Drawing Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Life in general

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is Getting Brighter

Lilly Amid the Pruned Hydrangeas, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
Volunteer Lilly Amid the Pruned Hydrangeas, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

All my time and creative energy for the past few weeks has been given to sorting, discarding, organizing and moving things as I downsize my living space and move to my new studio. All the studio furniture and most of the painting supplies and gear are in and I’ve emptied and removed almost all the big plastic bins on my steel shelving in the former garage, readying the space for art stuff and still life objects.

One bin was filled with 70+ old paintings on panels that I’d saved over the past few years after my annual January review-and-dump sessions. I’m keeping just 20 of the old ones and another 20 from last year that I like and dumping the rest. One cool thing about this process is that I could easily see where each reject painting went wrong, whether it was drawing, values, composition, and/or color choices. Hopefully that knowledge will help prevent making those mistakes so often in the future.

The Reliable Lilly, ink & watercolor, 7x5"
The Reliable Lilly, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

I also emptied a huge bin filled with family photos that never made it into albums. I filled a trash can with negatives and pics of pretty places and blurry faces. Now all the photos in their envelopes fit in one large file cabinet drawer. Those photos are still in great shape, but the ones in the family albums (with the sticky stuff behind the photos) are fading badly. Later I’ll pull those photos out of the albums and put them in envelopes or boxes too, as they suggest on Small Notebook, a great organizing/simplifying website.

My house is pretty much sorted out now, and in a week or so I should be back to “normal” life, painting and sketching regularly again. The rental unit still needs some finish work, but that can go on behind the scenes, without messes in my living space or cat-terrorizing-power tools and men in boots stomping through the house.

9 replies on “The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is Getting Brighter”

I think I will just discard them (or offer them to someone who’d be willing to do the sanding or gessoing and then painting on the back). A lot of them are questionable surfaces to work on, painted with various kinds of paints, acrylics, slow dry acrylics, water soluble oils, thick palette knife painting. And having them around reminds me of the struggles with them. I don’t like to waste and prefer to reuse stuff whenever possible (or give it away–my car is full of giveaways to take to goodwill right now) but sometimes a fresh start is more important.



I wondered about the panels, too, but what you say makes good sense. Best wishes on moving into you new space and getting creative there! Love your lily—unfortunately my lilies are not as dependable as yours…..


In sorting books today to see what I could part with, I just happened to open an artist’s manual to a page that said that “painting over oil paintings is always a bad idea, even if you sand them first.” That was as far as I got since I was on a sorting mission, but I would assume it’s because of the rule of painting “fat over lean” and when you don’t know what’s underneath, it could be problematic. I’ll give them one more look through to make sure I’m OK with my decisions and then “hasta la vista, baby!”

And those lillies–they just pop up in random spots and I do nothing to help them. They’re so pretty and elegant I’m always happy to see them, even if they’re in the middle of another planting, like the hydrangeas. By the time the hydrangeas leaf in, the lillies are done. Jana


These are lovely paintings of lilies.

Re photos: I hate the idea of not beign able to look at pictures. Whilst envelopes take up less room, looking at photos is not so easy and they deteriate quicker the more they are handled (as you pull them out to look through then return to envelopes). Can I suggest you at least scan them first?


Hi Sue,

I hadn’t thought about your point that handling the photos is harmful to them so thanks. And you’re so right about the difference in convenience between flipping pages of an album and having photos stuck away in envelopes.

My plan is to remove the photos from the albums where they are rapidly deteriorating and place them in envelopes. Then someday (soon, hopefully) I’ll have a combination studio-warming/photo party with my sons, my sister, and her family and we’ll sort the hundreds of photos, laugh and remember good times and bad. Then people can take the ones they want, I’ll pick out a reasonable number to keep which I will scan and save to an online family album we can all share.

It’s so interesting with this move and downsizing, getting rid of so many things and keeping only virtual copies. I got rid of all my CDs, many books (still have at least a hundred though), and now the photos. I’m trying to do this with a light heart and happiness for the people who will benefit from the things I’m giving away. Today I brought four boxes of good books and a car-full of other stuff to an organization that will sell them to raise funds for the developmentally disabled. Jana


Good on you for being brave enough to part with such things. I have so much junk but occasionally we give books to Donation in Kind (suitable books go to South Pacific countries). Scanning your drawings, paintings and photos (some need a camera if they are big) means that if there is a disaster you at least have some USB sticks with pics on them. I still have cassette tapes from field work on Fijian music that I must chuck out and even research files for that old thesis – that just occasionally someone reads. Now that we are a three generational household I’ve had to throw out a bit to make room for everyone. The enclosed verandah had boxes of stuff but the rabbit and guinea pig have taken over that space!


Hi Wendy, I use an online backup system called Carbonite. All the files (including my pictures) on my computer are automatically backed up by them and I can access them from any other computer if need be. So I don’t worry anymore about losing stuff. My sister lost everything she ever owned in the massive Oakland Hills fire about 20 years ago and I learned a lot from her experience about letting go of stuff and moving on and from another family member’s experience who hoards everything about spending one’s life in service to too much stuff. So despite a few difficult moments (parting with books) it is feeling good to lighten up. I had some old “floppy disks” that I just tossed that had years of my writing saved on them when I discovered that my current computer doesn’t even have a slot for those old disks! I have hard copies I could retype if I really wanted to. It’s an interesting process and I’m determined to be finished with it today no matter what it takes so I can get back to painting! Jana


Hi Jana,
I’m so curious to see how your new studio looks! And I felt kind of sad looking at your sketches of your old studio. It’s been good dipping back into your blog, I’m always reminded how much I enjoy your sketching and writing when I do.


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