“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Notes from an artist, not producing

I am just stuck.

This hand looks like a cry for help, like someone trapped, desperate to get out. I hadn't thought of that until I posted it here & took a dispassionate look at it. In real life, it's attached to a painted arm, on the page of a book, and has far to go before it sleeps, but this is where it is now.

I cannot paint lately. In fact, I haven't really been able to produce anything for months, and I can pinpoint it back to when Maggie got sick, and Mary got worse, and I became overwhelmed with the idea of losing them both, but that's an excuse, and it's one I've grown tired of. It's true, it's a fact, but still I am tired of it. It is also true that I have always been unable to paint when depressed or sad or blue or anxious or any of those times when all the professionals - artistic & psychological - tell you it will help you. But I've grown tired of that reality. I'd like it to change. Hence the effort once again to keep an art journal - an effort that lasted less than a week, that brought about tears & frustration & support from so many people, but still, it just made me miserable. I bought this wonderful book recommended by Bridgette & it's full of incredible journal pages & I have to admit, it's sheer pleasure to just look at those pages, and it even has great tips to help you get going, but not one journal page have I produced since its purchase. I have been randomly, eyes-closed-finger-pointed, picking words in the dictionary - irrevocable, dialectic, smart-ass, prickly heat - and while laughing at the sometimes very timely appearance of these words, I haven't done thing one with any of them.

As part of my birthday box-o-goodies, Lulu sent a pre-made board book, with pre-cut windows & everything, and I thought aha! This will get me going! I have tons of pieces of luscious paper squirreled away - I'll just loosen up - yes, I seriously believed I could! I'll just glue those babies in that book, I said to myself, & paint & not be serious at all! So 2 days worth of gessoing, even though I told myself I was going to paste over that gesso, led to yesterday's trauma of trying to convince myself to just stick the paper in the book! Just do it! Oh, what a fear of commitment I have! The lovely, lovely Katie laughed & laughed at me & seemed quite dumbfounded when I showed her just a part of all the bits & pieces of papers & magazine cut-outs I've been saving for years. And oh, how happy it made me to just go through all those pieces, which is, as they say, the problem. Because once I glue them down, they are gone. They are used. They are wasted in some silly book that I will hate & I will be mad at myself for no longer having them at my disposal. Truly. This is how I think. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

But I pushed myself. I got 2 or 3 pages of background almost done, kind of, maybe. Maybe. Katie & Robert stopped by for a second as they were off to enjoy life & I was stuck behind this book with 2 paintbrushes in my hand & I snapped at Robert rather testily - he being a real artist & all - that I wanted no comments. None. He pulled any comments he had (and you know, they might've actually been nice ones) back into his head like a kid pulling their hand away from a hot stove. Robert has experience with aggravated women & knows when to just keep quiet.

But I will finish this if it kills me. It may. I just think that if I don't, it will kill me artistically. This is play, I tell myself, this is practice, this is getting up in the bullpen & warming up. And I may be right, because, like I said, that trapped hand up there wants out.

Or tattoos or something.
1, 2, 3,what are we fightin' for? - don't ask me, I don't give a damn


  1. Overwhelmed does the same thing to me and I find myself wondering "what's with the planets?". I find myself in the doldrums also, but it is because I am still overwhlemd with a long list o' things.
    But, perhaps (since you are determined) to help you with your journal, go to the dictionary (or have Micheal do this for you so things are edited out). Randomly pick words from the dictionary and write them down on a piece of paper (one word per paper). Toss them in a baggie and draw one out (no pun intended). That's your theme to do! Try doing one word at a time and don't pick another word until the one you picked is done.
    Here's a word for starters: architect.
    If the word stumps you, try at least writing other words that are randomly associated with that word.

  2. Oh Debi...I have been in this place more times than I would ever dare tell. Creativity can be so frustratingly fickle. I admire your determination to break through all of this...(because generally I have always thrown in the towel,and waited for my muse to return on her own.)

    and I can totally see some tattoos on that hand!


  3. That happened to me right while I was getting ready for a show, and I went and whined on my own personal gurus shoulder (after all, what are personal guru's for if not to whine on their shoulder?) and all he said was
    "why are you painting?"
    and it made me look at how my reasons for painting had changed, and perhaps were not what motivated me anymore.
    thats my story and I am sticking with it

  4. you know, despite our political differences (heehee), i SOoo know what you're talking about here...i have had the exact same thoughts when looking at all the lovelies i've been clipping and saving and contemplating putting them into a beautiful, pristine art journal. what is it that's just so damn hard about that? there's something there, something that has to be broken through. if you figure out how, do let me know!!


  5. I feel for you! I can't seem to get going on a new page, it has to be perfect and I'm always worried that the next bit of paper/paint will spoil the whole page.
    I can't do collages, so worried that the next picture will be 'wrong'.
    Sometimes we just have to force ourselves to DO it, I think.

  6. Debi, may your suffering be a doorway. It's hard for me to believe this about suffering when I am in the middle of it. When it passes, I am so grateful for the gift, though I cringe when I see the storm approaching again.

    I still see so much in that hand, what it wants to hold, what is has had to let go of, and the words that are born from its pain.

  7. I have found that when I push myself to be more creative, it's sort of like being constipated (please forgive the banalities here), as it just makes things worse. I realized that I am writing a journal. Online. My blog is a journal of what I planted, so I can stop beating myself up for not starting that garden journal! A change of scenery is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. Get out for a day trip somewhere, don't even THINK about what you need to get done, and see if that helps.

  8. Paula - Overwhelmed, depressed, time-deprived. Still, maybe the ability to get past all that stuff is what separates successful artists from the rest. I do the word/dictionary thing myself, but to no avail. I just like the words! How funny. :) Thank you for the tip, though. Architect. Is that your word?

    Celeste - OH. The hand and arm got all silvery tattoos before I left for work this morning. And I'm really loving them!

    Michelle - I like your story. It's as good a reason as any!

    Julie - Maybe we're just magpies & we like our pile of cool stuff & we like to just take it out & ooh & aah over it every once in a while! LOL! I have been working on this little book every day - i tell myself I only have to do one page or just a few minutes. Just grab something, glue, walk away. Worry about more tomorrow. And that's actually working. So far!

    Eilandkind - YES! I think it's that "it has to be perfect" thing that stops me. I have been just doing it - a bit at a time - and so far, so good. :)

    Mermaid - This "suffering" is, like most, of my own doing, and is definitely a doorway. It is opening an inch at a time. Thank you.

    Brenda - Oh, a day trip would be good, but people whould just scream when they didn't get their photos! LOL! Actually, I can't use that as an excuse - I had plenty of time all summer, and couldn't get moving. Maybe I want it more now because I can't find enough time when we're busy & I can use that as another excuse. Boy, that's convoluted, but maybe you know what I mean.

    Thank you everyone!
    I am working every day on this little piece & actually liking it. Who'd'a thunk it?

    :) Debi

  9. Oh Debi...I wish I had some sort of wonderful advice for you to feel more free in your creativity....but, well, I can't draw a stick man to save my life, so I am right there with you when it comes to beautiful journal pages! Wait...let me rephrase that...you kick my butt when it comes to beautiful art of any kind.

    But...I read everyone's comments and then read yours, and it looks as though you are making progress all on your very own! :):)
    I'm glad that you don't whip stuff up at the drop of a hat...the angst and processes you go through make your art rich with meaning.
    Just keep going girl!!


  10. Jaime - I think it's all up to me - everyone has terrific advice, but in the end, I have to just fight the fight. LOL! I am continuing to work on this little book every day (except yesterday!) & wake up in the middle of the night with snippets of a poem in my head, or the realization of what needs to be done where. I am also feeling inspired to move onto other things.

    When I get the time . . .

    :) Debi

  11. it's been all about others for so long, trying to fit in the writing and managing to get it done, finding words. now empty house, time vast, wide-open, i have nothing, no words, except loneliness, adjustment, and waiting for connection. two kids, one in nyc the other dc, becoming and i am bursting for them. i need to do the same, to remember how it was to be with me. your blog, your journal, i trespass in, scribble upon, i thank you. i feel a loosening...maybe tomorrow the words will come.

    1. what timing you have. i reread this post - 7 years later and i am stuck again. for different reasons, reasons i can't talk about, reasons that age me and keep their foot on my throat and my hands still. it's good to know that book up there got finished, that i got through it all. tomorrow may not be the day for me, but now i remember that it will all come unstuck.

      you too. it will come. xoxo


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