These past three months, I've taken time off. It's been years since I've done that. I watched days of a golden Gulf Coast fall drift by me like leaves. I've been blessed that grief hit quick and hard, all at once, and the worst feels past. In any case, my energy to create and explore has returned.
During my sabbatical, I hung long, apple green drapes on my west-facing windows, moved around whole rooms of furniture, and gave away a lot of things that felt heavy. I rearranged a flower bed in my backyard, planted greens and cabbage, transplanted a Meyer lemon tree. Inspired by Roos Schuring's painting videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlwjmtc1G2I, I bought a Mabef Picola sketch easel. I intend to do some plein air painting at Mobile Botanical Gardens and at the cottage on the west shore of Mobile Bay that my parents will soon be moving into. I've also set up a workshop date: /home.html. (Another in Fairhope will follow, though the date is not yet firm.)
Planning for a two-day encounter with fellow painters led me to explore what specifically what I feel enthusiastic about and know. I decided to treat the subject of painting a sunrise sky--how the light emerges from the dark--as a vehicle for exploring the underpainting and glazing method of painting. There are several ways to begin a painting, but this one separates drawing and value from color application, so for a lot of folks it's a good way to begin understanding how to work with oil paint. The transparent color laid over a receptive underpainting is always a fun surprise--and feels familiar to those watercolor painters just trying oils. For those new to oils, it's a step-by-step process that can be learned: /underpainting-indirect-method-1.html
Seth Godin's blog post, below, is a true bit of wisdom I ran across on his blog across after hearing him on Krista Tippett's radio show, On Being, available as a podcast. In that interview he says the way to get one's ideas into the world is to persuade ten people at a time that the idea is worth sharing. In that spirit, please feel free to share whatever you may find useful on my website. There are no great secrets in painting, and we're all under the same great creative sky, though the hours and weather may vary widely. Happy Painting!
Perhaps something like this has happened to you. Here's an annotated graph of what it's like to make a book, with 'joy' being the Y axis with time along the bottom...
1. The manic joy of invention. The idea arrives, it's shiny and perfect. I can't wait to share it.
2. The first trough of reality. Now that I've pitched the idea to someone (and I'm on the hook), the reality of what has to be done sets in precisely as the manic joy of invention disappears.
3. Wait! The epic pause of reality. It's not quite as bad as I feared. I can see a path here, maybe. I'm still in trouble, sure, but perhaps...
4. The horrible trough of stuckness. The path didn't work. The data isn't here. Critical people have said no. People in critical roles have said no. I can't find any magic. Sigh.
5. Flow. This is why we do it. The promises made as a result of #1 pushed me through the horrible trough, and the lights are coming on and my forward motion, my relentless forward motion, may just be contagious. Let's not talk about this, because I don't want it to dissipate.
6. The pre-publication lizard-brain second-guess. I see the notes that have come back to me, all that red pen, the not-quite-ebullient look on the face of a trusted reader. I am sniffing everywhere for clues of impending doom, and yes, there they are.
7. The realization that it's good enough. This is the local max, but not the universal one. Optimists welcome. It's not perfect, but it's going to ship, and good luck to it.
8. Post-partum ennui. "Why haven't you read my book yet?"
9. Life. And this is the long haul, the book in the world, the hearing about a book you wrote ten years ago that's still impacting people. The crepe paper grand opening bunting has been taken down and there is no one left to write a snarky review, because the book is on its own, touching, spreading and being.
And then, sometimes, #1 happens again. Or not.