Music, painting, and alcohol

The last couple months of 2019 were both joyful and frantic. I had a surprising volume of pet portrait orders for Christmas which was all a new business to me, so I just buckled down and spent my evenings and weekends cranking them out in time for the holidays. It was exciting and scary and a bit exhausting. While continuing to receive orders that I couldn’t promise till early 2020, I had a one track mind to just make good on those needed for Christmas gifts. Then worry about the rest!

Christmas came and went with all the indulgences that go along with it. My pants were getting even tighter but I always give myself grace that time of year. There’s no use fighting it, and usually overdoing it a bit leads to pure motivation and discipline when the new year rolls around. On December 28, I got to celebrate my 40th birthday again with my college friends, and that turned out to be a doozy. Who knew a bunch of middle-aged couples could put down so much homemade “whiskey wine?” Oh and there was apple pie moonshine too. That tasted legit like apple pie. Needless to say this forty-year-old did not recover well. In fact, I didn’t even have a drop of alcohol to toast on New Years Eve. I was over it!

As I set about on my quest for a dry January, I also took a short breather from painting (like a few days). And when I did decide to paint, I painted for me. It was a quick portrait of our beloved Elvis as a puppy. It was so therapeutic to spend some time with him, especially his sweet, soulful eyes.

Pet portrait painting of Elvis the pitbull
“Elvis” – 12” x 12” acrylic on canvas

But then it was time to get back to the commissioned artwork I had lined up, I struggled a bit to get going. Between a couple projects that I didn’t have great photos to work with, and busy-ness at work, the inspiration had dried out like the alcohol. I leaned into music, began abstract painting to try and push through the creative blocks, and those struggling projects turned into pretty great pieces that the recipients loved.

Pet portrait with two dogs

“Milo and Yoshi” – 20” x 20” acrylic on canvas

Painting of two dogs on a boat

“I’m on a Boat!” – 18” x 24” acrylic on canvas

The thing about painting with music is it really gets me present. It sparks a mood or energy that wasn’t there before. Even if I’m tired, I can put on some great tunes and pick up my brush and make some solid progress on the art before me. I have a favorite playlist I use for the pet portrait painting, and for the abstracts I explore new music, depending on my mood. It’s the perfect combination for my brain – music and painting – to inspire, conjure emotion, and find that flow state.

And you know what? Dry January came and went and I never even missed a glass of wine. I found that having painting and music to look forward to provided all the relaxation and anxiety treatment I needed, without the disrupted sleep, calories and accelerated aging of alcohol. Am I never drinking again? Nah, I still want to enjoy it on social and celebratory occasions if it sounds good. I made delicious sangria for the Chief’s Super Bowl and enjoyed a couple Malbecs at our fancy Valentine dinner. But it’s no longer a requirement to wind down on Friday’s when I get home from work. It feels liberating, and as a health nut and someone who hasn’t yet given up on New Years Resolutions, less alcohol makes it that much easier to stick to my goals. My head is clear, my heart is inspired and my body is strong as I take the reigns in 2020 and march into my 40s like a boss!

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