Trust me, it all connects.

For about a week now I’ve been attempting to NOT multi-task. Harder than it seems but surprisingly effective. Crazy as it sounds, I feel calmer and I actually feel like I’ve gotten more done. Even on days like last Monday when my dog licked a 10″ square portion of oil paint off a painting I’d been working on for two hours (FYI in case this happens to you- feed them and give them peptobismal. This is on a vet’s recommendation. She didn’t have a recommendation for what to do about the painting). I even managed to (for the most part) not multi-task when 20+ family members came into town for my daughter’s second birthday. It’s amazing how much nicer… calmer life seems when you’re really doing one thing at a time. However, I discovered a secret hidden area where I multi-task.

My brain.

That sneaky brain! Always trying to think about something else while I’m doing something entirely different. So, I’ve been working on mindfulness. Life’s too short and too precious to let moments slip away unnoticed while we’re not looking. So, several times a day I’ve tried to stop my inner narrative, my to-do lists, etc and notice where I am. Chances are it’s no place obviously special, but inevitably when I stop to notice there are special things about it. My brain is hyper. It’s hard to teach it to sit still for long. But, a little reminder several times a day, focusing for just a few scant seconds at a time, and I already notice it’s calming down.

On the subject of focusing on one thing at a time, in my latest painting I (mainly) focused on one color. White. I JUST finished it about 20 minutes ago, but I’m eager to share it.

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“Dare to Dream”
12″x16″
Oil on Linen

Man I love color!!! Look at all the zillion colors you can find just in white! Sorry, like I said, hyper brain. Anyway, this was really fun to do. And clearing my mind of all distractions and just looking for that myriad of colors imbedded in white paper and a white background was a great lesson in mindfulness. Tada! This blog post has come full circle. Namaste.

My Virtuous Vice

I have a vice. It’s probably one a lot of you share. Like many vices, it’s hard to resist. It’s not normally seen as a vice. In fact, in this culture of more more more, it’s typically viewed as virtuous.

Multi-tasking

The following is a true story, and typical:

I put on moisturizer in the morning. While waiting for the moisturizer to soak in, I begin brushing my teeth. When I reach for the toothpaste I notice a cup on the bathroom counter than needs to go in the dishwasher, so toothbrush in mouth, cup in hand, I head to the kitchen. When I get there I realize the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, so one-handed (I’m still brushing my teeth with the other hand) I begin unloading the dishwasher. Teeth brushed, dishwasher half-unloaded, I return to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and put away my toothbrush. While there, I realize I never finished applying my make-up. Powder on, mascara out, I realize I never finished unloading the dishwasher. Mascara applied quickly, I return to the kitchen where I find my husband, unaware that the dishwasher was half-unloaded (because really, why should it be??) putting dirty dishes in the with the clean. Amidst all of this there is also some toddler juggling going on. This. Should. Not. Happen.

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So, in a quest for sanity, peace of mind, and just all-around efficacy, I’m trying to rid myself of my multi-tasking ways AND as I’m going to tell you all about it (Didn’t you know I would?).

In a Rut?

A friend of mine is in an art rut. Man, do I know that feeling!! I’m sure everyone out there has at some point or another. You’re not excited about anything you’re doing, it feels like a chore, but then if you don’t do anything at all you get that stressed out, tight, sad, tangled up feeling. Do you know what I mean? Those are the best words I can use to describe it.

I’ve noticed, though, that if I just keep moving, once I come out on the other side of an artistic crisis my work is better for it. In Walking in this World (the follow-up to The Artist’s Way) Julia Cameron points out that often what we refer to as break downs should really be thought of as break-ups, like an icy river breaking up in the spring. Once I was able to think of it that way, these periods of creative drought didn’t feel so scary. These ruts are not permanent. They’re just bumps and valleys we have to pass through to come out on the other side. It’s like the Pilgrim’s Progress of the creative life.

But, in the meantime, while we’re in them, they stink. So, here’s a list of ways I’ve found to help me keep moving through artist’s block:

1) First and foremost- Relax! This is not permanent. You are not doomed to forever live in a desolate artistic valley, devoid of creativity. Forget about your “responsible” reasons for needing to create (“I have a show coming up,” “I need to sell some more paintings,” “I’m trying to build my portfolio,” etc) and remember your real reason for creating. I paint because I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t. Period.

2) Do something that’s not your style. I think there’s a lot of pressure on artists of all kinds to have a recognizable “voice.” To have a style that people see and say, “Oh, that’s Erin Hardin’s work,” or whatever. That can get stifling, though. When I got thoroughly stressed out and bored by my super detailed paintings on metal, I started creating these little, simpler paintings.

I didn’t care in anyone even saw them. I just had to do something. I had to paint because, like I said above, I’m happier when I paint than when I don’t.

3) Change your surroundings. Can you reorganize or redecorate your art space? If you normally paint in the basement, can you move it to the kitchen table for a while? This may also mean…

4) Changing your medium.  If you normally paint, draw. If you normally draw, try watercolor. Or do something completely different like writing a detailed description of the cashier at the grocery store, the smell of the rosemary by your front door, the vase you got as a wedding present. You have a zillion facets to your personality and to your creativity. Explore them.

5) Try thinking of life as art. If you can cultivate a creative mindset in things that you might not normally think of as artistic endeavors, not only will that mindset become a habit, but also it will spill over into your studio life. Explore a little bit. Take a different route to the grocery store and enjoy meandering. Beautify your surroundings. Plant some fresh fresh flowers and enjoy the feel of the dirt. Try not to be so goal oriented and enjoy the process. You’ll get the same end result but with a better journey. Notice and appreciate the multitude of things that make life beautiful.

Most of all, just keep moving. You’re committed to your art and like any relationship it will go through ups and downs. Weather the downs and you will be rewarded with higher ups. Would any relationship be rewarding if it was always placid and stagnant?

What about you? Do you have a favorite tip for beating artist’s block? Please share! We could all use a little help sometimes.

New in the Gallery

Don’t you love those errands that take you to an enjoyable part of town on gorgeous early fall days? Last week I dropped off some pictures at Little House Galleries in Homewood. Little House resides on Linden, one street over from Homewood’s main shopping destination. If you’re in the Birmingham area, go by and check them out! Tell my paintings I said, “Hi!” and grab a cup of coffee at O’Henry’s Coffee.

 

Scary Diversion

In our house October is scary movie month. Almost every night for the entire month (after the little one has retired, of course) my husband and I watch a scary movie, or at least a scary t.v. show. We run the gamut from campy silly to scary horror.

I know this is an art blog and way off subject, but I thought you might want to put down the paintbrush and grab some candy corn and join me. Here’s what we’ve watched so far and my rating, in case you’re interested. Ratings are shown with * on a 5 point scale (I hardly ever give anything 5 stars, so 4 is really good).

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By the way, who decided this looked like corn?

Cabin in the Woods: Fun movie. Kinda scary, fairly gory, very witty- a different view on the whole “scary movie formula” (you know- the dumb blonde, the athlete, the good girl, the goofy friend, the smart one, etc.) A Joss Whedon creation…he pretty much does no wrong, so his movies and show are always a good bet. ****

The Awakening: Really good. It has that quiet, creepy style of The Others. Not gory. Scary while you’re watching it, but it doesn’t leave you feeling afraid to turn out the light. ****

Hellraiser: Terrible. Supposedly a classic, but the acting was distractingly bad (I know that’s a campy scary movie requirement, but this one wasn’t even trying to be campy). *

Ghostbusters: What can I even say? It’s Ghostbusters! ***.5

I Sell the Dead: Witty, campy gory, fun to watch. Dominic Monaghan (you know, Charlie from Lost, Meri  from Lord of the the Rings) stars. ****

Intruders: Really really good. Another one that keeps you feeling creeped out while you’re watching it, but doesn’t leave you terrified. ****

Clue: I forgot how fun this movie is. Just quirky enough to watch with a group of quirky friends who don’t like actually scary movies. ***.5

Trick or Treat: Favorite Halloween movie. A comic book style movie involving several intersecting plot lines. Kinda scary, but not nightmare inducing scary. Good scary fun. *****

As for scary t.v. shows, we’ve been watching an anime cartoon called, Blood. We haven’t watched much of it, so I can’t rate it, but I like it so far.

Enjoy!