A few weeks ago I had some time off and spent it making art, as usual. I made three small paintings over the period of three very productive days and I also recorded "the making of" process.
I remember images I haven’t created yet, recall paintings yet to be painted and feel nostalgic about photos I am yet to take.
In a world of images concept of time doesn’t exist, past, present and future are all blended into one and can be accessed by allowing yourself to experience them as raw emotions, sometimes “positive”: joy, bliss, ecstasy… and sometimes “negative”: sadness, longing, fear, etc.
Last year I listened to an interview with writer Colm Tóibín about “the important function of a novel’s first sentence as a catalyst for the rest of the book” and as it resonated with me I would think about it every now and then.
I’m not a writer but many times a sudden and spontaneous occurrence of a single image in my mind, an intense feeling rising in my body, a spark of a curious idea or even a single sentence would move me to create an entire art project.
Few weeks ago I realized I have fallen into a routine with my painting and needed to do something about it so I took a break to get some rest and then to try to make new, exciting paintings. While short rest period certainly helped to get an energy boost and find joy in painting again I couldn’t make a desired breakthrough.
Forcing creative breakthroughs is never a good idea so instead of working on art, one late afternoon I went for a long walk exploring the part of my neighborhood I don’t know well. I walked along a narrow street parallel to the train tracks. As the trains went by the sound of passing wagons put me in a strange mood, evoking nostalgia about my early childhood and also made me think of distant trains in de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings. I kept wondering could a symbol of a train be an universal symbol of nostalgia and longing (at least for modern humans). My thought process was interrupted by arriving to the end of the road and seeing a wide meadow with a view of open sky and mountains in the distance.
The sun was about to set and sky was colored with every tone of blue imaginable mixed with occasional strokes of deep oranges and pinks and stained with patches of dark grey clouds. The beautiful scene got me thinking: “What do we look at when we look at a gorgeous sunset or a sunrise?”
We are actually looking at colors, free of form, floating on an endless canvas of sky. And this experience of color free of form, this impression of boundless beauty moves us, elates us, inspires us, it often brings up very deep sense of awe and admiration for the the world that surrounds us and enhances our connection to it, connection to the nature and all that is.
This effect of directly experiencing colors free of form is apparent in the art world as well, for example in Rothko’s work. If you look at one of his classical “color field” canvases for long enough you might have a similar emotional experience as if you were gazing at the sky during a beautiful sunset.
As I was contemplating colors and Rothko and still in a strange nostalgic mood and enjoying a fascinating sunset an unusual sentence entered my mind “I remember images I haven’t created yet.” and was followed by another thought: “I recall paintings yet to be painted and feel nostalgic about photos I am yet to take.”
What was that? I’m not sure but those simple sentences possessed me and I could feel their potential, the potential of starting a brand new art project. I could, for a split second, indeed remember images and photographs I haven’t taken yet but I will in near future and could feel their energy and mood.
If you asked me to describe those images in detail, I couldn’t, but I can still feel them and can sense they will somehow deal with nostalgia and longing and exploration of colors, perhaps colors free of form.
So, this spring that’s the direction I want to take, live with this somewhat absurd idea of remembering the images that I am yet to create and building another series of pictures around it. Let’s see what happens next.
There is this game I've been playing with myself: often I'll make a painting inspired by someone, a person in my life, someone close to me I know well or someone I haven't figured out yet but I'd like to get to know better. After I finish an image inspired by another person I go through my portfolio looking in which of the five ongoing series of paintings the picture could fit into. But that's not the "game" part of the process.
The thing is, for me to better understand and categorize my own work I made a connection between the series of paintings and astrology. You see, when you're an intuitive painter and your art revolves around emotions, inner worlds and process of self discovery you gotta do extra little something to help you navigate those inner worlds and not get drowned in pure emotion. Since I've been very much into astrology (for over twenty years now, time flies) I've linked my art series with planetary aspects, for example I call The House of Indefinable Pleasures my Venus/Neptune series (I have that particular aspect in my birth chart so it makes sense to me). Deep sea/Deep Space is another one of Neptuinan series (in that case I think of more about Neptune in aspect with Sun) and Uncharted Territory is my Uranian series etc.
So, when I intuitively make a painting inspired by someone else and go about to see where the image fits an astrologer in me wants to see which "planetary energies" the object of my inspiration corresponds the most, like: "Wow, a painting about this guy fits into my Plutonian series (Enter the Underworld), what does that mean?"
Others don't have to know anything about astrology to understand my work, I am totally ok with people interpreting my work any way they want and I almost never go telling others I made a painting about them either, it's just a little fun game I play with myself, merging art and astrology and creating a weird system for myself. I guess, since both art and astrology have been such huge interests of mine it was bound to happen :) It's been so personally fulfilling to work this way I've been constantly thinking how to connect my art and interest in astrology in deeper way. I have no idea how to go about it yet, but I'm sure it will reveal itself to me.
On an unrelated note here is my latest painting, it's called Cauldron and it's about cooking up some new ideas.
Few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday morning, still curled up in my bed I wrote in my journal: "As I wake up I peel away my night skin made of enigmatic dreams, unfulfilled desires and longings..."
Almost every morning I fill pages of my notebook with whatever comes to mind, stream of consciousnesses style so no surprise much of my writing sounds nonsensical and I don't ever analyze or rarely even go back to it but this sentence stuck with me and in days to come I couldn't stop thinking about my "night skin" and meaning of it.
As I was going through my archives I stumbled upon an old painting called Nocturnal bloom, a dark blue and purple texture I was always very fond of. Even though it's from 2015 I can still recall exactly how it was made: I woke up feeling super restless and still in my PJs I started working on it without having a clear idea of what I was doing, in an almost trance like state. I don't usually finish my paintings in one day but I just couldn't stop working on this one. At one point I spilled a bottle of purple ink all over myself but that didn't prevent me from continuing to work on the painting. I made it in about 6 hours time which is super fast for me but somehow it worked, it made sense to me in all of its abstract, dark glory.
Looking at this old painting now and with its "nocturnal" title in mind I thought to myself I must have made it while still having my "night skin" on since I could feel an echo of "enigmatic dreams and unfulfilled longings" coming through it.
It made me realize that I made most of my best or favorite work from the same point of view, or better said while being in the same mode of operating, from the same, particular space: dark (but not in a sense of negative or destructive), enigmatic, mysterious, untamed, filled with desire and nocturnal in nature. In other words I make my best work while having my "night skin" on.
While pondering that I took some long exposure self portraits and other photos as well.
One of the most recent paintings I did that remind me of Nocturnal bloom is Metaphors of love and it's the last painting I also recorded myself making. I really want to shoot more work-in-progress videos but can't bring myself to do it, it's very hard for me to both paint and record the process, multitasking just ruins my flow unless I somehow manage to convince myself that recording is just as part of creative process as painting itself. In that case I approach painting as an act of performance captured on camera but since I'm not fond of performing I don't succeed in puling it off very often.
Currently I've been slowly but surely working on expanding The house of indefinable pleasures series and this little piece called Beloved is the latest addition to it. After years of predominately creating images in portrait orientation I decided to rotate my images which might not seem like an important thing to do but even such small change made me more inspired. I've been also doodling a lot just for practice and fun, drawing eyes or little stars.
Speaking of stars, I was very happy when I finally painted "a star of my own". Few months ago while finishing my mega project I was also struggling with finishing the series Enter the underworld. The series begins with an image of an eclipse and I knew the final image should somehow relate to it but I just had no idea what would it be. Eclipse was made on 21.03 2015. (during an actual eclipse) and it took me almost 3 years working on the series to come up with A star of your own painting that made me finally feel like the whole series is done.
I also felt I needed to make another painting that somehow relates to another image from 2015, White flame so when I made A vein of gold I knew the series was complete and it brought me a sense of relif and joy :)
I've been still making paintings inspired by music on the blog I actually update regularly (unlike this one oooops) and you can go there if you like to see those images or just scroll down to see some of my personal favorites inspired by song recommendations.
A couple of weeks ago I’ve finished the art project I’ve been working on for the past 4 years, project started in January 2014 with a goal of making 1000 ink paintings and drawings. Working on this project I always thought that when I finally create those 1000 images I’d feel exhausted, empty or even bored with with the repetitiveness of my own work but instead, to my surprise, I’ve felt very satisfied, energized and still very inspired to keep on making art.
The main reason why I even produced this big body of work over past few years is inspiration, I’ve simply felt inspired to do it, to do it for the love of making art, working with color and pattern, out of the need to develop my own style, to get to know myself as a person, to let my vision unravel...
Although pretty challenging at times this process was incredibly rewarding and it made me absolutely fall in love with working with colored ink creating small pieces on paper. It is generally believed that artists create small pieces on paper out of convenience (if, for example, they don't have a big studio space to work in or can't afford to buy many large canvases) but I genuinely adore working on paper and would, no matter the resources available, always rather make smaller works of art, they feel more intimate and satisfying to create.
Even though I've just finished a huuuuge project I'm feeling very full, almost overflowing with inspiration so I'll just continue this beautiful relationship with ink and paper and color and pattern and see where it takes me next. I would also love, as I've mentioned in previous post, to find time in near future to write down some things I've learned while working on this project and I would love to slightly redesign this website as well. It should all be challenging but fun to work on!
Who is your favorite painter?
Mark Rothko was always one of my favorite artists and considering today is 114th anniversary of his birth (he was born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz on September 25, 1903) and also my birthday I wanted to share a personal, Rothko related story.
A couple of years ago I was talking to someone near and dear to me and mentioned how much I loved Rothko’s art.
He proceeded to tell me: “Oh, Rothko, that abstract expressionist? Did I ever tell you my great uncle was his student and adored Rothko? He always praised him and said Rothko was his favorite teacher, kind and encouraging to his students. In fact, my great uncle loved Rothko so much and spoke so highly of him it sometimes even annoyed me listening to it while I was a kid.”
I was, of course, delighted to hear Rothko was a wonderful, devoted teacher and felt happy to hear there is someone else who also adores his work as much as I do. Even though I haven’t met the old man in question I always felt we share a connection in our mutual admiration for Mark Rothko.
Last January I had an exceptionally vivid dream that felt strangely realistic. I’ve found myself in Rothko’s studio surrounded by his canvases. Do you know how sometimes places in dreams get a bit distorted, for example you dream you’re staying at your friend’s house that doesn’t look like their place at all but you still experience it as their's, or you dream you’re standing on Times Square that doesn’t even slightly resemble the actual place? Well, in my dream Rothko’s studio wasn’t a made up or distorted place, it looked just like his real studio that I’ve seen on photos, it also felt real. Sometimes dreams can feel fluid, light and fleeting and and as soon as we become aware of people, events and spaces in our dreams they start changing, distorting and are sometimes hard to grasp. This dream didn’t feel fluid or light, the place I found myself at felt real and there was a feeling of solidity and heaviness under my feet just as if I was standing firmly with both feet on solid ground.
I was fully aware I was dreaming as I usually am, but again something was different about this particular lucid dream. Not long into it I met (middle aged) Rothko who said I was going to be his apprentice. I felt very insecure (I mean who am I to be Rothko’s apprentice?!) but Rothko was very kind and encouraged me to help him to finish one of his paintings, he kept telling me that I was doing amazing job and wouldn’t let me criticize myself. After that he asked me about my art and offered to help me out with it. I showed him my drawings and called them “pathetic” but once again Rothko wouldn’t allowed me to underestimate my own work and praised me while helping me to finish one of my illustrations. I felt honored and grateful and also moved by his genuine kindness and interest. Later in the dream, some art critics and journalist visited his studio and he introduced me as his apprentice saying I was doing great work. At that point I was so moved that I started to cry.
After waking up I was still under the impression of this unusual dream and Rothko’s kindness and support I’ve experienced so intensely in it. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for such a dream and I felt very happy.
Naturally I wanted to share my dream with the person with whom I’ve previously talked about my (and his uncle’s) admiration for Rothko so I skyped him and enthusiastically begun talking about my dream when he stopped me by saying: “Asja… I’ve got to tell you something. My great uncle passed away last night as you were having your dream.” Of course I felt sad and confused by the timing of the dream, I didn’t know what to make of it.
Later that day I tried processing my emotions by painting and as I was working on a red under-painting I suddenly and inexplicably felt I knew how to blend color tones in a more sophisticated way. As if my knowledge of working with color has somehow deepened or expanded and I could feel it in movements of my hand, my wrist, my bones and my blood. I just knew how to make red feel more red, how to make it more powerful, how to imbue it with life force. As irrational as it sounds as if Rothko has generously shared some of his knowledge with me. I continued to work on my painting with deep feeling of reverence for the artist and in honor of his student who has passed away the same night as I met Rothko in my dream.
Still, to this day I remember that experience of a lucid dream with gratitude and fondness and I strongly believe that Rothko was not only a brilliant artist but also an extraordinary, compassionate and encouraging teacher.
Happy birthday Mark Rothko, thank you for the art and your legacy!
If you had to describe your artwork in a nutshell how would you do it? I suppose I’d say my art is an art of self reflection.
Majority of work I’ve made in the past four years was about getting in touch with my emotions, processing them, dealing with past challenges and issues while being in an almost meditation like state of creating colorful and sometimes intricate abstract designs and patterns for hours at a time.
Four years ago I got pretty burnt out working as a freelance illustrator and realized that I might end up spending my entire working life doing stuff for clients while never figuring out who I was as an artist or what my own, unique artistic vision would look like. The thought of never really getting to know myself totally freaked me out so, after almost two months of creative block, in January 2014. I set out to create one thousand ink drawings and paintings. I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish but I knew I wanted to create ink art (contemporary ink art) because I adored the medium and I also wanted to make some kind of flower designs because I’ve already made a series of abstract flower paintings that I was very fond of.
After working as an illustrator/designer for years I knew it was crucial when embarking on this personal project to allow myself to create whatever I wanted to in, no self censorship whatsoever, no self criticism and also to create intuitively without any pre-planning. I was very curious what will happen if I let myself create freely, what designs, shapes, color combinations would emerge, what images will spring from my mind, what will I discover, how will my creative process evolve?
First I started by making simple flower inspired shapes (I called them Atomic Roses) on square format paper, designing them with black ink pen then coloring them with drawing ink. I just did it, intuitively, it was an enjoyable process and even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time those “roses” were like seeds for the entire project and my first attempt to design my own visual language. I kept making them for at least six months and it was like a really long warm up session that prepared me for doing more expressive work. Around that time I titled my project of making one thousand ink paintings Ink Flower Garden.
The “roses” were seeds that eventually grew into an entire Flower Garden, a series of artworks in which I became aware of which shapes and patterns appealed to me the most. My painting process was still purely intuitive and I would allow myself to create an image without analyzing the process. Only after I was done with it, I would try and take a step back to analyze my own work, asking questions like “Ok, but what does this mean, does it mean anything at all? Why do I keep painting flowers and flower like shapes? Why do I keep drawing circles and wheel symbols and astrological symbol for the Sun?“
In this process of self analysis I realized that I owned many elements of my art (especially the wheel and sun symbols) to my decade long interest in astrology. When I was a teenager I was totally into studying astrology and hand drew hundreds, if not thousands of astrological charts so no wonder those designs kinda imprinted themselves onto my subconsciousness and came to surface years later when I allowed myself to paint and draw “whatever the fuck I wanted, no censorship”. From today’s point of view I can tell that most of my round, circular, flower designs were actually artistic renditions, sort of echos of all the astrological charts I drew when I was young. (Why did I hand draw star charts by hand? Well because as a teen I didn’t own a computer and a printer so I did everything by hand.)
As time went by, somewhere in mid 2015 I felt the need to become more and more expressive and to get in touch with my emotions and to try to process them through painting. I started to paint imaginary underwater landscapes, sea monsters and jelly fish, deepest, darkest parts of the ocean and even made some kind of “postcards from primordial sea”. Parallel to that I also painted “deep space”, I had no idea why I just felt there is some sort of connection between two places as they both represented something dark, foreign, alien and dangerous to me. Some of images I created at the time were foundation of Deep Sea/Deep Space series.
I was also obsessed with dark blue color and started to paint blue female figure in various poses. It wasn’t a self portrait just a generic female figure “drowning in sea” of shapes and patterns. I worked on Deep Sea/Deep Space series for almost year and a half and it was my least favorite series of paintings, I felt as if those images were expression of deep and complicated emotions, my own unsolvable problems, my own hopelessness and helplessness etc. I kinda hated them, tbh (my inner astrologer called them too pathetic and too "Neptunian").
That changed when, in November 2016 I had a dream in which a famous dead person told me I should: "Make a painting called Cosmic love”. I thought that was silly but did it anyway and since painting turned out nicely I wanted to add it to my portfolio. Something clicked and I realized that Cosmic love was the final image in Deep Sea/Deep Space series. I also became aware that the female figure was sort of in the state of being awakened, getting up from laying down position to standing up. The whole thing was super obvious and starring back at me but I just didn’t see it until then. In that moment I became aware how important that series was for me and that it also in a way represented my recovery form depression and process of healing and finishing it with a piece called Cosmic love gave me a lot of hope. (Thank you, famous dead person, for the idea.)
Parallel to that series I worked on two more, Uncharted Territory and the one slightly unfortunately titled Enter the Underworld. I’ve been working on Uncharted Territory since early 2015 and still don’t quite understand what it is about (hence the name). I believe it is about having sudden flashes of insight and inspiration, something I’ve been experiencing all my life but it also might be about something else, I’m still not sure work here is finished (also, as a former astrology student I like to call this my "Uranian" series).
I made majority of Enter the Underworld images while being very sick and unable to prevent many aspects of my life from falling apart (yet still continuing to make art in spite of it all). When I look at the images from the series I see so much struggle, pain and suffering as well as failure to assert my own will power in troubling times and just having to let many things go, let them die.
By the time I started working on At the Edge of a Galaxy series I was very much in tune with my creative process. By 2016 I was totally into processing my emotions through painting to the point that every time before I would start to paint I’d ask myself things like: “How are you feeling today? What colors are your emotions, what shapes and patterns describe them the best?”, and then I’d try to "paint out" whatever would came to my mind first. It was very therapeutic and helpful.
At the Edge of a Galaxy turned out to be a series about relationships (planets being symbols for people for example) and at first I thought I was making art about men in my life (Mr Fantasizer, Stargazer etc) but as time went by I came to almost painful realization that I wasn’t making paintings about, let’s say, my exes but once again about myself, my masculine side so to speak. It wasn’t a fun revelation, I must say (wtf, am I really Mr Fantasizer?! Nooooo).
By 2017 I got tired of constantly dealing with my own emotions, issues and problems and finally after three long years of struggle and purging my emotions through art I wanted to make something about someone or something else. I started doing a little side project of painting songs on tumblr that I still love doing. I started a new series called The House of Indefinable Pleasures inspired by music as well (Prince!) as well as Goethe’s Theory of Colors and pleasure we get from experiencing color and I guess just pleasure in general. This series is still work in progress and I have no idea where it will take me. I’m still really into color theory and just finished reading Steiner’s lectures on color and I can feel that will somehow influence my future painting as well, so yeah, who knows where my creative journey will end.
But Ink Flower Garden project will end soon, that I’m sure of. Till this day I have finished almost nine hundred fifty paintings, discovered (I guess I should more correctly say layed down the foundations of) my visual language, processed a lot of emotions, learned a ton about myself and how I function, already created a huge body of work and put together a portfolio which I’m happy with and know I won’t die without learning who I am as an artist :)
So far, this has been a very rewarding journey of self discovery, a four year long exercise in introspection, in mastering the art of self reflection yet I have a feeling it is only a warm up and best and most rewarding experiences are yet to come. I'm very curious, once again, how this deeply personal project will come to its end and wonder if I'll find more ways to surprise myself as an artist while working on final fifty paintings.
I do have a feeling something pretty intense and surprising is in the making for me, art wise and that's why I wrote this post briefly describing the journey so far, almost as if, by writing it down I wanted to create way for something new and exciting to happen next :)
Sometimes it is necessary to make a lot of bad art, intentionally and unapologetically because it is the one way to start making decent art.
This week I allowed myself to do just that, make a ton of really bad, expressive, messy, raw ink and charcoal textures because I was too restless to be working on my usual stuff. I took 25 sheets of A3 paper and then cut each sheet into four pieces and got 60 pages of 15x20cm paper. Then I dipped a bunch of paper tissues in colored drawing ink to make prints (yes, I know, what a fancy printing technique). I kept adding layer after layer of tissue imprints until I got tired of it. I also made sure I do it really fast not to begin thinking too much about it, start wondering why the hell I'm doing this when I should be making something more meaningful (but, hey it's fun and messy and sort of liberating to make bad art on purpose!). After my inked papers dried I drew some messy lines on top of them using charcoal just to add some contrast to colorful ink stains. Again I tried to do it super fast and really sloppily. Then I scanned my textures without protecting charcoal scribbles with spray so it got even messier and my filthy fingers left a lot of smudges on paper as well.
But, again I did it on purpose, I allowed myself to make every step of the process to be as sloppy, messy, dirty, bad, shitty as possible to let go of any pressure to create something good or meaningful and to liberate myself from pressure of making good art, serious art, important art. I allowed myself to be raw, to work fast and, by doing that, to silence my inner perfectionist that demands everything to be doing neatly and with meaning and purpose.
After scanning all of the textures I composed them into a short experimental video clip ( and added music by Alkaline Samurai).
The whole process took maybe 6 hours (making textures, scanning them and making the video) and even though I'm not too fond of the result those 6 hours were time well spent. Sometimes allowing myself to make something bad on purpose is necessary so I can release the pressure of having to produce "good art" and to stop taking myself too seriously but to remind myself making art ultimately should be a playful process. If I didn't cringe at a very thought of an overused term "inner child" I guess I'd say it's necessary for artists to let their inner child to play and be messy now and then. Although in my case. I think, it's not the inner child but more like an untamed, wild, slightly neurotic inner woman that needs fast paced play time, a very necessary outburst of raw creativity that borders on destructiveness but ultimately clears path for fresh, new, healthy creativity to emerge.
End of summer often leaves me feeling tired and slightly apathetic so I wanted to write down a list of things that make me feel better and help me pick myself up from any bad mood/rut I’ve been stuck in and help me become more productive and creative.
I decided to share it here because, you never know, maybe someone will read it and find it helpful as well :)
First of all, I’m no yoga evangelist and I’m not that person who, when you tell them you’re feeling down will yell at you to start doing yoga! I know that type and, no, I’m not one of them, but since yoga has been keeping me sane for the last few years I can tell where they’re coming from. So, yes, let’s talk about it.
I’ve always been pretty active person that enjoyed working out (although I haven’t done any sports since I was like 14 and that didn’t go very well because I’m not competitive by nature, I mean who the fuck cares which team wins in a handball game, right?) but I do need regular intense physical activity (and no, not just that particular intense physical activity, you with the dirty mind, you).
Few years ago I got into weight lifting after not having much experience with it and shortly afterwards I injured my lower back doing dead lifts. I needed to rest to let my back heal but I don’t seem to know how to rest so I kept training and re-igniting the back injury. Finally I gave up and decided to just do something really easy. For some reason I thought doing yoga was really easy. I took my first class and spent 45 minutes in agony realizing how incredibly stiff and blocked I was. I almost broke down in tears. I mean I was not out of shape or inflexible or anything, something else was hard about it but I didn’t know how to articulate what exactly, it made me feel a lot of resistance and I made up my mind that I hate yoga and I’ll never do it again. But I kept doing it, who knows why. My low back healed, but not really, every now and then it would flare up for no apparent reason and it would hurt like hell. It had no medical reason to ache at all.
In November 2016. I had one of those oh, no my back is killing me and for no reason at all again episodes and I decided to do some yoga to help ease the pain. I begun by warming up my spine, doing some cat to cow variations and after my practice something truly amazing, almost magical happened. I have physically experienced pain leaving my body, as if there was a bullet or a tip of a broken arrow stuck in my low back causing chronic pain and suddenly it was gone, in an instant, gone, never to return. I felt amazing and healed, born-again and 15 kilos lighter and then absolutely blissed out. It was first time I truly became aware that sometimes what seems a physically injury can be an energy block and that sometimes mindful combination of breath and gentle movement can bring instant healing. In that moment I also had an epiphany of sorts and learned a lesson of necessity of finding balance in my life and not constantly pushing myself forward (a lesson I need to remind myself of right now as well, tbh).
But, yes, in that moment I fully understood why so many people love yoga and why it’s such a huge trend, and no, I didn’t have any low back problems ever since that miraculous moment in November 2016 which I’m very grateful for. I still do yoga on the regular, I don’t do any fancy stuff, just aim to keep my spine and mind healthy. Every time I need something extra to pick me up I turn to my yoga practice knowing it will make a positive difference.
Aimlessly wandering around (going for long walks/photo walks)
Sometimes, if I’m forced to stay indoors for too long I feel like an animal trapped in a cage and I even start behaving as one, pacing nervously up and down the room (driving everyone around me crazy hehe) so, regardless of weather conditions I need to spend sometime outside every day, even for a little bit. Going for a long walk, when possible is one of my favorite activities and I don’t like setting any goals I prefer wandering around aimlessly, it’s way more fun to explore!
About a decade ago, when I was suffering from depression, going for long, aimless, exploitative walks helped me bring myself back to life. When I got depressed I decided not to take any meds or see a traditional therapist (even tho there’s nothing wrong with that, if you are depressed or otherwise mentally ill please do get a professional help, no shame in that, I just had my personal reasons not to) but to try and find alternative ways to help myself.
Symptoms of my depression were more physical than mental or emotional, I wasn’t so much anxious or sad as much as I’ve experienced complete physical exhaustion (while being perfectly healthy otherwise). I couldn’t function or get out of bed or move at all as I felt inexplicable heaviness pressing my body and my muscles, keeping me paralyzed. Intuitively I knew I needed to move, like get up and start moving. I wasn’t able to work out, after just 5 minutes of light cardio I would burst into tears and had to stop, not because I was sad but because I could feel heavy pain and stress filling every cell of my body, paralyzing my muscles.
But, I needed to move so I forced myself to go out and walk, walk it out. I thought if there is nothing else I can do, at least I can walk around. When possible I would just walk for hours until I’d get tired, but not tired from depression, actually tired from genuine physical exhaustion, hunger and thirst. With time I got better so I started to bring my camera with me and take pictures of everything and anything that caught my eye. My photos sucked but taking pics gave me additional motivation to keep moving and going for walks and also planted a seed that would later grow into passion for photography and one of my favorite hobbies.
Still, I love going for long walks with or without the camera. Sometimes, if I’m feeling playful I do something silly like taking a voice record with me and recording ambient sounds: traffic, wind, rain etc. I don’t do anything with those recordings, it’s just something kinda creative I like to do. Going for a walk always helps clear out my mind and makes me happier especially if I can wander around local parks or forest.
Creating morning routine to start the day right
Nope, I’m not a morning person, never was, but the older I get the more aware I’m becoming of benefits of starting your day early and having healthy morning routines. After I’ve been stuck in a bad mood or an unsatisfying routine for a long time, an easiest way for me to start picking myself up is to start getting up early, exercising, having something healthy for breakfast and then doing something important or productive before I continue with my day. If I feel I’m headed into a wrong direction establishing a healthy and productive morning routine usually helps me get back on track.
I first became aware of that few years ago when I got into running (oh, no, why did I ever wanted to run?! That sucks :)) so I begun getting up earlier than usual to go for a run. At first, I hated it but wanted to keep up so I motivated myself by going for a jog along the path that led to a field where I could see a bunch of horses grazing. So, every morning I’d get up early and go jogging so I could see horses and say hello to them. It made my whole day better. Sadly, after some time I noticed horses were no longer there and I asked a friend about it. To my shock and horror she explained that those horses belonged to a farm and were slaughtered for food and turned into sausages! It got me very sad so I stopped jogging.
Anyway, I digressed I just wanted to say that getting up early and doing something good for your body (working out, eating right) makes a difference in your whole day and just makes you more creative and productive overall.
After writing this short list I realized that it's easiest for me to feel better by engaging in some physical activity :) There are other stuff that also help, like journaling or sketching or listening to music as well as spending time with people I love, of course while avoiding toxic assholes as much as possible :)
This summer was really hard for me.
It was really hard and it was really, really hot. Like, insanely hot. As I’m writing this counting down the last days of August it’s still scorching hot outside. We’re having official heatwave No7 this season, here, in continental Croatia. While Heatwave No7 sounds pretty suiting for a name of a cheap perfume, enduring so much heat (and humidity!) this season without any breaks has been hellish (no wonder last heatwave was named Lucifer). Horrible blazing hot weather has started way back in late May and since then I’ve been basically just waiting for heat to subside, for summer to end so I can be myself again (if you can’t tell by now I don’t do so well on 40+ Celsius weather).
Continuing with my painting practice this summer was really hard. I didn’t have that extra energy I need for making art and I didn’t have much free time either, not as much as I hoped I would, at least. So I would get up very early (4 30 in the morning early), try to make myself at least semi-functional and paint. But most of the days I just didn’t feel like making art so earlyso I would rather go out for a walk. I’d usually go to the nearest bakery that opens at 5 and get something to eat, like a soft pretzel (yum, all the delicious glutens), then walk into the fields to watch sunrise and do yoga. But even those activities (all the stuff I adore doing the summertime) felt forced and uninspiring. And even at 5 in the morning, it was still hot and humid and it felt as if there was no fresh air, no oxygen to breathe. Nonetheless I kept up with my morning routine throughout the July, pushing through, forcing myself to create and work out and stay as active and as productive as I could until in early August, during yet another awful heatwave I finally gave up and decided to take a break from everything. I was totally exhausted and needed to rest. I didn't take any vacation this summer but I did take things easy for most of the August.
As time went by I started to sketch more and more and think about all the future artworks I wanted to create. It made me super excited and motivated so I decided to finish my personal project (Ink Flower Garden) by the end of this year. I begun working on it in January 2014 with the goal of making 1000 paintings and drawings to basically find my own, unique artistic style. It begun as an art project only but over the years it turned into something much more, a therapy, a process of deep introspection and self discovery and I feel I'm ready to finish it soon. I'd also like to share more about the process (either in written or video form) so I'm already compiling notes for that too. By now I have finished 877 (!!!) paintings+drawings and I'm pretty confident I could make 123 more during this fall (who doesn't love a good challenge :)). I have already stocked up on paper and ink in preparation for this grand finale of my beloved art project and only need to clean up my work space as well as survive this last heatwave of the season and then the adventure continues :)
Without any additional explanations, I'd just like to share some of the art I've made this month, some paintings, some doodles, some pages from my sketchbook, some ideas and thoughts... a bit of everything :)
Recently I've made a bunch (and by bunch I mean 39) of "ink flowers", colorful roundish designs that resemble abstract flowers and I composed them into a short animation exercise. I also used an eye from an old painting (scroll down to see the original art). Music for the video is, as usual, done by Alkaline Samurai (Arlen Dean) who is still kind enough to let me use his beats for my experiments in motion.
In April I've started working on a big ink painting and after I've completed a first layer I set it aside to be finished when I feel inspired to work on it again... which actually never happened. Every time I've attempted to finish this big painting something put me off, almost as if the painting had a mind of its own and didn't want to be messed with anymore :) So, finally after almost three months of trying to work on it I gave up and decided to just let it go. Since I've recorded the process of starting to work on it I edited it into a video you can see above and posted it on my youtube, because why not? The unfinished painting turned out to be just another painting exercise and you can see it leaning against the wall on pictures below in all it's unfinished glory.
Recently I've also made a new painting for The house of indefinable pleasures series (and that's the name of this particular artwork as well). Unlike the bigger painting above this one didn't resist me and I managed to complete it in just few days while filming the pracess as well.
Few days ago I finished working on my little blue/purple paintings, scanned them and composed them into this simple experimental video inspired by color theory, a meditation on color of sorts. I loved working on this and it was a good warm up for working on more experimental animated videos in future.
When I wrote my last post, almost a a month ago I was feeling a bit (or a lot) burnt out and needed a break from everything. Three weeks later, after taking some necessary rest I'm feeling much better. I'm still going through some sort of "information detox" trying to focus on creating rather than reading and researching and just plain absorbing as much information I can. I continued to paint and got back into my "comfort zone", using a lot of blue and purple:
Also I started to work on an experimental animation video. At first I thought I'd just compose a video using scans of paintings I already have (to get something similar to the little animation test below) but then I decided to start something new and see how things go.
So far I made hundred small blue/purple ink paintings, I'm about to scan them and try to set them in motion, I'm hoping it should be a good starting point and a warm up of sorts for doing something more complex. My goal is to make something watchable by the end of the Summer or at least by the end of the year, it should be a fun and messy, experimental journey :)
Are you able to spend a whole week without reading anything?
As I already mentioned in one of previous posts, in January I picked up Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and started doing weekly exercises from the book that are designed to help recover from creative blocks. Since I didn't really have a creative block first few weeks I just had fun reading the book and casually going through exercises but when I got to week four (Week Four: Recovering a Sense of Integrity) I was faced with a real challenge. One of the exercises done during that week is called reading deprivation and requires you not to read anything for an entire week. Let me quote the book:
If you feel stuck in your life or in your art, few jump starts are more effective than a week of reading deprivation.
No reading? That's right: no reading. For most artists, words are like tiny tranquilizers. we have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up. Like greasy food, it clogs our system. Too much of it and we feel, yes, fried.
As I was reading those words I had a bit of an epiphany: Yes! That is so true! How did I never make that connection before? It makes perfect sense, if we fill our mind space with a lot of information and other people's idea how can we expect our own ideas to emerge? So I set out on a challenge of not reading anything for a week which turned out to be a lot harder than I could imagine since at the time I was reading a book a day, reading various essays, news articles as well as watching vlogs and listening to audio books and podcasts (how could I possibly consume so much information?!). Anyway, a week went by and I didn't read anything (only my e-mails, but hey this is 2017. and Julia Cameron wrote her book in early 1990's, I believe, so not reading absolutely anything in this day and age would be impossible) and my mind felt refreshed and rejuvenated and I came up with bunch on new ideas and also started to write. Reading deprivation works! Since then I tried to limit the amount of reading I do, reading a book every two weeks instead of obsessively reading every single day to basically drown my mind in information and sedate myself, I aimed to find some healthy balance.
In January 2014 I started an art project (Ink Flower Garden) with a goal of making 1000 abstract paintings and in May this year, almost 3.5 years later with almost 700 paintings finished an exciting idea emerged in my mind: Hey, I have all these paintings done in the same style, I could totally use them as materials to make an experimental animation! The more I thought about the idea the more it made sense to me, I have a very clear vision of how my future experimental video should look like, I have technical skills required to make it and it would be amazing way to slowly end this mega art project of mine. I got really excited thinking: Yes, I can do it, I can make it happen RIGHT NOW, nothing is stopping me from creating this video, it's going to be awesome!
But, obviously there was something stopping me from working on it since it's been a month and I still haven't done anything about it. Well, I did do stuff: I started over-consuming information again, I begun to feel anxious and occasionally slightly depressed. Instead of doing something creative with my free time I did things like: attempted to go on a relaxing walk in nature but ended up sitting in a park behind a factory for a hour, starring at the distance while listening to buzzing of factory drives; tried to watch a documentary about Van Gogh but ended up not only crying but sobbing for an hour straight (his life story was pretty sad though); intended to just find this little information but wasted whole afternoon online reading vintage textbook about domestic production of ink in 16th century England (no, I don't really need to know that). In other words, I procrastinated a lot and felt horrible about it.
So, in order to stop procrastinating and go through whatever is bothering me right now I decided to go on an information deprivation challenge (like Julia Cameron's reading deprivation exercise but I'll do my best not to watch or listen to too much stuff either). I decided not to buy any new books, I unsubscribed from bunch of youtube channels I've been following etc. I want to make space for my own creative ideas and energy to emerge rather than constantly fill my space with ideas of other people.
I'll still read my e-mails and stay active on social media, of course, and I'll still be open for communication. I'll still listen to music and watch a movie here and there but I guess I need an information detox so I can give my mind a little break and focus my energy on creative projects. I'll try doing this information deprivation challenge as long as I can and see what happens, hopefully something amazing and who knows maybe I even end up making beautiful experimental video soon :)
Recently I've updated my portfolio with new series of paintings called The House of Indefinable Pleasures. I've started working on this series back in January and the title is a reference to Goethe's Theory of Colors:
People experience a delight in color, generally. The eye requires it as much as it requires light. We have only to remember the refreshing sensation we experience, if on a cloudy day the sun illumines a single portion of a scene before us and displays its colors. That healing powers were ascribed to colored gems, may have arisen from the experience of this indefinable pleasure.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colors
However, this series was originally inspired by Prince (wait what?! what do Goethe and Prince have in common?!). At the beginning of 2017. as I was listening to Prince I I couldn't help but think how his music was so incredibly positive, uplifting, sensual and sexy. Even if we put aside erotic lyrics his music by itself still sounds sooooo sexy and it made me wonder if it would be possible for me to make "sexy" abstract art, or is an idea of erotic abstract art an oxymoron? I mean, is it possible to express something very sensual and sexy by just using color and abstract patterns? At the same time I was reading some of Wilhelm Reich's work and also started to wonder if I could "paint an orgasm" or somehow express an energy of orgasm through abstract painting. Parallel to all that I got back into reading a lot about color theory, cultural significance of color and I even developed an interest in material history of color (seriously, even if you're not a color nerd like me, material history of blue is super interesting, I mean, how can blue be one of our primary colors when it's so rare to find blue pigments in nature etc etc) and in the process of that I re-read Goethe's Theory of Colors. It made me think of pure (and yes, somehow indefinable) pleasure we get from observing colors and the whole story of expressing pleasure through colorful abstract art came together. Slowly the foundations of The House of Indefinable Pleasures were built and I plan to continue to work on the series.
I've been also working on art inspired by songs recommended by others on tumblr. Recently I've uploaded all the music inspired paintings into a special album on flickr under Creative Commons license so they can be freely downloaded (and you can print or use them in your art projects etc).
Some of the paintings inspired by songs made during last month or so (you can see more on my tumblr):
I've always loved journaling but until beginning of this year haven't been very consistent at it. However in early January I decided to start writing every single day hoping to get over a writer's creative block that has been with me basically since high school. To help myself get through the block I'd get up an hour earlier than usual every morning and write my "morning pages", Julia Cameron Artist's Way style. Every morning I would write down three longhand pages of random ideas and thoughts, stream of consciousness style. I fell in love with the process not only because I already enjoyed journaling but also because it helped me de-cluttter overly active mind and start the day fresh and less stressed. The process also brought me a lot of insights and helped me get more connected with my creative process as an artist. At just a few week into my journaling adventure, in early February I made my first awkward attempts at "actual writing".
My writing was messy, fragmented, lacking in structure and it made me think that intuitive painting I've been practicing for years had somehow rewired my brain and that I was writing in the very same way I paint: freely, spontaneously, letting things to happen, stream of consciousness style and always in the flow. But I enjoyed writing anyways and kept on doing it every day regardless of objectively sucking at it, I simply fell in love with the process itself not expecting any meaningful or interesting results. I just kept on writing not even reading what I have put down to paper afterwards.
However, this weekend I thought it would be nice to finally read journals written over the last four months. As I begun to go through one of the notebooks from early January I noticed I still had two pieces of big paper up on the wall that I forgot to take down. I put them up to protect the wall from getting stained with ink while painting.
So, completely spontaneously I started to write down random notes from my journal, taken out of context, it just felt like a fun thing to down. I also set up my camera and begun to take pictures of the process (later I made a short stop-motion clip of it), it was amusing to layer random sentences, phrases and words on top of each other creating an abstract texture (hey, I really do write the way I paint!). It was also interesting to take notice of which thoughts I was choosing to put down on paper, I kept repeating a lot of same ideas and notions. The whole thing turned out to be an insightful experiment and exercise in creativity for sure. I ended the experiment by writing down: But if I let my heart win it will lead me to you.
Variations of those words kept popping up in my journals over and over again (I even illustrated something similar few weeks ago) so it felt fitting to write them in capital letters over the rest of the text.
All in all it was a fun exercise and even though I will probably never be a writer I'd love to continue experimenting with words and somehow incorporating them into my paintings.