On fighting the monkey

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to have taken up drawing again. I’ve been thinking of it, but I always considered the thing impossible and beyond my reach.”

– Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother.

I saw this quote in a book the other day and found it so profoundly inspiring. I have always been very inspired by van Gogh and to see that this great master struggled with his craft in the beginning is a relief. It also shows that he pushed through his doubts about himself and he went on to create great works of art that speak (and have spoken to) to millions and millions of people.

I, too, have started drawing again. I decided to carry a simple sketchbook with me everywhere I go and fit in a quick sketch as I go about my day. I am using a Traveller’s Notebook for this purpose because it is very inconspicuous. It doesn’t look like a sketchbook. It’s also the right size to easily carry around everywhere.

On my lunch breaks I go for a walk around the downtown area of my little town and I have been carrying my sketchbook around and making quick drawings of things that catch my eye. I am only using a fountain pen which prevents me from “fixing” mistakes (there are a lot of mistakes). The fountain pen is slightly awkward to draw with because the ink doesn’t dry quickly but I like the lines it produces and I like the way it flows across the page. Because I am out walking and my lunch break is short my sketches have to be quick. I am usually standing when I sketch and I imagine people wonder what the fuck I am doing when they walk or drive by.

As I make these simple, quick drawings my head is buzzing with these kinds of thoughts: “You are standing here like an idiot and people are wondering what you are doing.” “This drawing sucks completely. Let’s just give up now.” “You messed up that line.” “That looks nothing like that (thing you are drawing).” “the ink is taking too long to dry, let’s just quit.” “We need to get back to eat lunch”

Etc.

As I draw these sketches and as these thoughts enter my mind I keep drawing through them. I finish the drawing. I give myself permission to draw for the sake of drawing. Nobody has to see these drawings. These are for myself. I don’t even have to look at them later, if i don’t want to. I let the chatter happen (it’s just going to happen, I can’t stop it honestly) and then I keep my pen moving regardless.

I feel like each time I keep my pen moving through the chatter it is a small victory. It’s hard to face the monkey chatter. Really really hard. But each time I do it and keep the pen moving I feel like I am giving it less power.

 

Image

Perspective

lost shoe

We went hiking with our pinhole cameras up at the Salmon River on Memorial Day weekend and the trail was a little more crowded than usual, thus, more people curious about the cameras we were using. Someone had left a baby’s bright pink shoe sitting on a rock at the trailhead and I instinctively decided to photograph it with my pinhole camera. As I was exposing the shot, a couple wandered up the trail and the woman asked me, “Why are you photographing the shoe?” The question took me by surprise because I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know why I did it. I just did it. My answer to her was completely idiotic. I think I said, “Oh we are just messing around.” And she said, “you are in a beautiful place for photography” and I said, “Yes it really is.” Weirdly, I felt like I was defending myself. I kind of had this weird nudge of anger.

As I hiked along and ranted to my husband obsessively about it for a few minutes I realized why her question bothered me. I think it bothered me because she asked “Why.” When people ask me about my camera I am very happy to obliged them. But the “why” question as it relates to creativity is odd. Why does anyone do anything? When you do something creative it is not done from that place in us where we are thinking intellectually. Creativity is more intuitive and instinctual. And I think the creative person inside of me resents having to defend her creative impulses.

Now that I have thought about it I know why I chose the shot: I liked the color contrast. I was using Ektar film (known for its saturation) and I liked the bright pink against the greens of the forest. I also liked the juxtaposition of the shoe in the natural environment. But saying all of this kind of takes the magic out of it, doesn’t it?

——————-

Geeky Bits:
Camera: Terrapin Bijou
Film: Kodak Ektar 100
Exposure time: 10 seconds

“The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.”

James shared a really great article with me in the comments of my post from yesterday.  It has me thinking about my list.

The idea from the article is to limit yourself to 5  goals. Anything else is a waste of time. I think the first thing I need to do is make some goals. So what are my goals regarding the things listed? Let’s see…

  1. write – Goal: I don’t know. Become a published Poet? Become a published short story writer? I know I don’t want to write novels. I don’t have a novel in me.
  2. Read – Goal: I have lots of reading goals. One of them is to read through all of the Pulitzer Prize winners. Another is to read through the Graphic Novel canon. I have some work-related goals as well (get caught up on newly published kid’s books so I can do book talks on them).
  3. Practice ukulele- Goal: go through that Bluegrass Ukulele book I bought 3 years ago. But why do I want to do this? I don’t have any aspirations to be a ukulele performer. I just like to play the ukulele. It that ok? To just play it because it makes me happy? Is that a good enough goal? Or do I need to attain higher aspirations?
  4. Draw – Goal: go through the “Drawing on the Right Side Of The Brain” workbook I bought 4 months ago. Again, I don’t have any aspirations to be a great artist. I want to learn to draw for my own edification.
  5. Knit – Goal: Finish a Dr. Who scarf I am making for a Twitter friend.
  6. Photography – Goal: I don’t really know what my goals are for photography! I know that I enjoy it. I know that I love Pinhole Photography. I have a blog about Pinhole Photography that I’ve been neglecting. Perhaps I should make some kind of goal relating to my blog? I have some ideas for some projects, maybe I should clarify what those ideas are and set some goals.
  7. Running/yoga – Goal: I have a goal to run a half marathon next summer. I am planning on running the Huckleberry Half.
  8. Meditate – This is just something that I need to because of my spiritual practice. There are no goals in Buddhism.

This was actually kind of an interesting exercise. It makes me realize that I am generally not very goal oriented when it comes to creative pursuits. I wonder if that is ok? I wonder if those things that I don’t have goals for are the things I should cut out?

And as I was doing this I realized that there are some things I am more passionate about than others. Photography pulled more on my heart strings than writing. The goal of becoming a published poet didn’t really do much for me. Maybe that is something I can and should  let go of.

I have some other thoughts, I will continue to think out loud on this. It’s kind of helping me. 🙂 Maybe in a future post I will break down each of these things to see what exactly I want to do with them and why I am drawn to them.

“Random Song Lyric Photo Title” playlist

Featured Image -- 19660

One of the things I am trying to think about when I make a photo is the storytelling element. I think the title is one of the very important elements in the storytelling that goes on in photography. The viewer doesn’t have much else to go on, there is the title and then there is the image. It is up to the viewer to create the story in their mind.

With that in mind, I was looking at the image above that  I took the day after our Ice Storm. I kind of liked it and thought I would upload it to Flickr. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a title. I thought of my standard “state the obvious” (ice on branch) but I’m sick of stating the obvious. I wanted to come up with something better than that. I decided to do something else, since my brain was being uncooperative.  I would let fate title this photo.

I turned iTunes on random and thought, “the first song that comes on, the first line of that song, that will be the title of this photo. I don’t care what it is.”

So I pushed play and Metallica’s One came on. I listened to the beginning musical lines and thought “wow, if I could title this photo with music this would be perfect” because have you ever sat and listened to the musical introduction to this song? It’s really beautiful and sad and it seemed fitting. But then the first lines played: “I can’t remember anything, can’t tell if this is true or a dream.” It was perfect.

So I have taken to doing this exercise lately when I upload photos to Flickr and it’s been fun – a nice creative exercise for my brain.  The two random things together seem to create an interesting story. Sometimes the lyric is quite appropriate, like the one for the photo above.

Many of the songs that come up are songs that I have only heard a few times. I download a lot of music that I forget about. Doing this exercise has reintroduced me to songs that I’ve been enjoying lately.

I thought, for fun, I would put together a playlist of these random songs and post them here as a blog post.  At the end of the post is a gallery of the photos if you are interested in the seeing them as well.