Today I have the great pleasure of presenting a bit of my illustration work and sketchbook process to some college students at a local university. So I have been collecting a few of my books and drawings and have been thinking deeply how all of this stuff has affected and changed life as I know it. It’s amazing really.
Yes, I am an artist by trade and vocation. But I don’t think one has to be An Artist to find one’s path through life in an artistic manner.
Human beings are born makers.
“When we pay attention to who we believe we are and we surround ourselves with the things that reflect that story, with all its urges, aspirations and processes, we develop a perspective that’s uniquely ours to share. In turn we can share that unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.”
” I never knew I was creating a world which was an antithesis to the world around me which was full of sorrow, full of wars, full of difficulties. I was creating a world I wanted, and into this world, once it is created, you invited others and then you attract those who have affinities and this becomes a universe.”
“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” ~D.W. Winnicott
It’s so tempting to run for the hills. To hide. To make the work, but never show it – feeling it to be not good enough, not ready enough, ever. But this is not an option really. And so we forge on.
“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting.” ~David Bowie
After a time of being comfortably down the proverbial rabbit hole, alas, I must come up for air and here is the latest. Like some sort of proverbial Icarus, I’ll admit to flying a bit close to the sun of late. But needs must, and rest will come…..
On top of readying my own art work to present to the world, I have also been doing some writing on the work of others. The September and October issues of the online publication Aeqai feature articles of my impressions on some really wonderful locally produced and curated work from lands far away. It has been interesting to pull together art and writing in this way, as I usually write merely here on my blog or craft the odd artist’s statement now and again. To write about the artwork of others and to ponder it through a lens of critique is to more fully grasp it in a sense. Knowing I was to be writing about these shows made me a better viewer of them. I hope to continue writing for Aeqai in future months, adding my voice to those of others shining light upon recent work they have seen.
And what about that work being presented to the world? Well, the stars have aligned to see my work showing in three different venues in the coming weeks, and here they are.
“Transience is the force of time that makes a ghost of every experience.”~John O’Donohue
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”~Simone Weil
First, Transience, a solo show at the Park National Bank Gallery at University of Cincinnati’s Clermont campus. It’s a lovely space and I’m thrilled to have a number of older works dusted off from the archives and showing once again, right alongside some newer work as well. (Yes, the ever so popular Animal Alphabet from Inktober is being displayed in full and the drawings look great all together!) At the heart of the show is my process of gathering from the world and from my experiences to create art along the way in sketchbooks and finished studio work.
It is interesting to see threads of continuity in work through the years which I didn’t notice before. For example, I’m once again showing my painting Selkie which is a bit of a self-portrait-meets-personal-mythology work.
You’ll notice that Selkie offers a rather raw heart to the viewer (my mom has always thought this painting is rather creepy but I rather like her). What I didn’t realize is that I had created some of this same imagery in the three dimensional realm as well in the form of a hand stitched fiber heart, and a cast of my hand in plaster.
These objects were part of other work at other times and I hadn’t realized how they mirrored the Selkie imagery until I went to install this show. My subconscious self clearly has some ideas and themes working themselves out amidst its subterranean depths. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to this work once again, on a deeper level and to share it with the students at UC Clermont.
A second show to open with just one piece of mine in it is an artistic tribute to the writings of Neil Gaiman.
I crafted an illustration of Nobody Owens from Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book which I found so captivating. I am excited to have my little painting alongside those of other illustrators from around town and am honored to be a part of the show!
This show opens this week on Thursday evening. Stop by the Know Theatre if you are in town and say hello! (Be sure and get your tickets to Neverwhere as well!)
My painting I Grew A Pair (Apples) will be part of the Off The Wall installation and I have three other works submitted as well. This group show features new work by members of the Kennedy Collective and is an annual treat for the local community. That opening is November 18. There will be cookies. I can promise that.
By tomorrow I shall have all work delivered and by next week, all will be properly installed for viewing in their gallery spaces for the following few weeks. While this all has taken a good amount of time and effort to pull off, I have been careful not to fall into the mindset of busy in the midst of pulling it all together. And I believe I have been successful in that endeavor. Sylvia Linsteadt of Tatterdemalion fame posted an article the other day about the notion of Resisting the Commodification of Time, with which I firmly agree on every level. The article speaks to a level of mindfulness which I believe is desperately lacking in our world just now. Everything so fast and furious, so new and shiny. Mindfulness is at the very heart of my sketchbook practice and the workshops I teach. Just the simple act of slowing down to draw something pulls us back into a better relationship with time, back into our bodies. The world needs us to do this work.
by Mary Oliver
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
And so we do. If you google “urban sketching”, you will see that the practice of drawing in a little book has truly gone globally viral. People all over the world are doing it. Here in the Queen City of Cincinnati, we have joined the ‘official’ ranks of Urban Sketchers and are getting our drawings out there along with other artful places such as Manchester and Hong Kong. If you are coming to town and are looking to sketch with us here, let us know!! We can be found over in the wonderful online world of Twitter and we’d love to meet you!
And that is all for now. I have ghostly beings creeping into my bedtime sketchbook lately who are begging to be fleshed out further into more oil paintings. I have knitting projects sitting idle as well which could use some finishing up. It’s a time of year for walking in the woods amidst the fallen leaves, brewing more and more tea, and gently, ever so gently, slowing down.
It began years ago. A gravitational pull to the coast that some folks feel at times. And an introduction to a creature-self whom has captured my imagination ever since. Fortunate to have lived along the coast for a time, and further still, blessed to visit again each summer in spite of being land-locked the rest of the year, I have pursued knowledge of this being, though I did not know what it was I was after. Perhaps I still don’t. But evidence of her existence has built up. And I am introducing the results of my research as part of an art show opening next week.
“My most recent body of work explores a duplicity of place through the lens of traditional narrative and meditation upon liminal frontiers found in natural places. For this series, North Atlantic legends of “Selkie” creatures (part seal, part human) are the basis for a collection of images and artifacts depicting the life of a being that exists on both land and water, while not a true part of either world. Many years of walking the wrack line on both sides of the North Atlantic have fed my obsession with imagery, material and lore of the coast. These works form an exploratory self portrait of object and image that speak of an inner dialogue between myself and the world at large.”
Among my sketchbooks are years of drawings that have led to the discoveries present in this body of work. Some of these drawings will be on display, along with items found along the salted wrack line of the North Atlantic…
…permitted to grow salt crystals from the sea…
Other things were crafted by me, prior to gathering their crystals…. (The shells below were crafted from bronze.)
This creature, the legendary Selkie of the North Atlantic tends to take cover amongst a variety of seaweed species. Often these can be found washed upon the shores….
(Seaweeds; knitted, felted wool, found fish bones, salt crystals, 2013)
(more Seaweed, below. Also knitted, felted wool, salt crystals, 2013)
Occasionally, messages would wash up onto the shore…. “When lightning strikes water, it purifies it.”
Sea faring vessels know of Selkie and her mysterious ways….
Sometimes sea captains communicate with her with a knotted language only those of the sea can interpret….
Selkie can be found in the shadows of the deep, at play among schools of colorful fishes flitting about….
At the center of her lies a tender heart, easily bruised. As I have discovered more about her ways, I have learned to walk silently along the shores. Only then might I learn more from her.
Selkie is filled with a depth that will garner more observation and of course paintings. I do not think I have seen the last of her in my studio….
She has taught me much about paint and patience. About Other-Worlds, both Inner and Outer. And I timidly introduce her here for those of you out of town and unable to visit her in person….
If you are in town and can make it to the show, my work is only a small part of a larger show and I am in such great company with other artists who allow Nature to mushroom amidst their imaginations and in their studios.
Do join us if you can, and as always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated. Peace.