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A.R.T. and A.D.D.

It’s a little known fact that I have A.D.D. Just for funzies lets throw in a little depression and O.C.D. while we’re at it. I’m an alphabet soup of clinical terms – tasty! Don’t worry, this isn’t anything new for me and I have a lifetime of experience learning how to live with these little brain-minions of mine. Something that I also have is A.R.T. The creative drive to express myself.

I’ve painted my whole life. Drawn, sculpted, you name it. I’ve been creating ever since I could pick up a crayon. It was and is to this day my strength. My drive to do better, my self-expression, my gift to the world.

So how do I balance A.R.T. with my brain?

I embrace A.D.D. when I create. After many years I realized that part of my creative process is to be EVERYWHERE. Let me give you a “for instance”. Whenever I prep for a new art show I always start by re-setting my studio. Tidy, put things back where they belong, put my body into productive motion. I give myself a day to organize my thoughts and focus my energy. I know that throughout this “focus day” I will get distracted. It is inevitable. This is A.D.D. and I accept that. I give my A.D.D. permission to look at the shiny object. By giving myself this day I get my wiggles out. As I re-set my studio I take notes, make sketches, and it looks a little like this:

1. How many pieces to I need to paint? How big? Subject matter?

I’ll sketch what I imagine the gallery wall will look like or what the cluster of panels will look like hanging. Horizontal? Vertical? Big? Small? I place all my panels together and begin to prep them. I’ll tape off the sides with blue painters tape and lay the panels on the floor or stand them up against a wall or table or kitchen counter. This helps me imagine what they’ll look like together and I begin to see them as a cohesive series.

2. What color scheme? How much paint do I need?

Long before this process began I have been mulling over colors. I think about colors all day long. When I’m driving in my car I think about color. Now looking at all the panels laid out it starts to click. I think of how much of each color I’ll need. Hmmm….there’s only one thing I need to do first…

3. Clean kitchen counters

Enter A.D.D. stage left! A.D.D. is like a one-man band. Imagine the most distracting thing possible playing an accordion, smashing cymbals and diddling a penny whistle at the same time. It’s here and it’s not going away until I feed it. My heart rate rises as I look for the 409. I spend a few minutes straightening the kitchen and wiping the counters down. Even though this is an obvious distraction I am still in my head about my paintings. I can see the final products hanging on the gallery wall. I also notice that there are no more clean kitchen rags…it’s ok, Jaya, chill.

4. Pull out colors and prep paint

Prepping for an encaustic show requires a little more love. I spend some time making whatever paint colors I’ll need so I won’t have to stop midway through the actual art process. I begin to make some bulk batches of encaustic medium. Now that the heat is on and I’m waiting for wax to melt I can think about more important things…dirty kitchen rags.

5. Do laundry

If I’m going to keep cleaning the kitchen counters I need more rags so by golly I’d better get some laundry started. I just can’t sit around waiting for wax to melt – I need to be efficient. I’m an efficiency machine. Like a multitasking art/housekeeping/penny whistle playing transformer. I’m actually excited to sort through the hots and colds so I can clean some more rags. I need rags at this point. Lots and lots of rags. Thank heaven the laundry is started so I can get back to business.

6. What tools do I need?

Gather tools. This includes scraping tools, metal tools, extra tins, torches and brushes. I don’t want to spend any extra energy during the actual painting process looking for my gear. I want it in arms reach. I lay everything out in my work area and I begin to clean my brushes.

7. O.C.D. kicks in and I meticulously clean all tools for at least 2 hours

Clean and wipe down all metal tools. Freshen up ALL brushes (this includes brushes that have nothing to do with my project). Reorganize tool box. Scrape all dried wax drippings off metal worktable. Sweep floor. Vacuum floor. Clean vacuum cleaner. Laundry is done – YES!!!

8. Clean rest of kitchen

I control myself and filter my encaustic medium before I rage war against the stove. This is perfect timing because my wax will be clean and in perfect little bricks by the time I’m finished. Like a ping pong ball I zip through the house: check wax, clean stove, fold laundry, stir wax, sweep floors, put away laundry. It’s a process.

9. Get my game face on

My wax is all set. My shiny hyper-clean tools are laid out. My studio is ready to be exploded with whatever it takes to finish these X amount of pieces. I’ve got my reference photos, sketching tools and I’m ready to rock. I pull out my first panel and it stares right back at me from the easel. Bring it on.

10. Cuddle my pet chicken for another hour


See? 10 super-easy steps to starting a new collection of work. This is how my brain works and I’m sticking to it. By taking this day I am mentally prepared to focus. During the painting process everything is everywhere at all times. I have a table to work on however art will spill onto the floor and into the hallway. The kitchen counter becomes a drying station for wet paint. Food? No. Wet paint. There’s a spot on the kitchen counter. Must clean kitchen counters. Where are the rags?

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