Watercolor: Ranunculus (& being distracted in and out of the studio)

Ranunculus 8x10 Watercolor on paper
I'm experimenting in the studio again. Meandering in the art supplies is fine if I have no upcoming shows or commissions.  Enthusiasm to try this-and-that, and then a-couple-of-those is both the blessing and the curse of a creative mind, in my case.

I have artist friends who are awe-inspiringly focused. I've written more than a few posts over the past eight years while spewing on this blog about my envy of straight-as-a-snapped-chalk-line approach to art making. I can stick with a plan in short bursts, but my creative train gets derailed by un-scheduled life, or opportunities for spontaneity - like an invitation last week to go whale watching.

I went.  (See a couple of photos below.) And that day on the Pacific - watching whales breathe and breach, and thousands of dolphins racing the boat so close, you could touch them, and sea lions leaping a foot above the surface of the sea - was incredible, beautiful, inspiring and mind-expanding.   I don't have words to explain my face-achingly-extreme-grinning all day.

When I got back in the studio, I researched whales and dolphins for two days and made no art. See what I mean? My train left the station of unfinished projects, and it's chugging along the coast, doodling kelp and sea lions. But, that's not the plan for this summer's output, and upcoming shows.  If I was on a production line to get inventory re-stocked, I'd fire myself this week.  Sigh.

But, I know two things; 1) I'll get back on track, and 2) I'd rather be overwhelmed by beauty than numb to it.  So, I'll continue the attempts to reign my wild sea horses in, and get back to the tasks at hand. Is any of this familiar to you?

How do you curtail un-mapped, creative urges? Or do you just go with it, and let the unfinished projects pile up? What methods work for you when life bumps your studio time, or studio time gets spent more frivolously than you'd planned? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Common Dolphins, racing the boat

Hello, Mr. Humpback. Nice to meet you.

Kelp Forests have beautifully repetitive patterns that make me want to draw

Shell of a baby red abalone - the largest species of abalone in the world.
Adults can grow to be 12 inches wide.

I'm listening to this book in the studio. It's helping. And its pretty fascinating. :)

Art Quote
I had previously been taught to paint the head in three separate stages - each one repeating - [first] in charcoal, [then] in thin color-wash and [finally] in paint - the same things. By Sargent's method, the head developed by one process. Until almost at the end there were no features or accents - simply a solid shape growing out of and into a background with which it was one. When at last he did put them in, each accent was studied with an intensity that kept his brush poised in mid-air until the eye and hand had steadied to one purpose, and then.... bling!. The stroke resounded almost like a note of music. It annoyed him very much if the accents were carelessly indicated, without accurate consideration of their comparative importance. They were, in a way, the nails upon which the whole structure depended for solidity. ~J. H. Heyneman


Ross Lynem said...

Good post Belinda. I am not so sure there are any "straight-as-a-chalkline" painters. I have decided the distractions or diversions, which i like to call them are an important part of the process. Whale watching could be so inspirational! I have beaten myself up for many years with the "lack of focus" but now make the artwork whenever i can and love doing it. Not sure i could paint all day if i wanted to anyway. The painting is so enjoyable when it happens i just revel in it and wait afterward for the next go round. The life of an artist is not an easy one i am finding. Just now i am reading a great book called "the Van Gogh Blues" by Eric Maisel which talks about much of this. Hope you are enjoying your day whatever you may be doing. Your painting is beautiful too by the way. blessings!

Belinda Del Pesco said...

@Ross, Thanks for your reply. I do know painters who stay on track, and paint in series every week day. An interesting side note to me - is that many of them are also very good at math, which I am terrible at. It reminds me that everybody's wiring is different.
I'm glad you've reached some sort of resolve on the focus issue, and you're enjoying art-making. Thanks for the book title too - I'll look it up on audible.

Laurel Daniel said...

Oh, yes, this sounds so very, very familiar! And I thank you for the reminder that the alternative to going off-track might very well result in numbness (good material for AWOL slips). Being amazed on a regular basis is fuel actually - we crave it and we should make arrangements for it to happen on a regular basis. The funny thing is that it all really does work out in the end. We seem to have an inner compass that always brings us back in time. For dinner and for art making. I am learning to trust that, and I think my art and soul better for it. Wild seahorses, take me away! XO

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Belinda,

I just wrote about that too. We're in Nova Scotia, I have commissions to finish. I am charged and my head is tumbling with images and ideas. Yes, yes, yes I experience what you're describing. The straight as a chalk line approach would be super to achieve, but I like to move around in my thinking and in what I work on.

I love all that you do.


John Brisson said...

Great post!!

LS Nelson said...

Is it a possibility that you're picking on yourself because we women so love to do that? I consider you highly productive. Do those painters who stay on track have a helpful spouse or other family member doing the dishes, laundry, cooking, gardening, etc? If there were a magic bullet for avoiding distraction/procrastination I think we would have all shared it by now.

Louisette said...

Interseting post, lovely blog, Greeting from Belgium

Belinda Del Pesco said...

@Laurel, You are such a love, I'd squeeze you if you weren't 1000 miles away. Yes, you're right about that inner compass. (Also known as pressure or deadlines.) My husband reminds me that I always do eventually get it all finished. But I'd like to accomplish that in a more mellow, ahead of time, easy-peasey sort of way. Would I trade in my sense of wonder for the kind of discipline I'm always wishing/striving for? Probably not. :)

Belinda Del Pesco said...

@Barbara, I'll read your post about it today... and I've been to NS, so I empathize with your brain's avalanche of images & ideas. But yayyy for that. And commissions to finish. Yayyy for those too.
Safe travels to you, and thanks (xoxox) for the sweet compliments.

Belinda Del Pesco said...

@John, Thanks!

Belinda Del Pesco said...

@LS, I know what you mean about artists picking on themselves, but this is valid hand-slap, I promise. :) I could be way less stressed as deadlines approach, if I'd stick with my own plans. I have a quote in my studio by Ben Disraeli (1804-1881): 'The Secret to Success is Consistency of Purpose.' I believe that. I see my husband juggling too many projects and too many hats in an already squeezed day, and his job has nothing to do with art. But he's got me beat in spades in the Focus department.
The time management tool industry is booming, so I know this is a common issue, especially with our online access to Everything, ALL the Time. Some are just better at sticking to plans than others. I'm one of the others. The artists I know who are so On-Task aren't relying on spouses to take care of other things... they're just *organized*. And I'm grateful to know them, because they inspire me to keep reigning in my sea horses. :) Thanks for your comment and your compliment on my productivity.

gideon sockpuppet said...

I really love the quality of the light, and the wonderful patterns and reflections in the water in Ranunculus.

On discipline and art: I find it so exciting to get caught up in new ideas and to start new projects. It is ever so much harder to finish what I have started, especially when a piece in progress gets to that difficult stage. Over the years, I have developed better discipline for finishing projects. For me the real risk is that the wild horses will drag me away from art (or writing) altogether. I have recently returned to painting after a ten year hiatus.

Thanks for the great post.

RoseAnn Hayes said...

Belinda, you know what straight-as-a-chalkline painting leads to? Burnout, that's what! I don't think the creative process is linear. It meanders and circles back and it's emotional. And when we get to a place where it meanders, I think we should "go with it" and meander. Otherwise what we get is probably going to be forced and disappointing. You should never beat yourself up about your focus, girl, because your creativity is SO strong. You are one of the most productive artists that I follow!

RoseAnn Hayes said...

PS - Belinda, one of the artists that I follow on the net has recently retired (like me) and she forces herself to paint for many hours every day. Unfortunately, you can see it in her paintings. They are forced and lack the joy that her paintings used to have. I'm learning a good lesson from watching that!