Thursday, December 9, 2010

Painting my blues away

It has been a chilly, damp week. Despite copious quantities of tea, a furball of a kitten sleeping on my legs, I can't shake the coldness.  It just seems to crawl up my legs and then my arms, meeting in my midsection causing me to shiver uncontrollably.  Yes, it's December, I know it is supposed to be cold, but this coldness seems to pierce right through to my soul.  It is more than just the chill in the air, I think it is more than likely a case of pre-holiday blues come for their annual visit.  These blues are not melodious, there is no sassy saxophone wailing in the background, no Ella Fitzgerald or Billy Holiday heartfully crooning a tune or two.  No, this is a case of artistic blues, a certain kind of ennui every artist has to endure periodically.  But, for me, my blues come for a regular visit, just as if we planned it to happen each year.

I am not sure why December brings out the blues, but for some reason, I have never felt truly comfortable with all the frantic activity of the month.  The rushing around getting the flat tidy, baking for unexpected guests, trying to keep regular hours for sleep, painting, down time and making sure there is some time allotted for dreaming.  I think it is the last one that is nagging at me to give it a little more time.  I have been so busy taking care of life, that I have forgotten to set aside some time to dream.

Dreaming is not a priority for many people and some have told me how foolish it is to dream.  I understand that for them, dreaming is a waste of time, time that could be put to better use.  I could be reading a book on some technical aspects of painting or drawing.  I could be listening to a choral concert or a recording of an opera.  There are ever so many things that I could be doing instead of dreaming, but I truly feel that dreaming, for me, is an essential part of my day.  It is a time when I mentally work out what colours I want to use, what type of scenes I want to paint, what type of art is calling out to me and begging me to give it a try, just a few times to see if maybe I might find out that I really do have an affinity for it.  My dreams take me places and encourage me, push me a little, and just in general cajole me into a better mood, pushing the blues aside by replacing them with a sense of anticipation.  Dreaming, the way I do it, is not for the faint of heart.

The last time I really listened to my inner muse, I ended up with a totally repainted flat, the furniture had been rearranged and two closets had been transformed, for purposes that had never been intended for them.  When I dream and listen to my heart, a lot of things can and often do happen.  The end result being that any sense of the blues has been blown out of town by the frenzy of my actions.  Okay, truthfully, I do not move quickly, not in any sense.  I move sedately, quietly, cautiously.  Almost as if I fear to actually move from one place to another for fear of disturbing something or someone.  I suspect I fear that by initiating movement, I might find myself participating in something that I have really not thought through fully.  That terrifies me, I like to be in control at all times.  And when I am feeling blue, I feel that my life is out of control and that I need to return to normal quickly in order to prevent the blues from taking over my soul.  When I am blue, I feel like everything is just beyond my grasp, life is spinning out of control.  Did I mention that I am a bit of a control freak?  A tad compulsive, fairly predictable and definitely a control freak.  All qualities that come in handy some of the time, but not qualities that I am especially enamoured of or proud to have as part of my truest vision of myself.

So, what to do?  It is almost as if there is a loudspeaker in my head sounding "Warning!  December blues alert! December blues approaching rapidly."  Okay, so it is now official in my mind, I have a case of the December blues.  What am I going to do about them?  I have enough to deal with without having the blues camping out on my settee ready to join me for my morning cup of tea.  It seems when I am dealing with these blues, that my inner time clock gets out of sync with day and night still being opposite each other, but standing in the other's rightful place.  Best to deal with this problem right away.

I sit down, grab paper and pen and start making lists.  I find comfort in my lists.  I jot down things to do, books to read, recipes to look for and appointments to make.  I read over these lists and there is nothing in any of them that will drive the blues back from whence they came.  And so I grab my paints, some canvases and spread out over the diningroom table.  I make a few tentative stabs at the canvas using one colour and switching over to another every so often.  The chatter of the loudspeaker in my head is starting to abate.  That is a good sign.  I keep painting, turn on the radio, make some tea and keep painting.  I look around me and see five canvases propped up against the walls. Some large, some small, all in various stages of completeness or lack of completeness to be more accurate.  But this does not bother me.  The joy is in the creating process and by not fully completing a painting, I stretch out the enjoyment, those good feelings, just a while longer.  I like the sound the brush makes as it crosses the canvas.  I feel the difference between the less expensive pieces of canvas and the more expensive pieces that I bought on sale months ago.  I stocked up knowing that I would need them to coax me out of these predictable doldrums.   Working with the best I can afford is a necessity, just the same way that a chef wants to use the best ingredients in their signature dishes, in fact in any dish that they make. 

I still do not know why December blues hit me every year, but at least I know how to counter their attack victoriously.  I suspect that I might be doing a lot of painting over the next few weeks.  I hope any guests dropping by unexpectedly are prepared for a vast number of paintings, some related, most of then not, hanging throughout my little flat.  There is no shortage of art in my world, but their is a distinct shortage of available wall space with the exception of my bedroom/studio.  For some reason, I have not hung anything up on those walls with the exception of a clock.  I am not sure of the significance of this or what the underlying meaning might be.  It is an interesting thought, maybe one that I need to take some time to dream about.  But, for now, I have five canvases waiting for me to return to them.  I am going to post a few pictures to the side of this post so you can see what I have been up to in the past few days/hours.  I am hoping to finish these along with the others still waiting their turn patiently, propped up against the wall.  I would like to have all these hanging as completed pieces before the first holiday visitor rings my buzzer.  Time will tell whether I accomplish this task.  But, one thing I can tell you is that I am not feeling blue any longer.  I feel a sense of purpose, something is pulling me along, propelling me towards my paints, and I feel a huge sense of relief.  Painting my blues away is so satisfying that I will not dread my next encounter with them because I know that relief is only a few brush strokes away.

I hope you have had some time to devote to your artwork!  The worst thing you can do is to deny yourself this simple pleasure.  I have one friend who is now regularly heading off into her studio again. Yeah Cate!  I knew you would go back and start painting again.  Now, you and I need to push a few others into some action.  Claudia and Liza will surely help us tempt those who are unwilling to admit how much they miss playing "artist."  That is how some of my friends talk about my compulsion to paint, that I am role playing that I am an artist.  Well, we all know the truth, that we are not role playing, but rather we are artists and we are having a wonderful time working at our craft.  I include myself in this group of artists.

Have a wonderful weekend!  I know you will be busy with all the preparation for the many holidays coming up over the next three weeks.  Be kind when you are out shopping, no fighting for parking spaces, no hitting allowed.  Deck the halls, but not your fellow shopper!

Sincerely,  Rutheemac

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