5 Stages of Life and Art: Tornado, Aftermath, Cleanup, Rebuild, Rinse and Repeat

The Gathering
"The Gathering" ©2010 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 10"x14"

It’s been a very crazy week. Just reflecting on that, I was sitting down to write a post about what happens within the cycles of creativity and business in the studio. Four hundred pages of backup material to the CRA, two project statements written, six new paintings delivered to a new gallery, and a snowstorm later, I have reason to reflect this morning.

Building a new body of work for the past year has been an amazing project and exercise for me as an artist and I’ve been able to see the cycle of activities fairly clearly. They kinda go like this:


This is the stage where a wild and crazy idea comes to me, or where I am in the flurry of creating and working on a painting or group of paintings that I have no idea where the time went or how  it got so crazy busy all of a sudden. It might be because of a number of things happening in the administration of the studio, requirements and demands from business or the rush to meet a deadline. The tornado is always fast, furious and happens without you anticipating it. Sometimes you just need to run for cover while that which you can’t control…happens all around you. The Tornado is the time that the Creator makes to remind you that no matter how much planning you’ve done, YOU…are not in control.


This is that little period of shock after the Tornado. It’s when you look about your studio and office and wondered for a few brief moments what the hell happened. You scratch your head and wonder how you even managed to get done what you did get done, and vow that you will have some control over it the next time around. The studio looks a mess. Nothing is in it’s organized state that you’ve worked so hard to control. The Aftermath is the time the Creator gives you to think about what is precious to you and what is not – what you could afford to lose.


The cleanup can take days or weeks, months or years depending upon the level of devastation from the Tornado stage. I tend to tackle the small things that look like I have some control over first…and leave those big jobs for more thinking time. Those are the ones where you can think about things for some time, and see what kind of approach you can muster the next time a Tornado blows in…and it will blow in. The Cleanup Stage is when the Creator gives you the opportunity to take a little more charge over your own destiny and process.


Time to put things back into place…but this time to build them better, stronger and more resilient. The next Tornado will be stronger, and you need to be strategic about the systems you put in place to handle the workload, the studio, perhaps a new solo show or a new gallery. Really assess what you need and what you don’t need and don’t forget about the Tornado you just went through…or the ones before that, or before that. There are lessons in all of them and ones that you don’t know or understand until quite some time after the mess. The Rebuild is how the Creator shows us that all things are possible. Use this time to create!

Rinse and Repeat

This week had a number of little tornados nested in a bigger tornado – all of them lessons to me as to how I can better manage my business, think ahead and create meaningful and relevant work for the next stage of my career. It seems that I’m not alone in this. Check out artist Lisa Call’s  – “Rebooting After The Big Push”.

There are so many metaphors about what we all go through in life and in art. You can prepare yourself, but not fully – for the surprises that come. Finding your sweetspot, knowing how to be prepared for the next Tornado, and learning the lessons out of each stage of the process is important to developing yourself as an artist and a Full Time Human Being.

This is what we do.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Lisa Call

    Congrats on your tornado! and here’s to a positive and affirming rebuilding phase!

    1. Janice Tanton

      He he…thanks Lisa! And a big congrats to you on yours as well. I’m wishing you all the best with your three big solo shows this year. You’re a wonderful artist! Reboot onwards…

  2. Janet Vanderhoof

    You are so amazing, I really admire your work, your vision and your creativity.

    1. Janice Tanton

      *blushing* Janet – thank you so much. You’re a wonderful artist, and that really means a lot to me, coming from you. I think we are all so very lucky to have such wonderful community. Thank you.

  3. Vanessa

    Perfect term… Tornados is exactly what it feels like from time to time. All those difficulties that make it hard to see the light at the end… It was a pleasure reading this post. It’s a great reminder that we all have similar experiences and we all have our storms to work through.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Thanks for your comment, Vanessa. Yes…and to be mindful of everyone around us and their “tornados”!

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