Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Healthy Summer: Painting and... Crossfit

August already... it has flown by, but this summer has been a good one. I kicked the season off with a trip to Dallas in June to teach a sold-out portrait painting workshop. I was in Texas for a full week and painted almost every day, either for private commission work or for teaching demos. It's amazing how daily practice creates momentum and catapults you forward in your skill set! I wish I could say I painted every day ALL summer, but unfortunately that was not the case. When life gets crazy, you just have to adapt and find ways to make it work, even when you lose your inspiration or feel tired and unmotivated.


Demonstrating for students in Dallas, June 2017 


"Hathor" - 16x12" - oil on panel - finished class demo

Something that has helped me work through this regular conundrum of high/low moments in my art is that I've started attending Crossfit classes 4-5 times a week. This sounds random and unrelated, but hear me out.

I have spent the last 10+ years of my life focusing so intently on my art career that I can't say I willingly gave 100% to any other effort (except for my family, of course!). I suffered with horrible chronic back pain during my first year and a half of motherhood. But because I was so worried that if I stopped pushing myself to paint regularly, my career would dissolve--I didn't put time or effort into getting healthy. Instead, I kept painting, suffered through the pain, and tried to accomplish two things each day: keep my kid alive and do something--anything-- art or business-related.

I have since learned that life requires more balance than this crazy cycle I put myself through. I started Crossfit two months ago, and I'm completely hooked.  Steve says I talk about it way too much, but it's hard not to talk about something you're excited about! It's the first time in my adult life that I've pursued something just for me, free of expectations of making money or using it in some way to further my career. I like the challenge of doing a different workout every day, and just trying to become the healthiest, strongest me I can be. As a result, I actually end up being a happier and more loving wife and mom. Sometimes my shoulders hurt after a hard workout, which makes it tough to hold up a paintbrush(!), but I just laugh about it and push through.


It doesn't hurt that my gym is inside an airplane hanger and boasts a great view of the front range! Also, the instructors are awesome. :-) Check out MBS Crossfit here

Here's how Crossfit has actually helped my art:

  • Because the bar is set SO high, I'm learning to show myself some grace, all while pushing myself harder than I ever thought possible. In my art, I am my own toughest critic. Both of these disciplines--Crossfit and painting--require a healthy balance of gentleness and grit.
  • Being new to Crossfit, the learning curve right now is exponential. I haven't experienced that kind of "newness" with my art in a very long time. The excitement of learning all these cool skills (like power lifting and climbing a rope), has renewed my hunger for learning to paint. While that hunger has always been there, sometimes it gets pushed aside by commission deadlines and mundane responsibilities. I'm giving myself permission to more regularly attend painting demos or watch instructional videos, to keep asking questions, and to keep experimenting with new techniques and subject matter.  
  • The daily practice I mentioned earlier... it's true of both fitness and painting. Just as we must exercise our muscles every day in order to grow strong, we artists must also keep practicing the skill of direct observation.
  • Being healthy makes you capable of doing so much more! I can hike ten miles with a 20-pound pack (holding art supplies, of course!) and the payoff is I get to paint at some pretty amazing locations that most artists wouldn't bother trying to get to.  


One of my plein air paintings in an early stage, at Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

As summer continues, some of the challenges I set for myself remain unresolved. I can't really do pull ups yet, and my power cleans are not good (as evidenced by the grapefruit-sized bruise on my thigh). Certain paintings sit abandoned in my studio, waiting for the work to resume at a future date when time and experience have helped me find the solution. Whether "failed" or "successful," each piece is propelling me forward in my comprehension of the visual world and making me better at my craft. And, each failed rep at the gym makes me stronger and more determined.

Artists are human beings... sometimes weird ones who struggle to find balance in life. Our work is a reflection of our culture, our experiences, and our hearts. We pour ourselves out like an offering in each new creation, and when a collector takes home one of our paintings, they are taking a piece of our personal journey with them, which includes both the ups and downs. I'm thankful for my collectors, and for everything I'm learning this year. And of course, I'm always thankful I get to do what I love.

I'll post the new work soon!



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