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?