Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Safe Companions

In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron says, “Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance. Your artist, like a small child, is happiest when feeling a sense of security. As our artist’s protective parent, we must learn to place our artist with safe companions.”
Caught in the act of creating

I know of no safer companion on my artistic journey than my husband, Sean Richardson. He believed in me, and my art, long before I did. I began taking painting classes again early in our relationship. I had only been living in his apartment a few months when I came home one day to find he had pulled an old kitchen table out of storage. While I was at work, he rearranged the spare bedroom we shared as a home office so the table would fit in a corner, creating my first dedicated art space.

Years later, when I began showing and selling my paintings, Sean continued to be my safe companion. He helped me hang my first solo art show, hammering nails and leveling picture frames. When I painted a piano for the city of Denver he was not only my driver, he helped me schlep my supplies – including heavy cans of paint – and fetched me lunch. And throughout this journey, it is my husband Sean who has documented my progress and my successes. He is the official photographer of Marcella Nordbeck, Inc.

On our honeymoon in Breckenridge
His support doesn’t stop there. Sean, who I affectionately call my DJ, makes me mix CDs and downloads music onto my iPod. He knows better than anyone that music is an integral part of my creative process. When I’m on deadline to finish new work for an upcoming show, it is Sean who reminds me to eat and to sleep when I’m, “living in my right hemisphere,” as I call it, and I’ve lost all sense of time. 

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist, says, “Who you marry is the most important decision you’ll ever make. Relationships are hard enough, but it takes a real champion of a person to be married to someone who’s obsessed with a creative pursuit.”

My husband is certainly my champion. There is no doubt in my mind that I am the woman, and the artist, I am today because of his unconditional love and belief in me. Whether I sell a painting, or I don’t get accepted into a juried art show, his advice is always the same, “You’re doin’ it Baby! Just keep doin’ it!”

With my safe companion by my side, I will keep “doin’ it” as I live The Artist’s Way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Honesty and Authenticity

Happier times at 40 West Arts in 2012. All 4 works sold!
In chapter two of The Artist’s Way, Recovering a Sense of Identity, Julia Cameron says, “You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires, and interests announce themselves.”  Is that what I’ve been doing?

For the past few weeks I have been a recluse. I am beginning to see the sunshine again, metaphorically, but I am still moving through grief surrounding my father’s death. Just the thought of socializing sounds draining so plans to see friends have been cancelled, often at the last minute.

I missed a friend’s art show opening, another friend’s book launch party, and two coffee dates. One with a prospective commission painting client. The other with a fellow writer with whom I’ve been discussing the idea of co-writing a book on creativity. It hasn’t just been social engagements I’ve bowed out of. I’ve missed opportunities to network and postponed artistic collaborations.  

When I feel guilty for cancelling plans I remember that Julia says, “The essential element in nurturing our creativity lies in nurturing ourselves.” What I have been doing is writing – a lot! Some days I’ve written much more than Julia’s prescribed three daily morning pages. I find myself leaning into the pages as a means for staying present and feeling my emotions. It's like talking to a therapist, but without the exorbitant fees.  

With my energy low, my weekly solo artist dates have only consisted of reading. In a matter of days I devoured Julia’s autobiography, Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir. It’s a fascinating read. I couldn’t put it down. I knew Julia was a “sober alcoholic.” But I did not know that she too has struggled with depression. It was comforting, and inspiring, to learn that despite her personal history with mental illness, she has persevered and lived a successful creative life. 

When I’m steeped in depression I find it difficult to create. I recently shared with my mentor Tama Kieves that part of what blocks my creatively is the belief that as a spiritual person it’s my responsibility to put uplifting art into the world, not paintings that reflect my sadness. But Tama invited me to paint from the place of my grief anyway. She reminded me of all of the sad or angry love songs that are solace to one’s soul when going through heartbreak. After our talk I realized that it’s not just uplifting art that will inspire and heal. It has to be art that is honest and authentic.  
In progress and yet to be titled.

This past weekend I started painting again for the first time in weeks. Saturday, after another good cry, I put a single layer of paint down. On Sunday, I painted a little more, for a little longer. By Monday night I was back in the flow and told my husband I would be up late working in the studio. The result of my efforts, and courage, is a 36 x 36” work in progress panting that is yet to be titled. It’s moody, but I think it’s pretty. And I hope, despite its somber energy, that it still conveys my sense of optimism as I continue to live The Artist’s Way. 

For more information about Tama Kieves, and her creative coaching services, please visit