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:
It’s fun to see how others have weathered the isolation in recent months. Here it’s Rumikub. There have been many games, apparently.
Locals remind themselves of what is lovely here, in spite of all.
While on my morning walk/run there is a veritable parade of old fashioned cars, harkening to days bygone.
It is good to walk in a place where glimpses of the sea are readily available through the trees.
Before the day gets away, I steal away to paint for a bit, using a new paint set up I gleaned recently from the lovely work and suggestions of Lena Rivo.
Wonderful to find a secluded bench, with shade and a view.
Here’s the wee painting I come up with…..
Later it is time to swim. Of course it is.
Is that a seal???
Alas, it’s just me.
Sea me. I LOVE swimming in the ocean each day. Thankful it is just down the road from us.
Tonight, in the spirit of reconnaissance for a kayak opportunity of Tony’s later in the week, we gather for dinner at another lovely spot, out of doors, away from others, by the sea, and happy to be together.
We are treated to an amazing sunset. And just like that, our first full day in Maine comes to a close.
We are deeply grateful to be here. To fill the proverbial well with hope for the months to come. To remind ourselves AND you that beauty and friendship still exist. That we will get through these hard times.
I sit with the sadness this morning. Like so many of us in this time of so many griefs big and small. Not anything in particular really. I am fine actually, personally, just now. The sun is beginning to peek through the clouds and it looks to be a potentially nice day. I may get to see my sister today, from afar, and we will relinquish the little red dragon back into his normal life back home with her and her support team. He is welcome back here any time of course but I know he will bring her comfort between her shifts in the ER.
Here, comforts are bursting forth from the ground up. The long (long) awaited deer fencing is up so we can finally grow some proper food in a real garden bed.
A few things are in the ground of course already. The cold weather kind. And it looks nice to have some life amidst the structure of it all.
I have nothing against deer really. Like all of us they are just trying to make a living in the world. But they are decimators of plant life. And so, while most of our little acre is at their disposal to wander and chew, we’ve cordoned off just this little bit for ourselves. I’ve thought for a long time that growing some of our own food could be paramount. I always thought this notion might be a bit dramatic really. But now it all seems closer to home. Closer to reality.
“Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming”
~trad. Irish/Scottish folk song
I am grateful it is spring time. It is good to walk and watch the wild world come alive. A normal spring time here would see my work year ramping up into full gear. Today I was due to be waking up in California, ready to find the weekend’s sketching spots for the upcoming weekend. Well, we all know how that panned out.
And I would usually be chomping at the bit to get back to the Land of Enchantment for a taste of big skies and grand ideas and the feeling that anything is possible. That is Taos for me. But, alas.
A thousand tiny griefs.
It is a difficult balance in this strange new era of corona to make space for all the grief. We as a culture are so quick to categorize the griefs and the joys as big or small, important or trivial – at any given time. And here’s the thing, we don’t know what one thing or another might mean to any other person but our own true selves. The joy of a new sunrise to one person might be equal to the birth of a child to another. Circumstances differ. We must make space for what that sunrise means to that one person on that very day.
I think the same holds for grief. There is so much of it just now. But it does us no good to hold one grief up against another for comparison. Better to just allow. and honor. All of it. It’s hard to do. I’ve been heartbroken this last week or so with the cancellation of not only my Taos work, but the magical week of Swannanoa as well. I had a good long snot cry over each of these in the bath, I’ll be honest. I’m doing my best to honor these losses, to give them space, even while I read the headlines of the death toll mounting, and hear stories of the front line from my sister and her co-workers.
All of it is heart breaking. We must make space.
And we must compost this grief and cultivate joy in this space.
It can feel a bit like a roller coaster of emotions of late. I was saying to a friend the other day that if this time teaches us nothing else, it is giving us lessons in the notion of being as fully present as possible in each and every moment. We don’t know if the things to which we look forward will actually come to fruition. It is a new horizon in tech as we all try to connect real time with our beloved communities and families. I can say for the record that the incorrect connecting device for one’s computer might actually drive one to tears (again) and another lost connection is added to the list of a thousand griefs.
And so how to navigate?
“Look at how a candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
I am fortunate to know many who somehow manage to exist above the fray. I look to them for inspiration. The other day Nuala Kennedy took to the airwaves to do a little concert. It was inspiring and honest and beautiful. Much like Nuala herself.
A couple of far flung artist friends of mine are offering up their teaching online in beautiful ways as well. Erin Lee Gafill of Nepenthe in Big Sur, California has a lovely community built over on facebook if you look for “Awaken The Artist Within”, and her tutorials are over on YouTube. Here’s a sample.
Erin is lovely and calm and brilliant in her scope of experience. She brings a soothing presence to the canvas and to her teaching. Getting into the paints is on my list of joyful things to do in these pandemic times….
Fabian Hernandez is an artist I met down in Antigua and he too is offering some video tutorials for free over on Facebook. I know Facebook is the devil in so many ways, but it is an easy platform in a difficult time. I find myself finding community there (as well as frustration on occasion too) more than usual. This is to be expected and forgiven.
And so, here we are. In need of a bang trim, trying our best.
My friend Rosemary says “I can get used to just about anything, if you just give me a minute or so to adjust.” And I agree. (My metaphor for this same idea is that ” I am not a tug boat in the harbor, more like an ocean liner, and it takes me a bit of time to turn course.” But you get the picture.)
We are here for a while it would seem and every day brings new challenges. Like everyone I am learning to sit with it all. Learning to get my head up in the clouds when needed to get a 30,000 ft view over it all for some perspective. As the weather improves the garden will go on, giving me focus. I can get out into the back room (currently under construction) to play some music perhaps. I’m being more mindful in the last week or so as to what I say yes to. This to give space to the grief that is and the grief that is to come. And the joy.
I am trying to see all of this as the space I have been craving for awhile now. But I do miss my friends. Especially the musical ones.
*small disclaimer: I write this from a place of deep privilege which is not lost on me. I am deeply aware of the bigger broader world, this is just my artful snippet of it. Don’t forget to vote. wherever you are.
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.
It is the dawning of a new year, nay – a NEW DECADE!!!!! With this comes the courage to try new things, to meet new friends and learn to trust more in the old friends we have.
John Joe Badger is keen as ever, and maybe more so, to continue his journey into this new and exciting chapter of his playing. What will you do this next, new year to challenge yourself? With whom shall you share these times?
Old friends or familiar, known tunes or new, let this next year and new decade be one of brave new adventures into the challenging and unknown of what you love most.
Bliain nua shona duit, mo chairde. We will see you in 2020.
“Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it. If you are conscious of something new – thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being – do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness.”
Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Amiel’s Journal
We come toward the end of what feels like a turbulent year, and I suppose a turbulent decade.
The weather has been unsettlingly mild here in our valley. Then last night a tempest blustered in with all the drama of a storm we might normally see in March. Complete with thunder and lightning, the wind put an end to any idea of peaceful sleeping. And now, this morning, it is more seasonably cool, the skies a steely gray, which I love.
All in all though, we have been blessed with a restful holiday, busy enough with gatherings and visitations, yet spacious too, with blocks of time affording moments of self-reflection, some well over-due house-tending and organization. A true hitting of the proverbial re-set button. It’s been nice.
In a few days the workaday routine will return once more of course, but with it, a tad more intention in how it is all approached. My “word” for 2020: INTENTION. I’ve never been one to subscribe to “resolutions” at the New Year, as it all seems so pressurized and fraught with potential failure. I for one do not thrive under those conditions. But with a word or two steering my course each year, I find I can tack toward a general desired direction and I suppose that is just how it goes. The work is mostly internal these days, breaking down the strange damaging stress responses I seem so hard-wired to; changing the old fear-based, internal dialogue into something a bit gentler, more flowing. Through all of it, to simply allow it all to just be, much like the gorgeous quote above suggests.
There is a small note in my calendar “allowing” myself to return to the noisy world of social media once the New Year dawns. I jotted that note down with a question mark next to it, wondering how that return might feel after a month away from it all. I thought I might be chomping at the bit to re-engage. Alas, after more than a month away from the ‘Big Three’ (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I am even more keen to stay logged off. And so, I must make some sort of plan to have a more balanced relationship with these platforms. I wonder if the work I do can yet carry itself without the back up of “sharing” on social media. I do not know.
As with all things, the outcome will likely not be one thing or another. I will have seasons of engagement online and seasons of withdrawal for deeper work, this is for certain. And in the long run, it won’t matter if I am “posting” daily or if I take a week or two or three off now and then. Y’all know where to find me.
“My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~Wm. James
Tomorrow, John Joe Badger will have a post here wishing everyone a bright and tuneful new year, and I wish you all the same. Thank you for reading, for coming along on traveley and painterly adventures along the way, either in person, or virtually here on the blog.
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!