Monday, April 28, 2014

04.28.14 ~ the devil's in the details...of a day's unfolding

The sunrise frosted boardwalk the crosses the north end of the pond at Playa. Our film-maker resided in the cabin in the upper right corner.

The Playa lodge.
A friend commented recently that my posts about my experience at Playa have been "tantalizingly short on details." Here then are a few details of how my days there unfolded.

I was there for 5 weeks, with 7 other residents: 3 writers, 2 sculptors, and 1 filmmaker, from places as diverse as NYC, The Netherlands and Port Townsend. We were each provided a private cabin, as well as a studio/workspace. My cabin had a small living room, a kitchen, full bath, a loft bedroom and an attached studio with high ceilings, big walls, and large windows looking out for miles to Summer Lake and the distant high desert mountains beyond. We each cooked our own meals, except for twice per week when dinner was provided in the Lodge—a beautiful soaring communal 
Thanksgiving at Playa was a blessing indeed.

The Summer Lake Hot Springs
space with a huge stone fireplace, an enticing library, dining area, large kitchen, yoga studio, theater room, and offices. [Playa was an inn before becoming a creative residency program]. Here we gathered for relaxation and conversation by the fire, or otherwise take a break from our work. If not in the Lodge or our studios, we might find each other at random times of day out on the paths rambling across the countryside.

Awake each day by 5am, I'd fix tea and spend the next hour writing letters or in my journal, or else reading. [5 weeks = 5 books]. Eventually I'd wrap myself in a blanket by a large east-facing window and meditate by the light of the breaking day.
Then a walk: camera in hand, heart soaring, eyes dazzled by the staggering beauty of the Oregon Outback (see my slideshow here.)

Return, radiant, to my studio.
My studio work table. I faced it east so that I could watch the changes and colors in the clouds and pond and lake.


Each day dotted with breaks here and there for coffee or conversation in the Lodge.

Once per week or so, a group of us would make an excursion to explore the surrounding area: groceries in Bend or Lakeview, a soak in the Summer Lake Hot Springs, a tap of cold brew and plate of tatter tots at The Pioneer Saloon in Paisley. Mostly though we kept close to Playa, hesitant to squander the gift of this magical place, a place made sacred by the friendships fostered and creative dreams nurtured in the midst of extraordinary natural beauty. 

Five months later and still I'm inspired by my time there.
Looking back across the pond to the lodge.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4.22.14 ~ i've got rhythm!

Three weeks in my new studio and — for once in my life — I've got rhythm.

The funny thing is I've been a more or less full-time professional artist for years, yet it's only now that I really feel like I've found a steady rhythm with my work.

What do I mean by rhythm? I mean a consistent groove. Flow. Long periods of flowing energy and focus. Deep intention manifested in a regular daily practice.

There's three factors coming into play in my newly found creative rhythm.

1) The brilliant book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. It's a tiny book packed with big ideas. "Prepare for a highly concentrated does of insights
Josephine Baker doing the Charleston, c. 1926.
that will prove both enlightening and uncomfortable," opens the forward by Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen. The book is filled with insight in how to accomplish your important creative work. As Belsky points out, "Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us. Being informed and connected becomes a disadvantage when the deluge supplants your space to think and act." Indeed. This is what was happening to me.

Broken into five chapters, each chapter has five essays or Q&A from twenty "leading creative minds" and concludes with a sharp list of "Key Takeaways."
Those for Chapter One:
Building a Rock-Solid Routine: How to give structure, rhythm, and purpose to your daily work:
—Great Work Before Everything Else
Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of your day, and leave "reactive work" — like responding to email or other messages — for later.
—Jump-start your creativity
Establish "associative triggers" — such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way — that tell your mind it's time to get down to work.
—Feel the Frequency
Commit to working on your project at consistent intervals— ideally every day—to build creative muscle and momentum over time.
—Pulse And Pause
Move rhythmically between spending and renewing your energy by working in ninety-minute bursts and then taking a break.
—Get Lonely
Make a point of spending some time alone each day. It's a way to observe unproductive habits and thought processes, and to calm your mind.
—Don't Wait For Moods
Show up, whether you feel inspired or not.

Buy the book and read it now.

2) Lessons learned during my experience at Playa — the residency program in eastern Oregon I attended for five weeks last November. I went there soon after reading Manage Your Day-to-Day and decided to put into action all that I read in that book. That meant unplugging and using creative triggers; having hard edges to my day; creating a routine that includes renewal; knowing my complex goals, and more. 
My studio in Diablo cabin, at Playa Creative Residency in Oregon.
More specifically, it meant freezing my email and social media platforms for a month and placing a total moratorium on the internet. It meant rising each morning at 4:55, beginning a daily meditation practice, and watching thirty sunrises in a row. It meant making time each day for writing, reading, reflection and Nature. 
It meant making PAINTING my focus every day. 
It meant falling asleep at night and waking each morning thinking, dreaming, breathing nothing but painting. 
It meant committing myself to taking some of this home with me: finding rhythm and focus with my work back in the real world.

3) This lovely new space
I have room for my muse and me to move around. I have storage. I have clear tables and surfaces and flooring to spread out on. I have a sink just a few steps from my work area. 
I have beautiful, gorgeous light. I have all of my creative force contained in one room, where I can close the door when I'm ready to take a break, and walk back in with an overwhelming sense of returning home. No one has to walk through here to get to the bathroom. I can step away a few feet — without negotiating stairs — to fix myself more tea, without even breaking my concentration. I don't know if it's feng shui or what, but the flow of this place is working for me.

And so.

My focus begins the night before at bedtime, when I unplug my modem — a tiny but mighty symbolic gesture to my brain and spirit that says "when you wake in the morning,
Early morning in my new studio.
you will be focused on Art." 
To sleep, ideally, between 9:00 - 10:00.

Awake at 4:45.  Fresh pot of tea. In the studio by 5:15.
Work solid for an hour or two.
Break for fitness with The Pup.
Back in the studio for the rest of the morning.

Midday or so, SIESTA: Break for a few hours for errands and computer work and engaging with the world and....a nap.

Back in the studio later in the day, and sometimes — if I'm lucky — in the evening, too.

It works.

I work.

Very well.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

4.5.14 ~ whoop yeah! first outside painting excursion of the year!

first plein air painting of the year with my totally cool new guerrilla pocket box paint kit.

A day of firsts!

My first plein air painting of the year AND my first oil painting of the year AND my first use of my sweet, sweet little Geurrilla Painter "Pocket Box" paint kit

So jazzed! 
So happy! 
And so freakin' C O L D from sitting out there in the blustery wind of in Ashbaugh Park!

This little painting  — which measuring a wee 5" x 7" — took all of about mmmm....   minutes? (Plus maybe a minute or two of touch up once home, back in the studio). 

Note the very limited palette: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White (which is, incidentally, the palette recommended by Kevin McPherson in his excellent book, Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color.).

Feeling satisfied!

blustery april afternoon, ashbaugh park, santa fe ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ by dawn chandler

Thursday, April 03, 2014

4.3.14 ~ at long last: my new studio! (and no -- it's not the back of my car....)

First load to my new place: The Essentials.

Glory be! Today is the HAPPIEST day I've had this year!

After three months of no painting and two months of living in a warren of boxes and chaos, I returned -- FINALLY!! -- to making Art. And in my NEW STUDIO!

Two months ago I saw the listing on Craig's List — just two hours after the owner posted it:
1,200 sq feet, loft-townhouse with attached art studio; cathedral ceilings, skylights, lots of windows; washer/drier hook-up; enclosed yard; pets okay.

Could it possibly be?

I made an appointment to see it the next day.

Tucked away in the center of old Santa Fe — hidden down narrow lanes and smack in the middle of the loop of bike paths, a tiny group of townhouses with a large tiled sign out front: ART STUDIOS. I gasped. 
Stepping past the delicate trees and into the soaring-ceilinged living-room, my pulse quickened. 
One look in the ample studio with a sink — a real sink! — I fell into a swoon. 
...Then quickly became sick to my stomach when three other people showed up to look at it. Walking through the space with the landlord and these...these....these low-lifes...these enemies....these competitors! ... I nearly choked with my heart pounding in my throat. 

I had to have this space.
THESE people did NOT have to have this space!



my voice 

I'll take it.


And here I am. After 40+ trips from the old house to the new place to the storage unit to the dump and back and 'round and 'round again and again, I'm finally here, finally settled. The old place AND my storage unit are vacated. Lots and lots of stuff has been gifted, donated, recycled, tossed or stashed in a friend's garage awaiting a May garage sale. The rest is cleaned and put away.   

Studio move-in day.....Morning.

Studio move-in day....Afternoon...

I think I've earned a massage. Or at least a beer. Or both.

After days of considering space, work-flow and light, my beautiful new studio — as of late last night — is organized, ready for my Muse & Me.

The alarm went off this morning at 4:55; within minutes I was sighing blissfully — mug of tea in one hand, paint brush in the other, surrounded by blank white walls.

It's about time.