Saturday, December 11, 2010

Alla Prima or else!

from Robin Cheers and The Artist's Magazine

I have this problem with coming back to a painting that is unfinished. I generally don't and my studio is littered with unfinished paintings. I really have to be in the moment with the work or I totally lose the inspiration and motivation. I try to time things so I don't have to leave a work unfinished, but I just read this little tip that might help me get back in the groove if I do have to stop work mid-painting.

Tip File: Taking Note
The following is an excerpt from the December 2010 issue of The Artist's Magazine, in an article titled "32 Insider Tips."

Pauline Roche, two-time finalist in our Annual Art Competition, has this tip to share: "Sometimes when I step into my studio to continue working on a piece from the previous day, getting my thoughts back to where they were the day before can take a while. To help me get to work faster, at the end of a painting session I jot down a few notes about things I might be thinking about doing next ("soften edge of left arm" or "make background a bit more opaque"). Somehow, having a specific task or two gives me a kick start toward getting back into the flow of things." —Pauline Roche

To read the entire article, click here and order The Artist's Magazine's December 2010 issue.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding Something to Paint

from the blogpost of Mike Rooney

A lot of times during a workshop, students ask me what my thinking is when i'm looking for something to paint. so i decided to give you some of my mental processes when i'm out trying to find something to paint. these are in no particular order-

  • stay in particular areas that you've found lots of things to paint, on a consistent basis, in the past. sort of like a fisherman tends to go to the same places or "honey holes" because he knows that fish hang out there. He knows he's caught fish there more times than not
  • you have certain things you like. say a backlit boat, or a cottage with late afternoon light on it, etc. so go out looking for things you know have worked out for you before
  • squint at the potential scene you're contemplating. make a square out of your fingers to frame the composition to see if the arrangement of fuzzy shapes is interesting.
  • i have places i go when i don't mind being around curious bystanders, and places i go if i really want to paint alone. have a few places of your own depending on how you feel that day
  • when you find a place you like, "crawl" every inch of it, trying to get to know the place. the longer you paint there the more things you'll consistently find.
  • times of day and seasons can change familiar places and give you many more opportunities. go back to old haunts. boats get moved, new buildings get built, old trucks get put out to pasture in a field that didn't have one in it last time you were there.
  • you can drive by a scene a hundred times and all of a sudden its as if you're seeing it for the first time and it needs to be painted. keep your eyes open at all times. you never know when you'll see something that just needs to be painted. and it may be on your own block or on the other side of town. you don't have to go far to find things to paint
  • i get an "ahaaa" moment when i see something that needs to be painted. its the contrast, or the color, or the shapes. something makes you want to paint it. go with it when that happens to you too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Perfectionism versus Impatience

From Kate Merriman

I subscribe to the email newsletter of a very talented sculptor named Steve Worthington.  On his blog, he recently shared some great insight about his creative process, particularly about the wrestling match between impatience and perfectionism.  I thought you'd enjoy it!

Back to my pet portrait commissions now!  Cheerio!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Museum browsing

by Terri M Wells

You'd be amazed at how much you can see on-line from museums. I have picked an artist or museum I'm interested in for a google search and found complete exhibitions to be viewed with close ups of the brush strokes that I would never have been able to experience standing behind a velvet rope. I heard this site is great to view European museum’s work without traveling. I have yet to check it out myself. Perhaps you will see something there to inspire you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everyone Needs Encouragement

By Terri M Wells

I can’t agree more with Kate about the importance of being a part of an affirming and encouraging group. Some artists get together and the competitive tensions fill the air, the angst pins people to the floor, and the jealousies bring out the worst in people. Other groups affirm, encourage, enlighten, and challenge their members. Life can be hard.

Perhaps you need a little encouragement yourself….well read on.

Recently, a PAA member was on our yahoo group, and unlike most of the tips and paint out attendance posts, she posted about going through a rough time and needing the encouragement of seeing the lovely paintings from our group show that she was going to miss. Having heard from many people that my reply post was encouraging, I would like to share it with you.

Nov 05, 2010

"Returned to Davidson Ranch today to paint for the Hill Country Conservancy show. It hit me when I got on the property, memories of visiting the first time right after mom and Irene's deaths. I remember looking at the burnt grassland restoration areas and being drawn to them. David's (my son's) near death at Basic training and then his finishing extra training while hiding a broken leg, Mom's death from a long fight from cancer, and Irene's release from life at 98 years .... it was a kind of life-burning and yet out of the difficult experiences a kind of sweetness...a promise, a hope, remained. The burnt areas had promising spring green seedlings and flowers interspersed among the rock and charred remains. Promise and hope were visibly here on the ranch that day.

So today I returned to the ranch restoration area. All the turmoil of emotions tied to the last year flooded in with the realization that the year plus has matured me into a new place. A peace has returned like the beautiful grasses that have covered the burnt areas in silver blue, tans, and burnt siennas. Tall and waving in the wind, the grassy fronds move in the soothing momentum, covering the harshness of the burnt land. My faith is stronger. My view of life is different. Rooted in God and moving with the motions of life, there is promise and hope fulfilled.

I'll post my paintings from the show. All I have to offer is a long distance hug. – Terri

Susan Hall article

by Kate Merriman

One of my favorite artists is Susan Hall, who lives out here in my new home of West Marin.  I'm sharing a link to an article that gives some interesting insight into her creative process.  Hope it inspires!

Looks like her new memoir, River Flowing Home: A Creative Journey, will be quite inspirational too.  It goes on my wish list right away, that's for sure.

Go Artists!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Encourage each other and build each other up!

Very encouraging teacher, Timothy Horn.
by Kate Merriman

OK, since I just posted about a Zen experience, let's mix it up!  (And don't worry, no particular religious view is required here, just finding these inputs inspiring my thoughts about art and creativity.)  This was a verse that I got from the Salvation Army (somehow) and that I had taped to my car's dashboard for years. 
From Thessalonians:  "Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Simple, eh?  Yet, not so common in real life. 

But when that uncommon spirit of encouragement and generosity happen with a group of artists, sparks fly, courage grows, art expands!

When I moved to Texas, I knew just about no one except a few coworkers.  Luckily, I did a little Googling and found the Plein Air Austin group.  At that point, I didn't really consider plein air or landscape really "my thing" but I did know that I wanted to meet some fellow painters and that plein air practice always honed my painting skill overall.  So I signed up and put a paint-out on my calendar.

Well, I stumbled into just that uncommon and delightful kind of group that does share, does encourage and has a thriving, contributing membership as a result.  On my first paint-out, it was the very simplest things that made a big difference: Laurel Daniel made time to come over and introduce herself, having spotted me as someone new.  Huge!   Others were welcoming and happy to talk about how and what they were painting.  The vibe was "come on down, no matter your skill level, and let's learn and enjoy together."

Groups where the opposite attitude prevails tend, in my experience, to wither away.  I've been reading "Linchpin" by Seth Godin and am loving his emphasis on how a generous-hearted, fearless attitude gets you everything but a poverty mentality (can't give you anything because then there will be less for me) shuts you down.  Same thing as Paul was saying (I think) to his buddies in Thessaloniki.

So, my points are these:

1 - take the time to find a group that has this generous spirit, even if the discipline or focus isn't what you thought you needed or wanted.
2 - if you are part of a group, reach out to newcomers, be generous with your encouragement.  Don't think of inspiration or knowledge as something that will diminish if shared.  Think the opposite.  Especially if you are in a leadership spot, your attitude will make an enormous impact on all the group's activity; trust me!
3 - give yourself a job with the group so you are more likely to show up.  I know when I have a commitment to bring something or help out in some way, my obligation to others will stand strong where my duty to my own artistic self might be floudering.  Regularly scheduled art activity keeps me from sinking into too long a spell of creative blockage when I do have a spell.

Ideas for finding a group that might keep that creative juice flowing:

1 - Sign up for a workshop or class.  Introduce yourself to the people whose spirit and art attract you.  Ask them what groups they enjoy or recommend. 
2 - Google around for local plein air and sketching (or sketch crawl) groups.  Read their blogs or community posts.  You can often see a lot about the group that way, but go check it out in person too.
3 - Don't put up with energy vampires and wet blankets.  Just walk away.
4 - Start your own group!  My mother saw me posting about some sketch-crawl stuff we were doing in Austin and was bummed that there wasn't a group like that near her.  But just a few days later, she turned that around and created her own little group who still meet regularly and seem to be having a blast.  Go Mom!
5 - Check out "Meetup".  I haven't tried this myself yet, but might soon!
6 - Look at "Links".  Often, when I find an artist who has a great energy and passion for sharing about creativity and art, I can find a 'links' page on their blog or website.  Those links can be a good source for ways to connect with others.

Go artists!
-- Kate Merriman

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your Uniqueness: or, Why You Don't Have to Try So Hard

by Kate Merriman

On a wonderful plein air weekend trip to the Pedernales River area of Texas with my wonderful painter buddy Robin Cheers, I relayed a story to her that she asked I try to write up for this blog.

I'm not sure I can relay this so that it can be understood, but I will give it a try.

I think Robin and I were talking about that funny block we sometimes get when we see a subject we want to paint but the little inner gremlin says, "Well, why paint that?  You know that Penny Painter does paintings of (seashells / bank buildings / matchbooks) really well and all the time.  She's known for those.  The world doesn't need another painting of that same thing.  It's been DONE."

Sometimes, I have that gremlin try to convince me out of painting in that situation.  And often, remembering an experience I had at the Tassajara Zen Monastery on a beautiful meditation retreat can help me past it.  What's tricky is trying to put that experience into words, but again, I'm giving it a go.


We meditators were practicing some sitting and some paying attention in the zendo with teacher Ed Brown.  His wonderful sense of humor and lightness of spirit was lifting me all week.  Toward the end of our time of sitting quietly, one of the monks-in-training could be heard walking along the boardwalk just outside the zendo building and then ringing the gong that let all the kitchen helpers know it was time to start cooking dinner.

Ed mentioned this in the talk he gave us just after meditation.  He laughed and explained that although (and probably BECAUSE) the students ringing that gong were consciously stripping away personality and attempting to ring the bell with ultimate adherence to form, he could always tell exactly which student was ringing that gong.  Their true energy, absent the neurotic flourish of "personal form" that they might want to put into the gong ringing, remained.  Maybe I should not say "remained" but say "was made more apparent."

Shortly afterward, I was in a painting class led by the wonderful Gary Stutler at Napa Community College and the memory of the gong-ringer story resurfaced and suddenly made sense with art-making.  It was a thought perfectly aligned with some teaching that Gary was giving about how the energy of the artist shows up in every stroke - part of why he was recommending, for example, that we stand up and really move when we painted if we wanted a dynamic piece. 

So back to the painting of a seashell.  Let's say Penny Painter really does create wonderful paintings of seashells.  If you and Penny tried to paint the same shell with the same formal approach, same palette, same perspective, and if you and Penny let go of all clinging about inserting your "personalities" into that painting, it is clear that the true energy and essence of each of you would cause there to be two authentically interesting, unique paintings. 

Is that interesting enough to you to proceed with your painting?  If not, what else is motivating you to paint? 

Can you think of paintings you've seen where it seems the output of pure unique energy of a person, but seems also not muddied by "personality"?  Can you think of artworks where all you see is "personality"?  Are you drawn to one over the other?

Something to think about!

And hopefully, a story that can help nudge you over that "gremlin block" about uniqueness next time it comes up.

Go artists!
-- Kate Merriman

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Feeling uninspired? Has the joy of creating disappeared? You could be resisting a transition. You may fear losing collectors, fear rejections, or fear the unknown and the unfamiliar. More fearful than any of these is the truth that blocking yourself from experiencing the transition can drag you into lethargy and methodically dull work.

Consider transition an adventure. If you allow yourself to experiment with a new idea or direction, an “aha” moment can lead you into exciting creativity. Remember, it’s the ideas that the great artists were considering that inspired them to do great work. Artists can not live on technique alone. Be open to not just what you see with your eyes, but read about everything. Get out and talk with people. Travel to a new location. Hear some new music. Go to museums…and not just art museums. And when something hits you powerfully, allow yourself to sketch, paint, and ponder your way through to a new level of creativity. Consider transitions adventure; the possibilities are exciting!

-- Terri M Wells

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Challenge Yourself

I mentioned painting challenges in a previous post and have discovered a couple of open, online challenge groups that look pretty cool. Sometimes we just need an idea or a seed to spark our creative spirit. Seeing or trying something different is a good trick to get yourself back to work.
Check these out -

Virtual Paint Out
Monthly Painting Challenge
100 Paintings Challenge
Street View PaintOFF

-- Robin

Friday, October 1, 2010

Where Good Ideas Come From

Pretty cool promotion for a new book by Steven Johnson -

Enjoy your weekend and may your ideas flow and connect.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finding the Time

External blocks to creativity come in many, many forms. Especially for those of us who are parents and have young ones at home. I try very hard to be an involved parent. I believe its the best foundation for my daughter's future success and I believe that family is of paramount importance.

I've pretty much always kept my weekends and evenings unscheduled and dedicated to family time. I actually can paint with my daughter around, but not when my husband is home. Not sure why, but he feels more high maintenance maybe.

So, I keep family time sacred and meet all my other obligations, but I am not nearly so protective about my art. Why is that? And how do we nurture our creative selves when the schedule is as full as it can get? How do we make time for art?

I carry a sketchbook with me and at least practice my observation skills with quick gestures during tae kwon do or at a Brownie meeting. Those don't really contribute to paintings, but they keep my eye and hand alert. And are a fun chronicle of my days. And I mustn't discount them because they aren't a gallery quality painting.

I have found that one of the best tools for my studio is a timer. When I have a little bit of time, I set a digital kitchen timer for 30 minutes and do a paint sketch (if I haven't wasted all the time trying to find a subject.) Its a great way to start a painting too. Give yourself a short time to mass in the whole scene.

A wonderful book I found at a used book store is Craig Nelson's 60 Minutes to Better Painting. Its all about the advantages of quick studies. I highly recommend it if you can find it.

How do you carve out time to create? Share your ideas in comments below!

-- Robin

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Education at Home

I've noticed recently that a number of artists are offering online classes, workshops and even mentoring online. It seems like a logical next step in our computer savvy world.

Today, I had a note from Vicki Ross who has been working very hard with some very talented people to offer just such an educational outlet. What better way to stretch yourself when you are in a rut!? Work at your own studio, in your jammies if you like, and save on travel expenses. I think its brilliant.

Check out and also see our growing list of instructors who offer online classes and videos in the right column.

-- Robin

Monday, September 20, 2010

TED Talks for Artists and Designers

A friendly reader, Emma, shared a link to her recently published article listing some of the best art/creative focused talks from TED.
See her list here - “20 Awe-Inspiring TED Talks for Artists & Designers

For those who don't know, TED is a group devoted to "sharing ideas worth spreading" and they host speakers from many different fields. I've enjoyed listening to some of these in the background while I paint. They have really excellent presentations from some of today's best authors as well as scientists, engineers, business leaders and innovators.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Creating Challenges

Today I wanted to talk about the idea of the monthly challenge group I am involved in. The very creative Diana Moses Botkin decided to get a group of artists together to focus on a certain challenging theme each month. She can tell us later about the particulars of her choices and such, but I wanted to just talk about how good the challenges have been for me personally.
For one thing, I find that every time I approach my easel I feel this pressure to create a masterpiece. I treat every start as "precious" and I don't allow myself to play or experiment enough. The challenges have been that for me - a chance to paint a subject I wouldn't normally do, or use a palette I haven't tried. It helps to loosen me up and relax and get the creative juices flowing. I've really enjoyed it and I've found that those experiments influence my "precious" pieces and give them new life.
So I encourage anyone to try the same thing - sometimes a small group is necessary to get yourself motivated and committed! Team up with an artistic friend or small group, pick something obscure and different to do and loosen up.
-- Robin Cheers

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moving On

Well I did finish the book. And I was certainly inspired by much of the wisdom it contained though like I've said before, it seemed geared towards those "closet" artists who have ignored or hidden their creativity and want to start to explore it again.
When I began the reading and exercises, it was after going through another of those blocks where just nothing sparked for me and I needed help working through the block. Those blocks come and go for all of us creative types and we all need some inspiration, ideas and support to get through them.
That brings me to my point here. I am going to make this blog more geared towards just that. A forum for many artists to share some ideas, be they specific to working through or accepting a block, or ideas for managing time, business tips, and other things to get our creative juices flowing. I have asked some and will approach more artists to join me here and share with us.
So join me and your fellow creatives and share any ideas you care to contribute! I will post things with links back to the contributors and certainly give all due credit. And look for it us Facebook, I will create a page for us there.
Keep in touch!
-- Robin

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Matisse vs. Picasso

I found a link to an article about the show I mentioned in the previous post. The show was mounted in 1999 - quite awhile ago. I liked this article which went well beyond the museum show and delved more into philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. I fall very much on the "Matisse" (or Apollonion) side it seems.
Interesting. Check it out -


Well here we are into summer now.
I've recently had some mental ups and downs. Went through another week or more of creative blocks. Struggled with a couple paintings that I couldn't figure out and had to mull over them for probably a week. I sometimes feel like my brain is ahead of my hand in its ability to express. Its very frustrating. Almost a feeling of impotence I suppose.

Then I've also had some bouts of that evil green-eyed monster -- jealousy! I wonder if Ms. Cameron addresses this? I will be honest. I haven't picked up the book since Chapter 8 or 9. Definitely found things of merit in those chapters as well and meant to blog about them. I have just been lazy I guess. And have too many things going on. Such is the life of a working mother, right?

But back to jealousy. It can certainly undermine you if you let it. I know its not just me too - I suppose everyone has someone that they feel some competition with. And I suspect that we all keep it a dirty little secret. I, for one, don't want anyone to know my private insanity. ;-)

For me, its someone in a similar place in life, but a whole lot more like King Midas. So their success feels like a failure for me. And I know its totally irrational. We don't even paint the same subjects. Anyway - it turned out to work in my favor two weeks ago when I decided I was going to "show them!" and finally got that painting out of my head and on canvas. I suppose jealousy or competition can be a motivation.

I recall an interesting exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth) quite a few years ago - "Picasso & Matisse - A Gentle Rivalry." It focused on the relationship between the two painters and how they sometimes motivated and alternately competed with one another. Its been so long now that I don't remember much of the relationship but now that I am reminded of it, I think I will explore it some more.

Monday, April 19, 2010

enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work

I recently decided that I would drop off the Daily Painter's Gallery blog. My work has been appearing on there for many years and I would have to say that much of my early success in the blogsphere was due to exposure there. So it was hard to decide to not participate. Its probably not that big a deal, but I have felt pressure to "perform" because of the expectation the online gallery creates. I haven't been painting those small paintings though I do paint daily. Most of my work is focused on gallery pieces. And sometimes, too much on that.

When reading chapters 8 and 9 the last couple of weeks, I was struck by this -
"The discipline itself, not the creative outflow, becomes the point."
I know some artists, especially since this "daily painting" phenomenon, believe they cannot stop, that they have to paint/produce something every day - especially in order to sell on their blogs.

I think that some artists who do the "daily paintings" can get stuck in a rut, or put out work that is not the best just for the sake of being seen... I don't want to do that. I do not want to judge a work by whether its "good enough for the blog" or "good enough for $100."

Since the new year, and beginning this book, I've relaxed a lot in my work and allowed myself to change gears, to experiment a little more, and to focus on what I love. So it seems logical to remove the pressure to create something to meet other's expectations.

"That part of us that creates best is not a driven, disciplined automation, functioning from willpower, with a booster of pride to back it up. Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline."

- Robin

Monday, April 12, 2010

remember when...

I was reading and posting?
I've been implementing more than reading. The book really did help me immensely and I am reminding myself as I begin each new day at the easel to think about those comments about perfectionism. I've relaxed so much more and am enjoying my work. Its interesting to me what an impact reading that section had on me. I suppose others might have a similar response to some other parts. Its nice that she covers so many possible blocks to the creative spirit and offers so much in the way of overcoming those blocks.

My days are so full this month that I have a hard time working in anything else, so my reading is on hold. My hope to do this in 12 to 16 weeks has stretched out further and further. But I am still picking it up and underlining key ideas for me. Just not writing about them much.

-- Robin

Friday, March 12, 2010


So I'm reading along through Week 7: Recovering a Sense of Connection and read the section on "Perfectionism" and BAM! a lightning bolt hits me. This is me. This describes my problem exactly!
"Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity."
My husband thought this was particularly apropos:
"For the perfectionist, there are no first drafts, rough sketches, warm-up exercises. Every draft is meant to be final, perfect, set in stone."
And finally, what I've not been able to explain to others:
"In this way, artists who do not appear blocked to the outside eye experience themselves as blocked internally, unable to take the risk of moving into new and more satisfying artistic territory."
THAT has been my problem. Once in awhile lately, I've been able to paint with some "verve" but rarely. Everything has felt calculated and bogged down. Nothing is coming easily or freely, because I am not letting it. So today, ah... today. I blocked in and I played with paint and I mushed things here and there and I didn't paint an apple, but I painted red and green shapes with shadows and highlights. And it felt so good.

This section reminded me to reread this article I have torn out of an old magazine... a piece by Kevin Macpherson entitled, "Passionate Painting: It Takes More Than Just Technical Mastery to Create a Great Painting." (Southwest Art, Sept. 2000)
"If art is only a laborious mechanical re-creation of reality without any emotional direction or purpose, it is only a technical exercise. If as artists we can reveal our emotions in a well-crafted statement, we are nearing excellence in art."

-- Robin

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

halfway mark

We are supposedly halfway through the book. Week 6. I am very curious to have some comments left by those that have worked through the book. I hear a lot of people say its "the best book," but I don't know how it helped or changed their creative situations.
Was it like a bolt of lightening? Was it more a subtle shift? Did the exercises develop into a new way of approaching your art?
Do you remember the path and implement them regularly, or do you need a refresher course every few years?
Comment here and share your experiences. Thanks!
-- Robin

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

recovering a sense of possiblity

A line in chapter 5 -
"We startle ourselves by saying yes instead of no to opportunities."

I must say, I did rather startle myself by accepting new representation - bringing my gallery count to 7. What was I thinking? Especially right now, when I am having a difficult time finding inspiration and struggling to create enough work. It was a leap of faith. I had such a great summer and fall and was really in a rhythm - like a well oiled machine. Then... well we all know that from time to time, other things get in the way and I was derailed for awhile.
Now I am hoping that I will get that groove back and be able to create enough good work for my galleries, for my blog and for a group show, which I also agreed to. Another yes.

Kate too took a big leap which will open up a plethora of new possibilities in both her creative and computer careers.

The idea is to embrace those possibilities, believe that you can live into them and have faith that because you are open to the new, that synchronicity will be your partner and guide the way. I have lived long enough to experience God working to open those other doors when you think all has been shut to you.

I guess I believe deep down that I can and will succeed in getting back on track. My dry spell is not permanent. The flip side it knowing when to say no. And knowing what to cut out. I have long debated about the wedding/live event paintings. Sure, its neat. Its a cool thing for people to watch art being created from life. Its a good exercise for me. BUT... its so hard. Traveling (via air) is the worst. It wreaks havoc at home. Its exhausting. Lonely. And I worry that its a novelty and not really furthering my career. I have been declining any events out of state. I am still doing events that are within driving distance. And I've managed to work fast enough on recent ones to finish at the event so I do not need to continue work at my studio. Obviously, I can't decide if its worth it or not. I could really focus on it, and promote myself and do quite a few events but I don't think this is my time of life for it. Not while I have a young child at home. Now I feel like I am disappointing others! Where is the chapter on guilt?

-- Robin

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Catching up again! (from Kate)

Well, despite my early warning that I may not be able to devote much time to this blog, I feel guilty about neglecting it.  I haven't done much reading in the book, but as Robin alluded to, just pivoting around the book has been a good catalyst.   I haven't been able to write much about what's been keeping me so insanely busy and distracted over the last few weeks, but now I can!

I had been interviewing for a job in San Francisco with a very interesting company called Linden Lab.  The artist part of me was quite intrigued because they make a platform for a virtual world called "Second Life" in which everything, essentially, is artwork created by 'residents'.  And I was drawn to their very generous and creative team too.  Part of me wanted to get back to the bay area to be near to family and friends there, and to also be more connected to the plein air and other art stuff in Marin - a rich community and very friendly.

Then, just after a first round of in-person interviews in January, I spotted a job posting within my current company here in Austin and thought it sounded good, so applied.  The more I learned about the team and the projects, the more I liked this option.  Then, the capper came when the hiring manager offered to allow me to work out of the Berkeley office if I wanted to after six months or so - whenever I'd have ramped up sufficiently on the job and connected well with all the team in Austin.

So I accepted that job on Friday and then felt this surge of relief about staying in Austin, which surprised me.  I think I'd been holding everyone at a remove because I didn't know if I was staying or not.  Now I have at least six months and that justifies reconnecting, so suddenly I feel open to people again - and it feels a bit like waking up from a restless sleep.  I happily signed up for a painting weekend with Plein Air Austin in April and joined a few gals from my new team for a "drink" (grapefruit juice for me, margaritas for them) at 5 on Friday.  It was lovely and I thought, hey, it's like I'm a real person again!

I'm curious to see how all of this will play out, of course.  And it will be a direct impact to my art life - one of less disruption, I think.  So seems to be I got the best of all worlds really.  Imagine that? :)

A couple of other thoughts here.  I don't know if readers will understand how they are connected to my creative process and artwork, except that everything that I get really interested in becomes material in some way or another.  So, recently read Temple Grandin's latest book called "Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best life for Animals" and was totally absorbed and motivated to think more deeply about what goes on for non-human animals and how they are thinking and feeling.  I've always been an animal lover and interested in what makes them tick, what is ethical with our stewardship or relationship.  And the book really takes on a lot of that. What would it be like to be a prey animal?  What can we do for dogs if they can't be roaming around with us all day for miles and miles? 

So, having that on my mind, I attended an equestrian competition in Waco yesterday.  Where normally, I'd have been focused on whether I understood what made for good riding or not and whether I looked as though I fit in, I found that at first I was captivated by the shapes and gestures of the horse and rider, but then, after being there for a bit, I was really bugged by a few things.  One, they were blasting rock music into the arena.  (I asked my friend why, and she thought it was because it kept the audience from being bored.)  I feel like the riding is completely interesting without the cacophony.  And started thinking about how the horses probably were unnerved by it too.  Then, as the women did their various riding exercises (reining), their teammates on the bleachers yelled out whoops and "yeah girl" and the like.  Again, wouldn't that be totally nerve-wracking for the horse?  Thirdly, the Baylor mascot being a bear, there were huge yellow bear eyes painted in several places along the railing of the ring.  Now, if I'm a prey animal like a horse, I would find that disturbing too.

I'd love to see how the horses might perform in a nice quiet arena with no bear eyes glaring at them.

Since I have no budget or expertise to do that kind of experiment, how do I address that concern?  Write a letter to Baylor?  Do a painting?  Seems rather impotent.  Hmmm.  Something to ponder.

--- Kate 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

hip and happenin'

Welcome back. I found this cool template and changed our blog! I even managed to remember enough html to edit some of the template. I liked that this had a journal feel and isn't the standard, out of the box blog. We are, after all creative types!
Check out some of the fun designs available at

off track

We both seemed to have slipped off the path to higher creativity this past couple of weeks. I think for me, I began painting through the block and stopped just thinking about it. I am still not satisfied with my work, but I am at least learning, creating and experimenting. I have begun to get excited about each new day's attempts and that in itself is an accomplishment. I feel like I am on the cusp of something new and improved.

Kate and I had our coffee house meeting this morning and are back on track to read and live Chapter 5. Now... back to the easel!

-- Robin

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ebb and flow and the pas de deux

I'm quiet for a week and then suddenly have all kinds of things to write about.
Today I had an artist's date of sorts and went to a Studio Spotlight at Ballet Austin. Dancers performed some pieces from the new production, The Bach Project. It was quite interesting and a nice "teaser" for the real thing. I would like to go more regularly to the ballet, and symphony, and so on, but ticket prices are so high!
But that is another topic. What I am thinking of tonight is one of Stephen Mills (artistic director) comments at the end when asked by an audience member about his creative process. It was quite interesting to learn about how another artist might develop something so complicated as a dance.
To me it seems impossible. As does writing music. But many elements are based on classical ballet, or classical music. They are modified and tried in new ways. And it is a process to develop, just like in painting.
I was somewhat surprised too to learn that some days Mills said he might work until 2 a.m. when things are flowing... and on other days, he wanders around with nothing to do because he cannot force creativity.
Quang Ho, famously talented painter, even had a post on his Facebook page about the time and struggle even he experiences in the creation process.
So, it seems that in all genres creativity can ebb and flow. Its nice to know that I am not alone, not in the visual art world or among the larger pool of creatives working to express themselves and beautify our world.

-- Robin

ps - talk about bumping up against deadlines... Stephen Mills said he'd just finished the ballet last week! And only got the music for one piece very recently too.


Something I read in the previous chapter talked about criticism. Ms. Cameron meant unsolicited comments or reviews, but it made me think of critiques we artists often seek out.
I think its important for artists to get feedback, but its equally important that the feedback be from safe sources.
I have a small group of other artists and family who I can count on to give me encouraging, thoughtful critiques. My advice to other artists is to have select group also and not get into group situations in a studio or class where the abilities and communication skills of the other critics might be questionable.
You want feedback that you can work with. Not just praise either. If you are questioning a work and don't like it, then its good to get someone else's perspective. They can maybe lead you to what is wrong. We see the painting for so long that we might miss the fact that one color is distracting or that a hand looks like a rack of beef.
So choose your critics wisely and in turn, offer genuine critiques yourself.

-- Robin

chapter 4: recovering sense of integrity

This week I am struggling to get my ideas onto canvas. I have worked through whole paintings only to be disappointed with the results. Then I start over. Its as if I forgot how to put the paint down. And then I start thinking "what is the right way to do this?"
As artists, we all know there isn't a "right way" - I mean beyond the technical specs of the paint and surface, there isn't a single correct way to create a painting. People use anything from a size 1 brush to slinging paint to express themselves. So why am I thinking there is a method that I am missing. I keep looking at other artists I admire and wonder, how did they do that? Where did they start? What was on their palette?
I don't think this is a sense of recovering integrity. Though I am dedicating more time to my artwork and creativity. I am trying to focus and work even though I feel like a beginner.
And why do I feel that way? Is it because of my long break? Or am I on the cusp of something new and improved?
Lets hope for the latter. I want to improve and grow.

-- Robin

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

so many visions, only one lifetime!

Well, one of the happy results of getting into this Artist's Way process has been that I've got all kinds of ideas bubbling away and not enough time to do them all.  But that's a good kind of problem to have, at least if you're my kind of temperament.

As I'm looking at a couple of different options, I am getting a really attractive picture of a couple alternatives.  Of course, life throws surprises at us, but I would like to have more of a goal-setting structure for myself too, so here are my thoughts.

Option one looks like this: stay in Austin, find more ways to enjoy my current work and potentially decrease the hours of the job without reducing too much of the income while bolstering the good networking and art opportunities that have started already here.  Take part in EAST, do more figure painting, get even better connected to the dog rescue organizations in town and do more art-and-craft based fundraising for them.  Plan for trips out to California for family time but also fit in some "just for me and my dog" travel.

Option two looks like this: take the interesting new job in San Francisco (which has a lot to do with art - it's all about a product where people create virtual worlds), rent a storefront live/work space in Vallejo (which is incredibly cheap and about to undergo some exciting growth) where I can do my own art and also host events, workshops and fundraisers on the weekends as well as have a bookshop / coffee shop set up if I want to!  I could take the lovely ferry boat right to within a 1/2 mile of the SF office and on the weekends, I'd be smack dab between Marin and Napa, two of my fave places.  Plus, when I checked out AA meetings in Vallejo, I really enjoyed them.  Good peeps.  Plus, my wonderful former painting teacher and artist Gary Stutler lives in Vallejo.

So, it's fun to think about these things.  Wonder what will happen?!  I am supposed to hear from the San Fran people today to set up a time to go back out there for round 2 interviews. 

Monday, January 25, 2010


Yesterday, while my daughter was in Sunday school, I went to Buckies (Starbucks - conveniently close to church) and read and wrote my morning pages. I was struck by a part in chapter 2 where the author talks about being awake to the now - to being open and observant. I think it might help me explain my work. I sometimes struggle with statements because I am not trying to depict things that are great causes, solutions, drama, etc. - I don't have some deep and meaningful reason to paint what I do. The only thing I can offer is that I like to paint what I see, what I enjoy and what gives me comfort. I am just sharing my observations. And in reading this bit, I felt that its a good thing and it is who I am. So while the world might be in chaos, and at home we might be struggling with job, illness, angst, confusion and loss, I can be awake to the simple things, the now, which is all we can really control.

At any rate, I felt that it was something of a vindication for my dislike of artist statements! And it helped me figure out how to explain myself. Having finished there, I went back to church and got my daughter for services at 11. The text was about baptism and it was very interesting... another form of awakening / rebirth.
-- Robin

Sunday, January 24, 2010

at long last

Well, I'm finally back here on this blog at long last. This last few weeks has been full of crazy surprises and my notion of how much time I'd have for Artist's Way work really was thrown. In any case, this little dog is the latest in a series and they are my creative joy at the moment. The colors and fabrics are totally energizing me right now - once I get an idea of how things might go together I get a little obsessive about finishing so I can SEE!

Despite my neglect of the book, the best thing about setting out on this little journey has been connecting with Robin on a regular basis - what a stellar and inspiring and kind person. I think the regularity is, hopefully, training my subconscious that I am taking my artist self seriously enough to nurture and invest in her.

The biggest quandary in mind for me is whether to stay in Austin or head back to San Francisco Bay Area. There are so many things to weigh, including family, cost, jobs, weather, and my artist life. And although I do love my family, the artistic things happening for me in Austin are the kind of things I've always wanted to have happen. Perhaps it's the artsy grassroots nature of Austin itself, helped along by a much lower cost of living. But I think it's also a personality that is drawn to living here - everyone I meet doing art seems to have a proclivity toward collaboration and generosity.

This is the issue I'm doing my best to put in the "God box" and not worry to death. In the meantime, I need to get back to morning pages starting tomorrow.

As for artist dates, I have had some great "camera safaris" with Lulu at various parks as well as great outings to Goodwill stores to look for fabrics and things.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

artist's date

Can a pedicure count as an artist's date? I confess to being rather blocked on this book. I think my creative blocks are all external truthfully. So not only am I having a hard time finding the time to read and do the exercises, but when I do read, I feel like its not relevant.
I don't have the negative voice inside telling me that I can't succeed, but I have plenty of interference and indifferent support externally.
My six year old has been really difficult and I am not sure if its the age or the something else going on. My husband tends to see the glass half empty when I have ideas to promote my work or invitations to do things. I feel deflated. I am surprised actually that things are so emotionally trying at home now and that I haven't been able to paint for so long. Those of us with family, kids, significant others, pets, parents, etc. that require lots of support know how draining it can be to creative energy.
The positive side of this is that we caretakers have such influence on the lives of those around us. And nothing is more important (and sometimes creative!) than training my child to be healthy, happy, productive adult. So while the art languishes, I see my daughter making strides in her development. And I can try to help my husband see that glass as more full than empty if I remain positive, right?

-- Robin

Thursday, January 14, 2010

week 2

Kate and I met this morning and had a nice visit. My feelings on this early section of the book is that it seems very geared towards those who might have had artistic/creative leanings but went into something completely different and are maybe now trying to open that door. Not exactly the creative blocks I've had lately.
This week - chapter 2 and "recovering a sense of identity."

Kate? Any thoughts?

-- Robin

Saturday, January 9, 2010

the censor vs. the critic

In the introduction I read about our inner Censor, the voice that says you can't do something, that its a waste of time or energy. Basically the voice that tells us we will fail. But that got me thinking about a possibly similar voice - one that might have negative things to say, but things that will help us grow and improve. The Critic. As a representational painter, I have to be able to look at my work and see those things that don't work or detract from the painting. Compositional problems, bad drawing, perspective problems, color disharmony, etc. Sometimes the Critic might be harsh and find nothing redeeming... but isn't that good too? It challenges me to paint better. To be selective about what I put out there - to create quality and not rest on my laurels. I think as artists we are constantly learning and growing because the Critic is there to push us to improve.

-- Robin

Friday, January 8, 2010

week 1

Kate and I met this morning to get going on this. We’ve both begun the morning pages, but not much else. This week we begin in earnest, and decided we’d go ahead and meet weekly, and do the chapters weekly, though maybe not in as much depth as Ms. Cameron proposes.

This might be irrelevant, but I had an epiphany that I need to BALANCE my life/art better. And I need to not take any of it too seriously. Even if I am a serious artist… I don’t need to be too serious about painting. Make sense?

Starbucks was VERY inspirational though and I sketched quite a bit when our meeting ended. Now will work up a painting. Maybe my hibernation, as Kate so sagely christened it, is at an end?

-- Robin

the workbook

I’m wondering if we should have or use the workbook? Me being the Cliff Notes sort of reader, might benefit from a more obvious path to discovery. At the moment I feel like I am going at this rather blind as I’ve read only the first pages. Kate has worked through the book in the past and we’re to get together later in the week. I will let her guide me!

–- Robin

morning pages

I too have begun my morning “purge”. Its totally stream-of-consciousness sort of things. I am not certain yet how this is to influence or awaken my creativity, but I’m just beginning to read the book for the first time so will give it my best shot. Every night I write a day’s summary in my diary as my memory is so bad. So this will be an interesting contrast to that one day.

–- Robin


My Artist’s Way book should be arriving here to my house tomorrow & I started doing morning pages today. Until I start reading my book, I am fishing from my memory of working in the AW years ago. What I remember is that these morning pages are just free-form, not literature, not even necessarily insightful – they just are whatever they need to be. They can be three pages of “this is stupid”!
So, to make sure I give myself that freedom, I’m definitely NOT going to post those morning pages here. In fact, the main point will be to work through the book and see what I learn, make some positive changes for myself. This blog is just a fun adjunct to that. So just want to set expectations with anyone reading this.

-- Kate

artist's way in 2010

Welcome to the fledgling blog for the journey a couple of artist friends are about to take through the exercises in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.”
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