Do you have ANY idea?

‘Ideas for Blog Topics’, read the list title. I opened it to find some inspiration to share. ‘Where my ideas come from’, was the first suggestion. The train of thought then went as follows:
“Where do my ideas come from? Do I have ideas?? Do I start a painting with an idea? Or do I just begin and paint until an idea occurs? Is there ever an idea? Is it all just meaningless design?”
Enough of this, if I had no ideas, there would be no creativity taking place at all! What is an idea anyway? My trusty dictionary tells me it’s ‘a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action‘ or it’s ‘the aim or purpose of an action’.

So what suggests to me that it’s time to put paint on surface?

Sometimes it’s just going into my studio – seeing a work in progress on the easel, looking ugly and/or simply unresolved – my painting fingers begin to twitch.

But the prompting can come before that, an urge to simply play with paint, to leave the housework and distil my boredom and frustration into coloured marks.
However, the inspiration to paint is not necessarily an inspiration as to what to paint. It isn’t an ‘idea’, it’s just an itch that needs scratching.
An idea, it seems to me, is more cerebral than that, a spark in the brain that ignites a desire to share, to help others feel the same excitement I’m feeling.
I think it works like this:
Something I see might make me think, “I could incorporate that into a painting”, perhaps a sky or the overlapping patterns of leaves or the natural chiaroscuro of the landscape before a storm. By the time I get to the easel, that inspiration is deeply buried in my memory, beyond conscious application.
This, of course, is where my ideas come from, the unconscious application of half-forgotten observations. Like Pierre Bonnard, who reputedly said that he couldn’t paint en plein air because nature was too overwhelming, my paintings must be memories, my ideas have to have been pre-digested before they can emerge. How that happens is another story completely!

Pondering on Trust

I’ve been watching 4 houses being built on the field behind our home. The first workmen to arrive were digger drivers, followed by people who knew how to lay foundations. Once all was done and dried, the bricklayers arrived. They had total faith in the foundations their team-mates had laid and the walls went up quickly. They were well versed in how to bond a brick wall. When the roofers arrived the crane driver had to manoeuvre the trusses up to roof level without knocking his fellow workers off the scaffolding. They showed no fear as they waited for the great wooden roof supports to land at their feet. They had complete faith in the crane driver’s ability.
What, I asked myself, was the basis of their trust in one another? I assume they had worked together before, perhaps many times. They knew their colleagues had undergone the necessary training and knew how to do their job. Trust was based on experience and high expectation.
Isn’t this true of any relationships we have? We learn to trust others as we observe the way they behave and experience their behaviour towards us. We recognise those who have been taught how to treat others politely, how to be helpful, how to do what they say they will, in short, how to be trustworthy.
The big question is, do we trust ourselves? Do we have faith in our ability to be good at what we do while still being good to other people? In my experience, those who do not trust others have two traits. One: they think no one else can do as good a job as they can and two: they are willing to cut corners and assume everyone else to be as they are. The first is pride and the second rationalisation. Neither are characteristics worth aspiring to because they bring a life of loneliness and self-hate. Trust, however, is a recipe for happiness. As we trust other people we may sometimes be disappointed by them but we will never be disappointed in ourselves. Indeed, we will learn to trust ourselves when we find ourselves able to act in ways that build others rather than pull them down.
The most important trust of all is to trust in God. Whatever you call Him, trust that He loves you. He is always there for you, if you will allow Him in.
Trust is the basis of true friendship and love. May you be surrounded this year by people you trust, may you learn to trust in your own ability to be a good friend and mentor to those who need you and may your trust in God grow as you experience His loving care and answers to your sincere prayers.
Happy New Year!

Christmas – The Pure Love of God

Christmas is a time to remember the depth of God’s love for us. Everything our Father does is for our benefit, even the fact that He will not interfere when we misuse our agency. He has pledged to give us freedom to choose but He is always waiting to help when we want to put things right or when we need extra strength to sustain us through the results of others’ wrong choices. He loves us enough to let us leave our heavenly home with Him to learn to become more like Him (Matthew 5:48) and has designed this amazing wonderful world for us to live upon and then ordained and delegated it’s creation and management to His Firstborn Son, His Only Begotten Son, Jesus The Christ. And what detail it contains!

Jesus said He is the Breath of Life and the Earth is designed to give us that – oxygen, produced by algae and every other plant that grows, to produce the atmosphere that makes earth-life possible. I love trees and I think they are the perfect illustration of the plan our Savior and our Father have for us.

They want us to be strong and stand tall, to withstand the storms of life and they provide the means for that, designing every tree with the very structure it needs, be it palm or oak, every person with the inner strengths to conquer our individual tests and learning experiences here on Earth.

Trees epitomise service. They provide sustenance and shade for whoever will partake of it, be you ant or beetle, animal or person, rich or poor, they don’t discriminate. All are welcome to make their home in, under or with timber cut from a tree. Without fanfare, they quietly go about cleaning our atmosphere, sequestering carbon to keep us safe.

They produce flowers to gladden our hearts, fruit to feed us. Their whole annual cycle is a parable to teach us that, whatever the season, we can grow our talents, serve others, survive the hardest times and hope for Spring – new growth, new life from that which seemed dead.

This is the message of Christmas for us. Our Saviour created the world for us and took upon Himself the responsibility to provide us a way home. To do that He lead those who would listen through prophets from Adam through Abraham to Malachi, telling them to teach us His Plan – follow the instructions, love one another, follow His example of ordinances to signify covenants with Heavenly Father, turn our lives around when we make mistakes, come unto Him.

And then He came! A tiny babe born in humble circumstances, He came to live His life as an example for us to follow. He came not only to be born and gain a mortal body, but to suffer and die. He knew He would be rejected by the very people He had striven to teach. He knew the humiliation He would suffer at their hands. He knew what Gethsemane would be like and that it would be followed by abuse and a torturous death on the cross. But still He came because He loves us.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ make it a New Year’s resolution to find Him. You can find help here.

Happy New Year and a very happy Christmas!

Procrastinating further!

Good intentions! Oh dear, you know where they lead, don’t you! There are so many good procrastinating strategies, it’s hard to choose which one to use next. But the best of all assailed us in the UK last week – a big freeze. I went out to the studio one morning, togged up in double thermals and so many layers I couldn’t easily bend down, and optimistically switched on the fan heater. An hour later the thermometer showed zero degrees C. Given the price of electricity currently, that was ample excuse to give up and go indoors where all the other ‘P’ strategies lurk 😀
After using this as an excuse for not doing anything more creative than baking (chosen because having the oven on warmed the kitchen!), I came up with an ‘anti-P’ strategy. I set up a work station on my sewing table. Away went my sewing machine and all its accoutrements. Out, or rather in, came all my dry media, paper, sketchbooks, cutting mat and protective brown paper cover to keep the table looking like a clean area. I’m too messy to risk bringing paint indoors. I only have to look at a tube of paint to somehow find it on my fingers and anywhere else it shouldn’t be. So, while the frost grew thicker and the temperature dropped to -8, I worked in my little sewing room in the warm.
And what did I work on? Well, there’s another story. My focus words for this month included EXPLORE, EXPERIMENT and DISCOVER. So, having attended a workshop on a new way to collage with artist, Lupe Cunha , that’s what I’m exploring. What fun! Tearing up paintings I didn’t like anyway and turning them into a new work entirely. Watch this space for more developments on this front but here’s a taste of my first attempts:

Of course, the weather in England is never what you expect and this week it’s given me a new twist on Procrastinating. Today it reached 10 degrees – warm enough to work in the studio and progress that painting on the easel, but did I? No, I did a bit on another collage, updated a page on my website and now, here I am, blogging…
Oh well, it could be worse. I could be baking. LOL.

PONDERINGS on procrastination

Dithering, delaying, stalling, temporizing, vacillation, dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying, kicking the can down the road.

Do you procrastinate? It’s one of my worst time-wasters. Why do I let it happen? Each of the above words is a synonym for it and I think they are quite instructive.
Dithering – shall I do this or shall I do that? Shall I get into the studio and work or shall I go for a walk while the sun is out? Oh, how I love to dither!
Think of the all the reasons for choosing either option
– a walk is good for my physical health, it would stimulate my creativity, I need the exercise;
– working in the studio helps lighten my mood so it’s good for my mental health, just playing with colour stimulates my creativity and produces work that others like as well as I do, I need to finish another painting for…
And so I dither, delaying until the opportunity to do either diminishes or is gone. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow!
Tomorrow I go into the studio. Is procrastinating over? Not at all! How can I paint until I’ve swept the floor, cleaned the windows, emptied the rubbish, tidied a shelf. There are so many things to stall the creative drive.

So, why do I let it happen?
Am I temporizing, stalling to gain time for my brain to decide what I want to paint?
Am I putting off painting because I’m not sure I can do it?
Maybe it’s those inner voices – ‘you’re not really an artist, you can’t paint like so-and-so therefore you must not be any good, you haven’t sold anything for ages so you’re wasting time’, and on and on. Perhaps they’re to blame, the gremlins that try to persuade me they know me better than I know myself.

But hang on, they are myself! I can control them – if I have the stamina and determination to thwart their destructive influence. Of course this suggests that procrastinating, dilly-dallying, could be symptoms of something more serious – a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem.

But there are things I know that my gremlins don’t.
I know I can paint, that I have the skills necessary to compose and produce a work of art .
I know my paintings have value to others. As one client said, ‘Those are delicious!’ before he bought two of them.
I know that not getting on with things is a sign of depression setting in.
I also know that painting raises my spirits, lifts my depression and makes the day better.
Why would I not want to do it? Indeed, why am I shilly-shallying with this blog post when I could be mixing blues for the next step on my canvas? 😀 .
Now is the moment to stop kicking that can and kick myself into the studio.
No deferring it until tomorrow. Let’s go!

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