A month ago we moved from a very small house in the country to a very expansive place in town.  The ceilings are high, there are closets we haven’t even opened and rooms we’ve barely visited.  I am still huddling in my bedroom like I’ve been used to, venturing out sparingly, mostly when showing friends and neighbors the new place.  It is all so new and unfamiliar that a lot of my innermost fears are right in my face, on a nightly basis.  There are many things that I see and think and feel deeply and most of them are intense.  I suspect that the rest of the planet is dealing with their own forms of intensity and mine just happens to be about moving 10 miles from where I lived for 17 years, to a place we had envisioned for years, and now that it is here, I have to say I’m most definitely still in shock.

Not to say that there are not moments of great joy and expansiveness, a feeling of a fresh, clean slate and possibility.  Not to say that I don’t love to feel that plush carpet under my barefeet, and gaze in awe at the tall trees across the deck. What I feel most is that I have cut out a huge piece of work for myself and I am wondering if I will be strong enough to step into it.   And the huge piece of work is simply this:  getting back to the painting studio.

It has been for the past six months (at least) that I have taken my attention off of painting and put it on manifesting a new home and actually physically making the move just a month ago.  I intentionally made the decision to put a halt to my three year stint of a once a week painting day, after I amped up my teaching schedule and I felt like I was just churning the paintings out without much quality.  I intentionally decided to let the ground lie fallow, to let the next series emerge organically, to rise within me until it would not be stopped. Now I am feeling restless for that creative space, I feel that I have a job to do, but that it could so easily be dismissed, forgotten about, just not gotten to.  I’m moving, I’m setting up a new home, everything is new, take some time to adjust.  Okay, yes, but sometime I’m going to have to face that canvas again.  Not to say that I don’t love facing the canvas.  Just to say that I don’t love facing the canvas the first time after not facing it for awhile.  There is a lot to be said for discipline.  It makes it so you don’t have to break into it again as if it were for the first time.  That’s the hardest part.  It takes will to begin a creative project.  It takes all the forces I can muster within myself to find the energy to go back in there swinging.  Maybe I won’t be able to paint here in the new place?  Maybe nothing will work right.  Maybe I’ve lost my swing?  Maybe….

There is a little book that has been immensely helpful to me in my creative process.  It was written by Steven Pressfield, (who also wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, which is about a golfer who has lost his swing.)  The little book is called, The War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.  I keep it by my bedside.  It is one of the few books I would take to that desert island we always hear about.

This book is largely responsible for my ability to produce the amount of art I have been able to produce the past several years.  I really am not a very disciplined person.  I know that.  I have to intentionally create structures for myself to keep myself disciplined, and part of that is what this book showed me, is that my own resistance to my own creativity is absolutely, phenomenally all knowing and all powerful.  It is an enemy like no enemy.  It employs the wiliest of wiles, the most tender and sincere of intelligent reasons and obstacles, both inner and outer, to doing what I’ve set out to do.  And it is an ongoing, daily battle.  At first I didn’t really like the war language.  (Astrologically I have Mars in Pisces, which means my warrior, fighting energy is basically like a swimming fish.  Not so warrior like.)  But it has been helpful to me because it makes it clear what we are up against.  This resistance is not to be trifled with.  It is real and everywhere.  And it’s best to prepare and be aware of the consequences of underestimating its cosmic power.

My friend Aram is a young(er) and prolific artist, and I said to him once, “you must know a lot of artists around here.”  He said, “Oh, I know a lot of artists, but they don’t do any art.”  That is a painful place to be in.  An artist who doesn’t do art is tortured with distraction after distraction.  An artist who doesn’t do art is really unhappy.  And so ultimately, the unhappiness leads you back to art.  The unhappiness and unsettledness and craziness I feel when I am not “getting it done” is worse than the actual acute pain of starting again.  And so I am girding myself for the day when I go into that new studio (a garage with a newly homemade floor) and start mixing the paint and stretching the canvas, and yes actually, getting the paint on the canvas.  Because that seems to be my job.  My job is to go into the studio and get the paint onto the canvas.  And this time, I’m really scared.  More scared than I can remember. But my art teacher once told me what he’s learned to do when he is scared:  “Do it anyway.”   Do it anyway.  And so, soon enough, there will be a Saturday in the coming weeks that I will find myself in my old paint-covered velour pants, kneeling on the floor amongst a slew of wet canvases, with quinacradone magenta all over my hands.  None of the paintings will look like much of anything.  They might be awful.  But  I will look up and brush my hair off my face and get a stripe of phthalo turquoise across my forehead.  And I will say, thank you, thank you, thank you, for I have returned. And I will be home.

(Stay tuned for evidence.)

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