Clean the House!

I hadn’t thoroughly cleaned the house for two months. Then, I finally cleaned it because company was coming.  Yesterday I cleaned the house for myself.  I stepped away from the canvas, from the computer, the writing journal and dived into cleaning starting with the dreaded tile in the bathroom.  It took hours. Afterwards, I felt an immediate reward. The tile was refreshed and looked beautiful.  As I sit down to the computer today, I feel lighter and loved by my efforts at order and cleanliness.

When things aren’t flowing, cleaning can somehow change things up.  Why is that?  Perhaps, when I’m stuck, cleaning the house gives me a feeling of mastery.  When nothing else makes sense, when there is no flow, cleaning the house seems like a brilliant option.  It sort of gives me a new start, if not a fresh perspective.  Life is a weaving together of strands and fragments.  Cleaning is something I can rely on that supports whatever else is happening personally and in the larger world.

It’s not that this is my first go to when I don’t know what direction to go in.  Yet, it is strange how this seems to make a difference.  It can redirect my thinking and uplift
my spirit as it produces a very reliable product.  A clean house!

After I finish cleaning, I want the effort to be appreciated not only by me.  I might invite some friends over for brunch.

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The character, Monica, in the long-running popular television series, Friends, has an obsessive compulsive quality to her need to clean.

 

Being in the Creative Stew

Sometimes, I make a request into the ethers, “Which direction do I pursue in my life/career?” or “What is the next step with this short story I’m writing?”  or “Where do I go now with this painting in process?”

The next uncomfortable position is to find myself in the creative stew!  For awhile, I simmer there without understanding what is going on.  Feelings of uncertainty, doubt, discomfort arise and I probe these feelings.  “What?  What?”  I forget that I asked the question(s) or invoked help and that I’m on the edge of unknowing, the precipice of what’s next.

I have been known to call this the “fertile void”.  Though there is nothing apparent on the horizon, I have invoked the powers that be to show me a direction, how to proceed.  Inwardly, I churn.  I feel discomfort.  An inner edginess.  And resistance too.  All these things and feelings bubbling in the cauldron of “where do I go from here?”  Sometimes, the harder you push, the more elusive the answer.

When a writer, poet, artist is creating something…there are bound to be times when they are stuck and can’t see the next step.  They’ve been deep in process, things seemed to be flowing and then…nothing.  Flat out, nothing.  Whether at the desk or canvas, they are inwardly working something out.  When I remember that this is what is going on, there is some relief.  “Ah, yes, I’m in that disconcerting void place.  It looks like there is no forward movement.  How long is it going to last?  Is there something that I need to do to get unstuck!!??

At these times, I’ve found, the best thing to do is to walk away for awhile, literally and figuratively.  The impasse is in place.  Do something to take your mind off of it.  Dance, do the laundry, get out in nature, do something you are good at.  Anything that isn’t related to the dilemma.

Simultaneously, it’s a time of deep listening and seeing.  Sometimes, answers come to us indirectly, through metaphor.  Other times, someone says something like “You are really good at painting portraits.”  or “I appreciate your sensitivity.  It comes through in your poetry.”  During this time of uncertainty, it pays to be alert to clues as to what the next step is.  Sometimes, a direction presents  in a dream.  You might wake up one morning and know exactly what to do next.

Regardless, this gestation period is part of the creative process, not separate from it.  We ride it out.  We trust.  The flow returns.

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For the love of collage–embracing the irregular

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Semi-Wild Collage by Christine O’Brien 2018

What is it to me?  Laying down bits and pieces of scrap paper and then, being open to what emerges from chaos. In the initial stages of collaging, there is little direction.  I might have a theme in mind…or not.  I might choose a color scheme…or not.  I might lay down only words–upside down, right side up, sideways, any which way…or not.  Patterns?  Drama?  Comedy?  What wants to be conveyed?  Show me as I go.

I started with my painted purple elephant.  I printed her out in three different sizes realizing that I had a 6×6-inch birchwood panel to work with.  It was like the Goldilocks’ story…the first elephant was too big, the second one too small…the third elephant was “just right.”

I had a stack of mandalas that I’d drawn and painted a few years ago.  Sorting through, I gravitated towards patterns with stripes and dots, some words, shades of purple and magenta.  After placing and gluing the torn papers down, I collaged on the elephant.  I noticed the woman’s face in the far left corner.  Her face needed a neck and then she developed into the figure. I applied acrylic paint to bring some elements of the piece forward.  At some point, I knew I it needed silver leafing. In other words, I was in conversation with the piece as it evolved.

While collage can be an odd assemblage there is a point at which I desire to bring order to chaos.  And, I want to retain the wildness, the freedom I had in creating it.  Yet, I also like something recognizable.

One thing about collaging, you learn to be comfortable with stages…there is the drying time to consider between applications.  This allows you time to step back and see what wants to be seen.  Sometimes a new direction presents.  Do you follow it or stay  with your original intention for the piece?  Do you flow in another direction or exert  your own influence?  It’s always different and without a real formula other than trusting your instincts.

Finally, I appreciate finding the integrative component…whether it is color, design or pattern–whatever it is that brings cohesiveness and completion.

Consider This:
To make art, you don’t have to have the most expensive materials.  You really only have to make yourself available to it.  The muse is there, waiting for you to SHOW UP!  Have you been saving scraps of paper?  Is it time to do something with them?