Category Archives: creative arts

Why I Procrastinate…

This week I am a casebook study in extreme procrastination. Case in point—there is an art reception at my gallery this coming Saturday. We hang the art on Friday, just five days away. I have nothing new. I am working on a painting that I hope will be done in time, yet I have come up with a long list of reasons not to paint. Today, I have soaked in the tub, taken a lovely walk (such a nice day), watched reruns of Fixer Upper on TV (I’ve seen them all before), cleaned my kitchen, viewed my email and even played a few games of solitaire on my phone. What I have not done is paint.

To be honest, I’m in more of a writing mood this week. I just finished a fan fiction story for an upcoming Redwood Writers contest. I’ve done some research on a story about Sonoma County for the next Club anthology, and attended a workshop yesterday morning designed to facilitate writing said story. I’ve written a few pages about an ugly little man who turns women into flowers (I’m working out a few logistics on that one), and started a memoir about the man who broke his thumb over my head. Yet, I admit, I’ve procrastinated a bit on those stories as well.

zebraartwIn addition to all the above, I desperately want to publish my children’s book, Amazing Animals! Fun Facts from A to Z. Everyone who sees it claims to love it, but no one (yet) has been willing to publish it. So, I’m considering self-publishing. All I need to do is finish the art—four paintings done, only twenty-two more to go. Procrastination!

A peek at Amazing Animals!                                                                 Z is for Zebra…do you know why they have stripes? It’s not just for camoflage.

Getting back to the painting I should be working on today— I love the subject matter, but find working on the background a bit tedious. It’s a portrait, and painting people is my thing. That’s what I really enjoy…people and animals. Still, I have resisted doing the work all week. Oh, I’ll probably finish in time, although it will likely involve some serious sleep deprivation, the price I will pay for my procrastination. And, actually, writing this blog could also be labeled procrastination. I have promised myself I would write one blog a week, but finishing the painting should take precedence. After all, I have a deadline.

I’d love to show you where I am on the painting thus far. However, it’s a surprise for someone. Showing it here would likely ruin the surprise. I will publish it if/when it’s done.

All this brings me back to the title of this piece, Why I Procrastinate. Let me admit that I really have no idea what causes me to procrastinate. My mind is spinning with so many great ideas. Or maybe they aren’t so great. Is that what stops me? Fear of failure? Or, maybe it’s fear of success that puts up roadblocks. What would my life be like if I succeeded?

You might ask yourself, “Why would anyone be afraid of success?” Mark McGuinnes addresses this interesting question in his blog, Are You (Subconsciously) Afraid of Success? Check it out.

Perhaps Marianne Williamson penned the most famous quote about fear of success…“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Fear of failure, fear of success—the end result often looks exactly the same. With that in mind, I’m drawing this blog to a close and returning to my painting. I’ll let you know what happens. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Why do you procrastinate?

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You’re Invited! Reception hours are 5 to 7:30. Wine, food, art and brief presentations by the participating artists. I’ll be there. Join me at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery.

 

Still the Inner Critic: Read Away Debilitating Self-Doubt

I am an artist. I am also a writer. Self-doubt arises in both arenas. Today’s blog focuses on my journey as a visual artist. The fear that I was only pretending to be an artist haunted me for years. It slowed the creative flow, and prevented me from showing my art in public. What if they felt sorry for me? (“Honestly…does she really think she can paint?”)

Despite my doubts, I never completely stopped creating art. Through failed romances, a divorce, physically and emotionally draining jobs, and the demands of raising two exceptional sons, I continued to create in dribs and drabs. I painted, wrote, took classes, learned new skills and hid my work away in case someone discovered that I was not a “real” artist.

I am past that now (mostly). Every artist has moments of self-doubt. I may never have an exhibit at a prestigious museum, earn accolades from the art establishment, or become a household name. Nevertheless, I am an artist. Whether or not you (whomever you may be) like my work or not, I am still an artist.

Kenny Minear recognized that fact in kindergarten. Every drawing and sculpture of mine that he could get his hands on, he mutilated. I still remember how proud I was of my clay elephant before Kenny turned it into a pancake. Jealousy is destructive, but I knew Kenny thought I was a great artist.

My mother believed I was an artist. Every Saturday morning, through sun and rain and snow, she drove me to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. I was ten when I started; twelve when we moved to the Midwest. But I still kept studying—at several universities and with various artists on the East Coast and here in the Bay Area. Why I chose not to get a degree in art is a personal matter. Degree or not, I am still an artist. Yet my self-doubt kept me from enjoying art for many years. A blank canvas gave me panic attacks. I couldn’t even take pleasure in visiting an art gallery. Comparing my art (unfavorably) to everything I saw, I told myself, “You suck,” and only produced two or three paintings a year. If I actually submitted a piece in a show and it was rejected, it was further proof that I had no talent.

self-doubtSo how did I heal my debilitating self-doubt? Enter Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. I started an artists’ support group. We immersed ourselves in Julia’s books. I faithfully did my morning pages, went on my weekly artist’s date, and completed the chapter assignments. It may sound simplistic, but it worked. The support of my fellow artists in the group helped as well. I get juried into shows now, and sometimes I don’t. But these days, I don’t take rejection so personally. I’m more likely to say, “That was one person’s opinion,” or “That just wasn’t what they were looking for.” I no longer buy into the elitist theory that only a gifted few are “real” artists—“them” versus the rest of us. I am an artist.

Today, I’m a resident artist at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery, have been juried into  American Art Collector for the past six years, sell some pieces here and there, and am producing art in greater quantities than ever before. More importantly, I’m enjoying myself. When I have moments of self-doubt—and who doesn’t—I pick up one of the following books. All are designed to minimize self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, procrastination and other inhibiting forces. The next time you fell compelled to do the laundry instead of picking up a paintbrush, brush up on your reading…

Pamela’s Picks for Unblocking Creativity:

 The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

“The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe.” – Goodreads

If her New Age approach doesn’t resonate with you, I urge you to still consider using her tools. There’s a reason this book has been a best seller for 25 years. The tools work. She expands her ideas in the following three books. Each is a 12-week program designed to enhance your creativity. I recommend a support group to keep you on track.

Walking In This World, The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron

Finding Water, the Art of Perseverance, Julia Cameron

The Vein of Gold, a Journey to Your Creative Heart, Julia Cameron

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 Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland

“Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. This is a book about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing free will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.” ©1993 David Bayles and Ted Orland

 Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon

“Engaging, inspiring and practical advice on becoming a successful artist, advice that applies well beyond artistic pursuits… This is a quick, easily digestible read that is particularly relevant in today’s digital world.”—School Library Journal

 

Good Art, Bad Art—Who Decides?

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I have thought long and hard about what makes good art, let alone great art. So, I asked artist friends, and I decided to “Google” the question. That seems to be the modern way of extracting information. Everyone and every site had a different answer.

One highly regarded gallery owner believes that museums, museum curators, a select group of critics, four or five major collectors and several major auction houses are the arbiters of good taste. They tell the rest of us what is safe to like.

My first reaction to that was, “Really—aren’t they the came collection of guys who rejected anything new that came along in the past?” James Whistler’s painting, Nocturne in Black and Gold: the Falling Rocket is a near abstraction that now hangs in the Detroit Institute of Arts. At the time it was painted, the renowned art critic, John Ruskin, condemned the painting and accused Whistler of “asking two hundred guineas for throwing a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Later, Impressionist artists, that we now revere, were ridiculed and refused entrance to the Académie de Beaux-Arts. I’m not aware of anyone ridiculing Monet, or Degas or Pissarro lately. Their paintings are hanging in prestigious museums. And poor Vincent Van Gogh, considered one of the most influential figures in the history in Western art, sold only one painting in his lifetime. It took a while for the critics to come around.

So did the work of these artists improve with time, or did the guardians at the gate of good taste have a change of heart? It seems that once critics rally to an artist, and his or her art hangs in museums, it’s safe to like that art and the critics move on to newer pastures.

I went to see the Minimalist show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles a few years ago. The critics loved it. I hated it. My friend, Lynn, wandered around the museum muttering, “The emperor has no clothes.” The problem for me is that Minimalism is an art form that seeks to remove any sign of personal expressivity. I happen to love personal expressivity. I want to feel something when I look at art. That’s me. The fact that I didn’t like the show doesn’t make it bad art. But I’m not sure it’s great art just because the critics say so. Time always seems to tell.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you like it don’t worry if experts hate it. However, if you want to understand art, take an art history class, visit museums and galleries, read about art—maybe even take an art class. You might surprise yourself. If you do that, you’ll have a better appreciation of art and you’ll probably do better at recognizing good art. But in the end, if you fall in love with a painting (or a sculpture or whatever), and you love it forever, does it really matter?

Haiku contest winners!

I don’t really like contests. Picking a winner is so subjective. So, why did I have one? Well, I must confess, I’m taking a social media class at the local junior college and a contest was recommended as a way to increase readership. I don’t have a lot of followers on Twitter yet, and my blog is quite new. As a result, I didn’t get a lot of submissions, but I loved reading the ones I got.

Although I’m publishing three of the submissions here and calling them first, second and third, readers may have a completely different view of the results. That’s why I’m printing all three. Writing is like any other art form—it’s personal.

playball

First: Rich Bowen

Departed spirits

Embrace us in playfulness

Returning at will.

Second: Debbie Butterfield

I see you again

Playing with Tess, having fun

I miss your embrace.

 

Third: Barbara Stewart

Skeleton dancing,

Happy dog playing ball,

Autumn has arrived.

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Should a WASP paint Dia de Los Muertos Art?

bluefandiptychFirst of all, let me state that I am neither Hispanic nor Latino—pick the term that you find proper. (I live in California, so I’m going with Latino/a.) Despite my decidedly WASP background, I have done considerable research on Dia de los Muertos, and put together this very simple explanation of a holiday rich in history and traditions…

Observed November 2nd, the Day of the Dead is a time to honor deceased loved ones. It is a loving ritual full of joy and remembrance. On this day, many believe that the souls of the departed return to earth to visit with, and to provide counsel to, family and others they loved in life. Although celebrated throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated.

In Mexico, families often take the opportunity to visit gravesites and pull weeds, clean any debris, and decorate the graves of loved ones. Candles, flowers and the favorite foods of the deceased are placed on the grave and the family visits, eats, sings and tells favorite stories about those who have passed.

In the United States the tradition has been adapted. Many set up altars in their homes and communities often host a variety of events. Altars are usually decorated with flowers (most often marigolds), candles, pan de muerto, ceramic skulls, and pictures of loved ones. Food placed on the altar consists of the loved ones’ favorite dishes and treats. Drinks are placed on the altar to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey back home.

The rituals used to celebrate the day are varied and colorful, yet all carry the same message—it is a true celebration of life. When children dance with caricatures of death, eat sugar skulls and learn to respect that life is brief, they learn there is a circle to life and that death need not be feared. They are then free to enjoy and appreciate every moment.

How did a “gringa” like me become a Dia de los Muertos artist? Continue reading

Confessions of a Former Art Snob

If an artist puts his or her art out there (wherever “there” may be), it is likely to be judged and often juried. I have frequently complained about the capricious tastes of jurors and art critics. An art show or gallery should feature good art. But who should decide what’s good? Is a New York art critic a bona fide snob, or the last word on quality? And what, exactly, is an art snob? According to my on-line dictionary, a snob is someone with “an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste and intellect.” Simply put, a snob believes that they have better taste than you do.

That couldn’t be me. Or could it? I’ve been known to make some pretty harsh comments about Thomas Kinkaid. I muttered, “The Emperor has no clothes,” as I wandered through the minimalist exhibit at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art. But I thought my comments were a matter of personal taste and not snobbery. However, it was Fort Smith, Arkansas, that pointed out my Achilles heel. I’ve been a snob in matters of geography. I believed art thrived in big (important) cities like New York, or Los Angeles, or in trendy places like Santa Fe and Jackson Hole. I also thought, and still think, that Sonoma County, California, is a Mecca for artists of every kind. A blog about the murals of Fort Smith showed me the error of my ways. Fort Smith, Arkansas? Do they really have great art there? Indeed they do! Continue reading