New Tools, New Mindset, New Possibilities

Phew it’s been a stressful couple of weeks, and it looks like it may be a while before things even out. Thank goodness for creativity and the opportunity to play in my studio. I love getting into some creative project, experiencing flow, learning new things, observing, trying again, and just playing. It’s really an incredible blessing for me. It brings me joy, magnifies the positive, and lightens the negative. (By the way, my studio is wherever I happen to be!)

I picked up some Caran d’Ache Neocolor II Artists’ Crayons a few weeks ago, and threw them in my bag when I headed to DF for my cancer check up. I packed a back with all sorts of art supplies figuring it would help me zen out a bit, and not fret quite as much about whatever news I got. I was right!

Ok, back to the watercolor crayons. I haven’t used them very much, but after just a couple tries, I”m super intrigued by them. I recently came upon the advice to sketch everything, everyday. It seemed like a perfect way to use the crayons. I’ve adopted the advice as part of my daily practice. Being that I can sometimes have rather high expectations for my work, and a bit of a harsh inner critic, I decided to enhance my daily practice advice. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Sketch everything.
  • Don’t sweat the results.
  • When possible give those watercolor crayons a try.
  • Notice, think, wonder.
  • Breathe, smile, nap.
  • Repeat.

So, another day, another sketch. I decided to use the crayons to sketch, and then watercolor, one of my hiking photos. It was an interesting process — the physical, as well as the mental and emotional ones.

I photographed my progress at various points — just crayon, some watercolor action, the finished product. It was fascinating — still is — to see the piece at the various stages. They each have their own feel with different things to notice, wonder, and appreciate.

As I mentioned before, I’m intrigued by the crayons and how they work. I’m always amazed by watercolor paint. It’s incredibly forgiving, yet at the same time somewhat difficult to manage. There is so much more for me to learn about watercolor — how it moves, what is possible, how to remove it, how to add it, the different possibilities that are present when the paint is wet, and when it is dry — to name just a few. Sometimes I think I need to learn more in order to better understand it and control it, at other moments I think I need to surrender more to its will and just see what happens. Both are valuable approaches.

My brother was telling me about John Marin and the number of times he would paint the same scene. Marin has some beautiful work, that I think (hopefully he would not be insulted) I might be able to aspire to doing. Not as well as he did perhaps, but with the freedom he had, and the willingness to start again, and again, with a beginners mind and heart.

Mr resistance, or perhaps reticence and mild fretting, always surprises me. It’s difficult for me to embrace a beginners mind with regard to my product. I’m working on that. I think the sketch something every day idea will help me.

It’s funny isn’t it, that I experience some fretting over the same things I ask my K girls to do everyday. Right? Every day – usually many more than once — I ask my K to take these risks, try, enjoy the process, and to not fret quite so much about the process or product. As I type this I’m realizing I need to encourage myself to respond to my own angst, and my own process and product, they way I respond to theirs. I tell them not to fret, to just try, to not worry, to see their work and process as courageous and beautiful – and I completely believe and mean that when I tell them. And then, when I look at their work, I look with eyes and mind full of love, respect, admiration, and joy-filled expectation and surprise. That is the way I must interact with my work as well.

I’m facing my art shelves as I sit here. The newest painting is there amidst many other experiments, investigations, playing, and painting. It’s nice to look at it from afar, among all the other painting. It does give me a sense of space, of growth, and of possibility.

In the spirit of John Marin, and a great book I’m reading – Living Color by Natalie Goldberg – I may have today’s sketch and watercolor be worked from the same photo. But, perhaps more action and shape oriented, with unusual colors. Might I be able to convey other feelings? Might I enjoy the process? What will I learn? No idea. But, for sure, I’m going to approach it with a new mindset, and equally sure, I will have fun.