What my art — and making it — is teaching me

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY   COMPLETED.

A SCULPTURE I RECENTLY  COMPLETED.

Having embarked on a new professional direction after selling my design firm 5 years ago, I dicovered that I loved Intuitive Painting (so much that I became an instructor in that proecess), but that engaging in other personal creative work was a challenge. In time I started writing poetry (as I have always loved words, and that was a comfortable way for me to express ideas and emotions). And, last year I enrolled in a class at Boston's MFA and began sculpting in clay. To my delight, I loved working with my hands and in three dimensions.

On my fall 2015 sabbatical, I took a new big step and enrolled in an abstract painting course at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. To say that it was life-changing is not an overstatement. I had a brilliant teacher and wonderful classmates who generously embraced me as a new student, and who all taught me more than I'd have imagined possible in a one-semester course.

Now, I am enrolled at the SMFA in Bosotn, with another brillient painting teacher and inspiring classmates. And, I have continued to study with my sculpting teacher.

All of this art-making takes a lot of time. I wondered, at first, if perhaps I was devoting too much time to this work, as my coaching practice and the programs I offer are so important to me and require so much time and attention. Now that we are four months into 2016, I am taking stock of the decisions I made, and how the balance is working for me.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

MY MOST RECENT SCULPTURE, ASSEMBLED QUICKLY AND INTUITIVELY WITH FOUND OBJECTS.

What I have realized is that my creative work is richly rewarding — and it challenges me. In the best moments, I make what I feel tangible in my art. I sometimes find myself in such flow that I completely lose track of time. That is an amazing experience, and one that, happily, I often replicate when engaged in my coaching work.

Other times when I am in the studio, and more often this semester in my painting class, I find myself struggling to connect to my intution, unable to create with ease. I had decided at the start of the semester to deliberately use this painting class to experiment with a wide range of techniques, so that I my painting process can flow. I want to find a way to paint that feels like home for me. So, I am perservering and have started to find more freedom as I paint.

Strikingly, when I am at work outside of either the painting or sculpting studios, I realize that I more naturally look for opportunities to be responsive, intuitive, adaptable and, yes, creative — in recognizing unexpected and intriguing ideas, and in the decisions I make and the actions I take. This fluidity is striking to me, and is leading me in exciting directions. And, the happiness I feel with my work is ever increasing.

I am certain that my descion to devote time to personal creative exploration is paying dividends for me, and I am excited as I contemplate continuing my journey to develop as an artist.

Sabbatical update — reflections at the mid-point

I continue to be enormously grateful for my 3-month sabbatical adventure. In the year before it started, the prospect of having 3 months to live in a new city and dive deep into new learning and personal exploration sounded like it would be a rare and remarkable experience. Now that I am at the mid-point, I can say that the sabbatical has surpassed my expectations.

The rhythm and structure of my days is quite different here than in Boston. I am taking a semester-long abstract painting class as well as a short course on making art books. I‘ve also committed to a self-study program and I am working to complete a book I had started writing before the sabbatical. I am working with a few coaching clients on a very limited basis now, and savoring the time with them. I am also visiting as many of Washington's museums and monuments as I can, I‘m walking to explore as widely as my feet can manage, and Steven and I have been taking in movies more often than usual. I‘m doing some cooking with lovely farmers‘ market finds, and we are enjoying socializing with some friends and family — including some wonderful new friends — who live in the DC area. 

One of my paintings

One of my paintings

Every day is different, and I am never at a loss for things to do. But as I plan each day, I am aware that it is very easy for me to slip into old patterns and overload my schedule. I am conscious of making choices to create space for some quiet every day, whether it‘s for reading, meditation, drawing, or walking in a beautiful place. Creating balance is a big priority now, and I hope that when I return to Boston at the end of the year it will be a natural part of my life.

My first book

My first book

Among my most inspiring experiences have been recent museum visits. When I look at art now, I see it in new ways. When I stand before a painting, I look at color through new eyes, thinking about all of the color choices the artist made. I have a new appreciation for the tones they mixed as well as the impact of the juxtaposition of colors. And, I am keenly aware of the painting technique, marveling at strokes of textured paint, or smoother surfaces with clean edges of color against color, or a flat surface in which the brush strokes are barely perceptible. The craft of the painting, as well as its color and composition and overall emotional impact are all playing in my head (and my heart) as I walk through galleries. 

Whether sharing studio time in my painting classes, or seeing the gallery exhibitions of some of my incredibly talented classmates, or gazing at masterworks in some of our country's most fabulous museums, I am thrilled by all of the creative stimulation. That energy spills over into every part of my life.

Here are just a few examples of recent pleasures and experiences.

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

The color transformations of David Hockney's Snails Space with Vari-Lites, "Painting as Performance", as the lighting slowly changed, wERE astonishingly beautiful. [At The Smithsonian American art Museum]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11.  [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

Pat Steir's elegant Gold Morning with Roses; Wayne Thibaud's Jackpot Machine, with a paint surface that looks like frosting; A detail in another David Hockney painting, Double Entrance, where you can see the fabulous way he uses and applies color to a canvas; Eric Fischl's Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, which powerfully relates to the human dimension of September 11. [AT THE SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM]

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

The imposing Lincoln memorial; a family doing a rubbing of the name of a relative who died in the Vietnam War, at the moving vietnam war memorial; and looking at the Washington Monument from the lincoln memorial.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Our sunday trips to the farmers' market at Dupont Circle are always a visual delight.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

Some of my talented classmates at work in our painting studio; the studio where my Book arts class is taught.

I cannot omit some other highlights of the sabbatical so far. The first half of this adventure was punctuated by a wonderful week back in Boston, where I had a powerful retreat with my coaching group to conclude and celebrate the completion of 6 months together. And, I had the pleasure to doing two great Evening of Creativity and Cooking workshops with women who were full of creative spirit. 

As I look ahead, I am eager to continue the challenging work in my painting class (I‘m venturing out of my comfort zone and starting to paint on larger canvases), learning from my gifted teacher and my generous classmates. I look forward to visiting the newly renovated Renwick Gallery that will reopen next week, as well as many other museums. I have plans to spend time with new acquaintances who share my passion for creativity. And, I am excited to anticipate our trip back to Boston for Thanksgiving, when we will spend time with our children and our precious grandson, before returning for the last weeks of this special time in Washington. 

I am truly excited to be here and to be living big!