Mandalas, Doodles and being employed…

Art this past few weeks has consisted mostly of doodling. My doodles are mostly in the form of mandalas or start in the form of a mandala and then grow from there. I have done no painting or mixed media art and I’m feeling the absence of it in my life.

I’m on my fifth week of having returned to being employed. It is a part-time position which should pay enough to fill in the gaps financially which is a welcome relief. Part-time means I work anywhere from 20 hours to 24 hours with the occasional request to add more hours if I want when they need someone to fill in. My previous work was very sedentary. This position has me on my feet for the whole time except for breaks and lunches. I find myself extremely exhausted if I work 8 hours, but still tired after a 4 hour or 5 hour shift. In my 3rd week, I contracted a cold which hit me pretty hard, and I had to miss 4 shifts. I am still recovering but at least able to work.

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I have found it a bit difficult to switch my mind off after work and get into the mindset of doing any art.  This is why over the past few weeks I have only been able to produce pieces like I have pictured in this post of the mandala/doodles. I come home exhausted, my feet too sore to be on them any more than a few minutes, so I sit with them propped up while trying to decompress as I stream videos on cravetv or netflix and doodle in my journal. It is my hope as I become more comfortable with my new job and my body becomes more accustomed to the work, that I’ll be able to turn my focus towards my art.

Today and tomorrow are my days off and though I was given the option to work an extra four hours today, I turned it down. I knew I needed some self-care time for these two days to help further my recovery from my cold and I feel a deep need to do something more than doodling, possibly work on a mixed media piece for a class I haven’t had the motivation or time for these past few weeks.

My journaling has also taken a turn from expressing my concerns over finances to expressing my experiences and concerns over my new job. It is interesting how satisfying one concern can quickly turn into a different concern and need for journaling in order to get it out so we can focus on the things we need to.

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My new position is very public. I speak with probably a hundred or more people every day. Every single person is in a different frame of mind, some happy, some sad, some angry, some criticizing, many are a pleasure to talk to and can uplift in just the few minutes we interact together. I have no doubt this will eventually come out in my creativity in one form or another as I become more comfortable in what I’m doing.

In another aspect of my life, I live in a strata which has recently been doing some work to improve the appearance, making repairs and so forth. In one area of the yard some landscaping was done to cover some gaps under the fence where our dog could get out. Some earth was used to fill it in. Today, I noticed the earth that was used was taken from a corner which was elevated and in the spring tulips and daffodils would bloom. They apparently didn’t realize this and when I looked there were bulbs lying on top of the earth that had been dug up when they took some of the earth to fill in the gaps below the fence. To me these were little treasures I took and have now stored for the fall to replant. Hopefully, they will survive and bloom in the spring in their new location. I have hopes of adding a few small gardening plots around our patio and these will be a nice beginning and possibly inspiration for some art pieces in the spring next year.

I miss the many hours I had free to play with my art supplies and spend time on classes or watching videos to learn new techniques or skills. However, I am very grateful for the job and hopefully the end of my daily financial worries. My period of not working, being challenged financially, gave me some incentive to find alternatives for the more expensive art supplies. It also challenged me in ways I never expected and I am learning things about myself. Things I wanted to learn and things I never wanted to learn.

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Those things we never wanted to learn about ourselves, at least for me, are things which make me feel vulnerable. They make me feel helpless. It doesn’t mean I am helpless, it just means it makes me feel that way, if that makes any sense. At least until I find a way around it, or what I can do that will take that helpless feeling away. The most vulnerable thing to learn is when you find out you have a breaking point. The most strengthening thing to learn is when you find out you have a creative mind that will allow you to do what you need to do to avoid the breaking point.

When I felt like I had no structure in my life, when things felt chaotic and out of control, was when I found out focusing on art with structure, such as mandalas, or something with geometric shapes and structure, helped me to gain back a sense of control. I am only beginning to understand how art connects me with understanding myself and the world around me. It is an amazing thing to witness.

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Taking small steps in order to be ready for the big steps…

I am unable to express in the right words how satisfying it is to create something with my own hands.

When a person is young, people like to ask them what it is they want to do or become when they are older. I would come up with all sorts of things. One time it was an archeologist. Another time a teacher. Another time a police officer. And another time it was a dancer. I never dreamed of going into computers. Back then they were new, not something anyone ever thought would be a common every day thing for most everyone to have in their home, let alone be able to carry around with them.

You might be wondering why I have gone off on this tangent after reading the first sentence. Hang in there. I’m getting there.

In school, I had three teachers make suggestions for what I could do with my life. The first was my typing teacher. She suggested being a secretary. That is what administrative assistants were called back then. Yes, I was good at typing and creating professional looking letters and documentation. The second teacher was my math teacher, he suggested either teaching math or getting into something math related. Yes, because math came easy to me. The third teacher was my art teacher. He suggested I use my talent as an artist and make a career out of it.

Though I didn’t set out to get into computers, the universe set me on that path, so it might appear I had followed my math teacher’s recommendation. In reality, I just grasped an opportunity when it presented itself. I can’t say it was a right or wrong decision or a poor or good decision. It just was what it was. IT served its purpose. It fed the analytical/logical part of me and provided well for me and my daughter.

There are various reasons why I chose that route. I could get experience and education in it by entering the Air Force. College wasn’t in the cards for me, so a business degree or art degree wasn’t possible at that time, neither was a computer science degree, so I opted for a way to gain experience and some education in a career field that would provide for me.

What my art teacher didn’t know was that for some reason while in his art classes, I felt the artist in me peeking out and at times brave enough to show herself. When not in those classes, she went back into hiding.

Throughout my subsequent years, I tried at times to pick up a pencil to draw but would always become frustrated within the first few minutes. I would then put it down and not pick it back up for years.

I satisfied my need to create with my own hands in other ways. I started teaching myself how to crochet after just learning a few stitches from my mother. Then I taught myself how to knit. When my mother or I bought something that needed to be put together I was right there, taking over, working together or doing it all by myself. I always felt like I had accomplished something when I was able to put whatever it was together. I got into jewelry making, even took a class in jewelry repair which I loved and was really good at it. I had dreams of designing and creating my own jewelry but I couldn’t afford the tools and supplies it would require. I also didn’t have the space or an area safe enough for the type of equipment needed. Knitting and crocheting became my way of filling my need to create, and it went in cycles because it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to awaken my inner artist. It is she that craves the need to create with her hands. I started watching youtube videos and discovered Zentangle, Zentangle Inspired Art, Doodling, Zendoodling, or whatever people want to call it. I am not a natural doodler. I have never been one to sit and doodle in meetings or when on the phone, or at any other time. Watching the videos, reading on Zentangle, and this type of art made me realize this might be the way for me to awaken my inner artist without having the frustration, fear, anxiety or whatever it is that kept me frozen whenever I would pick up a pencil to draw. It had structure which my logical mind craved.

My natural inclination when I draw is to draw exactly what I see.  Anyone who is an artist will know how impossible that is to accomplish. I’m a perfectionist, if my pencil stroke is not perfect then it is wrong and I’m an awful artist, is how I felt inside. I read articles, I watched videos on Zentangle and their philosophy is nothing is a mistake. Use pen/ink and you will eventually learn to accept every line you draw and no longer think of them as mistakes. And, you learn to incorporate them into your art. Boy, did I need that!

I started drawing, first just drawing the step-outs. Then incorporating them into abstract pieces using the idea of strings. For those not familiar with this idea, this is the only place you use a pencil other than to shade. Draw a random line, straight or curved or both, creating smaller areas that are then filled in with the patterns. I found a free website tanglepatterns.com which has hundreds if not thousands of patterns and their step-outs or links to other sites with the step-outs. This got me started and brave enough to try other things.

Tangles eventually progressed into mandalas. Mandalas eventually progressed into art journaling, then eventually into whimsical art or other classes where I could gradually improve my skills as an artist and learn to experiment with different mediums, eventually expanding into mixed media art.

If you have read my previous posts you will be aware that I am taking Mandala Madness a course in how to draw mandalas given by Barb Owen of How To Get Creative. I had already been drawing mandalas for over a year when I started taking this course. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn from it. The only reason I took it was I wanted to learn how to create a mandala on canvas. I have only painted on canvas once and it wasn’t to do a mandala. I love what I create so much that I wanted to be able to create a large one on canvas to hang in my home, so I signed up for the class.

I am absolutely amazed by how much I am learning in this class and we haven’t even gotten to the canvas part yet. Even if it wasn’t part of the class I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth and more. I rarely put color with my mandalas. I love them in their stark black and white. Now, I am falling in love with color too. Here is my latest:

I call it “Royalty”. This one is made using the technique shown by Barb in her free introductory videos for how to draw a mandala using a compass. If drawing mandalas interests you at all, have a look, give it a try. I think you will be surprised how easy it is. Barb is an excellent instructor. She takes her time explaining each step along the way. The only thing you need are the tools she mentions and an imagination or you can follow her detailed instructions to try and make one just like she does in the videos.

Getting here. Being able to create this with my own two hands after years of being away from art, is so satisfying to my inner artist. It is hard to describe. Over thirty years of having my logical analytical side listened to, fed and being forefront in my life, meant my creative side was suppressed, ignored, and not listened to.  It feels good to let her out to play.

I will admit. I feel freer to play when I sit down to draw mandalas because they include my rather ordered logical analytical side. Other things like drawing whimsical creatures are more of a challenge and aren’t something I find easy to just sit down and do without thinking a lot about it first. That includes art journal pages. Working intuitively is difficult for me, unless I’m working with mandalas. This is something I am only just discovering about myself.

So… when I feel challenged by something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I often find myself reaching for paper to begin drawing a mandala or to continue working on a mandala I have started. Seeing them develop gives me the courage to work on something that feels less comfortable, like the next lesson of Peter Pan and Wendy in Ever After 2017.

Speaking of Ever After 2017 the Peter Pan and Wendy lesson, it took me days if not a week or more to get the courage up to just start sketching. I finally did, and discovered I had some difficulty going small. I wanted to fill my page with the cityscape which would leave very little room for the rest of the elements in the painting. Here is my beginning sketch on 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper:

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You might find it difficult to believe that I could go bigger than this. Believe me, the first sketch was much bigger, and the clock tower’s tip was at the top of the page. I had first tried drawing it in landscape layout but decided to switch to portrait layout, even so it took me three tries to get to this point.  I think this is the size I want and I hope it works with the rest of the elements.

I find it interesting, with my love of geometric shapes, how it took me so long to begin sketching the cityscape. Obviously I’m still working on it, trying to get the angles right and the buildings in the way I want them. The overall project is quite daunting, so I’m trying to take it one step at a time. I may draw the other elements which come much later in the process first so I can be sure they will fit in with the cityscape as it is.

I just know if this had been my first attempt to get back into art instead of starting with tangles, I would have walked away and never picked up a pencil again to draw. I’m so glad I took the approach I did three years ago which allows me to try a lesson like this one and be able to handle the anxiety it generates. Getting to this point in the sketch really gives me a feeling of satisfaction, because I did it and didn’t quit.

Learning so much!

I can’t begin to express the excitement I’m feeling over what I am learning. But most especially on how I’m seeing my skills develop. Where I once thought I would never enjoy watercolor, and thought I would make a horrible mess of it, I’m now learning I was completely wrong. I’ve never been so glad about being wrong about something in my life!

For the past week, I’ve been rather busy trying to catch up in some of my classes. I decided to focus on Life Book 2017’s lessons. The below pictures are from weeks 14, 15 and 16.

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I love these two girls. When looking back at my first girls from Life Book 2017, I can see so much improvement, especially in the coloring and shading of the skin. I’m thrilled to see this.

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I thoroughly enjoyed making this page. Learning to divide a page into sections even before I know what words I want to say was unbelievably satisfying. It made me expand my imagination to make the words fit. Whenever, I sit down to create a page with words and I already know what words I want to use, I’m usually organizing the page around the words. The words usually end up uniform and in straight lines. I totally love how the words on this page ended up in all different forms and direction.

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OH, this one, I probably can’t say enough about. This one challenged my ability to work with watercolor and I found I loved the challenge. Creating something out of blotches of watercolor was pure fun.

Looking at the blotches or clouds of watercolor and trying to come up with an image was definitely a challenge. At first, I couldn’t see anything, or rather, I saw pieces of things that ‘could be’ but had trouble finding the rest of those pieces to fit it into a whole.

I did the background blotches of color one day, but it took waiting until several hours later to see the forms I really needed to pull from the page. I did three backgrounds in total, and on each one I was surprised what developed. I only completed this one. The other two are in progress. They only have the loose sketch which wouldn’t be visible on camera at this point.

The other two are also more complicated and I wanted to focus on the easier one to get the hang of the process. The other two will be worked on as time permits or as I’m drawn to them, in between my other lessons.

So far, this will make three projects I have in progress. I don’t fret over them not being done. I know in at least one case, I’m waiting for my skills and knowledge to grow. I have an idea of where I want to take it but not yet the skills to get it there. This is where patience takes over.

As far as the watercolor cloud backgrounds, well those two, I need to contemplate because of their complexity. I want to consider what direction I want to take them before I proceed.

The thing about my exploration into art over the past year is this….

I’m only just touching the tip of the iceberg so to speak. I’ve worked with acrylic paint, water soluble crayons, gouache, soft pastels, spray acrylics, spray inks, colored pencil, oil pastels, and more. I’ve done collage, created handmade journals, painted on canvas, created card decks, designed my own mandalas and created my own fabric paper, just to name a few.

I love it all, somethings, I may love more than others. For instance, I’m not that fond of collage, but sometimes it has its place and works well with what I want to do. I’m not crazy about gouache but that is probably more of needing to learn how to work with it. Today, I learned one way of using it which may work its way into my style.

The one thing I’m learning I love the most, which for my perfectionist personality is something oddly exhilarating. It is the unpredictability of much of what I create.

I have a logical and perfectionist mind, but I also have this wonderful part of my mind that loves to watch something happen that is quite unpredictable. I used to be so afraid of the unpredictable nature of things. In learning to love it in my art, I’m starting to appreciate it in life, which kind of blows away my logical side.

In some ways, I can’t help but think this is the true nature of the Gemini in me. I’ve always felt at odds with myself because of my inner conflicts. I can almost always see the two sides of a situation and understand both which makes it especially difficult to make a choice. My logical mind has to step in and weigh the pros and cons and hopefully make the right decision.

How does this factor into my art? Oh, boy, does it ever factor in. If , I let it, I could be stuck on making a choice between one color or the next or not using a color at all because of trying to predict the outcome and which would be best for the overall design.

That is why, what I’m learning this past year, has been so important to me. Learning to let go is HARD. Learning to let things flow as they will, without stepping in to guide its course or force things to go in a particular direction is even HARDER. It is why I’m only now stepping out of my comfort zone to explore creativity as it should be explored.

I’ll soon be 57 years old. I’m not a spring chicken any more. I’m also not too old to want to experiment with life, with my imagination and with how to change my perceptions of this world. Letting my creativity flourish is helping me to do just that. I’m loving every minute and even, at times, look forward to those clashes of thought and emotion when things look like they are going terribly wrong, to only find out, in the end, they were going terribly right and just as they needed to.

I just hope I can learn to approach life in the same way.

~Patti