Preparation -the little things are sometimes the most effective…
January 2003

It's 10:22 am and I'm still in my pyjamas (green ones with little cartoon  pine trees on them.)  Such is the life of the self employed, I actually try to make a point of getting dressed for work in the morning, it really goes a long way to help you get in the mindset of 'work' in the creative sense.  Kind of a 'I mean business' message to my psyche.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when working in pj's can be completely exciting and freeing.  I have days when I say, "Yes, I'm going to spend the whole day in my butterfly p.j.'s, because I'm and artist and this is one of the benefits of my chosen profession."  But for some reason nothing gets me more prepared for the day than some old paint-covered overalls and my grandfather's red plaid shirt.  

It reminds me of my art school days when it was a requirement that you dressed in clothes purchased at the local Sally Ann, the more paint on them the more productive you must be.  I loved walking into the old building with my cumbersome drawing board (a piece of masonite with a bull clip holding a large newsprint pad), the halls were filled with the smell of linseed oil and gum erasers.  We  would prop our boards up on the primitive but efficient drawing benches and begin anxiously opening up our tool boxes.  The little black boxes were filled to the bursting with pencils, conte and charcol of various sizes, sharpening utensils, paints in different mediums, and brushes of every size, shape and hair.  There was always that moment of excitement mixed with fear at the start of every class, what would I turn out in the next few hours?  Would it be a masterpiece or would it end up in the large and overflowing garbage bin by the door?  

The truth is that preparing myself for the class in this way did a lot to make me FEEL like an artist.  There is something quite beautiful about the little rituals that we do to prepare us for an event that is about to take place.  I remember too that a midmorning break always consisted of a cup of tea and an orange, it always gave me a huge burst of energy and kept me drawing with such intensity.  

I if I seem to be bringing this topic up repeatedly in my writing it is because it is something I am fixated on.  I think these rituals are connected to the things that make living  and working more meaningful.  It may be a form of showing kindness and attention to ourselves and the act we are about to partake in.  The message is "I am about to engage in something important."  The preparation tells us that we are worth being cared for, worth the effort.   These may be little things like preparing the work surface, wiping it down, clearing out the old energy.  Or buying a special case for your brushes, something that when you use it everyday you feel good.  I bought a special drawing pen that came in a pressed metal case.  Everyday I enjoy opening up the case and pulling out the pen to start writing in my journal.  I know good stuff can come out of that pen.  Many years ago I bought a brown leather satchel to hold my journal, and for some reason I feel more creative when I wear it.   I know I am ready to go out to a cafe anywhere and write and sketch for hours.  Sometimes when I do journal work I start by lighting a candle, the glow reminds me that the work is sacred. 

Artist and writer Emily Carr would take her caravan (which she dubbed the Grey Elephant) out into the woods.  She would take with her food, pots and pans, her paining box,  writing journals and her animals.  This was her ritual for creating.  A sacred space where the act of creation was taken seriously.

For centuries artists have filled their studios with things that move them.  Items collected from foreign lands, postcards, quotes, books, toys, art, sculpture. In my studio I have an old red antique tea box filled to the bursting with correspondence,  hundreds of letters I have received over the years that are important to me.  Just having it in view reminds me that I am putting myself out into the world and that the energy comes back in many ways.

What little rituals or sacred acts do you perform before you create?