You Might Not Like This One…

I need to come clean. There’s this place I don’t particularly care for, and judging by many of your social media posts, a lot of you apparently do. Can we agree to just disagree?

I’m not a fan of Disney.

Which is why it’s a funny story how yesterday I found myself riding in circles around the parking garage for nearly an hour in what used to be “Downtown Disney” now “Disney Springs” on a mission to retrieve the credit card I’d, amid the chaos of being in such a place, left at the T Rex restaurant (I know it’s my own fault, but I’d really love to blame Disney). Earlier that day parking at Disney Springs had been a breeze, and I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal when the dinosaur restaurant didn’t have a wait to be seated for lunch. Hours later and that place was a mad house.

Through I series of unfortunate events I booked a “Legoland” hotel not realizing it was, in fact, located in Orlando and the advertised shuttle to the Legoland theme park was actually about an hour and half ride. I read Legoland hotel with shuttle and I just assumed…

I’m on a birthday trip with my, as of today, five year old. He rode on an airplane for the first time, and, don’t tell, him but he’s within miles of Disney for the first time.

Him: “Why does that bus have Mickey ears on it, Mommy?”

Me: “….”

The chaos and consumerism and toddler meltdowns seem embedded in the fiber of this town. I’m usually a pretty good traveller. I do my research ahead of time and things seem to move along pretty seamlessly. This time, I’m embarrassed to say, is one hot mess after another–park tickets that mysteriously don’t scan at the check-in, more driving than I’d ever imagined, and the list unfortunately goes on.

The beautiful thing is that my precious five year old is completely oblivious to the many setbacks of our long-awaited trip. He doesn’t even realize how ridiculously short the lines were for rides at Legoland. All he knows is that his mother finally let him drink the forbidden gatorade instead of just water and that the ride where you get to shoot green targets with laser guns is the best in the park (we rode it five times).

But I write an art blog, right?

Call it a stretch, and I won’t blame you, but I can’t help but reflect on all the times I’ve worried too much about the flaws in my work and don’t even consider the joy I experience making it or, I dare say, in other’s viewing it. A bad painting, I think, is far better than a blank canvas. And a Legoland trip with some hiccups is far better than no trip at all. My less-than-stellar performances at the easel set the stage for my better ones. I don’t make successful paintings despite the mess-ups, but because of them. And, God as my witness, my next kid trip will be far, far better planned than this one was.

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about painting feeling like work. Now that I’m on a vacation from “work” I’m itching to get back to it. You can see my newest collection not yet available on the site Sunday, July 23rd in Bay St. Louis. Details here.

A few of the newest paintings I’ll be showing July 23rd

 

But You Love What You Do: The War of Art

I recently had the pleasure of attending a classical guitar concert after which a few musicians chatted about their art: did playing guitar ever feel like work? The consensus was a resounding yes. One guitarists suggested that he is happiest on a beach somewhere, miles and miles away from his instrument. I get that.

We tend to glamorize art careers. How amazing it is to be able to do the thing you love every day. True. But sometimes the thing you love wears you out, beats you up; it sometimes spits you out.

Once again, my repeated claim seems to ring true: painting is an awful lot like parenting. Immense, other-worldly joy paired with a big scoop of fear, heartache, and frustration.

I struggled in my studio yesterday. The colors weren’t working, the strokes of the palette knife looked muddled rather than intentional. The more I worked, the worse it seemed to get. But, just like parenting, I find the best way to win the war of art is to keep showing up to it– the way we have to when we parent. We don’t walk away from our children after a particularly unimpressive day of parenting. We stay in it. We keep going. We try again.

I needed a break from my painting yesterday. And even though I’d rather be on a beach somewhere miles and miles away from my palette knives, today I’m going to get back to it. It’s routine and ritual that save me from myself. It’s the frustration and the pained strokes that build toward those rare magical painting days where every stroke feels divinely inspired. Hoping that by showing up today, I’ll get one of those soon. And if I do, I’ll definitely be letting you know.

But for now, I’m off to the battlefield.

Present Over Perfect

I’m still in the hustle. You’d think frantic breakfasts and repeated “please-put-your-shoes-on” would phase out a bit as summer settles in. When you work from home, summer inevitably brings it’s own hustle.

A much needed break arrived last week– I had the joy of attending a truly heartfelt wedding in the Dominican Republic. As fate and fortune would have it, a friend mailed me a book that arrived the day before I left. I’ve grown accustomed to my kindle and light packing so the actual hardcover book in my carry on was itself a step outside my comfort zone.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist is a call to connect rather than just perform and achieve. Niequist used one particularly poignant metaphor. I’m summarizing here, but it’s something like driving at 100 miles an hour and stopping at gas stations, running to the slushy machine and opening her mouth to let in the rich, red, corn syrupy goo before jumping back into the speeding car. She wants one single, ripe strawberry, but her life is pure hustle and goo.

I paint like that sometimes. Punching the clock. Throwing the paint around. Hoping it lands so I can move on to the the next one. I’ve got my entire inventory up right now at EAT New Orleans, a lovely French Quarter restaurant, and I have a big show coming up in late July. I don’t want to have to take down the paintings at EAT (which stay up until August) so I’m trying to create an entirely new set of inventory in about a month’s time. Oh, and it’s summer. I’ve not lined up any camps for my almost five year old and the daily painting of four or five hours I enjoy while he’s at school has been shredded to about one, if I’m lucky.

I just reread that last paragraph and hear it. The “see, look how busy I am” need for you to approve of my hustle.

But I’m trying to change things up. Since reading the book, I’m trying to actually sit down to eat rather than running through the house picking up toys with a mouthful of eggs in my mouth and a cup of coffee gone cold; I’m trying not to use my phone when I’m talking with my son. And I’m trying to connect with my paintings not just spit them out.

On nearly every blog post, I show a finished product. But this is just what I’m working on. They aren’t finished. They may or may not be soon. They are the horizons that I never tire exploring. The lines that blur. The mysteries I’m trying to take in rather than solve. They are my meditation in connection. We will see what transpires. 

Single Mom on Mother’s Day

I had an honest-to-God good Mother’s Day for the first time since I’ve become a mom. There was nothing particularly different about it in theory except this time my four year old had the language skills to repeatedly ask me when it would be “child’s day,” unconvinced that every day since his birth has been one long celebration of that.

I used to get particularly sad about my single-mom status on Mother’s Day. I’ve always had a great support system who never let that anxiety-producing day pass without gifting me the flowers or cards I’d always imagined I’d get from a spouse. I know it might sound ungrateful (which it certainly is not), but it just isn’t the same. Mother’s day used to remind me not of all my son has and all that I have in him, but of all I lack, of all I’ve failed to provide. Of dreams shattered.

This year was different. Perhaps I’ve just put in my time– the years of grief have finally watered the grounds and new life is starting to bloom– above the surface where you can actually see all the hard work that has been going on all along.

This year I was able to believe people who said “you’re a great mom” and even if there was (and there probably wasn’t) an unspoken “given the circumstances” that followed the sentiment, I was able to ignore it. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I was doing great with what I had, but just that I was doing great. My family was full and rich– not lacking. Not substandard. Not broken.

Painting, perhaps more than anything else got me here. My painting career and my son’s life go hand in hand. I started when he was just a baby.  Making things from blank pages made me feel powerful. If a surface is blank, there is no end to how you can color it. My touch means something. I make things happen even if it’s just a bright blue line across a stark white canvas.

my first ever painting of my son and me

So to all my single moms (and dads) I was thinking of you today as I painted. God, this whole thing can be so hard. Your marks matter– are no less worthy than anyone else’s. The way you color your blank pages is beautiful; I’ve learned from so many of you. Thank you.

And if you need a little encouragement, read this, it gets me every time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out, Out Damned Yellow Spot: Painting is Like Parenting Part II

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My painting is like my parenting: sometimes so glorious I feel tempted to write a book about it, sometimes so painful and frustrating I wonder why I keep trying day after day at all.

My son’s pre-k assigns dots to each day in the calendar he brings home in his folder. Blue means great day. Green, good day. Yellow? Let’s just say the chart says yellow means “lost in the woods” (they’ve got a camp theme going this year).

We’ve been lost in the woods for a few days now, and every time I think we see an opening, the trees seem to close in front of us or the trail we thought was leading somewhere just brings us right back to our sad little campsite, a dying fire and a cold night about to descend. Too dramatic?

I worry too much about yellow dots.

I wish I knew how to convince my four-year-old that telling the truth is best, that he has to be quiet when others are talking, that he can’t go around knocking over lunch boxes.

But he, like me, I suppose, is a work in progress. So full of life and energy. So obstinate and assertive. So convinced of the truth of things he doesn’t know couldn’t be.

This painting, I kid you not, started as a big yellow dot. I thought it was going to be an abstract ode to the trials of parenting. It turned into spring flowers that I happen to believe are some of my best. The painting wasn’t painful or tortured. The strokes came easily. The colors worked without me having to pull out any of my hair. I didn’t even bleed.
I’m waiting for my little guy to come out of the woods. Into the sunlight where I know he’ll bloom. 

 

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