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Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Forest confection by Suzanne Bélair

Forest confection
©2018 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic & Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

 

I am sharing this painting today to make a point about exploration when it comes to making art.

 

As artists we often feel we have to paint certain subjects or in a certain style expected by our viewers, buyers, galleries we deal with, etc. It is true that viewers come to expect a certain type of production from an artist. But we must be able to explore and break these boundaries in the studio.

 

I have been watching some friends that are now dabbling in faux stained glass and this inspired me to paint this small forest. I love working with inks and enjoyed making the lines and defining the areas.

 

I started with a textured background. I use the flexible paste by Liquitex to texture my canvas. This insures it won’t crack over time.

 

When you feel like painting something that is unexpected or new to you, go for it. Especially if you feel some anxiety at the start, you might think, “I could never paint this” or “If I do it, I’ll never show it to anyone”. Well, if you think this way, you must try it because it might turn out to be the key that unlocks your next series or the next step in your painting process.

 

This self-censoring we go through is what eventually leads to a creativity blockage. All the assumptions and self-judgements should be examined and questioned if we want to move forwards in our art.

 

We all get inspiration, our imagination sometimes sends us wild images that we often disregard as unimportant or not “fitting in” with the image we want to project of our art. It is in our best interest to follow these seemingly random suggestions we receive through intuition and imagination.

 

Life gives us a seed and our job is to make sure it grows. Artists often feel like they are carrying the “burden” of creation, that they are responsible for every stroke, for every decision regarding what goes on the canvas.

 

But it is not so, we need to relax about it because it you think you are responsible for everything, then the process of painting presents endless opportunities for mistake and your success or failure becomes your full responsibility. It is indeed a heavy burden to carry. Painting becomes stressful and aren’t we painting to enjoy ourselves?

 

When you take the attitude that you do “what needs to be done” because you’re following your intuition and this is where it wants you to go, you become free.

 

When you listen to the voice of intuition, you are listening to nature, to your own self and it is leading you ahead, always learning and living.

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair

 

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A little over ten years ago, in December 2007, I started this blog. My original intention is reflected in my tag line: This is a blog about art, the environment and the angst of life and creation. This has not changed since and I still hold the views I was presenting in 2007.

 

I am leaving on vacation for a few weeks and thought that instead of posting while away I will revisit some of my earlier posts.

 

I used to write a lot about the environment, climate change and air pollution. I also wrote a lot about painting, feelings and life.

Magnifique
©2009Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in

 

So here is the first post I would like to share with you. It was first published on June 5th 2008.

 

Reflection on painting

June 5, 2008 by Enviroart

 

Today, I am reflecting on the art, on the work of painting, on the world of painting. It is often difficult to get going and start a new painting. The famous blank canvas… Some say that if you put a coat of background color or rather an undercoat, you erase the stigma of the blank canvas. But this is not true. If it can be useful to judge the tone or unify the painting, it remains a blank canvas. The blank canvas might be yellow or brown or blue or white, it still represents a challenge. Will that first touch of paint, that very first brushstroke be right? Will the color show how my mind’s eye expects or sees it or will it be totally wrong and send me in a tailspin of wondering, of corrections and self-doubt, of inquiring and research?

 

True, there is technique and we can learn to mix colors. It is an art in itself to be able to do this properly and rapidly, but the best way to learn and reduce this anxiety of the first stroke is really to practice, practice, practice. Some days are better than others but all days spent painting, each minute, are a step on the path the painter wants to follow, meaning forward, learning, progressing.

 

Just like writers are told to write everyday no matter what comes out to exercise the writing muscle, painters, sculptors, artists must practice their craft everyday even if we can give it only half an hour. When you love painting, this anxiety is mixed with expectations and questions. Expectations, because you want this new painting to be better than the last one, to be truer, to expose you a little bit more. Are we just asking for people to understand us a little better? Difficult to say…  Questions, because you just don’t know how your painting will be received.

 

Unless you are a really experienced artist, that knows what his public wants, it is hard to judge how the painting will be received. This depends on so many different ideas and criteria, that vary according to the individual staring at the painting. When you offer a painting to an audience, you are trying to touch the onlooker. To go deep into his or her soul and somehow touch a part of them, light a switch, create a “Ah !”  moment before the analysis takes over. Before they wonder will this fit in my living room, in my dining room? Is this the right color?

 

I think we are looking for understanding, for people to peek into our heart and soul, to share something joyful we feel in our core, or sad in some cases. The only way to do this is to paint first and foremost for ourselves. I think this is the main difference between doing artwork and doing “decorative art” or “crafts”. Unless you create, you don’t normally see the difference. Actually a friend of mine said one day that decorative artists are only “good technicians” and I felt a bit insulted by this statement. But now I see the difference. It is true that decorative art is all about technique except for those that actually create patterns and designs. There is a bit of sharing when you pick the pattern you want to reproduce or paint. But is nowhere close to the opening of the soul that happens when you create from your core.

 

I am speaking for me but there is no emotion when I simply paint someone else’s design. There is the satisfaction of completing a project but none of the excitement, no skipping of the heartbeat, none of the quiet joy of just working at transferring your soul to the canvas.  In conclusion I would like to say that the main thing is to make ourselves happy with what we are painting. I don’t mean to be 100% satisfied with the finished product but to paint for ourselves, about things we like and appreciate. It is not about painting what is trendy now if we hate it (unless we are painting strictly to make money). There is so much talk about finding your style and being unique, but each of us is unique and it is by painting what you believe, what you are, what you like that your uniqueness comes out. We have to live with ourselves, we are the only constant in our life and painting first and foremost for this individual that inhabits our body is a good way to start. So paint what YOU like and do at least a little bit everyday.

 

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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair
 

 

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I have not been blogging much lately. Recently went through two surgeries and my husband just had knee replacement surgery. All this went on within 5 weeks and made for a busy and crazy time. Add to this the move of my studio during the same period and I’m lucky I didn’t completely go insane. I am happy to say that all went well I am now reaching my “cruising speed” as my old boss used to say.

 

When life happens and events prevent us from working like we would normally do, how do we keep up with our art and creativity? What I did was tried to remind myself that hopefulness is necessary and to take things one day at the time. I tried to take one action per day, be it small, towards my goal of being ready for three summer exhibits and symposiums.

 

Adding one step after another eventually adds up to something and gets you moving in the right direction. For me it was a way to feel like I was still working. When I couldn’t paint, my brain was in high gear noticing things around me for future reference or reading about techniques When I couldn’t think, I soaked my brain with relaxing music and tried visualising future paintings without worrying too much about deadlines coming up or commitments I would not be able to honour because of my temporary limited physical ability.

 

I especially tried to remain positive which is not necessarily easy for me and reminded myself that the situation was only transitory and I would get back to painting and enjoy creating eventually.

©2016 Suzanne Belair

©2016 Suzanne Belair

Just before all this came about, I had committed to painting a particularly difficult artwork for some clients, a painting where I was unfamiliar with the subject matter and in a style I don’t normally work in. But I really wanted to do it as a challenge even if I had some moments of regret during the process. I had to do a lot of research just to begin drawings, went on the premises and took more than 100 photos. It was a big project and I finally completed it last week.

20160623-IMG_3808 (3)

© 2016 Suzanne Belair

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©2016 Suzanne Belair

 

I ended up with 36 figures in a snowy landscape. I have not found a title yet but it will include Mont Sainte-Anne, Qc. where the action takes place.

 

20160623-IMG_3808 (5)

©2016 Suzanne Belair

I am including a few pictures of details here since the painting is not delivered yet and the owners should see it in person first.

I always varnish all my paintings so have to wait until it cures a bit more. I spray three coats of retouch varnish so that I can deliver earlier but also because I find finishing varnish ends up yellowing with time.

 

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I know we are already 8 days into the New Year and I still feel like I have much to do to set my new year into motion.

Organizing the New Year for me is a big task and one that I love to do but one that I am agonizing over. Decisions decisions…

I am reading yet another book, this one’s title being a bit scary “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. So far I am not finished but I feel the book is pushing me into action already.

How do I want to organize my time in 2016 and still cope with all my obligations and pleasures? Included in pleasures are family and friends without who I cannot live and remain sane!

The War of Art is talking about resistance and procrastination and is a bit judgemental even if true for certain areas.

My main thing right now is how to find more time to paint. And everything is a choice isn’t it? So how do I fit creativity, thinking space, painting, writing, and everything else life throws at you.

One step I took over a year ago is book to get a new studio set-up, a place to reflect, a place to paint, a place to teach, a place away from my everyday life, a place to work.

It will be ready on or around March 1st and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to go there, have no phone, no internet, no distraction and paint, reflect, and paint again. Bounce ideas, brainstorm and create.

I hope I will be able to go there and forget everything else.

IMG_3485 IMG_3486

These are a few pictures of how it is at right now. There will be a kitchen with basic amenities to survive a full day of creating and painting and sharing because I intend to open this place to anyone interested in painting with me and creating together. It will be an “us” space for certain days of the week only tough.

The natural light is great and I’ll have a lot of track lights installed for when it is a little gloomy or dark outside. It will be facing a garden.

I can’t wait to move my entire studio in there. This is my dream coming true!  I feel very blessed !

Within the next 2 months, I should be able to work without distractions, teach and organise small shows.

Organizing the New Year or a new life? Life is ever changing and we must adjust. Impermanence is always part of the equation so lets be flexible. Organizing a New Year could change the course of your life. It’s all about making decisions and dealing with what is being thrown at us with some sort of plan.

Best 🙂

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I believe you should let your mind and your skills expand in all directions as much as you can.

Impulsion ©2015 Suzanne Belair Mixed techniques on canvas   24 X 30 in

Impulsion
©2015 Suzanne Belair
Mixed techniques on canvas 24 X 30 in

 

This painting was a lot of fun to paint and started with a black and white photograph of vines climbing a window sill. Who can see this now right? Because I have decided not to throw any of myself away, I stopped worrying about searching for a unified vision of my work. What unifies my work is that I made it.

 

Like Gertrude Stein said: ” You have to know what you want. And if it seems to take you off track, don’t hold back, because perhaps that is instinctively where you want to be. And if you hold back and try to be always where you have been before, you will go dry “. These are words of wisdom for any artist to follow.

 

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Yesterday, I outlined the way overthinking and ruminating could take over our life sometimes, and why it just doesn’t work to find a solution to any problem.

Thinker by Rodin Photo©SuzanneBélair

 

Rumination can be very gripping and when we are in its web, it manipulates our thinking one way and the other. We feel stuck and compelled to continue in order to figure things out and find a solution but evidence proves the opposite happens. When we feel distressed, stressed out, no insight can be gained from ruminating. On the contrary, things get worse and we can start a downward spiral. So how do we break this habit once we realise that no good can come of it?

 

In the book “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, some strategies are outlined. I started putting some into practice and, to my surprise, they work:

 

1- Distract yourself- break the pattern. It sounds simple but it is very effective when you remember to use it. As soon as you realise you are overthinking, engage in an activity that usually makes you feel good and absorbed like a sport. Move, read something funny, go for a walk with music you like and listen to the words.

 

2- Say to yourself, even shout “Stop” or “No” or “Enough already” and go on to something else you need or want to do. In other words, force yourself to snap out of it and find something else to think about.

 

3- Set aside some specific and limited time everyday, say 30 minutes, to ruminate and refuse to engage in overthinking except in that time slot. Chances are when the time comes, you won’t be able to ruminate.

 

Also proposed are talking to a sympathetic friend and writing. Personally, I don’t feel this would work as well. The friend might not be available at the time you need to talk and some fragile feelings of low self-worth or even shame might interfere with anything positive the friend would have to say. Writing ruminations down only makes them more real, it is rumination in the written form and will likely bring a feeling of helplessness when you re-read them later and are in the grips of it once again, thinking, Oh No !  I am still at the same point 5 years later !
In practice, each person does what works for them but the important thing is to stop the pattern before it gets too far.

 

Other actions to take are:

Put your hand in front of your face. Look at it. This is real. Your thought pattern is interrupted.

 

Take one step towards solving your issue. When you act and feel proactive about straightening out a problem, you won’t need to ruminate so much, and it will feel like you are going in the right direction, moving forward.

 

One thing I do sometimes is project myself in the future, “next year, next month, next week, it will be behind me”. Will this be important in 5-10 years from now?”

 

When I read the book, I felt I could let go of all my ruminating because it became very clear to me that no good can come of it. Rethinking decisions that have been made in the past, reliving sad moments or failures, imagining all kinds of negative things (even if it seems real), does not get us anywhere but down. I am working hard on freeing myself from this habit since I read about it. We need to move forward and realize that we do not control everything.

 

Better to use some of these strategies to stop overthinking in its tracks. I can say I am now a recent ex-ruminator. Like any habit breaking, it gets easier with time but awareness is important and remember, it does not mean you don’t care about the past, the future, someone else’s well-being, or have no problems, it only means you care enough about yourself to see that this is going nowhere, that it is only a big waste of time that could be put to better use.

 

Try the strategies, you’ll surprise yourself !

 

 

(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.

 

http://www.suzannebelair.com

©2014 Suzanne Bélair

 

 

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After a lot of internal complaining and feeling sorry for myself one day, I opened the “How of happiness”, a wonderful book by Sonja Lyubomirsky, that I recommend to everybody. I found myself at the chapter talking about “ruminations”. I must admit I am an expert ruminator and have been all my life.

 

I remember my mother telling me that ruminating was for cows- “Stop ruminating”, she would say. But despite this, my whole life sometimes seems like a giant rumination. Turning around and around in my head everything I don’t like. Have you noticed that overthinking is rarely about what is right in your life or what you are happy about?  We ruminate our problems and situations because we think that somehow, the more we think about it, the more we’ll find some insight that will give us the solution, the “key” to our own happiness.

 

The thinker by Rodin

The thinker by Rodin Photo©SuzanneBélair

But scientific research shows that it is the opposite that takes place. People that ruminate are generally unhappy and suffer feelings of distress and anxiety. (1) The author talks about rumination like a bad habit that needs breaking if one is to find some happiness. She gives tools to stop rumination when it starts, or as soon as we are aware that we started doing it. Although ruminators think that the more they think about their problem or issue, the more insight they’ll discover  into their own personality and solutions to their problems, or find the answer as to why something is not working, the opposite happens: Ruminators go deeper into their problem and their personal distress, bringing a lot of negative consequences to their life.

 

Sadness is enhanced and sustained, the overthinker becomes biased and doesn’t see reality as it actually is, it becomes a vicious circle. If we are ruminating on a problem, it impairs our ability to find a viable solution because our mind is being taken over by negative feelings, it saps motivation and often provokes a “victims” mentality where we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t see any solutions. It also interferes with concentration and stops us from taking any initiative.
So instead of gaining insight into ourselves and our problems, we gain a “distorted and pessimistic perspective” on our lives. If there is already a tendency to negative mood, the combination of ruminating and negative mood is toxic. Overthinking and ruminating will eventually take a significant toll on us and on our relationships if it hasn’t already.

 

I like that the ruminating is presented as a habit that it is possible to break. According to the author, becoming happier means taking the decision to break free from overthinking about both major or minor negative experiences, it is about learning not to pay attention to every bump in the road whether small or big, and not let them affect how we feel about ourselves and our life as a whole.

 

There is a real sentiment of freedom once we realise that no good can come out of overthinking and ruminating. It is the first step to recovery and seeing our lives clearly and finding happiness.
Tomorrow I will post some strategies to overcome this bad habit.

 

 

(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.

 

http://www.suzannebelair.com

©2014 Suzanne Bélair

 

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