I’ve always loved the turn of the new year. I know some who people eye it with dread or sadness with the reminder of the passage of time. Their sad focus is on aging, and regrets.
But for me the turn of the new year is a time of excitement and cheerful anticipation. Maybe having a birthday in the last days of December has something to do with it, but for me the New Year is a time of welcome renewal and recharging, of setting goals and making plans. A good organizer, I love laying out my calendar and color-coding projects and trips and resolutions. I love cleaning up my studio in the last days of December and taking inventory of materials and prepping for new paintings.
Because I’m an artist and make my living selling my art, and because there are some extra-special art lovers out there who enjoy giving art as Christmas gifts*, November and December are especially busy times for me. Because I’m so busy filling and shipping orders (a most welcome busy-ness, indeed!), it’s challenging trying to get any real painting done. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my studio is transformed into Art Packing & Shipping Central more than a painting studio.
With this reality, I decided in in mid-November that come January, I would spend the month in my studio immersed in painting. Earlier in 2017 I had stretched and prepped several large canvases, and had been dying to tackle these. My goal for January therefore was to begin these large canvases and by February have at least half a dozen new large scale paintings well on their way to completion. Further, I had about a dozen half-finished crane-inspired paintings that were begging for attention and completion. These, too, I would work on in January, and have completed by the end of the month. Rather bold goals, for sure, but with a month of scheduled creative solitude I knew I could pull it off.
And then on the last day of my 52nd year, with the late afternoon sun blinding all the southbound travelers on I-25 and my vehicle at a near stop behind an endless line of traffic—
I screamed as my rear right window exploded and my car lunged, sending everything on the dashboard flying backward..
A car had slammed into me
and then another.
Remarkably I am fine.
Really — and thank God — I am fine.
Though three cars were ultimately totaled, by some miracle no one was injured.
What happened was that 80+ mile-per-hour traffic was slowed to a near stop, likely from the blinding late-winter-afternoon sunlight — or possibly another accident up ahead — and some poor guy who clearly wasn’t paying attention slammed into the back of my car, careened off my rear bumper and slammed into another car.
Though I was able, eventually, to drive away, my insurance company deemed my beloved 2006 Honda-CRV+with+160K-miles-on-it a total loss.
Happy Birthday to me and Happy New Year! Yes, indeed, Happy New Year where most of the first month of 2018 has been buried in insurance claim paperwork and phone calls, estimates and statements and rental cars and new car searches and ConsumerReports ratings and CarMax research and a whole lot of hurrying-up-and-waiting. Not to mention living with a really annoying pile of dusty car stuff — travel dog beds and hiking gear and roadside emergency equipment — that’s usually kept in the back of my car but is now front and center in my living room because there’s just no place else to put it…
On top of all this was the kind-of-last-minute decision by My Man & me to make a trip east in the second week of January to visit some of his elders. It had been a while since we’d made that trip together, and there were reasons why we needed to go now. And as lovely as that was — for it truly was a delightful trip in so many ways — the darker, selfish artist angel in me silently whispered complaints of frustration with yet another BIG interruption to my intended month of blissful studio solitude and determined productivity.
What’s a frustrated artist to do?
First of all, she needs to get over it. She needs to accept that this is just L I F E. Messy, constantly changing, frustrating, beautiful, gorgeous LIFE.
And then she needs to
JUST PAINT ANYWAY.
Literally ANY WAY.
That she can.
Let go of the baggage — and big goals — for now.
Count your blessings, which are infinite.
and just do what you can. Even if it’s tiny.
This is what I began to do — in November, actually, when each of those 30 days of the eleventh month were consumed with being on the computer, posting and promoting daily eBay auctions.** What crazy, exhausting fun that was! But it left me utterly drained of energy for painting in any serious way..
So I painted in a non-serious way
In a playful way.
In a teeny, tiny way.
Not in my studio-turned-mail-room. Not outside en plein air.
Rather, it started one morning in my bedroom, beside the window, in a little wooden chair that knew my father in his youth, and me in mine.
It started with a little heart.
And then another little heart…..
And another. And another…..
Just because I had to paint something.
Because the world has gone dark and I needed light and color.
Because they make me smile.
Maybe for some people they’re “too sweet.” Or too naive. Or too simplistic. Or cliche. Or…. too what-EVER.
I love them, these tiny little deep breaths of color in a shadowy world… these little prayers of paint and paper…..,
In the weeks since that first tiny painted heart, when the paperwork keeps piling up, when the To Do Lists are lengthening like a scroll, when appointments and obligations keep chipping away at my precious focus, when having to plan errands is a headache, and I’m on foot even more than usual, when the latest news cycle brings me to my knees, and mother nature’s ferocity is relentless…
I take a deep breath and
paint a little
And that’s enough — for now.
(Hmmm….. maybe I’ll start those large paintings in February …. just as soon as I have a new car……)
By the way…..
About this time last year I wrote another blog post having to do with hearts (click here for THAT post): I’m happy to report that the “heart shelf” lives on! Here’s a couple of pics from yesterday:
*I’m absolutely certain there’s a special place in heaven for you good people)
** thanks again to all of you who followed along, and especially those of you who placed bids!
Pictured at the top of this blog post: A section of the Maryland Appalachian Trail. All pics by yours truly.