I had a minor meltdown the other day.  Ok, maybe slightly more than minor.  It may have been a case of burn-up-on-reentry after my NYC trip, faced with real life again with all of its complexities.  It may have been this nasty cold that I am trudging my way through.  It may have been the fact that tornado season is about to end and with it, my earning potential as a puppeteer.  It was more than likely all of these and more.  I spiraled downward into the familiar dark hole where the questions of why do I make art, will I ever make a living doing anything artful, is it even worth it….are the norm.  It’s not a fun place to be.  Even at my grumpiest, I usually don’t have the chuck-it-all-away sensation more than once a year, but here I was, feeling like I just wanted to quit.

Timing is everything they say.  And so it has been since my little existential crash.  Here are a few examples:

1.  The long overdue dedication to the ArtWorks mural Tina, our teen apprentices and I worked so very hard on all winter, was yesterday.  We got to unveil the work in dramatic fashion and were treated to a wonderful reception by the appreciative folks at the Convention Center.  Our friends and families were there to cheer and ooh and ah.  It was great!  It is not often that such work is so publicly celebrated.  It cheered me up a bit in spite of being in crisis mode internally.

2.  While at the dedication, a good friend of mine congratulated me and asked how I am doing.  I let her know that I was a bit down and just didn’t feel like the art life is for me.  I think I may have said something about looking for a real job.  A standard day job.  She just smiled and said, “you can’t quit being an artist Amy.  It’s like motherhood.  you don’t just quit.”  I smiled back.  She’s right.

3.  I came home from the party and checked my facebook and email as usual.  I am an NPR fan both on the radio and on facebook.  On their FB fan page there was a post about a video for Josh Ritter’s song The Curse which features puppets handmade by the drummer in his band.  It’s so beautiful and artful.  I fell immediately in love and watched again and again.  It reminded me of what I love about puppetry.

4. Then, in my email, there were three separate messages from 3 very different places.  One was a follow up from my sketchbook class last fall saying she would like to take the class again now that there’s a book making component to it and that she’s tremendously excited to go on the Taos trip next spring.  The other two messages were from people whom I know personally but who had never seen my art work.  They both want to meet to talk about art for their homes.

5.  Ok, so by now, you get the point.  Avalanche of reminders.  But I have one more little thing to share.  Today I have been at the computer most of the day getting caught up on Drawing Down The Vision work with emails and blog posts, research and finding my way around this cool thing called Basecamp.  I am trying to pull myself up by my boot straps.  Getting some illustrations out onto Veer and other online stock photo websites to maybe make some extra arty income.  One guy’s work that Adam introduced me to is Hugh McLeod, creator of cube grenades which are little art works geared toward the business set.  He had this to say about art:

“I’m inte­res­ted in how art affects what some peo­ple call “The Real World”- the work­place, the world of  work, the world of busi­ness. That’s what the cube grenade idea is all about.

My adver­ti­sing buddy,Vinny Warren, grew up in a Roman Catho­lic hou­sehold in Ire­land. He was telling me that his parents would always have a few reli­gious icons han­ging on the wall somewhere. Pic­tu­res of Saints, Mary & Baby Jesus, that kind of thing.

Why? Says Vinny, “To remind us who we are.”

Art that reminds you who you are. Exactly. What applies in Catho­lic hou­seholds also applies in pla­ces of busi­ness. Sha­red Mea­ning. Exactly. Social Objects. Exactly.

I don’t think any of this is roc­ket science…”

Hugh’s art is pretty edgy and cool.  Very different than mine.  But he reminds me that there is a place for art work anywhere.  In the homes of people who admire our work.  Or in the day job offices of folks who might not be artists themselves but like surrounding themselves with reminders of who they are.

I am sitting here in my studio, surrounded by all kinds of reminders such as books, art from friends, bits of found stuff, grateful that I have an artist’s mind and heart.  Difficult though that path may be to hike from time to time.  I’m grateful for the reminders from the Universe or whatever Its Name may be that came to me in a low soul time, though this one’s gonna take some serious diggin’ out.

Below are some snapshots of the great unveiling of our mural.  Enjoy.

oh, and p.s.  I hope you get to spend some time this Memorial Day Weekend to think about those who have been lost, in war and beyond…..

Here’s Tina, tearfully thanking everyone and explaining her vision for the mural.

Jake Speed and the Freddies were there to entertain.  Their lyrics are in our piece as well.

…. and so the veil comes down….

Lots of time in front of the mural for pictures and congratulations.

Here Kim finds the lyrics to her song, The Greatest Story.

We had quite a crowd for the party.

I guess it’s official.  I’m an artist.

What do i know?

“Science works with chunks and bits and pieces of things with the continuity presumed, and the artist works only with the continuities of things with the chunks and bits and pieces presumed.”

~Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance

Last week I traveled to New York City.  This was only my third visit to the ginormous metropolis but it was the most relaxed visit I’ve had thus far due to a comfortable home base and a good long time to stay in town, not to mention friendly locals.  The primary reason for the trip was to accompany my friend kim on a music trip but I also knew that it would afford me the opportunity for some time on my own to think, draw and write in my sketchbook.  The week was filled with music, coffee, more music, amazing salads, subway rides, dog parks, more coffee, lots of thinking, writing and a bit of drawing.  From an art making perspective it felt very deep and nourishing.  Un-rushed, with very little schedule to adhere to, I just wandered around NYC some, watched Kim make a few new songs, and thought a great deal about art making, my career, and this balancing act called life.  It occurred to me that I don’t often have so much time on my hands to think and it felt really great.

Lately I have been so wrapped up in the business of art and the teaching of art that I haven’t allowed much time for the making of art.  My sketchbook is a great place to keep myself drawing and noticing the world around me, but I have not spent enough time actually working on the more conceptually sound art work that is a bit like therapy to me.  It’s been months since a concept has grabbed a hold of me and begged to be made into some semblance of a body of work.  A visit to the American Museum of Natural History reminded me of what makes me tick artistically.   The displays at the museum are nothing short of art in and of themselves.  I really loved all of the fossilized bones in the paleontology wing.  I find myself looking at these collected specimens and wondering where people fit into the puzzle.  We are the cause of so much extinction and yet capable of such beauty as well.  This dichotomy is interesting and worth exploring through visual art.  I wondered why we are compelled to make art when so much of nature is so beautiful to look at already.  Like I said, deep deep stuff.  But good to ponder.  A bit existential maybe, but healthy over all I think.

Some early drawings….

I look forward to pouring over my photographs from AMNH and hitting the library for further inspiration.  As usual, the sketchbook is capturing whatever pours out.

Besides the museum, a trip to the Tompkins Square park was another fun venture which resulted in a few dog drawings.  It has been quite awhile since I have made a point to draw dogs.  I suppose there is just no one to draw quite like old Caskie.  But I need to get back into dog drawings.  They are tremendously good exercise.

All the while I doodled and pondered the trappings of the visual art world, Kim was hard at work in the studio writing and demo-ing, meeting with important people and doing a show.  It is interesting to me how much work goes into art.  All forms of art are so much more process laden than most people ever realize,  and music is no different.

One new song has a line in it, “What do I know?”  That’s a good question.  I am often so filled with questions about what’s around the bend, where to go from here, what next? etc. etc. etc.  But when I think about what I do know instead of what I don’t, or even can’t know, I find some comfort.

I know that I am incredibly grateful for what I have.  I know that I may love traveling but I also love coming home to my quiet little acre and the group of people that I love most.  I know that I love the work I do and that while it hasn’t paid much quite yet financially, it’s rewards have been priceless in the form of growth and experience.  I spend quite a chunk of my writing and thinking time contemplating the financial end of my work.  While in NYC, I met up with a fellow artist who is also straddling the lines between business and art and making a go at life as a working artist.  It’s an adventure ride for certain.  But we plug away at work we know is important.  This is all we can do.

Big Art

Suddenly, it’s the middle of May!  Spring is always a busy time, with Red Cross puppetry in full swing.  But there is a lot besides puppets making things exciting.  First, the ArtWorks project I worked on January – March is finished and has been professionally installed.  I have not had an opportunity to see it in situ between the Convention Center‘s hours and my busy work schedule.  But I had some spies visit it last weekend and below are a few pics!  (Special thanks to Jeni for the awesome shots!!) I am so excited to see it and to celebrate it’s completion with my team, the wonderful folks at ArtWorks, and of course, our sponsors at the Convention Center at a dedication reception May 27th from 5-6:30.

Keep in mind, the work itself it 13 feet tall and begins about 3 or 4 feet off the ground!

Below are the three faces I painted.  I look at them and can’t believe I did that!

In the midst of all of this, Drawing Down the Vision is really shaping up.  We have a new and improved website that changes often with blog posts from both me and Adam.  We are both putting immense amounts of energy into writing as often as possible to convey to visitors to our site the basic philosophy that drives the practice of Drawing Down the Vision.  Check it out!  And of course, check back often.

Meanwhile, a huge labor of love is finally, officially underway.  On Big art projects, so much work goes into the front end of it.  Raising money, figuring out sites, supplies, fabrication etc.  All of this is guided and driven by the artist in charge, in this case, Jessie Henson.  I have watched in awe as this talented artist has navigated all of the pieces to this crazy puzzle of building a large scale sculpture.  She has, with grace and smarts, put all of the pieces into place, gotten all of the various parties working together and we are on our way.  Steel fabrication is happening at Vulcane, glass blowing at the Art Academy’s River City Works facility.  Below are a few photos from the glass blowing.  There will be hundreds of spheres in the blue/green range of color in size of 3″ to 15″.  It will be beautiful.  It already is.  I think Esme would be proud of every part of it.

And so spring continues.  I was out in the dark the other night getting some veggies into the ground before the rains came.  For mother’s day, my amazing husband built me a little cottage style flower garden.  Everyday I try to get out for even just a few minutes to pull a weed or coax a seedling out of the ground.  I am learning to be a gardener!  And loving every minute of it.  Next week I am putting my roady hat on again and heading to NYC with Kim. She has her work to do there; I plan to leave my computer at home and just draw a lot and listen to an inspiring musician do her thing.  I am blessed.