Taking time off is as important as working. That is what all the literature research says. I did not believe this in my early days. I kept working when I had two minutes here and five minutes there. I ended up getting work done this way, but I could not find the main goal in my minutes. I could make work; in this case, paintings. They were good and they sold but I felt like I was missing something. I could never find time to make the one year or five year plan. I wanted to have a main purpose to this creating that I loved to do. The purpose or main goal to my work did not exist. I did not have the time for it.
One day, the kids were at the pool with friends, my husband was away and there I was, sitting with nothing to do. The laundry was done. Supper was in the crock pot. There was no precedent for this in my life and I did not know what to do with myself. I could have rushed to my painting table but for some reason, I did not. I sat there. I started thinking about my artwork and what I loved about it. What I did not love about it. What did I want to do with it? I had a gallery that liked it. I was selling. My friends loved it. My husband put up with it. I had a lot of good elements going. But and this was a big BUT, I was not happy. Creating the product gave me joy but I wanted more. I wanted a longterm purpose.
So, sitting there, I picked up a piece of paper and a pencil. I wrote down what I thought would be the best longterm goals. I came up with creating awareness about art and creating the best product that nobody could resist. Then I stopped. This sounded like something I was doing for others. What did art do for me? Why did I like it?
I loved creating something out of a blank piece of paper, a pencil and a bit of paint. It was a bit like magic. I found it hard to believe that this magic came out of me. The creating also made me feel good. I did want that. What could I keep doing that would make me happy and provide something more to society. What did I want to provide? I was stumped here. I sat there and thought. My list grew but I kept rejecting everything almost as I wrote it down. I did learn that brainstorming meant writing down absolutely everything that came to my head so I kept writing down. I was still writing down items when my kids came home. I had to stop. I knew that I was not done so I grabbed another piece of paper and tucked it in with my ideas. I had to keep writing.
Several days later, I was still writing down ideas in my minutes that I had to myself. I even volunteered to babysit some kids I found badly behaved in my babysitting coop because I wanted more time off. Their mom agreed to trade with me eagerly because no one liked babysitting her kids. They turned out to be well behaved because when they first came into the house, I told them the house rules.
I had learned this trick to babysitting from my mom when she had come to visit once and I had some of the kid’s friends over. They started not listening when they realized that the two adults were busy having a chat. She stopped all the playing, sat them on the sofa and sternly told them the house rules in THIS house, right now and forever. The consequences of bad behaviour were included. I adopted this technique in my repertoire and it has worked ever since.
The time came for my children to go to her house. I took out my list and scanned it. None of the ideas of why I was doing art spoke to me. I did not know what to do. Did I need to stop doing art? My gut said no. Persevere! I started adding to my list. By the time the kids came home, I had decided.
In my art career, I had done portraits, still life, animals, landscape and designed logos. I liked it all up to a point. I could do portraits if I put my mind to it but I did not love it. The same was true of still life. I liked the arrangement of shapes to create a pleasing effect but again, up to a point. What I did really like was landscape. There were all sorts of reasons not to pick landscape. Landscape was ‘out’ in the contemporary art world. Issues like abuse, poverty or politics were in. Again, I did not love ‘issues’. They just made me sad that the world was out of sorts. I loved texture, colour and light. I could find all of that in landscape. Landscape had enough variety to keep me interested. I could do different themes; trees, water, skies or even erosion. Those were all the good reasons to say yes to landscape. What I needed to do now is decide how I wanted to treat the theme but that would have to wait for another long thinking moment in time. I felt happy. I had decided my purpose.
The kids came home and life started again. I wonder now what would have happened if I had not had that period of time to think about my work. Would I have gone on creating without a goal? This period of time changed my art life. To come back to the beginning, take the time to think about your work. What do you really like doing. You have a limited amount of time, if you are a working parent and you need to use it wisely. I found out later that this moment of ‘aha’ is called flow. Wikepedia says:
Flow — the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task — is a strong contributor to creativity. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the king of flow. He wrote several books on the topic and I strongly recommend them. Flow is what happens when you create and when you get those wonderful ideas. Look at these videos:
These videos will help you learn how to enhance your creative side and be even more productive.
They helped me a lot. I hope it helps you too.
Doris’ website: www.dorischarest.ca
I have creativity courses and art courses online at: https://www.udemy.com/user/dorischarest/
For more information on mixed media by Doris Charest:
All photography and artwork by Doris Charest
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Till next time …