What Floats my Boat

The weather in Valencia has been more Fall than Summer so it’s time to get back to creative pursuits. El Espacio Creativo has sat sin uso since June. Of course, we haven’t been idle all summer but I’ve missed using this space for what it was intended when I found it back in March.

Before we left on our adventure to Germany, I put the canvas drop over this painting. I wasn’t sure if it was done. It needed to ruminate in my brain for awhile. Did it need to be more than it already was?

So when I came back into town in August, I went down to the space, turned on the lights, kicked out all the giant cockroaches from the warehouse (yes, Valencia has epic cockroaches that drive cars!), and I pondered what I might do. But I couldn’t make myself DO anything more to it.

When I started painting I kept envisioning the phrase ‘As above, is below.’ And I think I’m happy with the symmetry and the negative space. So today, I’ve decided it’s done.

Above as Below

I did another one before I left. I wasn’t sure what it was but I’ve asked those who have visited the space, when they ask me what it is. ‘I don’t know. What do you think it is?’. Funny, this is a question that makes everyone very uncomfortable. I can see they don’t want to be ‘wrong’. Even after I assure them ‘There is no wrong. I don’t know either.’

What do you see?

For me, this exposes so much about how we block ourselves creatively. I’m not pointing fingers – I’ve done it myself a million times. But we are our own harshest critics before we even start. I knew someone in my work who once told me they didn’t like to do the work, they just wanted to critique other people’s work. ‘That’s my sweet spot.’ they told me. I would have laughed if they weren’t so serious about it. And it made me feel sad. I couldn’t imagine not doing the work. That’s where the fun is. Where the risk meets the magic that happens.

When I was working, I brought in an artist as a team building exercise, who had us all paint a self portrait that we would hang in the Innovation Lab. It was interesting to watch as people either thrived in the exercise or found it excruciating. I heard several ‘I’m not an artist.’ or ‘I’m no good at painting.’ I assured them that I’m not Picasso myself. There would be no judgement or a grade at the end. It was just supposed to be fun, and to give us insight into ourselves.

This is how I approach my painting here. I just paint and it helps me get out of myself. When I put on my giant paint-covered overalls, I lose track of time and all the stress dissolves. Experimenting, and finding some of it is simply terrible. But I just laugh and move on. Some things work and others don’t. Testing new techniques. But I have learned to let the failures go, and to take what does work and move forward. Like in life.

The good news is, when I’m not happy with how things turn out on one canvas, I can paint over it. Or just evolve the image. This one started as a simple splatter experiment and over time it looked to me like pigeon droppings. So I wasn’t going to leave it like that. Then I watched some YouTube videos on some interesting techniques on light and depth. Now it’s a wave as it crashes.

This last one is a work in progress. When I did the center section of “Above as Below’ I liked the color and I had left over paint. I hate to waste paint so I just threw it on these canvases and came back to it later.

What is it? I’m not 100% sure. At first, I was just experimenting with some explicit shapes, and I want to try a wash on it at some point, but this is what it looks like now. Since school was starting in Valencia I thought I might call it ‘First Day of School’ but it’s evolved – so maybe not.

Anyway. You can see I’m no pro. My style might be best described as ‘Brute Force’ rather than ‘Tour de Force’. But hopefully, my willingness to show my paintings will help other people realize it doesn’t matter. Go out and try something new. You’ll fail aplenty – believe me – whatever that means. But who cares. Then you get to join us creatives who write books or poetry or music; paint, sew, sing… Whatever makes you hum or whistle when you get out of bed in the morning. And that’s pretty much all I want in this life, too.

Espacia Creativo

Ready. Set. Create! The movers came yesterday and we’ve been getting the new space all set up. We have desks for computers. Gotta write. A living room for resting from our creative pursuits. We’re having a refrigerator delivered – no one creates on an empty stomach. And more work tables and sundry other items will come later next week. Semana Santa is messing with my delivery schedules this week.

It’s getting there…slowly.

I’m not completely set up with my painting area. My canvas tarps haven’t arrived yet. Nor my really big canvases. But it’s good enough to put brush to linen. This one I call ‘Painting after a strong Gin and Tonic’. But I actually kind of like it.

Painting after a strong G & T

The space is in another section of Benimachlet. About 8 blocks from home. An area where we didn’t previously spend very much time. But I like it. There’s a charity shop around the corner – so I’m all over making donations to them. And there is a bar less than 100 feet from the front door. As luck would have it, Jeff likes the Spanish peanuts and olives they serve with beverages. And the beer. They’re overly generous with their G and T pours. So only one for me. I’m not Hemingway or Van Gogh, so I’ll need to keep my wits about me if I’m to be at my optimal creative self.

Now that I have a place of my own to spend a significant amount to time each day, it requires some of the essentials. And I have a new local El Chino that is making it easy. They’re lovely people. I’ve spent gobs of money in there stocking up on outfitting the space so I don’t feel like we have to go out to eat if we don’t want to. Or drink from a glass, or use paper towels efficiently. I left my wallet on the counter as I was juggling bags and my full trolley the other day. When I went back hyperventilating they handed it over with a smile, and all the money and cards were nestled where they should be. Whew! These people have my business for life!

Its no wonder I’m feeling inspired. A burst of creativity is here. I can feel it! 120 square meters will do that for you. Writing and painting and yoga-ing. I’ll be putting it all to good use. Can’t wait to see where it leads.

Contrato Firmado

Yes – we have a signed contract. Because El Jefe is here it’s now a done deal. I clutched the pen with my tiny female claws. Barely able to put pen to paper. But Jeff’s large paws made up for my short fall. Eye roll.

We met at the imobilaria to meet our new landlords, to sign and get the keys. They are lovely people – a father and daughter. They speak zero Ingles, and our Spanish is pitiful but we muddled through. You can always tell about people through their eyes. The father clearly laughed a lot – lots of lines and he was very animated. And his daughter was a very nice person. After we signed multiple copies of the document and the imobilaria explained all the terms to the landlords (and nothing to us), we made our way to the space.

They seemed excited to show it to us. I performed much miming antics and broken Spanish. Finally the father looked at Jeff and proclaimed him ‘Santo’. It means ‘Saint’. I think he was referring to Jeff’s obvious patience being married to me. I laughed and told him my Mother says the same thing. I have referred to him as Santo for the last 24 hours. He seems to like it.

They seemed skeptical at first, us being American and all, but quickly warmed to us when Jeff changed some light bulbs in the high ceiling without using a ladder. He is ‘gigante’ and it does come in handy. I thanked them profusely for letting the space to us and the daughter told me ‘we are in this together’ so I take that as a sign of a good landlord/tenant relationship.

Since we moved here were have heard disparaging comments about Spaniards. People have said they’re lazy and they lack ambitions. I’m sure they don’t understand the culture. And I’m always offended by this and I’m not even Spanish. But let me tell you, since we moved here if we need anything delivered like an appliance or something from IKEA or a service performed, the Spanish outshine anyone in the US and it’s not even a close contest.

Now that I have the new space, I headed down to the local internet/mobile provider to arrange to set up our service. I also decide to switch who we’re using at home and change the house and our cell svs over too. That was at 10;30 this morning. At 2pm the installer called me and they were standing outside the space to install it. Yup! Same Day. Not 3 1/2 hours later. On a cold day in HELL would that ever happen in the US. There, you’d wait for the installer to call. He’d tell you a week from Tuesday between 8-5. You’d take a day off work, or work from home, and he would show up at 4:45 on said day and tell you he didn’t have everything he needed and would have to come back another day. Like installing internet was a mystery to him and he invented it afresh each day. Seriously.

Today these two guys had ladders and put it in the back of the space where I wanted it, after drilling holes in the outside of the building and then running a 100 feet of wire. And they did it all in a hour. Like clockwork.

Tomorrow they’re coming to the house to install it here, and on Monday our mobile phones are switching over. Just that quick. So anyone who wants to tell me the Spanish don’t understand process and technical service delivery is an idiot and has never really lived here. I will defend them vigorously, to any foreigner from now on!

OK – I’m not including Correos or Amazon.es delivery in that, though while quick, they’re wildly unpredictable.

Just now, I lined up a moving service to get all our relevant stuff moved over by the 16th and then I’ll be up and running in 120 sq meters -Painting,writing, and doing yoga in my own studio. It doesn’t get better than that!

Finding Room

Being back in Spain has proved busy. In an effort to make more room for our creative pursuits, Jeff and I have been out and about exploring. Jeff has repeatedly been frustrated with the availability of supplies related to the things he likes to do. Whether it’s sea kayaks or technical fabrics. Not to mention the space to spread out to sew and paint. We needed to have a rethink and get creative on the space.

Part of that was using our time in Ireland. Since we couldn’t get the technical fabrics here, when we were in Dublin we visited an amazing fabric store in an old Georgian house in walking distance from our original hotel. It’s kind of this secret door type of thing. Like Grimmald Place in Harry Potter, if you didn’t know it was there you’d never find it. Finally I range the bell after we’d walked around the block twice. They were wonderful and have floors and bolts of every kind of fabric you can imagine up to the ceiling. And now that they know us and we have a relationship, they’re happy to ship to us in Valencia when ever we need. I wasn’t the only reason we had to buy another suitcase. Check and check!

When we got home we found a Bauhaus store that right on our tram line and doesn’t require us to go out to Shopping City on the IKEA bus or via taxi. It’s at Heron City and they also have a movie theatre with movies in English on Tuesdays and all the restaurants we love. Win Win. So we’ve spent the last two days going back and forth, buying tables to reconfigure Jeff’s office so he has space to spread out. Now he’s got computers and plenty of room to cut and sew fabric.

And then there is me. I have been painting at our dining room table. The light isn’t the best. This morning I went into the third bedroom as the sun came up, and discovered the light in there is amazing for a couple of hours every morning. We never go in there and have been using it for storage. So after some reorganization and the purchase of a new table and some other supplies, I have a new space to paint every morning.

It’s funny, I find my painting is helping with my writing. No matter how amateurish my results have been. But painting, like writing and like life, is about trying and failing. Learning and growing. So without judgment, I’m adding four pictures to this post. The first one is my first painting in Valencia. It’s all about a bright sail on a stormy sea. Not sure, but I dreamed about and painted it.

The second are three blue vases I have on a table in the house. I didn’t do them justice but I love looking at them every day.

The third is looking up while laying on a blanket in the Turia. The sky is so blue here and on a cloudless day there is nothing bluer.

The forth one is some splatter painting. I created a box to try out the technique and this one I’d call ‘Tiffany’s’ because the blue of the background reminds me of Tiffany blue boxes – but I know I didn’t get the color quite right.

If you had asked me a few days ago if we had the room for these spaces I would have told you there was no way. But I think El Compartemiento flexed a bit for us. He feels a little bigger and more usable that he did before. I need to get down to the process of editing, amongst the other mundane day to day things on the near horizon. But we’ve both made space to step out of the administrivia and to let our creative flags fly. And that feels good.