Category Archives: Painting

All Seasons, One Day

To begin, a poem from my friend Tina Westerkamp, in response to and in conversation with poet Wallace Stevens while on a run.

Running Conversation with the Connoisseur Over Time
(In which Wallace and I ventilate)

I.
A. It is difficult, even for an expert, to identify which plant                    exploded the pollen; and
B. Everything is honey to the bee. These two things are                         one.

II.
It is spring or the cusp of spring.
If I am blue around the edges, and I am;
If the daffodil is a strange attractor shining from the ditch
By the roadside amidst the apocalypse, and it is;
If the vein winding through the newest leaf
Traces the eldest bough branching from the trunk of the tree, and it does;
If the capillaries in my lungs are diminutive doorways
Hinged and swinging in the threshold between my heart
and the wildness of the world, and they are;
If the pinging of last night’s rain on the roof has already been absorbed
By the iterative singing of this morning’s bird, and it has;
And if all of these things happen at once specifically at six o’clock
Down a street in Ohio, and they do; an equation of intersections,
A fracturing of crossroads, is a turbulent nervous system
As intricate as a tangle of honeysuckle, an unfolding
Invasive operation of petals to the mouth
And possibly, therefore, nectar.

III.
After all, the finest splitting of hairy shoots
Proves you must choose which way you turn.
Think of the earth, in theory, as flat as a piece of legal paper,
And politicians drawing their lines on either side
Corralling opinions. Try to follow as their points meander, become
Scribbles and those squirming notes darken the entirety of the page;
And if I may say so we are waiting for someone else to fold
The whole thing, scrap that idea and from its crumpled shape,
Conceive of a new dimension. And yet it could be we are all sculptors now
Fishing forms like clouds out of the wastebasket
Hanging our tossed dreams next to each other
Lining a mackerel sky.

IV.
A. Ok, so the pollen has disseminated everywhere.
Some people sneeze and don’t cover their noses.

These are facts. Rumor and disease spread                                           exponentially across space and time,
ignoring borders. No one knows when or where or                             why things begin.
B. I can see you from April as you write this.                                                Your forehead  Is circled by a tricorn hat, blue as a                             summer moon.
The fleur di lis is golden on your shoulder and heavy                        after days  Of stormy reflections. But suppose you stepped outside of yourself  Forgot your positioning and just flew
Allowing each flower to speak its secret name to you through
Its scent and the subtle stinging of your heart….
The holes in our thinking are the only windows through which we can escape. Now A And B are not like laws, chiseled above the courthouse. They are insects with  inclinations,
Buzzing around the yard so the woman with ears can hear.

V.
The woman with ears…She hears the peeping of a hundred awkward baby birds;
Each particular chirruping voice is music; is momentum, is the movement of all potential,
irregular spheres,
Floating.

We run.  Not together of course, but both of us fortunate enough to have the space on our own roads to run.  For now at least.  There is something animal and therapeutic in running just now.  It is a reminder that in some ways, life is still going forward in the world.  It is spring time and quite lovely some days.  I have only just recently begun my running practice once again, gently ramping up my mileage since autumn to balance a few things out physically.  Run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit more.  I am now mostly running once again.  This is good.

I had not planned on doing another marathon.  

Years ago I went through a marathon phase (that’s a distance of 26.2 miles) and completed 7 races before I was finished with it all.  These runs and the training involved helped me birth a healthier self physically and mentally during a time I was working a lot of stuff out personally and learning how to be a parent and partner along the way.  I learned I didn’t have to run away from my problems, I could run toward them.

This is a different kind of marathon.

My runs these days allow for thinking time.  Peripatetic pondering if you will.  I allow the animal body side of myself get the anxiety of feeling hunted by the coronavirus out of my system so that I can think more clearly about what’s ahead and what needs to be done just now.   I have read in a variety of places that this unprecedented era in which we find ourselves is best considered a marathon, not a sprint, and that we need to settle in for the long haul.

Everything has changed. 

Friday evening we had a zoom call with our dear friends in Maine.  We talked of how each day seems to bring a new and uncharted path through emotional territory.  Landscapes never traversed by some and left behind for others.  The landscape of trauma and uncertainty.  They looked a bit shellshocked (aren’t we all?) and I just wanted to climb through the internet and hug them long and close.  Later on, after the call, Tony and I found ourselves riding the blissful waves of our evening cocktails and laughing to crying over the muppets and the Carol Burnett show on YouTube.

I’ve heard it said that when preparing to go out for the day in Ireland, one must be prepared for all the seasons in the one day.  Emotionally, in this era of the coronavirus, this is what if feels like to me.  A roller coaster of crying one minute, determination the next, then silliness, deep belly laughter, a good snot cry in the bath tub, shaky anxiety, sheer panic (in which it might be time for a run).

Well, you get the picture.

There is a tremendous amount of doing everywhere just now.  Virtually speaking, that is.  A ton of ideas for how to pass the time during the (extremely privileged) time of quarantine.  I look back at a blog post from just last week where I decided to throw my hat into this ring with the idea of journaling our way through this perilous journey.  Some days I do this, many days I don’t.  It doesn’t matter. I remind myself that this blog is my travel journal.  This is the work.  This is enough just now.

I am doing the best I can.  You are doing the best you can.  We must all be gentle with ourselves.  Like everyone, I do a bit of reading a few times a day to keep up with the breakneck pace of what’s being reported regarding this pandemic.  And today, this gem came across my twitter feed.

Here’s the link: Why You Should Ignore All That Corornavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure

“The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed.”  ~Aisha S. Ahmad

I beg you to read it as, despite it’s title, it’s actually a hopeful read about the future and what we can do just now to build that future. It’s about taking care of those most vulnerable in your nearest circles and considering the literal security of your loved ones.  It covers the notion that we are all confronting a complete shift in psychological paradigms the likes of which most people have never even considered a possibility.

The article and the author’s gentle approach to moving forward resonated with me with these two sentences in particular:

“…..to those colleagues and friends who hail from hard places, who know this feeling of disaster in their bones.”

and

“….calamity is a great teacher.”

While of course we have never been here before, to me there is a familiarity to where we find ourselves.  As a child I lived through the catastrophic earthquake in Guatemala City in 1976 and while I was small and wasn’t navigating the aftermath in the way my parents had to, something about this pandemic feels familiar in my bones.  As the state of the world becomes clearer and clearer and the length to which we must go to keep each other safe becomes more and more stringent, I find it difficult to keep up with the idea of “normalcy”.  There is a completely different normal.  Any painting or writing or music playing I’ve done recently has been because I simply had to not to cry all the time.

“I paint in order not to cry.”  ~Paul Klee

What I have spent most of my time thinking about and doing is more in keeping with the advice in Ahmad’s article.  I’ve ramped up my garden plans from long term soil building to get-this-shit-done-NOW mode.  I’m obsessively checking in with my older neighbors and my mom and her partner so we can blend any grocery errands to include them.  We’ve even taken in my sister’s dog so that she can reduce contact with her family and friends as she navigates her career in the ER.  I’ve just been sort of following my gut through all of this.  Feeling like these are the things to be done just now.  This article made me feel sane and seen and hopeful all in one go.  And I love that she reminds us that our creative minds will be back in service, once we allow this all to settle in a bit.

“It is not talking of love, but living in love, that is everything.”

And so, I work on my beautiful little patch of land to redirect the deer….

We had quite a bit of luck with the fishing line trick last year. This is for the front yard (along with some twig weaving for flair). A proper fence around the veg garden in back is in the works….

We get to know sweet Ari who misses his mom but is taking one for the team just the same…..

Miraculously, he doesn’t seem to mind the uillean pipes!!!!

Ari and Charlie get along just fine.

When I sit down to paint, I find a source photo I like and do small studies and sketches just to stay in practice.  They are like a meditation, like a gentle run.  I like them quite a lot….. (and you can keep up with paintings I might be working on over on Instagram.)  Perhaps they’ll lead to bigger work, but for now, they are enough.

“And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time.”

~Death Cab for Cutie (What Sarah Said)

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I went on a morning run in the historic and beauty-filled city of Antigua Guatemala. It was early and only a few people were out and about, really. I needed a run to clear my head before the day’s teaching ahead of me. There were tourists at hostel doorways awaiting shuttles to their next destination, backpacks at the ready. There were smiling sisters awaiting a church opening. A fruit vendor was turning a corner on cobbles and found himself quite stuck and so I asked him if I might help get him over the bump in the road. He grinned and said, “Sí, sí! Gracias!” And so we pushed and pushed the cart onto more level ground then waved a goodbye as we both headed on to our work day. As I neared home to our Posada, the Parque Centrál came into view and a lovely “quinceañera” was by the fountain in her gown getting her photo taken. Like many others on this random, average Antigua day, I stopped and admired this young woman on the cusp of adulthood. The color and light and temperature were perfect. A beautiful moment, marking a turning point in one young life. I got a little teary, as one does at these things. Today I painted this moment from a photograph, from a very different vantage point. And no less teary. So many milestones missed this season amidst the worries surrounding this global pandemic. And I’m reminded that it’s all right to grieve it all. My heart goes out to the graduates and prom goers and brides and grooms and anyone who was planning anything. This is really really hard. On SO many levels. And it’s ok to grieve all of it. Pouring love into my paintbrush as it’s the only thing I know how to do.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I went on a morning run in the historic and beauty-filled city of Antigua Guatemala. It was early and only a few people were out and about, really. I needed a run to clear my head before the day’s teaching ahead of me. There were tourists at hostel doorways awaiting shuttles to their next destination, backpacks at the ready. There were smiling sisters awaiting a church opening. A fruit vendor was turning a corner on cobbles and found himself quite stuck and so I asked him if I might help get him over the bump in the road. He grinned and said, “Sí, sí! Gracias!” And so we pushed and pushed the cart onto more level ground then waved a goodbye as we both headed on to our work day. As I neared home to our Posada, the Parque Centrál came into view and a lovely “quinceañera” was by the fountain in her gown getting her photo taken. Like many others on this random, average Antigua day, I stopped and admired this young woman on the cusp of adulthood. The color and light and temperature were perfect. A beautiful moment, marking a turning point in one young life. I got a little teary, as one does at these things. Today I painted this moment from a photograph, from a very different vantage point. And no less teary. So many milestones missed this season amidst the worries surrounding this global pandemic. And I’m reminded that it’s all right to grieve it all. My heart goes out to the graduates and prom goers and brides and grooms and anyone who was planning anything. This is really really hard. On SO many levels. And it’s ok to grieve all of it. Pouring love into my paintbrush as it’s the only thing I know how to do. (from IG)
There are a few things that can drive the hum of covid worries from my mind for a little while at least. A good long run, time working in the garden, sleep (when I can achieve it) and, the most predictable and reliable, painting. Painting is an escape into shape and color, light and shadow, form and volume. It is the great escape for now. I’m grateful for it, in these troubled times. (from IG)
Thinking of my friends in Antigua today. Wondering how everyone is during this crazy time. The streets of so many bustling towns find themselves empty just now. I just look for light and color. (from IG)

I’m forging forward with learning the uillean pipes, for good or ill.  It’s challenging and fun and is a sure fire trick for giving my mind a break from adjusting to the new normal.  The other day a group of 27 women pipers got together from all around the world to share a few tunes.  It was miraculous and beautiful and I couldn’t believe I was a part of it.  So grateful for it all that I’ll admit to being a little bit weepy for most of the call.  I played along on a few jigs and listened and learned.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain
I have my ship and all her flags are a flyin’
She is all I have left and music is her name”

~Crosby, Stills & Nash

The news is, indeed dire.  We in Ohio brace for the worst, but are thankful for the work of our forward thinking, science leaning Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, head of the State Health Department.  We brace ourselves while also taking time for a run on a sunny day, the joy of a new tune, the allowance of a breakdown now and then.  (This quote from facebook tugged at my heartstrings the other night.  I couldn’t even read it aloud to Tony over puzzle time that evening.)

“I was a bit upset, initially, with J.K. Rowling because of the way that the Harry Potter book series robbed Harry, Hermione and Ron of their final terms as Hogwarts students. I felt like we had traveled this far together with them through the wizarding school, and it only seemed fair that we get to watch them work through their last level. Life had different plans for them though, and Rowling wrote the path that was true for her characters as much as it is now for students everywhere — especially seniors. What you are doing right now is helping the world stand up against a deadly enemy in order to protect countless lives. You are Harry Potter. You are Hermione Granger. You are Ron Weasley. You miss Hogwarts, and Hogwarts misses you. But your role here is crucial, and it will bless the paths of many lifetimes to come. Though many will still fall in this battle, you are doing your part to stave off an even greater global disaster. You are being true to your school in the most unexpected of ways, and you will graduate with the honor of having played a key part in this fight. Your work so far and chance for further accomplishments haven’t been dashed. A world of opportunity will await you when we get past this. Take heart and have hope. And remember the words of Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” #FlattenTheCurve.”  ~From somewhere on facebook (if you know the source, let me know!)

We simply do the best we can in this now.  All in all, I feel really good.  I’m feeling all the feelings in the realest way possible and doing what needs to be done, which on any given day looks different perhaps.  I appreciate how lucky we are to have technology to keep us in touch in these strange times and I look forward to forging a new path forward in the world.

And now, before the Riley School Music Committee meets on zoom later today to figure some plan out to keep our musicians engaged, I’m gonna go for a long run.

 

 

 

The Basket Times

Oh y’all.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a hug.  I get them here from my hub now and then, and I am grateful for that to be sure.  But I also miss my mom, and my friends, especially the musical ones.  So many of whom are the most generous huggers.  Out on my run today I encountered many others outside enjoying the (for the moment) mild weather.  We crossed the road to avoid one another.  I think we are all terrified of what’s coming, or is possibly already here among us.

Today I heard from one far flung friend who said that yesterday she felt like a basket case.  And that today she was doing all right, all things told.  I told her that I was feeling the exact opposite.  Yesterday felt like things were going to be ok…..

Then, after last night’s tornado warning, complete with sirens (thank the gods however, not the tornados) and a sleep filled with vivid dreaming that was no true sleep at all, I’ll admit to feeling a bit more fragile today.

Some days we fill the baskets, other days we are busy making the baskets.  And then, some days, we are just the basket cases.  These are the Basket Times.

My sister is an Emergency Nurse.  We chat on the phone occasionally and she gives me the update from her ground level view on this crisis.  She and others like her have heard what’s coming from places far away.  They are as ready as they can be.  I salute these heroes just now with their uncanny ability to thrive and shine in mayhem.   I marvel.

Not all heroes wear capes.  

Grace under pressure.

Cooling palm across my brow.

Eyes of an angel.

Lay me down.

~Elbow

When we were expecting our second child, we were under the care of a team of midwives.  They were much less ‘medical’ in their approach to birth.  Much more willing to let things be as they needed to be as they moved forward.  Our Madeleine was 16 days late.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea in recent days as I ponder the notion of control, and the human thinking that we might actually have control over anything at any time.  Especially with regard to the state of things in the world being what they are.

Right now we are in a time of waiting.  A time of deep un-knowing.  It is like that expectant time before the birth of a child.  But darker, of course.  I am reminded of the depth of similarities between the energy in a room awaiting the birth of a new one and that of a room on the edges of greeting death.  I have witnessed both many times and in spite of the differing circumstances and people involved, there is always that moment of stillness, just before and just after this crossing that feels somehow transcendent over all other times.

We are in that moment as a country.

“Sunsets over the city, clouds are rising
And you can see clear up to the night time sky
And if you’re feeling precious, you want to do well
Think of others, ask for a prayer underneath Christchurch bells”

~Hothouse Flowers

We all have our ways of being in the world.  Some doers.  Others shining in ways I can’t comprehend.  There are those (perhaps one leading a large country, for example) who seem built to wreak havoc and sadness where e’er they roam.  I for one am a bit of a watcher.  raised in a variety of settings which helped build long internal antennae, I merely observe.

People are dealing with this crisis in an array of ways.  There is panic and grief and creativity and generosity.   There is judgement and finger-pointing, joy-making and a renewed sense of community in some unlikely places.  Aside from the obvious, there is no wrong way to deal with it all and we must each follow our own path, depending on what kind of basket day it might be.

I’ve heard it said, “this slowing down is such a gift.”  Well, yes, for some.  Those with the privilege to weather the economic storm this slowing down brings, sure.  It’s lovely indeed actually.   I’ve also seen others’ online contributions ramp up in a near frantic wave of “doing, doing, making, making!” which is indeed inspiring in this time of being home-bound and maybe a bit restless and in need of entertainment.  But this level of doing is only right for some.  We must all just do as we can and as we must as this all pans out.

“Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love (people on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”

Queen & David Bowie

We mustn’t forget to take breaks from the online sphere now and then, to admit to friends (yes, perhaps even professional contacts) that maybe this afternoon, we aren’t quite ourselves.  We must check in on one another and do what we can.

We must learn to be openly alone.

Together.

This is a time of great change and uncertainty.  And we do not know what is ahead.  But perhaps we might learn something from the springtime emerging all around us here in the northern hemisphere.  We can learn to begin again.

“Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark determination
and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing through with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.”

~Brendan Kennelly

From what is broken and empty in our western, consumer driven, capitalistic culture……

……perhaps we might bloom again into something different, better, brighter.

Perhaps we might feed each other in new ways, locally and in balance…..

Perhaps we might make light out of ruin.

Happy first day of spring.  May we, here at Equinox, come to balance once again.

Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned: the centre of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the centre of the seesaw so the pain flowed through you, not into you.”

~Terry Pratchett

Oh and ps, if you need a good, cleansing cry,  check out this new work from my dear friend Kim.  (click the green letters!!)  She makes musical magic with word and song.

 

January

This time last week I was in Austin, Texas, visiting artful friends, meeting new trees and dogs.  A good time was had by all and I was (and always am) deeply inspired by time spent with these women and their loved ones.

Austin has been described as a blueberry in a big bowl of tomato soup, culturally, politically and it was great fun skimming even the surface of this amazing capitol city.

One can read countless articles about the food in Austin, or the music in Austin.  But honestly, I really loved the trees.

There were two in particular which captivated my imagination.  The first being the famed Treaty Tree – an old, intrepid Council Oak utilized by Native Americans long before our misguided United States was even a glimmer on the horizon.  You can read the full story here about how this poor tree was poisoned back in the 80’s and nearly died.  But it survives to this day and is loved and protected and shored up and supported in its growth.

The day we visited it, there happened to be officials on hand, measuring and taking stock of the tree and I asked permission to come inside the fence and place my hand upon its trunk.  I was permitted and nearly cried when I touched it.  Trees are truly miraculous beings and I have a bit of a thing for them.

A second tree which I befriended just happened to be in the back yard of the very friends we were visiting.  This tree, now called Bonnie, was a primary reason my friends chose this of all houses and they brought in an arborist to make sure they could care for her properly in the coming years.  I think they are glad to know Bonnie.  And perhaps Bonnie is glad to know them.

I am guessing there will be more paintings of Bonnie.  I spent a bit of time just watching how the evening light played upon her stately form.  She’s lovely indeed.

But Austin is not all trees, there are the dogs.  One dog especially seemed to sum up all of Austin’s playfulness.  Mr. Pickles.

One cannot NOT sketch a spectacle such as Mr. Pickles.  Apparently his mom works in the mobile dog grooming world, hence the painted on color.  I think Mr. Pickles knows how cute he is as he greeted us with enthusiasm on our visit to the Contemporary Austin art museum.

There was much more to tell of Austin.  A beer garden in a grove of trees in the hill country, cocktails made of a desert plant….

Vintage finds in the second hand shops.  But mostly we merely enjoyed one another’s company.  And this was enough.  Even in a city as cool as Austin.

And now I am home.  Nursing a cold…..

And deeply worried over our own pup Iris.  Our Wild Iris Rose has been unwell of late.  Deer poo is nasty stuff and we can only guess that she may have sampled some in the yard leading to intestinal distress.  We got her sorted out last week and were in the clear, but this week, among everything else, she was overcome again.

Tonight she is hospitalized and getting fluids.  We are hopeful for the best, but it’s up to her.  And so tonight we wait.

I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, tea is helpful, yes.

And good books to pass the time…

A bit of light reading…..

Scribbling a bit helps to pass the time sometimes. I learned this style of doodling from my friend artist Kim Rae Taylor

But it’s worrying, to put it mildly.  She has been greatly weakened by this latest illness and we are giving her the best care we know how.  And only time will tell.  Of all the dogs, Iris is really my girl and I miss her presence here in the studio tonight as I write this.  Hoping she’s back home resting comfortably tomorrow perhaps.  But we shall take it all as it comes.

As we must.

A measure of quiet

Special thanks to Julie over in the Adventures of Claudia world for sending along these lovely words attributed to Brother David Steindl-Rast.

Raw December day, wet, dripping with rain and fog.  Last night’s few inches of snow turn to slush and mud.  I opt for a day home sketching and drinking tea after a busy weekend of music-making, and other such peopling.  I am deeply grateful for a flexible schedule.

The paints have been fairly ignored recently, my hands opting for other activities.  I know this is simply my way and the paints do call again eventually.

I work diligently on a set of mittens, maybe a second set if there is time.  Gifts of heart and hand.

Iris rests in the studio room with me, both of us vying for the space nearest the space-heater.

The house is cozy, with the season’s usual suspects tucked into their places, remembrances of years past.

The paints have indeed been calling, which is why I take to them for a few sketches today.  I can always feel the tug when it begins.  I see something that I want to interpret.  A scene or a landscape featuring a special light of some sort perhaps.  And I want to delve in.  This often finds me disturbingly out of practice.

Yesterday, before the snow came, I attended an art-book fair.  I found it refreshing to wander the stalls of fellow artists and see they are still keen on political disruption, unable to sit with the state of things, pretending this is all *normal*.  It is not normal and it will “not always be like this”.  I hope this is true.

On route to the fair, I noted the beauty of a pre-snow sky as the backdrop to our city skyline.  Today, I sketch from memory.

My friend Kim and I spend the late afternoon and early evening talking about art and resistance and I am refreshed.  She shares with me the story of artist Charlotte Salomon, about whom she’s been reading and who’s work exploded from her while evading Nazi capture (and sadly, other evils even closer to home).  Her tale has more to it than I can even begin to portray here, and I have ordered the books from the library to dive deeper into it all.  In the meantime, there are many articles about her available which I have been reading today.  Here are just a few along with some of her images…..

Museum Publicity

Smithsonian

The Guardian

The New Yorker

The sheer scale of her making is almost unbelievable.  I think about Charlotte painting as if her life depended on it, with urgency and desperation to tell her story before it was too late and  I am glad the work survived at all.  Indeed, this storied work may very well be the world’s first graphic novel as it is now called.  I simply can’t get enough of looking at these paintings.

I think about other artists whose work has captivated my attention, not only for the caliber in the work itself, but for the stories behind the work.  Artists like Edith Lake Wilkinson and Alice Schille, both of whom I have mentioned in previous posts here and there, and both of whom I have found inspiring for their art-making lives.

And through the lens of the work of these artists who’ve come before me in the Grand Arc of Art History, I think about my own work in the world.  I think about how it continues to evolve, stretched between words and image making, between material studies and experimentation.  How it is never comfortable, and when it is, it gets boring.  I wonder how many women artists, like myself or others, have flown under the radar their entire working lives.  Many more than we might possibly count I would wager.

So on this quiet day, here is where my head is.  I mentioned to a friend of mine the other day how spacious this time without the demands and distractions of social media has felt.  We laughed that it’s a bit like when as a stay at home mother, your children first go to school (or perhaps when they leave for college) and suddenly, there is room in your head to actually think deeply.  We in this world do not spend enough time pondering, wondering, engaging in our own thinking, following the mindful breadcrumbs offered from the gods of creativity.

I wish for everyone to give themselves the gift of this space.  I believe the world at large could sorely use some quiet time.

 

The Storming Mind

It’s been a wild few days.  Outward, ever outward.  Shining toward others, ever deserving.  Our oldest ‘small’ is returned to the midwest from Aspen‘s heights.  He is beginning a master’s course of study in violin performance, settling into a house he’s rented from a family we know well.  This gives me the hope that he is therefore surrounded by an extra layer of love as he embarks on this new chapter.   I took a day this last week to make the drive out to his new hometown to purchase that first round of groceries (which always proves to be so costly when one is in one’s 20’s) and to have lunch with him and make sure he’s really and truly back from Colorado.

One never knows.

Turns out he’s properly returned.  And feathering his new Indiana nest with joy and hope for the future.

Into the weekend we plummet.  Another road trip to see an art show in Columbus with a couple of long time artful friends and the younger ‘small’ herself, also settling into early adulthood.  It is a wonderful thing when one’s adult children begin to weave their way into our adult lives becoming yet another friend with whom to share experience and art and life.  We walk her new dog, marveling at the blessings of *neighborhood* and *community* and the gifts they entail.

The show, In a New Light, Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement, is stunning and well worth the visit.  The artist’s use of color is at once familiar and cosmic and I become that annoying art viewer with glasses on getting as close to the work as possible, studying brush strokes and color choices up close.  I even purchase the catalog.  The show is that great.  My friends and I study Alice Schille’s life’s arc and timeline and decide she may have known our beloved Mabel.  Would they have gotten along?  Who could tell.  Mabel was a tricky customer.  But Alice was making her art.  And this is commendable.

The weekend barrels on for myself and my family and while I so enjoy the celebrations and time together, I find myself twitchy today and though quite tired, get the paints out…..

Inspired as I have been by Alice’s work, the watercolors aren’t enough and I reach for the oil’s…..

Oil on Arches ‘Oil Paper’, as yet untitled.

And I knock out a couple of landscape paintings I am not entirely disappointed with.  Not a bad afternoon’s work for one feeling torn in too many directions.  One painting feels a bit like home here on the northern edges of Appalachia (culturally speaking at least, for you geographic purists).  It is an expression of the days of late August, goldening on into September.

The other is more of a reaching out to the bog lands of Ireland where I will find myself in a matter of weeks.  (Still considering taking a small set of oils.  Thoughts, dear readers????)

Oil on Arches ‘oil paper’, as yet untitled.

A few of us once found our boots being pulled into the boggy depths of the peaty regions of dear old Ireland and I have fond memories of this day indeed.

Either way, regardless of where my heart is feeling tugged from one moment to the next, PAINT is always a player -at least in my mind if not in practice-  and I am learning more and more (finally) to turn to it when I can, as well as to the trusty old drawn line.  I find comfort in the art.  I can settle into it.  It’s become less something I avoid for *all the usual excuses* and more a place I run toward for solace.

I am thankful for days of celebrating family.  And for friends who will travel to see a proper art show.  I am thankful for women who made art in a time when it might not have been so fruitful or safe to do so.  Have you seen the movie Packed In a Trunk?  You should.

Tomorrow is a normal Monday.  I have work at the shop to do.   Household things to attend to in between attending to the *art mind and body* as it were.  Life has to happen.  How do you all balance the art making with the need for family time, as well as the solitude which feeds the work and self care?

How can we shut out the world for a bit enough to do our work while not ignoring the realities of the modern age?  It’s a tricky business and I welcome any suggestions.

 

Back To Center

“To Paint is to Love Again.”  ~Henry Miller

We are home from Maine, landlocked once again to Ohio.

Ohio is not without its beauty to be sure.  There have been errands to run, adjustments to be made, momentous birthdays to acknowledge and celebrate.

Suddenly I realize it has been a coon’s age since I had my paints out mixing and dancing their way around the palette.  I must dive back in.

August breezes, when they blow, are humid and hot.  I figure this weather is a strange combination of the dooming of climate-change and good old-fashioned late August in the mid-west.  How are we to know?

Storms do break up the monotony of late summer.  They make for dramatic skies and monumental cloud forms.

From the West, always, the clouds gather.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of age that clouds and birdsong catch my attention now more than ever.   I seek to paint them in between the expectations of a busy, modern life.

This past weekend there were tunes, on tunes, on tunes.  Again I remember – this makes for intense happiness in my heart – I recommit.  The painting and the music are inextricably linked.  I may not be very good at either, comparatively speaking.  But each makes my small heart sing.  And surely this is a measure of something in the world.

Something. –  in the epoch of our own humanity.  We are but a blip in the matrix of the Universe as we know it, and yet we seek these bits of joy and meaning like spiritual breadcrumbs of a sort.

There are more tunes slated for this evening when a few of us gather to choose the autumnal soundtrack for the Riley School of Irish Music.  Tomorrow is a road trip to settle one of the smalls (newly returned from western adventures) into his next adventure in grad school.  It is good to have him near at hand once again.

Travel beckons again soon.  I find myself already getting organized for a weekend trip to Sheboygan in September and a longer journey back to Ireland in October.  Some day if I truly settle in one place, it will be a strange day indeed.  I embrace this traveling side of myself and am grateful for those loved ones who keep the dogs fed and the home fires burning when I am away.  It does not escape me that I am truly fortunate.

When I travel, I travel lightly.  I do not plan to take the oils to Ireland this go round as I’ll be on the go more often than not.  But I have ordered a new sketchbook and I have extra watercolorey books to pack as well.

The goldening, autumnal season will see me diving back into a world of words each morning once again to find my way through the dark of winter.  There is nothing quite like pouring a cup of coffee, lighting a candle and putting pen to paper.  This might keep me sane in the dark months to come.  But so will hitting the road, discovering and re-discovering new places and new tunes.

What plans do you have this late-summer/early-autumn to feed your soul?  How do you survive winters in general?  What have you drawn or painted lately?  As always, I’d love to know.

 

A Word for Feeling

“It is the morning after the night before.”     ~Ciaran Carson (Last Night’s Fun)

I find myself over coffee, eating pie for breakfast.  This is not a bad thing.  As I choose pie over cake any day.

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was, by some accounts, One to Be Reckoned With.  On paper I turned 50.  But as I have never been one akin with numbers, this slice of information seems irrelevant really.  Over the years of my wild and somewhat nomadic life, I’ve known friends and loved ones who’ve lived and loved but briefly in this earthly sphere.  From their early leaving I’ve learned to count my days and age here in this world as blessings, not curses.  They might give anything to be here.

Art by Christina Wald

“Welcome to the Crone sisterhood!  Time for an adventure.  Remember this is the age Bilbo set off!” ~Christina Wald (Creatrix of Embrace the Crone.)

Collectively, we are fairly recently returned from a magical time in Maine….

“Old friends cannot be created out of hand.  Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of equal trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (via@brainpinkings)

One of my oldest and dearest. While I find adventures at the end of a paint brush; she heads down the path of a Good Book. We all do what feeds us on vacation.

We spent a couple of weeks resting and recharging after a spring and summer of hard work and hard play.   I for one simply can never get enough of the sea.  In recent years, I have taken to ocean swimming whenever possible.  I do love the lakeside where we spend the bulk of our time, but honestly, I am an oceanic creature.  I long to come home to that each visit.  These brief forays make me wonder, why do we live so far from the sea?

photo credit Imran Nuri

“Swimming, One Day In August

It is time now, I said,
For the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.

Something had pestered me so much
I thought my heart would break.
I mean, the mechanical part.

I went down in the afternoon
to the sea
which held me, until I grew easy.

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.”

~Mary Oliver  via @shippenverse on IG

photo credit: Imran Nuri

“It is time now, I said, for the deepening and quieting of the spirit
among the flux of happenings.”  And so it is.

“Terrible things are happening outside. Poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.”

~Anne Frank  via @annefrankcenter

Recently on one of the many and varied and periled portals to the online world, I shared the above quote from Anne Frank to my profile.  I do my best to be a good citizen in this world and prefer to engage in political discussions over a cup of tea or glass of wine, face to face and with respect and regard for friends and family with differing views.  But on one particularly difficult news day, Anne’s words came to me and I shared them in response to the day’s events.  I honestly believe that sometimes to say nothing  (even online) speaks volumes.  Even if one is attempting to keep one’s online sphere to work and play (i.e. art and music).

It is no new concept to be misunderstood online and so I was not surprised to be challenged and shamed for sharing the above quote.   “Why compare the recent ICE roundup to the atrocities of the Holocaust?”,  I was asked.

Yes, this is different.  No, these folks were not being rounded up and led to their deaths, necessarily speaking.  Yet I do not think Anne Frank would mind my quoting her in these difficult times. History has taught us that small steps in the loss of our humanity amidst the atrocious treatment of and attitude toward others can be devastating over time.  The Holocaust did not happen over night, but rather incrementally while no one was paying attention, until it was too late.

It is my opinion that we as a country and perhaps as human beings in general are at a crossroads of great importance.  The United States seems to have lost the plot, especially when it comes to empathy toward our fellow ‘human beans’ as I’ve often put it.  The world is left wondering what the hell is going on.  I am fortunate enough to travel outside of the country to know this first hand.  I am also fortunate enough to know folks far less progressive on the political spectrum than myself who agree with me on this current trajectory of inhumane cruelty-turned-policy we face in our government.  At the heart of it all, we simply mustn’t dehumanize one another.  Not at the border, not at protest rallies.

And so where to from here?

So many stars, so little time (click here for the sound track to the writing of this post)

On this my first official day in The Age Of Cronedome (let’s face it, the words “forty-something and fifty-something have very different cultural connotations, though they essentially are but a day apart) I am in a quite privileged place of having space in life to make some decisions regarding my service to the world.  Perhaps I have some wisdom after all.  I continue to believe that the gifts of Art and Music are paramount to my calling in this world.  These will continue to be my focus and my center.  But I also feel a deep commitment to my own human-ness and to the human-ness of others.  I also intend to continue to apply that level of care and humanity to the not-so-human elements of the natural world.  It is time we begin not to be the center of our own planning.  The world needs more of us.

Essentially, as far as age goes, I’ve crested.  I am likely to live far fewer years on this side of fifty than on the first.  So it is more important than ever to simply own who I am in this world and in this lifetime before I embark on the Next Great Adventure, as it were.  I am deeply proud of being a soft-hearted, quick-to-cry “snowflake” (as the modern vernacular puts it) who doesn’t fear living in a world of pure imagination.  I like to think this vulnerability is part of my charm.  Yet much like my beloved Tiffany Aching, though my outer shell may be soft like chalk, I have a center of hard flint which is likely to start fire if it’s agitated enough.  In other words I am tougher than I might seem.

Perhaps you dear readers may see a bit more of what some might call “politics” on this old blog space.  Or perhaps not. But either way, I’d rather you think of it as me just doing what I can while I can during my time left on the earth.

“We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.”  ~DH Lawrence (via September Publishing and Dr. Sharon Blackie‘s If Women Rose Rooted.)

And yet……..

There is love above all.  And just behind that, the notion of right work, which for me is always where I come home to.  The day might be long, the news might be dire.  But there is always a tune to figure out, or a painting with whom to dance or a dog to walk, a loved one to hold.

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.”

–excerpts from the poem “On Work” by Khalil Gibran

(via the lovely work of Karla Sanders)

For me, to do my work, is to love the world.  Even at its most unloveable. This notion, along with that of coming back to my own breathing, are the only things I know to keep me centered in the maelstrom of life.  For at the heart of it all, this is what love is.

“You don’t have to move mountains.  Simply fall in love with life.  Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.  You will change the world just by being a warm, kind-hearted human being.”

~Anita Krizzan ( via a text to me on my birthday from the one and only Amy Malcom who really needs to start a blog, or better yet, write a book.  Her words make a world.)

So back again, to the breath and the work.  I’ve become so practiced that I can find my way in seconds if I but remember to breathe deep, or set about mixing the colors, or playing the scales……

“I should paint my own places best, painting is but another word for feeling.”

~John Constable, 1821

For those of you who’ve been reading awhile, thank you.  To you quiet new ones, welcome.  It’s an introverted paradise here where I sometimes feel I’m writing to a tribe of crickets, but then I meet one at the Trader Joe’s and I’m no longer so lonely in the writing.  (Joan, do come back to RS, the whistle awaits!!)

Happy birthday to me.  Here’s to many more years.

ps, the art work I share here is often for sale.  Do let me know if any of it strikes your fancy and we might work out an exchange.  I picture a back alley transaction involving my wearing boots with many buttons, a hat to hide my visage and perhaps bringing along a young dragon looking for a new home.

 

 

 

view from the point

“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own”

~ David Whyte*

                                                                    *came across this quote via @lachanterie

We find ourselves in Maine, where once upon a long time ago, many many lifetimes ago actually, we came as newly fledged adults to begin finding our way in the world.  Much like recently hatched ducklings, we imprinted on this land then and have returned year after year in pilgrimage to this place which so shaped us in those early days.  The smells, sounds, color and light here are different from all else and they speak in a soul-full tongue indeed.  We are grateful to be here.

As it is a “workaday” sort of day for many of us here, I crept away to a local point to give my paint brushes a little spin, they having collected a bit of dust during my time down other, more musical pathways recently.

I found a perfect spot under a shade tree, at the end of a lane one can find only by foot.  There were welcoming spots in the form of benches and water accessible paths.  I opted for a space at a picnic table and set about to sketch a bit.  It was clear that other artful efforts had occurred in this very space as there was evidence.

So I began with the watercolors, of course.

Eventually moving over to oils…..

…..which are not without their frustrations, but I mixed and painted and observed and corrected and painted some more.  And got the bones of a painting down which I can perhaps work with later in the week once we are settled at camp.

note the stripe up the right side, this is due to the little carrying rack I built (which works a treat actually!) and I will fix it at a later time.

All in all, it was lovely exercise on this, my first day back here in Maine where we are settled in for awhile, nestled by the sea.

 

tools, upgraded

Snow, in summer, at Independence Pass which had just opened up a couple of weeks before our arrival in Colorado.

I am between traveling.  Home from a brief visit to Aspen, Colorado, where our son Jack is part of the Aspen Music Festival, living his musical dreams to the fullest.  It is truly something to witness, one following their truest path.  He is at home in music.

Pictures and video were not permitted during the concerts in Aspen, but I did capture a couple of snapshots during warm up.

While he worked and practiced and performed, we took in the natural splendor of Aspen and surrounds, grateful to Jack’s wonderful hosts who took us in and treated us like family.

It occurred to me while sitting at the base of the Maroon Bells that the best people in our lives, many of the most important connections moving us ever forward and truer in our own lives, have come from a few simple things – art, music, and the pursuit of what makes our souls sing most heartily.

I think about the time years ago, sitting at the base of those same iconic mountains, when I made the decision to pursue a proper art degree upon returning home from a metalworking class I’d taken at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass near Aspen.  What is it about the clear mountain air and the presence of a stately, ancient mountain which affords us such lofty notions?   I do not know.  But I’m beginning to pick up on the fact that if I have something to think about, I should find myself at the foot of Taos Mountain, Volcan de Agua, or perhaps those lovely iron-laden Maroon Bells to find my answers.

Aspen felt like a proper vacation after the rich and deep work done in New Mexico.  While the Hub and I did sketch quite a lot in some gorgeous locations, there were often times I personally just sat and took it all in.  Jackie Morris of The Lost Words  fame recently stated on an episode of Folk On Foot that one of the most difficult things for her to learn as an artist was that the sitting and thinking and looking and thinking some more, are as important to her job of Artist as the pencil and paint to paper practicalities of her craft – perhaps even more so.  Having not come from a background and family of practicing artists, she’s found this notion difficult in past, and has only recently begun to truly take it on board.  I feel much the same.

That said, the watercolors and pencils do beckon in beautiful places, and I did make a few drawings.

Aspen is steeped in the arts, with ties to the taste and aesthetic of the Bauhaus tradition in its design and of course in the music festival itself held there each summer.  Everything is better with the arts involved.

Today, just now, I write to you here fairly giddy with relief, gratitude and a sense of overwhelming possibility.  I have *finally* (after literally years of frustration and hemming and hawing) upgraded my tech tools here in the studio.

I’ve invested in a more travel worthy laptop machine for writing and photo-manipulation on the road, and even opted for a large home-base monitor when I am at my desk in the studio.  Sometime today (*hopefully*) a little scanner will arrive and I’ll get that set up as well.  All of this is in keeping with the plan to get more work made and into the world.  Let’s be fair, I work.  I work a lot.  In some ways I am never NOT working.  But so much of my energy was going into technical glitches and the waiting and slowness of manipulating photos on outdated technology.  If I was to engage in a blog post, I needed a solid day to get it made.  And so, I found myself putting off writing.  I have so much work to share, but with an old scanner, my work never translated well to digital, and so it took a lot to get it tech-ready for sharing online or presenting for publication or applying for grants and residencies.  With some encouragement from Vanessa at NessyPress and moral support from the Hub, I took the plunge and threw the necessary gold coins into the abyss to get the tools I needed.

It took some doing, and a few trips to the computer store and calls to the tech folks at apple, but we managed to get it sorted.  And here I am, knocking out an update here in a more prompt and succinct manner.  This feels sustainable.  It was time for this investment.

But tech tools aren’t the only important thing, of course, merely being the vehicles by which the work is dispersed in this world.  I also took a bit of time to make a traveling oil paint set up.

Watercolor is generally my go to travel companion.  I have the set up I love, a little traveling “van” in which to cart it all, and it really works.  Even so, I pine for the oils when I find myself in beautiful places.  Our family trip to Maine, coming up later this summer, is a perfect combination of loads to do combined with plenty of “down time” to just play.  That play might be on the water, catching up on books we’ve been meaning to read, or perhaps trying new recipes with one’s best friend in tiny kitchen at camp.  But there is always more time, and that is when I start feeling restless, wishing I’d brought some oil paints to play with.

So I put together a handmade pochade box of sorts, crafted from an old wooden cigar box, plus a little carrier for any wet panels I may want to bring home.

The pochade box is pretty sturdy, and the wet panel carrier will do until I decide if this is something I may do again and again.  All in all I spent about $20.  A worthwhile investment on vacation satisfaction I do believe.

Upon returning from Aspen, I felt overwhelmed with home chores and the work needing caught up on at the shop and in my own studio.  And so for the first day or so, I just painted and played music.

This practice set my head on straight and I was then able to sink into the tasks at hand.  I am deeply grateful for all of it.  I often think that in this day and age, it is difficult to remember to take a few minutes to breathe.  To play a tune, paint a picture.  There are Big Things we must tackle (did you hear Amy McGrath is taking on Mitch McConnell??),  situations we must face, as heartbreaking as they are (there has to be a better, kinder, more humane way forward at the border, don’t you think?).  Life is complex, and tormented at times, but it is also beautiful and simple in many ways as well.  It always has been.

Next week I am off once again for my own musical adventure at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina.  On the one hand, this week is truly a get-away-from-it-all Brigadoon of sorts where we forget the world outside, focus on learning tunes and improving our craft and catch up with dear friends who have become musical family over the years.   But on the other hand, it is so much more.

This week at music camp, and for that matter, my week of teaching in Taos each year, are a form of deep magic.  Magic which in some way counteracts all of the darkness we see through our screens in this modern age.   The very human physicality of coming together to play tunes, sing songs, laugh and cry together over the year’s happenings, somehow counteracts the “badness” in the news.  It’s not a cure all to be sure.  But it is the way many of us take respite from it all, if only for a moment, in order to get back out into the world and do the work.

Artists confront the difficult in this world.  Just look online at the work of artists during WW1 who were interpreting the previously unimaginable through their paintings.  I personally have taken to avoiding the echo chambers of social media for my own outrage over the state of things nowadays.  But I have my ear to the ground.  I support candidates who are doing good things in the world.  I take to the streets as needed.  I volunteer with and support the vulnerable.  But I also seek joy.  And beauty amidst the outrage.  For if I, or any of my artist friends begin to lose perspective (and isn’t it so easy to do?) then we amount to nothing.

It is my hope to be a source of light in the darkness in this modern age.  A reminder there is a place by the hearth-fire for anyone who needs a break between difficulties.  We cannot do it all, let alone singlehandedly.  Art and Joy, Music and Friendship, Beauty and Solitude are worthy pursuits, even in this fast paced, crowded,  often seemingly ugly world.  Let us make art and music.

More on the Big Work at Swannanoa here:

Musical Activism

Response on the Eve of Brigadoon

For now, I bid you fare well, and I’ll see you in Maine…….

 

 

 

 

‘Artvangogh’

It is travel season.  I am recently returned from California and while away, my studio window robins hatched and grew.

Mere seconds after this photo was snapped, this last one fledged.  It’s a bit like life itself.  How fast they grow.  Though our fledglings double back on occasion and for this we are grateful.

California was rewarding in her splendor as always, but had a few weather related tricks up her sleeve which complicated things for my workshop days.  That said, I packed in a lot in just a short time, both as a traveling artist and as a teacher.

There were many highlights….

After a class with nature journaling artist Kristin Meuser, (if you are ever in California, take a class from her! She’s lovely!) Rosemary and I headed to Berkeley where we met glass artist Alexis Berger, visited a lovely new shop called Etui, and gazed at magnificent fabrics at a place called Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics.

We had an appointment to meet watercolor maker Amanda Hinton of Limn Watercolors where we got to see how her fabulous paints are made from scratch.  It’s a fascinating brand of magic she does and we were smitten with all the colors.  And with Amanda herself.

Amanda Hinton of Limn Colors shows us around the room where it happens.
All the juicy colors

Limn colors do the usual fun stuff watercolors are known for, like mixing beautifully and replicating stained glass with their translucency, but some of her colors can separate and bloom in evocative ways that we have found enchanting.  I have a whole row of her colors in my paint set now which afford me abilities I’ve not had in the past.

Pigments awaiting
Half pans, drying
Samples and the muller

It was great fun to try and buy a few new colors to add to our collection and I am so thankful to Amanda for her time and warm welcome.

Also in Berkeley was a wonderful creative re-use arts supply store and the amazing Burma Superstar restaurant.  We even managed to stop into California Typewriter, of documentary fame…..

 

We were warmly welcomed by Ken and Herb and enjoyed looking at the machines currently in store there.

All in all it was a perfect, busy, sunny California day.

The sunny bit was not to continue.  Alas, the weekend forecast was wet. wet. wet.  So we worked indoors with exercises students will be able to take out of doors on their own at a later time.  Not ideal, but neither is sketching and teaching in the rain.  We were at least cosy.

There is plenty to draw in the home of an interesting, artistic friend.  Here’s a small demo drawing of a wee humbled Buddha I did for the workshop.

The following days were to see us dodging rain drops to capture the wild water on the coastline.

The sun did come out for a few minutes so we sat down to sketch on this beautiful spot in Asilomar, only to be foiled by big raindrops. We ran for the car, rain splattering our drawings. It’s a risk we take yes?
I do love a tide pool.

Again, not ideal, but we managed.  Day two of workshops was moved by one day for those available to make it, and we did manage a few hours of sunlight between rainstorms on our day of working together.  We also managed a few more sketches.

Art L-R by Amy Bogard, Sandi Kane, Rosemary Berwald
The trusty art vans! Always on the gogh. 😉

Painting at the sea side is by far one of my favorite things.  I am often torn between the desire to simply sit and stare at the shifting light and color of the ocean and to capture it in my sketch book.  This feeling is magnified by the limited time I always have by the sea.

I find myself wondering why I do not live nearer to big water.

Somewhere where I might take my blue art van and wander down the lane to the sea shore for a few hours to sketch and stare….. maybe daily.

Suffice it to say, time in Santa Cruz is never enough time.  In the same way that time at Ballybunion Beach is never enough.  Or time on Monhegan is never enough.  Alas.  Time marches on…..

Next up is an ocean of a different kind.  An ocean of sage.  In just two weeks’ time I’ll be back in New Mexico for my flagship travel journaling course at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House once again.  Every year is a gift and I am thrilled to be heading back.

The weather seems like it might be more cooperative in Taos than in California, even leaning more cool than in recent years.  We shall see.  But at the very least, sunshine, New Mexico style.

My studio is less a place of making just now and more a place of packing and preparations.

The art van, of course, at the ready.  A new sweater for the (hopefully) cool Taos nights, and maybe a friend or two along for company.

Swag is being readied.

I consider what art supplies to bring for my own making, while making sure that I have all the extras for the workshop participants as well.

It can make one’s head spin to be sure.  But the paint set is clean (after being dusted quite heavily by volcanic ash in Guatemala and a grain or two of sand in Santa Cruz) and refilled (note the lovely middle line of mostly Limn colors!!)

I have a few new pencils to try, including a light blue one suggested by Kristin Meuser during her workshop and a couple of Blackwing pencils all the rage with my illustrator friends.

All of it tucks away into the little van, along with a book or two to draw and paint in.  It’s all quite compact actually.

This year I have made the decision to simplify my packing process for the Taos trip.  I am only bringing a few of my current books, not a box full of past years’ books like I do normally.  And instead of bringing yet another box full of published books for people to peruse, I will bring a list of said books to share with my students so they can explore when they get home via bookstore and library.  We will instead focus on the work at hand.  It’s a strange shift, but I feel good about it.

It’s easy to look at the wonderful empty classroom at Mabel’s and feel like we need to fill it with things other than ourselves and our small packs of art supplies.  This is especially the case for me as facilitator.  But this is not true.  That room fills with laughter and conversation and the joy of working into the wee hours on sketches begun earlier in the day.  WE fill the room.  WE are enough, with just our supplies on hand.

I am so excited to get back to Taos where this whole traveling-art thing began for me so many years ago.  Every year is different, and yet there is the lovely familiarity to lean into as well.  I am open to what I have to learn there year after year and am grateful for the opportunity to go back once again.