Self Portraits and a New Calendar

In 12 Week Challenge, Cooking, Drawing, Painting by Zoe Nathan

It has been two weeks since I started my 12 week challenge, and a very busy two weeks! But where have I invested my effort? I have spread myself thin these last two weeks between polishing my language skills in French, Spanish, and now German, running farther than ever in my life (11+ miles), baking three batches of gluten-free cookies, practicing  piano nearly daily with lessons biweekly, and practicing karate in and out of class while continuing to deliberate on whether or not to go to Japan for an international Takai this summer… And then there was the mindless time vacuum of joining Pinterest! (Don’t even get me started!) So I still unfortunately haven’t set aside as much time for art-making as I’d like in the midst of such a cacophonous cluster of activities. I’ve realized there are a few things that I need in order to continue more effectively. Faith, patience, structure, and ritual to cement in my commitment to my original goals. Had you asked me last week, however… IMG_3613 Many beginnings! Including some self portraits in the background and a 24″x20″ sketch for a large composition. Last Wednesday, when I started writing a second blog post for the 12 week challenge, I thought for certain the missing ingredient of the first week was novelty, and that it must be responsible for sustaining the creative impulse… Novelty can be exciting, however, looking back, I can see I was wrong in my thinking in several ways. What I wanted was an end to the uncomfortable feelings of boredom, restlessness, and fear that would often come up when I turned to my work. What I really imagined was that novelty could expel the hesitation and doubt I felt and sustain my inspiration, which is what, exactly? Well, according to Chuck Close, inspiration is for amateurs! So where does that leave me? Needing more structure, and motivation. “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up for work.” –Chuck Close So how do I gain structure and motivation? For structure, I’ve just created a calendar that defines my day by the hour for this next week. In the past two weeks, I’ve started five new paintings, three of which are “sketches” on recycled canvases— with the purpose of getting me to experiment with my technique and palette. It’s much easier for me to start a new piece than to finish one, so I’m drawing the line and limiting myself to these works until I’ve finished all ten that I’ve now begun. Also, I’m limiting the amount I am online, hedging it into the schedule. I’ve decided to tackle one painting at a time rather than expend my energy on several at once, as I have been. I believe this will allow me to concentrate more on each piece, giving each a more unique consideration and treatment of color palette and technical execution. As the weeks go by, I suspect I’ll be able to be more task specific with my calendar. I debated about posting my calendar here on the blog, and have decided to show it to contrast the loose and abbreviated visual “contract” I’d originally come up with to log my efforts. My first calendar was borrowed from one I made when I read Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” years ago, and its purpose was to make sure I wrote three “artist’s pages” daily and went on a weekly “artist’s date,” (solo outings for fun and stimulation). But simply pasting a star for writing and painting each day didn’t work for me. The format was too simplistic and as with my 40 day challenge last year, I wasn’t specifying when or how long that I needed to be in the studio to finish paintings. And, even worse, if I didn’t painting that day, I’d have a hollow slot that would lead to disappointment and self-admonishment rather than motivation. Calendar My first calendar, with images gathered on Pinterest! I’m now propelled by the idea that the results of regularity, or ritualization, of painting will motivate and inspire me by offering a positive reinforcement for my new daily activities. Tony Robbins has given numerous talks about gaining the motivation and inspiration to do the things you need to do to lead the life you want. He talks about the importance of setting high standards for yourself, making the activities needed to achieve those standards into rituals, and getting yourself into a “peak state” to approach the activities. I realized the other day, when I drew a visiting artist friend as she sketched my sister, the exercise was engaging, challenging, and rewarding, in and of itself. So, I’ve made a half an hour of drawing from life a daily ritual before painting. To get into a peak state, Robbins suggests physical activity, since moving our bodies automatically energizes us. For this, I’ve included some dynamic stretches and exercises to do for a few minutes before getting started to get energized. IMG_3599 Two sketches of a friend. And now…. Dun, dun, dun, duuun! A sample of this week’s calendar— a light day heading into the weekend: Friday: 9:30- jump out of bed, have a smoothie, journal, and check email. 10:30- Run and skate in or around the Solvang Skate Park! 12:30- eat lunch. 1:30- Draw from life. 2- Dynamic stretching, 2-6- Paint foreground of 10″x10″ self portrait. Finished? 6:30- Do language lessons. Check email. 7- Evening off! Go have fun! And below are some images from my activities these past two weeks: Shito-Ryu At the grand opening of the Amgen Shito-Ryu Karate Dojo at the YMCA Conejo Valley. Photo by Cris Lebrilla. IMG_3587 A view from the 11 mile jog. IMG_3609 Gluten-free cookies! Ingredients: gluten-free oat, millet flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, xantham gum, baking soda and powder, brown and white sugar, chocolate chips, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and vanilla extract.   IMG_3611 A delicious and filling experimental spicy dish! Garbanzo beans, black quinoa, serrano peppers, fresh ginger, veggies, and a bit of plain goat kefir to cool the palate.