One year later…

I began my blog almost exactly a year ago with several goals in mind:

  • To document my efforts to be a more creative person after leaving my work life.
  • As a way to share my retirement journey with friends and family.
  • To connect with others who are figuring out their own ‘seniority’ and creativity.
  • To keep and improve my writing and computer skills.

Though I hit a creative block for a few months and I’ve not posted recently, I’ve made some progress toward all these goals and hope to write more frequently in the new year.

So I begin again!

I continue to struggle with watercolor. The medium confounds me most days! So I took a break from the paints for a few months to work on my basic drawing skills, which I think will eventually make me a better painter.

Over the summer and into the fall, I drew various fruits and vegetables which were at hand from my pantry.  Good practice for form, composition and values.

Two pears

Now, I am trying my hand at translating some pencil drawings to water color.

Two pears in watercolor

More to come!

Creative day 1, 2017

I hope to draw or paint daily this year. Carol Marine, a daily painter whose book on the topic I found recently, writes that doing so is the surest, fastest way to improve. This sketch of two mandarin oranges is my first of the year.

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Then I was hungry and ate one of my props. Here’s the remaining orange, this time in watercolor pencil.

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I look forward to this time next year, seeing how my skills improve!

Our next 365-day trip around the sun

I love the idea of each year – either starting on January 1 or on our birthdays – as a 365-day trip around the sun. Thinking this way generates a completely different perspective on how I used (or squandered) the previous year. And how I could use the gift of all this time and space travelling in the year ahead.

2016 was a milestone for me. I retired. I floundered. But I finally began to figure out a new sense of identity and purpose. (Thank you, Julia Cameron!) With the help of her book for ‘retirees and other creative souls’ I recalled all the creative endeavors I tried, starting in childhood, and realized that I now have time to revisit and explore them anew if I choose.

For example, below is an abstractish watercolor landscape I painted some 30 years ago.

I found it when cleaning closets last spring (in my post-retirement floundering period) and was sad to see that it had become foxed and could not be saved. Its frame had been broken when we moved to Seattle 16 years ago, and since then it had been sitting in a closet, absorbing moisture. Oy. Before I consigned it to the dustbin, I snapped a photo. Now I am glad I did because I might try to recreate or improve upon it.

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I am ready for 2017!

I’m now structuring my days to flex my mental and physical art making muscles. I already feel better for doing both.

I’m at the gym or taking a brisk walk every day, striving to find the joy in exercise. Haven’t yet but I do like having more energy and feeling stronger.

More interestingly, I’ve created a studio space in my home where I can drop in and out to work when I wish. I try to spend at least one hour there each day, drawing, painting or exploring other artists’ WP sites or at Daily Paint Works, which is a treasure trove of small artwork by daily painters. They also offer tutorials – some free and others for a small fee. Great resource.

DPW has inspired me to try to complete a drawing or painting each day in 2017. Tomorrow I will post number 1.

In 2017, I also aim to reconnect with people who have been important influencers in my art life. I will write about them in the coming months and hope you will be inspired by them, too.

Please feel free to scoop up any Artfuel you find here, and use it to feed your own creativity. The new connections I’m making with creative people here on WordPress and in other communities I am finding are certainly nurturing my creativity. Thank you for the Artfuel you contribute here.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Finding my way around WP

I’m taking steps to understand more about WordPress.  So in early December, I signed up for Learning the Fundamentals, a two week email course at Blogging University. (Who knew?) Of course, holiday travel and activities intervened and I am just now working my way through all 14 days of tips and tasks designed to help new bloggers use WP to the fullest.

I’m grateful for this tutorial so I can figure out all the bells and whistles on my new blog.

For example, today I tried a new theme and finally successfully added some widgets to my sidebar. My previously chosen theme did not allow them, which was baffling until WP helped me figure that out.

Excited to keep going!

Inspiration from my garden

Something is always blooming in Seattle and my small garden offers a constant parade of subjects for drawing and painting. Much more fun than weeding!

This photo taken in late fall, looking down from above a large ceramic planter, shows fading heuchera and Japanese forest grass leaves above a cascade of flowering rosemary. I liked the composition enough to use as the basis for a watercolor sketch.

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I’d recently found some dusty art supplies that had been tucked away for years in various parts of the house. Among them was a set of watercolor pencils that I don’t recall buying and didn’t really know how to use. The colors were not impressive to draw with, but when I brushed water over the pigments, they became more vibrant as they melted and blended together. These could be interesting.

I used a grid system to transfer the design from the photo to a larger sheet of paper. Treating each square of the grid as a small abstract on its own, lets me concentrate on each section’s shapes, values, colors and textures. The grid marks can be erased, painted over or treated as design elements, as I did in this color sketch.

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Reviving dormant creative skills

I parked my art-making skills for many years while I focused on a business career. It was exciting to use a different kind of creativity in my many ‘jobs,’ and I’m proud to have made a positive impact throughout my worklife. My work was rewarding and I am grateful for all the adventures and knowledge I gained along the way.

Art was not absent from my life during these years. Collecting art, including items for our home and wearables, supports other artists and gives us joy as we live every day among their art. We’ve also become creative cooks and gardeners, artful endeavors which involve even more senses.

Since I retired in the Spring, my summer was focused on my garden and I began to document the beauty which unfolded throughout the season, with photographs.

I will continue to garden but I’ve discovered my broader purpose in retirement is to try to live more artfully in everything I do.

With the benefit of Julia Cameron’s book for retirees, (and other creative souls) writing my memoire helps me to recall many creative pursuits I explored at different times of my life. Starting in childhood, sewing, designing, metal arts, jewelry design, sculpture, drawing and painting all brought me joy and could be artforms to explore again.

I’m now working to revive my painting and drawing skills to see whether I can make art again. My local Senior Center offers a weekly watercolor class that is both affordable and encouraging.  I’ve just discovered Urban Sketchers and am eager to see if I could try this artform. Through a book about the discipline of daily painting by Carol Marine, I find inspriation at Daily Paintworks every day!

I am again in love with art supply stores and find Daniel Smith to be a tremendous resource here in Seattle.

Revisting artists whose work speaks to me, prompts me to analyze why. And exploring other artists’ work in visual arts, music, drama and writing, sparks ideas for my own future work.

Exercising both mind and body will be essential to sustaining a creative life, so I’m walking, observantly, most days, seeking subjects to draw or paint. And, thanks to Humana’s Silver Sneakers program, several times a week I’m taking active classes at a local gym, in a variety of strength-building activities.

My days are beginning to feel more structured and I’m gaining a new sense of positive outlook about this new chapter of my life.  If you have insights to share about your creative retirement, please share them!