Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm In

I did it. I took the plunge. I made the commitment. Got on the band wagon. I took the first step of a long journey. Can't think of any other analogies to convey what I've decided to take on with all the other stuff I do.

For a year or so I've been trying to beat Mr. Resistance at his game. I read The Artist's Way, The War of Art, Walking in This World, looking for ways to get around the blahs of going to the studio to paint. Reading The Artist's Way was my jump off point. The tasks were do-able most of the time. The most beneficial step forward was the daily writing of Morning Pages. Thank goodness for those Pages! The constant blabbing going on in my head has moved to the written page, leaving my brain pretty clear and babble free.

The thing is I wanted to be painting on a regular schedule. In the past year I have moved well along, but, alas, no schedule. I thought that, maybe, I'm not a good schedule person-type. I thought, maybe, I'm not organized enough to make myself walk down the steps to my studio area, in my house, at a set time each day to work. Try as I might, I couldn't seem to act as if I have a job in an office, to which I had to show up every day and get paid at the end of the week. Where was the payment, the cash, the moola? Not in my basement studio it seems. And not anywhere else either. It just wasn't happening on that regular basis I was looking for.

It was happening alright, just not how I expected it. Yes, I painted some solid work. Yes, I learned things about watercolors and materials. I learned how to find inspiration, when to give myself a break, how to lighten up and when. Live life, ignore some stupid stuff, much of it my own, pay attention to nice stuff, smile and move on. Yes, learning lots of stuff. Good stuff and not so good stuff.

I knew that spending a small amount of time in the studio looking through my things, sorting, cleaning, could lead to doing. For fifteen minutes I could do something and it worked, for a while. Planning to show up for fifteen minutes would turn into a new project. Process, process, process.

One day while floating around the internet I stumbled onto The Twenty Minute Challenge blog by Teri Casper, and things suddenly started to happen. I learned that I couldn't fool around all day long with watercolors because I wasn't getting what I thought I wanted with all the water, the sloshing paint, the fuzzy-ness developing on my paper. But in twenty minutes I could have a finished painting! What a concept! Smack me in the head!

Those quick paintings I did on the beach in October were finished works. Why couldn't I do the same thing here? Well, it worked and I did it.

Fast forward through to the present. Through Teri's challenge I found the 100 Paintings Challenge. Sounded daunting, but other artists were working through it, why not I? (I, me, which one is it? Forget it.)

If I had found out about this idea months ago I'd have plenty of work under my belt by now. The thing is, I don't think I would have had the guts to do it. Don't think I have the guts right now, just that I'm afraid if I don't jump in with both feet Mr. Resistance will grab me from behind and beat me up. So I threw down the gauntlet and said YES, before I backed out. Remember- YES is the operative word?

Here I am, making a commitment to do 100 paintings in the year ahead. I said yes so it's done. The wonderful, kind Laure, administrator of The 100 Painting Challenge was lovely with her encouragement, as was Teri and the other artists over there. Laure asked me if I wanted to begin right away or wait. I replied that I needed to begin as soon as possible to keep the momentum going. I even had the latest painting ready to go.

What's Left of Fall (c)2011Dora Sislian Themelis
8x12 Watercolor 140lb Arches cold press paper
This still life started out as a twenty minute loosely painted work. I knew I would go back to it to define the areas needing work and decided to make this #1 of the challenge.

I did it. I'm ready. I made the commitment and I'm peeking around the corner for Mr. Resistance. If he shows up I'm going to deck him!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photos for Friday

While quite obviously this snowstorm was one big kick in the butt, certain aspects of it were very beautiful. If I didn't have to go out and shovel, it would have been spectacular, but such was not the case.
Trying to throw the snow up over the mountain we had to make to get out of our house was no fun.

As Gorgeous said, Feel the burn! Yeah, I was feeling it alright. I had a full body workout without the gym equipment. Just me against my snow shovel with Mother Nature as the personal trainer.

For a moment the sun poked itself through the clouds to shine with great warmth on my face. As if to say, Don't worry, I'm still here.

I will be waiting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thought for Thursday

"Weather is a great metaphor for life - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella."   
~Terri Guillemets

Monday, January 24, 2011

Is Winter Over Yet?

It's too cold out to paint the landscape. I'm just not into snow. We have had so much snow in NY so far this winter. It has to stop. Now. Man, it's cold out.

Painting the landscape has it's own challenges. Just leave me alone about snow. All that whiteness and sparkle is too distracting. I'm having enough distractions in real life. The weather is forecasting more snow this week. Um, no thank you, I'll pass.

Cold weather under 32F is too cold for me. I'm the person who needs temperatures in the upper 80's to be comfortable. And no, I don't want to move somewhere warm. Those places have other things I like less. Florida has big bugs. California is sliding into the Pacific Ocean with every earthquake. Arizona has coyotes and gangs. I like Las Vegas, Nevada, but I'd probably lose my shirt if I lived there.

I like my New York weather. Soon enough springtime weather will be here and then we're on our way to heat and humidity! I can't wait.

Luckily I held on to these vestiges of summer and fall. Shells, beach pebbles, and autumn leaves. The wackiness of life, and people, and junk go to the outer edges of my thoughts when I look at these things. I can forget, for a few moments, and drift away to the last time I sat on the beach to paint the broken shells with my apple.

What's Left of Fall (c)2011
Okay, so I'm really at the dining room table! For 20 minutes I can make believe I'm walking in the warm sun on a late September day. Twenty minutes of daydreaming can work. Another 20 and maybe I can be done with this. I wish I could be done with winter the same way.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Late Today, but I Made it

Oh boy, this is being posted late today. Dinner is done and I'm finally here. The day just flew by and there was no chance of posting earlier. I'm certainly enjoying myself, but time is limited before I conk out tired as a brick. By the time the house is set right again, I don't feel like doing anything except plopping in front of the television for an hour and I don't even want to knit. And yes, just an hour, because that's all I can handle before I fall asleep. I am not one of those people that has the TV on all day, unless there's some catastrophe or blizzard going on.

One time, years ago, I was painting my basement/den area, rearranging furniture, being really busy. My mom called to ask me how I felt about some big thing that happened. I had no idea what she was talking about. She said "Don't you have the news on? Don't you know what's going on?" Well I didn't. Now and then I check in just to make sure some building didn't fall down, or some other disaster wasn't happening. Sometimes no news is good news.

Well, as I said, I'm busy. Some days more than others. I wish I could wake up really early and get the day started, but I can't. I already wake at 6 A.M., before the others here. I wrote in my Morning Pages that if I could be up an hour earlier I could run to the studio and paint, just to get it in. Then write the Pages, start the coffee, read my newspaper and do the crossword puzzle, dress, make the bed, run a laundry, decide on dinner, check the calendar, check the refrigerator, etc. It's just not going to happen.

Can't get to it early in the morning and too tired to do it at the end of the day. That means trying to find time during the day, in fits and starts, bits and pieces, minutes at a time. Lately, 20 minutes. Baby must be asleep, no one better call me on the phone, or visit me. I can't really work while talking, I can't think.

When I was in school and painting during our studio time, we would yap, but that was different. Everyone was an artist, each of us working on our own paintings. We talked about our progress, or lack thereof, the professor, the model or the still life, our supplies, our vision. We had large easels and maybe a small taboret to hold our stuff which acted like a barrier, creating a kind of wall. I'm in my space, and you're in your own space, but we can exchange ideas around the comfort of our huge canvases.

It's not like that now. I'm painting on the dining room table while my granddaughter sleeps in a nearby bedroom. Not enough sleeping time for me to paint in the basement studio. Not yet. And I'm using watercolors so there's no fumes for anyone to breathe.

Quiet Leaf (c)2011 Dora Sislian Themelis
8x12 Watercolor 
This is one of the latest watercolor paintings I've just worked on in twenty minutes. There isn't much detail because I keep using too much water and have to get it dry before I can continue. The interesting thing is the more times I get to paint, the more antsy I am to do it again. It's exciting. I wake up wondering if I will get to it and think about painting every minute until I do. If I don't paint I get cranky like a whiny brat. Bad inner artist child! Behave before I count to three!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Operative Word is Yes

I've been thinking of entering the 100 Paintings Challenge. I won't lie, I'm scared to begin and I don't know why. This year I have fought with resistance to creating art and been winning most of the time. Reading The Artist's Way helped quite a lot. Doing the tasks, writing Morning Pages without fail, pushing myself to be a parent to my inner child artist helped me to find inspiration and motivation. Another book, The War of Art, had more ideas and thoughtful quips for finding the muse and working on creativity. I've just found The Creative Spirit, by Twyla Tharp which is supposed to be good, too, but haven't read it yet. I will let you know how it is when I do.

Finding the blog, The Twenty Minute Challenge, nudged me to find twenty minutes in a busy day to paint. A while back I was playing with just fifteen minutes in the studio which was productive. Doing 20 minutes, to begin and finish a work, was even better. Ding! and you have to stop. I was usually finished with my work by the time the timer rang. Fifteen minutes a day, or twenty for that matter, can help push along a larger project, which I have done. Much can be accomplished in small chunks of time as long as I don't have to have a wrestling match with resistance, which could derail my efforts for a lot longer.

In comes the latest push, nudge, dangling carrot on a stick, the 100 Paintings, and I'm tempted. That little bad boy on my shoulder says "Why do you want to do that? People are going to have things to say. You're busy as can be lately and you will never have the time to do 10 pieces, never mind 100" and on. Then again, the good girl on the other shoulder tells me "Why not? If you had taken up the challenge a long while ago you would already have 25 or more paintings in the mix and be excited to keep going." So goes my discourse in the Morning Pages. Thank goodness I write those pages. Who wants to hear all this stuff that goes on in my head? Why this, why that, why not?

So why don't I just jump in and sign up? What's with the commitment phobia? The lovely fellow artists/bloggers are so nice at encouraging me to do it and I'm hedging.

But this being a Monday, and I love Mondays, I am tempted to just say yes. I read something in the past that said whenever there is a question, the answer, the operative word, should be Yes. So I think, hedge-hedge, the answer is Yes. I will. I accept the challenge. Now all I have to do is go over to the blog and begin. It's still scary.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Photo for Friday on Saturday, Again

Snowing on 72nd Street 
Yes, I know I missed Friday. So, okay, it's Saturday and I'm posting Friday's photo that I didn't even take this Friday. I can't even remember what day this was, but it was snowing and I had to be in Manhattan. Maybe it was last Friday. I didn't have a chance to post it. By the time I was ready to do so it was too late because we got hit with another snowstorm and this was old news, sort of. At 10 A.M. in NYC, this was just the beginning of it.

A few years ago I made plans to visit my sister in the city to look at apartments with her. It was a wintry day, cold and cloudy with a flurry of snow in the forecast for the late afternoon. I hopped on the Long Island Railroad, having parked my car in the lot at the train station near my house. A 40 minute ride and I would be in Manhattan. No problem. We were going to look at a few places, have lunch and I'd go home. Done.

Only minutes into the ride the snow starts falling. It's only 10 A.M. and I was thinking to myself "Wasn't this supposed to be later in the day?" If you don't know the L.I.R.R., a little snow could shut down the whole system. Ugh. Fifteen minutes in, the announcement I could barely make out said the train would be delayed. Oh great. I called my sister to tell her the news so she could re-arrange the appointment. The best, most relaxed trip into Manhattan from mid-Nassau County Long Island and a little snow wipes out the system. Just think about it. Do you have any idea how many people ride the railroad as their daily commute? Some days you love it, some days you hate it.

The trip was an hour late getting into Pennsylvania Station and so was our appointment. Everything worked out fine, except we trudged around in the snow that was accumulating inches by the minute. By lunch there was four inches on the ground and more falling. After we were done I hailed a cab back to the train station for my trip home. When I arrived I found my car under seven inches of snow! Of course I didn't listen to my father who used to have us keep a shovel in the trunk. All I had was a magazine to push all that snow off my windshield. Not fun.

A photograph of my decimated magazine pushing snow off the car would have been fun for the blog, if I had one then. Next time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thought for Thursday

"A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world."
~Edmond de Goncourt French artist & novelist (1822 - 1896)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day, Sort of

The big blowout snowstorm we were supposed to experience looked like this by 6A.M. Okay, so around six inches fell. After the last blizzard two weeks ago, this was nothing. All the hoopla of the unplowed streets in NYC, the stranded drivers and mass transit riders, the cancelled air flights, and whatever else was not evident in this latest storm. Every one got so excited that schools were being closed before the storm even began, except for the city schools. No vacation for the city schools. Nope.

I had a couple of items to pick up at the supermarket and it was as if we were going to be snowed in for two weeks. People stripped the shelves of all milk, eggs, meats, and bread. Come on people, what's going to happen that you need that much food? This is a snow storm not the end of the world as we know it. Get a grip! What's wrong with people? Anyone ever hear about keeping a stocked pantry for such occasions when getting out of the house might be impossible for a day? Please.

This kind of stuff makes my head hurt. I had no idea we were even going to have any snow. I usually don't watch television during the day. It's bad enough I get distracted by things that keep me from painting. When I saw the long lines at the supermarket I was in shock.

Gorgeous is a teacher in the NYC school system and had to go to work this morning. Son #1 was told by his office to work from home so he is watching The Princess, and Son #2 was notified his office was opening later. Of course, adventure seeker that he is, The Mr. was out there at 6 A.M. shoveling the cars out of the snow so he could get to work. By hook or by crook, he was going! He's a little nutty like that. To him, this is an adventure. He'll return tonight to tell us how the roads were, who was stuck, if there were accidents, alot of excitement to be found out there.

I will be staying in. Yeah, I peeked out to snap the picture, but other than that I plan to get some things done. Hopefully, painting will be one of them. I trying to decide if I should take up a challenge some other artists/bloggers are doing called 100 Paintings. If I do, today might be #1. I'll let you know what happens with that.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas..

Finally, all the holidays are done. Today was clean up day around here. I need to get ready to really begin the new year in earnest. Out with the old, in with the new, right? I thought how interesting it is to clean up after Christmas with an air of "I've had it" over the sentimentality and anticipation there is while putting out each decoration. Where's the lilting music to go with taking down the tree? Ho Ho Ho.

Now it's done. Besides the new year on January 1we have the feast day of St. Basil, like a holy Santa Claus. Remember I had to bake the sweet bread with the hidden coin? That was his modis opperendi. Then later in the week, we celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, and January 7 is the day of St. John the Baptist, big holidays on the Greek Orthodox calendar. Some say that the wise men visited the newborn Christ on January 6. Others believe this is the true day of His birth. However, in the Greek Orthodox tradition it is the day Christ was baptized and...
"...according to tradition, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist marked one of only two occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously to humanity: God the Father by speaking through the clouds, God the Son being baptized in the river, and God the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descending from heaven (the other occasion was the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor). Thus the holy day is considered to be a Trinitarian feast." Wikipedia 
We usually attend church services where we are blessed with holy water which we can take to bless our homes. Some communities visit local waters or boating areas where the priest throws a cross into the water for blessings. Usually a bunch of young guys are ready to jump in after the cross to retrieve it and have luck the rest of the year. Cold, wet, but lucky.

St. John the Baptist is known as the Forerunner and is celebrated the next day after the Epiphany because he was the main character at this baptism. He is celebrated other days in the year as significant periods in his life unfolded. Needless to say everyone named with any form of John is remembered and sent well wishes. Variations of the word Epiphany in names are also celebrated as in Fay, Faith, Fotini, and so on. You get the picture? Like I've said, we have a name and a celebration for everything and everyone.

Anyway, now it's really over and I can clean up. Ho Hum.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thought for Thursday

"Learn to be satisfied. It is just as easy as being dissatisfied-and much more pleasant." ~Jacob de J├Ąger

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year Ahead Without Resolving Anything

I apologize, once more, for the delay in posting here. It's been a rough few weeks of holidays and it isn't over yet. Soon, soon.

And so what about resolutions for the new year? Who is and who isn't doing them? I can tell you that I'm opting out. No resolutions for me. Why? Because I never do them. Everyone wants to lose weight, exercise more, be a better person, and on. I could try to do so many things and fall flat a month from now so I'm not going to bother thinking about it.

The one thing I will do is break my day into 15 to 20 minutes chunks of time. As this past year has shown me, I can do anything for 15 minutes. Whether it's organizing/cleaning my space, painting, or some other activity, I can slowly get something done and finished if I make tiny goals. The huge to-do list will be tackled that way. One thing at a time and in small bites.

Last year I read Walking in This World, by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. I loved every minute of reading the latter, never walked with the former, which I had hoped would become a habit. Nope! Didn't happen. So forget it. If I start walking it will be a miracle. And I would have to wake up at 5A.M. to get everything in before my granddaughter comes for the day. I read somewhere that I could walk out of my house for 7 minutes and return, making the trip 15 minutes of walking. I can't get to do that either. I know, I'm a slug. I own the next installment of this series of anti-resistance courses so let's see where that goes.

Same thing with painting, but I think I need to move on past the 20 minutes I had allotted myself. Maybe I can try it on a larger work? Ugh, I don't even want to think about it. Twenty minutes was working out well and maybe I will just keep it just like that.

If I can cross off some things from the to-do list once a month I'll be thrilled. Small goals, one at a time should become my mantra.

Like posting here on the blog. I have so much to put out here, but by the time I have time I realize I didn't take photos, forgot my thoughts, I'm too tired to type or think. But if I could be awake for 15 minutes, maybe something can show itself here.

As far as being a better person? I think I'm the best I'm going to be right now. Maybe when I grow up I'll decide to be someone else, but for now you're stuck with me.

The Latest Work With Permission

©Dora Sislian Themelis, 11x14 Watercolor, Patmos Sunset Available for purchase The latest work is from another person's photograph...