When Life Gives You Lemons…Keep Making Art

Vinyl Record Mandala acrylic on vinyl record Sara Roizen

Vinyl Record Mandala
acrylic on vinyl record
Sara Roizen

 

“Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.”
– Jerzy Grotwoski

 

Over the past nine months I’ve been pouring a lot of time into creating a new collection of vinyl record mandalas. The first collection (Volume 1) sold out online a few years ago. I was amazed and humbled by the response and delighted in sending each unique piece to a new home.

Months ago I was booked for a solo show at a wonderful gallery in the town that I live in. Unfortunately, I found out that for a few different reasons, the gallery was closing suddenly at the end of this month. Therefore, my solo show was no longer happening in October.

After receiving this news, I spent that day feeling a variety of feelings. I was shocked at first. My mind went to the months and months of time I had put into preparing for this show. As the show date approached, I had devoted even more time to getting ready and finishing the last pieces as I prepared press releases. These were my ‘babies’ that were waiting to be born and presented to the community. Next I felt frustration and anger over the canceled show. I followed my thoughts as they spiraled into a cycle of self-defeating thoughts and a negative outlook on my art career.

At some point in the day, a little switch happened in my thinking. I realized that all of my feelings about the show were valid and needed room to be felt. So I let them have full reign, but I gave them an internal timeline. I told myself, ‘ok – feel everything intensely today without judgment. Then tomorrow, figure out your next step and get creative.’

Vinyl Record Mandala acrylic on vinyl Sara Roizen

Vinyl Record Mandala
acrylic on vinyl
Sara Roizen

I realized that no time or energy had been wasted in creating this collection. I will always make art, whether or not I have a specific show scheduled. It’s my daily medicine. It brings me joy and imbues my days with a greater sense of purpose and connection. There is a good chance I will find a new place to show this body of work. In the meantime, I will keep creating…because that’s what I do!

Like the changing seasons, I find that my approaches to art making in terms of theme, materials, surfaces, and size is constantly in flux. However, there are certain bodies of work that I continuously return to, such as my mandalas, wood burning, and textural layered paintings on canvas.

Working within the parameters of the vinyl records has brought me a new perspective and way of working on other surfaces. A couple of weeks ago I began working on square and rectangular canvases again. It had been so many months of working within a circle, that I was very interested to see how my work has evolved and adapted to new surfaces. I feel even freer in my paint strokes and in the playful ways I am exploring layering and line work. Below are a few new pieces that have come out of this transition and my temporary ‘setback’ with my canceled show.

untitled (so far)! acrylic on canvas Sara Roizen

untitled (so far)!
acrylic on canvas
Sara Roizen

untitled (so far)! acrylic on canvas Sara Roizen

untitled (so far)!
acrylic on canvas
Sara Roizen

After finishing this blog post I plan to head up to my studio and dive into some more painting. Perhaps I will work on some more vinyl record mandalas, and perhaps I will work on something else. Either way, my art is like an old friend that still constantly surprises me.

Have you had setbacks in your own creative process, whether it is art or a different modality? What gives you the motivation and drive to keep creating despite obstacles?

 

 

 

She Let Go

'She Let Go' acrylic and mixed media on wood Sara Roizen

‘She Let Go’
acrylic and mixed media on wood
Sara Roizen

 

I was introduced to this poem today. It came at exactly the right time, as things tend to do. I’ll let the poem speak for itself. I hope that it resonates with you and your heart as well.

She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

 She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

 

– Rev. Safire Rose

The Messy & The Magical

My messy and happy paint hand.

My messy and happy paint hand.

 

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert

I was recently listening to the Mama Truth Show podcast while cleaning up in the kitchen. I love a good podcast, whether the topic is parenthood, creativity, art, or psychology, or all of the above! The host Amy Ahler interviews different guests, and asks each one a final question at the end of the interview. She asks, ‘what is messy and what is magical in your life right now?’

I love that question for so many reasons.  I smiled as I stared at the pile of dishes and the crumbs left behind by my children as they headed off to school this morning. I was smiling because something had clicked. Life is both messy and magical. I have visual and emotional proof for that, and I bet you do too.

The magic and the mess (and the magic in the mess) tends to play out beautifully and constantly in the creative process. I glance around the studio and see evidence for this. Little piles of barely contained chaos in the form of collage pieces, half used paint tubes, and scattered brushes are the satisfyingly messy reminders and tools that help produce the magic in my art. When I’m in my studio or working with an art therapy client, my tolerance for mess, whether physical or emotional, is incredibly high. Furthermore, the mess is welcomed with open arms. The mess provides juicy material to get curious about, shape, take apart, rebuild, and transform.

This morning I had the thought – what would life be like if I approached my daily life as a wife, mother, friend, (fill in the blank) from that same open space of curiosity and trust in the messy yet magical process of daily living? What if I took my studio habits and way of framing things out into the other areas in my life?

This is precisely what I hope for my art therapy clients when we have breakthroughs during the session. I hope that the creative lessons and experiences from the session seep into daily life. When a client accidentally smears a painting and gets frustrated, that’s a ‘mess.’ Great! The transformation is what he or she does to transform the mess into a magic moment. As the therapist, part of my job is to make space for that mess and help the client become curious about the mess rather than immediately judging it as ‘bad’ or a ‘failure.’

Sometimes mess just needs to be mess for a while. Not every messy moment in and outside of the studio can be immediately transformed into something magical. Sometimes it requires a cumulative dance of many messy moments, before we can step back and acknowledge the alchemical magic of these experiences combined.

'Lotus II' acrylic & mixed media on canvas Sara Roizen

‘Lotus II’
acrylic & mixed media on canvas
Sara Roizen

There’s a Buddhist saying that is simple yet profound. It is, ‘no mud, no lotus.’ A lotus is a beautiful flower that has been the muse of many artists over the centuries. However, a lotus grows from the muck and mud at the bottom of the water. Without the mud, there would be no beautiful lotus floating serenely on the surface.

These are all rather abstract musings, so I’ll take a moment to get a little more personal. While thinking about the messy and the magical in my own life, here’s what I am coming up with at the moment.

The past 2 years have strikingly embodied the mess and the magic for me. Here’s some of what has been messy: leaving my thriving art therapy career behind in NYC and moving to another state to start over, the addition of our second child to our family, a last minute canceled solo art show, panic attacks, pneumonia, children in challenging stages, and adjusting to a new community.

Here’s what’s been magical (in responsive order to the above messes): becoming more resilient and trusting as I begin building my art therapy career in a new state, sharing our lives with a new child and increasing my capacity for love and joy, becoming creative in finding new places to show and sell my art, learning  how to inhabit my body more fully and befriend my experiences, our children challenging me to become increasingly mindful during hard stages, branching out and beginning to thrive in a new community.

In each instance, mess did not instantly give rise to magic. It is the process of getting really messy, embracing the mess, and not running away from it that has gradually given rise to the magic. And it’s an ongoing daily practice and often a struggle. I remind myself that I’m not set on arriving at some specific destination, whether it is with my art, career, my children, or any other area in my life. Really, it’s about learning to dance between the mess and the magic and enjoying the interchange, and sometimes the transformation.

Exploring the messiness and the magic in art

As I wrote earlier, the mess and magic are a natural alchemical force during any form of creation. However if you want to be more deliberate about exploring these two elements, here are some ideas to get you started.

Some of my torn up 'ugly' paintings on paper...ready to create something new (and maybe magical) with them!

Some of my torn up ‘ugly’ paintings on paper…ready to create something new (and maybe magical) with them!

‘Ugly’ Painting Collage

Can you challenge yourself and make an ‘ugly’ painting? I write ugly in quotes because it is a highly subjective word. What I’m really suggesting is giving yourself permission to grab the least attractive paint color in your bin (say that neon yellow you’ve been hiding)? Start moving paint around on some paper or an un-stretched canvas. Think about the ‘no mud, no lotus’ quote and make some real mud on the surface. Do you hate painting hearts? Throw a few hearts onto the surface. After you’ve reveled in the ugliness of your piece, set it aside and let it dry. I encourage you to live with it for a few days. If you’re feeling particularly bold, put it up on the wall for a while!

When you are feeling inspired, take the piece down and begin to cut it up or tear it up. Pay attention to how this action feels. Do you feel uncomfortable, excited, nervous? Honor whatever feelings come up. After you have a pile of new collage pieces, slowly start to create a new piece from the old ‘mess.’ It may be arranged like a grid where you use each piece, or you might only be drawn to certain key collage pieces. There is no right or wrong. But see if you can create some magic out of your previous mess.

Altered Words & Images

Words can have immense power. Think about the constant chatter running through your mind. It might be a bit muddy because so many thoughts can run across the stage of our minds at once. Time to get some of those ‘ugly’ thoughts on paper. You can write it out by hand or even type it on the computer. Take 5-10 minutes and sit down with a pen or marker and let those thoughts run wild and free across the page. The goal is to let your writing be stream of consciousness and not to edit what you are saying. If you’d like a little inspiration for writing in this way, check out Julia Cameron’s video and description of the Morning Pages exercise. As she says, let them be as grumpy, whiny, and ugly as you like.

After you are done writing, set it aside for a while. You might want to set it aside for the entire day or even a number of days. Perhaps you enjoyed this exercise and want to create a series of written pages over the course of a week. Whatever your time frame is, here’s the next step.

Image: cutandfoldbookart.com

Image:
cutandfoldbookart.com

Once you have some pages of ‘messy’ writing, begin to cut out certain phrases that call to you. It could even be one word or a phrase. Create a collage from the pieces of writing. Feel free to add other art materials such as paint, more collage, printmaking, or sculptural elements. The words do not even need to be visible or readable when you are finished. Let the words combine in new and unexpected patterns. Play with abstraction and try not to get caught up in the finished product. Look at the words as images rather than conveying a specific meaning, the way you might enjoy looking at an unknown language simply because the curve of the letters is visually intriguing.

The Invitation

Do you have a favorite medium to use in the arts? How about doing a messy dance, a messy musical composition, or a messy dramatic monologue? Can you find magic in letting the mess be as it is and getting curious about it for a while?

So my friends…
Today as you are moving about your day and being presented with all kinds of different experiences, thoughts, and feelings I’d love to ask you, ‘what is both messy and magical in your life right now?’