Monday, April 24, 2017

Art-a-Thon

Coming down off of an art-making high from this weekend and feeling so good. Creating is life. It makes me feel alive. I really think most people are built with an innate desire to create regardless of whether you typically consider yourself to be a creative person or not. And this past weekend I created. It had been years but I finally had another art-a-thon and I'm so grateful we did it.

Some of you may remember my art-a-thons from years past (here, here and some work here) but just in case I'm going to quickly explain what an art-a-thon is, why I started doing them and why I think you should try your own create-a-thon of some sort.

What is an art-a-thon?
An art-a-thon is where I set out to complete a certain amount of paintings--usually 3-5--in a 24 hour period from start to finish. I still sleep, but my husband takes over all childcare and household duties for that period of time so I can simply focus all my time and energy on painting and producing art. I usually start in the afternoon one one day so I have that entire afternoon and evening to paint, and my work has a drying period while I sleep. Then I can wake up and still have several hours to finalize my work.

Why do an art-a-thon? 
Early in my mothering career, I was keenly aware of how fragmented my time suddenly became as I was constantly at the mercy of little ones whose needs ebbed and flowed by the minute. Painting--my first love and college major--became increasingly harder for me to do. Sketching ideas, setting up my workspace, actually painting, and then cleaning up... it was too much to do when I often felt like I didn't have a solid block of time to make any real progress. Of course, there are plenty of mama's who have the same limitations and manage to produce work in these little bits of time, but for me and for my personality this was huge road block. Additionally, because I was stopping and starting so frequently my work often felt fragmented and incomplete as well. While I usually do work on my paintings in phases, the inconsistent nature of these time blocks when I felt like painting were fewer and further between, and more often than not my paintings weren't coming together and I would eventually just abandon them.


Therefore, I decided that I needed one big chunk of time to devote solely to painting--no distractions and no interruptions. The art-a-thon became both a challenge and a reward. 24 hours would be a long enough time block to feel productive, but it would still be a challenge to actually finish multiple pieces in a single day. The art-a--thon forces me to make (and stick to) fast decisions and has even made me change my style and technique a little.

However, the reward lies in having finished pieces in such a short amount of time and the exhilarating feeling that comes from creating. To be honest, I completely underestimated the positive effects my art-a-thon's would have on my overall well being and psyche.

We all have our passions in life, and when we don't get to explore them or develop them a deep unrest settles in. When I haven't painted for a while, or done something of a similarly creative nature, I find myself feeling anxious and sorta scattered. I want to be present with my kids, but I can't maintain my focus because something feels off. Missing. It's a constant tugging and dissatisfaction that I try to fill unsuccessfully with other things. I eat more chocolate, I might buy something... it's an itch that needs to be scratched, but chocolate and shopping aren't scratching that itch. It's not even about taking a break from the kids and stay-at-home-mom life. It's about fulfilling a need that can only be fulfilled one way. That's when I know I need to paint.

 My husband takes full charge of the kids for 24 hours and while they still get to see me, he takes care of all their needs. I couldn't do this without him. In fact, it had been years since my last art-a-thon and he actually gifted me these dates as part of a Christmas present by scheduling one every 4 months for this entire year. He's a good man.

Reasons to have your own create-a-thon:

1. It will help you feel more settled, focused and calm. People talk about a runner's high. If you're an actor you've "caught the bug." If you love adventure, you're an adrenaline junkie. Um, I think there's a very good reason people connect their passions with addiction. The things we love are the things that make us tick and make us feel alive! We need them. They fuel us. Likewise, when we don't have the chance to participate in these passions we become restless and often we indulge in other behaviors that are much more unhealthy in an effort to ease our dis-ease (for me it's over-eating, shopping and wasting time on-line). In my experience, it won't work. If you're a creative, you need to create. Even if you don't "work in the field" and you feel like you're creative days are past. They're not. Create. You'll feel better.

2. You can be more present with your loved ones. This ties back to feeling more settled, focused and calm, because after I've painted I am able to be present. When I have produced a small body of work I feel accomplished. I don't feel like there's something missing in my life, or something else I should be doing. I can relax a little more and actually enjoy being with my family.

3. It's good for your kids. The hardest part of last weekends art-a-thon was that as soon as you tell the kids they can't bother mom, all they want is mom. Typical. My husband even took the girls to a movie Friday afternoon and one child (who-shall-not-be-named) cried the entire way there and said at least 12 times during the movie, "I miss mom." So first, I am VERY grateful to my husband for not just supporting my art-a-thon's but actually instigating them! These would not be possible without his support. And while the kids were a little more emotionally taxing this time it was also really great for them to see me create. They would occasionally come in and check on my progress and tell me what they liked. In the end they were all so sweet and told me how much they loved my paintings--in fact each girl had a different favorite painting. I'm raising three little ladies and I while I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom, they also know I work. They know I do other things and have other passions and interests. It's really good for our kids to see us moms (and dads) make time for ourselves. They may not always understand or even like it now, but when they grow up I hope they remember it and do it for themselves.

Whatever it is pulling at you and tugging at your insides, you should consider having some sort of "thon" yourself. My next one is scheduled for July 21-22nd, want to join me? I think that would be really fun! Get it on the calendar now and start planning away! I'm curious, what would your "thon" be? Would it be creating, reading, writing, painting, drawing, knitting, woodworking? Again, not everything passion falls into a 24 "thon" time frame, but I'd love to know if there is something you could work into that schedule and make it happen. 

*Also, these photos above are the three paintings I did this past weekend. I've had purchase inquires on all three, but nothing has been claimed yet. These are all decent sized pieces 24"x32" and 24"x40". If you're interested in purchasing email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com or DM me on Instagram for pricing. Speaking of instagram, this was a pretty great moment from last weekend as well. Haha! 

4 comments:

  1. Whoa, this struck a major chord.

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    1. Why? What part? And more importantly, are you going to do something about it? Tell me more Barb!

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  2. I love this idea! I don't get a lot of time to create by myself uninterrupted, but I usually try and wake up early on the weekend mornings to get some things done before my kids wake up (luckily they sleep in until 9 or 10). My parents try to have a sleepover once a week with my daughter and I try to turn those into project nights. I also think it's really fun for my daughter to create alongside me, so I try to set her up with something near me so she can watch me working, but do her own thing. Sometimes it's just play-doh, but lots of times its painting on her own canvas while I do some painting.

    I definitely want to plan out a create-a-thon of my own... not sure if I'll do quilting or painting yet.

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  3. In the writing world we call them "word sprints" and "editing hell" where you take two weeks and do nothing but work on your novel, either writing or editing. It's a legit thing, especially when you have a deadline, real or self-imposed! My group also does writing retreats for the weekend twice a year, but because of babies I haven't been able to go yet. And there's nanowrimo--in November thousands of people commit to write 50k words in 30 days. I've done that several times.

    Personally, I have a huge need to create and to make things. My husband is nice enough to make sure I have enough "alone time" or "work time" each week to sit in my office upstairs and write, or sew, or draw, or scrapbook. Whatever I need to do. I'm currently trying to get in as much as I can before my new baby comes--two more weeks! Actually, in a fit of nesting, I pieced and quilted four baby quilts in the past four months. Kind of insane!

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