Category Archives: Creative Process

Finding Visual Harmony

I’ve taken to documenting my process in creating abstract art in response to the many who’ve asked me about it. I’m equally motivated, as I gear up to to teach art classes in 2017. 

So here it is in a nutshell : Almost consistently when I look back at any of my older paintings, that could be years and/or months old, and peer at them with fresh eyes, what once felt complete, looks anachronistic and irrelevant. 

So I paint my new experience over the previous ones, and that layering up of current realities, visual vocabularies, and aesthetic experience, becomes the work “du jour”. I call and respond to brush strokes, layer colors, attempt to distill a feeling down to a precise mark, excavate, all in the hopes of finding poetic, visual harmony. Painting is like music, if one line or color is off, it become, unless intentional, a jarring false note.

I’m truly a student of the work as it comes out the other side, and wanted to share some of that process with you here.

 

 

Mysteries in Abstract Art Creation

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The black and white photo was shot with my iphone, straight into the light. The fog was rolling down the hill towards me where I was standing in Sausalito. I was surprised it came out so well. It’s arresting, spiritual, dramatic. I think so anyway.  I experience all of those things when I watch that fog hit the light.

After posting it on facebook to some oooohhs and aaaahhhs, I more or less forgot about it.

TaoThat’s what’s just so weird about these things. It must have struck a cord , because almost a year later, I’m experimenting with abstract black and white painting. Out of nowhere, comes a painting that most definitely echos that black and white fog shot.

How strange and magical it seems, that these silent moments, actually sit inside of us only to resurface when we’re not necessarily looking. People, places, and moments make imprints inside of us, both good and bad. The bad stuff ignites the fires of anxiety, the good is what I try to bring up to make art. It’s those special, poetic moments, I fish out for my painting.

Abstract painting is about letting those sponged up moments come up and out. It’s fun, and often such a surprise to see what’s gone in and what wants to come back out.

In a way it helps slow down the passage of time. Everything moves along, so fast,. Being able to press pause on some of those moments, the time to paint, reflect, and look back, must be what inspires all of us to either want to paint, or want to own a piece of art.

 

Less is More

Trio

Trio

As much as I love prettiness, I fight against it in my work and my inner girly girl, fights back.

By prettiness I mean romantic palettes full of lovely pinks, dreamy peaches, glorious blues and all manner of pastel. Yummy, right ?

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As a child I wasn’t allowed to wear pink or play with barbies. My parents hated that kind of feminine foolishness. Instead I was dressed in navy blue tailored dresses and was given trolls to play with. Remember these guys ? If you don’t. you’re lucky.images

My mother’s greatest horror would have been my becoming a cheerleader.

So of course, when I had my own say, I couldn’t get enough pink, I highlighted my hair blonde, curled it and became very fashion obsessed.

That striving for the feminine has creeped into my painting and annoys me to no end, now, decades later.

As pretty as pinks are, too much of a good thing just cancels itself out and you wind up with a wimpy piece of art.

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For this small painting, as is most often the case, I started with a vague color concept, painted away, working with complimentary colors, let it dry, looked at it later, turned it upside down, scraped it down, painted over it. This guy went through a bunch of phases before becoming completely revamped in the end. I might add that just as I seem to be ready to re-invent myself, the same is true with my art process.

PinkCloud2As I looked at what I thought was the final version of this piece this weekend, in a cold wax painting workshop with the fabulous sara post, it occurred to me that my girly girl had had the final say on this painting I was calling “Pink Cloud”, and I was going to have to be drastic.

 

Trio

Trio

So with a couple of swift moves of the brayer, I subtracted most of what was there, and wound up with something that’s much more playful, more fun, still has pastels, but is bolder, more like what I’d put up on my own wall.

The moral of this story, for me anyway, is that less is better, subtraction is cool, to make a good painting, you need to fight the purely pretty and be ready to muck it up.

Making Art isn’t a Luxury but a Necessity

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The other day I found myself berating myself for not being able to find time for my art. A little writing here and there and not much else. I felt miserable, like I was wasting away, getting older and not getting to the important work. What was the point of my life if I’m not doing anything artistic? I kept pushing it off, waiting for that magical moment when I’d feel inspired and serene, ready to get back to it.

Then I started to watch where my mind was focusing.

It usually had to do with someone who was bugging me, sometimes it’d stretch out to wondering how I’ll ever be able to make enough money to retire on. Inevitably it would circle round to feeling guilty about not making art and assessing my loser status as a result.

Regardless of the topic, what I noticed was the steam coming out of my ears, as I rumbled along, obsessing about one thing or another. I could see how, left unchanelled, my creative mind will passionately go to work, puling apart and analysing whatever it chooses to encounter.

And if that misuse of my creative energy isn’t enough to keep me out of the studio, how about those thousands of things competing for my time ? Here I am, on my own, making a new life for myself in the US, a country I haven’t lived in, in almost three decades. No easy task.

And how about my apartment ? Surely, it’s not going to clean itself.

That’s when I stopped waiting for serenity and inspiration, or even time. I closed the door on my disorganized apartment, and yanked myself back to the studio.

And then, oh the bliss of painting away again and feeling on purpose.

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve found to be true :

  • Don’t wait for inspiration, inspiration will come as you work.
  • 10363455_799053580126252_7641662414384585040_oWatch where your mind goes, you might be surprised at what it finds to chew on.
  • Pull yourself away from the miriads of things you focus on every day and the tasks you think you absolutely have to get done before you can make art. Save some energy for your art, or the rest will pull you in.
  • Get better at organizing your time.
  • Remember, if you’re an artist, making art isn’t a luxury but a necessity.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 Tactics to Keep Up a Steady Art Making Practice

 

If you’re not finding time to make art, or express yourself creatively, and are feeling off purpose with a growing sense of frustration, have you given some sincere thought as to what might be getting in the way?

Could it be any of these?

You have an endless to do list and can’t find the time in your overwhelming schedule.

You’ve started telling yourself that you’re not good enough at it to give art making any real quality time.

You’ve convinced yourself that it’s too late to start practicing art and taking it seriously.

You might have gotten yourself to believe that your art work and creative endeavors won’t make you any money, so the bottom line is: everything and everyone else comes first.

You’ve hit a dry spell and can’t snap out of the quicksand of inertia.

Maybe you’ve got a personal spin on how you’ve hijacked your creative drive.

Like all artists, I fall prey to the many unpleasant voices inside my head that feed on criticizing my work and relish in taking me down into the dark dungeon of self-doubt. Despite it’s best efforts, that little tyrant of a voice has never gotten in the way of my finding regular time, inside a very busy life, to make art.

These are 5 highly effective tactics that will keep you focused on your creativity:

  • Ignore anyone who tells you, you can’t do it
  • Understand what’s behind your desire to create
  • Perfect the Art of Saying No
  • Acknowledge your fears and do it anyway
  • Make a practice of seeking balance between your work and your art

Ignore Anyone Who Tells You You Can’t Do it.

The one consistent fact that has kept me making art throughout my life has been stubbornly refusing to accept it when anyone told me I couldn’t do it.

All of those nasty and unsupportive comments rooted in fear and frustration that people have thrown at me over the years, have landed on my deaf ears.

“You’ll never become a ballerina » my mother assured me when I was three, “You’re going to be too tall ». I must have stamped my feet and put up a fight. Whatever I did, worked. The next week I was in ballet class, which I continued religiously for the next 12 years. My dance background has given me a solid foundation in discipline, which has served me my entire life.

« Do you realize the odds of ever becoming a successful actress » was met with my moving to LA and going to UCLA theater school, which I successfully completed before creating my own theater company. My theater training has been the backbone skill for my financial freedom throughout my life.

« Oh, ha, ha, so you want to paint? You’ll see, once you get pulled into your working life, you’ll drop that fantasy, just like the rest of us have » has been met with 20 years of a steady art practice.

You get the picture. People say the most obnoxious things around creative endeavor, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

Whatever the case, my take has always been: no one gets to tell you what to do with your life. That decision is up to you. It is, after all, your life.

Other people’s lack of support or even, at worst, their attempts to ridicule our efforts, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome, especially when we’re young and just starting off. We are equally vulnerable, though, at all stages of our creative lives. I often tell my coaching clients to keep their creative aspirations to themselves, or if they want to share, to only do so with truly trustworthy supporters, until they’ve gotten their baby out into the world.

When you stay firm and centered in your creative practice, whatever medium you choose, and most importantly when you keep at it, frustrated individuals will move on to other targets and you’ll be free of them.

Understand What Lies Behind Your Desire to Create

I’d been dancing seriously for years by age 14 and had just started getting involved in theater when my mother died suddenly. I held onto the theater and my art community throughout that chaotic, painful time and ultimately, it’s what got me through.

I learned early on that I had an artists’ temperament, and this was reinforced and anchored into my psyche by my early loss. I created not just for the intense joy and vitality it gave me, but because I felt driven to, like a survival instinct.

Respecting my creativity and making art has been the one unchanging central axis around which the rest of my life has turned since I was 3.

On the few occasions when I’ve grown tired of the sacrifices, the creative blocks, the loneliness and all the difficulties inherent to living a somewhat edgy creative life, I attempted to forgo it all, and live an « art free » existence.

Instead of the serenity and rest I thought I’d find, I’ve wound up spiraling into badly channeled sensitivities and energy gone berserk, until I pulled myself together and went back to my creative work with great relief and renewed appreciation.

Sound familiar?

The fact of the matter is, that when the drive to create is in you, you have no choice. Either you accept it and express that energy, to your soul’s complete satisfaction, or you stifle it and suffocate.

Perfect The Art of Saying No

Once you have the insight that creativity is a profound need, it’s time to begin looking at how you manage your time and your energy.

I lack a thick skin when it comes to criticism in general, but oddly I’ve been immune to any comments about the space I hold to create. I’ve been called selfish, pretentious, misguided, you name it, I’ve probably heard it. Most recently I’ve been informed repetitively and with great insistence that my numerology profile indicates I should be sculpting and not painting, and only spending five minutes at a time at it!

If you don’t grab hold of your creative time and space and guard it ferociously, you’ll get pulled into other people’s agendas. It’s just the way it is.

Help yourself by compiling a list of the people and circumstances that devour your time. Then ask yourself:

What is compelling me to say yes to these?

Acknowledge Your Fears and Do it Anyway

After a lot of hard work and perseverance, I managed to create enough independence and success in my “day job” to allow me the freedom to take my art beyond a weekend, or vacation time only, practice.

And yet I wouldn’t budge from that schedule. I only allowed myself to paint on weekends, until my frustration forced me to address the problem.

When I realized that ongoing and unproductive fears around my bottom line along with a gnawing sense of guilt were holding me back, I joined a studio in Paris where I was living, and went whenever I could.

I pursued this tactic for 7 years, scheduling the time, leaving my home, turning off my phone and going to the studio where others were engaged in an art practice. I watched as my art evolved. I began to exhibit my work in Paris, and that step into the art world, strengthened my inner resolve and the commitment to my art.

Guilt about what you should be doing and/or what someone might expect from you, along all manner of fear are two mighty creativity squelchers. Look for ways off that merry go round, or it’ll just keep turning.

One way off is to simply jump! Get brave, trust your gut, and look around for an art class you could join, a studio you could work out of, a writing group, anything that is outside your home where you can practice art. And please, turn off your phone.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. “

Mark Twain

Make A Practice of Seeking Balance Between Your Work and Your Art

The demands to hold it all together, the job, the financial responsibility the family, can take over and dominate till you feel like all you do is move from one thing to the next in hot pursuit of a constantly evolving “to do” list.

There is no magic wand, as we all would hope, but an understanding that the work/art balance is a work in progress to nurture. It involves self-care, self-awareness and careful energy management.

Ideally, you’ll need a work situation that allows you some time, both mental and real, to spend on your art. If you haven’t found what works for you yet, ask around. Find out what other artists have done and do, to keep the balance.

When I moved to France in my twenties, I started teaching early on, relying on those handy theater skills, knowing the schedule would give me the quality time I needed for my art. The teaching has grown into coaching, public speaking training, and general entrepreneurship over the years with periods of intense bursts of project driven work and time for art.

I’ve learned to plan for recovery time after the intense work bursts, to get myself primed and ready for my art practice.

I coach creatives to find this balance for themselves, which has gone even further to creating greater levels of harmony and balance for me. The more balance I find, the more I can give back.

I’m sure you can find or fine-tune that balance too and I hope these tactics help you on your journey to full creative expression.

Andrea Wedell

 

 

Andrea Wedell is an internationally collected artist and an experienced creativity coach with over 15 years experience, based in San Francisco. She helps her clients find and maintain a balanced work/art life to help them reach their creative potential.
 

Finding Time to Make Art

I woke up last week, my mind still foggy with sleep, slowly adjusting to conscioussness as I tried to place where I was, (confused after months of travel), and what I was to do that day. I started searching, slightly anxiously already, for the day’s to do list. And then I remembered, sighed with pleasure, relaxed and stretched ! A painting day. I’d tended to all the responsibilities and here it was : A day to paint and only paint. In fact a series of four consecutive days. Joy ! I opened the shutters and let the southern France light stream in, yawned and traipsed downstairs to make a hot cup of tea and feed my hungry cats before heading to the studio.

Last month in Paris, far from my studio, a full schedule to juggle, and only bits of free time here and there, I started planning . When in this situation, I start looking for a few consecutive hours, especially morning hours, and grab them for my art. To hell with the laundry and the myriad other things I « should » be doing. Off goes the phone and the email, and out come the acrylic paints, the newspaper spread out on the lovely wood dining room table, the classical music.

I read a daunting statistic in the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland the other day. In the art school setting, 98% of students coming out of those schools give up on their art almost immediately ; too bogged down with the demands of earning a living, and living life, to find a place for it. Equally astounding is the fact that art teachers, hired because they are successful artists, also lay down their brushes when they start giving their all to their teaching professions. As the authors of Art and Fear state « like some perverse recycling process from a sci-fi novel, the same system that produces artists, produces ex-artists. »

I’m sure this statistic isn’t true only of those coming in and out of art schools. I’ve heard countless stories from creative people who can’t find the time for a regular art practice in their lives, and who not only really wish they could, but suffer feelings of incompleteness and inadequacy for not being able to do it. I’ve heard those same stories from artists who stop working for long periods when they get pulled into states of inertia, and can’t snap out of it.

In reviewing my own experience where I’ve managed against often surpisingly powerful odds, to always hold space for my art practice, I’d like to offer what tactics I’ve used again and again to successfully hold onto and guard that precious space.

Here’s the first one :

Ignore Anyone Who Tells you You Can’t Do It

One thing that is strikingly obvious to me looking back now, on my life where art making has always been present, I’ve stubbornly refused to accept it when anyone told me I couldn’t do it.

All of those nasty and unsupportive comments rooted in fear and frustration that people both knowingly and unknowingly throw out, have landed on my deaf ears.

« You’ll never become a ballerina » my mother assured me when I was three, « you’ll grow far too tall. ». The strength of my visceral reaction to that statement had her signing me on for dance class the next day, which I continued for the next 12 years and which has served me my entire life.

« Do you realize the odds of ever becoming a successful actress » was met with my moving to LA and going to UCLA theater school, which I successfully completed before creating my own theater company. Again, that theater training has served me my entire life.

« Oh, so you want to paint ? You’ll see, once you get pulled into your working life, you’ll drop that little fantasy, just like the rest of us have » has been met with 20 years of subsequent , steady art making.

No, I say, and have said about this from the very start, nobody gets to tell you what to do with your life. That decision is up to you. It is, after all, your life.

Other people’s lack of support or even, at worst, attempts to ridicule our efforts, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome, especially when we’re young and just starting off, but also at all stages of our creative lives. I often tell my coaching clients to protect themselves by keeping their most cherished dreams to themselves for a while, until they’ve got things going.

If you stay firm and centered in your unmoving faith and belief in yourself, in what you want to do, and most importantly, keep working, there will be less and less of those particlular kinds of comments. Or if they’re still there in one form or another, they will appear, with time, like small irritating flies that you can brush away, or open a window and shoo out of your life.

Getting Quiet, Painting With Your Right Mind

Garden Abstract, acrylic on paper, 19'x19', Andrea Wedell

Ray Bradbury once said « Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

I walked into my studio the other morning, after some time away, and was suprised to see that getting back into my right mind, litterally into my right brain, was challenging.  I’d been so focused on problem solving, thinking and planning that I got locked into just those very loud and imposing mental activities. I started to see the tell tale sign that it was TIME to drop everything and head back to the studio when I noticed my mind snag on anything and everything and turn round and round in not the most creative of spirals.

When I found myself struggling with my noisy mind even as I started painting, I put down my tools and meditated for a half hour. And then went back at it, far more focused. I could hear the silence again, feel my inner rhythm again, the only sounds I could hear were the scraping of my palette knife,  the crickets, the birds calling to each other, the sound of a dog barking in the distance.

Aha.

I understand that my daily practice of meditation and journaling helped me speed up the process of shifting into my « right » mind. Progress and grace through repetitive action, yay. But I think I still need to add to it, to keep the creativity fire alit at all times and keep my over thinking self under control. I think I’ll take up art journaling.

Since my abstract painting process now requires that I start with my intuition and not my analytical brain as I used to do, I realize that it means that as soon as I walk into my studio, or pull out my pad of paper wherever I happen to be, I need to be able to turn the volume of my mind way down, and get into a space of silence quickly.

So in thinking about how to access our intuitive right brains, this is what I’ve come up with : a little warm up and daily practice of something that keeps us in touch with it is a must. I like to meditate for a half an hour in silence, just watching my breath. I follow this with three pages of free style writing. I love this routine. A little drawing without any expectation will be a new addition if I can fit it in. And added to this recipe, I try to get a good night of sleep.

And of course Ray Bradbury is so right. Just Do It, and keep doing it ! Amen.

I would love to hear of any routines or practices you have for staying « in tune » with your deepest most creative self ?