Stumbling, fumbling and mumbling my way through an artist's life.
Author: Jodi Hugo
Slightly obsessed with learning, creating and finding my way through this labyrinth of life:
I am an Artist who grew up in Stellenbosch South Africa, where I studied Fine Art and have been working as a sculptor and painter ever since.
If I can add joy and beauty to the world and show my daughter how to work toward attaining her dreams: that would be my dream come true.
I have just started a Patreon page! And I thought I would share my first post with you. I am still trying to figure out how everything works but it can’t hurt to start spreading the news. Please feel free to go and take a look! I am very pleased with the new direction I am taking my work. I am incorporating many of the styles I have already built on for many years. So: this is from my new post:
Figments of Memory
I have just started a new series of works and this is the first completed painting. It is a mixed media piece that incorporated charcoal, acrylics and soft pastels. It is made on board. The piece has a very interesting texture which is something I would love to explore further in upcoming works.
This new painting is about the remnants that are left in our minds. People we vaguely remember. These moments are often heavily laden with emotion and certain details. Yet the rest is left partial or missing. `And often memories are completely fictitious.
Imperfection is fascinating. It is how we notice difference. It is what the mind picks up on. Our minds find imperfection interesting.
Everything is in flux. Our worlds change and decay. We cannot stop this and we cannot hide from it. We cannot be perfect. We can be present for it. This is the only refuge. Perfection can not be attained and it won’t bring calm to our agitated minds. We can only move with the changing reality.
This piece was inspired by Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
We can try to find shelter in our own inner shadow. Sometimes this is comforting for a short while, although it can keep us from facing the brightness outside our own illusions. We can’t keep the light out.
Observation is inherently existential. It is communication about our experience of our existence. I find it impossible to separate the two no matter how mundane an object I choose to paint. The human form is not mundane – especially not to humans- yet it is ordinary. It is something we all possess. And everything about this fact is interesting. This is existing and this is experiencing.
I’ve recently started to explore painting in a more’abstract figurative’ style- what an oxymoron! This is turning out to be incredibly tough. Distilling what the reason for that is, is just as illusive as the work itself. But I am enjoying the struggle and actually liking some of the results.
My most recent two works are playing with a similar subject matter. I am thinking about wings and extensions and being wrapped up. I am thinking and processing by working.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
― Georgia O’Keeffe
Anxiety is a topic that I struggle to talk about. But I do believe it is an important one because so many people in our society suffer from anxiety disorders. It is estimated that 18% of the US adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders can be so destructive and disruptive. They can completely paralyse a person. I struggle to talk about it or face it because I feel like I would be stigmatized or shunned. It makes me feel weak and pathetic. Yet, I would never think somebody else was weak or pathetic if they were to talk to me about their mental illness. So I decided I would write a post about my experience with anxiety just to put it out there.
I have been suffering from a bout of Anxiety – or an Anxiety Attack- for the past two weeks. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which means that I am constantly anxious but it varies in severity and the past two weeks have been horrible. It has been so difficult to keep my routine and even more difficult to stick to things outside of it. And every time I have not been able to live up to my inevitable expectations of how things will go or how they should be or how I should just be able to deal with it, I have felt like a failure. This perfectionism was driving the anxiety even more. I was struggling to be mindful of what was happening and I just wanted to escape it all. So I have been struggling to work. My house has become a disaster zone. Some mornings I couldn’t even get dressed and driving anywhere became almost imposable. Yet I had to do it. This is a very frightening and debilitating feeling.
You can easily end up comparing yourself to all the other people who don’t find it difficult to do these things. I have been sitting in my studio but nothing would happen. Nothing would come. And if I did work I would just immediately destroy it. I couldn’t even look at it. I have written many blog post attempts in this past week and then deleted those. I tried to write about other topics. Topics that weren’t Anxiety related but this was impossible.
How Anxiety feels:
It started with an ominous feeling. Something in the atmosphere seems to vibrate at a high frequency, never ceasing. This annoying buzz that seemed to be outside of me was interfering with my mind. My stomach started to churn and then it was as though my mind started to search for the reason for this feeling. My body seemed to start the fight, flight or freeze response before I had consciously recognized that I had something to worry about. I can’t place the trigger and then I start searching my mind for it: for some rationalization for this feeling of impending doom.
This means that I often end up making up reasons for this feeling. Or I can’t place it and so I end up feeling very paranoid about every little thing. Every response from other people is weighed. Can they be trusted?
I was so frustrated because I was exercising and meditating and even taking my medication. I was doing everything ‘right’ but this state wouldn’t go away and I started to feel as though I might slip deeper and deeper.
Six things I have learnt to be true about Anxiety:
After so many years of dealing with this I have realized that I always make the same mistakes and then it spirals out of control. So I decided to focus on the things I know:
1. I am being irrational. The fact that I feel incompetent and mistrustful is just a symptom of the anxiety. It does not mean that it is true.
2. This feeling will subside. It will inevitably feel better after time and being a perfectionist and getting depressed about it will only aggravate it.
3. I must keep my routine. Even if I get nothing done it helps to just sit in my space and just be. I need to keep the structure otherwise things spiral into a feeling of instability. But it is ok if nothing actually is done during this routine. I just need to show up. This is incredibly difficult and that is ok.
4. I must not isolate myself. I tend to become a hermit when I feel like I am a huge burden to other people. But this can easily become a situation where I become so lonely and focussed on ruminating that it leads to a deepening of the Anxiety and even switches into Depression.
5. Anxiety will always be there. It is not something you can fight or suppress. Sometimes it will bubble up stronger and sometimes it will be somewhere under the surface. But will show up and it will always be there.
6.Mindfulness is not a cure. Meditation, Mindfulness as well as exercise, medication and other stress relieving ’tools’ are there to help manage the Anxiety. They help a lot but Anxiety will still show up every now and again. In my experience these attacks are less frequent and less severe and I have a different view of it because of the lifestyle changes I have made.
I focussed on these and just tried – sometimes successfully and sometimes not – to keep my routine. And it calmed down. I always feel somewhat anxious but right now it is manageable.
If you have somebody in your life who suffers from an Anxiety Disorder remember that they are aware that it is irrational. They are aware of how they come across.
The best thing to do is just to be understanding because then you become a safe space. This does not mean enabling or indulging avoident behavior. It just means that this person will be able to relax a little bit and break the cycle a little. Don’t shun their experience. They know how it sounds.
Do you or someone in your life have an Anxiety Disorder? How do you deal with it? I would love to hear about it.
What is your inspiration? As an artist you often get this question.
I find this an impossible question. I always find things to say and then feel like I haven’t quite nailed it. Like I want to say: “I don’t know- everything?” which is true in the sense that it could be anything at all at any unplanned moment but that is an unsatisfying answer. It could be something someone said, a dream, a song, an image, a beautiful flower, a book, a dead bird on the pavement. It is not planned and so the answer is “Life” – see what I mean – seriously unsatisfying. So I usually name the most influential or motivational things in my life: other artists, themes, ideas and, always, my daughter. Although ‘my daughter’ seems uninteresting as an answer too, this is probably the most honest answer. It seems like every second person has a child… mine might not be particularly inspirational. In fact she probably isn’t to anyone besides my husband and me. It seems boring, mundane, yet that is precisely one of the reasons why it is so incredibly liberating and inspirational to be a parent.
Children inspiring, motivating and bringing meaning to life is something that many people say and something all parents can understand. Being a parent really messed up my life but it also really helped me sort it out. Like a huge decluttering of priorities. So my daughter inspires me – yes – but she is mostly my motivation and purpose.
Focus and priorities:
Before I had a child I wasn’t really focussed. Children really help to put our priorities in order. In a way we don’t really grow up until we have a child. For me it was like moving from the role of a child to the role of a parent suddenly made life very clear. I couldn’t waste any more time. Time was suddenly really, seriously finite. I had a little person who would look up to me and I was going to be the example of someone who either followed her dream no matter what or just gave up.
Before you have a child you don’t really appreciate the time you have at your disposal. Then when the child arrives you suddenly don’t have any time. You are not an individual anymore. You have to find that time and time becomes incredibly precious. You also realize how little time you have over a lifetime. Your child is growing and changing and the limits are there.
Routine is your friend:
Having a child teaches you to follow routine. It teaches you that a prepared environment and routine make a child feel secure and able to develop and explore. The same seems to be true for adults. We need the stability so that we can relax our minds and set them free to work and explore and learn.
Children are intrigued by the world. They experience life viscerally and everything is fresh. They ask questions. Many, many questions. There have been so many questions from my daughter that have made me pause and wonder and change the way I was set on seeing things. I have unlearned some ways of thinking thanks to her.
The mundane; boredom and frustration are your friends:
Sometimes the most creative and inspired moments come when you are utterly bored or very frustrated. Children often complain about boredom but if you let them experience it, within a little while, they will have come up with something quite amazing and be deeply engrossed in a world of imagination or creation.
When children are frustrated- a little frustrated not completely overwhelmed- and they persevere they gain learning a new skill or finding out something new. This is completely true for adults too. It is okay to be bored or frustrated. Life is mundane and every day is similar yet often the interesting is in the simple, inspiration occurs after boredom and frequently frustration means you are learning something new.
So, although inspiration visits in all different guises and in the interesting nooks of life, I believe we can’t find it unless we pay attention to the everyday. Unless we are in a space from where we can venture out and explore. Inspiration happens when we are curious and juxtapose things, when we invent and when we experience things and these creations are all made from simpler, everyday things: Life.