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Doing anything else but painting!

I'm my last session of my advanced pastel class at Dunedin Fine Art Center, I had a conversation with my people about what keeps them from painting at home.

Comments ranged from the hubby to the laundry, but the general consensus with folks was "Life gets in the way!"

The passed two weeks have been the most difficult for me-I'm going through a major life event that involved moving into a new place. My studio was boxed up, schlepped, and unboxed quickly, and I've hardly had time to breathe-much less paint.

For some of you, this is what daily life is like. Running from appointment to appointment with hardly any time for you, or the things you love.

As I put the pieces back together, I can't help but think about how much time I focus on things that really don't matter to me, and how little time I spend on fun things, or things that bring me joy.

It's easy to get into a rut in life, where you take care of others but not yourself-especially for women, but we all do it at some level. Finding that balance between self-care and others is the magical ingredient in life that makes it possible for joy and fun to happen.

When I'm rested, I feel like painting and I get better results. When I'm stressed or tired, and forcing myself to paint, I'm never happy with the result. When my surroundings are in chaos, I can't quiet my mind enough to focus on painting. Life does get in the way of painting.

These are times when I "fill the creative well" that Julia Cameron speaks about in her life-changing book The Artist's Way. Painting, and all art, requires us to dip into the inner well of creativity and experience and pull out something of ourselves to put on that canvas. When we are not painting, we need to refill the well.

Artist's Dates are what Julia Cameron recommends for filling that well. An Artist Date is when you go (alone) to do something creatively fun. This can be anything from a walk through a new park to a visit to a museum, and doesn't have to cost money or be directly related to art.

I made this fun Warhol-inspired self portrait at the James Museum on an artist's date

My favorite artist's dates have nothing to do with my art (per se) but they get my creative juices flowing. Most recently, I walked through a greenhouse and ogled the plants. Last week, I visited a farmer's market. It really doesn't matter what you do, as long as it's something you think of as fun, and it makes you feel creative.

Gardens give me hope.

This is the blank slate aI started with (after adding the landscaping fabric)

Gardeners plant things and that simple act is a hopeful act. When I'm feeling big, heavy feelings, I go to the Earth with them. I dig in the dirt, and plant things. It heals me, and reminds me that life is fleeting and must be savored one sunrise and sunset at a time.

I couldn't paint this week, so I made a garden. It's not a fancy garden, but it's MY garden. I actually laid awake devising a garden plan on a very tight budget for a small space and came up with this...

This is the finished project

It's a 4' square vegetable and herb garden with plants I purchased on an Artist's Date and seeds planted in the empty spots. For me, its a work of art. It isn't meant for anyone else and it's not impressive in any way, but it is an act of hope and healing.

Each of us artists has busy and intrusive life that gets in the way of painting.

When we can't paint, we can do creative things that fill our well and allow joy and fun to come in. Here's a partial list of fun things. Please use one of mine or add your own in the comments section and do something, anything, when you can't paint. Do it alone and in the spirit of self-care so that you feel hopeful, cherished, and loved...

  1. plant a flower

  2. buy yourself flowers and arrange them in a vase

  3. walk through a field or a forest

  4. spend an hour in a botanical garden

  5. stop and gaze deeply into a flower imagining it's the size of a Georgia O'Keefe painting

  6. go to a greenhouse

  7. buy a packet of wildflower seeds and scatter them behind you as you walk through a park.

  8. share a package of sunflower seeds with a squirrel or pigeon

  9. buy a shirt at a thrift store that is WAY too colorful for you

  10. make pink your new favorite color and write yourself a love note on your mirror in pink letters.

Me taking it easy and relaxing after gardening

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Congrats on your home and lovely garden space. For me, it’s finding a water source: lake, fountain, waterfall, ocean, and observing it’s myriad forms of calm and peaceful to crashing and turbulent. Always brings me joy and the desire to recreate it.


Thanks for sharing the other side of Shawn…it’s what makes you so human! Your perseverance and strength, amidst your many challenges right now, is a guiding light to all of us that are in the same situation! I guess one of my artist dates would be to sit in the lanai and look out at the birds flying, to and fro, from this big old palm tree 🌴…it’s so mesmerizing plus the nature sounds are so refreshing (soaking it all in before I have to go back home to reality) 😜 Good luck with the garden…Ali 💜


Love this! I too find gardening and planting relaxes me.....I'm planning on moving very soon and have been extremely stressed with that (buying a house that can afford thet is nice too, etc) and a lot of other things in my life now....but, I am looking forward to planting gardens in the yard at new place when time comes...and also hope to relax enough to start my painting again!! Thanks for sharing ...I needed to hear this now!


Wishing you peace and creativity in your new place Shawn, and lots of yummy vegetables from your new garden❤️

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