Embracing Ugly

“Making art” every day is a fallacy. It gives the inaccurate impression that beautiful finished works materialize effortlessly for the lucky and talented few. On the contrary, making art every day is a humbling act of embracing ugly, as the artist confronts the gap between what is visualized in the mind’s eye and what she actually accomplishes.

Still, it is imperative to show up… to paint, ink, doodle, draw, and sketch every day. I do it because it makes me happy and aligned with a part of my “self” that is yet unrealized. As my inner artist emerges, I have to give her a safe space to play, experiment, find her “voice,” and make mistakes.

A musician may releases a great album with, give or take, 10 tracks, but the legacy of that one album consists of dozens of rejected songs, hundreds of castaway verses and hooks, and thousands of crossed out words. We don’t judge that musician for the outtakes because they served their creative purpose.

For artists, ugly serves a purpose… they are the outtakes, castaways, and rejects that beautiful final pieces are borne of… Embrace the ugly.

My mommy coma… and [re]finding my “self”

A year ago, I began to emerge from what I refer to as my mommy-coma, the period in my life when my “self” faded into nothingness as my life became consumed with the nurture and care of my infant. I was sleeping 6+ hours a night, showering regularly, and not waking up to phantom cries in the middle of the night. It wasn’t long before I started to yearn to get back into making art – music, painting, writing. The absolute highest expression of my “self” has always been to create things, but, having stepped away from it for over a year, I felt uncertain about where and how to begin making art. I was scared to start again and suck at it.

My husband knew I was struggling and he gifted me the book, Art & Fear.

I devoured the book hungrily and did manage to reacquaint myself with art – I dabbled here and there, making some small progress, but never really gaining much momentum under me. Since I recently committed myself to making art every single day, I picked this book up for a second read. Here are a couple small excerpt that are particularly validating for making art every single day. I’ll be sharing more as I progress in the reading:

“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork… Your job is to learn to work on your work.

“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential… You learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about – and lots of it.

My takeaway: most of what we make will suck, but it’s supposed to. Make art deliberately and work at it constantly. Make a lot of art. Make it for you.

Living in the mommy moments…

Today, my toddler protested nap time and that threw my afternoon into a tailspin. I didn’t get to do any the productive things I had planned for that hour and a half of freedom. I was mourning the “loss” of this precious time while I tried to get my child to rest and play quietly in our bed. Cuddles with Mickey and Minnie and comfort nursing turned into her falling asleep on me in our bed, something she hasn’t done since she was an infant. As I lay there, trapped with my sweater, left arm and left leg pinned under 30 pounds of cuteness, I looked into her sweet squished up face and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love. I felt that my heart was at once full and aching with a longing to make time slow down a little bit, and I knew it was a moment I would miss even as I was living it.

Days like today that don’t exactly go as planned (but still unfold beautifully) remind me of the importance of making the time to do the things that matter most to us every single day and to live in the moment. It’s a balancing act.

Below: Just sharing one of my morning scribble doodles in calligraphy – just playing around with motion and medium (ink + metallic watercolor).

Quantity begets Quality – Do more work!

Today I listened to the Art of Charm podcast Episode 683: If Quality is What You Want, Focus on Quantity – a strong message that resonates with my personal commitment to make art every single day. It’s only Day #5 but already I’ve created more art than I previously have in a given month. The dream of my heart, is to, in 5 years time, be a full-time writer and artist.

That means I have to write and make lots of art NOW… every single day… “It’s like Miles Davis once said: ‘Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.’ Because true mastery, as we know, takes years — usually decades — to achieve. Even the most talented, naturally gifted people have to put in a huge amount of time to become incredible.” -AoC

I need to start placing my dream at the top of my priority list, to hone and whittle my craft so that one day I can find alignment in my “work” and my calling.  The way I see it, my life is a canvas upon which I iterate, paint over, and tweak until it is exactly what I would wish it to be… instead of sitting back, doing nothing, content to complain.

I truly believe some of the things they say in this episode to my core, and they are bolstering my daily commitment to create:

Quantity is the road to quality.”

To make amazing things, you have to make a lot of amazing things… and probably start by making lots of crappy things.”

Quantity reinforces completions… A lot of people struggle with finishing a thing. Committing to volume means committing to completion.”

There is freedom in Quantity… “If we increase the amount of work we put out, then each individual piece of it matters less. That then frees us up to explore, try new options, make mistakes, and forgive ourselves when the work disappoints.”

Volume + Talent + Effort  = Quality

Confession: Anyone who knows me knows that I am a confident person, but somehow sharing my “practice” and “progress” works here make me feel insecure. But, here I go anyway… because success belongs to the courageous. [Below: Henna study with calligraphy pen]

I only recently picked up on calligraphy pens and I am so so so in love with the depth of expression that is possible with them that are not even conceivable on a ball point pen. I thought it would help me master curves and shapes to try Henna designs, also a new expression for me. Evidently, I need lots of work on curves. 🙄

Living as Art

Currently consuming Emerson’s essay on Art… here’s my favorite little morsel from today:

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation from the work of art of human character…”

My greatest work of art should be the life I lead.