A subscriber wrote, “Do you ever get stuck? I’m not producing, yet I have endless ideas. I have a studio doggie, take walks in nature, eat well — all the right stuff — but I’m still stuck. There’s some kind of block when I come back to the cabin. Any ideas?”
In addition to the pillars of a studio dog, a daily walk and a quality snack, one other mysterious component could perhaps aid in the recovery of the blocked artist. Mise en place, as it’s called in French kitchens or everything in its place, involves preparing yourself and your ingredients before cooking begins. With veggies chopped, proteins butterflied, relishes ready, sauces de-lumped and seasonings assigned to their tiny bowls, a chef need only work her unique magic. A kind of chef religion, mise en place surpasses mere organizational methodology and soars instead as an ethos for creativity. Working simultaneously as noun and verb, like a walk in nature, mise en place primes the pump for poetry.
Begin with your obvious tools, then add some joy sparkers. If you’re low on joy sparkers, gather some. If staring at a silent loom, remove your current resting idea and begin again with a new and unexpected skein. Expunge the memory of past confidence killers. Take a break from bigger jobs. Fire with impunity the constipating sin of perfection.
When psychologists studied how a person’s environment influences achievement, mise en place emerged as a telling tool. And according to Hip Hop record mogul Dan Charnas, who recently wrote a book on the subject, it goes deeper than cooking. Connecting mise en place to the time-and-effort management tool, “The Eisenhower Matrix,” which explores the difference between the urgent and the important, Charnas has determined that mise en place can enhance corporate ladder climbing and reorganization by slowing down process for efficiency. Shake up the hierarchy! Try it yourself by drawing a couple of columns and listing your own “urgents” and “importants.” “Cooking is like painting or writing a song,” wrote Wolfgang Puck. “Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors — it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.” (Wolfgang Puck)
PS: “I think careful cooking is love, don’t you?” (Julia Child)
Esoterica: Your mise en place can be as simple as stretching your own canvas or making your own gesso mix. While immersed in semi-automatic, pressure-free prep, the mind and body are able to prepare for fresh and enjoyable strokes of brilliance. This prologue to work is also a good time to audit supplies and casually review your personal checklist of banned thoughts. “Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work,” said Master sushi Chef Jiro Ono. “You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
“Strategy will compensate the talent. The talent will never compensate the strategy.” (Marco Pierre White)
Relax, enjoy, create!
Photography/watercolors/acrylics/mixed media. Group activity room (floor to ceiling vista). Ghost Ranch Lodging/meals provided. See why Georgia O’Keeffe loved Ghost Ranch. Each workshop/retreat is different. The June workshop leans heavier on all kinds of materials –textiles and dye, printing, painting, pouring and more! The October workshop combines the media of photography, watercolor, ink, acrylic and more — using watercolor paper, clayboard, etc!
Daily demos, slide presentations, door prizes and optional happy hour. The website shows how I work from Ghost Ranch scenes to finished paintings. www.darlabostick.com