Happy 2014! A glance back and a look ahead

Happy New Year everyone! I’ll be sharing my final post on the Tuscany painting I’ve been working on later this week. But since this is the first day of a brand new year, I thought I’d write about my one single solitary goal for this year. It isn’t really even art-related, though it affects my art and pretty much everything else in my life. So I hope you bear with me while I meander off the art topic for a moment to tell you what it is:

To feel good.

I have alluded to my health struggles a couple of times on this blog, but since my goal will likely require a period of absence from posting, I feel like an explanation is due. After the birth of my daughter I was challenged with an autoimmune condition. While thankfully it isn’t usually life-threatening, it can really diminish the quality of life, and, for the past three years, wellness has eluded me. In fact, I can count on two hands the days when I have woken up in the morning without chronic pain and utter, utter exhaustion. Layer on top of that a high energy tot who deserves time/love/attention from Mama, and the guilt and regret of not being able to give my all, either to her or to my former workhorse standards in my art career, and you have lots of gaps in studio hours and blog posts, and a lot of feeling not so good about myself in general.

In spite of all of that, 2013 was a phenomenal year for me, career-wise (go figure!) Some really neat show opportunities, and a big jump in sales made last year one of my best since the “bottom went out” in 2008. The Tuscan Sun Wine label project kicked off 2013 and came to me completely unexpectedly. It was a really exciting opportunity for which I feel extremely grateful and proud. But it required a tremendous amount of work in a very short window, and during that whole project I basically ran on fumes (and coffee). It was probably not the best thing I could have done for my health, but I just “powered through”, waking at 5 am to work before the roosters (and my own little chickadee) rose, regardless of how little sleep I had gotten or how lousy I felt.

It’s all worked out and I feel wonderfully blessed in my life. But I’m at a point where I’m really tired of “powering through”, and I’m coming to realize that working smarter, not harder is not a “want” but an absolute must. This means taking some REAL time for some self care and really paying attention to managing my stress and health. Otherwise, I am not going to be able to maintain much of an art career or be a very good wife or mother, either.

I’ve had incremental health improvements in the past year, but I still have many, many days where I will take a nosedive and I can find nothing in particular that I have done to cause it. So starting next week I will be embarking on a month-long elimination diet, designed to identify foods that I may have unwittingly become sensitized to. I’ve had some “food allergy” suspicions lately and I have, for some, time eliminated gluten. But for the next month I’ll add dairy, sugar and alcohol, legumes, and grains to that list of no-no’s. If you want to know what’s left to eat, you can read more about my game plan here. Now, I am a former vegetarian and I love my dark chocolate, my cheese and my good glass of red wine (hey, what can I say? I’m half French) so this whole concept ain’t an easy one to swallow, so to speak. I already consider myself a pretty healthy eater, but this way of eating is going require a whole lot more time and effort. More cooking, a lot more planning, and I won’t have all of those starches I relied upon to round out my family’s meals (and get it quickly on the table).

So January is going to be all about food logs and meal plans and sourcing grass-fed, pastured what-nots, and less (or maybe none) about painting. It’s possible my energy could go through the roof and I’ll have so much excess that I won’t be able to keep myself away from the easel. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) But it’s just as likely that things will get worse before they get better, so starting next Monday I’m giving myself a pass, officially, on painting for the next 30 or so days. Hopefully it will take less time than that for things to normalize, but I just don’t know. In any event, it’s my hope that the effort will be worth it and that I will be at least on the road to becoming a stronger, better, healthier happier person (and thus being a better, more focused artist.) And speaking of health and happiness, here’s a gluten, alcohol, sugar-free (and then some) toast to yours in 2014 too!

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7 Responses to Happy 2014! A glance back and a look ahead

  1. Jennifer, I too have had a number of health things that has caused instant changes in my 42 year art career: sculpture, photography and painting. With my strong beliefs and hard work I have always come through it. Your talent is huge and will always be there. Take care of yourself and your family and God will take care of the rest. I love not only your work but also you giving us the ability to watch the progress of your paintings. God bless and we’ll be her when you return. Ken Young (no kin that I know of).

  2. Jennifer, I have followed your career for some years now, knowing some of the same people you do and seeing your work in galleries, etc. I say Bravo for you in taking care of yourself as a priority. You must feel as good as possible to care for others around you. Please send out a note once in a while and let us know how you are doing. Good luck!

  3. Ken Young no kin- (sounds a bit like an exotic plate of food, but then I am rather food-obsessed right now!) Seriously I heartily thank you for your sentiments. It’s really encouraging to hear such nice comments from a pro like yourself. I am sorry to hear of your recent health challenges. I often think perhaps illness and children are Life’s way of reminding us we are mortals…and to try to appreciate every moment we are here!

  4. Durinda- Thanks so much for your message. I know you and your work from our “art circles” over these years, and I am really touched to hear from you. I appreciate the encouragement and will definitely post an update along the way. I actually hope I won’t be derailed for long, but it’s right and good to allow a little space…Nevertheless, being the windbag that I am, I’m sure I won’t shut up for too long. ;)

  5. I was surprised to read about the health issues you have been facing, and can understand the swings between feelings of hope and desperation. Amazing you find the time and energy to produce such wonderful pieces. I think the break may really rejuvenate you.
    You are immensely talented and I hope this year brings a slice of sunlight and cheer in your life that you so beautifully capture in your paintings.

  6. Sandhya- Thank you so much for your kindness and your compliments. I really appreciate them! I am hopeful the break will reset me on a healthier, more energetic path. After the birth of my daughter I had every expectation of getting right back into work full steam ahead. But I guess my body was telling me differently and I figured I probably ought to finally listen. Without art though, I think I may go a little batty, so hopefully the break won’t need to be for too long. If I could get back out to the studio, and especially out into the field again (which I love and have dearly missed lately) without pain I would be most happy. But pain or not, I can’t imagine a life without art.

  7. Mary Ellen Young

    Jennifer: I did not realize the severity of your recent health challenges…altho Chris told us on a recent visit up here with Domenique, that you had found that you will have to take a “sabbatical” from art work temporarily, and that you will be on an elimination diet for a period of time, to try to get to the bottom of this distressing situation….I will be praying that these changes will bring about some solutions and relief from so much pain and fatigue! God bless you! ……

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