February 22, 2013


"The Art Habit"


I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “where do you find the time to paint?” It’s one of those questions that I never really had an answer for.  Janice usually pipes in at this moment that I pretty much sketch draw or paint every day.  Well, that is not exactly true, but it is close.  Now that I think about it, it really is quite remarkable that I find the time.  We have an incredibly busy household.  Janice and I have very demanding careers, raised five kids, are involved with sports (both mine and kids), do yoga several times a week, I am learning the banjo  and we have a busy social life.  I fit my artwork and my writing into a pretty crazy schedule.

When I sat down and actually thought about it, I guess the only answer that comes to mind is that I have created "habits".  We all are creatures of habits, both good and bad.  I certainly have my share of bad habits, and I, like everyone else, have tried to make yearly resolutions but failed. I have however, been able to create a few, what I would consider to be, really good habits - well habits that make me happier at least.  I am certainly no different than anyone else out there when it comes to habits, goals and resolutions.  

For example, I used to be a pretty serious runner in my twenties. I ran half marathons and participated in several 24 hour relay races from Jasper Alberta to Banff and from Banff to Calgary. I stopped after a knee injury. My youngest daughter at 17 is currently training for a marathon.  I seriously considered joining her, but now that I have passed the 50 milestone, as much as I would like to run, getting out there and actually doing it seems insurmountable.  I can do it for a few days but then it just stops.  Interestingly enough, when we downsized to a condo last year, I decided to ditch the car.  I now have no vehicle and as a matter of principal I avoid our overpriced transit system like the plague. The result is that I walk and bike everywhere.  I can’t develop the running habit yet am able to walk or bike a few hours each day.  My foot/bike commute has become a habit - one that I now cherish. 

I started playing guitar a few years ago when I was in my late forties.  My high school aged daughter was taking guitar lessons at the Ottawa Folklore Centre - she was dating a pretty talented musician at the time. I guess the music didn’t grab her or she just found the process frustrating and decided to take a break from her lessons for her summer vacation.  Knowing how difficult it is to get a good time slot, I decided I would take her lessons for the summer just to reserve her lesson time for the following school year.   Long story short, she never took it up again and I just kept going with the lessons.  Music certainly did not come easy to me.  I am NOT a natural musician by any stretch of the imagination and I found it very frustrating.  It took me a good year to actually do a bar chord.  I loved it though.  My guitar sat in our living room next to the couch and I pretty much picked it up every evening and just farted around with it. I found it very relaxing. I am sure I drove my family nuts but I certainly enjoyed it.  I would play for five, ten, fifteen minutes or sometimes longer and just went into my own little world.  Fast forward 4 years and I still play every day - not very well, but I can play a bunch of tunes......sort of.  Haha, lucky for you it is highly unlikely that I will be playing in public for the foreseeable future! I now am torturing my family with the banjo I picked up on my 50th birthday - a gift to myself! The long and the short of it is that I created a habit - the habit of picking up my guitar and/or banjo every day.  

A number of years ago I temporarily hung my hockey skates up after a number of injuries to my lower back.  Janice was taking yoga classes at the time and she dragged me along to a class.  This was way before it was the trendy activity that yoga is now, and there were very few men in the classes. It was kind of a date thing for Janice and I. It was around a year later and I was actively practicing yoga when I went to New York to visit my brother, who immediately took me to a Bikram class - Big macho hockey playing guys were both taking yoga for over a year and never told each other!  I found it really amusing that we had never let each other in on our little secrets. Needless to say, if you go to a yoga studio today, the numbers are pretty much equal between guys and girls.  What resonated with me with yoga is that the instructors always talked about it as a “practice”.  A practice for each day.  A practice that becomes a lifestyle.  I now meditate and do some form of yoga most days.  It has become a very important part of my life. I wanted to spend time with Janice and this was something we could do together.  Before I realized it I had created myself a new habit.

So now when I am asked how I find the time to draw and paint my response is that it is a habit.  I no longer own a television to distract me.  I choose to sketch, paint, read and write over watching TV.  I prefer to actively participate in an activity than to be a spectator.  I sketch most days. I carry a small pocket sized sketchbook and my trusty  Lamy fountain pen in my pocket always. I have reduced my art studio to a small 5x7 pochade kit for my oil sketches and a pocket watercolour set for sketching. Reducing my studio to something that fits into a nap-sac gives me the flexibility to  sketch draw or paint anytime, anywhere. It has become a daily activity no different than playing guitar, walking to work or practicing meditation and yoga. I just do it. I don’t have to think about it. I simply have created the Art Habit!  

What is your habit?


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