My studio is small and it’s such a mess.


I straighten it out periodically, but it quickly becomes chaotic again. The chaos almost never interferes with my working, but it does interfere with my being able to move projects forward smoothly. I have pictures that I literally forgot I did. They still need work, but hidden behind something else, they slip down the memory hole.

The koi painting above is one little painting that’s not sliding down the hole. I wrote a post about how I was finishing it, and indeed it’s gotten some more work (which continual rain prevents me from illustrating in a photo … I will have to show its progress another time). A new goal of mine is to find ways to organize projects more efficiently.

detail of one fish that got some more attention

When I was learning art, the business world and the art world were assumed to be in strong opposition — almost like a war. To learn things from business was supposed to be very bad. (It corrupted your soul, made you a “sell out,” meant you weren’t using your feelings, etc.) But the books I read about business, in sharp contrast to the stereotype, make me wonder whether business people aren’t perhaps more creative than artists are. Some of the books have marvelous ideas and such spirit of daring-do.  The business environment is constantly changing and business people have to respond constantly to the challenge that change brings.

My art is always changing too. For a different reason.  I just can’t sit still. I’m not someone who likes to keep doing the same thing. But the restlessness also makes it easy to set projects aside before they’re complete. So I’m looking now at measures I can take to remind myself to return to projects, to keep them in a healthy rotation, to enjoy the variety without having pictures fall through the cracks.


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This is a huge drawing, measuring about 50 inches across. And I have forgotten it even exists more than once. Then I rediscover it behind other works. Happily it is finished.


Keeping a diary and writing a blog are two things that I find helpful. Putting plans into words makes a plan more definite than just thinking about it. When I reread my diaries I’m often surprised to learn that I had written about something before I did it because sometimes I forget that I had once envisioned it as a plan, as a far off “what if.” When at last I begin working on a project, it can seem like the idea just popped into my head. The earlier bit of writing, like the big drawing behind the canvases, can seem to have disappeared. What began as vague longing, what was rendered into prose, hidden in a diary, has finally remerged in a form that seems like a brand new idea!  Oh, the vagaries of forgetfulness! The version I wrote has been forgotten, too.  As you can see, there’s a lot of forgetting taking place. In retrospect, I believe that writing the thing down helped to cement its place in thought — even though I forgot having written it down! How can that be?

One can forget and remember at the same time because different parts of the brain are doing the forgetting and the remembering respectively.

I had a family member with dementia. Dementia is a complicated condition and can be as variable as the people it affects. Its appearance also offers hints about how the mind works when the mind is healthy. My family member lost short term memory and couldn’t consciously recall things very well when they were new experiences. I had given her a picture of my daughter, for instance, and she lost it. I was trying to help her find it while she was looking, while she was sorting through piles of stuff. It seemed hopeless so I said, “Well, it’s okay. Here’s another copy of the photo. Where do you want me to put it?”

She said, “Put it over there.” And when I was about to place it in that spot — well, you can guess what I found, the missing photograph.

Part of her mind still knew exactly where it was. Part of her mind didn’t know. The same thing can happen to us in health, too.

Our minds operate in ways that we cannot observe. I guess I take it on trust now that narrating ideas to myself in a diary will help advance some of the ideas I want to pursue. Usually you can’t do all the subjects that you think you’d find interesting. There just isn’t enough time. Somehow the ideas also get sifted and the things that you really want to do rise up to the surface. Other plans fall away.

Anyway, I read books on business now because the creativity of business solutions gives me ideas that I can apply to my work. And I’m trying to find out how I can make a more effective use of my calendar to move my paintings along to completion faster and to keep track of things in the midst of all the visual juggling and all the juggling of life’s chores that one must always do.

13 thoughts on “seeking order, finding order

  1. I also journal….I have a personal journal and an art journal. I often go back and see what I had written and lo and behold I realized either that I had forgotten what I had learned a year or more ago and I am still learning it! I write about what I think that I have recently learned but had journalled about it a year ago. Maybe it takes learning something over and over until it finally makes sense. I always love reading your posts, I don’t always comment. I am wanting to take some time and go back to read and absorb them thoroughly because you have so much to offer and I want to sit at your knee and learn!

  2. The over and over again aspect of art is crucial. Every picture starts with the blank page so we always go back to the foundation stuff. It also means that no lesson is wasted — even the simplest things will be things we use every time.

    As for the other aspect of your comment, I am humbled! We learn from each other! And from life all around us. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. I like the idea of seeing creativity in fields that are not seen as so. I know that we are all creative beings and some thinks that artistic creativity is different, to me it is just a way of expressing ourselves. I love your series about kois, and I envy your ability to stick to a subject, something I have difficulty of doing.

  4. I do stick with the koi, but only because I keep coming back to them. If I didn’t rotate through subjects I’d never be able to stick to any of them. I have a handful of things that I especially love — the kois, certain kinds of still life, garden pictures, and some other subjects. I do them again and again. But when I have too much of one, there are the others to provide relief.

    And yes, you are so right. There’s a gazillion ways of being creative.

  5. Your comment comes at an apropos time as my next blog is about losing a painting behind the painting that’s painted over it! A different way of losing them ….

    Returning to this post is humbling. I wanted to begin tracking my work better so that I’d get things finished. I’m still working on that goal. Indeed the blog as I’m writing it nowadays is really devoted to pushing specific works toward completion. I see I began this notion two years ago. I’m still working on it. haha

  6. Well “finished” is an interesting concept, I think many of your paintings work really well in the stages before they are “finished”. It’s a concept you, the artist, holds in your mind!

  7. I’m at a “keep going, keep going” stage with painting right now — or trying to do that. And later I have to find my way back to a “stop now” frame of mind. There are such different ways of thinking in art and switching back and forth is confusing sometimes! (Hurts my brain sometimes, this when just finding one’s keys is challenge enough, usually just as one is heading out the door – got to stop putting them in my pockets …) One thing I love about making color drawings from a fresh bouquet or drawing flowers I find randomly in peoples’s yards when I take spring and summer walks is that the motif itself forces you to think and act quickly. So “stop” just comes. Twilight descends and the light is gone. Or summer thunderstorms make you ask yourself “do I REALLY want to be standing here next to a metal easel? I don’t think so ….” Stuff like that!

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