This Artist’s Take On Self-Care

This Artist’s Take On Self-Care

Last Sunday I pushed myself to get ready for my two upcoming exhibits this month. That stint involved framing three pieces (of considerable size) and mounting (gluing) story labels to quarter-inch thick white foam core and cutting them out with a large industrial X-acto blade.

All This May Not Sound Like Much. Yet, after four hours of standing, leaning over, using my hands in ways that are not the everyday, my hips were whining and my lower back wanted a date with a heating pad. Holding the body in tense anticipating of screwing things up and the shallow breathing that results, well, people, I gotta tell you this is physical labor. The idea of a hand massage almost brought tears.

view of Terra Kind Studio framed works of art ready for exhibits and sales

A view inside Terra Kind Studio. Alas, a poor photo due to crappy lighting. Yet you can see many works have been framed and are ready for exhibiting this month! No blood was shed in the process.

Yet, everything was completed and for the most part, well done. That’s saying something as I’m not a handy person and I have no talent for working with glue. I remind myself no blood was shed.

All this is to say I started thinking about *GASP* Self-Care and all the feelings, opinions, and perspectives that “buzzword” evokes. I know it’s good for you but stay with me…

We’ve been hearing about “self-care” for quite some time now and it seems particularly directed towards women. From the beginning, I was suspicious. Was this yet another marketing campaign to drive women (a.k.a. consumer queens) to go out and buy more stuff so she can take care of herself? As if women have to be told to take care of themselves and/or have to stand up and fight for what is an enableable right.

I know I come from a place of privilege. I work for nobody but me. I have control (most of the time) over my own time. I get to do what I want to do (as long as it is fair for everyone around). And I do make a point to take care of myself. If I didn’t, I could not do the work that I do.

Self-care is about self-value, honoring your principles and what you hold dear. It’s realizing our mind and soul are contained in a needy human animal. Take good care of the animal and it does marvelous things for the mind and soul so you can go on to make great things.

kristin maija peterson

Being aware of your moment of NOW slows you down. It lets you focus and see all the amazing works that nature wants you to witness. Go and find yourself a good forest to wander about in.

With that, here are a few actions I consider and do as self-care that are, for the most part, totally free.

Sleep. It’s so obvious yet undervalued in our hyper-productive society. For me, sleep is an absolute imperative. A good 8 to 9 hours of it in a quiet, dark room. White noise optional. No screen time at least an hour before bed. While I can manage one night of poor sleep, too many nights in a row and I will become depressed and yes, I easily get sick if I don’t have proper sleep.

Water. Plenty of it. It keeps the body hydrated and the mind sharp. Yes, I probably use more toilet paper than I would like because of this practice but hey, I can ward off a headache by simply drinking water.

Walking. Hell, just moving. I spend a lot of time sitting to do my work and walking, taking the stairs, stretching, parking far from the entrance, any means that I can incorporate movement into my day, the better.

Meditation. A word heard more often than self-care! Many moan at its very mention. I didn’t think I could get my squirrel brain to do it either. Argh, it’s so boring! And then again, it’s not. It did take a few years until I could sit and focus on nothing but a mantra and breathing. There are mornings when it is a mind-fuck wrestling match on my cushion. But just 10 minutes that often runs longer (because I can) is a godsend for my anxious human animal to calm down. PLUS I gleam ideas and insights as I move out of a meditative state. Now it’s completely habit, like brushing my teeth. I can’t imagine life without meditation.

If I didn’t take care of myself, my tired frazzled brain wouldn’t notice this artistic arrangement courtesy of Mother Nature.

A few things I do to take care of the artist-me:

Learn New Skills. I am a big fan of SkillShare, books, extension classes and workshops, or just going down a rabbit hole with Google because I’m curious about something. These days it’s about botany, the names of plants and who is related to who, and other plant intrigues.

Artist Dates. A lot of people have heard of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a timeless book that serves not just artists but anyone wanting to live a creative life. I swear to god that Artist Dates are a must. I particularly love going to other artists’ studios to talk about their work and going to art festivals for the same reason. I break the rule that an Artist Date should be going to or doing something you have not gone or done before. Regardless, I get so much inspiration from other artists it makes my heart swell.

Price My Work with Integrity. I know I price my work on the high-end for a lot of people. However, I know the level of work that goes into producing it. It takes me five to six hours every weekday, sometimes more on weekends for four to six weeks to complete one large-scale watercolor or graphite drawing. I use professional-grade materials and I frame my own work. I believe in the work, and its value, and this is reflected in the price. To price lower would be settling for less than I deserve.

Finding Out About Other Women Artists. Living or dead, women artists and their stories give me a continuum, a context for finding my place in the art world and in art history. Reading about what some of these women went through for their art is both humbling and yet empowering.

Your turn. What are your feelings about self-care? What does self-care look like to you? I heard someone say that going out and protesting for a good cause is a form of self-care for them. How radical is your self-care? Please share in the comments. Namaste.

It’s Cultivated. It’s Complicated.

It’s Cultivated. It’s Complicated.

WARNING: This post begins as a real-life downer, yet gets lighter with delights, ending with a shot of hope. Stay with me.

This week environmental news (though it comes as no surprise) came on two fronts. The first came from one of my favorite environmental news digests, Treehugger News. It reflected on what I have been feeling all summer long. Fewer bugs on the windshield, fewer frogs in the lake, no insects in my garden except for a small band of diligent bumble bees, and way fewer birds.

I am not alone. This is the case everywhere. The reason, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is due to land-use change, the process of converting wild ecosystems into residential, commercial, or agricultural land. Around 30% of all land that sustains biodiversity has been converted for food production. Agriculture is also responsible for 80% of deforestation and 70% of freshwater use globally.

I feel like I am witnessing this in real-time. I live in a suburb, albeit an outer-semi-rural-farm suburb. However, in terms of land-use change, there are new high-rise apartments, senior homes, and strip malls being built everywhere I turn. More people. Need for more food. Less space for wild vegetation and animals. There goes the neighborhood.

Depressing, isn’t it?

The second comes from a new report from Greenpeace that the recycling rate is getting worse. Much worse. The so-called “circular chemical recycling” is a big fat lie. I have known about the Recycling Myth for years, but this takes what once was a way to conserve natural resources like wood, ivory, and tortoise shell into a freaking ubiquitous monster. Still, people invented it. People can slay it.

Enough With The Bad News.

I had to get that out. It has been weighing on my mind all week. It’s tough news for people to comprehend how bad things have gotten and what to do and for artists like myself who really loves wild and uncultivated spaces and places.

But There Are Always Festivals To Attend!

Maybe it’s post-pandemic-panic fallout, or festivals have always been happening. Still, I feel I could attend a festival every weekend of the year if I wanted to. The thing about festivals is they have been around since pagan times. Those hedonist heathens would gather about every six weeks for festivities, celebrating and catching up with each other. That, and drinking a wee bit too much mead. Can’t blame ’em. Hell, life was hard. Festivals did serve a more conventional purpose, though. Pagans didn’t have a written calendar to follow, and their gatherings marked notable times of the year. Not a shabby system if you enjoy a party.

Art at the Acreage at Osceola - wildflower meadow with mown path leading to metel made art structure
Art At The Acreage at Osceola

One Particular Festival.

Fast forward to the present day for the “festival of festivals” held last month (September 2022), namely, Take Me to the River organized by ArtReach St. Croix. My partner and I took a road trip to The Acreage in Osceola, Wisconsin, a place open to the public once a year and part of this year’s festival event roster.

SIDE NOTE: I considered traveling to The Acreage as an “artist date” as defined by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. Having never heard of the place before, The Acreage was a new place to experience. Artist dates ought to be a place or experience one has not had before as a means of recharging the creative spirit.

Land art sculpture by Tom Bierlein as experienced at The Acreage at Osceola, September 17, 2022. Very Zen vibe to it. It was lovely sitting with his work.

A Place to Gather and Learn. (Just Like a Festival)

The Acreage at Osceola is made of 360 acres of woodland and prairie habitat situated on the bluff above the St. Croix River. It embodies the vision and legacy of Horst Rechelbacker, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients.

It once served as Horst’s residence farm and retreat. Today the historical property serves as a model for sustainable conservation methods, a center for land and water stewardship, a place to learn, and a gathering space for creatives, visionaries, and change-makers.

There’s also a gallery featuring an eclectic collection of art from India and Eurasia. Classical-style statues preside over the land. A family of goats takes care of invasive species, like the infamous buckthorn. On a sprawling swath are tender tree seedlings of mixed variety.

Local beekeepers from Bone Lake Meadows Apiary did a show-and-tell about honeybees and how they keep them healthy and able to survive over winter. (No mention of mead, however. It was a family-friendly primer).

Places like this give me hope. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, quiet except for the sounds of birds, insect hums, grasses waving in the breeze, and people mingling. The land felt balanced, not stressed or overworked. A living project, working by example on how things can be done better for everyone.

tall marigolds growing in greenhouse at The Acreage at Osceola
Cala Farms grows celosia and Marigolds (or cempasuchil) at The Acreage at Osceola. Marigolds are an essential flower during the
Dios de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Festival. The photo is confusing. But that’s what the sign said was growing. The marigolds (tall as well)
are probably right out of frame. So much for my photojournalism skills!

It’s a place to cultivate, too. There’s evidence of it in the greenhouses, even this late in the season. One example is Cala Farms, organic, founded by two brothers from Mexico City. In cooperation with The Acreage, Cala Farms grows celosia and Marigolds (or cempasuchil). Marigolds are an essential flower during the Dios de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Festival, happening November 1st-2nd. The bright yellow flower is believed to help guide the spirit of lost loved ones to colorfully decorated alters during the festival. I can go for this cultural tradition better than I can our Halloween.

While Marigolds aren’t a staple on most dinner tables (yes, you can eat them!), what I love about the presence of Cala Farms at The Acreage is they bring their story and culture to us. At the heart of making something better and resilient, based on equity and economic fairness, people need to talk, be open and kind, and share ideas and experiences. Kind of like how a democracy should work, right?

There is a Drawn By-Product.

In a roundabout way, this leg of the festival cultivated my latest piece. It’s been a while since I took on a large drawing and those curious bumpy pumpkins I found at The Acreage gave me the nudge. Discovering I had a stockpile of Twin Rocker handmade artisan papers stashed in my studio (surprise!) gave me the nudge beyond the nudge. If you have never heard of Twin Rocker papers, their origin story is worth a gander.

Marina di Chioggia Heirloom Pumpkin Grahite Drawing © Kristin Maija Peterson 2022
Maria di Chioggia (Italian Heirloom Pumpkin) Graphite Pencil on Twin Rocker Artisan Handmade Paper. 22” x 27.5” Unframed. © Kristin Maija Peterson 2022.

Ever curious, the best backstory I could find about my bumpy specimen is it’s an Italian heirloom whose name comes from a seaside village of Venice, Maria di Chioggia (also called Chioggia Sea Pumpkin). The bulgy rolls are the result of sugars building up under the skin. I could say the same happens to humans after too much Halloween candy.

pumpkin varities orange sage and green sitting in greenhouse at The Acreage at Osceola
One big Cucurbitaceae Family hanging out at The Acreage at Osceola.

The Cucurbitaceae Family, for you plant nerds, comprises pumpkins, squash, and gourds. There’s a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes originating from Cucurbitaceae because they all happily cross-pollinate with one another. It’s always about sex with plants.

I may have to start a whole series devoted to what we cultivate. The heirlooms, the seed keepers, civilized botanicals, the opposite of my wild and messy scapes within landscapes. They are part of the environmental story, too. The paradox is we all need to eat and have a whole lot of people on this planet to feed. At the same time, what we are doing to the Earth is making it harder and harder to grow food reliably.

For every horror story about corporate farming, clearing the Amazon for agricultural use, and abusive raising of livestock, there are more and more stories of people working the land using restorative ways and practicing humane husbandry.

What can the average Joe and Jane, who, of course, eat, do? This is stating obvious and yet a movement in the right direction. Support and shop local farmers’ markets — many are like festivals in and of themselves. Grow your own vegetable garden (and compost) if possible. Support local farm cooperatives. Educate yourself as you go about what is going on agriculturally in your area.

One Last Thing and This Should Lead You to Hope.

If you haven’t seen the film, check out the documentary Kiss The Ground (2020). Narrated by Woody Harrelson, it’s the story of soil and how it’s one of our best sources of optimism in the face of climate change and putting food on the table.
And it’s good. Really, really good.

There will always be bad, shitty news. They most likely will always be festivals. In the end, we can still all talk with one another, get stuff done, and make the world a better place.

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