is a great way to make room in your mind, releasing pent-up energy. In a calendar planner I entered art events and deadlines for themed art show submissions so I wouldn’t miss any.

It was difficult to get started on Debbie’s painting but I picked up one pastel stick at a time and got back in the swing of painting. So much excitement began to bubble up that I decided to create not only one painting but a series of three ski trail paintings. After all, working in a series is a great way to capture the essence of a particular subject. When Debbie and her husband Tom arrived in my studio they enjoyed viewing all three and selected their favorite to purchase.

Many art shows with themes were planned in my community this winter which also ignited sparks of creativity for me. In seeking subject matter for The Really, Really Red Hot Show at Art Beat of Hayward I carried my camera during walks, taking photos of red objects along the way including a red house and a red taxidermy shop. The warm color red contrasted icy cold

Taking a camera along wherever you go is great way to be observant, staying connected to your surroundings. Capture those images that excite you. Spread out your photos on a table on occasion and select subject matter that will be exhilarating to create.

Regarding the Red-Themed art show, a different idea arose, inviting me to create a series of six red flower oil paintings on small 5 inch by 7 inch oval canvases. Sometimes those ideas feel like a gentle tugging of an undertow.

Let commissions and invitations to enter themed art shows motivate you. However, also stay tuned to the inner voice, the muse, which invites you to reflect on ideas originating from within. Perhaps it’s a series you’ve always wanted to explore. One idea will lead to many more.