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Reflection and Re-entry

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It has been some time since my last blog post and so much has happened since then….I’ve barely had time to write….or make art, for that matter.

In many of my earlier posts I have mentioned my connection to my mentor, Nicholas Wilton, and the journey I’ve been on since my work with him began in 2014. It has brought me to look at all the ways in which I connect to my creative self and has opened my mind to possibilities and is helping me to develop the limitless thinking mindset.

At first I thought the work I did with Nick was just about strengthening my painting, but so much more has come up for me to discover as I pay closer attention to what feels right and what speaks to me strongly. From accepting the role that fear and resistance plays in the creative process, to talking about my own experiences with art making, in this more public forum, it’s been quite the ride!

This past spring I was asked by Nick to be a part of his support team for an on-line art course,The Art 2 Life Creative Visionary Path Program or ‘CVP’ for short. It was an intense and very focused three months of work with over 200 artists participating. I was able to utilize many of my coaching skills, by supporting others with their own challenges around the creative process, while sharpening my critical eye by offering daily feedback on the art that this talented group of artists were making.

The whole experience of being an on-line facilitator wasn’t planned, but supporting these participants, and being a part of the stellar Art2life Team, was a very enriching experience to have had…and I am thrilled to be a part of Nick’s vision for helping artists succeed with their work and creative lives.

Although I often take breaks from my own art making to further other projects and fulfill commitments to our design business, this is probably the longest break that I’ve had. I’m reflecting on it now, as I find I’m noticing my resistance to the re-entry. Where was I and how to start back?

One of the aspects of the work I was doing with CVP was supporting the participating artists with their creative practice…and I refer to it as a practice because that is exactly what it is. It’s necessary to stay regularly engaged with our creativity, our art, in order to reap the benefits of the work and develop and grow as artists. It is like anything that takes our focus and commitment – meditating, playing an instrument or training for a marathon. However, it is not always possible at times, because of external circumstances, to do our work. So how do we keep the connection going so that re-entry isn’t so challenging?

During these times we have to find ways to prime the creative juices, still keeping our eye engaged and our mind drifting to that space where creativity comes from. For me, that often involves looking at art, walking in nature, reading about another artist’s process, or working in my sketchbook. Somehow just having a thread, a delicate but tangible connection, is all it takes to keep plugged in.

I was grateful that during my time working with the CVP program, I was looking at and talking about art all day. I saw so much of myself and my work through the reflections of others. What they were feeling and struggling with, I could relate to…I’ve been there many times. What they celebrated and accomplished felt very much the same as when I had succeeded at preparing work for an exhibition or a commission.

Artists share so many common challenges with their work and have the same desires and hopes for their art form. It’s nice to experience that, knowing that you’re not alone…we’re more alike than we are different in this way.

Over these past three months, those artists constantly inspired me with their courage…their willingness to show their works in progress, take feedback, make changes, face the difficulty of comparing themselves to other more seasoned artists. Everyday I saw tremendous desire and passion for the art they were making and the art they wanted to make….it was truly inspiring!

Those amazing CVP participants gave me so much more than they could ever have known…..through them I stayed connected. And, even though re-entry feels a little uncomfortable right now, all those tendrils and threads that I built up over the past few months have woven a bridge for me to cross over, assisting me to get to where I need to go now…back to my art and back to my passion.

How do you keep yourself connected to your creative work during a long absence? I would love to hear your thoughts…

8 Comments On: Reflection and Re-entry
  • Anita Boyd Commented On July 28, 2016

    This is always a challenging transition. I follow artists whose work I admire on social media, and take screen shots to remind me of what drew me. Sometimes I take notes when inspiration strikes, but I admit that the freshness of the idea mightn’t last. And I love to visit artists in their studios when I’m travelling. In the end I just have to trust that the connecting threads will appear, however humble they may be, when I’m ready to be active again.

    • cheryltaves Commented On July 28, 2016

      Thanks for your comment, Anita….those threads hold more than we realize. And, trusting is so necessary as well. Sounds like you have found several ways to keep yourself inspired while away from your work.

      I also find that by asking myself what it is that I am responding to in other artist’s work, I can access something that also wants to live in my own. That inquiry is really beneficial and allows us to gain ground with what is calling us – what wants to come forward.

      Wishing you well with your art making adventures!

  • Jan Allsopp Commented On July 29, 2016

    Interesting to hear of your trepidation on getting back to your practice. As one of the participants in the CVP program I thank you for the sacrifice to your practice. It was greatly appreciated! I have always noticed when I haven’t painted for a while, that there is no sense in my body, feelings, mind, That I am able to paint at all. I know I can read and write, I have a bodily sense that I can walk and move, I can imagine eating, sewing, lots of things, but for some reason I can’t locate any remnant of being able to paint or draw when I’ve been away from it for a while. (I wonder if this is because it happens in a flow state, hence no conscious memory?) the only way I have found back without too much angst is to attemp something easy like a sketch or even copy something. Once I see I can do it I’m usually right!

    • cheryltaves Commented On July 29, 2016

      Hi Jan! Thanks for sharing your insights on the disconnect that can happen when we’re absent from our work. I love what you shared and I think you’re absolutely right about the memory piece. Thankfully, the way back into our painting seems to return as soon as we begin. Working with any of our materials and just starting back in some way really helps the flow to begin again.

      One of the reasons I now coach artists is because I’ve faced so much fear and resistance with making my own art over the years. The times when I’ve worked consistantly, without breaks, have proven to me just how important a regular practice is.

      My time with all of you during the CVP program was so rich and wonderful…and this place of returning to my work after an absence is familiar. The difference for me is that I now know what to do. So grateful for that!

      Thanks, again, Jan…appreciate you joining the discussion!

  • Alice Sheridan Commented On July 29, 2016

    Strangely I’m feeling a similar resistance having come to the end of the course! I think it was such an intense period of work and thinking that some down time is necessary to allow time for it all to be processed. I can only imagine what a break you must have needed after such a time of immersion in so many people’s work.

    I think we make so many leaps between starting and the end result of a painting that it can feel impossible to know afterwards what that journey was. Which makes it hard to begin again – can I do that again? But with time and experience we know that, of course, we can. And this time it will be new again, and different. I find I mix between looking outside (new materials, other artists’ work) and looking within my own process for inspiration. Often it starts with colour or line drawing; the simpler the better. At the moment I have new gouache which I’m using for the first time in years so I have also been looking at the sketchbooks of Barbara Rae. Sketchbooks – always starts with sketchbooks!

    As you say, as long as your eye is engaged and your mind is drifting into that creative zone, it does keep you in touch – just needs to flow over into action! Thank you for all your thoughts and input into the course which was truly great.

    • cheryltaves Commented On July 29, 2016

      Hi Alice! Thanks for your thoughts and sharing a bit about your process with your work. I couldn’t agree more….sketchbooks! They are always a great place to reconnect with ourselves and our work.

      I also enjoyed what you had to share about having some new materials to play with. This is always a great way to begin back……exploring, playing and being engaged without diving into the work we might have left alone for awhile.

      It seems it’s kind of like a muscle that needs regular exercise…..after too long without any use it can atrophy. But, by working it again….slowly and gently at first, it seems to build back more quickly than we might have thought possible.

      Thanks again for joining in….really appreciate your thoughts on this topic!

  • Dianna Commented On November 28, 2016

    Hi Cheryl, such a relevant blog for me to read today. Since returning from my artist residency the first week in November, time in my studio has been limited. I can blame it on a lot of great life getting in the way but I realize the more I’m out of the studio the harder it is to resume. I started my 3 large 30″x30″ for the November challenge but they are a long way from complete……I will return in teeny times in this coming week just to keep my hand in but yours is a reminder that staying away completely is not a good practice in which we should engage! Thanks for your wisdom! Dianna

    • cheryltaves Commented On November 28, 2016

      Hi Dianna,
      Thank you for your comment….I love that you’re finding your way back to your studio practice after some time away. I know your absence was to do a residency, which sounded like a very powerful and fulfilling experience for you, so while you may have been away from your studio, you were still very connected to your art making. Of course, you’re likely playing a bit of catch up since returning home, I’m sure!

      I’m glad my sharing has reminded you of the need to stay connected….I’m often having to remind myself as well. Life can be a full and beautiful distraction!

      Thanks, again for sharing your thoughts with me….much appreciated!

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