Posts tagged being inspired
Making Do and Making Art

What are your barriers to creativity? What keeps you from making or doing on a regular basis? A lack of:

  • time?

  • space?

  • money?

  • materials?

  • tools?

  • knowledge?

  • skills?

  • inspiration?

  • energy?

  • confidence?

Or is it something else?

I think most of the things on this list challenge all of us at one point or another. I know I’ve struggled with them.

Sometimes we put limits on ourselves based on imaginary constraints. We even use language making our limits sound hopeful or dream-inspired instead of constraining. I caught myself thinking “when I have time to reorganize my studio, I’ll set up a permanent sewing table. And then I’ll be able to sew more regularly.” I even started fantasizing about the thrift-store table I’d find or repurpose. What I was really saying was “I can’t sew right now because I don’t have the right space to do it.”

Was it true? No. And I finally realized it. I brought a folding table up from the basement, shifted things a bit and brought my sewing machine out from the closet.

I set up my sewing machine on a folding table in my studio

It might not look pretty and the table bounces a little when the machine is going full steam, but it works. I even crossed a couple sewing projects off my list this week (although one was a bit of a fail as I shared on Instagram).

A pillow cover sewed with my fabric design in Spoonflower's Celosia Velvet

I love my new pillow* and wish I’d done this sooner.

I wonder about some of the other constraints I put on myself. Are they true?

I’ve been dragging my feet on a few projects, putting them off for various reasons. If I look closely at the reasons, I see there are ways around them. I can make do and then get on with the business of making art.

Don’t have enough time? Fit in a few minutes of making. I was able to fill a page in my sketchbook on a day when I only had about ten minutes to work.**

Don’t have the right space? Rethink the space you have.

Don’t have a lot of money for fancy supplies? Use what you have. (My blue roses fabric design was painted with one color of paint).

These sketchbook roses were painted with one color of paint and eventually became one of my favorite fabric designs

Many of our constraints can be overcome. We can shift our thinking. We can look at our situations creatively. We can listen to what we’re truly saying and combat our fears. We can make do and make art.

Lately I’ve been telling myself that winter is my uninspired season, that without my garden I can’t create any serious art. Yes, it’s true I often hit a slump during the winter, but it’s also true that I’ve created some pieces I love during the winter. (My blue roses were painted during the winter and all of these paintings were created during the winter, too).

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

Although I’m still working on overcoming my slump, I’ve been focusing on playing in my sketchbooks instead of creating “serious” art (whatever that is). Perhaps my art, like my garden needs a bit of rest in order to begin growing again.

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

It’s amazing what ideas come out of sketchbook play. Giving myself time and space to experiment and dream is just as important as other types of making.

Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find your working.” Figuring out ways to rethink our restraints and restrictions, to pull apart the barriers to our creativity is important work.

What about you? Is there something holding you back from being creative? How might you reframe your situation so you can begin making?



*I sewed the pillow cover with my small scale Watercolor Rose Garden in Blue design in Spoonflower’s Celosia Velvet fabric. The fabric is vibrantly colored, so soft and was easy to work with. You can find it here and learn more about the fabric here.

**It’s also important to remember that we all have a lot of time each day and how we fill it is up to us. Prioritize what’s most important and leave the other stuff out. (Bonnie Christine shared some interesting thoughts about this on Instagram the other day).

Any Step Will Do -- How to Move Forward with Your Creative Journey

I had another post planned for today, but lately it seems that my blog keeps getting hijacked by a desire to share what’s on my mind. I’m ok with it and I hope you are, too. I want this space to be an honest reflection of who I am. I want it to open up conversations. I want it to create connection and inspire you on whatever journey you’re taking. I’m grateful for every comment and every email. If you have thoughts you’d like to share with me or if there are certain posts you wish I’d write, I’m always open to hearing your ideas. Leave a comment or contact me here.

Anne Butera Painting In Her Studio in the Summer Surrounded by Flowers and Wearing her Butterfly Fabric

For a while now I’ve been in a weird place in my art journey. Knowing that I need to change, or am on the cusp of change, but not knowing how to do it or what that change is supposed to look like. I know I mentioned it last month.

I continue to write about it in my journal. I continue to ponder what to do and how to do it. But instead of moving forward, I end up standing still. Yes, stillness can be part of the process, but eventually I need to begin.

My Silly Cat Quin Likes to Help Me When I'm Working at My Computer

Back when I was just starting to make art, an artist I follow on Instagram posted something about how she still had a lot more practice to do. At the time I didn’t get it. Her art was wonderful. I wished that I could draw and paint as well as she did. That she could make such beautiful, compelling work and yet be dissatisfied with it was baffling to me.

Now, I get it. Artists are always developing and growing and changing and learning. In fact that’s true for everyone, artist or not. A creative journey doesn’t have an end point. You’re never going to “arrive”. And what would you do if you did?

a selection of nasturtium paintings — all are available  in my shops

a selection of nasturtium paintings — all are available in my shops

I had been describing my current situation as being at the crossroads, but yesterday I visualized it in a different way. I’m standing on the edge of a swiftly moving stream. To continue on my journey I need to cross the stream. There are stepping stones in the water, but they’re slippery and far apart. There is no clear path across. I have been standing on the bank for far too long. I’ve been telling myself that my hesitancy is due to uncertainty. How do I proceed? Which stepping stone do I choose? But if I look honesty, I can see that what is stopping me is not a lack of clarity, but fear. Fear that I might stumble. Fear that I might slip into the water and get wet. Fear that I might choose the wrong stepping stone, get stuck and need to turn around.

Instead of moving forward I’ve been giving myself tasks to do while I wait on the bank. Those tasks stand in my way of moving forward. I fill up lists of intentions and goals and to-dos, but none of those have anything to do with crossing the stream. Many of them have to do with what I hope to find on the other side.

You see the predicament.

I wrote something in my journal yesterday that I’d like to share with you:

a surprise gift from my garden — nasturtium cuttings blooming in my studio in November

a surprise gift from my garden — nasturtium cuttings blooming in my studio in November

  • I am craving clarity

  • I am craving focus

  • I am craving quiet

  • I am craving attention (my own attention, lavished on myself)

  • I am craving single-tasking

  • I am craving being present fully — with the good and the bad

  • I am craving finding joy in this moment, not in the one I wish I were having

  • I am craving art, even if it is messy, ugly or bad

  • I am craving play and fun

  • I am craving a release of the BS

I know my next step simply needs to be a step forward. Any step will do.

I know I will make mistakes. I know I will stumble at times, but that is all part of the journey. When I was first learning how to paint I made lots of mistakes. I stumbled quite a bit, but I kept going. I think I’ve forgotten that stumbling is necessary. These stumbles will be no different than the other ones. I simply need to keep moving forward.

a page from my second collaborative Sketchbook with Dana Barbieri (my swan is on the right)

a page from my second collaborative Sketchbook with Dana Barbieri (my swan is on the right)

What about you? Are you on a creative journey? A personal journey? How are you progressing? What have you been craving in your life and how are you planning to make it happen?

You don’t need to tell me; try writing it in your journal. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Thanks for being here. Wishing you joy.

Learning to Slow Down

Lately I feel as if I’m always in a hurry. As if the days are hurtling by and I can barely keep up. I’ve been feeling like this for a while and I don’t like it. One of the reasons we moved out of the city was to live a slower life, but here I am rushing, again.

Watercolor Violet Painting by Anne Butera

If I think about it, I’ve been feeling this way for a while. My word of the year for 2018 is PRESENT, chosen to help me create a sense of calm and slowness in my life. When I wrote about it in January I said:

I want a word that will help me grow and find wisdom, whether I accomplish my goals or not. In Present I see mindfulness. I see slowness. With Present as my word I hope to be more aware and relaxed. I hope to listen more closely to my intuition.

I’m not sure I’ve been entirely successful at this, but I have been working on it. Just being aware helps.

I noticed a basil seedling sprouting from the cracks in the patio

I noticed a basil seedling sprouting from the cracks in the patio

And I do try to be aware. When I feel myself rushing, flying through a task to get it done as fast as possible, I stop for a moment and tell myself to slow down. It’s helping.

While I was thinking about all of this, I immediately blamed our society, the internet, smartphones and social media for shrinking attention spans. I did a bit of research so I could trot out some statistics for you. What I found was interesting. Those claims of our shortening attention spans (shorter even than that of goldfish) don’t have science to back them up. And goldfish’s tiny attention spans and no memory? Ends up that’s not true, either.*

Even if I can’t blame the the internet for a quickening pace, limiting my (unproductive) time spent on the computer and with my phone is something I’m working on. After all, there are other, more satisfying things I’d rather be doing.

squash and sage from the garden for a version of  this recipe

squash and sage from the garden for a version of this recipe

So what else can help?

Is it even possible to slow down? Maybe not. But it doesn’t hurt to try.

I’ve put together a list of some things that help me stay present. I hope they’ll help you, too.

  • Pay attention to where I am and what I’m doing. This might seem obvious, but so often I find myself rushing through my tasks on auto-pilot. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live.

  • Breathe. I stop when I realize I’m rushing and spend a few moments breathing deeply to help ground myself.

  • Pay attention to my senses. Being aware of what I taste, smell, feel, hear and see immediately brings me back to the present.

  • Go for a walk. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, getting outside can be healing. I often return inspired. Yesterday I spotted a bald eagle swooping over town and discovered some violets blooming in the corner of my yard. These gifts are always there for us if we’re open to them.

  • Make sure I’m getting enough rest.

  • Give myself extra time for scheduled tasks and include transitions between one thing and another so I’m not rushing. I’ll be honest and tell you I’m not always good at this!

  • Pay attention to my natural ebbs and flows of energy.

  • Make time for healthy cooking. Matthias and I have gotten into the habit of leisurely cooking big meals on the weekends that will help get us through the week. We don’t usually get home till after 8 most evenings and it makes all the difference to have healthy food ready when we get home. Plus, spending the time together cooking is fun.

  • Be stingy with my time.

  • Make something! Crafting and making art forces me to slow down. Painting, sewing, crochet have all been wonderful teachers in patience.

a shawl I recently crocheted using the  Secret Paths Shawl pattern by Mijo Crochet

a shawl I recently crocheted using the Secret Paths Shawl pattern by Mijo Crochet

What about you? What helps you slow things down and remain present while still allowing you to accomplish everything that you want/need to?




*Read this article and this one for more.