Filling the well – more process

Last week I experimented with a different way of working… instead of just working one thing to the end of a logical step, I tried giving several important things a spot of focus in the same day. When I work one thing at a time it feels like other things may begin to rot from lack of attention. I start to get unfocused on what I’m doing because I’m worrying that the neglected children on my to-do list are getting up to something naughty – and such lack of focus usually makes for some type of mess (an over-looked commitment, sewing through my finger…)

So I attempted to inch the major tasks forward all at the same time, and the result was that I was even more scattered. A great experiment in process, but in the end, not one that fit me well. Remember what I say about process – it’s the one that works for you that counts!

After a couple of days of feeling like a juggling clown, I was ready to take to the couch with an attack of the vapors, and possibly a box of chocolates (I would have gone to See’s, and had them hand-pack my favorite dark morsels – hellooooo Dark Chocolate Butterchew!). But instead, I decided to fill my mind instead of my tummy – and I headed for the Getty Center.

It would be easy to list the downsides* to living in Los Angeles, but being close to several world-class museums is not one of them. As they change their special exhibitions often, you can bet that on any given day there is more new art to look at than you can handle. This particular day was bright and sunny, the perfect day for refilling the well.

Refilling the well. Sharpening the saw. Feeding your head. When you live a life of creative output, there must be a balancing input. Yin and yang, circle of life, field and fallow. If we don’t occasionally feast, we will hit creative famine. Finding inspiration is a necessary part of artistic endeavor, and it is critical to your creative well-being to make this just as important as any other task in the studio.

Image courtesy of the Getty - Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

Image courtesy of the Getty – Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

My reason for choosing the Getty was the young lady above, visiting our fair city for six very short weeks. She is Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. I was fortunate to be among sparse crowds as I absorbed the painting’s mysteries, and spent about 20 minutes just looking deeply at the work.

She is lovely. While I’m picky about the realistic painting I like, every Vermeer I’ve had the privilege of getting my nose up to has taken my breath away. It’s not just that the painting technique is sublime, it’s the immediacy of moment that he captures. They feel as un-posed as Cartier-Bresson’s street photography, and they are so very enigmatic. Who is she? What’s in that letter? Is it good news or bad? I love getting lost in the questions a work asks me. (The Getty asked their blog followers to write the opening line of the letter).

And then there are the technical marvels. The tiny flecks of light added to the studs on the chairs to give them dimension. The myriad shades of blue – and not just in her jacket. They are deep, dark, bright, shiny, sunny, airy… how many ways can you use a blue? They are in the chairs, the finial, the walls, the cloth, even reflected into the envelope on the table. There is tension in her hands, and a slight parting of her lips. Is it a gasp of surprise? An exhalation on the cusp of despair? Vermeer allows us the room to craft our own story for her.

After my time with the lady, I re-visited a few favorite pieces, and then ate my lunch in the gardens while getting some sunshine on my skin. Head filled with ideas. Tummy filled with healthier fare than those chocolates. Heart filled with beauty. Art always makes things right in my world.

*And then I hit the traffic filled freeways to get home :-)

PS – Vermeer’s legendary Girl with the Pearl Earring is at the De Young Museum in San Francisco until June 2nd (first time out of Holland in 30 years). I’ll be making my way there soon!

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