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  • Writer's pictureSteph Holmes

The Ladybug in Owl's Tree

Three things are true of my life right now: I just moved my home and studio across town, I’m exhausted, and I have not made art for almost a month.

It’s extremely difficult to sit down and create something when I’ve fallen out of the routine of making. It’s as if my mind is a computer and when it has too many tabs open and the browser is overcrowded, I get obsessed with working on my to-do list and avoid focusing on the tasks that are deeply healing and good for me. Perhaps you can relate? The first routines to go out the door when I’m stressed or overwhelmed are: exercise, meditation, healthy eating, and... creative time.

I stumbled across this quote from Alexander Den Heijer and it leapt out at me: “You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” UGH. Yes, Alexander… you’re on point with this one.

Yesterday, I got home from work feeling exhausted, but I had a list of things I needed to do buzzing around in my head. With tons of unpacking, cleaning, and organizing to do in my new home, that list is a mile long. Now, I did take Alexander’s advice and added “work on an art project” to that list, but it was at the very bottom. My task-oriented mind started planning out my evening. “I can work on the cabinet first… then move to the kitchen, I can’t forget to send those emails, and once I’m finished with the rest of the list, I promise myself I can spend a bit of time in my studio working on that collage. That will be my reward for working so hard today.”

Hmm… I’ve heard those types of promises from Past Me before. There was just no way I was making it through that list, because I was running on low battery after a long workday and my list was going to require a lot more from me than I had left for the day. I stopped for a moment surveying all of the boxes left in my living room which were screaming for my attention. Before my brain could begin to overthink it, I dropped my bag by the door, threw off my work shoes and headed up to my studio.

My new studio is a breath of fresh air. It’s empty, it’s clean, and it’s flooded with light. This is what my mind needs in order to be creative. I’ve never had a space this perfect before! I’ve always been crowded into small, dark basement rooms or uncomfortable cluttered spaces. I sat at my desk and let that feeling of gratitude expand.

And then I made this collage.

"Ladybug In Owl's Tree"

upcycled collage, gel pen, and watercolor on paper

8" x 8"


It's certainly not perfect or pristine. The paper has some torn spots, the gluing is irregular. But... I think that's why I like it so much. The quickness of the marks and moves felt really good.

It was an intriguing process, because I really tried to just listen to my intuition and the materials instead of trying to control the outcome. This can be scary because part of me doesn’t want to waste time making something that turns out ugly or that I just don’t have control over.

I started with this loose painting of a white ladybug, and then (so quickly forgetting that I wasn't trying to control the process) I kept gluing small colorful shapes on top hoping that they would end up being a swarm of little insects. I was trying to fill the space with more characters and action, but every time I’d try to add more, something was telling me to peel the extra piece off and leave the image quiet and simple.

Yes… what I need right now is to simplify what I’m doing. This is a little message for me for the month of June for use in all areas of my life. Simplify and stop pushing so hard. That to-do list will never be done. Those tasks can wait. I can live a few more weeks in a half-unpacked home if it means being able to take my time and feel at peace in the process.

Though the image is different from what I normally would make, I do love it. It feels very right to me. I hope you enjoy it too and maybe you'll think of new ways that you can simplify too.

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