December 20, 2014

Giving Art Room to Breathe

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Most of us have heard, in one form or another, from artists we know or in books we’ve read, that in order to make our art we must present ourselves to it regularly, whether we feel inspired or not. We must step up to the easel, the loom, the computer, the clay, consistently–regardless of what may be going on in our lives–and begin. And we must do it on some sort of expected “schedule,” a time we can plan on, that we work around, that we set aside and honor. We must be committed.

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While I’ve wanted to deny it, I’ve found this to be almost painfully true. I wanted, with all my heart, to believe I could write the blog full time and just get to the easel whenever I could fit it in. You all know where that got me: three years of almost no painting (see previous post Clearing As a Creative Act).

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But for me, personally, I’ve also discovered that it takes more than a commitment to time at the easel. It requires the freedom of space, tons and tons of all kinds of space–physical, mental and emotional–in order for me to have anything to put on the canvas in the first place and to be settled enough to hear what’s inside waiting to be expressed.

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This is an area that can get tricky: balancing the need to plan, commit, and schedule our art making with the aforementioned need for a lot of freedom and space. Ah, the dichotomies of life, right?

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I know what’s true for me isn’t necessarily so for another. But I think, just like the idea of presenting ourselves to our art in order to get anything done, there is a possible universal truth in the idea that our art needs room to breathe.

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I certainly need room to breathe. And I have found that when I allow this time for myself, I also give my art room and, when I do, remarkable things can happen.

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When I give myself the kind of “extra” time to wake slowly, without an alarm, lying in a bed dressed in soft, thick flannel sheets that were dried in the sun the day before…

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… the time to say a special good morning to each of seven waiting animals… to walk my land as the lark sings brightly, both announcing the day and fixing his territory somewhere around my fields… or to sit still in the deep, unbroken silence of a windless morning with absolutely nothing pressing… the time to do my morning chores leisurely, to pay them a sort of homage in their doing… to have a slow cup of tea and a quiet breakfast… an afternoon walk into the canyon, coming upon a very old fence I’d not seen before, made in the ancient way of using branches of trees tangled in amongst the wire…

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… or to stop on my way to the post office to feed the little buckskin mare at the base of my road Pink Lady apples until she’s nodding her head and drooling…

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… having a day (or days) stretch before me with nothing that absolutely has to be done… to fall asleep in a patch of dappled sun… watching the birds come back after winter and trying to identify them…

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… having cake and tea in the middle of the day…

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… hanging out the laundry rather than tossing it in the dryer…

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… to be in my home without the phone ringing, without emails pressing… the time to watch Ken Burns’s brilliant piece on the Dust Bowl…

… when I take this kind of gentle time, new art has the room to find me…

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… to express itself through me…

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… because I am still and silent and listening…

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… because I have made myself available in the quiet ways my art seems to require…

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But I have also found that I must fight for this time. There are so many demands in our daily lives, from people, paperwork, chores, errands… in fact the “responsible” reasons NOT to give ourselves space can be overwhelming, seductive even, and they can overtake. It requires a very strong commitment, teamed with desire, and an understanding of what we need, to be an artist…

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… along with living full out, of course, immersing ourselves in the messy soup of life…

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… making mistakes, learning our lessons, affecting the kinds of change that requires courage and strength and growth…

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… which brings me to my dear little Skye (see previous post Clearing as a Creative Act: What We Don’t Control). Seemingly, she and I are somehow linked in this journey of self-discovery and growth.  She has found her way into being an in/out dog. It was my dream for her and she is SO happy.

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Perhaps she is here to show me what fear does to us and the wondrous possibilities life can offer when we find our own interior strength, when we climb out and claim the lives we were meant to live.

And I am watching. I am listening. I am learning.

Love to you all,


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