I have been painting clouds lately. I have been looking at beautiful August and September clouds, trying to capture the awesome power and uplift of spirit I experience simply for observing the sky vistas afforded to me living in Wisconsin. Whether driving or riding in a car, or walking my dog or simply stopping to notice what is happening around me as I move from place to another, I find myself staring and assessing light against dark and assessing how to capture the particular greys of a cloud shadowing itself. I am noticing the range of blues, and grays, and purples, and pinks, and whites and yellows is see and thinking. “How would you paint that? ”
It has been a busy summer for me, filled with the day job, carving out studio time, and maintaining a schedule of teaching art/creativity in classes, workshops, and privately…all within the context of the political and social upheaval that screams at us from the 24/7 news cycle. Between joyous experiences of watching people find their artist’s voices in classes and workshops, and all the shouting and dire predictions in the news I have been looking at clouds and water, and trying to figure out how to paint them.
In amongst the presidential candidates polls on Facebook (make sure you are registered to vote and don’t believe the hype) and the reports on the consequences of climate change (it is real), I have been finding articles about research studies confirming what I have experienced for a long time; that experiencing nature makes you more creative, less stressed, happier, kinder, and makes you feel more alive.
One of the privileges of being an artist is that it is one of the few occupations (other than research scientist) where you are allowed to sit and stare at things in nature for long periods of time and no one is surprised. You have to observe to translate the world into art.
There is a reason I occasionally paint juggling women. It is the way I move through the world. I long ago realized that to be an artist engaged in the world I was going to find myself saying ’yes’ to a lot of things that were important to me. I have also realized with time that saying ‘no’ becomes equally important. Meanwhile I have a number of balls in the air.
I have many changes and lots of interesting projects underway. In March I gave up one of my two part-time day jobs when I passed the torch of leadership in the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies; Wisconsin Regional Art Program (WRAP) to the able hands of Liese Pfeifer. The annual state WRAP exhibition is currently on display at the Pyle Center in Madison through noon on September 24th. Check it out if you are in Madison.
For the last years I have also been working toward certification as a Creativity Coach through the Creativity Coaching Association. This course of study appealed to me as a way to be more effective in some work I was already doing with other artists. What I had not planned on was, in learning how to do a better job of coaching others I would find myself being coached to make mindful decisions that would put what I care most about front and center in my awareness. It has been and continues to be a very useful experience for me because it gives me permission to reflect on and be mindful about exactly how I want to move through the world.
Through my studies, reflections, and past experience I have learned that if you have things you really want to achieve it becomes important to decide where you are going to put your energy. I am learning to let my values inform my actions and my goals, I am learning to hold up opportunities and commitments to be considered for how they contribute to my overall goals of living a full creative life, of doing things that matter and make a difference to the world, while maintaining and growing the important relationships in my life.
I work toward these things:
- I am committed to being an artist as fully and expansively as I can be, so I must consistently make time for my art and studio work;
- I am committed to fulfilling the duties of a day job I find meaningful and I am privileged to have found an arena in which to work that makes the world better;
- I am committed to my relationships with family, friends, and well as for my students, and clients, who all deserve my time and full attention when I am with them;
- I am committed to maintaining my physical, economic, mental, and spiritual health, so I must factor in time and attention to take care of myself and make good decisions;
- I am committed to contributing to the world in the ways that make the most sense… to making positive differences in the best ways I can. Sometimes this will be with my art with projects like the Exquisite Uterus Art of Resistance Project and The Flowers Are Burning.
These are the things I seek to balance as I move through the world.
Who knew that one of the most direct route toward my life and career goals, and in my artistic practice might be to walk in nature as often as possible and to give myself permission to sit and stare at the place where the sky touches the water on Lake Michigan.
In August I had the privilege of spending a week teaching watercolor at Björklunden in Bailey’s Harbor, in Door county. This was my 20th or 21st year teaching the class. There I could see the sky touching the water every day all day, and I could observe the subtle changes that occur throughout each day and try to capture at small part of what I saw.
I am looking forward to returning to Björklunden and my lake watching in October to teach the Re-Vision Watercolor/Mixed Media Art & Creativity Intensive. This is a 3 day, five night arts-based creativity intensive for non-artists and artists taking place in one of my favorite places. We will spend mornings engaged in arts-based guided exercises designed to explore and enhance creativity and move us forward in our lives and art. In addition to 24 hour access to the studio, in the afternoons participants will have the option of continuing to work on art works of their choosing with me available to advise.
In Madison in September-October, I am working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies to offer two classes that will meet once a week, on Wednesdays, for 5 weeks at the UW-Arboretum.
- Creativity: Becoming Your Own Muse, 10:00-12:30
- Creativity, Finding ‘Flow’ and Your Artist’s Voice, 1:00-3:30
The classes will meet on September 14, 21, 18, and October 5, 12. Learn more about the classes, that are starting soon, as well as how to register here.
I look forward to my future studio time inspired by my relationship with nature, and I look forward to my upcoming classes and workshops. Until then I plan to steal as much time as possible to watch clouds, to look at water, and to make art from what I see.
I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do. ~ Jana Standfield
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~ Albert Einstein
Creativity is an act of defiance. ~ Twyla Tharp
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. ~ Rachel Carson
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. ~Shel Silverstein
You are not too old and it is not too late to dive into your depths where life calmly gives out it’s own secret ~Rilke