It is the last day of the year. A time for looking back and a time for looking forward. And maybe a time to write a little (or as is usually the case with me: a lot) about my musings on this here blog.
Looking back on 2015 I can say it was mostly a good year.
Just like the years before I went into the year with a motto/word and although this year I did not work with it as consciously as in 2014 (the year of 'Open'), I can still say it served me well, maybe if only subconsciously. ;-)
For 2015 I chose the sentence 'Don't leave home.' as my theme for the year. It didn't mean 'don't get out of your house' by the way, but 'stay close to who you are and what you are about', and 'work with what you have'.
I think what I mostly found out this year is that I don't really need that theme all that much, which is probably why I sort of forgot about it most of the time. The reason being: I rarely leave home, so to speak. I'm an introspective kind of person, an introvert and a loner by nature (in a good way if I do say so myself, haha). If there's one thing I have learned to be good at it is to be true to myself and follow my own path. This isn't always easy, but I never use my discomfort as an excuse either, so that's at least a good thing to know.
My frustration often stems from things I have no control over and the fact that life is not in a very practical sense always accommodating to the things I might prefer. This is of course true for all of us, but it may also be the reason I chose it as a theme for the past year. Maybe I just needed to see for myself that I'm actually doing okay on the 'don't leave home' front. ;-)
Of course I also learned new things about myself. I think the biggest thing I learned is that I actually have discipline (insert shocked gasp here). This may seem strange coming from someone who has spent years and years writing on a regular basis in a journal (like practically every morning), but I never saw myself as a disciplined person. A control freak yes, but discipline seemed like something other, more together people could summon up.
Enter the Morning Paintings! I started them halfway January. They were not a new year's resolution, or any kind of resolution really, they just sort of happened because I was curious if I could set up a daily painting practice. My intention when I started was to fill one 32 page sketchbook. Seriously, I would have been impressed with myself if I had kept it up a month! But I've kept it up all year and have more than 300 paintings to show for it.
I learned that discipline is not so much deciding to do something for a certain period of time every damned day. To paint every day for a year would be an impossible feat for me. But to simply paint before breakfast today is actually quite doable. And then you do it again the next day, and the next, and the next...
By the way, I actually hate the word 'discipline' even though it does sort of describe what I mean. Discipline feels like a cold word to me. Maybe 'dedication' is a better word. Or simply 'a practice'. My daily painting is an artistic practice that I have dedicated myself to somehow. I say 'somehow' because there is no magic method or secret way or easy solution to do art every day or to form any sort of routine or habit. It basically just comes down to the doing. And in the end I think the only thing that can make you do something is that you consider it worth the trouble. The trouble in my case consists of getting up much earlier than I would like and always make the painting come first if at all possible, which can be a bit tedious at times.
That brings me to the other thing I learned about discipline/dedication: it is not The Law. Nobody will come and get you if you take a break or don't do it for some reason. There has to be room for not doing it with the intend of picking it up again the minute you can. I had the flu for instance and I went on several vacations in the past year and just one time I skipped for purely practical reasons when I wanted to travel extra light for work. Although I have painted in hotels, vacation rentals, other people's homes and on the ferry, there had to be room for not painting too. It took me a while to get comfortable with that idea, but I think it is the only way to keep going. I don't want this art in the morning thing to become something I loathe. I do it because I want to, not because I have to.
Being able to do a painting every day makes me wonder what else I am capable of. It makes me hungry for more so to speak. It really makes visible to me the concept of one step at a time. One painting a day has led to seven sketchbooks full of paintings. What else could I do if I set my mind to it? It should be interesting to find out. :-)
For the paintings alone 2015 was a good year artistically.
But I also feel I have come further into my own where my art is concerned. I have really gotten comfortable with the idea that doing realistic art is not my thing as much as I would like it to be. I can really look longingly at all those sketchbook by people who paint and sketch their surroundings or the beautiful world outside, but it is simply not the kind of art that brings me the most joy when doing it. I do sketch and draw sometimes and I like the resulsts, but in the end I'd rather make stuff up or just change them beyond recognition. I've done a few experiments with whimsical art this year which I really liked and would like to explore further.
But mostly I am into patterns, abstracts and just shapes and forms and lines. And...colour, lots of colour! I like that I am starting to see what I'm about and developing that further.
In other area's life has been quite good to me too the past year. Three great nieces/nephews were added to my collection (haha) and my direct family remains in good health mostly and we get along very well. I am very fortunate to have my two 'real' sisters and my third sister (who is actually our cousin). My parents have been deceased for a long time already, so it's extra good to have a comfortable relationship with my siblings.
I have had nice get togethers with friends and family and I have been able to go on several lovely vacations and weekend trips. I finally took my photography trip to the zoo for instance, which I had been wanting to do for years, as a birthday present to myself.
I still very much enjoy the place I live, my island (which does not belong to me, but it might as well), and the places I can visit. I don't have the means to travel the world, but I have the good fortune of being able to see beauty everywhere and it helps that I have a camera to document that beauty both on my island and in other places.
I continue to enjoy working part time, which gives me so much personal freedom and time to do my own things. I still consider working less the best decision I ever made and am grateful I had the luxury to do so.
Of course there were sad things too. Several people were diagnosed with cancer (two of them within my book club, believe it or not) and one has passed away from it already. It feels strange to be blessed by good things in your close surroundings and at the same time have all this misery in the more outer circles of your life. These are not my dearest friends, but they touch upon my life and it makes me feel wretched people have to go through such sadness and worry. I don't often write about my personal life when it concerns other people and that is simply for the sake of their privacy, but I do want to mention it here. It has been a sad year when it comes to sickness and death in my small circle of aquaintances and friends.
For me personally the saddest thing was the passing of my lovely useless furry assistant Peer. I had the pleasure of his affectionate company for less than four years and I still feel like I had to let him go way too soon. But it was best for him, I am sure of that. I do intend to adopt another assistant in the coming year (or two if they already belong together), because I miss having a furry companion in the house.
What has amazed me in the past year is the incredible generosity and kindness of you, my blogsy people. I have had truckloads of snail mail and gifts and kind e-mails and lord knows what else coming to me from all over the world. You have humbled me in ways you cannot imagine. I cannot tell you how often I have squealed out loud opening my mailbox or cried when you sent me your sympathy after loosing my assistant. It feels so good to know you are out there, thank you!
Now we are on the brink of 2016 and I am looking forward to a whole new year. I have spent the past month or so doing a lot of soul searching, planning and setting up ideas for the coming time. I'm not going to bother you with every detail of my intentions, they will show themselves gradually anyway and there's still a lot of thinking and work to be done. And life is always in flux anyway, right?
What I have basically decided is to take my art to the next level. Doing my daily painting has really opened me up to trying new things and seeing where they take me. One thing I want to do is to take my work outside of the sketchbooks more. I just feel I'm ready to be a big artsy girl, haha.
This also has to do with my other intention, which is to start an Etsy shop! In the past years I have had the good fortune to sell a bit of work almost accidentally, because people liked something they saw on my blog. I also know that some of you have asked for prints of existing work. So maybe it's time I dipped my foot into selling my work a bit here and there. So I'm going to do my research and set up shop. I have no date or anything yet, but I will let you know when it's time. I'm mostly seeing this as a new experiment. For now I'm thinking of both selling original work and prints of sketchbook work (like my morning paintings). We'll see how it goes.
Another thing I really want to work on is pattern design. I have been drawing patterns or possible patterns for a while now and some people seem to really like them. But drawing a pattern on a piece of paper does not necessarily immediately translate into a good repeat (as needed for actual pattern printing). I have been reading a few books on pattern design and know how it works in theory. But the practice part I still have to master. So I want to spend time focusing on that and then mayble having some fabric or other stuff printed to see how it turns out. This also means I need to learn to process my handdrawn patterns digitally. I have my work cut out for me!
I have a ton of other things I want to focus on outside my art, some to do with my health, some to do with vacation plans and outings, some to do with my spiritual life (which has been somewhat neglected lately). If I write all that stuff down it will take at least ten more blogposts and this is an artsy blog after all. But let it be said that the coming year is full of plans and ideas and that I have them outlined in black and white and ways to keep track of them. For I have decided to use my control freakyness for good this year instead of getting worked up about it. I don't know if that makes any sense, but if I am the type of person that likes to be in control I might as well use that control to give myself some structure and concepts to work with to keep myself on track.
In light of all that at first I thought my word for the coming year should be 'Focus', but that made me feel icky. Mostly because all these grand ideas (of which I'm sure only a few will come to life) will have me too focused already on the brink of obsession, which is not good for me. So I decided against that.
Instead I opt for the opposite to keep things in balance. See, I never liked the phrase 'work hard, play hard', because I am not a 'hard' person. I'm about enjoying life, not caging it. That phrase belongs with the word 'discipline', whereas my focus wants to be more into 'dedication'. So instead of 'work hard, play hard' or 'focus', I'm going with 'work soft, play soft' and translate that into 'Live Softly'.
I had not figured this out until I recently commented on a post by Quinn McDonald about forming your word for the year 2016. Until then I had almost decided not to have a word for 2016 at all, but I think I need it, to counterbalance or maybe as a base for all the dedication and awareness I want to cultivate the coming year. You can see my comment on that post (and Quinn's entire though provoking blog) here.
I am hoping all my rambling in this post makes some sense. I want to say so much more, but I'm sure you have a life to get to and so do I. ;-)
I want to thank each and every one of you for visiting here, for supporting me and just for being so awesome. I hope you all had a fulfilling and rewarding 2015 and that 2016 brings you everything you wish for and even more important: everything you need. If you want you can tell me all about it in the comments, I'd love to hear about your experiences and plans.
For now I wish you all a very happy, wonderful and artsy New Year!
PS The photographs in this post were all taken in our town's Main Street (Dorpsstraat) on an early morning on my way to work between Christmas and the New Year.