Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Getting Unstuck with Creative + Practice

in Art, Classes & Workshops, Creativity, Soul Work

Empress (mixed media) by Joanna Powell Colbert, 2012. 8"x10". Sold at Readers Studio 2012.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with since finishing the Gaian Tarot is finding a new direction for my artwork. Over the last few years, I immersed myself in learning how to market myself authentically.  I launched the Gaian Tarot Limited Edition, which was an incredible success, and promoted the Llewellyn version of the Gaian when it was released last fall.  I’ve created e-courses, a membership site (the Gaian Tarot Circle) and taught workshops in person. I’m branching out into leading retreats.

I love my work!  I’ve been a teacher of Goddess spirituality, tarot and earth-centered spirituality since the early 90’s and I know it’s part of what I’m called to do.

But somewhere along the way, my creative mojo started withering on the vine. I kept trying to jumpstart it.

I took a weeklong course in encaustic at Sitka two summers ago.  Loved it, but haven’t tried the medium again since then.  I’ve gone back to nature journaling and art journaling.  Love that too, but it’s not totally satisfying.  I’ve played with mixed media, and have had a lot of fun getting really messy and finding the lovely surprises that come when you don’t plan out your artwork ahead of time. I’ve gotten more intentional about my photography, seeing it as a contemplative practice.

Last fall I reached down deep into my psyche and my gut and came up with “Elder of the Scar Clan.”  Now that is the piece I am the most proud of.  It’s not 100% colored pencil, like all the pieces in the Gaian Tarot, so it didn’t take me frickin’ forever to create.  It’s a mixture of happy surprises with oil pastels, ink and watercolor — along with the precision of colored pencil, in places.

That’s the direction I want to go.  I want to do more pieces like that.

And yet, I have felt frozen.  Stuck.  Unsure of myself.  Unable to block out portions of my day to dedicate to new artwork.   To just playing with new techinques, new subject matter.

What’s that about, anyway?  Not allowing ourselves to do the thing we want to do the most?

Scrolling through Facebook one day last week, I happened to see a post from Chris Zydel recommending Lisa Sonora Beam’s class on Creative + Practice.  (I have Lisa Sonora’s book, The Creative Entrepreneur, and love it.)

After a bit of correspondence with Lisa Sonora, I decided to jump in and do it.

(Yes, I am taking an e-course in addition to teaching e-courses!)

The thing that pushed me over the edge?  Her emphasis that “creative practice” is like “spiritual practice,” and that it is literally PRACTICE.  Practicing to make art, but not art itself.  The art we create in our sketchbooks is not art, it’s PRACTICE.

Well, that blew the lid off my resistance.

Practice, in my head, means play. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be professional.

It’s practicing!

I wrote this to Lisa a few days after the class started:

Simply creating the container — the set time, the pairing with morning coffee, the new sketchbook — was revelatory.  Within five minutes I had filled two pages full of sketches and notes for new art projects. And I thought I was stuck? Yeah — no.  If the first step brought this much abundance, I can’t imagine where I’ll be at the end of eight weeks. Deep thanks, Lisa Sonora!

I’m excited.  Have I mentioned that?  I have two different projects humming in my brain, each with dozens of pieces to them.  I have this weekend set aside to make art.  Whooooooosh!  Here I go!

Sometimes . . .  (often in fact) the teacher needs a teacher.   Blessed be.

(Lisa’s class is now full, but you can read about it here and get on the notification list for the next session. Highly recommended!)

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Lisa Sonora Fri - May 18th 2012 9:14 am

    Ho Joanna
    Thanks so much for sharing about your experience.

    We have 7 MORE weeks of class and I’m excited for what you’ll take away.

    As for teachers needing teachers – that is beginner’s mind in action. There is always more to learn.

    I’m in a few online courses myself and always make appoint to study personally with artists I admire.

  • Joanna Fri - May 18th 2012 9:18 am

    Thank you Lisa! I’m excited about the next seven weeks too. And oh yes, teachers *always* need teachers, coaches need coaches, and tarot readers need tarot readers. 🙂

  • Cari Ferraro Fri - May 18th 2012 12:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I too am feeling so stuck and like you, unsure, not showing up in the studio regularly, and if I do, just picking things up and putting them down. This morning I changed the wall art and rearranged some workspace. Now I’m cleaning out and finding old treasures and throwing away dross. I’m counting this as time in the studio because sometimes just cleaning up makes a difference, “clearing the decks” and making more space. Thanks for the referral to a great-sounding course. One freebie I’ve been playing with is on the AARP site:

    This type of expressive drawing can be very freeing, and is a great way to play. I was glad to have a former workshop teacher recommend it, and nice to see it offered on a site for elders, the wisdom keepers.

    So glad you’ve got your feet wet in the flow again!


    • Joanna Sat - May 19th 2012 6:49 am

      Cari, my friend, you have been through so much this spring, I’m not surprised you are feeling stuck as well. I also love the way that clearing out clutter in our studio spaces is preparatory work for new energy to come in. I will check out the AARP material. Big hugs and blessings to you.

  • Heather Fri - May 18th 2012 2:14 pm

    Joanna, thank you so much for sharing this — and I am so pleased that you’re finding something to help you get out of the rut. While I was reading your post it struck me about how much I needed to hear this in relation to my harp practice — so thank you (and to Lisa too!). And who knows? You may find some inspiration from reflecting on all that time in the rut, too 🙂

    Enjoy yourself! *hugs*

    • Joanna Sat - May 19th 2012 6:52 am

      Heather, I’ve been enjoying your comments about your harp practice on FB. I’m glad this sparked something for you. And you’re right, the rut has a whole lot to teach me. 🙂 Hugs.

  • Indigene Sat - May 19th 2012 2:04 am

    Joanna, I wonder the universe is trying to communicate to us…with so many of us blocked…we kindred spirits. I am in the same place…I took Lisa’s class, too! It got me back on track with my creative practice! I have to find the action steps to do what’s next…that’s where I’m blocked now! I’m happy that you’re doing this with Lisa, your combined energy will wrought a fine thing. 🙂

    • Joanna Sat - May 19th 2012 6:53 am

      Beautiful, Indigene. Kindred souls flock together. I have no doubt that you will find the absolute right action steps and do them! Hugs to you my friend.

  • Ronnie Mon - May 21st 2012 6:47 am

    I would like to be informed of your work & insights. I am an artist who is awaiting inspiration to relaunch!