Tag Archives: challenges

Nude Modelling (!)

Figure drawing has always been one of my favorite artistic activities. There is nothing I find more interesting to draw than the human form. While taking many figure drawing courses and classes over the last 25 years, I often wondered what it would be like to model. Many years ago, I put nude modelling on my list of “1001 Things in 101 Days” (a sort of bucket list), thinking that it would never actually happen. More recently, the wondering became a wanting.

In the last few months, my friend Deseré Pressey (an amazing artist – check out her work) began the Off-Beat Figure Drawing sessions in Calgary. There are several models at these events (read about one male model’s experience here), and the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. When Deseré decided to host a special woman-focused session for International Women’s Day, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to make my first attempt at modelling.

There were two reasons I had for wanting to try nude modelling. First: my meditation practice has been more regular in the last few months, and I look for opportunities to try longer practices. This seemed like the ultimate meditation practice (nude, in front of strangers, with long poses). Second: my journey to fully and completely accepting my body is far from over, and it seemed to me that exposing myself in front of strangers would either push me further into acceptance, or at least, allow me to learn more about my process of acceptance.

The session was held at the beautiful Wolf Willow Studios, and was an intimate gathering of women, with accompanying harp music by the amazing Eily Aurora. I had been excited all day, which flipped into nervousness in the hour before dropping my robe. Luckily, a more seasoned model was willing to give me tips and she helped me feel more comfortable before we began.

Turned out that there were women attending that I knew, but I didn’t allow that to freak me out. I noticed that I thought I “should” freak out about it, but I wasn’t really feeling it. The hardest part was dropping the robe, but that was easier once I saw that the other two models had done so already.

During the first few poses, I noticed that I felt a bit closed off from the group, and I think my poses expressed that somewhat. By dropping my physical protection, my mind gave me a mental protection, a kind of barrier. Eventually, as the night went on, I relaxed and was able to drop that feeling.

photo by Michelina Bamford

photo by Michelina Bamford

The modelling portion of the evening went well – I didn’t choose any poses that I wasn’t able to hold, and none of my body parts fell asleep – YAY! I did notice, though, that because I have been an artist at figure drawing sessions, I have preferences about what I enjoy drawing (women more than men, and women with more folds and curves more than angular, thin women). These preferences influenced the way I thought about my body during and after the session. My usual feelings of not measuring up because of the way society tells me I should be (flat stomach, clear skin, thin, etc), completely flipped around to feeling like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t large enough, wasn’t curvy enough, didn’t have enough folds – basically, not interesting enough to draw.

Fascinating how the mind works, yes?

Instead of feeling not good enough, I would love to come to the place of fully accepting that all bodies are beautiful. I understand it, I just don’t completely feel it yet within myself. Getting there, though. And I’m a lot closer than I have ever been to really knowing this.

So many people commented to me that I was brave for doing this. This hasn’t completely sunk in, or I maybe because I have done it, I no longer think of it as that big a deal. Or maybe, I didn’t quite understand the sentiment. I don’t think it’s necessarily brave to stand naked in front of strangers, but I do think it’s brave to try something that is completely new and a little scary, whatever that may be for you.

Drawing and photo by Deseré Pressey. The two central figures are me!

Drawing and photo by Deseré Pressey. The two central figures are me!

Self Love 365

After taking on the 365 Project last year (one self portrait a day for a year), I wanted to continue with some kind of daily project. I really loved the rhythm created by having something to do each day, the creativity involved in making each photograph unique, and the collection amassed (and sense of satisfaction at having completed it) at the end of the project.

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I considered doing some kind of gratitude project, like Lori Portka’s “A Hundred Thank-Yous”, where she created 100 paintings for people she treasured in her life. At some point, I will do a similar project, but what occurred to me is that I need to love myself before I can really love and give to others in such a big way.

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This is a question that has been on my mind for a long time: Do I love myself? Sometimes it feels like the answer is no. The voices in my head are so nasty sometimes, so critical, that it hardly feels like love. On the other hand, I go out to dance once or twice a week, I am doing the thing I love the most (painting), I go to the gym every other day, and I eat relatively well (but lets not get into food now, because food is my go-to source of love when I am down). Those things all sound like I take care of myself, that I am doing things that show love for myself, right?

This is where the critical voices come in, saying, “You aren’t doing it right”, “You still aren’t good enough”, “If you loved yourself, you would just know it”, “If you loved yourself, you wouldn’t need to do this project”.

Bullshit.

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And so, Selflove365 was born. I am drawing something I love (or like) about myself in a 1″ x 1″ square per day, every day of this year. The first 15 days were pretty easy, but then it felt like I could hit a wall soon, and run out of things I like. So far, I haven’t, and if that happens, surely I can still find something, even if it’s my fingernail. I sit at my desk and allow it to come to me, rather than planning ahead, the same way that I paint.

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I’m curious about how or if I will change by the end of the year. Two of my friends have joined me in this project, one of whom is sharing her squares (as I do) on Facebook. Will you join me? I also post my squares everyday on Instagram. Tag your photos with #selflove365 so we can encourage and support each other!

Rejected.

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Two of my paintings (above and below) were not accepted into a juried art show at a local art gallery today. Just like last year. Last year, I told myself it was only because of the canvases (the edges were too thin, I was told). This year, I have all sorts of reasons:

I’m not a real artist (whatever that means).

There are words on the paintings and the jury didn’t like words.

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My work is too “pretty” (I have heard this statement before), too colourful, trying too hard, too much like somebody else’s work, too this, too that.

OK, I get it, I get it: I suck.

Before you go commenting to tell me this all isn’t true, I want to assure you that I know this. I know the voices in my head are lying to me. I know they are trying to keep me safe (in a weird way), that they aren’t working for me, etc. I get this. And the whole time I think these thoughts, I also have a witness inside of me, that is completely non-judgemental, and knows that none of it matters, none of it is true, none of it is real. I know.

I’m still crying my guts out.

Rejection is giving me ample opportunity to feel my emotions, to be in touch with what is going on for me, to see what is real, and what I am feeding with my energy. As much as I would rather be jumping for joy that I got into an art show, I am also grateful for the chance to feel so deeply. This rejection is stacking onto another rejection from over a week ago – a more personal one, but one that gave me a huge jab in my core; I hadn’t realized just how low my self-esteem was until that day. I’m still not over that one, and now this double dose of rejection has been difficult, to say the least.

You know how lots of self-help books and websites say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself”? I’ve been thinking about this, with reference to rejection. Is it true that I am actually rejecting myself, and that maybe I don’t love myself enough? At first I thought so, but then I realized I was just trapping myself in my old perfectionist ways again. What I was really saying was,

“I’m not loving myself enough. I am not good enough at loving myself”.

I have realized that in reality, I am very good at loving myself. I cry when I need to cry. I call my husband when I need to hear a loving voice during my shitty day. I ask for hugs. I take myself out dancing. I blog (sometimes.. haha!). I ask for what I want.

I also listen to music when I need to listen to music. During my rejection experience last week, I noticed I wasn’t really in touch with “sadness”, even though I felt sad-ish, and knew I would be sad later. I knew I needed a cry, it just wasn’t happening yet. Music to the rescue: I instinctively played Sigur Ros in the car, without really knowing why, and BOOM! A flood of tears, all day long. A few days later, that sadness turned into anger, and Nine Inch Nails has been helping me feel that and move through it.

You know what? I like my paintings, I really do. I have fun making them, I even like looking at them afterwards (except after a few months – I start to cringe if they hang around too long). I am grateful for all the people who like to look at my art online, whether on my blog or my Facebook page. I am especially grateful for those who send me supporting comments and feedback, and the people who purchase my paintings. As much as I do paint for myself, I don’t want to work in a vacuum, keeping it all locked away for nobody to see. I want people to see my work and to enjoy it.

But not everybody will, and that’s alright, too.

Let’s remember the good stuff.

work in progress

work in progress

Have you ever noticed how people tend to focus on the negative. If someone asks you how your day is going, does your mind come up with the good stuff, or all the little crappy things? Isn’t it interesting how one little crappy thing can overshadow all the good?

On the weekend, I watched a review of the book I contributed to, “Journal It!“. The review was positive overall, and the reviewer recommended the book to her viewers. However,there was one part where she’s flipping through the pages, and while showing my page, she says something about it being the same old stuff. I admit, I was hurt.

But then I remembered how cool it is to be in a book, and how proud I am of what I did contribute to it. And I remembered how one of my goals is to inspire people to create, and while my art may not inspire her, it will hopefully inspire someone else. I remembered that her voice is but one voice, and I need not let it ruin all the positive energy I feel around this book and my work. Also, she is encouraging people to buy the book, which is great!

So, I guess this post isn’t just about remembering the good stuff, but also about remembering how good WE are. When things like this happen, it’s a reminder to me about how fragile my self-esteem can seem, and how I still take other people’s comments way too personally. It hurts in the moment, but I have noticed that I bounce back a lot faster than I ever used to. I’m sure that says something about how I’ve grown, and I’m glad for that.

Do you tend to focus on the positive or the negative? Do you let a negative comment ruin your day?

Remember to enter my “Journal It!” free book giveaway

When artists look for validation.

When artists look for validation outside of themselves, things can get yucky.

For the most part, since April, I have been happy with my painting, and really enjoying the process. I almost always enjoy the compliments I get (I say almost because I’m still working on really taking them in, rather than dismissing them).

Participating in the Gorilla House Live Art battles is really giving me something to work on, as my dear friend Tietje pointed out. Last night, after the auction, and after a fun night of painting, instead of being happy that my two paintings were bought by Valda, a lovely woman who was eager to purchase both, I was instantly bummed that my pieces sold for the lowest they ever have (in a total of four auctions) while other works were getting up to five times as much as mine. As Tietje pointed out, I am allowing the purchase price of my paintings determine my self-worth. I don’t care so much about going home with cash in my pocket, but low sale price seems to equal crappy art, which logically means crappy artist, or not an artist. See how my mind works?

Having had a morning to mull it over, I would say that there were a bunch of little things that ended up in me perhaps not turning out my best work: the themes were not ones that I could immediately relate to; I tried something a little different towards the end of one of my paintings; and I had to pack up my stuff about 10 minutes early to get out of the way for the auction. Being the first adult to auction paintings probably didn’t help much, either, but now I’m kind of looking for reasons why my paintings weren’t the problem.

Things to work on:

It’s OK to have bad days.

It’s OK to produce bad art. That doesn’t make me a bad artist.

It’s OK to feel bummed sometimes. I don’t even have to look for reasons why.

It’s OK to want validation, because without it, aren’t we producing art in a vacuum?

Validation, or lack of it, doesn’t define who I am.

“Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal.”
Mike Ditka (like my brother says, “Art is just like football. You either win, or you lose.”)

Fitness Commitments

I’m still going with last week’s Fitness Commitments: drinking 2L of water a day, and running (on my way to 5K). Yay, me! Here’s where I’m at with the running:

Two more days, and I’ll be half way there, according to this program. It’s a bit hard to believe. Well, two things: it’s hard to believe I ran 4 minutes straight today (that’s never happened before), and it’s really hard to believe I’ll be running 5 K in 4 more weeks. Woah. I’m starting to appreciate the sports psychology profession a lot more now. A huge part of running for me is the mental games I play while I’m doing it. Some of the time I want to give up, and other times I am coaching myself along. I have also experienced running as meditation (really, anything can be a meditation…so true, isn’t it?) It’s great to have my hubby doing the program almost at the same time as me – he is 2 days behind.

So… I am adding new commitments for this week!

1. No more eating when I’m bored. I’m going to check in and see if I am actually hungry. Then I’ll drink water. If I’m hungry after that, then I’ll eat, but I’ll check in with my body to see if I really need that spoonful of Nutella, or would a peach taste just as good right now? I am making this commitment right now, for a week while I’m at home, knowing full well that I’ll have to renew it after our vacation!

2. I am going to go to bed when I am tired. No more staying up late on the computer, or playing Bejeweled HD (just one more!). I have so many books I’d like to read and am always disappointed when I didn’t get to read more of them before bed. Again, this one is for a week, since I’m not sure how things will go while I’m on vacation!

I would love to hear what you will commit to this week!

Moving on.

It’s been a downer kind of a day. I submitted my art to a juried art show, and it was rejected. I realize that artists have there work rejected all the time, that I’m in good company, but it still stings. Especially when I have been on such a high, for so long, and feeling really good about my work.

“Moving On”

 

Today has been a questioning kind of day. Is my art really any good? Does it matter that my paintings were rejected? Will this affect my work? Well, I did add quite a bit of black to my canvases today, but even though that’s because of how I am feeling, I also realized that I was missing black from my paintings before. They were almost too joyful, and they didn’t feel quite like me yet. They are getting there, and I will continue to make art that I want to make. I know not everyone will like them, but my hope is that I there are enough people who do and want to buy them – because I don’t want to keep my paintings for very long after I make them! [As a side note here.. yes, I do also donate paintings for silent auctions or related fundraising events]

Today was made just a little bit harder because my 6 year old son spent a full day at school. It was a day for them to meet their next-year-Grade-9 buddies (Grade Ones get paired with Grade Nines), and spend the full day with the senior kindergarten kids. I was really looking forward to having a full day to myself. Relaxation! Bliss! Quiet!

I was lost.

I almost crumbled to bits every time someone asked me “How are you?”, including the cashier at Safeway. Safeway was the loneliest place for me today, because he is always with me when I shop – he’s been with me for the last 6 years. I’m still feeling pretty fragile. When my girls reached grade one, it was exciting, but now that it’s my son, my baby, it’s heart-wrenching. I’m feeling the first taste of empty-nest syndrome, and it’s not fun. I wandered around aimlessly for some time today, and then felt guilty for not getting anything done. Oh, and lonely.

Perfect time to get a puppy, right??

Reminiscing.

How do you talk to yourself?

How do you talk to yourself? Would you still have friends if you spoke to friends the way you speak to yourself? This is a question posed by Suze Casey in her book, “Belief Re-Patterning“. I just read this part last night, and wouldn’t you know it, I got to experience it today, BIG TIME.

I had planned to meet my friend Shelley (who happens to be a Belief Re-Patterning practioner) at a restaurant tonight (yes, you know where this is going, don’t you?). Today was a lazy day, sitting around the house, watching a movie with the family. We decided to go out for dinner, and about half way through the meal, my hubby says, “Aren’t you supposed to be out with Shelley?”

Holy CRAP.

I don’t think this has ever happened to me before. By this time, it was already 15 minutes after we were supposed to meet. Thankfully, Shelley was very gracious, laughing at the situation, and happy to have a quiet meal to herself. But during our phone call, I was able to hear (in that external watching kind of way) the way I was talking about myself.
“How could I be so stupid?”
“I can’t believe I did this.”
“I want to make it up to you.”
So many ways to put myself down before she had the chance. And no, I don’t talk to my friends this way, so why should I continue to talk to myself like this? I am so grateful to Shelley for being an amazing friend and helping me to see that it was a just a mistake, and doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person or friend. I did end up meeting her at the restaurant, an hour later, and had an incredible dessert and great conversation! Thanks, Shelley.

What little things do you say to yourself that you would never say to your friends? When I reflect on this a little more, I can think of a few.
“I’m such an idiot.”
“That was dumb.”
“It doesn’t matter.” (sometimes this is equivalent to saying, “I don’t matter”)

Can you speak to yourself more kindly? I am going to. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Being Right

First of all, I AM AN AUNTIE!! WOO HOO!!

OK.. on with the blog post…

My interpretation of this drawing by Z: my gremlin giving me a hard time.

There is this quality about me that, when it rears its ugly head, I don’t want to be near myself. It’s called, “Being right”. I can get so caught up in being right, that I have trouble noticing what else is going on. This happened to me last night, and again today. This quality is intimately tied to “being noticed”. It leads to thoughts like, “What about me?” and “See what I can do!” and “It should be this way” and “Yeah, but, check THIS out”. Luckily, I am able to keep this mostly in check, and don’t get myself into too much trouble. I know now to steer clear (absolutely, completely) of any discussion around circumcision or religion. But still, when this feeling comes up, I feel yucky. I don’t like it, and I don’t like having it.

To help with this, I am reading “Belief Re-Patterning” by Suze Casey. The book is published by HayHouse Publishing, and written by a Calgary author! My dear friend Shelley Wright is a Belief Re-Patterning practitioner. I’ve had several sessions with her and always get a lot out of them (lots of tears flowing!) Do you ever read a book about a technique and think, “This doesn’t work for me”, but mainly because you haven’t given it a real try? Like, tried it for a month or so? I have definitely done that. This time I am giving it a real try, because I know it works for me when I see Shelley. I can feel a real energy shift when I start re-patterning my beliefs. The idea behind it is to link your negative emotions to more positive thoughts, and thus, a different emotion. For example, I have a certain emotion linked to “being right”. I can exactly express what that emotion is, except to say that it feels draining and negative- something like agitated, I think. With BRP, I would be linking that emotion to a more positive way of thinking so that next time it comes up, I can choose the opposite feeling. There are 6 stages: Forgiveness, Permission, Choice, Freedom, Affirmation and Surrender. It would go something like this, spoken out loud, with an inhale and exhale after each:
1.”I forgive myself for believing that I have to be right.”
2.”I give myself permission to let go of the need to be right.”
and “I give myself permission to let go.” (for example)
3.”I know what it feels like to want to be right, and I know what it feels like to let go. I choose to let go.”
4.”I am free to let go at any time.”
5.”I remember the feeling of letting go when I was giving birth to my son. I can let go when I think of this, at anytime.”
6.”I know how to let go.”

Back to being an auntie…

Not being in the same city as the rest of my family when they were at the hospital today was difficult. My gremlin was very outspoken. Every time someone said, “Wish you were here!”, my gremlin said, “Yeah, why aren’t you there? You should be there. You aren’t showing enough support. You aren’t doing enough. You aren’t enough.” Wow. That’s rough. I’m happy to say that it has been quite awhile since it’s sounded this negative, but still. Time for some more re-patterning!

Also… I notice my tendency to want to dispense advice even though it isn’t asked for. I’ll have to keep that in check. The need to give out advice is based on my experience and what I wished had been different, and really has nothing (or not much) to do with what is actually going on with my brother and my sister-in-law. Plus, I’m sure this has a lot to do with wanting to “be right”.

Playing it Safe

The other day, I showed my hubby the commissioned paintings (not pictured above… I’ll post about them later) I have been working on. His comment was that they seem “safe”. I was feeling a bit hurt by the comment, because I took it to be a bad thing. While we were talking about it some more, he asked, “How would you feel if I said, “Wow, those paintings are really out there! They’re risky!” I would probably have felt the same. I would have been worried that they were too risky, that nobody would like them because they were weird. My initial reaction to any comment, even if it is a compliment, is to take it negatively.

SIDENOTE…[How bad is that, that I can't even take a compliment seriously? I am working on this. It's very hard for me, but I tend to assume the commenter either doesn't know what they are talking about, or they are just saying it to make me feel good. A sad state of affairs, I know. Like I said, I am working on it. First step is to be aware. Second is to take the time to stop, listen and really hear what has just been said to me. Then I repeat it back in my head, using "I" instead of "you". This is a whole other blog post, really!]

So, back to the “safe” comment. It’s kind of ironic, because a lot of the messages in my journal and art focus on feeling safe. So shouldn’t it be obvious that I might like to ‘paint safe’ sometimes? What does that even mean? When I’m working on a commissioned piece, I feel that some part of it has to be safe, in that I won’t make really random marks that aren’t my usual style. I am not going to experiment on a painting that someone is pre-purchasing, knowing that they are buying from me because they like the stripes and the colours I use. I can take risks on my own time/money, not someone else’s.

Or maybe this all comes down to confidence. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t. When it comes to my paintings, I usually have it, except when I am painting for someone else, apparently! Because they may have expectations about how it should look, and I want to make sure they are getting what they paid for. Anyway, after a little talk with my mom, I also realized that I do have to stop obsessing over it and just “turn the page” (her words). Time to move on. The paintings are all packaged up and ready to go, and I’m crossing my fingers that they will like them!