May 7, 2020

Acknowledge The Effort

The lockdown, or stay-at-home situation we have found ourselves for the last few months has been a frustrating, economically damaging, even dangerous time for us.

Even so, I have been encouraged by the responses to several posts that have generated some fascinating comments. They tell me folks are using this time to discover new talents, try new lifestyles, or even jettison old ways of thinking. Some people I know have read more books since late February than all of last year. 

My suggestion is that you reward yourself for what you have accomplished, tried, adjusted, or simply discovered you enjoy. That doesn't have to be writing the Great American novel, learning a foreign language, or launching a new, online crafting business, though it could be. 

Yes, organizing the garage counts. Watching all the Alfred Hitchcock movies you can stream would be a notable accomplishment. Helping the grandkids with their online school work equals a great use of your time. Teaching your dog to not bark at all the delivery people that seem to be everywhere would be a memorable success. Setting up Zoom gatherings with friends for weekly accountability sessions or wine tasting? Sure.

One of the skills I have been working on is oil painting. Last August, for the first time in my life, Betty convinced me to give it a try. I know you are never too old to start; my dad started in his early 70's and produced some excellent oil and water color paintings. He taught himself to charcoal sketch, too. 

With that pedigre I figured, I will ignore my lack of artistic urges and give it a shot. Well, my first month's worth of efforts were pretty horrendous. In one post I put my lack of any discernible talent on public display.




Comments from readers were polite and encouraging, though no one offered to buy an early Lowry.

I found I rather enjoyed the process, even as my efforts produced disappointing results. I probably spent more time in setting up and cleaning up then actually putting brush to canvas, but it was enjoyable. So, I kept at it.

About nine months later, I have begun to feel some progress. At last, I produced one that Betty has approved for display in our home. Considering she has been an artist of many media all her life, I took that as a thumbs up. 



In normal times, after her approval,  I would reward myself with a nice dinner out, or maybe a armful of new paints and brushes. Instead, I am excited about each new painting because now I know what needs work and what I must practice. I am motivated to look forward to a fresh piece of canvas and what the next attempt might produce. 

Quite honestly, the two or three I painted right after the one above exposed some serious regression in the finished product. They found the trash can instead of the wall. Nevertheless, the effort was rewarding because each time I learn what I must practice over and over and over.

I'd like to leave you with a simple request: no matter what you have tried or done over the last few months, it is very important that you acknowledge the effort you have made. Even if what you have done is to make the fluffiest pancakes of your life, celebrate that fact. 

With all the stress, depressing news, or disappointment at what has happened to your life, it will do you good to pat yourself on the back for whatever effort you have made in whatever area of your life. To not simply mark time, but move yourself forward is something to celebrate.

24 comments:

  1. Bob, the marked improvement between your two paintings (so impressive!) underscores one of life's most important lessons: Just because we want to do well doesn't mean we'll be instantly successful; in almost every situation, the more effort you put into practicing, the more proficient you'll become. This plays itself out in so many ways over the course of our lives, leading to better habits, improved skills and a confidence building sense of accomplishment. Instant gratification is favored by many, but the investment of time and effort builds character and resiliency. Good for you - you've really come a long way in less than a year!

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    1. Thank you, Mary. I am one of those who expects to be good at something straight away. Over the years when that doesn't happen I tend to get discouraged. As I get older I have learned to accept the learning curve more gracefully. I realized how many fun experiences I was missing because I gave up to soon. Painting is a good example.

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  2. With oil painting there is always a new goal, a new challenge which is what makes such a wonderful hobby in my opinion. But don't trash your experiments---that gets expensive, just put a coat of gesso over them and start a new painting.

    "Don't simply mark time, do something to move yourself forward" --- I'm paraphrasing you but I think I want that written on my morning coffee cup. LOL

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    1. I am using the wet on wet technique for my paintings. So, yes, I use liquid white (which is a form of gesso) to reuse canvas. Plus, when I am first trying something new, canvas boards are much cheaper than real canvas so I don't feel bad about my efforts.

      My coffee cup this morning says, "Doc Hudson Motor Oil," from Car Land at Disney California Adventure. Your quote is better.

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  3. The second painting ... it's real, it's inviting, and it's someplace I'd like to go. Good job!

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    1. Thanks, Tom. Remind you at all of parts of South Carolina or the Florida panhandle?

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  4. I'd hang that second painting in my house, too. Good on you, Bob. I've been learning about sourdough starter and baked my first loaf of sourdough bread the other day. It rivals the sourdough bread from Cobb's bakery in taste and texture. Next - sourdough biscuits.

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    1. I love sourdough bread...my wife not so much. Good for you!

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  5. The colors in that second painting are soo beautiful! You’re giving me inspiration to pull out the watercolors I play with.My creativity has been a bit stunted.But I am attending a ZOOM meetup with my art group today and hoping for some inspiration.Some days are good some days are rough. I miss the routines of my pre-Covid life but am settling into realizing we have to reinvent our lifestyles right now. This mornings hour bike ride through the farms across the street refreshed my spirit immensely.

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    1. Sometimes creativity needs a gentle push or a kick in the butt. I find that some days I want to paint and others the urge just isn't there, so I don't force myself to pick up a brush. On those days I will work on my sketching or guitar.

      Pull out those watercolors. I've seen your work. Keep at it!

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  6. I'd like to "acknowledge the effort" of YOU and your ongoing blogging for us. Not only are you a talented writer with your down-to-earth articles but you inspire us out here to search within for our best selves. As much as I can, my daily effort consists of gratitude and thanksgiving for being old, retired and healthy during this historic period.

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    1. Gratitude is a very important attitude for us to nurture at this time. When I read about all the horrific problems facing so many millions of my fellow human beings, my heart aches. Gratitude for what my family has is a necessary state to reflect my thankfulness.

      My very best to you and your loved ones, Bruce.

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  7. Bob, great progress on your painting talent! I am so glad you have been using the "changed time" to your advantage. Kudos to you! I am also thankful for the opportunities your blog afford to those of us who may not see eye to eye with many of your posts or the comments made on them to voice our opinions and beliefs. I feel that having an open, frank online discussion that attempts to remain civil and polite in nature is the key for our country moving forward. My wife and I have used this time to clean out our home of items we no longer use and are not wanted by our children or other family members. We used the "lockdown" time to visit, by appointment, houses for sale in a 55+ active adult community in our area and the model homes in that same community. A move is in our future which I know sounds somewhat risky and crazy with all the economic uncertainty, but we used the "lockdown" time to assess our risks versus rewards and chose to move forward. Sometimes a down market is the best time to strike. We are following what we believe God wants us to do so we are comfortable with our decision. One thing we both did a lot of over the past 2 months is improve our faith. God always has a way to make good things occur from the challenges of illnesses and plagues. I pray each and everyone of you and your followers are blessed.

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    1. "Preaching to the choir" is an all-to-common situation today. Web sites, blogs, media outlets tend to have a certain type of consumer and narrowly focus on them. While I don't hide my views on a particular subject, there is nothing to be gained by not welcoming an open discussion and multiple viewpoints. As long as someone avoids name-calling, profanity, or stating false information, i try to welcome everyone here.

      Betty and I plan on moving to a retirement community sometime in the next eight years or so. It is never too soon to get an idea of what our options are.

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  8. Nice painting! (The later one.)

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  9. Wow, talk about practice making perfect -- I LOVE that second painting! It's beautiful!

    Hmm, what have I accomplished? Helping my grandson with his schoolwork, and generally helping my daughter not go crazy with two kids at home all the time. A conversation with a martial arts friend has given new life to my practice -- enjoying time in the backyard now exploring new ways of approaching martial movement. Stepped up my morning meditation to double the time. Taking the dog for more walks. No artistic accomplishment to match yours, though. Wow. Just wow.

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    1. Remember the watercolors on wet paper? This is almost the same technique: paint picking up colors from layers underneath and flowing a bit.

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  10. Congratulations on your artistic achievement and I was interested to read your other suggestions. Strangely, a friend has recently promised to drop off on our step a DVD box set of the complete collection of Hitchcock films! We only have another 12 episodes of the complete set of all the series of The Sopranos to finish first and yes that is quite an accomplishment for someone who has no idea why, other than lockdown, she has taken to watching the tale of such a misogynistic, violent, unstable, crude, horrible, criminal family.

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    1. Hitchcock..really? That is synchronicity in action.

      I could never get into the Sopranos for the reasons you mention...too much everything for my tastes.

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  11. Wow! You have made great progress, Bob. A lesson in perseverance for sure! I haven't been as faithful to my harp practice since our harp circle and group plays for patients have been halted. I am reading more, and we've been prepping the house for sale and doing extensive spring yard work, so that's been pretty consuming. And I've gotten back into healthy meal planning and cooking. I'm really glad it's getting warmer, as outdoor sunlight is so uplifting. And our governor ("That Woman") is loosening things more and more giving me hope I may eventually get a haircut. First world problem, for sure. :-)

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    1. I got a haircut tonight...my first in 9 weeks. My heavens, did I need that.

      Unfortunately, our cooking as not been healthy enough, or at least small enough in portions. I have gained about 6 pounds in the last two months. That's not terrible but I am looking forward to a time when the gym reopens and i feel safe going back.

      Things are looking up in Michigan!

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  12. Count me as another fan of that second painting. Wow! Also, a good reminder to emphasize what we can gain from this difficult time.

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    1. Thanks, Jean. Betty has suggested I take up sketching as a way to learn about perspective, foreground, and background, which will help in my paintings.

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