The Sketchbook Project – The Joy Diary

joydiary01.frontcover.2018.blogMy little sketchbook, ‘The Joy Diary’, is complete.  Tomorrow I mail it back to the Brooklyn Art Library, where it will become a permanent part of The Sketchbook Project collection for 2018.

As an unexpected result of doing this project, I learned something new about my creative identity.

When I started the sketchbook, I thought of it the way I think of a body of work for an art show.  In an art show, I choose a theme that becomes a starting point, and each drawing becomes a singular point of view related to that theme.

As I worked on the third drawing in the sketchbook, I realized my concept and understanding was shifting.  This was not an art show with 21 themed-but-separate drawings.  Instead, this was one long drawing that moved from page to page.  I was seeing the drawings as sequential, telling a story.

I was seeing my sketchbook as a book.

In a single realization, I shifted from an artist using words in her drawings, to a writer using images and words on an equal footing.  I shifted myself and my creative process from ‘either/or’ to ‘and/also’.

joydiary05.page4and5.2018For years I said I was both artist and writer, but I saw these identities as separate and distinct, two hats that I exchanged and wore one at a time.  In the process of creating this sketchbook, artist and writer merged.  I shifted into one identity wearing one hat.

I have been heading this direction for most of my art career.  There are words on my drawings as far back as 2003.  Funny how I did not consciously see this coming, yet when I look back, the progression is obvious.

So what am I now?  How do I call myself both artist and writer, giving my images and words equal footing, without having to use a phrase four words long?

I’m not a graphic novelist, although I can see this one coming next, in the way the third draft of my book is currently forming itself.  This next shift will not be a surprise.

For now I continue to call myself both artist and writer.  The word ‘both’ is important, making image and word an equal part of who I am and what I create.  I am okay with that.  More than okay.  This shift in seeing myself and my work gives me both clarity and joy.

________________________

In this post:

The Sketchbook Project, Brooklyn Art Library, https://www.sketchbookproject.com/

See my entire sketchbook in page order on my art site at https://walkingowlstudio.ca/  Click on ‘Gallery’, and then click on ‘The Sketchbook Project – The Joy Diary’.

The Way Through Is Love

ibuiltmycastles
I Build My Castles in the Sky

I led a writing workshop last Saturday.  In the conversations and the writing, two life experiences showed up common to everyone.

Early in our lives, we discovered we loved creating with words, images, music, or movement.  Then later, someone told us with great certainty that we would never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, an actor, a you-name-it creative person.  Invariably, the someone making this pronouncement was in a position of authority or trust.  We were told by parents, teachers, and peers.

When this happened to me, the someone was a university art professor.

I heard “You will never be an artist.” and I stopped drawing for seventeen years.  Mine was not the longest gap.  One person in Saturday’s writing workshop was coming back to her love of creating after fifty years.  I have met people who never recovered from the experience.

This happens not only to those in the arts.  This happens to all of us.  We love doing something.  We have a dream.  And then someone says to us, “You will never be.  This will never be.”

Why does someone tell another person, “You will never be.  This will never be.”?

What makes someone so sure they know another person’s future?

I don’t know the answers to the questions I ask.  What I do know is that the way through hearing “you will never be” is love.

I left the visual arts degree program after hearing “you will never be.”  I still grieve the loss.  I wonder what I would be doing now, what kind of life I would have if I had stayed.  And at the same time, I know the life I did have prepared me to return to the art I loved and claim the title of Artist as mine.

During the years of not drawing, I kept my love of making things with my hands.  I found other ways to create.  I crocheted and embroidered and sewed.  I learned to weave, loved it, acquired a floor loom, and took over the extra bedroom in the house as my loom room.  I learned to spin and dye yarn.  My family and friends were the recipients of all this making.

I began calling myself a fibre artist, and loved how I felt when I used those words.  They felt like me.

Then I discovered a new love, weaving tapestry.

I saw complex images in my mind, the tapestries I wanted to weave.  But I discovered I was not able to recreate the images on paper, in preparation for planning the woven piece.

The Universe stepped in to support my love of making, and offered me two things.  My sister introduced me to the book The Artist’s Way, and I discovered there was an art school ten blocks from my home.  I said yes to both.

Love brought me full circle, back to drawing.

My love of creating with my hands would not let me go, and I listened to that love.  It helped me find ways of making that carried me through and healed me of you-will-never-be.

If someone says to you, “You will never be”, let yourself feel the hurt.  Then find a way to walk back into what you know you love, and walk through.  Love is your power.  I believe in you.

_______________________

In this post:

Book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Penguin, 2016.  Originally published by Tarcher Putnam in 1992, and republished by Tarcher Putnam in 2002.  Julia’s website is at http://juliacameronlive.com/

Life Is Not A Test

 rainbow.alexiscreek

Life is not a test.

I realized a few days ago that I live my life as if it’s a test I have to pass. Something in me decided this a long time ago, probably in elementary school.

The test never ends. I never know if I have aced it or failed it. I don’t know who the tester is, or if there is one tester or many. I don’t know what the questions are and whether I’ve been asked one, and if I answered correctly or not.

This explains a lot. It explains why I am keyed up and have to consciously work at relaxing my body and mind. Why I often look at others and feel I can’t stand equal with them. Why I always feel I am being judged. Why I don’t play enough and feel vaguely guilty when I do. Why everything I do has to have a purpose. Why I am frequently not satisfied and pass by my successes, barely giving them and me any acknowledgment. Why I make something, love what I’ve created, then it’s bang—onto the next thing right away because I have no time to waste.

How sad.

I can say, and mean it and know it, that I am happy most of the time in my life. This is true. My heart is open and present and connected and creating. I can feel it, most of the time, loving and joyful.

Yet there is this sneaky background tension running the other stuff I listed three paragraphs back. These are feelings I have been ignoring, that creep in between my love and joy and happiness.

Time to make a choice and let this go.

I choose there is no test. No Test. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

There is only my life and what I choose to create in it. And no test.

I am letting these words, and my choice, sink in. This feels better. This feels GOOD.

My shoulders drop two inches. I can breathe. I can enjoy what I am doing. I can play.

Tigger and Totoro--Go Play!
Tigger and Totoro–Go Play!

Yes. I can play. I can wander out of that stuffy Life Classroom I caged myself in, give the door a slam on the way out, and watch the whole place collapse in a heap. Better yet, invite Wile E. Coyote to blow it sky high with one of his Acme missiles. Right on target. Ka-boom! Wile E. takes a bow. The Road Runner and I applaud. Then we all go play. Dibs on the slide!

Yes. Life is not a test. Go play.

___________________________

Note:  This piece was originally posted two years ago.  I am re-posting it today because these last two weeks I managed to trap myself in the Life Classroom again.  Yes, feeling tested, feeling not good enough and not worthy, feeling anxious for no good reason.  Most important of all, not allowing myself to play.  Today I am choosing all over again.  I choose I love all of myself.  I choose life is not a test.  I choose I am allowed to play and enjoy life whenever I please.

After this post is done, I am playing for the remainder of the day!  Yahoooooo!   Maybe you should go let yourself play for a while today too.

 

The Question Is The Answer

blogpost.mar1.2018

“She would not struggle to answer the questions but would let them do their work.

Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

Yesterday I began reading a book recommended by a friend who is artist and writer.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, is the first novel of a detective series.  The quote is from the closing lines of Chapter Four.

There are no coincidences in life.  Each morning for the past three weeks I ask myself, “What gives me joy?”, and then let the question do its work.  I sit down at my studio work table.  I open my sketchbook to a blank page, and choose a pencil from the collection in the cup beside me.  I let my heart and mind become still.  And then I wait.

The reply is never long in coming.  Yesterday, joy is the piece of lapis lazuli that sits among other beloved stones on the table before me.  Today, joy is the bits of rainbow scattered around the studio walls, a gift of sunlight through the large raindrop-shaped crystal hanging in the window.

Joy is noticing joy, and learning over again how moments of joy are always scattered through my days like this morning’s rainbows, if only I stop and let myself notice.

Let myself see beauty.  Let myself feel joy.

There is a choice here of stopping, noticing, and allowing this to be in my life.  Noticing joy and beauty are vital to my writing and drawing.  I would be neither writer nor artist if I did not choose this every day.

Passion is my guide to creation.  Joy and beauty inspire me to see and feel, and then to ask, “What can I create from this?  How can I mirror this feeling in word and image?”

The questions are the answer.  They push me to seek, to feel my way into creating.  As I create, does this feel like joy?  Does this feel like beauty to me?  The answer is not in words.  The answer is in my feelings.

“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

The truth of what I ask and feel shows up in what I create.  The questions are simple.

What gives me joy?

What do I love?

What is beautiful to my eyes?

What is inspiring me today?

The writing or drawing, while I follow the path of my question, may not be simple but it is always my truth.

What gives me joy today?  The rainbows on my studio walls.  What is inspiring me today?  Jacqueline Winspear’s words that sparked this understanding and this post in reply.

Thank you, Jacqueline.  And thanks, Kate, for the recommendation.

_______________________

In this post:

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin Books, 2004.  A detective novel with heart.  The quote is from page 32.  http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

In the photo, above, is yesterday’s drawing for The Sketchbook Project 2018, Brooklyn Art Library.  https://www.sketchbookproject.com/libraries

My New Year’s Un-Resolution

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)'
‘What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)’

There is a scene in ‘Aladdin’, one of my favourite Disney movies, that frequently rises in my mind.

Genie, in the shape of a large bee, is buzzing in Aladdin’s ear, “Be-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e yourself!”  Aladdin is preparing to definitely not be himself as he talks with Princess Jasmine.  In his mind, being himself is not good enough.

I understand this.

Much of my life I have been sure I am not good enough.  I no longer believe this.  Thus, my New Year’s Un-Resolution.

Be Myself.

That’s it.  Two words.

This is not the usual New Year’s resolution.  I am not looking to improve myself.  What I am doing is uncovering my authentic self.

Be Myself.  All day long I ask, is this my choice or someone else’s?  Is this my belief, expectation, value, judgment, idea, or someone else’s?  What is true for me?

I use words to ask myself the question.  I look for the answer in how I feel.

My heart tells me yes, this is me, this is mine.  This feels right and true to me.  Or no, not mine.  This feels wrong and false to me.

I learn from everything and everyone around me.

Sometimes in the learning, I take on things that are not true for me.

Sometimes, it takes time for me to understand that a belief, expectation, value, judgment, or idea does not fit me.  That is okay.  Trying things out and experiencing what happens may be what I need.  Sometimes I must know what I don’t want in order to know what I do want.

So here I am, eleven days into 2018, paying attention to who I really am and discovering what feels true to me.  So far, mostly what I have discovered is that I have un-learning and un-choosing to do.

The ‘un’ in front of ‘resolution’ was a clue.  Yeah, missed that.

No worries.  Being Myself is a work in progress.  I have all year long.

____________________________

In this post:

Animated movie Aladdin, 1992, Disney.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin_(1992_Disney_film)

 

Prayer For The New Year

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 16 2016 (celebration)'

Wide and still I hold my heart.

Let spirit write her path in me.

Let love breathe her breath in me.

Let need call forth to serve in me.

Let grace be every step for me.

Let joy become the song in me.

Let connection open space for me.

Let creation be all play in me.

Let action be the choice for me.

Still and wide

I hold my heart.

Let all life find its home in me.

My Writing Super Powers

1.'Containers for the Soul'--Cat Fink
‘Containers For The Soul’

I joined lovely, crazy, inspiring Nanowrimo last week. (See the end of this post if you don’t know what that is.)

On day two I discovered I have super powers. Two of them. Talk about excellent timing, when two super powers show up on the second day of a write-a-50,000-words-novel-in-thirty-days challenge.

These are not your usual super hero powers, like flying or invisibility or endless strength. No. My two super powers are common to regular human beings like me.

My first super power? ‘Don’t tell me I can’t do this.’

I’ve had this awesome super power since I was one year old. I know that ‘don’t tell me I can’t do this’ is a disguise for focus, clarity, and strong determination.

Most people I know have this super power. The thing is, they do not recognize it for what it is. They call it by other names, mostly not polite and mostly negative. Stubborn. Not listening. Argumentative. Bitchy. Throwing a tantrum. Crazy. Acting like a child.

I’ve heard those not-nice names thrown at my super power. Here is something else I know. I see a path to a goal. You are not seeing the same path. Your path is different than mine. That’s all. So do not tell me this thing, whatever it may be, is not possible. I know where I am going.

Then there is my second excellent super power—‘failure is not an option.’

Once my first super power has kicked in, my second moves into action.

Like the first, my second super power has other names. Success-oriented. Finding a way through. Using all possibilities. Never a quitter.

Of course, some people may look at me and say blind fool, stupid, willfully ignorant, wasting her time, can’t see the obvious, ignoring the sure outcome.

Again, they are not seeing what I see. That is okay. If we all saw the exact same thing and the exact same path, there would not be this rich world of possibilities around us.

Words have power. How I choose to name something is important. Names point me in a particular direction and a specific way of thinking about that something. And that points me to a specific way of using that something.

Now I am curious. What other super powers within me do I not recognize? What other powers am I calling by the wrong name, and wasting their possibilities?

________________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.  Find the details at https://nanowrimo.org/  This year is my fifth time at Nanowrimo. The first time, my super powers did not kick in. I quit halfway through the second week at barely 7,000 words, feeling horribly overwhelmed. Every time since then, my powers have kicked in and I’ve completed my 50,000 words by the end of November. Yay me!

 

Ranting About Should’s

Angels In A Small Crowd detail top
‘Angels In A Small Crowd’ detail

I’m doing my morning pages. I write ‘Thursday, blog day.’ Immediately I hear my mind comment, I feel tired. Then my body chimes in, yes, tired.

Uh huh. I’ve heard this before. I do not believe it. It’s a scam to stop me from writing.

I keep writing.

I write about Dr. Amit Goswami and his mantra. Do. Be. Do. Be.

And then I put together the I-feel-tired with the do-be-do-be, and I get it.

I am tired of Doing. I am tired of Should’s.

There are more than enough Should’s in my life. Something in me is trying to make my writing a Should. That’s a really bad idea.

Should’s are have-to’s. I should eat vegetables and not candy. I should exercise daily. I should cook dinner and wash the dishes. I should be kind and share what I have.

There is something in me that rebels at Should, that feels pushed into doing something and right away pushes back. Even when I know the Should helps me, makes my life easier, offers a kindness to another, lets me feel better, I sometimes have this instinct to shove back and say no, not doing it. My inner two-year-old in action.

Except, sometimes the urge to rebel is telling me to pay attention. The Should doesn’t fit my life, I need to choose differently. The Should doesn’t belong to me, it’s someone else’s expectation or need.

Today, I realize, I am pushing at all the Should’s in my life.

‘All’ is a big clue.

I’ve been doing a lot of doing. Too much. Time to stop doing.

It’s time to be.

Being means slowing down. Breathing deep and letting my shoulders drop to relaxation level. Feeling the chair underneath me. Feeling my feet resting on the wood floor. Hearing the clock humming, and the clicking of my solar-powered Japanese Lucky Cat as she waves her white plastic paw at me. Feeling the noon sun on my chest, my arms, my hands.

Breathing deep again.

I am here, present in my life at this moment. Open hearted. Words falling through to the page. Imagining. Creating.

Yes, here it is. My ultimate way to be. Daydreaming. Imagining. Curious. Following ideas like Alice after the white rabbit. Writing. Drawing. Creating.

This is play, pleasure, joy and love and sheer delight. This is me.

Doctor Goswami got it right. When I move my life between doing and being, I have balance. I feel settled. There is no push back at the Should’s because I spend equal time in the midst of being. The joy and play of being carries me through the Should’s of my day.

It’s Thursday, blog day. This gives me joy. And I already know the joy will continue to hum in the background of doing dinner, dishes, a grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Nothing in me is rebelling or pushing. I am too busy being.

________________________________

In the post:

This is one of the ways I use Doctor Goswami’s do-be-do-be-do. You can read his discussion of alternating action and relaxed incubation on page 97 of his book Quantum Creativity, Hay House, 2014.