Recently I’ve participated in some online workshop-gatherings of a sort. Neither have been “classes” per se but rather more intended as an artistic shot in the arm – a path to creative exercise that isn’t my own regularly trodden path.
It is good to get out of one’s own way sometimes. In this strange era of no teaching or traveling, barely making anything of note (besides a fair amount of really good food), there comes this opportunity to step outside of my norm, to tune out this world gone mad for an hour or so once a week. It has been good. Creating space for some play time has re-enlivened a few tried and true practices which had gone a bit stale over the course of the pandemic. One such practice is that of my bedside sketchbook.
I came to the tail end of that little bedside book and it’s rich with interesting characters. I’ve no idea who they are or why they are, they just are.
Some of them might be worth developing further one day, so as not to be trapped for eternity in the pages of a small book, but we shall see. For now, here are a few of my favorites…
Sometimes, these Fine Folk would escape the bedside and make their way into the day book, alongside bits of poetry, to-do lists and the keeping of a calendar. I welcome them too.
Yesterday I slipped into the art store before heading into the concertina shop. I splurged on new versions of red and blue in the oil paints. I also picked up a cheap little sketchbook to begin another volume of the bedside book.
It is nothing fancy, I just use pencil in it anyway, so no need for fancy. I collaged the cover to make it my own, and will set it on the bedside table with a newly sharpened pencil to see who pays a visit before I collapse into a restless sleep.
I am restless due to current events and this raging pandemic and all that goes with it. As I write this, I am receiving text messages from family and far flung friends with the news that the president has once again been impeached. This is good news indeed, I think. But honestly, I am weary. Weary of ignorance and misinformation and cruelty. I hope we can move through all this and one day gain footing on a sense of normality, whatever that may look like after these horrifying past months and years. But time will tell.
For now, there is puppy kindergarten beginning this evening. There are more meals to attempt which feed our bodies in healthy ways. The sun shone today a good bit as well. All is not lost, at least right here at home. And that is what I cling to just now. I hope you are doing well and hugging those you can.
“There is another world, but it is in this one.” ~W.B. Yeats
Recently, we spent a week away in another world. Down to the low-country coastal barrier-island of Tybee we traveled, as I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for my lost (or at least post-poned) month’s work in Ireland, among other things. Both of us pining for the sea, we watered the plants here at home, packed the dog and a kayak and some food into the car and slipped away into the pre-dawn darkness.
It was worth the day’s journeying.
We made friends with sand and surf and a few others – crow and cat being among my favorites.
There was much beach combing and waterside wandering.
Even Charlie found her way to the edges of things, though dogs aren’t permitted onto beaches in the proper sense. I think she was content regardless of the limitations.
We should all be more like Charlie in this way, contented amidst the limitations we find upon us in these times.
There was much marshiness and moss which, mosquitos notwithstanding, I found to be quite captivating.
It was all so much to take in. I found it exceptionally healing.
There were weddings to witness….
Sunrises to greet….
Sketches to make….
And paintings to begin…
The space and pace of an off season beach town is something I highly recommend. We were excited to plan a small getaway, but also a bit leery about whether there would be too many other people around whom we’d have to avoid, these being anxiety-ridden Covid times.
In the end, there was space to spare. And we were grateful for it.
Soon it was time to come home to the harvest. We still have a few tomatoes on the vine which may or may not ripen. (I am researching pickling options for green tomatoes….).
I gratefully gathered a few hawthorn berries to make into a tea, though mostly because I merely adore their color.
Eventually we readied the back garden for a small gathering of our family which would serve as a celebration of the season at hand, and possibly seasons still to come.
We sense difficult times in the weeks ahead. Covid numbers are climbing and we will not be able to gather indoors for Thanksgiving, and likely not Christmas either. So I hatched a plan to host a “well-filling, out-of-doors, socially distanced, fully masked, early Thanksgiving” dinner for my family. I decided I’d set a date and let the weather gods determine if it might happen or not. In the end we were granted a most glorious day. We went ahead with our plans.
Thankfully everyone was respectful of our strict protocol for mask wearing when not at the tables eating.
It was just good to have everyone ‘sort of’ together in one place before we head into winter. A winter which may feel a bit like a revisitation to the quiet time of early lock-down and quarantine.
Time will tell. But for this one day, we safely took what we could get.
I like to think Dr. Fauci would approve of our handling of the gathering, he having said, more or less, ‘if you can’t have Thanksgiving outside, and socially distanced, then don’t have it’.
Each separate family household came inside to fill their plates independently. Even the kids were on board. I appreciate the respect and care everyone brought to our day together. I wouldn’t have chanced it all if I thought they might behave otherwise.
There was the typical fare – a turkey, smashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, chips and dips and casseroles galore. All of the standard comfort foods related to our traditional Thanksgiving meal. While thankful I don’t eat like this most of the time, there is something about all of the carb-laden goodies that is truly good for the soul. They don’t call it ‘comfort food’ for nothing. We dove in with abandon and it was delicious.
Given one perfect day of weather for our early Thanksgiving, we then weathered rain on the following day to cast our ballots into the box at the local Board of Elections. We were glad to do so. Even today, people stand in line in the rain to vote in person. At least we are all voting, one way or another.
Later, the rain abated and it was time for a hike in the woods…..
…..where nature is always full of surprising things.
A wander in the woods always has the capacity to reset things in our hearts, allowing for a recalibration of sorts. I have a deep sense that things in general will be slowing now as we head into late autumn and whatever the rest of the season may bring with it.
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US) / Benedictus (Europe)
I also have a deep sense that things may get even crazier here in this country in the weeks ahead. Having cast my ballot early, along with so many fellow citizens, I find myself drifting away from the daily news, merely awaiting results of the eventual electoral outcome. I have cautious optimism some days. Other days, a drive into the countryside to the edges of our city gives me pause for all the republican paraphernalia and propaganda to be found there. As usual, time will tell. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is to hold no expectation too tightly. Everything can change on a dime.
This has always been the case, it’s just now more obvious.
I welcome the slow days ahead, as much as I miss holiday frivolity with loved ones. Somehow a hibernation feels more natural for the season. I often crave a bit of quiet this time of year, and this year perhaps I shall have it. Sure there are still zooms and classes and the like, but my intent is to capture a spirit of spaciousness, thoughtfulness and mindfulness in the weeks and months ahead. I think this space might give us some time to reconcile with all that has happened this year. To perhaps shift our way of thinking and being in adjustment to the State of Things.
This month I have reinvigorated a daily drawing practice by participating in the annual “inktober” drawing challenge. This has given me not only practice drawing in general, but making little time-lapse films as well. Here are a few….
I hope the season is being kind to you in one way or another. We are all grappling with so much of late. And it’s all happening quite fast really. My wish is that in the midst of the madness we might find a tune we love to play and play it. That we might see something worth painting and paint it. That we might begin or perhaps continue the planting and plotting of a garden bed.
I’ll share some paintings soon. Keep the faith in the meantime.
I’ve been for a long walk this morning, some exercise before the day begins in earnest. There is a heron out on the swim dock which is great to see. Up to now, our dock has merely been a pit stop for ducks and sea gulls. Yesterday while out on the lake we spied osprey, a magnificent bald eagle hunting for fish, and many iconic loons.
Their calls to one another haunt our dreams.
It is my full intention to be firmly present in these final couple of days here in Maine, but I admit to already feeling the pressure of the journey home which we will undertake in the wee hours of Sunday.
We are steeped in friendship and gratitude, natural splendor and rest, great food, camaraderie and play. The well is nigh full and we can draw on it back in our day to day at home.
There are small projects planned which will keep me grounded in practice, as the goldening of late summer drifts down on everything. There is a wistful sadness to the time of year, always, and especially now.
Tomorrow I shall have one more quick dip in the sea (don’t worry, I’ll avoid any shark tending locales!) and perhaps another bite or two of ocean sourced food, before packing up and readying for home. Next I write, I’ll be back in my familiar haunts and settling into what could be a long autumn, what with one thing and another and so many precious plans canceled. It will be important to maintain an even keel in the months ahead. To lean into the winds in a way that fills the sails and keeps us on course.
Perhaps today I’ll have a sailing lesson.
Much appreciation for you all reading along with me on these recent adventures. I shall endeavor to keep writing, even as we settle back into normality. For there is beauty and even some adventure to be found there as well.
By day, my porch-based co-worker Poppy and I work on some sketches and picture post-cards to send along to my trusty pen-pals. We also sketch. Crows caw in the trees above, but Poppy pays them no mind.
Technically I am on vacation, but art-making is not merely work for me, but play. This line being quite blurred in the day to day back home, vacation reminds me the importance of the ‘play’ side of the equation.
I begin with pencil, moving on from there to a little traditional sketch with watercolor and a bit of ink. All good, and a great way to warm up.
After a bit, I want to paint but I am too lazy to move off the porch to retrieve the gouache set up. So I ask the watercolors if they might like to play, just for fun.
And these two little paintings happened. I am pleased with them and will treat them as studies for larger works. We shall see. Tomorrow they will be on the wing, stamped for traveling.
Either way, it is fun to feel like I have tapped into something – a bit. We have, after all, been mired in fear and grief, anxieties and longing of late. It can be taxing to a soul. This journey to our Maine homeland has been a pleasant escape, though signs of the state of all things are readily apparent anywhere we go. So few tourists -to drive through Freeport is nigh on creepy. Any ‘outing’ we do has strict protocols for safety and distancing. But we carry on. Occasionally managing an oyster (like on our anniversary) or a beer or two, like last night.
By night, all the household co-workers come together for a bevvie and a catching up on the day, grateful to be together in these strange times. Tonight it’s dinner in, which is good. One can only handle so much town-centered anxiety.
It is nearly 3 pm here and I have yet to get my swim in for the day, but I am keen to try. We shall see…….
Meantime, here is another version of a selkie song I shared yesterday:
With all this ocean swimming of late, here’s a reminder of the wee filim (that’s Irish speak for film) I did a couple months ago (doesn’t it seem like an AGE!!!) with my pal Nuala and her musical mates from the Snowflake Trio:
As any of the long time readers among you here already know, much of the focus of my work involves the art of keeping a travel journal. I am often found wandering the world to my favorite depth-filled places to capture a bit of their magic and bring it home with me, in my journals and on this blog as well. My travels have shaped who I am since I was a small girl. Though divorce and poverty curtailed my adventures in later childhood and my teen years, the gypsy spirit of early life remained. Through more localized years here back in Ohio, I learned to appreciate the magic all around me in the mundane. I walked barefooted in the creek behind my friend’s house and searched for fascinating crawdads. For vacations we camped and hiked, and once even took a “Big Trip” up to the Great Lakes.
“You pass through places and places pass through you
But you carry them with you on the soles of your travelers shoes.” ~ The Be Good Tanyas
Like many in the world just now, I do not know what my work will look like in the coming months and possibly years.
There will likely be a curtailment of my rambling ways at least short term . Time will tell. But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be working in my sketchbook, or that I’ll quit teaching. I may need to go back to what got me here in the first place.
“And I’m going to quit these rambling ways
One of these days soon, ooh” ~be good tanyas
You see, the amazing trips I take and the workshops I teach started off because people would get a glimpse of my sketchbook and say, “you should teach that.” It took me a long time to take these comments seriously. For the longest time, I didn’t even know other people made books like mine, filled with thoughts, doodles, sketches, quotes, artful experiments, photos, stamps, etc. It’s just what I did as a way to check in with myself. A way to have a history of it all.
“What was any art but a mold to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away. Too strong to stop. Too sweet to lose.”
~ Willa Cather
The piles and piles of books I have amassed over the years have played a large part in teaching me who I really am at the heart of it all. My travels are amazing, sure. But sometimes it’s the bits between the trips where the real work is happening. The practicing. The daily dredging for internal inspiration. The reaching toward a lighter way of being in the world. Turning away from the constant stream of what the broader popular culture says I should think and care for, and figuring out my own true north. All of this happened in my books.
How to Make a Travel Journal for Turbulent Times?
There is a lot of content flying around on the internet. Really great stuff from artists and musicians and writers, interpreting this time in their own way. Continuing to make art in spite of dire uncertainty. I’ve also seen many fellow artists admit that they are simply a bit shell-shocked by it all and are finding it difficult to concentrate. This is where I happen to fall.
We mustn’t be too hard on ourselves. I’ve been blogging and drawing a bit, but the hum of worry about The State of Things occupies a lot of bandwidth. I am beginning to settle in to this new normal, this grand and difficult state of unknowing and anxiety and I am beginning to think about my own contribution in the midst of it.
This morning in the wee hours, the words Traveling through Turbulent Timeskept weaving and wandering through my troubled mind. And so I grabbed onto the tail of one of those threads and followed it awhile and came up with some ideas.
So, let’s start a travel journal. Right now. In the midst of chaos.
An historian I follow over on twitter (wish I could remember which, but I can’t) posted something that stuck with me. They said something to the effect of:
“Start a journal. Write all of this down. What you feel, how you are affected by all of this, all of it. Historians in the future will thank you.”
I believe this to be true. Even before all of this started, I have always believed that everyone of us matters. I still believe this. Our voices are recognizable on the phone when a loved one or friend picks up on the other end of the line. This holds true for drawing and writing as well.
“The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs.” ~the be good tanyas
So below are some tips to get started and links to light the way. I give you these with a promise:
I will be here. Reach out to me here on the blog, over on IG or Twitter or Facebook and send me a message. We can chat about what holds you back, ideas to get a page started or completed, what to do about a drawing. We can do this, together. This is my gift to you for the time being….
Step 1: Get yer materials together.
A book, a little set of watercolors and a few things to write/draw with. That’s it. Most of us have some sort of blank book we “don’t want to ruin” lying around on a shelf somewhere. Get it out and mess it up. As for watercolors, if you don’t have them, try to order them, or, send out the proverbial bat signal in your local community. Some one is bound to have something lying around. We will work together with the materials YOU have.
Step 2: Set an intention (and optional step 2.a, collage the cover of your book. Nothing fancy, just some cut out stuff you like. Get some glue all up in it. Allow to dry.)
Pick a quote that you like. If you find this overwhelming, let me know, I have a stash of them. A good one for the time we find ourselves in is:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
~JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of The Ring
Now write or type or print this quote into the front cover or first page or so of your book.
Step 3: (the scary step) Begin
This is the hard part. The part where you will not like your drawings for a while perhaps, or you might notice your handwriting has tilted one way or another, you might “mess up” a page. Keep going. Trust me. And here are a few ways how as you move forward…….
Seek the words of the wise ones. Write or type them out on an old typewriter or print them out to glue into your book. (not just for the intention page, but wherever you feel like sprinkling them throughout your own book.)
Don’t be afraid of the dark stuff. You can always paint over it if you need to later. But get it out. Write that shit down lads. Get. It. Out. On to the page. Look at work by Amanda Grace, Julia Cameron, and others.
Slow down and savor the small things. Make a cup of tea in your favorite cup. Try drawing it. Then do it again. Notice the differences in your drawings. Make notes. Do it again. Look at the work of Dan Price and Danny Gregory.
If you are new to watercolor, begin by just making colors. See how much water is too much, too little. See how far you can stretch a color out with just water, thus creating value. Make little color swatch squares, page after page after page of experiments. Make a day of it. Try to match some colors in your home or yard if you are permitted out of doors. There are so many greens and grays in the world it might make your head spin. (Hit me up if you are struggling, and we can do a zoom chat and make some colors.)
Time travel!! Use old photos of past trips, or online photos of dreamed of journeys as inspiration and source photos for drawings. Approach these drawings in a variety of ways. Contour drawing, just paint, paint and ink, pencil.
Make a note every day of something that makes you go *gasp*. Pay attention to these things. They will light the way.
In spite of the world seeming dim just now, write down the things you see, hear, read that are positive. Our brains are hardwired as a survival trick to follow the negative. We must circumvent that to stay mentally healthy.
Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Pick a color, and draw/ paint/ list 3-5 things that are of that color around you.
For 1 week, make a page of what you eat each day. Draw or print pictures to put in your journal.
If you are able to get outside at all, either on a hike by yourself, or just out in your own garden, make a nature journal. Get to know the work of my husband Tony over on instagram. He “doesn’t consider himself an artist.” But I beg to differ. He just began, and kept going……
Keep track of which birds are coming or going, what plants are popping up. Learn your weeds and your mushrooms. Draw them. There is no better way to get to know them.
Note that Cathy Johnson is offering her book about keeping an artist’s nature journal for free viewing online.
“copy” the work of artists you admire. Do this in your sketchbook as a great way to learn. Make a note on your drawing of who you are “working in the style of” and what you learned.
Don’t be afraid to be silly, get into your imagination a bit now and then.
Step 4: Keep going, enjoy the journey.
Hook up online with your local chapter of the Urban Sketchers. If you don’t have a chapter near you, come join us Cincinnatians. It’s a wonderful, inclusive community. All chapters around the world just now are working virtually. It’s a great time to practice from the safety of your desktop while getting to know your fellow sketchers online. Join us!
As a global community, we are collectively on entirely new ground. There will be discomfort and grief. And possibly a lot of it. I can only say that a practice of sitting with a simple sketchbook set up and taking stock, even in, and perhaps especially in, the roughest times, can be a bit of a soothing balm to a weary soul when all is said and done. These personal impressions of ours are important to express. And one day we may even want to share them.
We will get through this, alone, together. I’m off now to get out of my pajamas (it’s 2 pm.) and to make a pot of soup and some cookies. I plan to wrap these up to deliver to neighbors as a way of saying hi, I love you and to connect in a way that isn’t online. Then likely I’ll play a few tunes, write a bit in my journal, make a painting. Join me.
And then a wee shadow to ground your developing figure in space….
(for the record, my sunshine is found in the left of my little world.)
Once your carrot is feeling like a figure, time to clothe it a bit. This is done with some basic shapes, like rectangles. The vendors here in Guatemala with their traditional outfits (the word for these is “traje”) are lovely to sketch in this way as the forms found in their clothing can be broken down to simple shapes.
Next I begin to add some appendages for this particular figure.
I then add a bundle on her head. Folks here work so hard! They carry their wares for peddling on their backs, heads, arms and then walk and walk and walk to make a sale.
I begin to find light in the bundle….
Then some patterning in her corte…..
And added some color therein….
I darken her outfit, showing the shadow beneath her heavy bundle….
a little more personality to her shadow.
Then I begin to add more wares for her to sell to the tourists here in Antigua. Necklaces which will dangle from one arm whilst her other balances the bundle above.
More colors on the necklaces and some threads too.
She’s looking good I think!
So very tiny, but these little portraits really have a ton of personality and I enjoy creating them!
I am SO inspired by the Guatemalan people. So very patient with us often clueless tourists with our clumsy spanglish. Quick with a smile and a “buenos días” on the sidewalk. The traditional textiles worn around town are a feast for the northern-most among us so thirsty for color. It is such great fun to learn about the various patterns and places represented in these weavings and embroideries. And great fun to explore them in a variety of ways in my sketchbook….
It is a liminal time. Alone with my thoughts and a well earned glass of wine, I straddle two weeks of this travel journaling workshop process.
It has been una semana mágica – a magical week, indeed.
Together we glimpsed enough of the city to capture our hearts and imaginations. Those new to this mystical city found themselves captivated by it, and those of us returning, renewed our love affair with color, light, a vibrant, smiling community of people of all walks along with rich history, sound and beauty.
A great deal of work was accomplished in our sketchbooks and within our eyes and minds which were opened to places previously untapped. Of course this was not possible without spending time out in the city itself. Walking, dining, shopping, meeting new friends, observing the comings and goings of people, light, color, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, vendors, joggers and fellow tourists.
We came to this trip not without our own troubles, this is to be sure. The world has some really hard stuff going on just now, and the hope was we might delve into the beauty here for a respite. A refill. In order that we might better serve others upon our return to regular life.
“Lovers find secret places inside this violent world where they make transactions with beauty.”
I wish the fellow artists of week one fair winds and following seas in their journeys back into their work-a-day lives. That they might bring some color, slowness, and beauty back home with them.
One of our kinds hosts here in Antigua is Hugo Espinoza, manager at Posada San Sebastián as well as a brilliant photographer. We commissioned him to give us a tour of his Antigua, the city he was raised in. He thankfully obliged.
Hugo, accompanied by his camera showed us around Antigua, complete with intoxicating samples at the local chocolate museum, glimpses into the back courtyards of some of the higher end hotels, meetings and greetings with local artisans….below is a glimpse….
And so the week flew along, at once fleeting and expansive. So much work. It is a wonder we hadn’t split ourselves into multiple selves to get it all accomplished. Such is always the case with these magical places, is it no.
All in all it was a tremendously successful week. And now I am part celebrating, part resting, part readying for week two which I am sure will find it’s own brand of Antigua magic.
It’s fun toward the end of the week to begin doing occasional “throw downs” where we all share our work. This can be intimidating of course, but with such a small tight knit group, sharing was fun and inspiring.
We all learn so much from one another. I simply provide a container of space and place in which to foster it all. Art doesn’t have to be a competition. We all begin some where, do we not?
There is a sacred quality to the creation of something which wasn’t there before. Even if it’s “just a sketch”. There is a special magic to spending time, real, slow time with a scene, a place, a person we find inspiring, and following the bones of it with our pens, pencils and paints.
It is this slowness in the travel experience which really shines in this process. I am deeply grateful to facilitate this amazing work in a small way here in Antigua, Guatemala. Dates are set for next year. Let me know if you are interested.
There is a lovely and welcoming new gallery space situated right downtown where things are busy and fancy like. Some of us “urban sketcher” types have wrangled a few of our recent drawings into proper frames and are having a show. There is even an Opening.
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…..
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.
Fine Folk grace the pages of my sketchbook, along with wise words from the wisdom keepers I trust. I look to these wisdom keepers as beacons, following their light, as will-o-the-wisp….. into the darkness.
One such beacon, writer Robert Macfarlane, was featured in an interview with Krista Tippett of the program On Being. They discuss a recent book of his called Underlandwhich is a gorgeous, lengthy tome; an exploration of the world beneath our feet as seen and sensed from a variety of angles. It’s the kind of book that deserves to be by one’s bedside to fill the mind with juicy and delicious language as a doorway into dreaming. This book apparently took Macfarlane 6 years to complete. He dipped into other projects along the way of course, but this one crept along, under everything else it would seem. It was worth the wait.
Underland explores a concept of Deep Time, one that is beyond human, but which can be tapped into by those of us with the proper notions to do so. If you have been reading my ideas here over the years, you know this is something I hold dear, this time-bending. I believe it is at the heart of the things we treasure as human beings. Good art, rich poetry, the ability to go beyond the day to day. To send our cultural tap roots down into the flow of All Things and perhaps channel something up. All of this of course takes time and practice. And there are no guarantees.
‘In verse, a pause in the rhythm of a line after a phrase; in choral work, a moment where singers might catch their breath.’
I really admire the depth of the work of writers such as Macfarlane, and I look to them for clues as to how to dig deeper into my own work. Art as well as writing. Even on social media channels, he and others like him make places like twitter and instagram into arenas of culture and idea-weaving. I aim to do the same, having curbed my own use of such channels into avenues of art and music. It’s a tricky balance in a world filled with instant sound-bytes and the next great and funny thing. Last week Macfarlane announced he will be off of twitter for a while with the word caesura and its definition.
I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to do that.’
The idea of taking a break from social media is by no means a new one, by myself or anyone else for that matter. There are books on digital detoxing which I have looked to when desperate for a break from it all. Lately, thankfully, I have not felt desperate to leave the online arenas of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I have them fairly well and carefully “curated” in order to see things which inspire me. New books to read, artists to research and learn something from, science to pique my curiosity and better my stewardship of my little part of the world. I choose when and how to get my “news” as that can be fraught with peril in this day and age. We must be careful what we feed ourselves, body and mind.
And yet, although not desperate to leave per se, I could use a break. What keeps me tethered to the usual channels is the business end of things. Usually, I am in marketing mode this time of year. Selling my classes to Taos and Guatemala. Hustling to show the world that yes, we go to beautiful places, have an amazing time together and make a bunch of gorgeous work. (WE DO!!!!! ) And this is all part of my job. But this year, I have been given a great gift….. My classes for 2020 are mostly sold out (there are two slots left in the second week of the Antigua offering. That’s it!) For once, I can relax a little bit. And so I am considering a break over the holidays.
If this idea comes to fruition, I’ll be off of twitter, facebook and instagram from Nov 29 – Jan 1.
I wonder sometimes, if I make something, or write something, but I don’t shout it into the void of the social media platforms, have I really created anything? This is the culture we are sold in this modern age. I would like to confront this culture, especially in my own mind. I’d like to follow some breadcrumbs of my own making just to see where they may lead. Without the pressure to report.
This will be an interesting experiment. I just began a weekly story idea which will continue to grow here, but folks will have to come find it, or wait until the New Year when I get back into the swing of things of sharing. Soon, I’ll be packing for Guatemala and sharing via instagram sun-kissed, color-washed images of our time in Antigua. It is in this way I beckon to future students to step into the sunshine with me and come on along!! But with the classes filled to brimming, and a lovely waitlist padded out for Taos, I feel I can take the social media break I’ve been craving for years, without having to crash and burn mentally to get it. It’s a good place to find myself.
So we shall see. It is always a balance. I may yet shift this plan into something less stringent. But I am always leaning toward trying a new tactic with regard to my presence in the online world. And for once I have the space to do so.
In other news…….
With Riley School out for break, I am back to sketching along with my mates in the Cincinnati Urban Sketchers. Last week we had a “boUrban sketchers” outing where we tasted bourbon at New Riff distillery. It was great fun!! Come along with us sometime!
I have a few paintings up at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s winter Collective show, EMERGE. This one below was the belle of the ball. I received many complements and offers to buy it. But alas, it was snatched up by a private collector just days before the show. I think the theme is one I’d like to explore further. The quietude of this piece seemed to speak to a number of people.
The other work on which I received a good bit of feedback is this little lovely, Bonny Hills, whose skies are filled with subtle color. This is a second theme I hope to explore further in more paintings in the new year. This one has not yet sold…. One of my fellow collective members said to me, I get the sense you were meant to be in Ireland. How right she is.
In the music arena, the Riley School of Irish music will present its annual holiday program Peace and Merriment, at 2 pm December 14. Our address is 2221 Slane Avenue in Cincinnati. Hope to see you there! We also play a weekly session out in town: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays we can be found at Ludlow Garage in Clifton, 2nd and 4th Tuesdays , Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue. Stop in and say hi!