Getting Motivated with Micro-Moves

Sometime last fall I tried to compose a painting by creating an abstract value pattern to paint some wildflowers. I did a value sketch and a little study in watercolor so I thought I was well prepared for an oil painting. It just never came together. I kept going far beyond the time when I should have thrown in the painting rag. I left that painting on the easel . I took me a while to realize that its ugliness was keeping me me from starting a new painting.

I was doing very little art work and that’s never a good thing for my spirit. In order to keep an art practice going during the winter I started to draw a face each day. Some days I found a famous face online. Some days I copied pictures of family.

I focused on value and shape without really caring as much about likeness. I just wanted to improve my ability to see and reproduce accurately. It was relaxing because there were no expectations. In my reading about creativity I’ve come across the idea of doing just one small thing. Some people call it micro-moves. What’s the smallest action you can take to get moving on something you need or want to do? Sketching faces was my micro-move.

Here is a sampling of the work. Names have not been included to protect privacy and to add plausible deniability if the person or their family member doesn’t think I’ve captured the likeness. So let’s just say these are studies of faces.

The micro-moves had done their work. They kept me active and eventually inspired me to get back into painting. I found the girl in the straw hat particularly interesting, so I decided I needed to paint her portrait in oils. I liked the shadows caused by the hat. I also found her features very pleasing.

Underpainting

I started with an underpainting and intended to build up layers by glazing. I did that with the blue shadows and some yellow, but I kind of lost my way so I went to more direct painting.

First glaze

As usually happens, I start to lose some of the information that was included in the underpainting. You can see changes in the shape of the eyes as I added highlights. I spent small amounts of time over a number of days getting more specific with shape and color.

I’m in the middle of another painting, but here’s a glimpse. This little girl has tormented me for years. She’s a cutie but I can never quite capture what makes her the delightful little creature that she is. Here’s my latest attempt from a picture that’s several years old. Maybe this time…

Studio Dog

by Lucy

I’ve always adored the arts. Could have had a career in the theater if casting directors were smart enough to recognize real talent. They go for the fluffy types, I guess. Maybe I needed an agent.

Instead I chose a life out of the spotlight – studio dog to a would-be artist. I start the day with a good thump on the side of the bed to get her up and moving. If that doesn’t work I just breath in her face. Like magic her eyes open.

Then I click into personal trainer mode. If I didn’t get her out the door, pounding the pavement, she’d sit with breakfast and the paper until lunch.

Once she’s showered and dressed in her grubbies, it’s up the steps to the studio. “Studio” is a pretentious word for a spare bedroom with art supplies and stacks of paintings. It has my favorite window where I can patrol the street from higher ground. Yeh, I do some guard duty just to keep up my skills.

Basically I just lay up against the office chair or under the table. She’s got an eclectic taste in music and podcasts. I usually doze. If she gets really involved with the paint I can sneak out for a drink or some kibble.

I keep my comments to myself. I know where my chow comes from and critiquing her efforts does not work to my advantage. Some people think dogs are color blind. Still I know a tint from a shade. I’d tell her it’s all about the values, but my vocabulary is limited. She’s learning.

I’m definitely not going to be like the farm dog who told her that her plein air painting stunk. Well, he didn’t actually tell her, he just left a little token of his disdain right in front of the easel.

It’s a good life as a studio dog. If I worked any harder she’d have to pay me.

Creative Timing

A work that in progress

I am grateful for every new idea that comes to me. Sometimes it’s an inspiration for a new painting or maybe a party game when I’m in charge of entertainment for a bash. (Farm Animal Price is Right was a big hit!) I may come up with a way to solve a practical problem or a concept for a blog post. I love to be creative but I just can’t control when inspiration will occur.

The best way to be inspired is to start working. The more I work on a project, the more ideas I get. There’s nothing like jumping right into the mess of a project to see new pathways or solutions. If you’re stuck on a project just take one little micro-mini step and you may be on your way to something better than you originally imagined. Turn it upside down and backward to see it in a new light.

This painting was commissioned to preserve family memories of a special place.

Some good ideas come while I’m walking the dog in the morning and letting my mind wander. I never listen to music or podcasts while I’m walking. I like natural sounds and silence. Whatever concerns are top of mind usually get examined again and sometimes new little ideas bubble up. This is great because I have all day to think them over. Ideas that pop into my brain in the daylight are usually workable.

I get good ideas at church. I admit that my mind wanders but I choose to think it’s making space for divine inspiration. Any idea that pops into my brain at church gets taken very seriously.

I do a good bit of driving so that’s another opportunity for the mind to travel to new territory. If I go down a mental rabbit hole, I can work on an idea for quite a while and still pay attention to traffic. (Although I may not realize how far I’ve traveled.) The only drawback is that I can’t write and dictating to my phone is too distracting. So I’ve got to hold that thought awhile – not so convenient.

The worst time for me to get ideas is when my head hits the pillow. When that happens I know I’ll be noodling it around for a long time and I won’t be able to shut down the mental processor and get some sleep. I’ll think and struggle and toss and turn.

Inspiration lights up my brain and shoots off in all kinds of “what-if” directions. I think of the practical side of how to make it work and how to add razzle dazzle. The idea develops and morphs and coagulates.

I stay from You Tube DIY videos late at night. I know that my brain will be DIYing for hours. Ideas that involve images are challenging enough but ideas that involve words are the worst! I’m afraid I’ll lose them so I keep reviewing them until I finally get up and write them down.

I’ve learned over time that the only way to get relief is to get up and do a brain dump onto paper and hope that it will make sense in the morning. Usually it just needs more work, but sometimes the idea is just too crazy when held up to the light of day.

Early stages of a quilt on my design wall

I adore creativity. It gives me energy. It’s a high that spills over even into mundane chores. I can conquer any boring task when I have an exciting new project to plan out. I lose track of time and enjoy the ride.

Creativity shows up when it wants to and it’s our job to make the most of it.