Distractions from your practice

Work in progress Julie Holmes self portrait June 2016 Fine art realism graphiteWhether you are in the midst of a move (like we are) or in the adventure and commitment of raising children or any other life adventure such as caring for an aging parent or being focussed in a challenging non-art day job, there is always something that can get in the way of building an art practice. Forgive me if you don’t consider raising children, caring for aging parent distractions, I don’t either. But for the purpose of this post, I am thinking of anything that can pull me/us away (however, lovingly) from our work as artists.

Following the end of this school year, I had started a wonderful practice of getting up at 5:30 a.m. and drawing for 45 minutes before taking care of other essentials such as yoga, meditation, breakfast and doggie walks. This week, that practice has been completely let go as we pack boxes and gear up for a move that is only 2 blocks from our current location.

Part of my early morning practice included working on this self-portrait. Our current apartment is west facing and the light moves pretty quickly so I needed to work in the mornings. I only spent ~4 hours on this drawing so it truly is a work in progress but I do feel as if I have caught a bit of the light and the sense of my sleepy-headed self.

Every single morning this week, I have seriously (seriously?) thought I would be able to take time to draw after packing a few boxes. This has only happened once so far and it was Tuesday (I think). Ack!!! I have decided it is important to recognize that I / we need to pack up to move. Why? We have three guys from school showing up on Friday morning and – shazam – we better be boxed up and ready to load up the truck David has rented for us.

Boxes in anticipation of move - and a kitty Julie Holmes Fine artistSo here we are at box central (kitty #1 supervising) with about 90% of the place packed and ready to go. Our new apartment has an entire wall of North light windows which is a painter’s dream world. But this means I’ll need to let the current work in progress go and start on a new self-portrait in the new setting. And, before that happens, we will need time to move in, unpack, settle and see what this new place has to offer. I would love to hear how you, as an artist or writer, let yourself happily focus on the distractions you have. I am also curious how you let go when you are in the middle of a big transition or obligation and then how you get back on track again. Any advice or ideas you provide in the comments below would be just fabulous. Thank you!

 

9 Comments

  1. Beth D Clary
    June 30, 2016

    GREAT question. I want to read what others say because I’ve been thrown off my creative schedule and am wondering if I need to reconsider my schedule altogether. I’ll be reading comments in hopes that some help and wisdom comes along!

    Reply
    • Julie Holmes
      June 30, 2016

      Hi Beth, Ya – I think it’s challenging to figure out the best way to get back on track. Summer time seems to be a quieter time for responses to this blog. So if there aren’t any helpful comments, I hope you do reconsider your schedule altogether. Why? Well, why not.

      As I gear up for this move (boxes packed – woohoo – well still have to pack up ‘puter, of course), I have been thinking about what worked – till this week consumed me with packing. One is that I set a timer for 45 minutes to do a particularly challenging drawing exercise. It’s kinda cool how that timer and the drawing sets me free to just draw. And – before I know it – the timer has gone off and the hard part of the day is done. In my previous work life building websites, I set a timer for two 45 minute sessions in the morning before replying to emails. I got a ton of work done that way. But, I know another painter who says she has to get email and other online stuff out of the way before she starts to paint at about 10 a.m. every week day.

      Here’s a link to another blog with a whole bunch of ideas about managing distractions from your practice.

      Good luck and xoxoxoxoxo

      Reply
  2. Wendy
    July 1, 2016

    Nice post, Julie. For me it helps to have a schedule and a goal.
    Your morning routine makes sense because you tackled it first thing.

    I try to have weekly goals, like maybe one study and xx amount of drawings. If I miss a day because of obligations, it’s not too bad but I’ll def make sure it’s crossed off the list by week’s end.

    Reply
    • Julie Holmes
      July 6, 2016

      Hi Wendy,

      Thank you!

      I like your idea of weekly goals especially now that I am out from underneath this move and the boxes are stashed away.

      Do you write your goals down on paper or a white board? When do you write them down? Friday afternoon or Sunday?

      I can see that it would be very satisfying to see your work that you’ve done for the week and also cross things off your list as you complete them!

      Reply
  3. Milissa
    July 1, 2016

    Hi again Julie! “Wow”you must be thinking ( or Shazam!) twice in a short amount of time hearing from me. Love your idea of a timer. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, some of the best work happens during a time- crunch issue. One can have a deadline, but I found in the past, that when I procrastinated and that deadline was looming, that is when the best ideas came forth/through. In fact, I ought to try that again!! Your timer idea is what stimulated this thought. Also had another thought from your last post. You mentioned feeling more free/more freedom with your current choice of art. Do you think that has anything to do with knowing the outcome ahead of time? Meaning, one looks in the mirror and knows basically what the drawing will be. Or, one looks at the fruit or model, and knows that this is basically what “I” want my outcome to be. Colors and creative style aside of course. What do you think? Okay!! Hope your move is going smoothly as it is Friday already. Take care! Thanks for the blog!! Love, me

    Reply
    • Julie Holmes
      July 6, 2016

      Hi Milissa,

      Yay – I am glad you think the timer is a tool that works for you. I use it more as a way to track my time rather than as a deadline enforcer. But I have done some quick paintings with a timer running just to see what I can get on the canvas.

      The daily painter Carol Marine suggests the quick 10 minute paintings as a way to cultivate paint handling skills. I found it was fun and got me to quit being too careful with the paint. I can totally see using the timer to generate a sense of urgency to get something ‘done’ as you say.

      As for the feeling more ‘free’ comment, I love that you think that I meant that I would know what the drawing would be (as in looking at the mirror and – voila – there’s a self portrait). I think what I meant is the discipline of learning the technical skills at school frees me up to imagine and hopefully, execute what I am thinking about. For years, I have been very frustrated that my skills did not match what I was thinking about creating in my head. Since I am still learning those skills, I am painting from life for now. But I can tell you that the more I paint from life, the more alluring I find it to be. But it’s interesting to imagine that I might be able to create something to evoke a feeling such as joy or contemplation or resolution or justice by using realistic subjects. Does this answer your question? Or maybe – isn’t it totally cool that your question helped to clarify what it is that I am trying to work on at school? Thank youuuuuu!

      Reply
  4. Kathy
    July 2, 2016

    Hi Julie,
    Great post! It’s an ongoing question because in my experience, life isn’t
    ” stable”- adaptability is so essential. Much as I’d like to paint every day, there are those times when I can’t. The question becomes, am I dodging painting or not? Also, I can’t divide myself very well so when there’s a big task like moving, I have to focus on that. So what I tell myself about that choice is- ” this too shall pass” I’ll do my best and then get on with my art/ creativity practice. That’s not to say that I’m not always on the lookout for ideas and beauty- and taking reference photos- even while packing etc. I have come to see my art as organic to my life.- most days I paint, when I can’t or don’t, it’s part of the cycle.
    Beth asks a good question- is it time to reevaluate my schedule and for me that includes my commitments. Have I said ” yes” to too much? What time of day am I at my best to paint? Do I need a buddy to help me be accountable?

    Good luck with your move. I actually had a dream last night about your big north window- you were watering lots of plants in all sorts of blue pots and the light was streaming in.

    Reply
    • Julie Holmes
      July 6, 2016

      Hi Kath,

      Ahhhh – I love your reply because the night before our move I dreamt of that Peter, Paul and Mary song “To everything turn turn turn, There is a season …” (Here’s the link if you’d like to listen and sing along: https://youtu.be/fHvf20Y6eoM )

      Even this week after the big huge move and the cleaning out of the old apartment, and the unpacking of boxes, etc, etc, etc, I have felt guilt pangs of not drawing or painting…until I think “Good grief, I have got to get settled!”

      So – I decided to take the time to enjoy what has been a big huge transition. Also, I remember I had a really good friend (potter) when I was at Penland. She had to work right after we finished our class when most of us got to stay and work on our pottery till all hours of the night. She was resolute that work was providing ‘fodder’ for pots she was going to make in the next day and in the future. I really admired how she disciplined her mind to think of what she needed to do in the moment rather than fret about what she couldn’t do (cough cough ;-)!

      Your dream sounds as if you have moved in here. I have a big blue pot in the window that is filled with that house plant I can’t kill (is it called ficus?)

      I think we are wired to say ‘yes’ to so many things so yay for you for asking all those questions about your schedule to figure out what you can do to paint when you are at your best!

      Reply
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