What I'm (not) giving up for Lent

Well, usually, I give nothing up for Lent. Yes, call me a bad liturgical Christian (I know, that’s one of your favorite insults right? See, I knew it!)

Instead of “giving something up” I tend to take on disciplines for Lent.  In the taking on of something there is an intrinsic giving up.  Every “yes”, is a whole bunch of “no’s,” to choose is also to exclude.

I’m starting my Lenten discipline three weeks early (liturgical over-achiever, I know. I’m giving you new insults in case you need them) this year.  Lent begins officially with Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on February 17th, and ends with Easter Sunday, which this year is April 4th.  So Lent is essentially 6 and a half weeks, and the discipline I’m taking on is 12 weeks.

I’m going to start the 12 weeks course that is The Artist’s Way, and the very first discipline the author asks me to take on is that of writing “morning pages.”  Basically, I have to give up a half hour every morning of drooling into my coffee cup and instead write three long hand pages of anything and everything that pops into my head.  Should be interesting.

As I just got the book today, I’ll be starting tomorrow.  My week tends to run from Tuesday to Tuesday, so I’ll have only 6 days this week, but that’s okay.

I have discovered that certain things get done better when you do them first thing in the morning, though it’s not always essential.  The work out I’ve been doing seems easier and more beneficial (wakes me up!) when I sort of roll out of bed, down some water and get right to it…  But since I already know that stuff happens, or as one of my friends puts it, “life gets in the way of life” which I’d like to amend to “life gets in the way of living” because sometimes the “stuff” that happens gets in the way of doing the things that are most fulfilling, I won’t beat myself up if I miss a day, or do it in the afternoon, or right before I go to bed.

I do intend to actually do it every morning as these types of exercises both physical and mental tend to be more profitable done every day.  I particularly plan to do it every day as religiously as possible for the first 3 weeks because if I can pull that off, it will be ingrained.

Anyway, I’ll probably find goodies to share from my morning pages, and I’ll probably have fun stuff to relate from artist dates (yes, dates with my own inner artist! I needed someone to make me do this regularly).

Anyone else out there been wanting to do the Artist Way?  Want some virtual (or if you’re in Nashville, actual) support/community? Let me know!

By the way, Julia Cameron totally stole “my” concept that everyone is in fact creative.  Of course she first wrote this book when I was like 13, but still, she stole it from me, k?  So if you’re feeling adventurous and want to discover your inner artist and want company, let me know too!  After all, if art is the conversation of the soul, then conversation is important 😉

In my not so humble opinion

Some recent thoughts of mine that I hope fall into the passionate as opposed to preachy category… I have preachy tendencies, so sometimes it’s hard to tell… if you find it preachy, leave me hate comments…

Okay by now you’ve noticed that I’m interested in a lot of things, and some people have even expressed that I do multiple things well (Those are the ones who are desperate enough in this economy to accept the meager bribes I can afford, but who’s counting?)

I hear one thing a lot said in my direction and it’s started to bug me.  When people see my art whether it’s painting or photography or mixed media, or find out that I can cook (and in case you haven’t read, I can also plan a dinner party for 17 with 5, count them 5 courses! yeah, I know now you hate/admire me too…), or find out that I write, or am a martial arts instructor, I hear this one phrase over and over and over again.

I could never do that.

Pardon my french, but why the hell not???!?!??!  (scoop yourself up if you fainted, I needed the emphasis.  Oh come on, it’s not like you never swear… eh? That’s what I thought).

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only difference between me (somewhat excelling in several areas of interest) and some other folks (who think they aren’t creative) is that instead of approaching new things with “I could never…” I look at something and think, “I could do that, if  I learned how.”

Am I currently in the physical shape to climb fourteeners in the Rockies, not by a long shot.  Could I get there if that was my goal?  Absolutely.

Could you learn a form of artistic expression that goes with your personality? Absolutely! Not all of us were cut out to be Rembrandt or Picasso.  Some of us just need to explore our creative potential and let go of our notions of perfection.

See, I think the biggest hold-up to most of us discovering our creative potential… okay make that two biggest hold-ups… no, there are three biggest hold-ups…

Where was I?

Yes, the biggest hold-up(s) to discovering our creative potential are probably equally distributed amongst these things.

(1) The idea that there is good and bad art and thus if we don’t see perfection in our work, or rather we’re all too aware of the imperfections as we see them, we can’t make anything creative.

(2) While we all want art of some sort, we’re both terrified of being the starving artist and slightly superior feeling to those who attempt to make a living at art.  Although, no one said you had to quit your day job… AND that superior feeling comes from secret envy, I’m convinced 😉  By the way, I made the garden bench and you can tell by the picture that it’s not perfect (see the screw I stripped and then hammered sideways so it wouldn’t stick out? and you can tell it’s not perfectly level).  But you can sit on it.  And it looks pretty cool.  And I made it with my own two hands (and some power tools! I love power tools :-) )

(3) We don’t actually feed our creative side with enough raw material, and thus we starve it into submission so we can get on with the more “productive” parts of our lives.  (more on feeding our creative selves to come).

Why do I think this? As someone who’s been theologically trained and who despite my use of a swear word above is with God’s help a faithful and devout Christian, I have to say it goes back to being created in the image of a creative God.  If God is creator God, (which I think most who call themselves Christians can affirm despite one’s favorite origin of the world story), and if we are created in his image, then we are creative by virtue of being his kids.

Think about it.

Here’s some resources to feed your creative side.  Yes, they’re books.  What can I say, I have book issues… But these books have lots of pictures, bonus right?

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  Don’t miss the accompanying Journal and Workbook to go with this exploration of art and spirituality.

Taking Flight by Kelley Rae Rogers.  Get your creative juices flowing with this inspiring book that come complete with step by step instructions from multiple artists on how to complete one of their favorite projects.  There’s all kinds of cool ideas in here…

The Secret of Rusty Things by Michael de Ming.  I love rusty things… this is one I wish I owned… feel free to buy me a copy when you buy yours 😉

Like soft things instead of rusty things? Try Fabric Art Collage by Rebekah Meier for some projects that have to do with, well, fabric, and art, and er… collage.  Descriptive title, don’t you think?

And last for today is a book that looks at trends in Mixed media art as well as sharing ideas and techniques.  It’s appropriately titled Exploring the Latest Trends in Mixed Media Art: Projects and Techniques (I promise the stuff inside is more creative then the title!)

The Conversation of the Soul

I’ve been dabbling with art since I can remember.  My parents enrolled me in an art classes starting at least when I was nine or ten, perhaps earlier, but that’s the first art class I remember clearly.  We met at a library and did a lot with crayola markers and pencils.  I remember being hooked when I figured out how to draw the little drips of wax on a burning candle and drawing lots of burning candles after that.

As a teenager I got to start painting with acrylics, which was the medium of choice for my art teacher at the time, and I’m glad it was because I love the versatility of acrylics and the way they can be adapted for so many mixed media and other projects other than painting.

In my late teens, young adult time, I found a bunch of canvases, the good, stretched canvases on a fantastic sale and bought about a half dozen.

They lay untouched for 5 or 6 years, along with all my brushes, paints, palette knives and so forth.

Five or six years!

What stopped me from painting?

The canvasses were expensive, at least, to replace them would be, and I was afraid that I’d paint something that wasn’t “good” and thereby “ruin” them.

Somewhere along the path of learning art, I’d also absorbed value judgments for art.

What a minute, Anna, are you saying there’s no such thing as good and bad art?

Well, sort of.  Art can be misused just like all sorts of other things intended for good can be misused.  I guess what I want to say is there’s no such thing as a good or bad type of art.  Nor is there art intended for a good reason that one could say is “bad.”  (See, my art is all awesome! :-) I declare it so).

Plus, when we use these terms “bad” art and “good” art, we’re usually referring to some level of skill that we perceive as good or bad, or, and most often I think, when we don’t like something, we call it “bad.”

Of course, Picasso was viewed as “bad” by his contemporaries.

See somewhere along the line, we’ve gotten the idea that art is something that can be judged as skilled or un-skilled and therefore “worthy” or “unworthy” as opposed to seeing art for what it truly is…

…the conversation of the soul.

The pictures in this post are some thoughts from my soul.  #1 is the first painting I tried when I finally decided that I either needed to risk “ruining” my canvasses or give away my art supplies.  #2 is the second take on abstract flowers.  #3 we fast forward a couple of years to my response to and desire to have some memorial to a miscarried pregnancy.  And #4 is still sitting on my easel.  I can’t decide whether or not it’s done.

What about you? Where do you express creativity?

Where are you afraid to express your creativity?  What’s your blank canvas that you’re afraid to “ruin”?

If, “art is the conversation of the soul” (quoth ME!), what’s your soul saying?

Want the t-shirt?  Okay, so today’s post inspired a tee shirt.  Available on both men’s and women’s tees, kid’s tees and even onesies!