Kicking Off A New Year Clear: Go Time v. Quitting Time

How I do some of my best work. Samantha Shearer sprawled out on floor in studio.

How I do some of my best work. Samantha Shearer sprawled out on floor in studio.

This is a story about when to keep at it, when to quit, and how to make that decision.

You ever think you’re being very clear and it turns out nobody, not even you understand what you were trying to convey?

I just did my 3rd episode of Creativity Unleashed - a show about doing just that and as someone that spent 30 years indirectly being creative while putting the back-up plan and “good career” in the forefront instead, giving myself permission to make art is indeed an unleashing.

The thing is, sometimes I don’t always know what I’m doing so when I did my last podcast and vlog it included an abundance of vague communication. Statements like: these and this thing I’m doing. Poor listeners, I’m sure they tuned out even though there were some nuggets of the creative process amongst the garble.

What is this and these things?

Paintings. Abstract expressions of creativity unleashed painted on canvas, wood, and sometimes something in between.

With these paintings, again, still lacking clarity. At least I included the word painting this time. This is what I want to invoke. Clarity of vision in order to have exactness in execution.

These paintings are new to me. They are landscape abstracts. Surreal in that I have been trying to combine the majestic beauty the landscape of Eastern Washington and Oregon with the joy and connection I feel when I go out there, into the east of the west.

The original idea for this series of landscape paintings came from driving through Washington wine country on a weekend trip to Walla Walla, Washington. One of the most lovely places I’ve visited in the Pacific Northwest in both the landscape and the fun I always have when I‘m there. Lot of wonderful wine drinking and wonderful food to accompany it. Throw in some great company and it‘s party-on time.

NOTE: this is not an advertisement for Walla Walla, Washington just one woman’s good times to be found there. A wine drinkers paradise. Maybe reminiscing more fondly since I am on the old wagon for a spell. The new year is off to a sobering start.

I laugh out loud when I think of the most fantastic afternoons I’ve spent tasting amazing wines with my girlfriend as we look out at beautiful views. Here is probably the pinnacle of our tasting excursions. This was a magical afternoon that should have been hotter than it was, yet it was quiet and serene at Waterbrook Winery.

Again: not at all an advertisement but a remarkable place. It is in that category of place that at first glance looks inviting and at the same time so beautiful that I held myself at bay from. As if it might have an attitude about it. A self-consciousness on my part that I’m trying to lean more into than to exclude myself from based on appearance. It also has wonderful food. A bonus that not many wineries provide.

Me on the left. My dear friend Clairece Rosati-Hemenway on my right. All the wine and snacks that could fit on our table before us.

Me on the left. My dear friend Clairece Rosati-Hemenway on my right. All the wine and snacks that could fit on our table before us.

Yes! That’s right! There are all of the above in Walla Walla, Washington.

Couple more things: Walla Walla, Washington is a weekend getaway treat, I’m not getting paid to pronounce this and my girlfriend will probably prefer I’m clear about being single. This is not an advertisement for my single-hood, just a fact.

Gold. If you’re one for the finer things in life. The land just rolls along in gold.

When it isn’t gold, it is the most majestic of greens. The greenest of green from the alfalfa. I think it’s alfalfa. The vineyard green is captivating in its precison of planting and care. It’s winter now so my mind is imagining it as green, gold, blue. Clear. Bright.

Then the wine is poured. White, red, rosé. I had an image - an idea of how this amazing substance - color - interplay of community and gathering with dear friends could be creatively unleashed on the canvas. Wine and kinship mingling and growing forth from this beautiful land.

A few things became painfully clear when I started. I don’t paint landscapes. As challenging as that twist was on its own, I also didn’t quite realize the fine balance, similar to wine, from the original grape to the end product in the glass. My lack of clarity regarding my idea, as well, perhaps mingling with sobering from the wine party I’ve been having the past few years.  

As I painted, oddly shaped orbs formed or balloons growing out of the landscape. This excursion into landscape painting being totally new to me so even trying to explain it now is an amusing recollection as to how they really have yet to be determined or named. 

Clarity gained from realizing it is difficult to energize something into existence if it cannot be clearly described or defined as what it will become once made real.

So I painted them, even though I wasn’t totally sure what I was painting. Even my sketches are too vague. I’m surprised as I look at them that I was like, yes! Let’s do this!

Sketches for paintings done in late 2018.

Sketches for paintings done in late 2018.

I approved of my representation of the landscapes. I genuinely was proud of myself and my attempt. Combining the Blues(Blue Mountains of Oregon & Washington), the expansive, clear, blue sky, the wheat, and wine. Then these orbs coming up from the ground really messed the whole thing up for me. Unable to grasp their truth. Unable to express the vision with clarity.

Are these wine glasses? I had that idea and I loathed it for its predictability. Glasses of wine. Writing it now is just embarrassing. That I’m sharing the embarrassment is my growing edge. Wine glasses, full of different wines; white, rosé, and red. Not what I was going for emotionally. I wasn’t feeling it. I still photographed them to document the process of creating them. A very clear divergence from my norm. Even though I no longer had any resemblance of a norm in painting. Everything is new.

I remember thinking, there is some part of me not acknowledging the truth of the matter. What lies ahead? There are no lies ahead. I have had it with lies. The truth is, It’s not just the wine orbs - it’s the experience I’m trying to convey. The word capture comes to mind as an antonym to freedom. Why would I be trying to capture something when what I want is freedom. Embracing the Declaration of Independence. Old school. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


The truth is I’ve gone over these landscape paintings at least three times now and still cannot, for the life of me get over this hump.  

Now I face doing them again.

The last incarnation - the last attempt - the last layer was of sunsets orbs. A brilliant idea. I hadn’t liked the wine glass idea and in contemplating my other feelings and visual reminders invoked from my beautiful experience, I tried sunrise and sunset colors. This incarnation invoked months later and from a new location after a most fantastic journey balanced against a most dreadful break-up. Painting from a place where I now can get a pretty good look around. Sunrise and sunset views a mere stroll away. A new and magical occurrence. Unlike Walla Walla, Washington, I have no desire to even hint at where I live. Being able to see the sunrise and sunset equally isn’t necessarily a common vantage point though. There’s a hint for ya.

While on the subject of home. The sunrise/sunset theme isn’t blowing my mind. It’s not filling me with the joy and pleasure I seek when I gaze upon my paintings or the sun rising. Sunset in a glass, Sam. So cheesy! An amatuer move. I’m trying to be a real deal painter here. Sunset wine glasses in a field is a fail.

Warning: recovering perfectionist and aggressive self critic on the mend.

Letting self judgment go, choosing a more gentle approach with myself as a practice. The paintings just aren’t invoking the feeling I am getting and have gotten before from creativity unleashed. They aren’t at the bar (Makes me want to be at the bar).

The discovery now before me is what next? What is wanting to be made real in this image now?

It is joy calling to be expressed. It is the heart of the matter. The land before me; fertile and rich. The companionship and connection of lasting love and friendship. Big views and blue skies.

This is the part that I’m interested in discovering in these paintings now. It may be 2 fold. Now that I’m facing the complete doing over of them again - going over what I’ve done before again - will it be that last time and it works or is it that it isn’t working and I should scratch the idea?

This idea was genius in my head.

The experiences I’ve had in Eastern Washington & Oregon have been exquisite. Repeated and enjoyed every time I head east and I envision visits will be repeated again and again. 

Actually, just now I am fantasizing about Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla, Washington. The first weekend in May. Before then, much before, I hope resolution is achieved with this endeavor. 4 month? More like 4 weeks to complete or cash out.

The choices ahead:

Choice #1: If I continue working this effort into existence for the, I believe, 4th time, what am going to do different in an attempt to finish this project I’ve started? From what I’ve written, the vision of what I would be creating wasn’t originally clear. Nor did I like the idea when I tried painting it so I changed it and liked the 2nd idea even less. How clear can I get about what I want to energize into existence?

Clarity Statement: These paintings are landscapes combining the Blue Mountains of the Umatilla National Forest with wheat farms, and vineyards in the foreground. Clear blue skies from warm, not too warm, light and bright days. Vessels of love not captured but swirling as wine swirls in the glass. The essence of something held dear. Why are they orbs? Because they are reflections of the sun. They are bright and radiating outward. A symbol of love. Love of the land. Love of the people that we share our experience with. There is some amount of opening so they are not completely closed off. These are expressions of love and joy open and free. So abstract. Light and bright. That helps.

Choice #2: When to quit? Some things deserve to be quit. I’m beginning to learn humans — myself included — pinch myself — are hesitant to change course once a certain amount of effort has been put in. After learning this I see it clearly in my past. No longer as regret but as insight. Now that I’m aware of it, how do I confront it more honestly? In order to do more of what I want that also is working for me, and less of what I don’t want that is not working out. As always — moving through fear here. Stagnation is the killer.

5 orbs behind a blue sky.

5 orbs behind a blue sky.

Blue skies abound. What’s next? Other than kitty stretches.

Blue skies abound. What’s next? Other than kitty stretches.

I’ve started a new pass at these paintings which is a good sign. I had started them a year ago and want to finish them or move on. I love the idea, as I said before it was exquisite to match both my experience traveling across the country and my experiences with people I love in beautiful places.

Honoring beauty. This has been a new embrace for me and a great help in acknowledging, as well as, leaning into fully, my truth. Sounds so corny or elitist and I’m just gonna have to live with that. It was upon discovering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint” that I was ignited and encouraged in my love of beauty. Even writing it now gives me a charge. I love that which is beautiful to me.

My gratitude to Dr. King for this inspiration is two fold: One, that he gave this speech to high school students, which touched me because that’s where I’m picking-up from and when I got off track. The other thing that struck me a potent and cathartic blow was his urging commitment to “beauty, love, and justice”. The love and justice is obvious to me coming from Dr. King but BEAUTY and placing it first, sparked in me a calling to make art again with his inspirational blueprint as a guide.

Re-igniting joy through imagery is the goal of creativity unleashed. Clarity and authenticity of intent. No easy task. 

My Shearer Guarantee is that the effort to try is worth it.