Constant focus change

Wax on Wood

Last week I mentioned the absurdity of a health challenged person embarking on time consuming physical tasks such as gathering natural malerials, making paper, prepping and studying new branches of the art tree, and it surprised me that nobody mentioned “productive procrastination” aka Resistance. (dah-dah-DAAAAA)

Because really, it’s exactly what I’m doing. After all I am the champion of painting these colourful random backgrounds and then leaving them for years while deciding how to proceed because I never had a plan. Not having a plan and just slathering colour is a GREAT way to beat performance anxiety if you feel like you can’t get started, it will get you into the groove or at least the studio. Unfortunately, when you come back 2 weeks later after a migraine etc, you’re not really “feeling it” (pout) and it’s so much more fun to begin something else. (especially if you spent your downtime on Pinterest) Otoh you don’t want to keep erasing the same two pieces of board or canvas in all eternity, because you wholeheartedly intend to finish all those wips, obviously. (I do finish paintings actually, but a lot of them are testing ideas and methods and not really for publication. Not that I don’t on occasion publish them anyway…)

Partial background of very large panel. It’s not done, but it does have a title!

And then it’s so easy to pull the “as long as I show up and do something it counts, so how about clearing the table and gessoing ALL the things to make the workspace nice and ready?”-card. Or the “I should totally make it my thing to paint on my own handmade paper, to make it sooper special”-card. That is what I call productive procrastination, you use new and exciting endeavours as an excuse to put difficult projects on hold. Because you’re still working, right? And “each of my hobbies spark the others, right?”

I guess I’m especially disadvantaged here, because even if I lack ideas for halfdone images all the time, I have a supply for 2-3 lifetimes in general. It’s just that they veer off in every possible direction; forget about lining up ducks, my thoughts are gibbons.

Small stamp collection. In a row.

I think I know what I lack, however: Stories. If I had a collection of those, I could always pair them up with a background. I’d like for something to happen in a painting, not just pretty colours arranged in a pleasing combination. I don’t want to try my hand at realism per se, but I’m getting bored with empty landscapes. A suggestion of figures, or an imprint of some sort is what I’m looking for. Does that make sense?

So how do I go about finding and collecting stories, and how would you keep track of them? Write them down? “Fat man walking tiny dog in November”. Or by making a lot of sketches of stuff (but even then, doesn’t the story come first?) Working from photos or real life doesn’t really light my fire unless I see something unusual (which can be turned into a story). I don’t go out much, so I don’t see a whole lot of unusual things.

This week’s supply of stories in three languages to keep me on my toes.

Well, at least I’ve come a ways since I started talking about this years ago, I do actually paint a lot more than I did then. Having my own room in the loft has also helped enormously, and I have a bag of tricks to get me going, so all I really need is more uninterrupted time. And stories.

To begin with I’m taking note of all the recurring themes and keywords which overlap all of my interests to see which ones can be used as a common base, then make a list of activities in each hobby which fit those parameters and perhaps weed out the ones that don’t, for now. And in the way of stories I collect quirky titles and sentences to peruse when I need inspiration.

My table usually looks like this, so I must be doing “things”.

Breaking news: We had a rain storm Saturday evening and my water barrel is completely full. That means I can begin testing for my new plant pigment project. To be used with my handmade papers obviously. I’ll even test them on yarns.


 

Monday, Monday

Woke up, no headache, with the weirdest sentence in my head. While still in a fog it seemed deeply profound to me, so I decided to repeat it until I could write it down. Now I’m all, WTF? “We operate in the narrow strip between tranquility and normal life”. Um, right….. Who? 😕

I’m feeling a bit odd after last week’s various exertions, not anxiety but something close, like not knowing which foot to put down first. Thinking about some of the topics that came up here as well as related talks on friends’ blogs. You all know who you are, thanks for being so amazingly in sync!

monday04
What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you. I neglected to ask for a gap in the middle, so that I don’t have to trundle all the way around this row and back up the other side to get to the veggies behind!

So, what the hey do I do now that I have no chores and no headaches? Let’s make the most of this week, shall we? Paint, weave, spin, the list is long. Doesn’t matter which one I begin with, really, what matters is getting on a roll and stay. Heal. The LYS is having a sale later. With cake. (I shouldn’t eat the cake). First I’ll be waiting for the postman to bring me an extra loom, usually they are here early on Mondays. Ooops, I promised myself to do one load of laundry! No biggie. Just one look on the used items page to search for a jack loom, then I’ll get my butt out of this chair, it’s 08:19, I’ve been reading enough interwebs. Closed nearly all my tabs, job well done! 😉

  • monday01Used loom ads check – check
  • Laundry in machine – check
  • Winding hanks of yarn into cakes while glaring sternly at the driveway to reveal postman – 1 down, 10 to go, noticed the time. Because these things can be done when I’m tired, painting cannot.
  • Postman delivery – what, no?!
  • Clearing worktable – new tablecloth, no more RED!  – check (incidentally, how do you unwrinkle a plastic cloth, you know, the kind with fabric on the back? Oilcloth? Left it folded up all w-e… And it stinks….)
  • Having leftover potato salad and a tomato for breakfast, in front of the window. Did not conjure up the postman.

Time: 09:50

The thing about chores is, I don’t really mind them, as long as I get to do my other things. I do not want them to be my second full time job however.

  • Hang laundry – check
  • Read blogs – check

10:42

  • monday02Trying to get restarted on the micro canvasses, pretending to ignore stink from table cloth. Pick 6 off the wall I wanted to finish next, can’t really remember what I meant to do. Do something else just to get the paint flowing? Hungry. Ha, go away procrastinator, you ate already.
  • Need more whites, running out soon. Shut up.
  • lervad01Read in the garden instead? This sometimes helps, because if my brain is scattery it will try to get out of reading by throwing images at me. Not today, however.

12:25 Postman been with loom and gone. I can put on painterly clothes now and not scare anyone.

  • lervad02Yarn shop open, not in the mood. Money saved.
  • List and plan weaving projects, find yarn, get brain reorganized – tomorrow? Play with new loom!
  • Mend torn bed sheet – later
  • Brush and walk the dog – in a minute
  • Photo lupins take 1 – check

15:30 Tired. Using blog post to procrastinate. Get off and hunker down with some task, any task, now! Something easy, no stress. 2 hours, then dogwalk.

All in all a pretty scattered day with too much web clicking so far – but I’m happy to be on my feet and ignoring the floor and various other surfaces 😉 It always takes me some time to change gears even when I know I simply need to do it, not think it. I’ll get up to speed eventually.

Question is, if I’m too preoccupied with the loom to focus on the painting and simply need to give in and have a go at that first. It’s the same type that I already have but with a much finer reed, I’m hoping it will be suitable for my purple warp. And it’s always nice to be able to sample things even if you have a slow project on one loom. I have plans to turn in into an optional multishaft loom too.

lupin

Antics

I’ve given up remembering my unfinished writing projects from last week, so I’m doing various photo things, camera and Shop, in between watching the circus. Luckily they do take quite a few naps!

I actually need/want to take some photo trips for naked trees, but ugh, the cold and weather prevents me as well as roads being diffĂ­cult to stop along and park sometimes, without being in someone’s way – I want the vistas, not the forest this time. Everything is cultivated right up to the edge of the hard top, and you can’t just walk in somebody’s field, not even on the borders. They’re pretty a*** about it here and I hate this. I dream of being able to walk half the day with my camera without wearing a traffic safety vest!

Today it’s foggy, so it’s not even optional for the shots I want. I guess I’ll be kitten spamming you all week instead.

Forced painting

I’m slowly getting back to hands on tasks, and I’m determined to break a barrier or two before the year is over.

It’s funny how I can happily mess about with painting abstract backgrounds / washes forever, and then I get stuck. Or any idea I might have doesn’t work out – probably because I’m so scared to ruin it that I overthink, and then paint over the failure with a new background. It’s quite clear I have a performance anxiety here that I don’t experience with photography, probably because I can’t trust my hands to be able to do what’s in my head, the craftsman part of it. And we all know how that part is achieved!

wip  ruined04 wip2

It mostly happens when I paint without a plan, which is what I’ve been trying out for a while. Just picking a set of colours and see what happens. Of course, it could be that I’m simply not suited for the so called intuitive approach. I do have several complete illustrations in my head, but they don’t even get started apart from some very preliminary sketches or even just descriptions. And I have a feeling they’re kinda blocking the doorway for any new ones…

So I’ve decided to just make them, force myself to begin – and if they’re no good, I can make them again. Totally new experience to me, I never did the same image twice. Or rehearsed them.

As for the backgrounds sitting in a pile, I’ll try to put anything on there now, even if it’s not what I think is my usual topic matter. For instance, even though I love gardens and take copious photos of flowers, I never considered myself a floral painter. But I quit resisting when all this canvas wanted was some poppies – now I just have to work on them a lot, as you can see they’re going through multiple stages before being even close to a sketch. (I was interrupted the other day, as usual. By the same person who interrupted me with the same painting a month ago, when I was doing the background! I just hope it won’t be another month before I get back to it – last time I completely forgot my actual plan with it. And well, the famous thumb and all…)

wip

I don’t really wish to paint from life – that’s a camera thing for me. Painting is for the world inside my head.

I actually have a third hurdle, as if the first two weren’t enough. I never painted or drew people. I never take photos with people if I can help it, even as a tourist I wait until everybody is out of the frame before I click. But it appears that some of my “illustrations” have people in them. Which means I have to learn from scratch and develop a “style” if I want these images to live. It’s not going to be easy, I’m no good at people in any aspect. I even avoid mirrors.

I’m still not certain whether this new thing is really coming from me though, or if I’m simply influenced by all the mixed-media art journaling I’ve been seeing around. So the figures may or may not happen.

And that’s what I’ll be dedicating December to. No more touchy feely I’ll bloody well do what I feel like-a-day. I’ve got a job. Not like pretending to make art, no, this will be deliberate and planned destruction. Because I am in the mood and still nothing happens, as opposed to not really feeling like it but thinking you should.

I don’t know why I persist, but it seems I have to give it a go. And yarn. Silly, useless, colourful string. I always have my Adobe studies to fall back on if my hand acts up. And plugins..

All I know is, I spent many years doing just tedious jobs and nothing creative at all and I don’t like the person that turns me into – I don’t think anybody else does either. So I need to keep giving this as much space as possible, because even if it sounds like I struggle, it really is the only thing that keeps me alive. It doesn’t have to end with painting – after all it’s been on the shelf for 20 years while other crafts are more recent and perhaps more likely to yield “products” I’m happy to call finished. But just as I always considered myself a horse rider even when I didn’t ride for a decade, I still have this image of myself as someone who paints. Weird, huh?

o

Procrastination project progress

skovtur
Photography seems to be the main thing these days.

Time for another ramble! Must be either the humidity or hormones, LOL.

I was hoping that my new resolve about knitting would help me also generally get better at not having to do all the things all the time. Seeing it as having various picture making options in my toolbox, and instead work project oriented using whichever media each project requires. And I must say, it’s going pretty well. I don’t freak out if I haven’t painted for a month, I just follow the flow. In fact lately the flow has been getting the garden organized again now that we finally have a small pocket of nice weather.

Now, when I said I would work project oriented to free some time and calm the monkey mind, I didn’t mention the ginormous list of projects that I have of course. But you already knew that, if you know me just a little bit. 😉 I write down all my ideas, but I’m actually ok letting many of them hibernate or even just stay on the list. I feel that by aknowledging an inspiration that way I have already done part of the job, I’m saying yes to the ideas and in that manner inviting more to come.

Trying out an idea in Photoshop before ruining the canvas...
Trying out an idea in Photoshop before ruining the canvas…

Then the other day I had a really crazy-clever idea. I’ve often been joking that what I’d really like to do is just have ideas, design and plan stuff. Then I’d have staff to handle the actual production so that I could be free to attend to more ideas…. So, what is the low-grade version of this scenario? Well, since I’m basically tired a lot, and sometimes even more when it comes to actually digging into my creative projects after some time away from them, what if I simply left it at that? Sitting around getting a multitude of exciting ideas, do the colour samples, the sketches, the fantasies in particular – and just kept doing that bit and not bother produce them? I’d have SO much money available instead of buying wool and paints and I can do it while trimming the hedges… And maybe then I wouldn’t spend half the day clicking the interwebs because I’m too scared to start painting the idea I had last night after bedtime (very convenient to have them at that time, you can just pretend you’re sorry it’s too late).

It wouldn’t actually work of course, because I do like making things. And when I do get stuck, perhaps I should try to simply write down brain chatter as it happens, bringing the dialogue out instead of repeating it inside. Have a little discussion conversation with inner critic, the over-achiever and their little friends lazy-bones, obstinate and pitiful. I don’t know if they’d like to come outside like that, but it’s worth a shot. I wonder which one of them came up with the idea of only making brain art?

innerpeopleSo, am I still procrastinating my way through tasks, more, less, not at all, and how about energy levels? There’s room for improvement. And that’s mostly the voice of ms. perfectionist. If you ask me, I’m definitely on my way and the pace is just fine. The worst moments are, like I said, transitions between one type of activity and the next. I’ve never been very good at taking half an hour in between (or even a day) to be creative, if I start my day like that I know I won’t be able to stop, so lately I’ve been doing the chores that need doing first. And then I’m usually a zombie around 3 pm already and not in the mood. Once I get past the early summer hump of de-jungle-fying the property, I expect I can reverse the priorities again and save housework for last.

kale
Kale

The 3 pm slump is the worst when it comes to making excuses, but for now I think I’ll just have to accept it unless I want all-day slumps again. Or all-week slumps. At least I’m getting pretty good at keeping myself in motion, even if it’s just remembering to water things in my greenhouse and brushing the dog. It’s still a kind of evasion from doing arts and crafts, but at least I don’t just sit and click. So it does seem to be working, I mean, things get done and I hardly have any lists. I rarely feel stressed and busy, I just potter about. And, well, I do have days when I can’t get my A into G no matter how many times I get up and start doing one little thing. But they’re fewer and I try to not feel overly guilty about it. This is where the small camera comes in, it’s hardly a chore to just walk around and click aimlessly.

The one thing system – no todo lists

wips

What else have I been doing to beat procrastination?

Well, my interlibrary reservation list is down to 1! book and I’m not going to add more for a while no matter how tempting.

I practise finishing old wips to declutter both mind and house. Working on my featherweight cardigan and the pin cushions right now (ok, I had an excuse for the latter, I needed appropriate filling)

I do things that I know I can do – such as building tapestry looms. I have various simple designs that I want to try out. Got a few supplies, now I’m just waiting for someone to help me lift wood from the garage rafters 3 m up.