Should Artists Keep Art Journals?

Sharon Leah

orchid-still-life.jpgI have journals and notebooks scattered all around my home. I love them. And I love to write in them. I’m just not very consistent about when I write or what the purpose of my writing should be. So sometimes, often, I have two or three journals going at once and I’m about different things that I do in each of them. I can frustrate myself when I want to find something that I wrote and I have to look in all the possible places. On the other hand, I’m often pleasantly surprised when I open an old journal and reread things that I wrote.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about possible benefits of keeping a journal while I do my artwork. Knowing myself as I do and knowing my propensity for starting a new journal on a whim, I decided to give this idea of an artist’s journal more thought…

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Thought Precedes and Creates Change

kung fu

To create means to take what is and make something new or different. We learn how to take raw materials—canvas, pigment, paint, brushes, pencils, paper, clay, dirt, stones, glass, water, seeds, food, technology, fire, even pressure; and most important of all, our thoughts—and create. We create art and music, tools and technology, community and communities, fun and fitness, first with our thoughts and then with things. In all instances, we as creators have to either allow or facilitate the changes that make what is into something different.

There is one thing that interferes with change, though. Resistance. Others resist our desires. We resist theirs, because _________ (fill in the blank). Things that are big—like a tree or a building—resist our efforts to move or change them (until we think of a way to make the big things smaller and easier to manage). We’re accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for the person or thing that’s behaving like an obstacle when resistance interferes with our plans. Often, however, we’re actually getting in our own way with our own split energy. This happens when we direct some of our energy toward a desired outcome while also expending energy to resist very changes we want to make. Mental resistance, while it has no size or weight, because it consists entirely of thoughts (which can’t even be seen), is the BIGGEST reason we don’t get what we want in life.

I watched Kung Fu starring David Carradine when it was on TV in the 1970s. That was my first exposure to the fascinating world of martial arts and Eastern philosophies. I enjoyed watching Caine, as he was known in the series, demonstrate the power of non-resistance. Every episode had a fight scene and when Caine was threatened, he practiced non-resistance. I don’t mean that he let himself be attacked. But when the person came at him, Caine deflected the attack or stepped aside and allowed the attacker’s momentum to carry him until he stumbled and fell, sometimes over a cliff. In every instance, it was the attackers’ behaviors that caused their own self-undoing.

The Kung Fu philosophy is grounded in the Tao, meaning “the way, or the path,” and that means simply living in harmony with nature, other people, and within oneself. While living with nature and others is important, it’s the relationship to self that forms the foundation for everything that follows. And thinking anything that goes against yourself and splits your energy will make it more difficult to create whatever it is that you desire to create: artwork, a fit body, healthy relationships, etc.

Everyone is a creator, because thoughts turn to things. If you really want to create a painting, you’ll think about it and do what you need to do. If you want to be a better painter, you’ll think about what you need to do and then do it. If you want to be more fit, you have to start where you are, think about what you want to do, and then do it. If you don’t let your thoughts get in your way, you’ll succeed. It’s hard to ignore the truth that “thoughts turn to things.” But if you doubt that’s true, look around you. How did you get to where you are? Did you have thoughts and did you’re thoughts become actions or beliefs that you live with now?

To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance.  —Master Po in Kung Fu

What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.  —Carl Jung

 

Why Paint in a Tradition

Sharon Leah

Bonnard-the dining room

Pierre Bonnard, The Dining Room in the Country, 1913

I’m a plein air landscape artist and I do some still life paintings when the weather is bad or it’s just too cold to stand outside for three hours. I live in Minnesota. Today, I can say that I paint in the tradition of painterly realism, but it took some time for me to identify the tradition—painterly realism—that I feel most aligned with. In college, I was infatuated with the French Impressionists, and with Pierre Bonnard in particular. Then as now, color and light are nearly the first things that draw my attention to a scene. The Impressionists used broken color to capture the sensation of light. Bonnard was actually considered a Post-Impressionist painter and criticized by some because he broke with his contemporaries, developing his own style. Reviewing an exhibit of Bonnard’s work, Jed Perl wrote:

“Bonnard is the most…

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Thinking about Creating a Business of One?

EPSON MFP image

Have you ever felt the entrepreneurial bug bite and thought about being a “business of one” so you can sell what you create—books, paintings, ceramics, graphic design, web design, sculptures, dolls, toys, costumes, cakes, jewelry, gift cards, photographs, workshops or training—to name but a few possibilities? There are big opportunities for people who decide to take the leap. In 2014 there were 28 million small businesses in the United States. Fifty-two percent of those businesses were home-based.

The U.S. government definition for a small business is:

  • Organized for profit
  • Operating in the U.S., or making a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through taxes and the sale of products
  • Independently owned and operated
  • Not dominant in its field on a national scale

To flourish as a “business of one” requires the same mindset as that of someone who wants to operate a successful franchise, a coffee shop, or any other endeavor. How you perceive your self and your life will define your success.

Think About It

Step 1: Visualize your business. What can you confidently accomplish as a business of one? Have a focus. All entrepreneurs need to stand out in the crowd.

Step 2: Keep a positive attitude. Understand that not every idea is a good idea. Expect to win some and lose some, learn from failures and then move on to the next thing you need to do. Hundreds of decisions will need to be made every day and the choices that are made will determine what is accomplished and experienced. The key to success is to avoid negative thinking. It follows that to avoid negative thoughts, you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

Here are some tips from the book The Entrepreneur in You by author A.A. Edmond Jr. for people who want to be, or who have already claimed the role:

  • Always plan your options. It’s more empowering to have options than it is to have obligations
  • Develop a daily routine and stick to it
  • Replenish your energy by taking a walk, a nap, or just resting for 15 minutes

An “A” Power Play

Meditate (everyday in the morning if possible) for as little as 15 minutes. Sit in a chair or on a pillow on the floor, but be comfortable. Set a timer. Listen to something that will distract you from thinking—a ticking clock or a fan work great! Sometimes, when that isn’t enough and my mind wants to chase after thoughts, I start counting down from 17 to 0. I continue this until the thoughts subside, which usually takes only a short time. Why 17? Because that’s how long it takes for one thought to lead to another thought. Make this part of your daily routine and just keep doing it. You’ll notice, after while, that you’re getting “good, useful thoughts” that will help you reach your goals.

Step 3: Pace yourself.  Don’t worry about procrastination. We tend to criticize ourselves and feel negative emotions when procrastinating, and then we try to drive ourselves toward the finish line. That’s actually counterproductive. What procrastination tells us is that we’re not yet ready to do something.

An “A” Power Play

Be ready to be ready. If you don’t have the things or information around you that you need to do something, you don’t have the momentum to easily follow through and the whole effort will be fraught with problems. You’re own thoughts will pile up as  additional resistance. Instead of pushing, just state or write down your goal and then stop worrying. Let your mind relax. Go to a movie. Take a walk. Meditate. Meditation helps to calm the mind so you can get ready to be ready. It’s important to stay away from negative thinking. PAY ATTENTION to what you receive via ideas, observations, overheard conversations. FOLLOW UP on any thoughts that cause a good-feeling emotion, because those good feelings will guide you to the things you need in order to do what you want to do.  Be a lifelong learner and constantly seek to sharpen your skills. Be ready to be ready.

Once you have your vision defined, your goals are set, and you feel ready to be ready, you will feel confident about taking the next steps.