Session Three of the Write Into Light course is about to start, and I promised myself I would publish more of my writing here, so I’m diving in to share one of the pieces with you that was a BIG challenge, before I launch into the final session. The image above is from one of my art journals – her eye leaked, and she cried an unplanned and unexpected tear. And don’t we all do that on our way to knowing ourselves and learning to love the flawed humans we are?
This particular assignment was to write a sonnet. Yes, like Shakespeare. My initial thought was something along the lines of: “You’ve got to be kidding.” (Something along those lines, with perhaps an expletive in there for emphasis).
Armed with the technical requirements: iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets – all the sonnet rules and regulations – I set about counting syllables and weaving words. Not sure if Shakespeare would approve, but if felt pretty bloody good to bend an idea into such a regimented shape!
That box that people put you in – the pigeon hole which satisfies their need to classify and order their experiences – you don’t quite fit, do you?
There’s that sharp edge that grabs and catches. You try to smooth it off, sand it away, for your comfort – and for theirs.
Stop. That sharp edge is your power. File it away and your unique shape is lost.
It’s tempting to force yourself into that box shape. To fit. To fit in. But, that sharp edge digs into your side and deep down you know this isn’t the shape of you. It would not be this uncomfortable if it were.
Your place is not inside any box. No pigeon hole can contain your complexity, your contradictions, and the fullness of who you are. That sharp edge? It’s your reminder that you don’t belong in any box, and it’s your sword to cut yourself free.
Dear lovely ones,
I wrote the piece above recently in a writing class with Martha Beck called Write into Light. I want to tell you that I wrote it for you, and that I am way past any feelings of doubt about my own worth and belonging in this crazy world. But I know you know that’s not the honest truth. For I can’t write or paint anything that rings true for you without it being real for me also. My own sharp edge – the part I feel unsure of, the piece that I’m certain is proof I don’t belong – is the thing I need most to embrace. I long to write and paint and share so much with the world, but recently I have found myself here staying quiet, hiding in my busy life, using it as an excuse not to be brave and bold. Jamming myself into a box that isn’t my shape.
I’m nervous about how this writing may be received – it’s not always bright and colourful like the artwork you find here. But, as more people read my book, and talk with me about the themes that resonated for them in it’s pages, about how they’ve found the reading of the book helpful, the greater need I feel to share more of this writing. To share more of the pieces of myself that dig into my side – the pieces which try to tell me I don’t quite fit. To use the sharp edges of those pieces to cut myself free of my own fears and insecurities. I hope my doing that might inspire you to find your own sharp edge and free yourself, too.
I’d love to know your reactions. Love it? Hate it? Wonder what the hell I’m on about? Share it all!
People often ask me how I find time. Time to make art for exhibitions, time to write a book, time to make stuff. As though there could be some special, secret, time bending trick I might have discovered. I wish!
I guess there is a secret of sorts, and it’s deceptively simple. You see, it’s not about finding time. No matter how hard any of us look, no matter how tight we try to squeeze, each of us get exactly 168 hours in a week. In those 168 hours we must sleep, care for our bodies, minds and souls, care for our families, friends and pets, care for our homes, earn our living and attend to the enormous list of responsibilities each of us has.
With all that going on, we’re never going to find time. It’s about making time. Ordinary words, big, extraordinary difference.
Finding implies something has appeared to you that wasn’t available before. (Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the meaning of find: to discover (something or someone) without planning or trying to : to discover (something or someone) by chance). Making, on the other hand, implies you are involved – hands on – in bringing something to be.
That’s the kicker, right there. You have to choose to make time.
5 ways to make time for a creative life
1. Don’t wait till you have a free afternoon.
Or morning, or day, or weekend, or whatever chunk of time you feel is necessary to immerse yourself in a creative puddle of happiness. If I waited for that chunk of time, I’d never have made a damn thing! Have a look at your schedule – is there a ten minute window somewhere in your day? Ten minutes is long enough to put down a background on a canvas or write a hundred words. That’s 500 words in a work week, or enough writing for a whole book in a little over a year. Ten minutes a day at an easel or sketch book will add up to many completed paintings and drawings over the course of many months.
There can be an unexpected benefit to starting with ten minutes. Often, once you begin, you find you can in fact spend half an hour creating, without the wheels spinning off the chariot that is your life.
2. Turn off the Television.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book “Big Magic”, asks “What are you watching on TV?” then advises to turn the TV off… there’s an hour, right there, suddenly freed up for your creative use. (By the way, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear is full of wonderful anecdotes to get you fired up for creativity).
3. Social media is a time thief.
Ask me how I know… I often have to ask myself do I want to be creating something new and having a great time, or sitting here, looking at other people trying to convince the world they are having great time? (Hell, for all I know they ARE having a great time, but if I’m sitting with my head stuck in a screen – am I?)
4. Look at creating as central to taking care of yourself.
I have experiential evidence that spending time immersed in creative projects makes me happier, healthier and nicer to live with (just ask my husband!). I know I get cranky and kind of ugly to be around if I’ve neglected to give myself a little time making something in the past week. Self care is critical to our own happiness and contentment, and if we are happy, the people around us can only benefit from that. If viewing some creative time as important to your self care doesn’t make it easier for you to make the time – then look at it as a service to others! (I go into this in more detail in When Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite – there’s an entire chapter devoted to the value of creativity).
5. Create first.
Put making something at the top of your list, and set aside time for that first. Make an appointment with yourself for half an hour (or however long you can manage), write it in your planner, and keep it, with the same respect you’d keep an appointment with your bank manager. All your other jobs will still get done – because you know you have to do them. It’s amazing how much you can power through when you’ve given yourself a little treat of time in a creative zone first.
Putting creativity first has been the way I have made time for creating most effectively in my own schedule, but it’s also the most challenging. I have to choose it, over and over again. It’s so easy to slide into attending to all the other demands of my day and telling myself I’ll get to it ‘later’. Leaving it till ‘later’ can mean weeks go by with scarcely a creative crumb being enjoyed.
So, will you join me in choosing to make time for creativity? The only thing I know for sure is that if we don’t make time, we’re certainly never going to find it.
When our first grand baby – Payton – was born, I knocked out a pencil sketch portrait of her one day while in the waiting room for the torture chamber known as a mammogram. Sketching her was a delightful distraction from the anticipation of the squeezing and squashing and discomfort waiting through that door. Not having great faith or belief that I could even render any kind of likeness at the time, I was simply puddling around and enjoying getting absorbed in the curve of her perfect little mouth. The result was a surprisingly good likeness – so good that we framed it as her gift for her first birthday. (You can click through to that post and sketch here, if you’d like to have a look at it) At the time, it occurred to me that it would be special to do the same for each of our grand kids as they came along. No one could know how quickly the next three would show up. In the space of fifteen months, the number grew to four! That idea to draw a pencil portrait of each of them for their first birthday has seen me with a pencil in my hand more in the past six months than in many years.
As well as being sources of endless delight and joy, these tiny humans have led me back to something long forgotten – just how much I enjoy to draw. These drawings have also held some lessons about creative fear. The discomfort of that mammogram was almost insignificant compared to the realization that I was avoiding beginning the second portrait. Avoiding it, because in some deep, unconscious place, I doubted I could do it again. But do it again I did, three times in rapid succession! Yet every time, the beginning was put off for a while. There was a cupboard that needed clearing out; a pile of ironing, untouched for six months that simply HAD to be attended to first. Anyone who knows me well will knows this is the surest indication of avoidance of a task. I loathe ironing with a passion! So many things that weren’t terribly important took on monumental urgency in the face of beginning each of these portraits.
Research and conversations with other artists has led to the understanding that I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s not just artists. School Principals, entrepreneurs, and professionals of all kinds have said “Me too!” But here’s the thing: when you take a deep breath, dive in, and start whatever it is that you’re nervous to begin, you’ve already succeeded. It doesn’t matter if you hit it out of the park, or you make something barely fit for the bottom of the birdcage, you moved, you took action. Sometimes, you’ll make it work first go. Other times, you might have experiences like I did with Hunter’s portrait, and create something that looks like a little alien baby. Even if we had a cockatoo – it would not have wanted that drawing lining it’s cage. But you know what? The awful drawing was a wonderful limbering up exercise, and even though it ended up stuffed in the back of the sketchbook as a reminder that each work is a journey that sometimes takes a very circuitous route, without it, the final portrait would not have been as successful.
Looking into the eyes of these precious tiny souls, I am thankful for all they have taught me already, grateful to them for inspiring me to pick up a pencil and draw again, and filled with anticipation for all the wonder and awe we will share them as they grow. There will be all kinds of lessons along the way – for the little ones, as well as for the bigger ones whose task it is to guide them through this this wild and crazy life. And, just between you and me, I’m excited for the day we can all paint and draw together – without them being more interested in eating it!
Experimenting in my art journal sometimes looks like a dogs breakfast, or, as my dearly beloved would say, like preschool play time! Other times – the magical, wondrous times – the results are pleasing enough to want to share them. With that in mind, I was delighted to discover the irrepressible Jane Davenport had created her Print And Scan Class – which, by the way, I cannot recommend highly enough. Jane delivers a wealth of ‘techie’ know-how in artist speak, thus unravelling the mysteries of metadata, pixels, file size and photo editing, and opening up a wealth of options for artists to share their creations easily and affordably.
It’s taken some time (as all things worth waiting for do, I’m told), but I have finally gotten a dozen of my favourite art journal pages turned into digital images and printed onto notecards. I love to use these for thank you notes, for letters, and to pop in with gifts as a greeting card. They’re blank inside, so you can put them to whatever use your imagination can come up with! As the boxed set, they also make a great little gift.
These are available in my shop, as boxed sets with envelopes, but it seems to me that Set One and Set Two are possibly the most unimaginative names to distinguish these two offerings! But I’m coming up empty trying to think of anything better. So… I’ve decided to enlist your help. Leave me a comment here (or on my Facebook page) with your name suggestion (or suggestions) for these sets. Then, this Friday (1st July 2016), I’ll choose the cleverest and most descriptive name for each set.If your suggestion is the one I choose for a set, I’ll send you that set – having renamed it in your honour – to say thank you. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Heres the inserts, showing the six different images for each box:
After I hit ‘publish’ on my book “When Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite”, there was a couple of weeks of quiet contentment in having accomplished something so huge. Very shortly after that, we experienced a loss so profound that I found myself needing to listen hard to my own advice. We lost a cherished friend to suicide; and while my own grief feels insignificant alongside the grief of his wife – my precious friend – and his family, it has led me along a path I wasn’t expecting. My plan for this year had been to do all I could to share my book with the world – set up a shop on my website, write blog posts, submit to publishers – anything and everything I could think of. But instead of sharing the book, I found myself having to live it.
Living what I wrote, led me to practice nightly gratitudes in my journal, yoga and meditation, wandering walks, setting myself a small (and perfectly pointless) creative goal of taking photos of regular things from unusual perspectives, and keeping a journal. But, the thing that felt most healing and helpful was this: Choosing beauty over busy. Stopping, sitting with the heavy sorrow, and letting my body feel it. I know that sounds far from beautiful, but there is a beauty in feeling that kind of sorrow that breaks your heart open, and after the sorrow has poured out, what’s left is love – which is why we feel such sorrow in the first place – and that’s pretty beautiful.
Many months on, It’s time to get back to the original plan, which is to shareWhen Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite far and wide; and revisiting it for my own well being in the past few months, I’m more committed than ever to see the book find it’s way into the hands of readers.
The idea of choosing beauty over busy comes from Chapter 11 – Quit Being So Damned Busy;
For heavens sake, stop choosing relentless busyness. We all have lots to do. That’s life. It’s a given. Let’s just get on with it, and while we’re at it, take five minutes here, half an hour there, to share something beautiful and real with our partners, our kids, our friends, even the sour girl at the supermarket. Share a meal with people you love, phones turned off, giving one another the beautiful gift of our wrapt attention. Take a walk and stop to watch that soaring eagle, or wee little insect building it’s intricate nest. Get outside and lay in the grass, finding elephants and ice creams in the clouds drifting by. Choose beauty over busy for a moment or two every day. You’ll be astonished what a difference it can make.
There’s so much more to the story of the loss of our wonderful friend; but it’s not just my story. It belongs to him, to his wife, daughters and their families and our circle of friends. It belongs to his work colleagues, his community and every soul touched by him in his life. I share my very small part with you here in the hope that it might encourage you to take a moment or two to care for yourself. To spend some beautiful time with the people you care most about. To talk with one another about the things that are sometimes hard to talk about. Our mental health is a precious blessing. Admitting to feeling not quite right can be a terrifying thing. Let’s all choose beauty over busy; be present for each other and take a little time to feel – the joyful stuff, the sorrowful stuff, the exciting stuff, the painful stuff – all of the feelings.
How are you going to choose beauty over busy today?
Sometimes, we need to listen to ourselves. Take our own great advice.
Since “When Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite” was published, life has thrown us a curve ball or two. (Or maybe seven, but, who’s counting?) Some of those balls were pretty easy to catch and toss back. One in particular landed right on my heart with such force that I suspect it may never beat the same way again.
But it’s beating. And that’s all we need in order to show up and choose to live our precious lives with as much grace and courage as we can muster. That’s what’s happening in this picture… having reclaimed my outdoor ‘nest’, I’ve taken some time to journal, read and rest. Then get back up, and come back to the computer and once again do something I don’t really know how to do. Build a website! It’s taken a long time, but traceyhewitt.comis up and running. There are plenty of areas that can (and will) be tweaked, improved and made a little snazzier to look at, but for now, it’s good enough.
You’ll find gallery pages (which are one of those areas that need some tweaking), workshop information, and a shopping page – which currently only has my book for purchase, but some more goodies will find their way into the shop soon. Nestled in among all that and along with all the usual ‘contact’ and ‘about’ pages, is my blog.
It will look a bit different, and will probably evolve (and hopefully improve), as I learn to negotiate the new platform. For those of you who have been subscribers in the past – Thank you! From the bottom of my heart. Your comments, emails and messages on facebook have all been warmly appreciated. I’m yet to figure out how to add a subscription option on the new platform – I’ll keep you posted.
I have to confess to you that I’m nervous about this move. We’ve talked about the voice of fear here before, and moving the blog from a format and design that has been well supported is scary. But, things evolve and change and shift and it’s time. So here goes! I’d love to hear what you think of the website, and the blog living here. Let me know what you miss and what you’re happy to see. And, now that a lot of techie stuff is sorted out, I hope to be giving you more to look at and think about from now on.
Once again – my heartfelt thanks for being here. I’ve said before that art is only complete when it has an audience, and I appreciate so very much that you are that audience for me.
I’m wracking my brain trying to remember a quote about trees – knowing when to rest and lay dormant, and when to burst into magnificent flower and all that poetic stuff. Essentially, it’s about how we need times of fallow to rest and regroup and build strength readying ourselves for the moment when we flower magnificently. Or something along those lines.
This art journal page is partly about such a notion. It was an odd page for a long time; when I’m splashing around paint and ink and generally making a mess, I hate to waste pigment – so there’s always a page or two in the journal with smears and splotches where I’ve wiped off a stencil, or used up a brush, cleaned off a stamp, or tested a new art supply. These pages often have a few interesting areas in them, but can get overly busy to do much more with. I’ve been admiring this technique of over painting large areas of a page, leaving bits of those busy pages showing through, and decided this would be a good page to try this on.
Not much thought went into this – a quick outline with a China Marker, and on with a layer of black gesso. That looked OK, but it needed a little bit of something else. So, the ever trusty White Sharpie Poster Paint Marker to the rescue! Outlining this growing little plant was a good start… but it still wanted something more…
I started to write around the edges, and began with the first word that came into my head. Grow. the rest goes like this:
Grow she said… Grow and stretch and expand and discover the amazing things you can do with this wondrous life you’ve been given. Open up, take deep breaths and inhale possibility. Let go of the thoughts and beliefs that hold you back. You were sent here to shine So be free Be bold Be brave and find your wings and fly. Grow. So the world can have the very best of you. Everyone’s waiting.
Then off I went to chase the horse out of the garden (they love to eat my palm trees – go figure!), forgetting all about the words that found their way onto the page.
Fast forward a few days. Reading this again, I love these words. They are my prayer for you – for all of us. The last line – “Everyone’s Waiting” – were stuck on the end because there was a small space that needed filling Now, that lines feels the most powerful.
Let’s not keep everyone waiting any longer. Let’s grow, shall we?
Shelley Fitzgibbons’ book – each artist got only a snippet of the words “Chinese Whispers”. Isn’t it great?
You might remember that for all of last year, and early this year, I was involved in a book collaboration – Chinese Whispers. Twelve artists, twelve books, and twelve individual ‘whispers’. All we had to go on was the page from the previous artist, and try to guess at the ‘theme’ for each book.
It was great fun – but excruciating, because we couldn’t share with each other, and I couldn’t share here, with you, either!
Jen Conde’s Book was constructed with a Turkish Map Fold – intricate and wonderful!
So, it’s exciting to finally be able to give you all a tiny glimpse into the things we worked on…
Kim Burling’s Book – a series of CD covers – innovative!
Kristin Mountjoy’s lettergrams on the left, Peta Lloyd’s book pages in centre front and Nanette Balchin’s book in centre back. All delightful.
My book – coptic bound Cowboys and Indians.
Another shot of Peta’s pages, all opened out….
And, this really is a tiny glimpse! We had a fabulous weekend together, catching up, sharing books – we even found time to make a set of Artists Trading Cards each!
“W” is for Whispers!
And, of course….laughed and had a lot of fun!
This group of artists has become a special kind of family for me, some of us met for the first time – after having worked on one another’s books for over a year – just recently when we got together to unveil our completed books, and reveal the mysteries of our themes. To find yourself amongst such encouraging, enthusiastic and accepting souls is a wonderful gift! Thank you to all of the Chinese Whispers Collaborators – I’ve learned, grown and stretched with, and because of you all. And, a particularly special thank you to Peta, who herds us all in the right direction and keeps things humming along – with gentle reminders and awe inspiring organization!
The most exciting part is that it’s not over! We are nutting out the details of our next collaborative effort – “Two Tin Cans and a Piece Of String”. You can expect to see more of that here next year, when we once again begin to fill one another’s mailboxes with colourful parcels full of energy and artistic explorations!
Last year, Sarah Larsen came to our little town to teach a great workshop…I finally put some finishing touches to this piece started there. This was the first time I’d used gesso and charcoal together – and it was fun – I especially love the way the charcoal can be worked in to the white gesso, and the resulting shades of grey that offers up. Not to mention the black of the charcoal all mooshed into your fingertips and under your nails…such a tactile experience!
We started out having a great time making all sorts of random marks on cartridge paper – as many different marks as possible, all over the sheet.
Next came the brown paper….a huge piece, with instructions to ‘write your name across the page – and use the whole page’ – Can you see it underneath everything? With our names in place, it was time to begin to tear up the cartridge paper, choose areas and pieces to collage down over our names on the brown paper… and then let loose with charcoal and black and white gesso and transform our names into something else.
There’s a little touch of red tissue here and there…it seemed to end up at the ‘heart’ of things in many cases.
This process included something of an emotional element….working so freely, with no expectation of it being anything special; then contemplating the results – in my case the stark contrast of the strong, hard way I’d written my name, and the swirly, soft gentle marks that went over the top…a bit deep and meaningful and somewhat revealing!
That was about twelve months ago….I dug the piece out a while back, and did a little more with it – not too much – though adding some touches of metallic gold paint was a fun part that I think gave it some ‘pop’. I doubt it’s destined for any museum wall or great fame or anything…but there’s something about it that I really respond to. So I had it framed, which I’m thrilled I’ve done.
And, on Sarah’s suggestion, I’ve begun series of works jumping off from here….the word underneath seemed an important launch point to me…so the next piece began with a word .
Not anyone’s favourite word, by any means….but that’s the word I needed to put there. The past year has been quite a journey; and fear and anxiety (perhaps the word for the next piece?) have been an impactful part if it. I’m happy to say that these days it’s more gratitude and delight….but it’s time to explore those darker things in the studio – perhaps I can transform them on the canvas into something lovelier? Time will tell.
“Fear” is on the easel now…can’t wait to share it with you when it’s cooked!