Embracing Ambiguity.

Two weeks ago, David and I went to Kripalu, a yoga retreat center that we visit regularly. Of course I packed up my travel kit, journal and special treats and I took the time to find a flower to two to draw and paint.

While drawing the orange flower I was bit by a nasty bug and am still healing from it!

The next day, I returned to that bug infested place for more torture, ops, I mean, same spot to color the drawing. This is the third drawing I have done at Kripalu. If you have Dreaming From the Journal Page check out pages 118 and 122 for the other two Kripalu flower drawings and a piece of art inspired by them.

When I came home, I continued to work the page using stencils to help ‘pattern up the page’ (this page is featured in video content from the Stencil Magic class (please sign up, I would love to work with you). I want the frenetic energy of the wildflower patch to really shine through and don’t feel as if I have captured that yet. I like the page a lot, it is moving into the right place but is not quite there. Almost, just about, but not quite. Oh the ambiguity. 

When I first started working in my journal pages over time like this, it felt quite uncomfortable. I felt as if I needed to return to the page as soon as possible and complete the image. But, I find when I would do that, I often make impulsive and ill defined decisions that leave me regretting and wishing I had taken the time to truly decide what my next step should be. For me, taking this sort of time is tantamount to creating the beautiful pages I want to see realized in my journals.

So, I wonder, how do you deal with creative ambiguity? Do you embrace it, struggle and push against it? Do you not experience ambiguity?  Talk to me! 


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Comments

  1. Jeannie says:

    Was it a deer fly that bit you? They hurt and take for ever to heal. I have been told to put a fabric softner sheet in my pocket and the mosquitos and deer fly will leave me alone. Haven’t tried it yet.
    Ambiguity, my middle name. I used to be really hard on myself for not finishing a project or having more than one item on my table. Now I embrace it. I learned that if I forced myself to complete, I tended not to like the finished project. A dear friend pointed out that good wine and good marinara sauce need time to age and simmer. Creative pursuits are like wine and sauce. If I try to force creating or to finish, I usually dislike greatly the result. I need to let things percolate. When I feel my shoulders tensing or my grip on the needle/brush/pen tightening, it is time for a walk or another activity. If I listen to my inner self and take a break, new ideas pop up, problem areas are often identified and remedied, and I am happier with the end result. Listening to my body and my inner self is not the way I learned to be, but it is a habit I am developing.

    • Melanie says:

      You are speaking my language, Jeannie. The good thing for me is that I have identified the impulsive ‘feeling’, and can now slow myself down and redirect my energy. Before I identified this feeling, boy would I mess things up for myself.
      The bug was small and rounded in shape, not a tick though. I killed it. I would kill it again too if I could. It is healing and isn’t itchy anymore.

  2. Kathleen Sharp says:

    I realize that I have been struggling with this…get the finished product. I have several projects that are not finished and I see it is because I’m not sure what to do next. They are pinned to the wall or bulletin board. so that I can see them and continue thinking about them. I feel the ambiguity in my body and yet I do not give in to just make it happen, but boy do I feel it. Love your watercolor flowers.

    • Melly Testa says:

      We need to be mindful of leaving projects undone and unfinished too. There is a balance. We do need to push ourselves sometimes too.

  3. I have been working on a couple of projects and for the first time have been working in stages, it is really liberating. I get to stand back and observe, see what speaks to me as I work. I was not always able to do this. I thought that I had to finish the work in one day or I was a failure. I had a class with Orly Avineri and she told us that we should learn to create, not produce. I have taken that to heart, whether I am writing and article for my blog, working on an art journal page, knitting, anything I am slowing down and enjoying the process. I give my imagination permission to roam.

    • Melanie says:

      I love the sentiment that Orly gave you. I think this is akin to being a process versus a product person. Both are perfectly valid. I like the act of process, enjoying the making, but I also like finishing a thing. Both.

  4. Barbara Fox says:

    sometimes ambiguity tells us that it’s time to just walk away, breathe deeply and acknowledge that it will come in time…

  5. Depends on the project. If I don’t have that deep excitement of needing to move ahead right away, then I ususally feel the answer isn’t there and I give it time for the story to find me (like writing my blog this week, it just isn’t pulling together, so I left it.) But when I am learning and excited like I am right now with finishing a book of paintings from Carla Sonheim’s recent class, I don’t so much care if they will be perfect. The excitement is more about experiment and learning, and that’s what I need now. I’m not ready to need perfect, finished and saleable art. Don’t know if I ever will think that way. I love seeing what happens when I just keep moving.

    • Melanie says:

      Cheryl, I think it is essential to make stuff without the added pressure of the works ‘final destination’. It helps us to loosen up and access the heart. It helps us to make the art we need to.

  6. It takes great restraint for me to wait and see on a project but I find when I do things are always better. It’s a discipline I am learning to embrace.

  7. Beatriz Helton says:

    I love your watercolor flowers. I’ve been living in an ambiguous state for a while now. I’m just starting to get back into painting after a few years of fasting and I struggle with making decisions about what to do, when to stop. However I’ve been paying attention to my body too and my intuition and I’m starting to realize that it’s all about just picking up that paint brush and making the strokes on the canvas. Doing that makes me feel good so I’m refusing to worry about the outcome and just having fun with it for now. How’s that for ambiguous?

  8. Creating as opposed to producing! what an “AHA!” moment for me. I take on deadlines and don’t leave enough time to simply create.

    I do often stop in the middle of a work and set it aside if no deadline is looming. It helps to intensely work on a piece and try out ideas – then let it rest. During that lovely subconscious working stage where you are doing something else entirely (walking, exercising, showering, half sleeping, meditating, gardening) everything seems to come together with a solution to the design issues. Sometimes.

    Melanie – I can see bug stencils or stamps patterning themselves – or hiding in among your leaves.

    Here where we are plagued (correction – where *I* am plagued) by biting insects – I always keep a stick of “after bite” with me. If I get it onto the bit soon after being bitten the bite will be gone by the next day. It doesn’t stop the itch immediately but will make it disappear. Otherwise I get ugly red torturous itchy spots that swell and last weeks.

    Beautiful work – inspiring conversation!