Animal Stories * New Directions

  Love stories ... they inspire action.

I have a love story that I'm writing and illustrating right now about a yellow cat. He adopted me and coveted my heart for 9 months before his many illnesses took him over. He lived to see 16 years, though feral and was outside until his final 9 months with me. I called him my 'sack of cat' because he aimed to attach to my body at every possible angle. The desk, the toilet, the couch, while cooking, while leaving for work.

As I grieve him, I just have to write about his amazing story. I had to sketch him and bring him close after he was gone. It has done me a world of good. I've discovered a new direction in my illustration style and for whatever reasons other animals are showing up. Chicken, pig and rabbit. I have 8 illustrations done and 5 pages of the story. I don't exactly know what it will become. I just keep doing an illustration every other day and writing on the days I don't illustrate. It's given me peace and grounding in a time that is otherwise painful. He was a great cat. Old soul and kind of a bad ass. Loved him!!!! My first cat. Kind of like 'first love' -- it bowls you over.

I'm getting organized for the new year. Another retreat coming up. And some fun programs and new directions in art. Filling the store with holiday fun and people are already buying the farm animals here including myself. I just hung this one in my bathroom yesterday of Max.

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I am wishing you all a loving holiday season. Remember to be quirky and laugh as much as you can. It matters!

Love, Niya

Color, Line: Into Abstraction ‚ÄĒ A Painting Challenge

Day One- Connection  

I've never considered myself an abstract painter. But until 3 months ago I hadn't considered myself a cat person either. Both have got my heart's imagination bouncing off the walls and returned to a newness I didn't know I needed. { I had no idea cats could be so, ahem ... powerful. He owns me }.

Recently, I've put some positive changes into motion in my life to make more room for painting, book-making and designing the stuff I really care about. The past 7 months have been an exercise in letting go of the blade of risk I had been balancing between art and day job. In other words, I took a full time day job. I learned a big lesson: You can't get on the path to being who you are in your work and life and then shmoosh yourself into a box that was too small in the first place. Onward!

However, during this life lesson, I kept daydreaming about abstract painting. Sometimes the urge was so strong I'd have to doodle it out in my journal before work or on my lunch break. I had some figurative large paintings going in 1 hour sessions on the weekends, but I wasn't into it.

So when my artist friend Judy Jacobs announced the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge starting September 1 -- and I finished my last day of FT work last week ‚ÄĒ I didn't hesitate (she's an inspiration - incredibly prolific). So a month of abstractions are here. I'm very jazzed.

I'll be selling them as I go in the store. And posting daily here.

And if you want to join, it's not too late ... go here to sign up.

As for what I'm learning in abstraction is that it is a world that reaches through the artist, like music. The artist isn't making something. Something is being discovered and made. Very exciting and requires much reflection and listening. I'm loving it.

-- Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging. I've been in job jail. But I'm out now!

Giro del Mondo

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Though there are many stories rolling around my head post Italy, the one that is front and center has to do with the title of the Italy book I'm working on now. GIRO DEL MONDO. In Italian it means Tour of the World.

The narrative painting retreat took place in Cortona, Italy. It was all women and one man who accompanied his wife - a writer and watercolorist from Southern Oregon. He rode his bicycle daily while we worked. I cooked for everyone. One day, I decided to take a break from cooking. I offered to take everyone to lunch at the Plaza.

We went here:

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We were met by a very charming Italian waiter. Our languages were all over the map: English, Italian, Dutch, German. It takes a lot of trust to communicate from different languages and know you are understood if only by gesture and intent alone. This is what I love about traveling to new countries. This intimacy. It's precious.

Our waiter (here is he is)...

IMG_1827IMG_1817 ... asked where we were all from. Germany, USA, Holland.

Oh, "Giro del Mondo" he gestured with emphasis. "Tour of the World" he said as he poured our Rosé. "That's the name of our book" I said. Clear as day.

We had decided that morning that instead of creating individual books of each student's stories and paintings (plus photos I was taking of every experience we had), the book would be one book of all of it. So this title came in a very timely manner.

Here are a few more photos of this delightful lunch. We were so happy with our food, our waiter and our wine. I was blissed out to not cook for a meal.

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We went on to paint the streets, people, bicycles, flowers, shops after this meal. But the sketchbooks were out before dessert was over. They were very inspiring.

If you'd like to see a few more pics... go to the updated Tuscany page.

To visit a couple student blogs that cite a bit of their work, here is Corinne Bekker's blog. And Kathrin Werner's colorful world.

Also, we have a FB page, Writing and Painting Italy. I'm posting news and you will find the 4-day practice challenge before the retreat. I'm always so stunned by how the subconscious makes these stories so effortlessly.

I'm busy designing and producing the Italy book to send to students. It's part of their package. As I do so, I'm also considering the next retreat and an online version of the course for 2015-2016. So stay tuned.

It was an amazing experience. Still learning from it. Still inspired by the work and Italy.

Shyness

  Today as I worked on the welcome brochure and packet for the Italy writing retreat I committed to a fun gift incentive for registrants before April 1. But I'll get to that later. The idea, however, dovetails with an experience of social anxiety I went through this weekend while sketching in a crowd. It was San Francisco's history expo at The Mint building downtown. There were about 20 sketchers perched outside and inside. We sketched the character actors (loved the busty woman on the steps who kept saying "Hello handsome ... " to men walking by), the old bank vault in the basement, detailed art deco lanterns and more. I thought for sure I'd warm up and end up walking out of there having enriched my sketching brain with vital Ca. history stories by experiencing them with full on empathy (a required skill when fast images that are moving are in play). But two hours later, I had a stomach ache and a case of vertigo. I had to get out of there. Luckily the artists followed and we had Vietnamese ice coffee together and shared our work. Mine was the very worst of the bunch. I'm not just saying that. Apparently I am most at ease working solo, not with people over my shoulder taking photos and actors whirling by blowing kisses. It was just all too stimulating for my lil' artist heart.

Now onto why I'm writing about this. For the gift incentive to people who register for Tuscany before April 1 * ( because this makes the planning stage so much easier, having everyone's preferences logged ahead of time) ... I am offering a printed book of their work created in Italy. Fully designed with the intent of offering back a lovely package of their imagination and experience in one place to share with friends and loved ones. But then I thought ... what if they would rather eat barbed wire than to have their work presented in a book. Especially, since they don't know if they will love it yet? Fresh and raw thoughts from my experimental weekend.

Well, I intend to sketch with the SF Sketchers every week or other week until June. I decided the experience is just something that outlines where I am nervous and need to relax. And we humans are competitive by nature. I DO want to be a person who can draw in public and feel good not bad. I know people will relax into it as they settle and what they create will be a surprise (in good ways). It's designed for this and my teaching experience has shown this to be true.

I still think its a good gift. But perhaps I'll give folks the option of just their stories in words - or just their sketches/watercolors or something that I put together for them to mark the memory of our adventure together.

Shyness - ouch! Deep breaths. Try again. Get a hug. Drink a glass of good wine, pet a warm, cozy animal, sing loud into the wind when nobody is looking... tell that story, even if it's a pile of nonsensical words. Especially so!

Please forward this post to a friend or two who you think might love some art, story and Italian cuisine with 7 other participants in Cortona, Italy where the charming story "Under the Tuscan Sun" takes place. And I will be cooking many of her incredible recipes.

TUSCANY Writing/Painting Retreat

Register by April 1 and you will get a juicy book of your own work!

June Writing Retreat in Cortona Italy: What is narrative painting?

Getting pretty excited about Italy in June. It's now February, which means I will need to fill up that crazy child enthusiasm with substitutes until June arrives.

Questions are coming in about the retreat and sign ups are happening. There are 2 private rooms left. First come, first serve. But I must say a few things first about this retreat that makes it a bit off-beat from others. I mean you really need all the facts! You don't want to be in the clutches of a Italy-going-redhead with in Tuscan lands, a salt water swimming pool and 2 awesome kitchens to cook in unless it's your cup of tea (or wine).

What is Narrative Painting? How is it different from Story Painting?

Story painting is what I did in 2013 daily that fills the pages of The Art of Daily Cultivation. It begins with a painting of 'anything' that fascinates you in the moment. Once the painting is complete, the painting then serves as a prompt that inspires a micro-story. A few paragraphs. The painting can be a scene or a one subject piece. Character or scene... the story naturally unravels. Magic? Nope. Just making a bit of space in an otherwise hectic life for the natural muse to feel safe enough to come in for tea and express herself through the brush and pen.

I am calling the Italy Retreat "Narrative Painting" because our subject is chosen. It is Italy. And the lands of Cortona are paved with history, many stories from the past; many stories in the moment that we will be there. In the cafes, the Etruscan caves, Lake Trasimeno, the little wine shops and flower shops in the villa, the food, the panoramic views from the beautiful retreat home where we will live for these days. We as a group will add our sketches to the narrative already embedded in the land and culture of Cortona.

VOICE: Some folks in the workshop will enjoy the facts as prompts as much as their sketches and may write longer prose. Some will sketch and paint more than write. ¬†I see this retreat as an opportunity to explore ¬†Tuscany on its terms while amplifying and honoring what we experience and learn¬†with our brushes and pens ‚ÄĒ and the sharp (and oh so fun) tool of imagination. I see the retreat as a writing retreat using illustration as a prompt and support.

People will go home with a full first draft of their Tuscany stories in words and images. And I just love that!

Here is a sample of a 'story painting' that I did for the book but it is about Italy. The fat pigeons in particular. It's silly and short. My quirky style. However, what I love about teaching this work is that everyone does something very different. The individual voice and style emerge as the story takes over.

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That's all. I hope you are all having a wonderful Feb. I'll be blogging about what I will cook next. Fascinated by Italian cooking.

Please visit me on Pinterest for inspiration. I have a Cortona Board started that will show you the close up and personal magic of this particular place on earth.

ps: If you live in Portland Oregon and if you are considering this adventure. Flights are low right now (about 700.00 less than average).

 

Photo of a fat pigeon in Cortona. See what I mean?

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Full Circle

  A very sweet surprise came across my desk today. A collector of my art ordered prints of fishes and flowers for her therapy office. She is very persistent in creating exactly the right space for her clients. In her words ... "I love the energy your art contributes to my practice ... a space for safety, compassion & healing."

I just want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Lisha - I am so honored. Who knew my fishes and flowers would be in such good company and doing their good work along with her. I love art -- love, love, love the journey it seems to go on without me.

Happy Friday!

Waiting for Blue

  While most are making new years resolutions, I've been eliminating them and¬†making watercolors work on a limited palette -- without blue. Why? Good question. And a convoluted answer, but I'll give it my best.

Two days before holiday vacation, feeling better I was set to go ... but the respiratory infection came back with 3 times the power. Add sinusitis and fever/flu. After canceling vacation and a big ol' not so satisfying redhead temper tantrum (not pretty), I settled in to paint. My Van Gogh pan watercolor set was nearly empty. I've had it for close to 10 years. There was yellow, green, ochre, black, orange a smidgen of red, no blue. I put in my order for another set but with the holidays delivery was delayed.

Without blue I enjoyed thinking about what was possible. Without the expectations blue packs into a painting my mind wandered to¬†¬†the light I love so much in Santa Fe, NM¬†‚ÄĒ the church murals and rooftops in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy hilltop towns. I began a new series imagining being there. You can see those paintings¬†here if you are curious.

New Years resolutions have culminated into the lessons of a limited palette.  What would the year be without too many goals? What can be subtracted and what needs full on focus? Perhaps consider subtraction and limitation this year as a way to pull into full focus what matters most. What gets your love and tending this year? Those lucky people and projects!

Here are a few watercolors to share while I waited for blue. {Frida Khalo, if you are listening ... I get you!}.

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And, after blue, I had to paint big flowers and a blue sky. Ah...

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Happy News Years Everyone -- 2015 feels juicy to me.

 

ps: Thank you for all of the sweet well wishing about my health. I'll be okay. This seems to only happen one every 3 years or so but when it does it takes no prisoners. I'll be looking forward it moving on. In the meantime, it hasn't been all bad. I got to paint!

 

The Un-Promoter + Goldberg and Diebenkorn

  I had many plans for this holiday season that I had been lining up since late summer. The new store is¬†filled with full cycle creations: pillows, gift certificates, story-cards, large scale rabbit posters, the art book memoir in softcover, and a new website to make it all clear and easily accessible. Communications were in ready mode. And then life happened and I contracted a nasty respiratory illness. The Christmas cards I had ordered for you never even made it into the store. It's sardonic in a way ... how plans have the power to make fools of us all.

Recently, I've been reading one of my favorite visual memoirs by Natalie Goldberg: "Living Color" A Writer Paints Her World {now in second edition}. She reflects on the time in her life when she became a painter. She had contracted a virus and thought she was going to die. It stayed with her for 2.5 months. In that time she immersed herself in the world of Richard Diebenkorn. In the state of being ill when it takes a lot of energy to move from one part of the house to the next you somehow get underneath the critical mind where the subconscious lives - it's pretty wonderful and very impressionable.

Natalie¬†let his work in on a deep level. She reflects on the life of a man who was intensely¬†open to the depth of life and his own experience¬†‚ÄĒ how color and form was layered and adventurous. Yet his character/personality was understated and at times awkward. I know what she means. Diebenkorn's work makes my knees quiver and my lil' painter's heart want so much more out of the paint. He has always given me courage.

When she began to emerge from her fugue state she promptly called a painter in Taos and asked her to teach her how to paint. She had to experience color from her own hands. She worked in this woman's studio weekly. Amazing growth that underlies "Living Color." Great things can come from downtime.

All is to say, that, though I was not up to the big Christmas promotional activities, being an un-promoter has been somewhat liberating. More plans for 2015 {to be made a fool of for...} have filled the notebooks. Much reading and camomile tea has occupied the winter weeks. I have good days when I think I'm on the way out of this and then the days that tell me I have a ways to go. So more OJ, more Natalie, more Diebenkorn, and the genuine gratitude that comes when you know it could be a lot worse.

If you are happy that I've been an un-promoter because you get enough of those right now... then, YAY! We are on the same page. But if you are disappointed because you wanted to be more informed, my sincerest apologies.

Wishing you a warm, inspiring and healthful holiday season! Enjoy this little watercolor as a token of my appreciation for your support.

Are you in Vermont?

  Do you love art, snow and beautiful lighting? I do. Though I am not in Stowe. Vermont right now, my lil Chicken is. "Love a Chicken" oil painting and "Rabbit Over the Moon" silk painting are now showing in a group exhibit until December 28th. I see so many lovely pieces in this show (unique gifts for special lovies). And friends tell me The Helen Day Gallery is something special. So if you are in Vermont you might want to take a gander through the exhibit and say hello to the snow, the gallery and a hot cup of cocoa for me!

Click on the image below to see all of the information. I feel so good that they put my lil chicken on the cover of their newsletter. I just knew she wanted a home in Vermont.

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Happy holidays! Stay warm.

"Cakes of Color" : Natural Food Dyes :

  Exciting news: The first book of the 7 {squared} Collection is now published and available to order online. The limited edition signed books will be in the store here in 2 weeks. I will announce.

While the "Cakes of Color" core theme is all about the multi-sensory experience of color and food ... what is less clear is that adding food dye into the cakes is optional and more importantly, there are organic options of food dye available to make or buy. An astute friend and subscriber brought this to my attention today and it's the perfect blog topic.

I personally love to play with color in baking. Here are a few ways to incorporate it.

DIY:

This article, 8 Ways to Make Organic Food Coloring is excellent. I really like how she introduces other options besides beets for red. For instance, pomegranate or raspberries. In the case of the red cake, either of these options will only enhance the undertones of the cake flavor. While beet juice works nicely to deepen a chocolate cake or add color to the frosting.

Organic Food Dye Online:

For the red cake you purchase organic food dye from India Tree. I've tried it and like it. You need to use a little more than non-organice food dye, but that's okay.

For color mixing, use India Tree's 3 color set. Blue and red for the lavender cake and yellow and blue for the green tea cake and blue with a tad of red for the blue velvet cake.

Here is a recent article on FDA certified color additives and influences in children and behavior. I believe food dyes have evolved a bit from what they were but we still have reason to feel better about organic food dyes from vegetable extracts.

I hope this helps ease troubled minds about adding color to your delicious cakes.

Gratitude, Gravity & Grace

  The words gravity and grace have my undivided attention right now. I'm not sure why ... but I do know Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) has something to do with it.

Recently, I've been reading "The Innocent Eye" -- this is a book I've never been able to let go of and will likely see it to its raggedy end.

Considering how children express the truest character of their soul when they draw and paint. Or, when they make a mess in the kitchen trying to make pancakes. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is useless. The compassion, patience and utter abandon that is involved in the sentiment of the expression is something I feel awe for.

During the holidays it can be so easy to forget the simple magic of gratitude. Gratitude for the the things that didn't work out that makes us dig deeper in and change course if necessary. Gratitude for the daily kindnesses and simple surprises in life.

Though we may think a lot about what we want that we don't have, there is a grace in what we do have. If nothing more than an imprint of where we've been and markers for the journey forward.

I say, life isn't something to master but experience in all of it's imaginative power. Getting the "goof" on and the simple return to nature through food and love is the gravity and grace I'm aiming for this season. And I am already super duper grateful for it!

If you really want to be inspired watch Ursula LeGuin's speech as she accepts a Lifetime Achievement Award.

ps: The silly drawings are my from my daily sketchbook as I aspire to be a child everyday.

Perfection to Profection

Still geeking out on reflections of perfectionism in action. There was something bothering me after I wrote and published "Marvelous Human Mess". The gist of the article was encouragement to use the messes of our creation for more creation. To roll around in the mud and let the word 'mess' be something of a fossil of a past concept.

However, I think what was missing in that article was something that a reader brought to my attention later. Also¬†something that a Joseph Campbell passage also touches upon. What about when you are striving to make something incredible? Isn't that what distinguishes the artist? Campbell believes so. And there is a good and proud feeling ‚ÄĒ¬†a soapy, clean feeling after going all the way with a work you really care about it. I'm still feeling this from my most recent book. It's a great feeling.

Soooo ... perhaps it's the human imperfections I'm drawn to (the Marvelous Human Mess) ... while the object the artist crafts - (all heart circuits engaged) is where the stingy edges of perfectionism turn to gold. Or in the words of Steven Pressfield, when we turn Pro. There is still a dissolving of self/ego in both. Deep into a work I find that I no longer matter, it becomes something else. And once the work is released to the world it's no longer my business. It becomes completed by the stories in the people who engage with it.

Perfectionism perhaps ... has a good and strong instrument in the beginning stages to motivate the passion into the work. But after awhile the creation asks us to sacrifice and allow the work to become what it wants to become. When we listen deeply the relationship to the work turns to PRO-fection - to the public domain.

Therefore, I wish you all a healthy dose of human imperfection. Yet, a strong measure of perfectionistic energy toward your creations and the courage to sacrifice that when the listening takes you beyond perfection to PRO-fection.

Happy Monday!

PS: I will be in SF this Wed. eve as the Featured author event, chatting it up and reading from The Art of Daily Cultivation. If you are in the area, here are the details ... come on by!

 

The Color of The Universe

The book "Cakes of Color" has reached it's next step in production. I finalized the 7th test kitchen cake last week ‚ÄĒ red cake. Now I am deep into color research. Each cake recipe has an accompanying mono-print illustration and a historical note on the meaning and origins of it's dye-birth. Yesterday, I handed off some hex colors (a number) to a client to guide the specification of the product I recently designed and delivered to them. I felt slightly depressed afterwards. The colors, limestone green and ochre gray have history in ancient China's silk road and India's Hindu Gods. The challenges of making¬†green from a vat of mud ‚ÄĒ stories of the Hindu God Krishna who charms cows with his flute; how Indian Yellow became deep ochre with earth minerals of brown and the herb Saffron. The mystery of color evolution is endless. There is no one answer or discovery ‚ÄĒ it all blends into a shared history of invention.

These stories, in addition to hard won color science discoveries are¬†threaded¬†into their names throughout history. Green can carry over 1k of variations and names ‚ÄĒ¬†a history of discoveries¬†very few know today. In * Mongolia there are over 300 names for horses. Pantone is removing names by the year. Because we are in a digital age and computers don't need names, they require numbers.

Scientists at **Johns Hopkins University measured the light of the universe and concluded the color was Pale Turquoise. They later corrected that (embarrassed) that this finding was a computer error and it is actually what they now call Cosmic Latte ‚ÄĒ off white. So there it is another side to¬†the¬†dark side of computing. We need it but accuracy is a tale of caution.

I'm a romantic and have a cozy affiliation with the processes and people that brought color alive in history. The dye pigments have stories within stories, adventures and lives and have earned their names that are now being slowly erased. My hope in my lil' "Cakes of Color" book is that the colors become taste memories. I imagine (colored with idealism, pun intended} the sweetness of the cakes and special notes on their color history and meaning ... that people will eat color with renewed appreciation wonderful celebration memories. I hope to give people a story to tell amongst friends at the dinner table.

Now, when it comes to the birds, it's a different matter entirely. I doubt they care about color history but take every affordance to squawk¬†out their emotions. The yellow bird is a joiner ‚ÄĒ she's a follower¬†all the way. Redbird is hungry ‚ÄĒ¬†it's the attitude he carries with the most conviction. And so it goes with moody birds and the "Cosmic Latte" of our shared humanity.

. . .

Footnotes: * "Color" Victoria Finlay p. 395 **"Color" Victoria Finlay p. 395, 429

The Key of Tea

  The other day a friend sent me a powerpoint presentation to cheer me up and help me to unplug.

The words went like this:

~ When the static of technology starts to wear us down ~ Press the TEA key ~ Fly away from the trappings of today ~ Sip a warm and sweet drink ~ Find the peace deep within us.

tea key on computer

Besides the fact that this did indeed cheer me up in a harried work week, it got me thinking about the quality of attention that not only nourishes our art making but also well being.

A few situations in which attention is awakened ‚ÄĒ the senses brought to a narrow point of view:

~ Travel to another country ~ Illness ~ The stress of change ~ Learning something new ~ Purchasing an expresso machine and learning to use it (my recent adventure) ~ Falling in love

To this last point, falling in love. I believe this is a necessary aspect of creation. A caring attention framed as small as a donut hole will do. Even if only for 30 seconds; and if simply a tree leaf, your child's hair, a ceramic cup.

I was watching a National Geographic short film called "Grand Canyon Gets Camera Obscura Treatment."¬†To understand life, photographer Abelardo Morell wanted to look at the world in 'rooms' ‚ÄĒ¬†photography tells him where to pay attention.

"One needs some hub in the world in which to look at things and understand." By giving the world a frame he pretends it's the whole world.

For me unplugging for a day ... listening to beautiful music, sipping tea narrowed the view into a Camera Obscura frame. It¬†delighted me and rested the nervous system. I was more productive that day. In¬†resting the multi-active action ‚ÄĒ¬†the constant calls to action via devices into one frame of action (using hands and senses), it drew attention closer and I gained time.

In framing our world in smaller bits perhaps overwhelm fatigue can rest. Reflection kicks in, imagination has a bit of room to play - and we fall in love a little. Maybe the beauty of the moment filters out the unnecessary and non-urgent and things make sense again.

Enjoy your Sunday. And be sure to look inside the donut hole - the imagination of the world just might present itself to you.

..................

This article is dedicated to Denise. Thank you!!! You are great friend.

Marvelous Human Mess

  When you make a mistake do you feel challenged to learn and adjust for the next time around, or do you admonish yourself and see it as a character defect? Or something in between?

I used to have a studio in a shipyard in the Bay Area. A variety of characters would pop in to see paintings in progress. Before they could say a word, within 30 seconds I had shown them all of the flaws in the painting. Luckily, the folks in the shipyard were artists and entrepreneurs. Their opinions of my work often took me by surprise. For many of them mistakes communicated entries into the imagination far faster than any conception or direction I may have had in mind.

One night I painted me dumping my head out of all its garbage into a recycle truck. My studio/office mate chuckled and asked if it worked. I told him that I believed that once I had nailed my character defects I would be a real painter. He said, "This isn't Miss America. Your character defects are what draw me into your paintings."

The nature of perfectionism assumes a law of order that is attainable if only we strive hard enough and become aware of anything that sullies it ‚ÄĒ ¬†The battle of the lint of our imperfections can be intense.

I read a report card from my second grade teacher that she was concerned I would never be satisfied with an A+ ‚ÄĒ that I sought a grade higher not yet invented.

Creative practice during messy times has pummeled the perfectionist in me. When time is low and guilt is high and hungry deadlines persist, I've had to use the uglies in the work and make whatever is, oh, how to say this without cringing ... "good enough" ... yikes those words my toes curl.

By practicing imperfection I've grown fascinated by the human mess and standards by which the mess makes itself known. In particular the standard of perfectionism. Sheesh, where did that come from? The imperfections are so much more exciting. They give us more to discover and a wider array of materials to work with -- true adventure. Character defects make colors I have never seen. And isn't that true art? The expression of the tangled hairball of humanity is a painting I would buy over one that demonstrates perfect color theory.

Be proud of the marvelous human mess and make art of it.

beproud

Habits are Boring

 

I think about habit formation a lot.

I gather facts, I listen to podcasts, I study the psychology of habit making and heartbreaking habit diffusiveness at the start of a new year. I heard a stat the other day that our lives are comprised of 40% habit. These are the habits we don't know about. Brushing our teeth, getting up for work, etc. The auto-pilot habits.

But the habit discussions that are in fashion these days are the ones that improve our lives, bodies, health, relationships and productivity. There are many tricks to learning habits. Visual reminders to plan your day an hour in advance to get the gym, alarms to remind oneself of a commitment made to work on that novel.

I am bored just writing about it.

While making the transition to habit formation is not the most luxurious experience a person might have ... when the new habit is a disruption of ennui, inertia, being on autopilot, prioritizing tasks for others before yourself, trading what's important for what seems urgent in our 24/7 communications technology era ... it is then far from boring. More like how Jessie James must have felt in his first robbery. Like he got away with something and can't believe he is not dead.

My experience of creating a successful new habit engages many aspects of what makes happiness. It begins with a vision. What would amaze me if I got away with it and it didn't hurt my life? What if I did it a lot and my life grew as a result? What if on the days I didn't want to do it, I did it anyway because I am training my mind and body -- creating a new story and memory that undergirds precious resources and energy?

These days when I swim, I still feel the same. I can't believe I have created a habit of being in water intensively 4 times a week for the past 16 years. It has changed my life and health in ways I cannot begin to count. Yet, what gets me through the boring part of the habit is that the pay off over time exceeds the resistance. It's never boring -- It's different every time. Painting habits are the same. The water is in my brush vs. swimming in it. Expressing the water on a substrate -- It feels good, so I keep coming back to it. But there was a time when it was boring. I just had to do it frequently enough to get to the good stuff. Motivation was key. This habit was mine to make for no other reason than I love it.

Should's don't work in habit making and life transformation.

The reason habit formation is encouraged in 'frequency' is because the more we do it the more momentum it gathers and creates a life of its own. How proud a person feels to know that they succeeded in the creation of a habit that is true to who they are that they can access at any time. Quality of life and health amplifies. The sky is the limit after that.

Not so boring after all.

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Postscript: The doggie in this illustration clearly gets it and is training her owner.