Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creative Therapy for Transformation

A new work in progress stage 1, 24x30, chroma interactive acrylic
transparent red oxide on Centurian LX Linen

Work in progress part 2, glazes of ultramarine blue and mixes of transparent red oxide and ultramarine blue have been added to add depth, further establish the value pattern and the direction of the light.

I have been off the grid for a few weeks and for some months prior I have been slowing down my efforts both on the internet and in the studio. Some of this has been a purposeful response to burn out which has been steadily creeping in for almost a year. Burn out is very bad for creativity and health both physical and emotional/mental. Remember way back in January I announced that my word for the year was going to be "slowly". Well, some of my backing off has been an effort to slow down, evaluate more and be more mindful instead of charging ahead full speed all the time. My most recent disappearance from the virtual world has been in response to health issues that have hit our family hard. My husband and daughter are just now recovering from problems and I myself will be going for surgery in two weeks to deal with some concerns and hopefully avoid a hysterectomy.

Despite life's turmoils creative people need to keep creating, though we are sometimes our own worst enemy.  For some time now I have been restless for transformation. I have deeply desired to push my work up to a higher level of mastery, integrate it more into my spiritual life and develop my own creative potential beyond just painting. I'm thinking of this not as a mid-life crisis but rather as a mid-life transformation.

One thing that brought this desire into clearer focus was giving a lecture recently as part of the Connecticut Landmarks, Collectors and Explorers Series. That lecture was an hour long talk about me and my art. That kind of concentrated focus on myself, my motivation for creating and the art itself was very enlightening, 

While I would love to work with a creativity coach that wasn't going to fit into my immediate situation so I did the next best thing, I got a book. I love books and have an easy time learning form them. I realize that I am rather late to this party, but I finally pulled out the used copy of The Artists Way that I picked up last summer. Originally published in 1992, I became acquainted with Julia Cameron's work through her subsequent book Vein Of  Gold. I worked my way through part of that book but became overwhelmed and realized that I should have done The Artists Way first. A few months ago I picked up a copy of The Artists Way Everyday, which presents daily readings from the original book. As I began using that I realized that it was time to immerse myself in some creative recovery therapy and I made a commitment to go through the program to the best of my ability. I am half way through and so glad I took the plunge. I find Cameron to be exceptionally wise and while I occasionally disagree with something she says, for the most part I am profoundly benefitting from the program. The 12 week program itself is designed to help creatives who are "stuck" or in fact are what she calls "shadow artists" people who love art, surround themselves with art, art books, art magazines and actual artists but because of an early bad experience like an overly critical teacher no long allow themselves to create. 

The "daily painting" movement I was so involved with for over five years had both benefits and pitfalls. I found that a great deal of my creativity, my willingness to explore, take creative risks and create slowly and thoughtfully was damaged almost beyond repair. I desperately needed to get "unstuck" from the "daily painting" mindset of creating quickly, presenting work to the world whether it was genuinely good or not, making work that "would sell"  and focusing so very, very much on how many views a painting got and how many cheap sales I could make in a month. 

So I am in creative therapy and working towards a creative recovery and very much enjoying the process. It's a very personal journey but I would like to share with you a few things. Last week, week 5 of the program,  focused on Recovering a Sense of Possibility and was a particularly meaningful week for me. Here is a gem that resonated deeply with me:

"An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction and resiliency. Such time , space and quiet will strike our family and friends as withdrawal from them. It is.We expect our (inner) artist to be able to function without giving it what it needs to do so. An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artists requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging , our artist becomes depleted. Over time it becomes something worse than out of sorts." ~Julia Cameron, The Artists Way, pg. 97

One exercise I particularly enjoyed was imagining five other lives. If I could be someone else, these were my five choices:
Museum Curator
Landscape Architect

There is so much material in the program that I realize that I will be using it and going through it long after the initial 12 weeks are done. So there you have it. I am not focusing on blogging and tweeting so much and I'm slowing down my painting but I am investing a great deal of time and thought in my creative recovery in hopes of achieving a transformation in myself and my work. 

Below are some resources you may also enjoy if any of this has struck a chord with you...

Fun blog & community: Middle Aged Crazy is a new place to hang and talk about your passions. Learning an instrument? Want to sing? Draw? Cook? Paint? Become a photographer? Write? Learn a language? Then tell us about it: join our discussions

smARTist Home of the SmARTist Telesummit and many resources for nurturing your creativity as well as building your art business. You can get the 2010 smARTist homestudy edition and benefit from a presentation by international best seller Robert Fritz, Your Life as Art & The Path of Least Resistence, Barbara Bowen, Coach for Creative Professionals, presents, Bring it On! How Resistance Can Wake Up Your Creative Process Jonathan Talbot presents Making Your Passion your Business: Learn How Passion Yields Success in Both Art and Business. Plus so much more. 

Abbey of the Arts The Abbey is a monastery without walls, offering online classes, retreats, books, and resources to nurture contemplative practice, creative expression, and kinship with nature.

I also wanted to share with you another exercise from The Artists Way, writing an Artists Prayer. Mine's not brilliant but from the heart...

My Artists Prayer

You create.
And by virtue of being found in Christ, 
with his healing power and redemptive 
love flowing through me
I am able to tap into the stream of your Divine Nature, 
which pulses with creative power.

I am awed, humbled and afraid.

I ask the triune God of Creation 
to bless my efforts
to enable me to create that
which is a beautiful mirror
of your Creation
the world of plants, animals
water, earth. air, sun, moon
and stars
and to speak to that desperate
longing we have for you and
the joyful reassurance of your
goodness and presence in
the world.

Bless my imagination and
my seeing with Spirit inspired
Guide my hands, my brushes
my colors
May I paint with joy and 
abandon for you and 
your smile
and for my mortal fellows
so in need of your saving grace. 


I found this a very powerful exercise. Insert your own belief system and give it a try.


Joan Cole said...

Dear Jan,

Thank you so much for your openness. I have missed your blog lately & am glad to know that you are okay.

Your artist's poem touched me deeply. A 38-year-old friend died yesterday, leaving a grieving wife and two little girls--two & six. Your poem was balm to my soul.



bj said...

Wow! You've just described my last year as an artist. I'm right there with you.

I've just now begun reading Julia Cameron's "Finding Water". Most people don't realize that an artist's life is a journey, not an occupation. There are countless artists out there right now who are on the journey with you.

Roxanne Steed said...

I'm so glad to see you posting again, I've missed you. Hope everyone's health is restored promptly...and blessings to you on the 'artist's way' journey. I went through that book about 15 years ago (life changing for me)....but seriously would like to go through it again. Lives change...and I'd like to see what I bring to the table now....

AutumnLeaves said...

Jan, I hope your husband and daughter are both doing and feeling better with each new day. I also hope that your health issue is resolved rapidly and know that the surgery will truly fix whatever is the problem. I have never embraced the daily painting mindset. I just don't have it in me, despite being one who generally runs full-tilt at life. I appreciate your journey of self-discovery; it is one we all must make!

Phyllis O'Shields said...

I wish you best of outcome for your family and yourself in health. I will be praying for you all. This blog really hit me directly. Over the past year to much activity creeping in on Social Networks Web Sites and the painting a day pressure. Finally I stepped back and redid the daily schedule to find the deep creativity as number one. Certainly not putting things out to the public to soon. Re-reading the books some of which you mention really help. Thanks Phyllis O'Shields