Reading the Classics or Writing Them…

There’s this little spot inside my skull that gets kind of itchy. Pretty sure it’s not dandruff, seeing as how that’s usually external, from what I’ve heard. Can’t be an excess of brains, something no one’s accused me of having in that nice cobwebby attic of mine.

I think it’s a bit of me that wants to Make Stuff. Specifically, to write things. I can’t say there’s any legitimate or meaningful purpose to this writing, or even the slightest logic to the motivational itch. But I write.photo montageWhether any of the scribblings comes to fruition beyond becoming letter-shaped specks on the ethereal pages of my blog or typed or scrawled word-like objects spilled all over my notebooks, concert programs, receipts, paper towels and shoebox lids–further polish or publication remains to be seen. Memorable, respected or classic status is improbable to within the neighborhood of outrageous fantasy.

But I’m a first-class fantasist at heart, after all. By my own admission. photo montageMeanwhile, several friends whose work I respect have put their longtime writing itches to good purpose and published, recently. I’ve been writing to scratch my inner itch for a number of years now. If I’m going to make anything out of it other than random scratching I suppose I had better take heart from my predecessors’ bravery and get serious about putting my writing into something a little more challenging and concrete than my lifelong style of clinging to the safety of the familiar land of personal sharing and blogging.

Uh-oh.

Time to suck it up and nerve myself. I suppose I should warn all of you to shore up your own nerve as well. It seems that this particular kind of itch might well be both dangerous and contagious.photo montage

Asleep at the Wheel

digital illustrationI’m easily cowed. I get scared at the silliest things and overwhelmed about the most miniscule stuff, things that wouldn’t give anybody else a second thought. A natural-born scaredy-cat, that’s me. And easily stopped in my tracks, no matter what I’m doing, by anything from intimidation to roadblocks to plain old ennui. Undoubtedly there are people around me who would consider that if I’m so easily stopped and put off, then I am hardly present in life. I’m like some old curmudgeon who has had a little too much sun and just plain conked out on the tractor, right in the middle of tilling the field.

But in my heart, I am, and I want to act upon this, a person who would really prefer to accomplish things and–who knows–even have a positive effect on someone or something somewhere in the world. All I can hope is that if I am careful and consistent about taking advantage of my smallest moments of motivation and motion, I can eventually put them all together into a semblance of progress. If all goes well, there may come a time when you’ll see some of my little labors actually sprout and come to fruition. Never say never! Even the old codger in me would approve, I’m sure.

Ultimatum in a Kindly Voice

From cavernous frog-hollow bogs and willow darkened border ponds, from spiky sun tied down in strands of those explosive irises so wild that they spread right over the water as unharmed as magic fire; from restive ducks and cat-sprung goldfinches among the blackberry vines and the easement’s stripling trees and soughing weeds; from these—from all—comes in the dawn a rustling, chuckling dance and clatter, and a call to come to morning, to rise up, come and fly: Move out! Move on!

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Hand Me That Pencil!

Time to take a few moments here and there to commune with my inner art-monster again. The busyness that takes over at the end of every semester always makes it a challenge to get much done beyond the basic chores and projects that simply get us through the day, and I don’t like to get too far away from regular art-making, so I feel a teensy bit itchy just now. I need to get my hands on some paper and pencils or pens and make something in addition to the photos and digital collages that have been my mainstay lately.

And it will happen. Always does. Patience and urgency, laziness and obsession are all in a little wrestling match inside me most of the time, and each wins occasionally. What really matters in the end is, I suppose that eventually I win. So yes, I’ll be drawing again soon.

Whatever it takes to keep me entertained and happy, don’t you know.graphite drawing

You Inspire Me

Many people who know me think that I have two middle names. Legally, that’s correct–when I got married I took my spouse’s last name and just upgraded my original last name to being a second middle name. Most people get that I did not hyphenate but rather have four individual names. It’s hardly unusual, and even those notoriously fussy creatures known as federal agencies have figured out how to address me as a four-named person without batting a governmental eye.

But to be entirely transparent with you, I ought to add that I have a sort of unspoken additional middle name, that to which I’ve alluded here before, and it is: Lazy Pants. Okay, that’s two more middle names if we’re being truly precise.

Laziness is at the very center of my being. Believe me when I say that this is not bragging; I do realize that it’s not an enviable, admirable trait or one that should be emulated by others. But it’s my reality, and greatly affects what I do and don’t accomplish in this life of mine.

The happier news here is that I am surrounded by non-lazy people who not only know how to do fantastic things but get out there and DO them. This is pretty much a life-saver for your correspondent Miss Lazy-Pants. It means that someone more energetic and probably a lot more skilled is doing what needs to be done. Perhaps more importantly, it means that sometimes I receive the blessed necessity of a kick in the lazy pants to DO something myself, and better yet, the needed information and inspiration to help me do it better than I would have in the first place.

This is a gift I enjoy receiving regularly from those lovely people who, as family and proximal friends, make up my immediate daily surroundings and embrace me in their great and comforting network of support. Thanks to my life of blogging I have now got the auxiliary family of encouraging people to push me out of my comfortable lazy cocoon and make me willing to tackle actual projects, motivate me to do something new and maybe different and, just possibly, even useful.

And I thank you, each and every one of you. I’d say ‘you know who you are’–but a whole lot of you don’t even know that you inspire me, let alone how deeply you inspire me. If you’re reading this and I’ve ever, ever visited and commented on your blog, you have inspired me. Even if I’ve only lurked at your blog and never come out of my shell enough to say Hello or make a remark, I have probably learned useful things that lit a friendly little fire under my lazy pants to get back to work and do something that, if not useful in a universal way by a long stretch, will prove useful in improving me as a person and as an artist.

One of my regular inspirations and motivations comes from those bloggers who focus on making art, because it’s one of those things I love to do but often have to get pushed into starting no matter how much good I know will come from getting back to work. So today’s post is brought to you in part by the good graces of you, all of you, and I thank you.

Specific thanks for this bit also go to that marvelous pencil-wielding mistress of Drawing Saudade, who daily doses us with her creatures, characters, costumes and comforts in a marvelous flowing style that made me want to play with something similar for a change from my own typical stuff, as well as return to a longtime fascination with costume design. Thanks, friend!graphite drawing

More Myths about Inspiration & Creativity

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Don’t accept a falsehood for your reality–if you have to create your own, then do it!

Back on that old topic of whimpering: of all the [wonderfully dire and woefully valid] reasons I can’t possibly do the enormous amount of work required by this assignment, there’s none simpler or more honest than Number 11:

11         BUT I DON’T WANT  TO _______________ (you fill in the blank)!

            Boo Hoo.  It’s not always optional, is it. Just keep firmly in mind that sometimes doing the required thing leads to unexpected delights in the end product. Not to mention the thoroughly predictable delight of having it done, finished, off the To Do list and out of nagging territory. Just get it out of the way now and you’ll be ever so relieved. Maybe even pleased with yourself!

12        ALL CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE (take your pick):

Eccentric; loose; savants; savages; radical; anti-intellectual; uncontrollable; fluff-headed; egocentric; snobbish; smelly…

Everybody is one or more of the above at some point; look at all of our pop-culture idols who get hung out to dry on a daily basis, not to mention all of the religious, educational and political Saints who irk the multitudes so regularly.  So imperfection is hardly a reasonable excuse for avoiding being (or being in the company of) an art maker.

13        IT’S SELFISH &/OR IRRESPONSIBLE TO BE AN ARTIST.

How about how selfish and irresponsible it is to be good at something that enriches lives and shapes culture and to refuse to exercise, to share, those gifts.  How unkind it is to stifle your true self and passions (and spend your life unfulfilled or with a chip on your shoulder) so that you live a half life and cheat your friends and loved ones out of your rich complexity.  How about that for selfish and irresponsible, huh? Choosing a ‘safe’ path never guaranteed anyone’s actually being safe, anyway.

14        NOBODY (read: Not Everybody in the Universe) WILL LIKE IT.

If you find anything that everybody likes, let me know.  For that matter, if you find anything NOBODY likes, I’ll be mighty surprised.  So, isn’t it good enough for you if you think your work has some value?  It may not make you a market mogul, but it’s amazingly fulfilling to be an artist, and (other than food, which is admittedly desirable) practically no other wealth compares.

15        THE GREATEST!!!

Who says?  There is no single Greatest of anything that everyone will agree on yet, and the odds are pretty good that they won’t all agree anything you do is the Greatest—or worst—ever, so why lose sleep over an untried concept.  Do your best and be done with it.

16        IF YOU CAN’T SAY (do) ANYTHING NICE (or well), DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

A half-baked effort is usually better than no effort at all; no effort guarantees a lack of (or negative) result, and misguided or incomplete efforts can occasionally be rescued or luck into a better-than-deserved result.

digital artwork from a photo

Think beautiful thoughts!

17        IT ISN’T AS GOOD AS _________________’S.

Probably nothing anybody else ever does will be as good as my work, but aside from that impossibly high standard, you have as good a chance as any of doing work better than somebody’s, at least occasionally, as long as you do work.

18        ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT.

But they don’t come to all of the specific people who desire them, or ‘on time,’ or in the desired form.  Your dream might end up in someone else’s stash of prizes if you don’t put up a fight for it.

19        I CAN’T DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE.

No, but a computer can do it for you, or you can use a straightedge, or you can hire a stand-in to draw your straight lines.  Don’t tell me your whole oeuvre as an artist/designer is going to be straight lines.  Sheesh.

20        CREATIVITY = INTUITION.

Intuition is an indefinable sense or sensation that can bring soul and emotional depth to the work (both process and product), but true creativity takes that nebulous touchy-feely power and combines it with study, effort, logic, research, skill and courage and synthesizes all of the elements of an artist’s knowledge and experience and passions into a concrete Work of Art (process and/or product).

21        THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME.

True.  We’ll never be given enough time for everything that’s important.  So it’s up to us to TAKE the time.  And MAKE the time.  There’s no real alternative.  It’s called Making Choices (and living with them).

22        YOU CAN’T FAKE INSPIRATION.

Maybe you can’t, but I can.  Seriously, folks, most people won’t know the difference if you substitute delirious hard work and enthusiasm and use all of your know-how to its limits.  If that isn’t quite Inspiration, at least it’s mighty inspirational.  When in doubt, review Item Number 10 in Tuesday’s post (linked above).

digital artwork from a photo

Go ahead: try your wings!

Doodle Bug

pen & inkI would like to state for the record that I am not, nor have I ever been, to my knowledge, an actual doodlebug, either zoologically or as a rolling or flying vehicle, a dowsing rod, or a method of seismic activity tracking. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those. And it’s probably safe to say that my garden and numerous dimly lit corners of my home are probably full of living and dead pill bugs (what we used to call potato bugs when I was growing up), and I confess to thinking it highly amusing that these creatures are in fact tiny crustaceans that live right in my house and look like–indeed, are scientifically named after–armadillos. House Armadillos or Domestic Crustaceans, either way kind of weirdly cool in my estimation.

But I digress.

What I am is one of the many humanoids prone to doodling. And that’s not a bad thing, either. Doodling (or randomly scribbling on whatever is handy, usually a cocktail serviette or textbook or office paperwork or top-secret legal document, depending upon one’s status and age and current supposed activities) often leads, though many a grade school teacher would vigorously deny it, to thinking. And on occasion at least, thinking is not an entirely bad thing.

Whenever I’m struggling to get a piece of writing, a drawing, or frankly, any other project underway, there are few motivational tools that compare with doodling. The serendipitous or random mark that merely records a purportedly thoughtless and pointless motion of the hand can sometimes come to resemble an actual Something, and well, Something almost always leads to Something Else. In drawing as in life, just getting in there and starting, whether I’m ready or not, is the best way to potentially get anything done. Who knew!

Today’s doodle is brought to you by my propensity for turning many of my scribbles and scrawls and squibs and squiggles into things that resemble simplified linear paisley patterns or rosemaling, or any number of other folk design traditions. Once I get going on them, I find it meditative to a degree just to follow the whimsical path of inserting repetitive forms and line treatments, geometries and organic outgrowths of the marks, until I’ve filled much of the available space. Many of these folk-like, repeating elements become almost a trademark doodling style that might be as identifiable to some as my handwriting. Though, hopefully, more legible. And while the doodles don’t necessarily lead to specific or pictorial drawings in and of themselves, they do lend themselves neatly to a more relaxed and receptive state of mind in which those more concrete thoughts and ideas can indeed begin to insert and assert themselves usefully. And that can lead to different sorts of drawing, whether more topical or more sophisticated or more directed. Or not! The inspiration is in the action.digital painting from a P&I drawing

Today I was led by the doodling, not to a different drawing entirely, but to scanning it and playing with it digitally, first layering colors all over the place, then digital textures, then altering the proportions of the image, and lastly, stitching the resulting mash-up into a larger grouping of four copies of the same image arranged in a pinwheel fashion and then stretched, skewed, cut-and-pasted, and electronically stamped into a fabric-like whole that uses the same idea of the initial doodles repetitions-with-evolutionary-changes so that the end product still seems to appear quite handmade, as it’s not symmetrical or fully even from side to side or top to bottom. Now, if I were to take that square and repeat it, even if I turned it 90 degrees each time, for example, it would finally become more machine-made in appearance as well as manufacture. But that’s just mental doodling right there, isn’t it, because I could further alter the combination every single time I ‘copied’ it.

Which illustrates exactly what I was talking about as characteristic of doodling. One thing does lead to another, as long as we bother to do the initial one thing.

That said, I suppose I should get up from my desk and go forth to do a few individual things that might lead to getting some other essential things done around here. Cheerio!digital image from a P&I drawing

Comatose, or Something Like It

bank vault photos

Can't get awake, in gear, loosened up . . .

Brain. Stopped. Full stop.

Is the attack caused by any specific catalyst, or is it just general malaise? Does it matter? It’s a common enough ailment, to be sure. Something tells me that the cheery “Heigh-ho song” sung by Disney‘s seven dwarves, who ostensibly adore the work to which they’re trooping off for the day, did not purely coincidentally share its signature phrase with the heigh-ho also traditionally used to signify a yawn.

Aye, there’s the rub. I’m merely revealing my attitude toward anything I might label WORK. With a perpetually growing agenda of chores and deeds of doing, if not derring, always in front of me, perhaps my personal catalyst in this moment is merely the ennui of the congenitally lazy. Dear me, I probably shouldn’t even use the word congenital, since although it only denotes a condition that existed in me from–or before–birth, it should in no way be construed as deriving genetically. Not my parents’ doing, this disease of mine. I come from a sturdy line of hard working people, really I do, captains of industry in carpentry and grocery marketing and education and ministry and homemaking and dental hygiene and nursing and technology and administration and so many other productive and socially significant and uplifting fields. It’s hard to imagine that anyone deriving from that lineage could possibly be born unwilling to move and desirous of nothing more than to be indolently comfortable without any regard to my deserving.

But here we are. The very sight of a tool lying in wait of its use, a To-Do list leering suggestively at me, or the admittedly messy appearance of something that clearly needs to be Fixed can send me into a syncope of delicate avoidance. Come and revive me from my fainting couch if you must, but do so at your peril. Yes, my everlasting soul–at the very least, my reputation as a responsible adult–is at high risk of the eternal red-inked F of effing disapproval. But is it worth what might happen if, say, you rouse me from a pleasant torpor or my clearly much-needed beauty sleep before, oh, noon-ish? Dare you risk it? Even I am terrified of me when I haven’t had my requisite sleep.

But let us return to the problem of how to get anything accomplished at all when the mere thought of effort is anathema to me. The easy answer is to trick me into thinking that the task at hand is fun. The hard part of the equation, of course, is how to make more than a few very rare tasks seem fun, but I am dependent on the cleverness of others for accomplishing that part of the process as often as possible. Shaming me into doing the right thing almost never works; apparently I have a truly limited capacity for self-criticism except in places where it can be reliably unproductive, for example when it depends on elements of my self and behavior that can’t be altered anyway. Keeping my work schedule pared back to the nearly-manageable smallest number and lowest quantity possible is always a wise move on the part of any who are dim enough to have Expectations of me.

All of this is not to say that I don’t like to DO anything, though my list might be more circumscribed than some, nor that I’m a completely curmudgeonly person just to be around. It’s more that my preferred things-to-do are often those considered less useful on a grand scale, less utilitarian, than what the world might rather ask of me. Indeed, I’m quite the happy (if not grossly self-satisfied, depending on whom you ask and when) person and have a very cheery outlook for the most part, especially when I can hit that sweet spot of having, however accidentally or fortuitously, managed to think I was just having a good old time and at the end of it discovered that I got useful or important or even just practical stuff done. That constitutes something close to perfection in a day.

So go ahead. Con me into being my better self and you will have not only my congratulations on your ingenious ways but my thanks, and those of all others benefitting from it, for getting me to get something done in spite of my natural inclination toward repose. Even my sleepy, constipated brain can wrap around a nice concept like that!

acrylic painting on canvas

A good idea can go all pear-shaped, or if you're lucky, instead it bears fruit.