Patti Edmon Altered Attic: 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Creative Life, One Scoop at a Time

Aside from a couple of small, gifty projects I haven't worked in my studio since the Red Thread Retreat. If my feet were smaller I'd probably have made more progress on the re-purposed shoe boxes, but there are still four weeks until Christmas. I'm not sure whether it's taking care of sick children, too much on the list, the crush of cold weather on my arthritis, or all of the above. I do know that the more I try to control or balance obligations the more frustrated and impatient I become. And still no finished boxes. And I still can't decide if time away from the studio is simply that, or if triggers a germination of sorts.

An examination of the inner-workings of the creative process often isn't pretty; for me anyway, it's scattered and messy. Preparing pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies seemed an apt metaphor, a labor that involves guts and sorting, scraping away the pulp and seeds, which have their own use, then setting aside the leftover baked shells. I think properly baked pumpkins yield the best-tasting pie and while time-consuming, are always more than worth the effort.

Early on, things can look, well, stringy and jumbled. The secret to getting the spicy, savory results is in holding on to the knowing that it is process and will evolve with a life of its own. Listening to the muse, being open to the universe, "trusting the soup" as Steven Pressfield says in his dynamic tome, Do The Work, are all means to remaining somewhat patient during the sometimes long periods of time when there is no finished product, business model, end result.

I've been making the annual pies for decades but it has only been recently that I realized how little faith I've placed in my own metaphor. Often unwieldy and not resembling what I'd envisioned, I have spent my years dabbling in various endeavors - writing, photography, art - along with a somewhat successful career running a small creative business. It has often felt that each discipline has been an isolated effort to reach the one aha moment that makes the rest of the journey wide-open, easy to navigate, safe maybe? At this age I have plenty of journey left, though I've pretty much stopped wondering what I'll "be" if and when I grow up. The hobbies and passions I've pursued have all been creative and rather than feeling like a dabbler, I realize that each facet - a photograph, haiku, paintbrush - enhances art making. And the disciplines that at times feel separate are the inner-workings of one creative life. I'm not certain the pumpkin analogy is still working for me here... except for the part about the dozens of seeds tucked inside, ideas and hopes and plans for creative days ahead.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

They say cats have nine lives. I believe humans experience endless lives in the brief span of a lifetime. Especially for us creatives willing to remain open to truth, be vulnerable with fragile wings that, like a miracle, are strong enough to send us into flight.
There is risk involved but the generosity of rewards makes it oh, so worth the occasional scrape, the deeper wounds even that cut through the sheer cloth of courage. Little protection is offered but then again not needed, for the layers we paint, weave, wire in our studios build our hearts into a fortress of faith.

It is possible to walk the bridges we stumble upon without owning the tools to judge their stability. That is faith, and, in stepping out onto the wavering boards it becomes evident that many have already traveled there.

I tapped into that and found myself headed to the inaugural Red Thread Retreat, fully aware that I wouldn't know any of the other 14 women - yet - or the instructors. That I would stay in a rural, isolated retreat center and share a house with this group having only gender and the love of art in common.

I got lost within minutes of leaving the airport in DC, of course, but thanks to several incredibly nice folks at different points on the hour drive, I found my way to Knoxville (Maryland). My karma bank must have been full, because I'm still in awe of the kindness I encountered throughout the trip. 
After passing through the lovely Leesburg, VA, I stopped at this lovely market for some supplies.

I only wish I'd been a passenger to afford much more time drinking in the incredible autumn scenery along the drive. Fortunately, after the third "Road Narrows" sign, just when I thought I couldn't possibly wind up anywhere, I arrived at my destination tired but looking forward to the coming days.

 We spent many incredible hours in the workshop building art using new techniques and bonding in the way that is only possible in this setting. Lesley Riley, artist and teacher extraordinaire, created the retreat, she must have known that the red thread was what wound through each of us, secured by the end with a tight knot! 

The chance to live in my version of Heaven - usually Vermont, the lake, now Knoxville Maryland - was almost surreal. The quiet that we don't ordinarily experience... hearing leaves shimmer with color then scatter in the breeze wakens all senses. The rich smell of beeswax melting, the dripping of (caffeinated, thankfully:) coffee, even though it was 7:00 am. 
I shared a room with a perfect stranger. I say perfect because Rachel Stewart ended up being not only the best possible roommate but an amazing new friend (I miss her already)! We both have two kids, love horses and creating. Her jewelry, photography and writing... her blog, Blue Finch Jewelry, pure treasure - well, you'll see.

Claudine Hellmuth led us through the delights of beeswax collage on Friday. Along with looking just like her photo, she just sparkles for lack of a better description. I made several pages, though I didn't have the ideal photos to work with, and being a Clear Tar Gel kinda gal made it awkward at first but what an amazing tool to add to the repertoire! I'm pleased to report that there were no fires, smoking irons or major burns.

Though my workstation did have a 'fire hazard' quality about it, I managed to stay organized enough to plunge into Nina Bagley's Over the Edge class on Saturday. Nina Bagley... sigh. I've been an admirer of her art for so long that to finally meet her was incredible (I hope she doesn't read this because she'll get 'that look' and say she's just human:) 
I got a chance to explore wire-wrapping techniques and a zillion ways to use millions of eyelets and there are two new things on my wishlist - a Japanese screw punch and manual drill - must haves!

To say that I 'fell in love' with Nina sounds a little creepy, but I'm not sure how else to put it... Her warmth, wide-open generosity and humor and talent, well, you get the idea. Where else did I think the depth and range of her beautiful art came from? I wish I could pour her coffee every morning. And when I saw her pendants I knew I had to have one, along with an amazing chain that is a work of art on its own. I have worn it every day since and I'm glad that the beaver-gnawed stick, scraps from treasured fabric, beads and metal go with absolutely everything I wear. It was a talisman during the long trip home, made a day early; instead of dropping the car at the airport I drove it home to Lexington leaving a hurricane and blizzard behind me.

Missing Lesley's class was more than a disappointment; however, given the horrendous nature and destruction of the storm that still has the eastern US coast in a state of emergency, safety first. So I'll look forward to a next time. I'm so grateful I experienced the power of the Red Thread, now safe at home with my family - with power.
For now I'll consider unpacking and getting back to work in the studio!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Seeking Further Sanctuary

This is the fifth of seven in the Seeking Sanctuary series I completed a few weeks ago. The pieces are currently hanging at The Nest: Center for Women, Children and Families (until I pick them up tomorrow!) and they couldn't have found a more appropriate setting. Each piece is deeply, specifically personal, with so much symbolism that it's amusing when I hear a comment like, "Oh, that's so pretty!" In this piece for example, Cinderella, there is a rusty razor blade, a gun and a stick pin, albeit masked amid pearls and a gorgeous Frozen Charlotte. 
Most of us know the pain of rejection, humiliation, falling short, abuse, neglect and other sorrows and I wanted to express darker moments in these, a sweeping out of the old bones, per se. So, as you can see, the shoe doesn't fit Cinderella after all... no happy ending. 
In (her fourth volume of) The Diary of Anais Nin, she wrote about the creative's need for emotional excess; in other words, my earlier life, every event leading up to this blog post is the collective well of material, a vast storehouse from which I'm able to transfer, translate, transform my experiences in a way that suits me. I suppose it could be considered rationalizing but I think most, like Nin, would agree. 
Don't know why it took so long for me to open the vein and work intuitively, no rational-thought based decisions, and let the imagery emerge. Most satisfying indeed.

"Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."
~Anais Nin 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seeking Sanctuary

Next Week is National Invisible Illness Week - so along with posting another Frozen Charlotte piece that is part of the Seeking Sanctuary series, I wanted to address life with chronic illness, as I do every September. 
I have read that it's not good to mix messages on a blog, that the content should be consistent, i.e., I have an altered art blog, so I should post altered art. However, the art wouldn't have happened without the illness and it a big factor in who I am... so, I'll understand if you stop reading!

The placement of the accent is the only difference between ‘in-val-id and its heteronym in-‘val-id. I don’t consider myself an invalid or invalid; however, both are quite apt descriptions for the initial years, those spent gathering pieces of a life scattered after a diagnosis that, while thankfully not terminal, in many ways has been interminable.
Those hazy, first years of ending one way of life and grappling to assemble another felt invalid in many ways. Before 2004, life was solid albeit fragmented. I’d been running a business, writing fiction, riding horses competitively, involves in my children’s school, social events. As it crumbled beneath me my identity slid away with the debris. In a philisophical light, identity means sameness, whatever makes an entity definable and recognizable. Without a wakeup call, it’s all too easy to consider ourselves products of what we do, sort of an evolving nametag. The buzz phrase, “we’re human be-ings not human do-ings” was the result of the tendency to over-focus on the doing. Mother, writer, business owner…  until that identity cracked I had very little awareness that I wore titles that described the things I did rather that me as a person.
Losing that identity that had served me well was, without a doubt, the most difficult part of learning to live with chronic illness. Particularly one that is nearly invisible, mostly imperceptible. The first years spent on the medication roller coaster did alter my appearance; anyone who has been on a high dose of steroids for a long period of time is certainly familiar with moon-face! And, while it was extraordinarily difficult to suddenly wear 3-sizes-larger clothing than I had the year before, at least I looked sick. The beginning of my transition to a low dose of prednisone translated to a loss of 50 lbs. in a relatively short period of time. And people noticed! Along with the whispered ‘are you ok?’ and compliments (especially from the many people who hadn’t known the ‘real-size’ me) came the conclusion that I was better now, doing great, finally!
Though it’s difficult not to reciprocate the enthusiasm, the fact was, and still is, that I was suffering from inflammation, joint pain and exhausted beyond belief. That the new, slim version sitting in the church pew, coffee shop, at the kitchen table, is in some ways a sicker me than ever. After smiling a gracious thank-you, what I didn’t add was that winning my disability case also meant the end of Tier 4 drugs - without the biologic I need,  this is as good as I’m going to feel. Gone were the eyedrops, how can eyedrops be so expensive?!, which eased the inflammation in my eyes and after 30 minutes my vision is often akin to a diver underwater without her mask. No matter how thankful I am for several good hours a day, part of me still mourns the loss of several more to this illness.
There are times, and many situations, when it is a challenge to remain positive and grateful. Missing another social gathering, spending several hours – or days – in bed after another stretch of filling in for my former self; but, I don’t hang on to that, instead I try to let it flow right on through me, it has become the river that I paddle day after day, no matter what. Yes, despite the negatives, I do not waste precious time feeling sorry for myself. At times I feel guilt, for not being ‘enough of a wife’ or a mom who sews costumes or cooks dinner every night… and the isolation can be difficult; however, the invaluable lesson I have learned is mindfulness. I care deeply, love abundantly, create passionately, reach out often and with sincerity, live with a genuine sense of gratitude. These gifts that have made me a bigger person than I ever imagined possible back when I was valid. Yes, it is ironic that invalid and invalid are spelled the same, while carrying vastly different meanings. My wish for you, if you are reading this and living with the burden of invisible illness, is that you can find the means to validate your life so that every ‘good’ moment counts.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gratitude and then some...

photo by Alice Taylor Edmon, my incredible and beautiful daughter

I've been smiling since yesterday. Not a sweet or content smile but a full-out joy and gratitude grin. Having included Steven Pressfield and his fabulous books in so many of my posts, I decided it was time to let him know just how much they have impacted my creative process and improved the quality of life overall. So I did. I kept it to 3 paragraphs and didn't over-edit the email, just sent it off. What I was not expecting was a reply. Twenty minutes after I hit send. 
He thanked me for taking time to write a "wonderful, warm and funny letter!" He went on to say, "I'm delighted that "War of Art" found a home with you (and "Turning Pro" too).  Your blog/site looks great." Wow.

Now, is Steven a regular guy, who gets up every day and battles to do his work (which, he does extremely well) and put it out for people like me to read? I haven't met him but I'm fairly certain he is. The fact that he took a moment from his work to address mine has lit a fire that is still burning (the next day) and though I'm not certain of what will happen, if anything, I do know that I'm incredibly inspired. And, once again, if you haven't read his books (see post below) I highly, enthusiastically recommend them. Each of them. Don't borrow... buy copies so you can circle the parts that speak to you loudest, make notes in the margins, re-read as necessary!

While I'm on the subject of gratitude I want to say that I'm glad the owner of Chick Fil A felt he could share his beliefs and stand strong in them. I'm equally happy that the Mayor of Boston decided that the Freedom Trail wasn't the best place for one his restaurants. On a local level I'm thrilled that the city invested a quarter of a million dollars in a ginormous sculptural installation in downtown Lexington. Are there more-than adequately talented artists in Kentucky who could have done the work, and did they need to hire someone from New York?? No. But I'm glad it's here.

In spite of the NBA's worries about loaning their multi-million dollar players, whether it's because of injury or the 'no pay' issue, I'm glad our Olympic team includes them, along with UK's beloved Anthony Davis. I'm grateful that we can put aside so much to watch the world unites in London to do what they do best.

In this country, governed by a political system that has passed the ridiculous, where random acts of violence scar families, towns, our psyches beyond recognition; where talk of jobs/money/stocks, the economy, healthcare, materialism and real estate are held up as the values we hold highest... I'm glad for the people who survive, write about it all, heal each other and themselves, share, live out loud, hold on to precious moments that make life worth living and most of all, create!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The third in the series of 12x12 canvases featuring Frozen Charlottes (and cabinet cards) is perhaps my favorite so far. I think it's the glove... one of those rare treasures that - once discovered - becomes a must have. The glove has been in one of my many collection bins for three years. I could not imagine how I would use it, but hoped that one day there would be a moment of realization that it would be just right for a piece of art. 

I enjoy sifting, sorting, stacking and perusing the objects, papers, fabrics, junk jewelry, vintage treasures and rusty bits I've collected over the years. But I’ve often had a sense of reluctance when it came to parting with a special bit even though I was incorporating it into my art. I doubt I'm the only artist who keeps a stash, hesitant to forge ahead for fear that another, better purpose will reveal itself. In due time. Meanwhile remaining content to marvel at the folds, wrinkles, stains, color that have evolved with the passage of decades.

The books that continues to hold my fascination, written by StevenPressfield, are about overcoming the negative forces that live in all of us so that we might discover and live/create our best, authentic work. The War ofArt, Doing the Work and the one I’m currently reading, Turning Pro state in ways that I cannot describe, the obvious, the reality and the importance of locating and overcoming Resistance, the penultimate creativity crusher. In one of those books he wrote about not saving our best for later, meaning that if I’m unable to commit to the work on my table I might as well not do it; therefore, if the theme cries out for a leather baby glove, I must use it! So I did. And, I painted and marked on a cabinet card – not a scan, the real deal.

Some might laugh at the simplicity and common-sensical nature of these realizations but for me they have been liberating beyond my wildest imagination. So, with one more piece to photograph and two on the table I believe I’ll continue to follow another of Pressfield’s sage nuggets about doing first, then thinking!

Monday, June 18, 2012

In the previous post I included a photograph of elements used for the focal point in "Wait," the second of four 12x12 mixed media canvases that I've completed within the last several weeks. The series is thematic, in that the pieces stem from two things: first, they reflect what I believe to be my true artistic voice; and second, inspiration from a quote by author Virginia Woolf, "If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people."

Did Virginia Woolf mean that we need to publicly unravel our deepest secrets and darkest truths? I don't believe so, however, we do need full awareness in order to write, paint, draw, dance, to live authentically and wide-open... imperfections hanging out and vulnerability dangling in the clear light of day. 

At the height of my fiction-writing venture the inability to tell my own story essentially prevented me from writing my best work. My stories were... safe. Like skipping a rock, no matter how many skips, how much distance it travels it only plumbs the depths at the end. Though I'm not guilty of living on the surface, I'm not certain I ever fully integrated the past with my creative power.

We all have an unwritten life history, the scribbling between lines that doesn't make the final draft. I now realize that a willingness to walk through those layers without blinders frees me to access the grit, pain, shame and sorrow that complete the wide spectrum of my life experiences. And, knowing that grief and suffering is where the truest art comes from lends a certain justification, credibility to events, chunks of years I'd just as soon sweep under the rug.

Mixed-media is such an apt metaphor... starting with bits of paper, found objects and then building the surface with a dozen or more layers of texture and paint. Using a non-literal medium may be a bit less threatening, though I'm certain creating 'true' work is just as likely the result of the many years over which I've struggled to tear down walls and shine light on the pockets of darkness. Easing the numbness with acceptance, patching over the holes with scraps of courage I didn't know I possessed. 

So, this series is about transforming from stunned-silent through suffering and opening to evolving. I do hope that stepping into the light allows my creative work to speak with the impact of my own truth.

I also plan to revisit the body of fiction on which I spent thousands of hours, workshop time, readings and critiques. A collection of short stories and the framework for a novel have been gathering dust since the onset of this auto-immune arthritis in 2005. Who knows, perhaps I'll be another Grandma Moses...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not long after I started blogging, I realized that, just like making art, it's about the process. Essentially, I do it for myself. And that's a good thing - after only a scattering of posts in recent months the number of page views has declined since years past when I was a more diligent blogger. So, I remain content to express myself and am incredibly thankful for every visitor who does stop by.
Now, I must say that I live for comments like Kim's (the post below). Knowing that I have made a significant connection to an art friend is the kind of unexpected reward that fills my spirit with trust, gratitude and empathy.
This photograph was the final in-progress before assembly for a mixed media canvas. For some reason I love capturing elements along the way not knowing precisely how they will come together, though I do have an idea/plan! What a metaphor for life, art, blogging, breathing in amazement every step during the ultimate process, the journey that is life. Thank you, Kim, for reminding me that it is possible to fly without wings!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Frozen Charlotte Canvas #1

'Once' is one of the frozen charlotte canvases that I mentioned in the post below. I've been to The Altered Page and am a bit, well, humbled by the stunning photographs that Seth has posted. Still life, array of objects, I thought, hmmm, things I make art with - so I chose buttons!! Well, if it's good enough for Seth...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Who says you can't go to a yard sale 2000 miles away?! The boss of art and objects cool and collectible, Ms. Alicia Caudle, had hers and, trusting her as I do, I had her ship me a box. The contents eclipsed my wildest imagination and I considered posting photos of my new treasure but decided to skip to the best part. Alicia art. This altered tin blows me away.

To say she's an inspiration doesn't cut it - I've always been in love with her work. I've also been experimenting with Frozen Charlottes lately and having a blast - I plan to post the three new canvases I've finished soon. The most amazing aspect of these porcelain babes is the incredible variety of uses; yes, they are always recognizable as an element, or focal point, but the options are unlimited! Charlottes (and Charlies) have a really cool history. The one-piece dolls were made in Germany between 1850 - 1920 and the smallest ones were often put in Christmas puddings as charms! I'll put mine in the art, thank you.

The lace, fabric, stitching, wire, paper, found objects are put to such gorgeous use and the detail is, well, I'm sure you can see for yourself. If you don't already know Alicia (hard to believe as she is the quintessential blogger, collaborator, collector, e-zine publisher, web designer, to say nothing of artist!) visit Altered Bits and spend an hour roaming around on her fabulous site.

Speaking of art and friends, I am the incredibly fortunate recipient of Bunny Girl, a fabulous clay sculpture created by my good friend, Debbie Westerfield. One of the most prolific creatives I know, she is probably more - or longer - known for her mixed-media paintings, but working in clay has been a major passion for the past few years. Her art life/career is enviable. I am in awe of her talent and generosity and I refer to her as my art angel. Being a relatively new artist, Debbie has been a wellspring of encouragement, tips, advice, did I say encouragement and sustenance. We regularly exchange textures, paper, beads, rusty stuff... In fact, the blue beads at the top of BG's skirt came from my stash! She recently bought a package of washers at the hardware store and I rusted them for her - giving her several finish options.

And did I mention that I love the face?!

I'll be appearing in Seth Apter's edition of The Pulse tomorrow - hop over to The Altered Page and check it out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Physical, mental, social…spiritual.
Interestingly, this is the one that brings it all together.
The thing that makes life worth it,
the thing that rises us above the mundane and everyday,
the thing that brings meaning to life,
is when we are aware of the spirituality of our lives,
the presence of God within us and around us and through us,
the step of enhancing our life
by connecting to the Spirit.

- Dr. Woody Berry

This is exactly what I felt while floating in the lake, hearing nothing but the cry of the hawk that lives in that particular cove. I spent several minutes gazing at the trees that form a semi-circle horizon above the rocks. I saw more shades of green than I ever thought possible, patches of deep blue sky showing through in spots… and the elegance of the lifeless tree that must have fallen years ago and now rests horizontally, weathered and stretching gracefully down from where it was once rooted. I watched the finches darting from a nest tucked out of sight in the wall of the cliff, catching whatever it is they catch to take back home… I thought how it was all right there whether or not I - or anyone - was there to see it. To witness the extraordinary beauty of God's paintbrushes and clay and loam and kindle and water dripping steadily at the cliff's edge... I thought of my pastor and friend Woody then and how I told him maybe I'd write a poem; then I realized I was immersed in one, the language of such articulate beauty in every place my eyes rested. Yes, this is poetry, I thought, pure and simple and all-too-often overlooked. But not by me, not for those minutes on that day. And that day was good!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wow, it has been so long since I last posted that the formatting window and tools are completely different. My intention of posting weekly has dwindled to monthly... I admire so many artists who consistently produce - and post - amazing, fabulous work. This is what I would really like to know: do you work daily or have a routine? What adjustments and sacrifices do you make to ensure adequate studio time? If you're creating and living with a chronic illness, how does that impact your output?
Durng the past couple of months most all my creative time was spent on a mixed-media book that incorporates a poem I wrote. It was a birthday gift for my dear friend and pastor, Woody Berry.  
I used puzzle pieces (8" square) that I found in children's board books on the bargain rack a few years ago. Each was missing a piece and since I've always loved puzzle pieces I had them in my stash awaiting the right opportunity. 
The entire process was joyful - intuitive and free from whiny, insecure self-doubt, even when running into multiple problems that ultimately led to creative solutions. Like binding. I hadn't considered how the multiple layers of paint, texture, fabric, metal, buttons, trim, sticks and twine and other assorted embellishments would stack up. So of course I didn't plan for a 5-page book to be several inches thick. After drilling holes I used bead chain with scraps of lace, ribbon, fabric and trim tied in knots along the spine for stability.
Woody was most pleased with the end result and I already miss working on it!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My husband, Jim, has a new business partner and Edmon Design, founded by moi in 1990, is now Balance Creative, LLC. We've known David (Caldwell) for years - they have been contemporaries in the design/advertising community since their years at the same college. Our teenagers are close in age - our sons love metal (music) and our daughters danced at the same ballet studio for several years. David's reputation includes descriptors like integrity, talent, strength of character, humor; in short, we're thrilled to have him and 2012 started off with the kind of enthusiasm and sense of adventure that should fuel our life endeavors.

David's daughter turned 14 a week ago. He'd mentioned to Jim that he'd like to give her a box like the ones he'd seen on my blog. I haven't completed a project since well before the holidays and hesitated to commit, unwilling to add another half-finished piece to the stack. As I began anyway, I realized the true impact of having read The War of Art. I can honestly say that I spent far less time mired in indecision and more enjoying the process.

In his subsequent book, Do the Work, Steven Pressfield talks about the importance of 'shipping it' as in getting it done and out into the world. It wasn't a challenge since I was pleased with the outcome (and the gift was very well received). While my creative block might rear its head now and again, I am relieved to find that I truly look forward to working in the studio. Creating is my passion and committing to the process removes the biggest obstacle of all... me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winning the Battle

The end of the movie Cast Away when Tom Hanks is standing at the intersection in the middle of apparent nowhere, after the girl in the truck has explained where all the roads lead - seen it? Though a likely conclusion is inferred, the movie - like real life - doesn't finish the story for us.

Though I have not shared the experience of being marooned with only a ball for company, I identify with the sense of being lost and a search that, while seemingly external, is a metaphor for the inner journey. Miles-long stretches of open roads, no clearly marked destinations... crossroads. I've spent many hours standing there often not realizing that it wasn't going to be made easy by a bolt of lightening or script writer. Sometimes having choices is as overwhelming as not having any.

A studio stocked with enough supplies to go retail does not equate to art making. A stack of empty journals and cache of pens doesn't create prose. I've written poetry, short stories, essays, blog posts, worked in acrylics, collage, mixed media, assemblage, fabrics; however, I'm uncertain that I know how to do 'my real work.' And what is that work? All I know is that it involves creativity.

I just finished reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. It has been around for a decade and I'm no stranger to books dealing with the creative process, or more important, the lack of it, but I've only recently discovered the gem. Maybe it's the way he writes - decisive, direct and to the point - maybe it's the right time, or both, but the book has taken hold in my thought process.

A lifelong writer, I never had writer's block until after attending an advanced fiction program with highly credentialed authors as instructors. No slight to them, once I realized just how a 'great' paragraph should read I couldn't muster a competent sentence. How's that for Resistance, which Pressfield says is the enemy of creativity. Both real and imagined, Resistance is what stands between us, meaning, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.

When I started making art, my naive self knew I could spend endless hours in the studio and never run out of ideas, options, techniques, materials. The exploration and experimentation were heady and just plain fun. But then I reached a point when, in retrospect, I started taking it too seriously. Pressfield's take on Resistance is eloquent and powerful; in my life it is the viney, tangled web ready to morph into a flesh-eating virus.

The more I learned about mixed media art and the blog community that teaches, supports and unites us, the more difficult it became to produce. The art war takes place in the hierarchy mode where most of us operate, a pecking order that inevitably leads to comparisons. That would have made my next step, or rung on the ladder, getting a piece of my work published in a magazine, possibly even a book. Those thoughts created a sound akin to a door slamming shut in my mind. So, I haven't completed anything - that I 'like' - for a while now. And worse, I've been unable to decide on the criteria for really liking a piece.

My best work may have been the backgrounds I did when Jim (my DH) needed help last fall. One of the 18x18s canvases was the dominant visual aspect of the piece. I suppose knowing that a background can't be screwed up, that it can only evolve or take on an entirely new life through texture, color, collage... makes it OK to play. But transferring that mindset to creating a finished project, one that reflects my inner artistic self, remains elusive. The longing for writing, for soldering, painting, sewing, whatever, doesn't necessarily translate to action.

I crawled out on the giant limb that usually rescues me from myself and invested in a new table/organizational system for my part of the studio. Yes, my husband said... you're swimming in a sea of pieces, parts and paper. But no, I answered, then I'll have to admit that I am committed to making art. Yet another Pressfield quote, "The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death." Yes, his book has turned me into a cheerleader of sorts though it may have more to do with my particular need for his words.

Rather than turn into an even more frustrated looney, I've been organizing and making room for the new work center. There I will start texturing, scraping, painting, sanding, writing on and messing in backgrounds until I figure out what I do want to create. I will show up and do the work. If you're still reading chances are you've found yourself in this dilemma; if so, read the book. Again, it's The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It might not change your life like it has mine, but I guarantee you won't be disappointed!


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