Art ~ Writing ~ Life

From Handprints To Footprints

Hypnagogia

June 13, 2017
Steve Campbell

I awoke today with an intention to write something profound. Then I got out of bed.

There are moments between sleep and consciousness when our minds are busy creating. For me, whether when I’m falling asleep or awakening, that’s when stories play out and I see artwork happen in my mind. Psychologists call this stage “hypnagogia,” a borderland between sleep and wakefulness characterized by surreal visions and strange sensory occurrences.

I learned to use hypnagogia to my advantage when I was a teenager, which sometimes resulted in “trippy” art while I was in high school. I also used it to form story ideas. The best times to do this were those waking moments, which left imprints in my mind that I recorded as best as I could into drawing pads and notebooks I kept by my bed.

Cloud Ruler

Cloud Ruler, Acrylic Painting

A routine sleep schedule helped me to have hypnagogia occurrences during the same time every morning. I was most creative with my art and writing during my school years and later when I worked a routine 9-to-5 day job. But when my sleep schedule was everything but routine, my creativity was at its lowest. This occurred when I worked as a steward, baker, cook, mess hall manager, truck driver, bartender, and housing manager in the Navy, and again when I became employed in retail.

My current retail employer insists but doesn’t demand that I make myself available to work at any time and day … except Christmas (subject to change, I’m sure, by a growing mental illness among CEOs called Wealth Accumulation Disorder). Luckily, my department is a “day department,” so I have been able to stay away from what the company used to call third shift. I’m a “day person,” which means I don’t have to work past midnight, but I should be available to begin working at 6am. Luckily (and I’ll take all the luck I can get), my department doesn’t open until 9am, which means my days begin at eight thirty. Quitting time is 10pm, so each day is fractured into two shifts: 8:30am–5:30pm, and 5:30pm–10pm.

Hypnagogia rarely occurs when I’m scheduled a 5:30pm–10pm shift followed by an 8:30am–5:30pm shift. I’m certain the lack of hypnagogia happens because I’m used to going to bed at 10pm and waking at 6am. When I go to bed later than 10pm, I struggle to fall asleep and end up reading until midnight or later. My mind is blank at 6am on these nights, and so I spend the hour reserved for recording ideas hitting the snooze button before I have to take my morning dose of Synthroid before I can eat a proper breakfast.

Without hypnagogia occurrences, especially right before I awake, I find myself less alert on the job as well. Perhaps it’s because experiencing hypnagogia is a condition I’ve grown accustomed to. When I miss out, I’m like a junkie without his fix. I need my moment to be creative. And when I’m feeling creative, I do more than make art or write stories, I function better at socializing. My brain’s gears are working best and in full throttle. I’m that smiling guy who greets you with a friendly hello because I got a night of good sleep bookended with hypnagogia.

Maybe someday big pharma will sell it over the counter. For now, I’ll take it when I can get it, and call myself lucky on the days—I mean nights—it happens.

Buck: A Pastel Drawing

December 5, 2014
Steve Campbell

Still going through old art files and finding old drawings that seem to have been done by another person. I mean, I know I did the artwork and can remember (vaguely at times) doing it, but it seems like I did it in another lifetime. And, I suppose, I did. I am no longer the person I was then.

I drew this pastel version of a whitetail buck in January, 1991 and gave it to a family member for their birthday gift.

I miss doing that. I spend a lot of time writing now. The drawings and paintings I do are always commissions. I think if I had a way to travel back in time like some of the characters in my books, I would go back to when I drew and painted for the simple joy of giving away my work. I suppose it was seeing all those smiles when they unwrapped their gifts that came not from the store but from the heart.

Pastel Buck Portrait

Pastel Buck Portrait, 1991

Always Busy

February 4, 2014
Steve Campbell

Anyone following my blog would assume that I’m rarely busy writing or making art, simply because of the lengthy gaps between my posts. But that’s far from the truth. I’m busy every day working on my stories and art, from creating new chapters and editing old material, to sketching in my sketchbooks or actually composing and finishing a drawing or painting. All this takes time, leaving barely a few minutes to blog about it.

Blogging is often the last thing I do when I visit the Internet. Reading my email is top priority, followed by answering it, and then checking on family and friends at Facebook. I usually spend an hour a day at Facebook (sometimes two hours or more), and I often add my latest achievements there, leaving me little time to post anything here at WordPress other than a blurb before I turn in for the night.

That is a good description of my posts: BLURBS. They may never be anything poetic, but they’ll certainly keep you, my fans, abreast of my latest news.

For anyone wishing to read more of what I have done lately, visit my official Facebook page here. Or copy this address: https://www.facebook.com/stevenleocampbell.

Deer Sketch, circa 1988 Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite

Deer Sketch, circa 1988, Acrylic paint, white gesso, and graphite

Above is my latest post at Facebook: a deer sketch from 1988 or so. Old news, but it was a treat for me to find this photo among my old art photographs.

In the meantime, I promise to blurb more often here at WordPress. I just have to learn to schedule my time better.

Allow Mistakes

August 17, 2012
Steve Campbell

The three paintings shown below are from 1986 when I wanted to show a deer running through a winter landscape. They are painting sketches filled with mistakes I made while learning about deer and the art of painting. Each painting sketch gets better, but they all contain obvious errors that detract from each picture. Fortunately, I was never afraid to make mistakes while I painted, which helped me grow as an artist. After all, making art is a lifelong process of making mistakes.

"Deer Running, Sketch 1"

Deer Running, Sketch 1, Acrylic

"Deer Running, Sketch 2"

Deer Running, Sketch 2, Acrylic

"Deer Running, Sketch 3"

Deer Running, Sketch 3, Acrylic

While mistakes are often blows to the ego, they’re also beautiful learning lessons. And learning art is achieving the knowledge of which mistakes to correct and which ones to keep. Did you know that good paintings are full of wonderful accidents that the artist refused to fix?

TV painter Bob Ross called his mistakes “happy accidents” because they sparked his creativity and urged him to try new methods. As you study your subject and the painting process, you must not worry about the results or be afraid to paint something “ugly.” As you grow, you will learn how to spot errors and mistakes and problems in your art and find solutions for correcting them. There are many how-to books and Internet sites that will teach you. Just look for their banner headlines:

MISTAKES THAT ARTISTS MAKE & SOLUTIONS FOR CORRECTING THEM

While you paint, learn not to think too much about the result. Set yourself a goal, but don’t force the painting along. When you’re painting, lose yourself in the act of applying a variety of dark and light and big and small brushstrokes of color that tell different stories within the big picture. Painting, like writing or making music, is about emotions and the landscape they create. The result won’t be perfect, but it will be true.

"People Reading Stock Exchange"

People Reading Stock Exchange, Norman Rockwell

No matter what, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, like Norman Rockwell did when he mistakenly painted the three-legged boy in this picture of an illustration he did for The Saturday Evening Post. Yes, the boy in the red shirt has three legs. Two with their knees locked, and a third with the knee bent so that he can rest his hand on it. Rockwell was embarrassed, naturally, when the error was printed for the multitude of Post subscribers to see, but he never repeated this mistake in any of his 4,000-plus paintings.

Never stop learning.

Giving

July 24, 2012
Steve Campbell

"Road Traveler"

Road Traveler, Watercolor/Gouache on paper, 1985

My first job was selling the Grit newspaper on weekends. I was 9. During that time I began selling greeting cards for a company that advertised on the back pages of my favorite comic books. I made enough money to buy a bicycle and a pair of roller skates. I used the bike to help me deliver newspapers faster. The skates were shared with my younger brothers; they had no income other than their weekly 25 cents allowance.

I sold enough cards to purchase some colored pencils and drawing paper. Then I made my own greeting cards—Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, Get Well Soon, etc.—and gave them out for free to my newspaper customers. Later I learned my handcrafted cards were treasured by many customers for the artwork.

I gave away a lot of my art as gifts, even when I became an adult. “That’s not a good business venture,” an acquaintance told me when I started my career as an artist. He asked how I thought giving away my art could be profitable.

All my gifts are given with love, and my profit is the smile on people’s faces when I give them my art as gifts. Being an artist isn’t always about making money.

On the other hand, the painting I’ve included in this post is one I gave to a brother for his birthday. That was 1985; I was 28. Twenty-seven years later it is proudly displayed in his home with the other paintings he has received from me. During that time his friends told their friends about my artwork, word got around and I made money selling my art to them and their friends, and then to their friends, and so on.

Not profitable? I suppose it’s how you define the word.

Crowd Control: Putting Up Fences to Keep Out Nature

May 29, 2012
Steve Campbell

I have noticed an alarming increase of wild animals in my neighborhood. I say alarming because I had a bear peer at me through my ground floor bedroom window a few mornings ago. Even deer, coyote and fox run through my yard, which is uncommon in the small city I live in, where squirrels and skunks have reigned as long as I remember. Have the surrounding woods become overcrowded that these anomalies need to venture to town for room and board? Is there a chance I may come home from work some night to find them occupying my house?

The cartoonist in me finds this humorous. I come home to a deer sitting in my La-Z-Boy, reading my paper. He glances over his reading glasses at me and says “Hey, how was your day?”

And you just know papa bear is in the next room, sleeping in my bed!

Recently, a neighbor showed me pictures of her petting a baby deer. It had wandered into her yard, lost. She fed it apples and sent it on its way. The deer has been back every day since. So far, it hasn’t brought along any friends.

A friend blames it on the decreasing number of hunters. Another friend blames it on the increasing number of bird feeders in town. Both may be right, but I think an animal would need to be starving to take to bird seed. Whichever the case, Animal Control has been busy downtown, and neighbors are busy erecting fences this summer. And I’ve been closing my bedroom windows at night, just in case papa bear wants my bed.

Buck Portrait

November 3, 2011
Steve Campbell

Buck Portrait
Watercolor/Gouache on canvas board
Circa 1985

Painting 1991: Allegheny Evening

May 19, 2011
Steve Campbell

Allegheny Evening

Allegheny Evening, Oil Painting, 1991

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