Today is Yom HaZikaron (memorial day) which is held the day before independence day – Yom HaAtzmaut.
Much has been written about this almost impossible juxtaposition of grief next to rejoicing. The idea is that in order to rejoice we need to remember those who enabled our independence. A very beautiful idea and one that focuses the whole country on a day of national, often very sentimental, mourning. Everyone knows someone who has a close relative who has died in our never ending war from independence to this day. Thus the public mourning focuses not on the achievements and the heroism, but on the personal loss and tragedy of our best young men and women who we send to defend us.
Most people work half day (except those who attend memorial ceremonies in the morning). I have the whole day off work, so I am making good use of the free time. The first thing I did this morning was to do my country a good turn and I collected up plastic bottles left on the badly kept path and undeveloped land next to our home. Five minutes work and I came back with a large bag bursting full of bottles.
I made a resolution that when I go out walking at nights (another resolution I am trying to keep to), I will collect up at least once a week discarded bottles.
The number of discarded bottles on the edges of undeveloped plots and under bushes on the side of the road never ceases to amaze me. Who drinks all these 1.5 liter bottles? Some of the ones around the park next to our house are left every night by kids who smoke nargilas there. We have a big problem with garbage in the park and although the city sends someone once a week to clean up, there is a lot of mess there.
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2008 was some kind of a watershed year. Exactly how things will play out from here is still not clear, but it had a chapter-closing feel about it.
The year started in high spirits with a good business relationship with Nofim and sales. In the first few months, I was even upping my business forecast and preparing for the exhibition. Then sales tailed off, the exhibition brought no new business and then the economy crashed altogether.
However, in the meantime I was updating my website and even made an Internet sale.
After the low that followed the exhibition came the summer and the Hagim and I never really got the momentum back up. My storage space is full, I have a feeling that my painting is becoming routine and technical and I am lacking the drive and the excitement of going out and doing something new. I need to move on to something new and I am not sure where.
In parallel, I have changed my position at work back from a managerial to a technical position and so work is becoming a bit more absorbing again. My wife also started a second degree course which inevitably is also reducing my free discretionary time.
When I look through my goals I set for the year, I see a lot of things I didn’t do. Here they are with my comments.
Paint at least as many paintings as last year – I painted 11 which is less. The first half of the year was very productive, but then it tailed off.
Only paint pictures I think I will enjoy doing – That’s really one of the reasons why things started tailing off.
Do a solo show – Did that. Good exposure but I didn’t actually sell anything.
Sell three pictures – Did that as well. Sold five.
Donate a painting for display in a public space – Never got round to that one.
Paint an abstract painting – Kind of.
Paint or draw a portrait – Nope.
So what are my goals for the next year. Well, my first goal is to decide what my goals are. That’s a big one. After that? Enjoy fulfilling them. In the meantime I might do some more paintings in the meantime, though I don’t know where I’m going to keep them.
As for the blog, I have been toying with some new directions. I may also start a new new blog in order not to damage this one. I might just keep on here, or stop altogether.
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Nowhere really. I’m still here, just not been posting anything recently.
After my break from painting for the Hagim, in which I also did quite a bit of thinking and seasonal introspection, I now need to get my act together and put brush to canvas. However I have been experiencing a rather low level of motivation with no recent sales (even at the exhibition in July), my storage already getting full, and a feeling that I am ready for the next thing.
I feel a need to do something more, something over just another painting. I am toying with an oversize (like several meters painted in pieces) for donation, but I also want to get back to basics with drawing and sketching. On the other hand I’m not doing that either.
So, until I work out what next I’m not doing much creatively though I have been very busy with things that have been waiting for attention round the house and work is now getting busier and also more fulfilling, so that is taking away my attention.
Anyway, so if you don’t see anything here in the near future, it’s not that I have disappeared, I’m just trying to work out what it is I’m doing. When I have some answers I’ll let you know and maybe even before that if I can get the direction at least.
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Moomin commented in his blog on a post by Chris Guillebeau about living a life with no regrets.
There are (says Moom) different types of regrets. On the one hand you have regrets for what you sacrificed when you conciously chose to do something else. On the other you also have regrets where you didn’t sacrifice anything for something else, you just did nothing and missed an opportunity.
Moom says (paraphrased in my words) that you need to minimize your fretting in the first case and just get off you butt in the second. I can agree with that.
This is all connected to the thing with Teshuva. Teshuva is about reviewing your past and resolving to improve for the future. It is about a kind of spiral where on every orbit you are getting closer to what you want to be rather than just aimlessly circling your target.
If you made a wrong choice then don’t fret, fix it or do it better next time… and if your problem is making your decision for action then analyse your problem, resolve to act and get it done.
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I mentioned in my post yesterday that with the start of the Jewish month of Ellul we are entering the annual period of introspection and improvement – a process known in Judaism as Teshuva.
Teshuva is a very big thing in Judaism. the idea is that we are required to be in a continuous process througout our lives of personal improvement. We have free choice to choose to do good or bad and we are responsible for our choices. We therefore need to be constantly assessing our shortcomings and working on improving ourselves for next time.
This might sound like hard work and no fun but if you think about it, it is a far more positive and optimistic view on life than that propounded by some other religions. It also seems to me to be a very pragmatic and logical approach to life. Things can be better and we can do it. Fate does not determine the outcome and neither do we need to throw ourselves at the feet of a savior or rely on some supernatural promises. We just need to think about what we are doing and do it better.
To do Teshuva there are three stages and there is also a test to see if it worked. Anybody can do it, even if you aren’t Jewish and you don’t believe in God. That’s the great thing about it – it is so down-to-earth and pragmatically useful. The stages are as follows:
- Verbalize what you did wrong
- Feel remorse for it
- Decide not to do it again.
The verbalization is not a confession to another person who then forgives you. It can be even between you and yourself but it is important because as I have mentioned before on the subject of goals, unverbalized goals are rather worthless. The remorse is a difficult part. However without remorse, the next stage of making the decision not to do it again will be even harder.
Of course Teshuva itself doesn’t actually right any damage you may have caused to others through your past actions, so you are not off the hook until you have put right the damage as well.
The test for good Teshuva is straightforward as well. You are in the same situation again, you have the same opportunity and you are able to make the mistake again. Do you live up to your resolution to change, or do you do it over again?
Anyway, so what’s this annual period of Teshuva about? The Jewish new year is celebrated annually as a special period for reflection on the past year and resolve to do better. Lots of prayers and lots of customs to make us think about ourselves, where we are and what we want to do better next year. We are supposed to be continually improving, but once a year we have a period set aside to encourage us to confront our needs for change.
So happy Teshuva everyone.
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The exhibition is now over and I can sum it up. Overall, the exhibition was a success even though I didn’t actually sell anything there.
The main positive point is that I got a lot of publicity. My flyers got seen by a lot of people, some of who came to see the show, others who just looked at the work online and others who cam up to me and said “are you the artist?”. Add to that the local news coverage I got in Beit Shemesh and the mention in the “what’s on” in the press in Jerusalem, that’s quite something.
In addition, I can chalk up the exhibition as an event both for my own ego and when talking to potential customers and galleries and in today’s market and in Jerusalem, it’s not so bad that I didn’t sell anything. Everyone is having a hard time selling.
So what next?
On Wednesday I brought all the pictures back from the gallery except for two (this and this) that Haim is keeping there. He has taken the opportunity to reorganize his walls and he has some nice stuff there now. I hung a couple of the framed pictures at home and another in the office and I will put the rest into storage.
I need to work now on widening my channels for showing my work and for sales. With most of my pictures back in my storage, the chance of selling anything has gone down a bit but I have some ideas already and more coming.
- I am currently working on an upgrade to my website including the integration of PayPal and online checkout. I am also going to do a review of item statuses to reflect that work can be on sale online (and dispatched by mail) in a gallery or by enquiry (larger, framed and more expensive pieces). I have already made changes in the search but there is more to come. You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I sold a piece from the web site so I decided to invest some effort here.
- I am thinking of going back to my idea of a large piece for a public place to get some work on permanent display (apart from the free publicity when it goes up).
- I am also thinking of finding a second gallery and not in Jerusalem – like Tel Aviv. This is quite a project for me as I know nothing about Tel Aviv and just getting there will involve investing large amounts of time.
- What I won’t be doing is disaplaying in any group shows in Beit Shemesh, unless somebody comes to me with a very good proposal for something considerably better than any of the shows that have been up till now.
So as you can see I have a few ideas to be working on. Readers, do you have any more?
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As I pointed out recently this is probably the number 1 question that I ever get asked.
The bottom line as far as I’m concerned is deciding what I want to do and sticking with it. Goal orientation. They call it “Dveikut BaMesima” (adhering to the task) in Hebrew. I will give tips further on but first I think that in order to answer the question well I should put it in perspective. Here are some random facts that will help the reader:
- I am Orthodox Jewish so I don’t paint on Shabbat (Saturdays).
- I have five children aged 3.5 to 15.
- I work a nine hour day in hi-tech which plus commutes makes near on 11 hours out of the house.
So how does a normal day look?
- 06:00 – Get up, get ready, coffee and then out to morning service “Shaharit“. (luckily the synagogue is just across the street).
- 07:00 – Breakfast with the children, nagging and cajoling them to get ready, washing the dishes. If I’m lucky a bit of spare time.
- 08:00 – Out of the house on foot with children 4+5, drop them at kindergarten and school and wait for my ride to work. Open the laptop and do updates on the website, search for a wireless network someone carelessly left open and do email and surfing, read.
- 09:00-18:00 – At work. Sorry, my employer wouldn’t want me to tell about my work and I would want them to read anything not work connected that I do in this time ;-).
- 19:00 – Get home, dinner with family, put children to bed, wash dishes etc.
- 20:00 – Small children in bed. Start of my discretionary time :-)…
- 23:00 – Bed
So as you see that 20:00-23:00 slot is where it all gets done, although normally it’s nearer 21:00 till I can get started and that’s apart from supermarket evening, ironing, school meetings and everything else.
- Remember: if you want time, you will find it. There is a saying that if you want domething done, then ask a busy person. It’s true, busy people know how to find time. Be a busy person.
- Set yourself action items and timetables to get them done – “this week I will finish this picture”.
- Set yearly goals. This will help you keep focussed on where you’re going, but also it will give you the satisfaction of being able to chalk up another goal achieved when you get there. Remember, unwritten (and unshared) goals are not goals. Write them down and share them or you won’t be committed.
- Schedule your week – Sunday painting, Monday shopping, Tuesday iron 1/2 hour then paint, etc. Then stick to it – it works.
- Watch out what you do with your time. Don’t watch television, or surf idly. I don’t have a TV and I read on Saturdays when I can’t paint or write or work on the computer.
- Use dead time for doing things. I read and work on my website on my way to and from work. That’s an hour and a half that would otherwise go wasted every day – like the total waking hours of 22 days!
- Be mean with external commitments. If you are a busy and goal-oriented person, the chances are that you will get approached to serve on school commitees or that you will feel strongly about cleaning up your city or… Don’t do it, unless you have loads of time apart from your painting time… and I certainly don’t.
- However… take time to be with your family. You may be wasting painting time, but time with your children will never return.
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