I got this in my mail from http://www.superherolife.com right after I published my last post. Yes, I agree! And that is why I have to do more personal art. 🙂
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my many years studying and practicing creativity it’s that you need a routine and a schedule to create. I know this makes it sound less romantic, more like a chore than magic, but that’s reality. One needs to have a solid structure to feel free to churn out drawings, paintings, poetry, or music. This business of creation takes a lot of time, patience, and, most of all, practice.
Routines are not set in stone, though. At least not for me. When I was studying in Barcelona, I woke up at 5:00AM, ate breakfast, showered, left the house at 6:00, and then started working at a mom and pop printmaking place at 6:30AM. I would stay there until 8:30 then head off to my first class at 9AM. We usually had a “warm-up” session on the first hour—sketching—then we proceeded to painting class or sculpture or photography, depending on what you were focusing on that term. We ended at 2PM and my classmates and I would have lunch nearby. After an hour I returned to school and would log in some time at my studio. From 6 to 9PM, I worked at the school’s office as the secretary of the Masters in Art Therapy Program. I would usually go home after that, but I would meet up with friends first for dinner and drinks near the apartment. Bedtime was about 11PM or 12MN and then the cycle would begin again the next day.
My routine was completely obliterated when I returned to Manila. I obviously did not have school anymore, no more studio to work at, and no more part time jobs to attend to. I must admit I floundered for a while and let darkness take over. I spent days without changing out of my pajamas and just dragged my feet around my parents’ house (yes, I had to move back with them since I had no job). After some time, I got in touch with old business contacts and started working again. I had a routine again alright, but it sucked my spirit dry and could not return to art making. I did manage to sporadically create again after a year or two.
Flash forward to the present. As a freelance graphic designer and a Spanish and art tutor, my schedule is pretty… malleable. My classes are rather regular so at least that part of my schedule is constant. Sometimes I’ll be working on 5 graphic design projects at the same time so I’ll have to juggle my time between those things plus my T-shirt business. On top of my classes. I am no spring chicken anymore, plus my chronic illness leaves me depleted at the end of the day so I have no time for making my own art.
There is something terribly wrong with this picture: no time for creating means I am not a happy camper most of the time. I am crabby and a horrible monster to the people around me and myself.
I think I cracked a couple of months back and have only started paying attention to myself again the past couple of weeks. The crack wasn’t enough to clear my head; I needed to be shattered to realize things were not working out no matter how good things were in terms of my projects and tutorial classes. I wasn’t making ART, damn it!!! Where are my sculptures? Where are my paintings? And where is that damn book I was supposed to write and illustrate? They were buried underneath my Spanish classes, books I had to design, and documents I had to translate. My soul was not malnourished; it flat-lined a while back and all I am now is a shell of the me that I wanted to be.
So I want to add to what I said earlier: sure, you need a schedule and structure to create, but you also need prioritize and say no to things that would not get you closer to your goal. What is my goal anyway? A one man show at an art gallery? So why do I spend so much time “Photoshopping” (no, it’s not a real verb!) images for brochures and magazines instead of painting? Why have I not cleared a spot in my schedule to just create art for myself?
I always share with my students this imagery of creativity that Psychologist Teresa Amabile created: that creativity is like a stew. First, your domain skills are your meat and vegetables; you cannot paint if you don’t know how to mix colors, you can’t create a song if you don’t understand how musical notes work. Albert Einstein would not have come up with his Theory of Relativity if he had zero knowledge of physics. Second, your “creative thinking skills” or your approach to solving problems and having the courage to experiment are your spices. Finally, you need passion. It is the fire that cooks the stew. It is your intrinsic motivation that keeps you on track. You do something because it makes you happy and not because of the extrinsic things that you get, such as money, accolades, and awards. These things are hunky-dory, but you need to do things because they are pleasurable and not because you have to do them to earn a living.
I have given up so much, been through a lot just to BE an artist, and yet I still find myself in this trap of losing my focus and working for extrinsic things. I don’t want to be a cliche and be a starving artist, so I work my ass off… and to what end? My fire has been extinguished for a long, long time, and I have not lifted a finger to revive it. Sure, I keep a journal and draw every single day, but that’s not enough. I have used that as an excuse to not do anything more because I’ve already done something. It’s still creative and I am honing my skills and gathering my thoughts, that’s what I say. But how long have I been doing that? When will I just jump and trust that I can create again?
Wow, when I started this entry I had no idea that this was how I was going to conclude the piece. Seems like a Eureka moment, no? But it hasn’t been all that bad, right? I have made some changes in the last month—cutting down on TV time, more reading, less “Facebooking” (another non-verb), and such, but I am still having a hard time buckling down and getting my hands dirty again. I think there’s another “issue” at the bottom of all of this, but I shall leave that for another entry. I think I’ve eviscerated myself enough for today. So until then, let’s see if I could stick to my plan and get myself back on track.
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Now that I am drawing and painting again, I am slowly tuning in to the present and focusing more. It seems easier for me, too, to resist the gravitational pull of the television and have cut down (a bit) on my social media time. I’m still exhausted and fatigued, but I never really expected art to be the magic cure for that! 🙂 I’m working around it, though, listening more to what my body needs at the moment.
Right now my eyes are telling me to rest. Now that I’m back on the art saddle, I’ve been abusing my eyes a bit. I look at my cats and I see them in colors. I look closely at Wednesday and she’s not just a black cat: she’s rust, gray, and streaks of white. I try to drink in all the details at once, and with my chronically fatigued eyes, it can be overwhelming at times. Maybe writing an entry in my blog was not what my eyes were clamoring for, but it’s soothing in a way. I am only staring at a white screen (with shades of yellow and blue here and there) and focusing on a non-moving and bland object seems to help. Besides, I can’t let another day pass by without logging in another entry! 🙂 I made a promise to myself, remember?
I will probably call it a night soon. There was a time in my life when I thought I was going to lose my eyesight, so I am extremely grateful that I can do this now, BUT I have to be careful, though, and should not overdo things. 🙂
So, good night, world! I’ll see you again tomorrow. 🙂
I’ve been struggling to get my muse back for months now. No amount of pleading, heckling, and bribing could lure her back into my life. I feel spent and empty. Today I decided to take on a different approach: instead of hitting myself on the head, I followed the instructions I normally give to my students when they first start learning how to paint. I cleaned my room, set up my space, and tried my best to get into a creative mood.
I did watercolor exercises the whole day to try to loosen up my brain. I used watercolor artist Lorraine Watry’s videos as a guide.
Then I filled my Moleskine watercolor journal with images of my cat. I’ll share more when I feel more confident about them ;o)
I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m on the road to getting my groove back. 🙂
Okay, break time is over! 🙂
I was going through my things this afternoon, looking for my art books and articles about fine arts, and found some of my creativity books. Sometimes I forget that I spent almost 4 years of my life studying “creatividad aplicada” at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It seems like another lifetime… I don’t even recognize that girl anymore.
When I was done cleaning my books and files, I took a break, turned on the TV and caught the beginning of a documentary on “How to be creative”. Hmmm… If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s synchronicity! It’s the Universe’s way of telling you something. Now what could that message to me be… ;o)
I think my brain fog is slowly clearing up. It’s been, what? Three or four weeks since I’ve been completely lucid. I don’t know if it’s the same for the other migraine sufferers, but fatigue hounds me before, during, and after an attack. I didn’t feel the actual pain of the headache—at least I don’t remember, maybe the drugs I’ve been taking made sure of that—but I still haven’t found an escape from fatigue.
I feel worn out. It’s been difficult to do simple things. Coffee has not helped—not that it has helped me in the past. I just want everything to come into focus so I can be me again and just BE!
I’ve been taking it easy the past month. I feel guilty for not working as hard as I usually do, but I know that I need to do this, be good to myself… This too shall pass. I’ve skipped blogging for a long time (it was too much effort to think much less write!) and even stopped journaling for a day or two. Like I said, I feel guilty, but what could I do? I felt tired every morning after sleeping for 8 hours!
I’ve been going to an acupuncturist for the past three weeks. I think it’s making things worse by cleaning out my system and balancing my Qi, but I need this in the long run. My body is probably just purging the toxins; I should be okay soon. They’ve given me some herbs to help boost my energy and it seems to help, but I’m not out of the woods yet. I can still hear my bed calling out to me as I write this. Patience is key. I will be out of this fog soon.
My summer art classes at the Ateneo Art Gallery are about to end next week and I can’t help but look back on the times that I’ve spent with the kids. They entered my class—ten children ages 7 to 11 years old—eager to learn, full of curiosity and excitement, but were also apprehensive about being in a new environment. We were not in a classroom, but an art gallery, surrounded by artworks made by people decades ago. They had new classmates from different schools. Everything was new and after the first activity, they knew that this was not like any of their previous art classes.
From the beginning I encouraged all my students to make mistakes. I probably drove them mad because—coming from very traditional schools—they wanted to excel and get things right right away. “Teacher, is this correct?”, they kept asking me. They were so worried about getting things “right” that they forgot to have fun. There is no “right” or “wrong” in art—you just have to do it and enjoy the ride.
I also push my students to explore and expand their creativity. Yes, they learned techniques like which pencil to use for what, how to mix their colors, and how to make sure two pieces of clay will stick together, but I focused more on how they could use these tools, turn them upside down, and create something new. Again, they asked me, “Teacher, is this correct?”, their fear of the unknown getting to them. And since they couldn’t control the outcome, they wanted to just stop or settle, but by helping them shift their focus from the “perfect” output or product to experimenting (which equals to making possible mistakes) and enjoying the process, comments like “I give up!” and “That’s okay enough.” slowly disappeared.
Yesterday they started working on their murals. They divided themselves into 2 groups—the girls (with one boy), who didn’t want to get their hands dirty at the beginning of this summer art workshop, faced their wall filled it with random symbols and words, and splashed it with colors. One girl had paint on her hair and just giggled while working. The boys—who were always rowdy and hyperactive—created a plan for their mural and silently worked on the details of their illustrations.
I’d like to think that they were able to learn a lot from this workshop; not just the technical things, like what is additive and subtractive sculpture, or knowing the names of the works in the gallery’s collection, but also about working through their fears and being less critical of themselves (which is sad to see in children at that age!). I hope that after this class ends they will continue to experiment, to face blank pages and walls with gusto, and, when creating, to learn how to jump without worrying if there is a safety net or not to catch them.
While the other Filipinos were at the polls, I was busy painting again. Yes, it’s not a good excuse to skip on my civic duty as a citizen (I have no excuse–I forgot to register), but at least I made the most of my day. I been floating again and needed this to get my groove back.
I scanned and printed Chelsea College of Arts and Design’s catalog from 6 or 7 years ago, drew a grid on Gavin Turk’s photo, drew a distorted one on my canvas, which resulted in a not-so-exact copy of Turk’s portrait, then I started painting. I haven’t done this in a while, to create something just because I felt like it. I am usually trying to create something for a project or for my classes. It feels different when you do something for no reason at all; it’s very liberating! 🙂 I’m still not done with it and I have no idea where this is going. It’s exactly where I want to be, though–with a paint brush in hand without a plan. Just JUMP!!! 🙂
I will also be conducting a workshop for kids 9-12 years old at the Ateneo Art Gallery this summer!
6-weeks, 12 sessions
Twice a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays, beginning April 24
(April 24, 25, 30, May 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30)
10:00 – 11:30 AM
Php7,200 for 12 sessions including materials
Ateneo Art Gallery
To reserve slots or inquire about the classes:
Call +63 2 4266001 ext. 4160 or +63 2 4266488
Email : email@example.com
“We leave traces as we live,” said Walter Benjamin. That’s the quote that my friend, artist Nadya David, used for her MFA Thesis Exhibition, “Domestic Spheres.” A bunch of her friends missed the opening last Wednesday, so she invited us to her space, to her home, where the exhibit is, so we could see it and, in her words, she could pick our brains. For one whole month, she printed on her walls, her furniture, the toilet, the ceiling, even the roll of tissue in the bathroom; she left traces of herself all over her abode, not only marking her territory, but also to say that, hey, I am here!
It can be quite overwhelming when you first enter her apartment. Almost every inch of it is covered in acrylic paint. Some people were already there when I arrived and were animatedly discussing her work. I quietly walked around, took pictures, and nibbled on my food while listening to the conversation. I couldn’t really articulate it at first, but I felt claustrophobic in that space. It looked so familiar and yet extremely alien at the same time. There was an explosion of color in all of the rooms. It’s as if an enormous clown had too much to drink one night and had spewed candy-colored vomit in his wake. Pretty would not be the word I would use; more like visceral and organic and intriguing. She had a TV, a sofa, a bed, kitchen counter… all of these things are familiar to me, something that I use everyday, and yet hers were exotic.
I stayed a bit more after our other friends had left. We chatted about a gamut of different things, ordinary things about life. And then it hit me: the terrain wasn’t alien. I was the stranger in this land. This was her territory and I was The Other. It wasn’t menacing or welcoming; It was just different. And I understood her work a bit more. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to leave a mark in this world. That is the probably the reason why some people get married and have kids, set up clubs and foundations, write books and make art. We are all faced with our mortality, that one day we are going to go away and fade into nothingness. Some desperately aim for greatness on a bigger stage—be the top honcho of a company, have his or her name printed on a gold-plated sign and displayed for all the world to see. World Domination, they say. But I don’t see that happening in this space. The artist, in her quest for being seen and being remembered, didn’t reach too far off her field. She focused on her own little space, her domestic sphere, and, as a result, made every inch of it her own.
Domestic Spheres runs from March 14-27 and April 10-16. Monday to Friday, 3-6PM. Please call for appointment 0917.4245979. Facebook page: DOMESTIC SPHERES. Located at Unit P6 Burgundy Place Condominium, #174 B. Gonzales St. corner Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines.
PD. A personal note to my friend: Like I always say, great art makes you think and leaves a lasting impression. Thank you for making me think about my own domestic sphere.