“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. "
Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love
This quote is true on many levels and seems most fitting now.
Winter is a time for amazing light. Painters understand that the long shadows are cast as the sun "moves south” creating this wonder. We long for the light during those long winter nights and celebrate with feasts of light.
I love to paint outdoors, but even on a dull or chilly day, I have hundreds of photos from local hikes and travels to provide creative sparks! Left to right: our daughter along Hadrian's Wall; Montfort, France; this afternoon's walk!
I am very grateful that Zoom has provided weekly meetings with friends and workshop participants! In fact, during the past two years I have met wonderful people and made good friends online-often turning long distance acquaintances into good friends.
I have been fortunate to have books and art supplies delivered to me.
And, like so many, I am clearing out, discarding what no longer serves me and creating comforting spaces where I can write or paint. My favorite writing spot is still the kitchen table!
I am nurturing treasured friendships —and I am learning that, as Julia Cameron says in Transition: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life (1999),
“Connections are alchemical. Friendships are not static. They are living entities that grow and change. Sometimes my friendships become strained, undergoing mysterious seasons of estrangement. I allow my friendships to alter and grow. I allow them to fall fallow and rest quietly until the season comes for them to bloom again….”
I am learning the benefits of clearing our paths, allowing some to walk a spell with us, and to walk alone at times.
Maintaining good healthy habits, nurturing one’s soul, mind and body is crucial.
OK – did I take a dose of Pollyanna tea? Am I keeping my head in the sand? On the contrary. I am an avid follower of what we used to call “current events.” In fact, I feel better knowing, rather than ignoring.
However, for art, family, health, attitude, I am focusing on what I can do, not what I cannot, for the moment.
Creatively speaking, I have several projects going---and like friendships, some fall fallow and others bloom in season.
This year I changed the name of my Etsy online shop from FRENCH PRESS to FRENCH PRESS & MOJAVE INSPIRATIONS—to include art inspired by the mazing desert in which I live.
Many of my paintings this year reflect the landscape which has nourished me.
I continue to be immersed in learning about French culture, creating watercolor sketches and paintings that honor my travel memories. I am currently preparingg new Valentine cards and am not above approaching the owners of my favorite European and French restaurants as I dine alfresco. (Cards and calendars are currently available at Il Sogno and French Corner, both in Palm Desert.)
Leading a weekly group on an Art Zoom adventure – or as we like to call it Art Zoom Oasis—keeps my brain stimulated, preparing lessons about artists or techniques. We all share - tips on materials, supply resources, exhibits. In early December, we ventured out on our first “field trip” to our fabulous Palm Springs Art Museum for the Helen Frankenthaler exhibit.
What are you doing to keep your “art spirit” alive? In fact, that’s a great place to begin. If you have never read Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit, I recommend it. He was an inspired teacher with an extraordinary gift for verbal communication. The book is a compilation of observations and teaching notes of Robert Henri (1865-1929).
What creative directions are you pursuing? Allow yourself to indulge in new art forms and techniques as they beckon. Be patient with yourself and know that in season, one may bloom and another may remain inactive.
Seek the company of others and, in turn, seek solitude. Encourage one another, yet know your spirit needs quiet.
Practice kindness and patience. Joy is to be nurtured, even in difficult times.
Books that have inspired me:
In no order! This is simply a list of my favorites, casting citation format aside!
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain Betty Edwards 1979
The Art Spirit Robert Henri 1923
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity Julia Cameron 1992
The Creative Habit Twyla Tharp 2003
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor Gail McMeekin 2000
Linnea in Monet’s Garden Christina Björk 1985 (for children and adults)
The Gift from the Sea Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1955
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris David McCullough 2011
A Year in Paris Janice MacLeod 2017
I believe everyone can be creative!
My next in-person OUTDOOR one-day workshop, "Capturing Joshua Tree Landscapes with Acrylics" will be Saturday, April 16th, 2022 through the Joshua Tree National Park Association Desert Institute. Beginners welcome! Click for Class Description/Registration and for be sure to click the blue link to download class details and the materials list.
Please leave a comment about what you are reading, recent inspiration and your path to creativity!
Wishing you so much!
Wishing you all the warmth of the season!
I hope that whatever you are doing, you are able to take time to be with those whom you cherish and to honor the holidays!
In light of this most unusual year, I hope your creative path brings good cheer, perhaps some tasty treats, memorable sounds and colorful treasures.
For 2022 I have two new calendars! My France Sketchbook Calendar 2022 is filled with travelsketches reflecting my experiences in France, and I have created a Joshua Tree Calendar for 2022. Our unique terrain has provided solace during the past 18 months. Both calendars and stationery are available at my Etsy Shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
I wish you and yours a safe, healthy and meditative holiday. As we approach the solstice and the darkest, shortest day of the year for those in the northern hemisphere, may we be reminded that warmth and sunshine await on the other side! I truly believe creative endeavors have healing power. So, I urge you to sort through those art supplies, clear out workspaces, search for inspiration, and dare to dream of creative moments that will bear fruit during the long-shadowed, beautiful winter light!
My holiday gift to you is a list of inspirational podcasts and sites that have kept me going this year!
Each week, Krystal Kenny’s La Vie Creative introduces English speaking creatives living in Paris, and she has teamed up with Claudine Hemingway each week for a history lesson on famous and lesser known women in France’s history. I have learned so much and look forward to their podcast. You can also find
Krystal Kenney, at Miss Paris. She has introduced many authors and books including her own adventurous memoir, Paris: A Life Less Ordinary. Below you can see part of my collection!
Claudine Heminway can be found on Instagram at ClaudineBleuBlondRouge and at her fascinating website ClaudineHemingway.com which has a mini history lesson with each post! You WILL want to subscribe to her newsletter and learn more about the culture and history of France and Claudine’s beloved LOURVE!
L’Arrosoir flower shop insta https://www.instagram.com/larrosoirparis/?hl=enLooking forward to a trip to Paris? or armchair travel? Take a French cooking class with Véronique Dagneau-Bawol of Cuisine Elegante.
Or step into a historic florist shop with a new American owner! L’Arrosoir
Did you know there is an American Library in Paris, founded in 1920? A slice of its fascinating story during WWII is told in Janet Skeslien Charles' The Paris Library, a gripping and personal novel.
You may want a personalized wedding experience. Be sure to find wedding officiant, Naïm Terrache at The French Wedding podcast.
Let the links lead you!
Joshua Tree Afternoon, now available at Cactus Mart; me enjoying winter walk near Joshua Tree; Black Rock Shadows, juried into the Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts Expo and now in its new LA home.
Meanwhile, back in the Mojave
You will want to tune into Dawn Davis’ Desert Lady Diaries, profiling inspiring women who have made the desert their home, visit her Soul Connection Shoppe in Joshua Tree.
Books? be sure to catch Jean-Paul Garnier of Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree.
Or learn more about a collaborative creative experience at Two Women Talk curated by @projectmojavelight Diana Shay Diehl.
Holiday gifting? A few of my favorite local shops --featuring my art.
CACTUS MART in Morongo Valley, CA
RAINBOW STEW in Yucca Valley, CA
SOUL CONNECTION in Joshua Tree, CA
29 PALMS ART GALLERY GIFT SHOP in 29 Palms, CA
Remember, your creative endeavors will leave a legacy!
Christmas legacies! Santa designed and created by my mother in the 1950's, me enchanted by my mother's candy house and in a dress created by her; coconuntballs baked by my daughter using Grandma Commentz' recipe!
Wishing you a blessed holiday and a new year full of joy and hope!
Participants at my Desert Institute plein air painting class in Joshua Tree National Park
Happy Fall - which is very much in the air! Even the desert boasts fall color!
This season, I feel we are survivors, and I sincerely hope this greeting finds you and your family well – in mind, body, soul and spirit.
Joshua Tree National Park Black Rock Campground Park Center
Trials are a part of life. This weekend, I am allowing the obstacles which I am working through to recede and focusing on the beauty and happy events of this month!
On my mind? I want to celebrate community!
Although we often create in private—our creations are made to be shared, make a statement, be appreciated and enjoyed. Our creative expressions need an audience.
I am often reminded of how important the layers of community are.
"Laguna View " Janis Commentz, 11 x 14 oil,
in the permanent collection of the Glass Outhouse Art Gallery, Wonder Valley
Family can be wonderful encouragers, and unfortunately, sometimes they do not appreciate the creative family member. Even my mother, an extremely talented visual artist, was scolded during the depression for wasting time when she could have been vacuuming! My family often served as models as in the painting of my daughter above. My tip? Give positive feedback to artists in your family. Look for color, movement, something you can compliment! However, make sure your statement is genuine. This is especially important for parents who want to encourage creativity in their young. Provide access to paint, musical instruments and time!
Small Support Groups
For us grownups – life can be harder to negotiate. In years past I have been actively involved with art associations and facilitating drawing groups—all lots of work.
During Covid (and I know Zoom is not for everyone) my weekly Zoom group has been a high point of my week. I am certain participants would attest to the encouraging, safe harbor that has evolved, Originally, I invited a few friends and contacts and honed my Zoom teaching skills. If you don’t have a small group, find or create one. Not only do we share painting time, techniques, materials, artists, exhibits, and information from out various towns and states, but we have found surprises emerge. This community spirit has a powerful, positive effect on our art. Growth, progress, confidence…one tiny step at a time, all for showing up!
-one displayed her new painting series recently on our open studio art tours.
-another is discovering she can paint!
-some pop in and out sharing travel, new methods and media
-because it is zoom – we have seen studios from a variety of locations
We are fortunate to live in a community which has evolved into a true art colony. There was a time we dreamed of being an artist refuge like some of the famous California art colonies. There is no doubt we have reached that goal!
This year the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours is celebrating its 20th year. If you have not visited-this is the third weekend! Although the tour is famous for its large colorful hard copy catalog, an online version is available as well as an app https://www.hwy62arttours.org/
Many of these artists have been become good friends over the years. Others are familiar faces I look forward to seeing at gallery events and on the tours.
The tour features 117 studios and over 150 artists.
Although I thoroughly enjoy opening my home studio (and I have been on the tour for 10 years) it has been wonderful to be the visitor this year.
Community can nourish. Be a positive influence. And I am reminded even as I write this – life is precious. Cherish those around you, and let them know they have value in your life. I have often been the do-er and the initiator; I am learning to accept invitations! I am allowing people to invite me into their lives—to enjoy more one-on-one lunch dates and conversations. How do you develop community? Often sweet conversations allow you to get to know an acquaintance better.
Studio visits: Esther Shaw with her fabulous paintings and sculpture; Anja Broenik of AnjaSF designs, with her incredible clothing designs and paintings (and moi); Wini Brewer with her paintings and her husband, photographer Bill Leigh Brewer's photography
And what does this have to do with art? Every facet of life affect art. My Zoom group helps me to “show up” and provides a layer of accountability. My family certainly enriches my life and provides purpose and occasions to express myself creatively. Our art community provides a platform to exhibit, share and appreciate art and the people who make it. And community is built through those one-on-one relationships. Enjoy the moments!
My first Joshua Tree Calendar is available in local shops: Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, Rainbow Stew http://www.rainbowstew4u.com/ in Yucca Valley and Soul Connection in Joshua Tree and on my Etsy shop, French Press and Mojave Inspiration.
My Desert Institute class spent a fun day painting in the JT National Park learning about acrylic paint and the art of plein air. If you missed it, consider signing up for my April 16th, 2022, class. This class was recently featured in a new publication, Joshua Tree Voice.
This is my 8th year exhibiting in the juried Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts – Art Exposition. The opening will be Saturday, November 6th at the historic 29 Palms Art Gallery Saturday, November 6th from 5-7 pm. To view info about the selected artists, see https://jtnparts.org/jtnpca-featured-artists/
My aunt inspired many of the paintings by my uncle.
Family Memorial – In July I posted about the legacy of my 97 year old aunt in Lessons from a Life Well-Lived. This month we held a memorial and I feel celebration of family and community shone brightly.
Our weekend near Laguna coincided with the Laguna Beach Plein Air Festival “quick draw” which is really a very quick plein air painting event. https://lpapa.org/laguna-plein-air-invitational/
Aunt Ellie appears as herself (woman in red) in my Uncle Emel's painting of the Parthenon in Athens
I am reflecting upon the gifts I have received from the past year.
This month, we lost the matriarch of our family, our 97 year old Aunt Ellie. I learned so much from her – about positivity and creativity. I am dedicating this blogpost to her and sharing lessons from a life well-lived! There is much to learn from this personal story!
KEYS TO LIVING A FULL CREATIVE LIFE
(What Ellie's life taught – my take)
Can these habits be learned? We learn through example. Ellie consistently demonstrated good habits and joie de vivre.
1) Be open to new things. Try new foods, visit new places, listen…be a lifelong learner.
2) Listen to many forms of music. Blast Pandora on a new channel. I signed up for a free trial with no advertisements and will probably invest! I’m selecting artists from Ellie and Emel’s collection---today Xavier Cugat and Charles Trenet.
3) Study all forms of art. Try something new. Take a class, read books or watch a YouTube videos…sketch, throw pots, paint, weave… After many years of observing and watching my Uncle Emel create, Ellie drew landscapes, trees, my uncle, objects on shelves, bouquets.
4) Keep asking questions to learn AND to encourage curiosity in young people. Let them comb your hair; take them to the theater! Our children adored her, and we are grateful our daughter-in-love had the opportunity to know her!
5) Suspend judgment – listen to all evidence. Research sources.
6) Be brave! Learn a new skill (such as swimming)—skiing, knitting, playing an instrument – whatever you have avoided, but secretly wish to learn! Overcome your fears.
7) Keep joy in your life—maintain a pragmatic, but cheerful attitude, with gratitude for all you have!
8) Clean out your purse once a week (as Ellie’s elementary teacher taught her). This can be symbolic of many areas of your life—review your workspace, to do list, and life often. Discard trash and keep what is truly important!
YOU MAY BE ENCOURAGING OTHERS MORE THAN YOU REALIZE!
(I hope you see some of your own good habits or some to adopt from Ellie’s life!)
Ellie’s positivity and wisdom teaches much!
Eleanor, whom we have always referred to as Ellie, was synonymous with good cheer, pragmatism and great tips. She lived respect – for others and cultures. I do not remember her without a smile—well only once. At eight years old, I turned on the garden hose (an actual firehose because they lived in a fire-prone canyon) full blast instead of off! She met me at the top of the stairs, drenched with that schoolteacher look, hands on hips!
She was my role model as I grew up – always stylish and up-to-date with current events. In her 80s, she continued emeritus classes.
I could publish one of those posters:
Everything I need to know I learned from Aunt Ellie!
She taught by nurturing and individualizing. Teachers will recognize the name of Madeline Hunter at UCLA, and Ellie was in her innovative program. During the 1960s, she created learning centers which spilled out into the halls. My artist/engineer uncle made workable machines for her first graders to build! She visited British “infant schools” and Japanese schools to study innovative techniques.
Her journalist training instilled her mantra, “Suspend judgment.” She looked objectively at all evidence and intelligently made decisions.
Ellie worked for a short time writing copy for the founder of the Gemological Institute of America. I found some of her typed articles ready for release to the September 1948 Jewelers’ Circular Keystone. At UC Berkeley, she babysat for the legendary Berkeley physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and when she applied for teaching positions, his letter of recommendation didn’t hurt!
This smart, modern woman met my uncle in the 1950s. She married my mother’s twin when I was four, and they shared a love of life, cooking, travel and art. As you can see her, she inspired art as well:
Ellie Among the Poppies, Janis Commentz Poppy Fields, Emel Smith Stonehenge, Emel Smith
Ever the encourager, she influenced me from an early age. At six, I wanted to be a teacher as she was (and I taught high school for 35 years).
Ellie made those in her life feel extra special.
She was an excellent cook – brightly colored orange and turquoise jars full of pasta, beans and goodies lined her kitchen. Food and music were important. She loved Mexico and Mexican art – especially Nativity figurines and Oaxacan candle holders. I hope to hook up their hi fi and listen to some of the records in their collection--- a random sampling includes Songs of Charles Trenet (Parisian cabaret), the 15th Annual Topanga Banjo & Fiddle Contest, Japanese Koto Classics, Harry Belafonte, Billie Holiday , Andre Previn, Xavier Cugat, Sounds of the Middle East, Herb Alpert, traditional classics….
She and Emel loved to travel and decided to add a new experience! Traveling with a young child. When our son was four, they proposed a vacation with us. What at a memorable, wonderful trip which included an alligator watching boat ride in Louisiana, visits to antebellum plantations and New Orleans! Expecting our 2nd child, I was just too tired to accompany them to hear jazz at Preservation Hall! Alas!
I paid little attention when Ellie skipped the swimming pools. Soon after they retired, we learned Ellie had never learned to swim. She was determined and signed up for lessons in their new retirement community. She overcame her fear!
As a model retiree, she followed directions. During hip replacement, she followed all therapy instructions and had the other hip replaced the next year. She wanted to continue her walks! Although not a pet owner – she noticed how canine friends wanted to speak and was certain they had their own well-developed language.
Of her many treasures, one of the most intriguing is her sketchbook from 2003-14 which she began in her 80’s. Her beloved emeritus instructor, Collette, created new classes each semester. Ellie’s notebook contains trees, people, items on the shelf, a list of the many species of trees in their community, and a section of detailed objects entitled “Things I saw”… an Indian grinding stone, the breakwater at Dana Point, sailboats and women wearing hats….
She and Emel organized senior art field trips. Ellie spent 20 years as a “living history” Victorian schoolteacher at Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest, CA always answering questions from young people with that sparkle in her eyes and asking questions to them thinking! She was delighted when our son and his bride chose to be married at Heritage Hill State Park in Lake Forest, CA; she kept pinching herself!
Aunt Eleanor was ever-cheerful throughout her long life! A good friend of mine described her as always adorable and animated! She encouraged me to make the most of each day, to travel and do as much as I can while I can. When I painted, she exclaimed that my uncle would be so pleased.
During my youth, Ellie’s other nieces and nephews lived across the US, and I had her “all to myself” on holidays. However, I know she made each of us feel as if we were all very special!
Emel and Eleanor
New Better Habits. Give More by Saying “NO”
“What?” you say!
June is a month of celebrating achievements and anticipating new frontiers. I am learning from my new isolation habits!
What are you celebrating and looking forward to? How are you nourishing your creative flow?
From the past months, I have learned...
Cheap Joe's Art Stuff
June is a time of completion, celebration and some reflection. As you look forward to summer,
What are you doing in the studio?
Will you Paint? Sketch? Write? Play music?
To whom do you turn when you need to share—art talk and more?
Create a circle of painting friends to meet (in-person or virtually) and paint, chat, eat and share!
Sometimes we just need a fresh start:
See my YouTube video:
We will be sharing some of these techniques in my Art Zoom.
Contact me if you are interested in joining; I charge a small fee to cover the Zoom cost.
I am delighted to be teaching In-Person Workshops this fall:
Art Groove Camp for Grown-Ups September 10-15, 2021, Angelus Oaks, CA
Desert Institute Class October 16, 2021 Joshua Tree National Park (Black Rock Campground), CA
So, for the first time in a year and a half, it really feels a bit like “June is Busting out all Over!”
Happy Graduation and end of the school year to those in the academic world! Thank you for your dedication.
Happy Father’s Day!
Celebrate Juneteenth or Freedom Day, a holiday which connects us to our roots, both joyful and regretful.
Celebrate summer’s longest day, Summer Solstice!
June also boasts some lesser known holidays:
June 1 – Mint Julep and World Milk Day
une 3 – European Bicycle Day
June 4 - Hug Your Cat Day
June 6 - National Yo-Yo Day
June 9 - National Rhubarb Pie Day and Writers Rights Day
June 12 - National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
June 14th - National Bourbon Day…to name a few.
If you missed one, it's ok to go back and celebrate!~
In France, La Fete De La Musique is a day of music celebrated on June 21—musicians (of all levels, cultures and genres) are encouraged to play in public places. Musicians of all levels, cultures and genres are encouraged. World Music Day has spread to many countries. Create your own Day of Music!
I hope June finds you healthy with the prospect for creativity and some leisure. Nurture friendships—finally we can visit safely in small numbers! I hope you will soon see those loved ones whom you so desperately wish to hug!
Schedule special visits or issue an invitation! Wishing you a joyous June!
Inspired by all of you!
Recently, I had a fun opportunity to visit the home of art collectors, who own several of my works and art by many other Hi Desert artists. Herman and Dina Platzke graciously invited me into their home and nurture many artists! Herman is also exploring the painting medium and doing well. I love this painting of his granddaughter in front of the iconic stone at Jumbo Rocks! Thank you art patrons!
Periodically I send out a newsletter--maybe 6 times a year, and I would love you to sign up to receive it on the contact form. Here is the new letter for May.
Photo by Hilary Sloane - see her fabulous work at Hilary Sloane
Happy Mother's/Friend's/Father's Nurturing Day! It has been a long winter, but May is finally here! I want to wish you all a Happy May Day! Besides Mother's Day-several things come to mind. When I taught at Sky High School, we had a beloved school secretary, Josephine, who would treat the entire student body (about 100) and staff to ice cream on her birthday, May 1st! What a generous way to celebrate a birthday!
In France, May 1st marks Labor Day - and a day to share a bouquet of muguet (lily of the valley). These tiny white heralds of spring (my Grandmother's favorite flower) are sold everywhere - by vendors, in floral shops and in front yards-as American children often sell lemonade! In Brittany, I bought a sweet sprig of the lovely muguet. The lily of the valley (or muguet in French) has been given as a gift for centuries. Legend has it that the custom originated on May 1, 1561 when King Charles IX received a sprig of the tiny flower as a token of good luck. You may remember having a bottle of Muguet Perfume!
I continue to teach a Thursday Zoom Art Class - where we have moved from landscapes to introductory figures. We chat, philosophize and paint and I have been so inspired by the camaraderie!
I am adding more wedding images to the notecard collection at my online Etsy Shop French Press. I am delighted to have been interviewed by The French Wedding Podcast and will let you know when it is posted.
The Latest Blogpost
I invite you to read my latest blogpost---which celebrates Mother's Day/Nurturer's Day and the history of painting mothers and children: Here’s to hoping your Mother's Day and family connections are blessed! Art depicting mothers certainly began long ago.… Even if you are not a mom or your mother has left this planet, nurturing is what keeps us young, teaches us kindness and continues to courage. Nurturing is a special kind of teaching. (click here to continue reading)
No matter where you are this spring, I wish you health. I urge you to continue to be very safe about all your gatherings. Thank you for continuing to inspire me,
New wedding images for French Press
Here’s to hoping your Mother’s Day and family connections are blessed! Art depicting mothers certainly began long ago with images of Mary, a sacred subject….
Even if you are not a mom or your mother has left this planet,
nurturing is what keeps us young, teaches us kindness and continues to courage. Nurturing is a special kind of teaching.
Self – nurture is crucial to your creative side and a healthy existence.
Teach yourself small tasks
Perhaps add small simple figures to your landscapes.
Experiment with a new medium
Move from acrylic to oil paint.
Or oil to acrylic.
I have not yet tried encaustic painting and it’s on my horizon.
My mother was often excited about a new medium. She was a sculptor, ceramicist, and painter. When acrylics hit the scene, she used them with a gusto - not only for art but shoes, house repair, wherever it would adhere! During my middle school years, she taught me how to use acrylic modeling paste for school projects
…a round Aztec gilded calendar with carved patterns.
the head of a model of Louisa May Alcott. We used wire for her curls!
I now “borrow” my husband’s hand and belt sanders.
What did your mother or another nurturing person teach you that awakens your creative habit?
Hover on images above to see artists' names
Our world may be going through a metamorphosis, but nourishing skills and habits modeled by a nurturing individual is something to cherish and pass on.
Happy Mother’s Day, Family Day, Friend Day, Father’s Day, wedding season, vacation season!
May these celebrations evoke treasured memories of simple days and more restful lives.
To friendship and family!
I sincerely hope you will be able to meet up safely with family and friends this year. We are planning a small Christmas together and it will be like…Christmas!
I have painted my daughter often—but will perhaps dare to include myself in a mother/child work!
Thank you for allowing me to indulge in a bit of sentimentality.
Janis Commentz "Bikini Mom" oil on linen 2010 Janis Commentz - Baby Announcement 1985 - ink
March--- a year into the pandemic, March Madness, the Ides of March – and finally Spring!
If you are at all like me, you just want to crawl out of hibernation into a warm semi -normal world. It’s been a brutal winter.
In the Mojave Desert, we have had about 7 dustings of snow—unusual for us and I think I am cold. This month we first ventured out to the Palm Springs/Palm Desert community for a restaurant meal, the first in a year! At a favorite French café-outdoors.
I also took myself on an artist date, visiting a beautiful garden nursery and an art gallery. I needed some color and warmth!
I feel in between worlds. Daylight Savings Time brings that unbalancing effect that shakes our visual world.
Unwittingly, I began a collaborative interdisciplinary project via Zoom (more later) and on the first day of Daylight Savings Time, and was surprised when my anticipated 3 o’clock light was really 2 o’clock light!
As we emerge from this strange cocoon—a bit perplexed, I urge you to continue your creative practice –or begin a new chapter!
Collaboration partner and me-a few years ago - collaboration first painting
Last year at this time I had dived into painting and was more productive than I expected. This year, I catch myself saying –more? I am a bit tied to my comfy studio and less eager to interact. The past few years have been a flurry of art related activities. This quiet spell is causing me to reflect on priorities, time, and my ability to say no.
The world around us may be physically opening up—somewhat prematurely—as much of Europe is entering a new lockdown. I have received both doses of the vaccine and hope you have been as fortunate.
So how can your creative practice keep you uplifted and purposeful? And while it is important to keep your boundaries in mind, I suggest an accountability partner. Someone mindful and attentive, but kindhearted and considerate of your needs. Yes, I said partner- so someone with whom you can be attentive and mindful. Someone to boost you when you need to be uplifted and share joy –and someone you can encourage as well.
And very likely, this will have to be via technology.
Zoom art friends sharing a birthday! Encouragement partners
Social media can be overwhelming, and we need connections that are personal and yes, intimate. Some circles from the past did not make the connectivity transition this year via Zoom or other long distance instant communication.
Accountability. I realize this word can carry negative connotations. The work world is full of teamwork slogans and artificial motivation measurements.
I am encouraging you to look in your circle for a person who is a fellow creative, who encourages you and honestly keeps you on track. Someone who cares about you and your art. Someone who might be interested in learning more about your artistic endeavors or genre –and here’s the key, someone whom you would like to encourage as well.
Recently, I embarked on a collaborative project and we do not know where it will lead. My childhood friend who lives in another state is deeply involved in music and dance. I would like to know more about her music, and she is interested in my painting process. Via Zoom, as she played the piano, I painted. We are reflecting and talking a bit more about the processes. We are not certain how this will evolve. We are each dedicated to our art and to motivating the other—and in a way, accountable on an easy going level where we check in to encourage each other---much as one might do with a gym or walking partner. Our friendship spans decades. We are fortunate in that. You may choose to share with someone new in your life. Encourage - as long as it is just that, encouraging! Remember your true accountability for your art is to yourself. Remember, if you need a friend, be a friend! And take joy in your power to encourage another person!
And a closing tip: As I often asked students to consider sending a note of thanks to a former teacher who played an important role in their development, I will ask you to consider writing a note of thanks or a tribute to a person in your life who played a significant role in in your creative progress.
I was blessed with several, and I’d like to note my mother’s very artistic and nurturing twin brother who contributed greatly to my artistic development. From building the truly wondrous doll house and easels (one when I was 5 and another when I was 50!) and years of encouragement, cheers to Uncle Emel!
Just one of many talents and projects. Uncle Emel painting the backdrop for a diorama which is now displayed at Heritage Hill state Park, Orange, CA Uncle Emel passed away in 2008
· “One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” — Simone De Beauvoir
· “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Bright Agave, 11x16, acrylic on canvas, recently sold
As water and air are vital to life, creative expression is vital to a purposeful life.
We ask, “Are we there yet?” How many more challenges we must face in the upcoming months. I hear a lot about fatigue, weariness, stress….
No matter how much patience, self-control, kindness we have mustered this year, it has been hard.
Not everyone has time to indulge in “creative” moments…or do they?
Yes, many are kept at tasks at home or on the job---essential workers, moms, dads…. All striving to remain hopeful.
In early 2020, I chose to address an aspect of encouragement with each blogpost. We have reached growth.
Growth affects our creativity and creativity affects growth.
Developing and expressing our creative side encourages joy, luster, vibrancy and joie de vivre. These qualities are the essence of what the Thomas Jefferson called the “pursuit of happiness.” Even the most timid may enjoy audacious expressions of art, love and joy!
As water and air are vital to life, creative expression is vital to a purposeful life.
Creative play! Above--create a '"rid" with a white crayon or candle; fill in the squares with fun color! Creativity in the kitchen; just set out color!
Ok—I’ll jump off the soapbox and focus on guidelines for YOU—to move forward – with a generous sprinkling of creativity in your daily life. How do we nurture creative actions in our home, on the job, in our children and of course, in ourselves? We cannot bless others unless we show grace to ourselves!
Our imaginations may be getting lost in the chaos of this new life, new expectations, neglect of healthy food and exercise, and changing Covid practices.
Our brains react to protect us when stress appears, draining blood and oxygen from the thinking part of the brain. So, what to do? There is good news! Our brains can be re-molded! Our brains have plasticity! One method is to recognize your feelings thoughts. – in an activity such as journaling or saying them aloud.
As you do this, ask yourself if your thoughts are based on truth and reality? Replace negativity if possible, with positive affirmations such as I can do this—I’ve done it before, I am good at ______________________(cooking, putting things together, gardening, encouraging people).
Meditate on something that it uplifting to you! Music, quotes, artworks….
Gather tools to journal!
Actually, this closely follows the advice of Julia Cameron. In over a dozen books such as The Artist’s Way, her main 3 steps always include free journal writing, walking, and what she calls artist date, where you take yourself on a date to admire something or interest or beauty -- to nurture your own spirit. It can be formal such as visiting a museum or bookstore or simply taking a nature walk or looking at store windows.
Despite it all, show grace to yourself so you can GROW!—or slowly drag yourself--jump into a space where you can nurture creativity. If you have a family—as much as possible, make your home a petri dish for creativity. Allow play, art messes (within reason) and freedom for kids to express themselves without having to achieve or perform. A Facebook friend posted a geometric mural she and her son had mapped out for painting his bedroom. I loved that!
If possible, at home and if you have employees, go beyond encouragement and honest listening to consider the sounds, colors, temperature and lighting. I had a homey ginger jar lamp in my classroom, and when students asked why - I told them ambience! They liked the warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Make creativity a commitment. Schedule time for learning, practicing, painting, researching –and record your progress. Take photos or jot notes about your progress…or just allow yourself that freedom to create and keep or toss, but enjoy the process! Don’t judge your activity by the burnt cookies!
Grow by boosting your creativity.
Be king to yourself on this journey!
Wishing you all so much goodness,
Plein air painting - take your watercolors outdoors!
*Note: Each month I write and rewrite my post, and usually it takes a couple of weeks to mull over. If you are in the Midwest, experiencing a winter much more drastic than normal or Texas, or anywhere, my heart goes out to you. Like a plant that needs water, sunlight and TIME—be king to yourself. Let your creativity sprout in God’s time.
January 9, 2021
As the temperatures drop and the sun begins its slow trek back toward the north, I just want to check in with you. As you may know, I am not a fan of winter, but I have learned to love the winter light with its long deep shadows which add drama and dimension to our Mojave landscape.
With this new year, I wish to spread some hope - and I am sharing an excerpt from my article recently published in our local newspaper, the Hi-Desert Star.
"We reflect on our past and must have hope for the future. What are artists to do in 2021? I suggest you be kind to yourself and pat yourself on the back when you make small progress. Keep creating. Work small. Create several times a week rather than forcing a huge project! Watch your health— sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and spiritual nurturing are crucial! Follow the Covid essentials of social distancing and mask wearing
Kindle new interests.
Learn new skills.
Teach-share what you know.
Reach out, locally and globally.
We are not only missing hugs and contact with others. Artists miss the tactile elements. It is not easy to see the depth of brushstrokes, the thickness of paint, the characteristics of a medium, or even to know the size of a work. Ask questions! Interact with artists online or with old fashioned devices, a note or phone call. I received a Covid collection of cards this summer and I treasure them. My Esty business specializes in notecards and paper items with a personal touch and a French flair.
You have heard enough about Zoom! Yet, a virtual meeting over a meal contains the elements of breaking bread with another. If spirituality is part of your life, cultivate those connections. I meet weekly with women for Bible study and prayer and to provide encouragement.
Keep a journal or diary which includes gratitude.
During 2020, meditative hands-on activities such sewing masks, remodeling our rental (lots of scraping, sanding and painting) and making meals became important to me—connecting to the lives of ancestors. I often ponder how they lived with simple items.
As we begin a new year and confront the unknown, how do we inspire others and remain motivated?
Despite my love/hate relationship with social media, I maintain my accounts to promote new art and to communicate. I give myself breaks. Social media is not an obligation; it can be an opportunity!
This year I found it important to embrace the USPS! When I requested package pickups, I left 3x5 notecards saying #usps or #IloveUSPS. My carrier picked them up! At Christmas, when I gave her a calendar, I learned she loves the French Impressionists! Another positive connection as a result of Covid!
We must develop skills such as patience, resilience, and openness, especially to the unexpected.
Keep your life sane!
Create home comfort centers. Typically, artists collect a lot of stuff. Neaten up! Clear out! Read for information or imagination! Place chairs, tables or baskets with your needs conveniently: pencils, colored markers, notepads, journals, inspirational books, Kleenex….
Savor the seasons. Study changing light and its effect on your painting or other art forms
Find ways to help others. Give back!
I gifted my France Sketchbook calendars and Zoom classes.
I hope we, as creative thinkers, can turn problems into opportunity, peace of mind, satisfaction, and contentment during 2021!
I was reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s words in Walden. May we take note:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. — Henry David Thoreau, Walden."
Please, dear friends, stay safe this year. I thank you for your interest in the arts and wish you joy with your own creative projects. And please, tell me what you are doing! Post a comment below!
Inspired by all of you,
Link to complete page
More information available: Zoom Art Classes, available artwork, my Etsy shop: French Press (which is offering my 2021 calendars this month at 25% off)
Mom's Wingback Chair, watercolor, Janis Commentz (available on cards)
Thank you to the many who have visited my website! In my blog I share my art, insights and techniques. I welcome comments and questions.
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