It’s gotten a bit dusty and cobwebby around here!

Confession Time

I have a confession to make: I’ve been hanging out with my old nemesis, Burnout, for way too long. I won’t go into the gory details, but I went for too many months not writing or doing anything particularly creative. I was in survival mode.

But that’s not why I’m back. About six months ago, I stumbled upon mixed media art and started goofing off with paint and ink and collage and whatever else I could get my hands on.

Between you and me, I was procrastinating on Pinterest. I had another deadline looming, several projects in various stages of crisis, and was too exhausted to deal with any of it. But I noticed something really interesting. While I was painting, I wasn’t stressing about deadlines. I forgot all about the stuff I had to write and edit.

Art Beats Burnout

After an hour at the art table, my mind was clear and focused, and I was able to write easily – just like old times, when the words flowed out faster than I could type them.

So I tried again a few days later, and got the same results. Somehow, making art short-circuited the daily, sometimes hourly panic attacks I’d just gotten used to.

Even though I’ve realized how unbelievably healthy a daily art practice is for me, and how spending that hour every day actually helps me be more productive, I’m still struggling with the discipline of giving myself that art time.

Daily Painting Challenge

Last weekend, I signed up for an amazing mixed media class called “Ever After” hosted by Tamara LaPorte of Willowing Arts, and have begun working through “The Oil Painting Course You’ve Always Wanted” by Kathleen Staiger.

I’m basically embarking on a self-guided MFA program, along with a daily painting challenge. EEK! I’ll be posting my progress here. Some days I’ll post a painting or a painting in progress. Other days it will be a photograph or a sketch that I plan to paint from. The important thing is to create every single day. Hold me to it!

Here’s today’s image – a still life composition I plan to paint in oils. I’ll see you tomorrow!

Daily Painting Challenge - Still Life with Coffee

Daily Painting Challenge – Still Life with Coffee


You remember potential energy – from Physics class? I have potential creativity. (And possibly ADD. All I know is that I can’t write a word without a cup of coffee at hand. But anyway…)

Years ago, I went on an oil painting bender. I bought an easel, some canvass, a cupful of brushes and stuff, and paints. A lot of paints. I bought books on oil painting, because seriously, how else are you supposed to learn this stuff? I tried art classes is school. They intimidated me. And the teachers spent all their time hanging out with the kids who were already good at art, and pretty much ignored me while I struggled to figure out the basics. (Ok, that was one teacher in seventh grade. Looking back, she was a pretty lousy teacher. I never took another art class again.)

I even started a few paintings. I’ve never finished one. Partially because I only have so much time, and I have other things to do (like writing that book that everybody keeps asking me about…). But mostly because I can see the picture I’m trying to create and don’t (yet!) have the skill to make the picture come out right on the canvas.


An unfinished painting – there’s a really profound image in there. Really!

Normally, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t play the game unless I’m pretty sure I can win. But I haven’t thrown out my art supplies. I keep them, almost as art pieces in themselves. They are potential creativity, potential beauty, potential art. I want to do a self-study painting class, where I get a great beginners tutorial book and work through it, chapter by chapter, exercise by exercise. I’ll do it on my own schedule and at my own pace. Or maybe I’ll find a good online class. Or maybe I’ll do both. Any suggestions for me? Leave them in the comments below!

It’s no great secret: I like pretty pictures. I love the way a painting can tell a story – and that the story is different, depending on the person viewing it. I’ve always admired artists – people who can tell a story, evoke an emotion, without a single word. To me, that’s magic of the highest order!

I also come from a family of artists. My grandmother was a painter. My father was a casual artist. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the back porch with him one summer evening, as he taught me how to capture the sunset in pastels. Dad tried to teach me how to draw, but I didn’t have the patience for it, not when writing came so easily to me. I could write stories that flowed onto the page without any need to practice or try, so why spend my time learning how to see as an artist sees?

Ok, so I was young and stupid. Those were the days! But I still held onto the mystique of the oil painting.

Several years ago, I was in a rut with writing, so decided to learn to paint. I bought canvas, paints, brushes, and a boatload of other paraphernalia. I even played around and produced some truly abysmal paintings. No, you can’t see them. They really are that bad. Trust me.

So the brushes sat in a broken coffee mug my hero brought back from a business trip, gathering dust. The real kind, as well as the metaphorical stuff.

This morning, driving home after dropping my eldest off at art camp (did I mention I have artistic children too?), the creativity was flowing, and there were no words. Just this picture.

Don’t tell the local cops, but yeah, I sketched it out at a red light. Sometimes a creative has to do what a creative has to do. Then I came home, pulled the plastic wrap off a canvas I bought three years ago, and sketched it in real size. Oddly, the process of sketching and the plotting process I’m working through on my novel are very similar. I had never made the connection before this morning.

Here’s version one – just a background wash, but so far, so good. I’ll share more pics as it goes!