helpless, watching the bombs fall from a shattered sky as they hit the ground trembling and burn into memories of laying in the prairie towards gazing meteor showers and shooting stars that give life to flowers crushed in the palm of their hands
mourning tragic moments has a way of showing us the truth exposing all the cracks and flaws in this ceramic castle that we built
The following are excerpts from the art journal I kept while visiting New York for a week.
The mediums I brought with were watercolors, oil pastels, and water-soluble wax pastels, as well as various pens and pencils. I also had a blank moleskin journal where my overall goal was to just fill up as many of the pages as possible and let myself experiment with different approaches. // I started with some background washes on a handful of pages, in case while wandering around the city I was struck with inspiration and wanted to add a drawing. // My process evolved into continually adding layers, sometimes going back to different pages to add something new. // Overall, it was a fun experiment and there were some concepts that emerged I would like to explore further, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my process. ~L
“Lavender lattes” poured over a soft fabric reminding me of a warmer day when not uncovered in vulnerability, sometimes an unwelcome visitor, who stays for too long on your couch leaving your cupboards bare upon their exit
“Sparkling stars and the cityscape” give me a journey unlike the guilty rays of sunshine soaked up by my skin on a rooftop beach my brick-and-mortar bones raw and unfolding
I am currently on my journey back to the Midwest on the Lakeshore Limited Amtrak train, and have found myself blessed with a much better view this time around. The sun set over the Hudson River as the world whisked by, I held Charlie’s tag while finally shedding my first tears of the day, having somehow held them inside until I had made it to my sleeper car. This trip was heavy. I wasn’t sure how I would feel at the ending, if I would want to stay longer or if I would be ready to return to Milwaukee, and it has turned out to be a mixture of the two.
The veterinarian (or the angel of death as I’ve been referring to him), let me know his ashes would be ready the day I return coincidentally, synchronistically, like how the morning of his death I opened the cupboard to find it bare; after watching a monarch butterfly land on a freshly planted tree. Though I’m eager to have his remains back where they belong, I am not necessarily looking forward to being alone in that place again, the place that once felt like home but no longer truly does. I hope over time my heart will recognize it as a place of comfort.
During the past week, there were difficult moments, mostly when the quiet stillness seeped in, causing my mind to replay his final moments like a film I couldn’t stop in my mind, which is when I would turn on videos or music to fill my brain instead. I have been finding podcasts about grief helpful, and especially the ones where they acknowledge losing an animal companion can be just as painful as losing a close friend or family member. Our relationship was pure, no arguments, ultimately forgiving, and unconditionally loving. My darkest thoughts have included that I will never be unconditionally loved again and I try to brush those aside.
However, what was great about New York is that it’s the perfect place to stay busy and distracted, and unlike back home, I would get out every day to explore, walking mindlessly around Brooklyn admiring the graffiti art and shops. This trip was good for me, empowering, and it showed me there is a future and fulfilling life beyond what I have lost. I want to bring my sense of adventure back with me, and not only explore my own neighborhood more frequently, but also my inner universe, where the rivers run deep in my veins and stars appear beneath my eyelids, questioning why the films that play in my head repeat the way they do and what makes my heart sing. What makes me feel whole. I used to tell Charlie “it’s just you and me buddy” like it was us against the world, but now it’s just me. Though he has taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be, where I want to go.
While exploring the city today I stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a bite to eat and to add a quick sketch to my travel journal. I wasn’t overly impressed with the results, but the process is what matters the most to me. There was a young boy who couldn’t have been older than 7 years old hanging out at the patio as well while his mom was working. He was drawing at the table across from me and I was endeared by the shared interest.
After a while, the boy suddenly shot up and crumpled his paper, grumbling to himself. He ripped it up aggressively and threw the remnants on the ground, stomping on them and his marker in a dramatic matter that made me wonder if I should tell him not to give up. After his initial drawing was thoroughly destroyed, he got up and for a moment I thought he was done with art indefinitely.
Until he returned with more paper. This kid drew and destroyed several more sketches, each time ripping them up to stomp on in the same exasperated fashion. Wow, I felt that. What struck me about this action wasn’t that he was destroying his art, it’s that he kept getting up for more paper to keep trying. It was a beautiful reminder, you can hate your art, destroy it if you want, but keep turning more pages to try again.
Upon my arrival to NYC I was struck by the total chaos and confusion (and excitement) of downtown Manhattan. It was surreal, I couldn’t believe I was there. After pacing back and forth between signs and subway platforms to be sure I was heading in the correct direction, while also trying to appear confident and like I knew what I was doing, I finally arrived at my Airbnb.
The lockbox, empty, and the host, seemingly unbothered until he appeared from upstairs pale as a ghost. Oh no. The loft apartment had been vandalized the night before and he had been frantically repainting and trying to clean the damage. Why was I just then hearing about it? Who knows. I wish I would’ve gotten pictures of the insanity, but the moment was rushed and I was operating on little to no sleep.
Lately I’ve been working on being more “go with the flow” and he assured me I would have a safe space to sleep that night and there was a discount coming my way, so I hung out on the rooftop for a handful of hours. A couple mini panic attacks and one bag of popcorn later, the flat was live-able and I was in Brooklyn baby.
It took about two full days to get comfortable and used to the quirks of my new surroundings, exploring the nearby area‘s cafés and shops, I had already thrifted some amazing used vinyl and clothes. The grief of my recent loss comes and goes but always lingers just under the surface. Crying on the rooftop of an artist’s loft in NYC was not a bad place to be, though I would much rather my dog still be alive, only healthy and young of course.
My plan today was to distract myself and explore a little further into Williamsburg. It was a beautiful day, with perfect thrift finds and my one fancy meal of oysters and absinthe crème brûlée in the most beautiful patio garden. I don’t mind eating at restaurants alone, especially restaurants like that.
Afterwards I went to see the cityscape at the riverfront, there is something so magical about it. While heading back to my temporary home, I stopped at a Rite Aid to pick up nail polish remover and a Topo-Chico. Then I spotted it, a little Lamb Chop toy, only with the ears still on. Charlie loved to rip the ears and other parts from his toys. I couldn’t help but touch the fur. I got out of there as fast as I could.
Part of me felt guilty, how could I let myself have a good day? The betrayal. But Charlie was happy when I was happy. The pain of his absence and joy of my experiences exist simultaneously. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m going to be okay, and my emotions are valid. I love and miss him every day. Maybe Lamb Chop was a sign that he’s still here with me, always inside my heart.
Sometimes one of the most difficult things about working for yourself or running a creative business can be staying motivated. We’ve all been there, waking up in the morning and all you want to do is roll over and go back to sleep for a little while. Or perhaps you’ve been working on a project that seems to be going nowhere, so you don’t even feel like starting or trying to continue. Whatever the case may be, there are a few tricks that I learned that help me stay in my creative groove, and feeling motivated to do my best and keep working.
Remember why you started to begin with. Try to step back and look at the bigger picture. There was a time when this was everything you wanted, are you able to recall what that felt like? Does this project still excite you or make you feel fulfilled when you finish part of it? Does it still make you happy? If the answer is yes then try to remember how great you will feel looking at (or listening to) the final product. Always remember though, if something just isn’t fun or make you happy anymore it might not be worth it to continue!
Utilize the internet. Don’t just sit there and surf the web all day, but use it as a tool to your advantage. Use it to get inspired and feel motivated again. I like to use sites like Pinterest and Etsy to browse other artist’s work to see what other people doing similar things as me are up to. Often times an image will resonate with me and strike that yearning desire to create back into my system. Soundcloud or YouTube is also great for this if you are a musician or producer.
Clear your mind. Sometimes our brains are too cluttered to work. Take a few minutes to sit in silence and meditate or go outside for a walk, if you need to get your thoughts out, journal with a nice cup of tea. Find the ritual that works for you to clear your mind and get a fresh start. Whatever your routine may be, make it a moment of reflection to recenter and recommit yourself to your vision.
“Creative work” has always seemed like an oxymoron to me. There is a fine line between solely going with the flow, and trying to wrangle out creative ideas on a regimented schedule. Making visual art or music has to come naturally to me, or it seems too forced and we can often tell when ideas don’t arrive organically. Something that helps me pump out creative work on a regular basis is making sure the conditions of my environment are conductive for creative thought.
Five Tips on How to Do it::
It’s not necessary to have a big mess in order to be a creative type, often times our mess works against us and our flow. Having supplies stocked, tools where you can find them, and a dedicated space or surface to create your art helps you go right into your flow without having to look through everything every time you need to find something.
Make it inviting / inspiring
Make your creative space a place you want to be in. I personally love multicolored changing lights to put me in the zone, and a bulletin board on the wall for snippits of favorite images or sketches of upcoming series. Decorate your walls with art by your favorite artists or designers, or with art you make yourself. Having visual cues around you to remind you of your vision and goals will help create an inspiring atmosphere.
Take Care of Yourself
This seems like it shouldn’t need to be said, right? But you’d be surprised how many aspiring creative people, myself included, that take this area of life for granted. All that stuff you need to do for regular life maintenance, really needs to get done. This includes household chores, eating well, exercising, drinking water, and getting enough sleep, also throw in some relaxation time and bubble baths or meditation. Keeping all of the basics in check will help you create an environment conductive to productivity and keeping your mind clear and ready to create!
Dedicate Yourself and Your Time
Have set blocks of time that you can dedicate yourself to achieving your goals. Do whatever it takes to follow through. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you if necessary. I like to have ongoing lists of the next small steps I need to take to get achieve my goals, that way when I am getting back to my creative zone, I know exactly what needs to be done and very little time is spent wondering what to do next.
Perfection is Not the Goal
Perfectionism is a great way to never finish anything. Aim for your “personal best” instead. I like to make something as best that I possibly can, but at some point you just have to stop and the piece has to be completed. Knowing when something is “done” can be one of the hardest things to learn, but if you know that you’ve given it your best there isn’t anything else you can do. Plus, your “best” will become better with time and practice.
Sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected place, a gap almost between where we were and where we are going, thus giving us plentiful time spent alone to do what we wish with. The initial urge may be to panic, but this automatic thinking which can be quite negative and hold us back from what we truly want to be doing. If you moved to a new town or city you may know exactly the feeling, or perhaps you’ve graduated college and everyone seems to be going their separate ways. Don’t fret, this is actually a beautifully magical time in life where all opportunities are open to you. This is the perfect time for your creative work to blossom, that start up to unfold, those merely abstract ideas to become concrete.
Use time alone to create.
Finding your creative self is a process, and it takes hours and hours of real work and effort and often times these hours are spent diligently working in the solitude of our own homes. Any creative person will probably tell you that their most influential work was created while buried in the depths of their own minds.
This doesn’t mean to become a hermit.
It’s important to step outside of one’s comfort zone every once in a while. Don’t become so comfortable in solitude that you don’t feel the need to socialize or get out of the house every once in a while. Solitude is great for the content producing portion of your creative endeavors, but go out and talk about the work that you’re doing every once in a while so people still know you exist. ; )
Being comfortable with being alone is important to your well being. Use solitude as a tool and you will become your own best friend and truly understand yourself. Take time to journal, meditate, exercise (I like yoga and jogging), take care of your surroundings and fuel yourself with the best foods, some of the healthiest foods and ways to cook can also be the cheapest. Having solitude is a great time to experience peacefulness through reading or other joys, and start doing and learning more about things you are passionate about.
Greet the world again with a new mindset.
After you have spent plentiful time to yourself embracing all that solitude has to offer, you will probably start meeting new people again eventually whatever your situation. This gives you the perfect opportunity to greet the world with a new mindset and new approach to living life with a more informed point of view and developed sense of self, and that is definitely something to celebrate!
This is a space dedicated to my arts and crafts, music projects and events, as well as advice on how to thrive in your creative business ventures. Check back here for the latest releases by yours truly or my colleagues based out of the Milwaukee arts and music scene, or to get a glimpse behind the scenes of my creative process.