The Aging Artist

29 05 2017

Weather.: Oh it’s been a rollercoaster. Cooler spring than expected, with more rain than anticipated. May is heading for the door and June looks to be mild. 

So. Glances at the date and winces.  

I’d make excuses or give reasons for my lack of blog activity, but the truth is I just haven’t had the energy or coherency to write lately. The political garbage fire kind of sucked me in and I have been spending way too much time refreshing my Twitter feed rather than looking out the window or thinking about creating. The righteous anger I felt at the start of this year has turned into a low burning seething fire in my belly. I’ve been productive in the studio, but my new work hours have somewhat curtailed the time I’ve spent there.

Wildly random update: The husbeast and I took a financial planning class which has actually helped us get back on track with our economic situation.  Which was good because my little beat up Punk Mobile of a car decided that it was time to self destruct– Rack and pinion broke along with the steering column and struts. In other words: $$$$ of repairs. There was a period of deciding whether it was worth it to put the money into the car, but ultimately we realized that we can’t be a one car  family. (We tried for a month and it was getting very unfeasible.)  So, made an adult decision to hold off on a new car until we could pay mostly cash for it, and got the Punk Mobile fixed.

Also, made another adult decision to get our health back in order and went to see a nutritionist who gave us much more clear and practical ways to eat better and get in healthy shape.

Add in some relatives passing away and having bad things happen…it’s been a rather busy and distracted period of time.

Now. The title is something I’ve been wanting to discuss, but been mulling over how to write it up.  I’m not old, not by any reasonable definition. 50 years old is solid middle aged. But sometimes “aging” is less to do with a number and more to do with the deterioration and decline of certain faculties and body functions.

I have, over the past few years, had an acceleration in vision deterioration, the onset of arthritis in several of my joints and of course, the weight problems I’m  working on as we  speak.

I wear increasingly strong bi-focals to see, and as of recent, I have to wear them all the time because I can’t see shit with them off.  They used to be just for reading. Now I can’t function without them.

The arthritis is hard, mostly because it’s setting into my hands, predominately in my thumb joints. The thumbs are starting to float towards my palm, making it almost impossible for me to flatten my hand out on a level surface. My grip is getting weaker, though I’m doing what I can with exercises and braces to counter it.

The weight issue is fixable, but with age comes more effort necessary to achieve your goals.

It’s obvious how it affects my day to day, but the frustrating part is how it’s affecting my art.

Being a mosaic artist, a lot is depending on my ability to cut tile, stone and glass. I use clippers, glass cutters and even saws to get pieces to the shape I need for whatever the piece requires. With my thumb joints deteriorating, using the clippers for extended periods of time is getting difficult. And trying to hold the tiles as I clip them is increasingly difficult as my thumb-to-index finger grip is getting weaker and has less dexterity. I’ve compensated where I can by using tiles that are smaller and need less customizing, but it’s definitely starting to limit the work I can do.

The way I’ve come to terms with this is accepting that I may have to alter my technique and re-define what kinds of art I want to make. I’m not one that takes these kind of limitations well, but practicality will always win out over my fragile little feelings.

Yes, I’ve spoken to my doctor about this, but the answers are usually to offer exercises to stave off the deterioration a bit longer, but no, there’s no reversing it.

The vision problem will just be relegated to better glasses, hopefully not ending in a point where I just have to accept that I can’t do smaller detailed work anymore.

There is some guilt flagellation going on, because I know that some of this bodily degradation rests solely on my sedentary shoulders. Had I done a better job of staying healthier, I might have not been dealing with these issues  for a few more years. But this is what it is. We adapt to our environment, our new relationships with our surroundings, because we have to.  I will have to adapt to my new reality, where my body may not be working the way it did, but I will find a way to work with the new limitations. Self-inflected wounds aside, I need to stop beating myself up over past lapses and make sure they don’t continue in the future.

I’m 50, not dead. And if watching others have blooming careers in their 60s, 70s and older has taught me anything, you can have the life you want, but you may have to accept that there are different parameters to work within.

So no whining. No lamenting. Just accepting the circumstances, doing what I can to adapt and still work on slowing the deterioration, and making the best of my new reality.

An aging artist is still an artist.  Limitations are merely things to work around.  I won’t be defined or limited by things as simple as sore joints and bad eyesight. I still have a destination, I just need to adjust the path.

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Anger is an energy…

31 01 2017

Weather: Dear gods, it’s been all over the bloody place,  maxing out at the 60s a couple weeks ago, and now we’re back to grey, dour skies and the occasional bit of snow. Makes for  a constant state of mushy brain.

Sorry for the lengthy absence. The current world situation , and particularly here in the States, has been a bit of a trash fire. 

The constant barrage of discomfiting news and the anger that comes with it can really put the dampers on your creativity, or just thought in general.

I finally started making myself go back to the studio, just so I could start venting some of that energy into art. I’m finishing up a pretty piece at the moment. Have a few darker, angrier pieces on deck.  It happens.

I find it hard to create in a happy little bubble when things are burning outside the walls. My emotions tend to bleed into whatever I’m working on, whether art or writing. I can sometimes look back at something I wrote a while ago and usually can pinpoint when there was a spike in emotion about things.

The title on this post should not be unfamiliar to my fellow PiL Fans. Johnny Lydon does turn a hell of a phrase.

And yes. I’ve been very angry lately. Angry at the lack of compassion and lack of simple comprehension that people are taking with each other and the consequences of their actions.

I’ve joked about punching Nazis. (I’m not really joking.) I’ve made valiant attempts to not reply scathingly to posts and comments by people who should know better. (And given myself chest pains and headaches as a result). I’ve agreed with those who are putting their money and action where their mouth is. (wishing I could do more myself). It’s a fucking frustrating place to be, stuck between just supporting things I feel to be right, and not being able to turn into Galadriel with the ring and just remove the source of my ire, for the betterment of mankind. Mostly because I feel that the ends, while ultimately satisfying, would not be justified by the means.

My path has turned back to my Trad Witch roots. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes, when you have visceral energy that builds to point of hurting yourself, you will find a productive means to re-direct it. Sometimes it helps just to aim it at something. Like screaming out at the open water, knowing it is not literally fixing things, but hoping, with a little tendril of black hearted wistfulness that it just might leave a mark on those that hurt you or others.

So instead of finding light and joy to bring to my work, I have Kali and the Morrigan and the Norn whispering in my ear, nudging things towards righteous anger and achieving balance through less gentle paths. Because balance will always be reached, eventually, and through painful means if it is resisted. The flow of things tends to the middle, not the ends.

Let’s be honest, things can only be pushed in one direction for so long, till even the most sycophantic followers are given pause and decide to dig their heels in. We have become, by large, a loud chorus for our own comforts and conveniences. But there are deeper, more primal things that we all share that will not be compromised. By anyone. And what is a mere inconvenience for one, is devastating to another. We have lost sight of that connection, of that imbalance. Selfishness and fear are awful bed-mates, and they will be the ruination of all things good. The internet, for all its foibles, has managed to connect us on a larger level. And that connection does not stop at borders or with cultural differences. We are, whether you like it or not, a global society. We do not exist in a vacuum and our actions, for good or bad, make ripples both small and large.

This is a very chaotic time. I’m trying my best to keep a firm grip on the idea that we will get through this, and better angels will prevail.

But I will admit that the deeper urge to lash out and shake people until their pettiness, cruelty and stupid myopic view of this beautiful world dissipates, is very strong. I don’t want to give into that urge, but history has proven that if you push people or belittle them with ignorance and spite for long enough, they will push back.
With more power than you are aware they have. Bullies are always surprised when their victim takes them out at the knees.

I’m betting on the angels, but the devil has his merits too right now. Pray for the kinder outcome. The other option will leave more scars.

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New Year, New Perspective, New Challenges. Hi 2017! How Ya Doing?

1 01 2017

Weather: High: 38° This may be the first New Year in a while that has been unremittingly Sunny! I hope it bodes well for the year. It’s at least a good start!

So yesterday I posted my year end post, which as per expectation was about looking back. This is my new year post. It’ll mostly be about looking forward. 

As a lot of people have been already proffering up their goals and expectations, I see both some foreboding and some hope in generous proportions.  For myself, I am weighing in heavily on the side of hope. As I saw someone else say last year, Hope and Naivete are similar but not the same. Hope requires effort while Naivete is more based on expectation and assumption. So I’m placing my energies on hope for the short term, although I realize that in order for things to pan out in the positive, there will have to be some work to get there.

For my goals, a lot remain the same as last year: more art, more writing, better health. In general, be a better person. I am already working on the health aspect. (Took a  near 4 mile walk today. Yes in winter, in Michigan. It was cold, but sunny. No excuses.)  Art will start tomorrow, as I’m heading back into the studio. Have a lot of projects on deck and I’m being militant about not sliding into bad habits that include making excuses or being easily distracted. Time is a commodity I am not taking lightly anymore. I’m turning 50 in less than 2 weeks. Seeing people of my age bracket dropping dead of health issues in the past year has put a very sobering sword of Damocles over my head. Either commit to self care and make the effort to get things done, or accept the consequences, short and long term. I’m not willing to throw in the towel because it’s difficult. I rather like a challenge, though I will bitch about it in the beginning.

It’s also going to be a financial rebuilding year for us. We invested a lot of funds in house overhaul last year and this year we need to get ourselves a little more above water than just floating on the surface. (Sorry, living lakeside seems to make a lot of metaphors water related. :shrugs:) Some luxuries are going to be curtailed and some trips & expenditures we were contemplating may be back-burnered for the year. But, that’s the adult part of the equation. Sometimes you can play a little looser with the pocketbook , but there comes the time to pay the piper and you can’t put that off forever.

There’s a lot of uncertainty overall going into this year, what with political shenanigans and the usual global instability. But I think that part of my duty, as a good citizen of this country, is to be vigilant that rights are not eroded and that, as a nation, we don’t start moving backwards. I get that things like economics and foreign policy will always be on the pendulum, swinging back and forth, but I don’t agree that having all citizens of this country being treated with dignity and equality is something we should backtrack on. Moving backwards is despicable and only makes us look the villain, and rightly so, in the eyes of the rest of the civilized world. We’ve kind of fallen backwards in a lot of areas, and that is a little depressing. We’re better than that. We just need to realize it and work on it.

One of the things I think is going to be a big change for me this year is scaling back on social media. I’ve made this claim several years in a row, because I know it’s an ongoing distraction. Weirdly enough, I think it’s going to stick this time, only because last year was so unbelievably ugly that I was actually staying offline to avoid the fracas. Even people I agreed with were getting on my nerves. Social media is mostly my way of staying in touch with long distance relatives, friends and the swath of artists that I consider part of my community. Somewhere along the line, it turned into a loudspeaker of political and opinionated blather, until it was a nonstop stream of only that. I started getting bored, then increasingly annoyed with it. Now, I’m trying to decide if there’s a better way to reduce the signal to noise ratio or if I should just take an extended sabbatical. That remains to be seen.

Studio time is going to become a priority for me, because I’m totally buying into the art as rebellion idea. If the world is going to continue to be ugly, then I will combat it with the tools I have. I’m joining the #MakeArtNotWar Challenge this year. It’s a way to carve out time for my creative pursuits and keep me accountable. Also, I hope it will prompt me to blog more often, read more, write more and just in general generate more new creative output. Some of my fave people to interact with are musicians, writers and artists. Some of them wear all three hats (:cough: Ego Likeness : cough:). But regardless of their chosen medium, these people are always working, day or night, in the mood or not. That’s the work ethic I’m hoping to foster by doing this challenge. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo several years now and I always rise to the challenge there. Now I just need to stretch that commitment out for a year. The nice thing is I can fold my health challenge into this one, because self-care is part of the package.  😀

So in general I have some pretty lofty goals and challenges on the ledger. But I’m already in process on most of them, so they’re not unachievable. The challenge is not letting my commitment lag.

Hopefully, people will be along for the ride, but the truth is I’m doing this even if they’re not. Hitting the half century mark carries some deep implications for me. I desperately need to ingrain some good habits now. Here’s hoping I can make the grooves deep enough to stick.

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Mood: Upbeat, but tired
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: 2 cups of java. Probably some tea later. 
Work-Out Minutes Logged today: 1 hour & 20 Minutes (walked 3.5 miles)
Listening To:
Twenty One Pilots, Ego Likeness & the Hamilton Soundtrack on Spotify
Book Last Read: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: CBS Sunday Morning & Sherlock (Soon!!!)
Latest Artistic Project: Writing:  Editing  Serpents Trilogy
Mosaics:  Holiday ornaments & working on  Nordic  Mandala

 





Time for that End of the Year musing we all dread.

31 12 2016

Weather: Winter is taking a slight break at the moment, as we’re in the 40s for the next few days. Then it’s back into the freezer later in the week.

We haven’t seen a shit-ton of snow so far ::knocks all available wood:: but the weather has been all over the place this year. Summer was cooler than expected, and drier. Spring and Fall both stretched past their usual dates. Not that I’m complaining. (I’m all for the cooler temps to be honest. )

So. New Year’s Eve. We meet again my friend. Been muddling most of the morning on what I wanted to write this year and considering the tenor of 2016, it could turn into a horror story right out the gate.

Truth be told, my personal life has been…okay. The world at large? Not so much. I’ve had idols die this year. (SO MANY OF THEM. WTF, Grim Reaper? Are you training some overeager assistant, because DAMN. )

Politically….the less said the better. The election was a mess. The candidates were unimpressive. The voters were their own worst enemies, if they even voted at all. Infighting made enemies of once allies. Buyer’s remorse seems to be setting in, since we seem to have elected a petulant child with a lengthy slam book in hand to the head of the table. The country by and large seems both weary and uneasy. Not good for what seems to be a fight ahead. Anyone who thinks things will turn around or are not heading into troubled waters should probably be in for some depths of disappointment.

I’ve kind of taken the tact of focusing on what I can do to work on issues locally- Neighborhood, city, community, state levels. The federal government has failed us on so many levels. It seems to have abandoned listening to anyone but those who line their pockets, and even those who would have good intentions are getting pecked to death by supporters who think good is the enemy of perfect. It’s not because I have any animosity to the government as an idea, because when it works, it’s fantastic. I also don’t believe “reducing it to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub” is anywhere in the vicinity of a responsible attitude. People do love their soundbites, don’t they? Regardless of how inane or dangerous the idea is. Sigh. Didn’t really want to turn this into a political assessment, but considering how the ugly side of politics has seeped into every fucking aspect of our lives, it’s hard to pretend it’s not a problem. I’ve seen members of families literally stop talking to each other over this.

Anyway. On less contentious things, I think that this year is the seed of a new creative revolution. Not because things seem bad, but because the underlying structure on how art is made, marketed and shown is shifting. The old label/publishing house/art market structure still exists, but is growing increasingly inadequate to sustain for most creative types out there. More and more people are finding ways to tap their communities for support, and use their own knowledge of their creative output to better market it. It doesn’t mean the methods are becoming more lucrative. But if your only reason for entering the art world is to make money, then I think you need to reassess your reasons. Money will come, but you have to be good at what you do. That takes time and effort.

The patronage model seems to slowly be making a comeback. People are selling directly to their fans and supporters. Commissions are getting done, because of the need for unique pieces of work or exclusive releases seems to be on the upswing. Pre-ordering something that comes from an artist you like and have faith in can sustain that artist. Granted this model works best for those who have an established fan base, less so for those who are starting out. This seems to be where a lot of new creatives are befuddled. There is no magic trick to being successful in anything. A lot of it is timing, some luck, but the truth is – and people for some reason hate hearing this -you have to WORK VERY HARD. Put the time in. Make the sacrifices. Rob Peter to pay Paul, so that maybe you don’t have cable for awhile so you can buy supplies or travel to a convention where you can sell your wares. Practice until you have reasonable mastery. Then keep practicing. There’s always a new level.

This year, I kind of stepped back from a lot of what was happening and just watched. I tried to observe what worked for some people, and what didn’t. I tried to listen when people did write-ups on their experiences, seeing if there was a commonality to the struggles versus their successes. What I didn’t do was join the Greek Choir of “this year is awful and everything is on fire” when it came to whether someone would be successful or not. I watched people who had more limitations on their time and finances become successful, even if it was moderately so, and people who had vast amounts of resources barely break even or fail.

So many iconic artists passed away this year. It’s really not the year. It’s just been overwhelming because there were a lot of trailblazers in there. Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher – on and on. One thing that all of them had in common was not stopping when things got difficult and not letting the zeitgeist dictate their creative output. The reason that all of them garnered so much respect and why their passing inspired so much emotional response was that we are invested in people who speak to us when we are feeling like outcasts ourselves. When we think the world is looking down it’s nose at us. When we are emotionally low or experiencing those downturns in our lives that inevitably happen. They speak to us. Some of us at different times and for different reasons. We have different favorite  albums, songs, performances. That’s because we needed them for different reasons at different times.

I know this is typically rambly of me, but if I had to glean one lesson from 2016, it was simply that time doesn’t care. It will pass regardless of events, or endings, or procrastination. It will not slow down to accommodate your sorrow, or inability to cope, or vast plans. We lost a lot of people. Some friends lost family. Some lost friends. Some lost idols. We are heading into uncertain times. We are standing at the edge of another year, but this year, things do not carry any assurances. We’re starting the new year battle scarred and a little less hopeful. Doesn’t mean we have to wallow. We can reverse the trend, but again, we have to put the time in.

If 2017 is to be anything more than just more of the same, or heaven forfend, WORSE, it falls on us to do something about it. Make the new year YOUR year. Step away from howling morass of social media politics. It is possible to be informed without having to get mired down in things. It’s possible to make improvements, to get your voice heard, and to express your hopes, desires and yes, disapproval. You will probably have to work harder to be heard. You probably will have to apply a lot more critical thinking when you read things, seeing that there are people actively trying to mislead you now. Most are easily avoided.

One thing I would advise to all: Even if something makes you angry, if a person is pissing you off to all ends– Don’t mention them by name. “Internet famous” has no downside anymore. Even if 90% of you are speaking about someone with disdain and anger, you are still making their name trend. And trust me, most of these jackasses care more about that than worry about your negative view of them.
There are exceptions, of course. If someone needs exposing, then by all means do so. (But make sure your accusations are founded, documented and make sure that collateral damage is not hitting innocent people. Internet mobs are less helpful than you think, although they feel good when you’re angry at something/someone. Yes, you have to make that effort. Otherwise you are no better than them.)

STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS. 

Yes, even our elected officials. (You notice I didn’t mention anyone by name above. Wasn’t necessary. You know who I was talking about.)

Sorry for the downer post, but it’s been a downer of a year. Still, there’s always room to head up and that’ll be the focus of my New Year’s Day post.

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I’ll be back tomorrow for my thoughts for the new Year. 😀

Thanks for reading my write-ups this year. I truly appreciate it.





NaNoWriMo Day #30- Time for a creative revolt

30 11 2016

Weather: Weird end to a Weird Month. Been in the low 50s and WINDY. Having intermittent rain. Just odd. Next week?  Here’s the snow we’ve been not seeing. Hello December.

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Yep. Got to 50 K. Validated and everything. And it’s a giant mess. Sigh. Well, I was mostly aiming just to get the structure of the thing in place. I think I will feel better once all the jagged edges are better stitched together.

November 2016 has been, for lack of a better phrase, a bit of a dumpster fire. Between this clown car of an election and the crazy series of events that seems to be following and the added deaths that the bloody Grim Reaper that is 2016 has racked up…I’ll be more than happy to see the backside of this year.

I found that I’ve spent more time away from social media and the news, and truth be told, I feel better mentally for it.

Probably a good sign that I need to get out of the online cesspool and back into life again. Studio time has been languishing for no good reason. Creative deep diving always makes me feel better, so I may need to take a moment and analyze why I’ve not been indulging.

I read the below post recently and it’s served as a bit of perspective and calming reassessment of all things that are currently giving me indigestion. Read it and take a  moment to breathe. And consider all the ways there are to battle cruelty and darkness and ugliness in this current time. Not all battles require fists and angry retorts. Sometimes our energy is better spent facing down the awful with overwhelming beauty and compassion. Shame the terrible venom by drowning it out with cavernous shining art and creative output. There is plenty of room  in the battle for both the hard and soft approach. (Keeps ’em off balance. 😉 )

There is no time for despair

I’m off to spend some time away from my keyboard for a bit.

Keep making art. Keep writing. Keep making music. BE CREATIVE.

Bullies and demagogues have no defense against those who refuse to engage and step around them. Sometimes we shine a light on dark things to make sure they don’t take root. Other times we starve them of attention so they wither on the vine. Both methods are effective and they work in concert beautifully.

Art can be reactive and proactive. Do both. Do it all.

Words can be weapons, sharp and subtle in the same breath. Images can soothe and disturb and incite and reassure. Music can inspire  or commiserate. Bring all your emotions and stories and statements out.

Make Art. Everyday.

 





NaNoWriMo Day #22 -Trying to avoid the weeds.

22 11 2016

Weather- Why does it feel so much colder than it actually is? Upper 20s when we walked out the door this morning, and it’s barely nudging the 40s now.  Feels sub arctic. No snow yet and none to be seen in the forecast. But stranger things have happened.

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Work again took up a big chunk of my writing time today. Still, I find that sometimes the pressure of less time can  get the ball rolling.

The title of today’s blog best describes how sometimes the wheels go off the writing wagon and you end up far afield from where you intended. I used to refer to this also as the muses getting drunk and taking the steering wheel away.

The good news is sometimes it leads to interesting places that allow you to rethink some aspects of your story. Sometimes the weeds can produce some better paths and more colorful accents. However, sometimes all getting off the beaten path can do is just bog you down. It’s important to know when your being creative and when your just filling the page with words that sound great but ultimately take your story so far from where you intended you have to stop and take the wheel again.

So far, getting off the path has led to some good possibilities. Nothing that has made me want to stray too far from where I’m going. I’m a pantser by nature, but I do try to keep some plot in mind to rein in the flightiest of fancies.

Link for the day: (I know I link a lot of stuff from Chuck Wendig, but I love his verbiage, profane as it can be. Plus, he knows his shit.)

This is an older post from Chuck. Lots to think about here (Plus my fave phrase in big letters right there at the beginning):
 NANOWRIMO PEP TALK: THE PERFECT MACHINE VERSUS THE ART MONSTER

ALSO– DO NOT TRUST THE CUTE FUZZY PLOT BUNNEH! THEY WILL MULTIPLY,NIBBLE ON YOUR BRAIN STEM AND EAT ALL YOUR AVAILABLE TIME!

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NaNoWriMo day#21- A brief post

21 11 2016

Weather: Cold, but expected. High hit about 40º today, but the wind made it seem much more arctic. The sun was out, but incidental. Didn’t do too much warming up. 

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Not much to write about tonight. Had to work a full day today, so I was crunch time writing this evening.

Here’s a link of good advice when you feel like you’re hitting the wall.

Facing the Blank Page: Celebrated Writers on How to Overcome Creative Block

More thoughts tomorrow, hopefully with more wordcount. Getting to that “Paycheck To Paycheck” feeling that I’m barely skimming by.