No, not that crossroads. Though the “devil is definitely in the details”. Being at a crossroads with your art, or writing, or whatever creative things you do, is always a nail biting, angst ridden moment. And hopefully that’s all it is, a moment, a short period of time in your life where you may be questioning your creative ventures, your style, inspiration, or if you even want to continue. It can be a confusing and scary time.
OK so zombies may not be the best example, but they are scary and confusing.
In the course of my career as an artist, I’ve had many of these crossroad moments. In particular ones that in hindsight seem to coincide with that seven year evolution we all go through, uh, every seven years. (Proven, look it up). Not that I don’t have other “moments” in between, because I do, and have. But the big ones do fit that pattern. Currently I am going through it again. I should have realized as I have had a hard time concentrating, and finding inspiration, or ambition. At first I blamed it on this last, long year of Covid19 and isolation. You have to feed the beast, and being home all the time is not conducive to that. Hence my thinking that that was the only reason. It is a huge reason, but not the only one.
Recently, one of my adult children mentioned during a conversation about eye glasses, that she was “old” and her “eyes are sensitive now.” What the what?! She’s 35. And when I said that ‘I never really felt old until this year’, she sent a shocked face emoji. Humm. At any rate, that got me pondering, as us old folks will, that perhaps it isn’t just the plague causing my lack of inspiration. And doing some calculations, I saw that yes, I’m starting a new seven year cycle. I’ve embraced and been known as being an artist, nearly my entire life. If I don’t paint, or sketch, then who am I? Just another faceless person in the crowd?
Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to the point of no return. As a matter of fact, I never really stopped painting or sketching. It just hasn’t been at the same level of intensity. I have been feeling somewhat directionless and all over the place. I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this way. It has been a tough year for everyone, and many of us must be feeling at loose ends.
As with everyone else, I have been impacted in ways I didn’t foresee. Plans, important plans have had to be put on hold, possibly for a few years, possibly to never happen, and this has been difficult. Many toxic things happen on a daily basis in the world. As an artist, in a family of artists, I know that the impact of this toxic world hits us deeply, making creativity that much harder to attain. It’s hard not to be affected. It’s hard not to engage, or see it. But for us creatives, it is vital that we learn to do what we can to help, and not absorb all the toxins, because that causes us to become immobilized. Add to that the seven year metamorphosis, and you can see my dilemma.
As I sit here writing this, it feels a bit cathartic, like getting it out, writing about it helps. Yes, I have been painting and drawing things aimlessly, but maybe that’s good. I’m still working at it, and perhaps after I’ve had some time to just play around with it, something will kick in, and I’ll know which direction on that crossroad to follow.
Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. Stay well. If you are interested in any of my paintings or would like to commission a piece, please DM me, or go to my Etsy site, at etsy.com/shop/omordah I’d love to hear from you!
Creativity, where to even start. Although I am, and have always been an artist, I’ve never really thought of myself as “creative”. I see all of the things that people come up with, the different ways they express their art, and I think, ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of that.’ For many years I considered myself more of an illustrator. Shinning a light on human activities, and foibles, and in particular painting portraits.
Putting a subject in a setting that fit with them in some way, made the portraits more interesting to the viewer, but faces in particular, have always intrigued me. Eyes being the “windows to the soul” and all that. But is it “creative”?
About, well let’s say a long time ago, I started taking commissions for portraits, most often of people’s kids. At that time I was honing my skills in the medium of color pencil, trying to learn how to make them look as real as possible. Humorous fashion choices aside, with each portrait I tried to become more proficient.
I was commissioned to do the above portrait for a friend, way back in the day. It was one of my first color pencil portraits. (A little bit “uncanny valley”, but hey, practice and all that.) It was a bit more difficult given that my friend didn’t have one recent photo of her two daughters together. I had her give me as many photos of them that she had, and basically cobbled it together. I didn’t have people actually “sit” for me, especially kids as I was slow. Although, I often had to do things like this for commissions, most of the time, I was using photos, and this is the opposite of creativity. But maybe, not entirely. “Cobbling things together” took some creativity I suppose.
As I’ve mentioned before, art had to come after, and sometimes between life, raising kids, work, moving, (a lot), pets, etc.. But I worked on my art as often as possible, as well as finding ways to incorporate it into my life. So I guess, that took some creativity, heheh. For example, for a few years, I worked as a visiting artist at schools all around my area. I did this a few days a week, after my “regular” work, often times picking up my youngest daughter a little early from school, to assist me with the after school art classes. I also taught an adult color pencil theory class in the carriage house of the arts center near me, as well as a short class for a convention of teachers at a local hotel. That was fun. (Not sure if the sarcasm translates.)
On one occasion, I joined a group of people at our local arts council, and set up some of my work on the lawn of their site. An older woman approached me to ask if I had any paintings of old barns. Apparently she grew up on a farm locally, that no longer existed. I told her that I didn’t but would be happy to paint one for her. This turned into an extremely large painting incorporating, her family’s farm, the barn, cousins and other family riding high on a hay wagon, her mother in the garden, the “main house” across the road, and “Petunia the Cow”. Again this was done in color pencil. It was quite large for a color pencil portrait. It was 4′ x 3′. I finished it, feeling proud of what I had accomplished, and also gained a total of six other portraits for her family. The photo isn’t very good, as I took it at the framer’s and as it was heavy tried to get a photo while it was lying down, hence the distortion.
I began to do fairly well, and was getting commissions on a regular basis, including doing multiple portraits for some of the same people, as well as doing portraits of people’s pets. Though working with color pencil on large portraits, was difficult and sometimes tedious. I did feel that I was accomplishing something in what I felt was my chosen field. Yet I still had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t working to my potential, or with enough creativity.
Eventually, I transitioned away from color pencil, and returned to my roots of working with oils.
We moved often which meant that I had to find new clients. It wasn’t easy, especially as at that time social media wasn’t what it is now. I did gain new commissions, again painting multiple portraits for some of the same people. I also tried to stretch my painting chops. The above painting was completely from imagination. That may not seem like much but for me it meant a step toward more spontaneity.
I’ve noticed that there were distinct periods of my art. In between these “periods” occasionally, for whatever reason, I didn’t work on my art for long stretches of time. And after each period of time, I emerged feeling better able to “create” in I what felt was a more proficient and personal way.
At one time I was also a working writer. Nothing fantastic, I never published my fantasy mid grade reader, called Skara Brae. But I did finish it, and I had various articles published in magazines, as well as worked for a newspaper for a summer. (That’s another story).
Creativity, I have found, comes in many many forms. I realized that the book I wrote was creative. But maybe just not creative enough. After five years of nonstop work, I set writing aside for a while, and concentrated on my painting.
Along the way, after one of those break periods, I decided to try something that I had always admired, but felt that I just wouldn’t be able to do. I decided, what the heck, if I’m not happy with it, at least I tried. This was the beginning of my abstract period.
This painting is the first of what I consider abstract, that I did. After my son took me and my granddaughter to New York City for our birthdays, (both in April), I painted this city scene for him.
Looking back I see now that this was creative. I did it entirely in one sitting, from my imagination. I felt really good about this, and he loved it.
I then did this painting of a Romany Cart, and a Vanner horse. It’s done in a more dreamy fantasy style. These paintings made me feel a new freedom with my art, and I was hooked. (Unfortunately, the photos I have of it are somewhat blurry.) There is quite a bit more detail on the cart. Which may make this a blending of styles.
Abstract art could be considered one of the most creative of arts. Having been an artist for so long, I do feel that I have an “eye” for if something is “good” or not. Of course everything is subjective, and what appeals to one person, may not appeal to another. However, I do know what I like. Throwing caution to the wind, I got some acrylics. I figured, I could work in a quicker and more spontaneous way than I was used to, while pushing myself to be as accurate and true to what I envisioned, in a more flowing, and natural way.
I still strive for that elusive “creativity”, and I suppose I always will, but I do feel I’ve gotten closer.
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Bye for now, and stay safe, while waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.
OK, before I get into this Monday morning rant, I will say that I have nothing against Marilyn M. She is an icon. But there lies the dilemma. I do or at least have come to have a mental fatigue when it comes to art pieces of her image. (This would be a good place to upload a picture I’ve done of her, but I haven’t, and I won’t.)
It seems to be a right of passage for many artists, to create some image of Marilyn. They then post it to whatever social media of their choice, to a rousing chorus of pedantic accolades. I’m not covetous of their work. Without sounding conceited, I have gotten to a point in my own artistic career, where I feel I could do a reasonably good image of the great lady. I choose not to. I get this ugg, rolling my eyes kind of feeling of tedium when yet another artist’s rendering of her pops up. Good grief. I do apologize to any artists who have done so, I’m sure you’re a great artist. And I also choose to be the kind of person that praises and uplifts other artists, so it somewhat pains me to reveal this abhorrence.
So please, for the love of all that is holy, and unholy, stop! Just stop rehashing images of Marilyn M! There are millions of other possible options to use as inspiration for your wonderful art!
When I was very young, my parents, Mae and Tony, owned a small corner grocery store in Albany NY. I remember it well, even though by the time I was almost five, we had moved on from it. It was my earliest home, and even though it was hard times, (beginning of the Civil Rights movement, as well that my parents had to work early in the morning until late at night.) We lived over the store, in a flat, and didn’t have much, but I still look back on it with very fond memories.
I mention this, because, my mom, when she wasn’t running the store, helping customers, restocking etc. would sometimes read a magazine. I remember she loved Marilyn M. Years later she would mention Marilyn fondly. But not the movie star Marilyn, the Norma Jean, Marilyn. She must have felt a kinship to the real Marilyn. The one that was misunderstood, as she too had been in her own life. So I get the fandom, maybe at a deeper level than a lot of people.
Details of a painting I recently completed. You guessed it, not Marilyn.
Norma Jean had wanted more for herself, and sadly fell prey to the enticing life of a star, and the sometimes horrible people surrounding her. At heart she seemed like a really good person.
We all know her story, and can find out information about her, probably by the boatload. But in the end, I like to think that she would have wanted to be remembered for more than just her looks. The constant reiterations of her image, to me don’t do her or the artist justice. End Rant.
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I’ve never been one to be overly nostalgic about anything. It’s always been my nature to push through, onward and upward. At least since I was twelve and my father died. We had been very close. After spending a year of non stop crying and grieving, my personality changed somewhat, except in as far as art goes. I was always an artist, and always will be. It’s not really something that I chose, so much as it being an intrinsic part of who I am. It has saved me in many ways on countless occasions. Compelling me to push through the good and the bad. That’s why it’s weird for me to be getting nostalgic. I have a sneaky suspicion that the plague may have something to do with it. I find myself listening more often to music that I connected to in my youth. Which is, unusual to say the least.
It started with me looking for upbeat music to listen to in the morning because I was feeling a little blue, which is also something that I tend to push down into the depths. Unlike a lot of people who feel the need to bond with others over their angst, problems, or if they stubbed their toe, that’s just not something I ever liked doing. ( Except for with my ex, because that’s a given, and even then not nearly as often as most people.) And I can say this with some acumen, simply from observation in life and social media. In any case this reticence on my part, is mostly because to rehash things that have happened, or how I’m feeling, just seems to make it worse for me. So there you go. Yet, now here I am, listening to music that meant something to me when I was young and wading through the struggles of being a kid, growing up, having kids, raising kids, etc..
I put Pandora on, starting with the upbeat… I chose early Beatles, and it’s algorithm or whatever, starts scrolling through a universe of songs I haven’t heard or thought about in decades from groups I loved and felt I belonged to at different ages of my life. And other than scents, music is one of those rare things that can instantly transport you to that second, that hour, that day, that decade that you lived, grew, regressed, loved and hated, in.
From Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to Led Zeppelin, to Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Foundations, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and a host of other memories. Some better than others. And this was just the ones that came up from that first group I picked that Pandora was scraping my heartstrings with.
In reality, it doesn’t make me feel sad. Picture one of those movies where the wise older person is reminiscing, narrating about times past, with love. This is not to say that my past was rosy. It was actually very difficult. But I am also not one to look for sympathy when things happen. Other than when I was very young and had lost both my parents. But even with that, I eventually came to realize that that was not how I wanted to see myself, or for others to see me; a Dickens-esk orphan. I had to be strong and make a lot of tough decisions. The only difference from many other people, is that I was doing it at a much younger age. For example. I didn’t have much family left, and those I did, well, I just couldn’t imagine having to live with them. At fifteen I became an emancipated minor, and got a little apartment. How this played out, is a story for another time, heheh. Don’t want to overwhelm you all. If it were to be made into a TV show, it could either be portrayed as a drama, with love, loss, and intrigue, or a dramedy, with the aforementioned, and a comedy of errors, and maybe some slapstick thrown in. (Not much though as slapstick is basically the lowest form of humor, other than puns. Except of course through the genius of Chaplin. Chaplin, who despite some really bad personal choices, was the epitome of slapstick.)
I continue to grow with my painting. I do, (rarely) have nostalgia for my earlier paintings and scribblings, but always with a very critical eye. Ask any artist, and for the most part they don’t like their past works. That’s because art is one of those things where by it’s very nature, is ever changing. Most of us artists feel that we have improved over time. I can only speak for myself when I say that I prefer people to see my most recent work. Maybe it’s a bit of an ego thing, where we want people to see what we are capable of now, as opposed to then, Like, “oh god, my work now is so much better! Heheheh. Musicians too, are artists, and if they are dedicated and good, they evolve, as well. I think for them sometimes, it’s harder because so many fans will love a certain piece of music so much that any changes are abhorrent to them. They have my sympathies.
Nostalgia, a wistfulness for the past, can be a funny thing. It can become a rabbit hole that folks fall down, and find hard to climb out of. Or it can be something that we look at with wonder of how we survived it all, and pride that we did. We can take a look back for a little while, and then move forward.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please visit my gallery, and check out my work on my Etsy site, etsy.com/shop/omordah or visit susanm.l.mooreartist on Instagram, (where I tend to showcase my most recent work). Please “follow” “like and share” here and at these sites as this helps to grow my art life!
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This is a “portrait” of Axle, and a short story of (metaphorical?) love and loss. Axle used to sit by the side of the road between my small city and the town where my oldest daughter lives. With a peachy tan complexion, and wide eyes, Axle became a mile marker of sorts. One that my grandkids and I came to view as “our old car by the side of the road”. “There he is” they’d say, “there’s Axle”.
I had given him the name Axle due to the obvious fact that his front axle was broken, his tires askew. This just seemed to add to the charm of our roadside friend. It’s pretty accurate to say that we amorphized this charming old truck that, week after week, year after year sat vigilantly waiting for our passage.
The thing is that, Axle was not entirely forgotten by everyone other than us. Someone diligently repainted him every year. That is, for a few years anyway. Someone loved Axle as much as we did. He was never moved, or covered, but someone cared. He sat in a small patch of land between the road, a stream, and woods beyond.
Through the changing seasons, the glaring sun of summer, the fall of the leaves, the blowing snows of winter and when the wildflowers would bloom next to him, Axle was there.
But then something changed, some time passed since his last paint job, and the rust became more prominent. He was still charming, maybe even more so in his aged look, but something was definitely different.
And then came the day he was murdered! I drove by one spring day on my way to get the kids, and saw something that, well made me irrationally angry, and sad. Someone had shot Axle in his right eye! Our loyal mascot had become someone’s careless target.
I didn’t mention it to the kids, but they of course noticed. What could I say, there are just soulless people in this world. I just told them that ‘maybe someone would fix him, and he’d be back’, and we went by.
But that was not to be. Months went by and poor Axle sat forlornly with his fatal wound.
And then one day I drove by, and Axle was gone. I tried to console myself that someone was going to give him a new life. We were never to know. He was just gone.
Its funny how sometimes seemingly innocuous things can bring out feelings more than the things that are what most would consider really important. Maybe they’re a sort of surrogate emotional object. One that is easier, less dangerous to express our feelings about. I still miss him.
I think that right now, at this moment in history especially, we need to hold onto the little things that we may not be thinking about as much as usual. I’m glad that I had decided to paint the picture of Axle. It’ll always be a nice reminder of being with my grand kids and those sweet, silly moments that are really the most important moments.
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It seems odd to me, that even at this stage of my life, it still takes me some time to realize things, or to have an epiphany about something that should have been pretty obvious. It could be that I’ve always been more of a leap before you look sort of person. Something that has gotten me into hot water and situations that unfortunately take a lot longer than the leap, to climb out of.
In April, due to covid19 and the situation I found myself in at my place of employment, I had decided that living outweighed the very real threat of the other alternative of staying there could. So feeling pushed to make a choice, I chose life, and never went back. I say it this way as I don’t feel that I quit, I feel I was forced to make a drastic decision. But this isn’t what this post is about. It’s about being aware. Taking the time to think.
“When” I create my art, has always been a tricky subject. Life has ultimately decided for me the when in most instances. For example, as a young mom, although I would have preferred to stay home, reality stomped its often large, dirty boot, on my plans. As they say, the kids had a nasty habit of eating, and wanting to wear clothes. So I took whatever jobs I could get. For my husband’s work, we had to move, a lot. This meant I had to start over every time. From finding a home, to packing, to getting the kids enrolled in new schools, to finding new doctors, this was always on me. Add to that, finding work, and then working. Well when would I cram in art? Art which is the very air I breathe.
Somehow, I always found a way. One of our first apartments, was a two family flat. We were upstairs. Each flat had a bay window in front, and attached next to it was an enclosed porch. It really was a pretty little apartment. On one side of the bay window, one of the windows opened on to the porch. My boys were young then, and leaving paints, and mediums around wasn’t such a good idea. When you stepped out of our apartment door, there were stairs that led down, and a landing that led to our front porch. This porch proved to be the ideal place for a tiny studio for me to work. Most of the time, I would simply open the bay window, and climb over into the porch. Now that I think of it, I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t just go around. Hum. It must have been that once my youngest was napping, or they were settled watching TV, it was easier to just clamber through the window. My little porch “studio” worked well also because I could keep my eye on the boys while I painted.
But that nagging question, of “when”, still dogged me. When we first moved there, I set up the studio, but I had my boys to care for. My husband had a job painting overpass bridges. This job often took him away for weeks at a time, and we still needed more income. I had made a few friends, and with their help, (watching my boys), I was running around going on job interviews. (At this time, non of my friends worked, so they thought I was bonkers.) And with all of this, when would I find time to paint?
Around the same time that I finally found a job, (which came with it’s own craziness), my husband got accepted into the Post Office. However, he had to pass a test where he was required to know every address in the city, and it’s zip code. I kid you not. He was given cards to study. So we would go over them relentlessly every spare moment, for weeks. Thankfully he got the job, but with two boys, and the hope of one day owning our own home, I still needed to work. Again his job required odd hours, He had to start out working nights. This was tough on all of us, but it allowed me to work. Our oldest was in school, and that left the little one. So not being able to find anyone to watch him, (this was back in the day, not many daycares), my husband “watched” him. That’s another story.
When I got home, I cooked and cleaned, cared for and played with the boys. I had to be really organized, but I was young, and had a lot of energy. I set up lights in the studio, and would work on a painting two evenings a week for an hour or so after they went to bed. This is just one example of how I fit in the “when”.
Each time we moved, with each new job, and each new situation, and with each new child, I found a way to fit in the “when”. But I was always rushing. Rushing through getting kids ready for school, through work, rushing through being there for my husband, through family outings, through life, and through working on my art, and honing my craft.
This brings me to my “epiphany”. After I left my job this past April, I found it hard to concentrate on my artwork. I was going at my usual pace, and getting some things done, but considering I now had “all the time in the world”, my kids are grown, I’m basically on my own, and I have set up a nice studio area, it was weird, I was struggling. Not really accomplishing what I thought I should be.
Then it hit me, that the rushing and speed that I kept up for decades, that, that was my pace! It was the force that kept me going, that made it almost a desperate act to create. Not “having the time” is what forced me to make the time.
Let’s not also forget that what is happening in the world right now, the pandemic, and how the daily fight for our very lives politically, socially, and mentally, is affecting all of us.
It took me months to settle enough after leaving the job, to really work on my art and writing. That feeling of being lost and alone, (which is not new, but is now affecting the entire world), caused me to hesitate, and falter. Then of course there is “social” media, which has been and is getting darker by the day.
For what they call creatives, (a fairly new way of describing artists, and craftspeople, which for me the jury’s still out on), anyway, for creatives like myself, it can render those who have historically been the most sensitive among us, mute or frozen. That’s another loaded word, “sensitive”. It can imply that the person is weak. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being sensitive means aware, means feeling, and caring. Its often what pushes us to create, to make others feel, to envision great things, something, anything. And that, that takes courage.
Now I have this other dilemma, to reinvent my pace. Sometimes lately, I feel like I have too much “when”. I need to balance it more. But the state of things makes that harder now. I hike or walk every day, and that’s good. But I miss seeing my family, easily, or at all. Every move has to be carefully weighed against the possible danger, as I am high risk. I also live in a small town, so there was never a lot going on to begin with. It’s gotten to where, when I stopped at my local library, (I put books on hold and they brought them out to me), it felt like an adventure. Having to have my books brought out to me shouldn’t have been such fun! I rarely see people that I don’t live with, and Zoom, or facetime is difficult for someone with anxiety issues.
Add to all of this the fact that for the first time in my life, I began staying in bed later and later. I was definitely faltering. And it wasn’t that I was actually sleeping more, oh, no, I was checking the social media beast. The beast that will suck up half your day when you fall down one of the cajillion rabbit holes that it opens to you. It left me feeling even worse. I couldn’t save everyone, or change hearts. I felt less productive, and less motivated. I had the “when”, but I was allowing the world to dictate my daily fate.
About two weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough. I set my alarm to six thirty a.m. , not to wake me, because most days I would wake around then. No, I set my alarm to remind me to get the hell up. Out of the bed. And I have been. Over the last four months, I have actually been painting steadily. But I’ve had a lot hanging over my heart, exacerbated by social media. Which I do have to follow to a certain extent, (this blog, posting my art on IG, on Etsy and FB and trying to find outlets for my art to bring in some income, which has pretty much dried up.) Since I started forcing myself back on track so to speak, I am feeling better, and have more energy. But it is a tentative change, one that I have to be aware of every day.
I know the “when” is entirely up to my whims now. This means no excuses but can also mean no pressure unless I put that on myself, say by entering competitions, or taking on commissions. Either way it will be mostly at my own, new pace. Epiphany!
Thanks for reading my blog. Please visit my gallery, and check out my work on my Etsy site, etsy.com/shop/omordah or visit susanm.l.mooreartist on Instagram. Please “follow” “like and share” here and at these sites as this helps to grow my art life.
Also if you feel inclined, you can “Buy Me A Cuppa Tea” by going to PayPal and donate the price of a cup of tea/coffee to firstname.lastname@example.org Your encouragement of my art and this blog, means the world to me! For those of you who choose to give a monthly donation of $5.00 or more for the year, please contact me to let me know, and I will SEND a piece of art to you!