Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stormy Weather

Art-making (and life in general) is moving very slowly these days for a variety of reasons. I'm still trying to get back into the flow of work after nearly two and a half months off and I have a tremendous amount of work to do for the next semester of teaching. The weather is also contributing to my internal "dragging" feeling; we've had day after day of grey skies, high winds, and flood-threatening downpours here on the Pacific coast of California and after a while, it feels like my mind is wrapped in an irritating, itchy, and damp wool blanket. *ugh*

Unfortunately, this feeling of "slowness" is coming at a time when I actually need to do more. There is a good possibility that I'll be having another major foot surgery this coming June or July. My next show is due up on the wall in October. Since my usual summer show preparation will be supplanted by post-op recovery, I need to get the work for that show done now. These two opposing forces - the urge to move quickly versus the feeling of inertia - are battling it out in my brain. In the interest of shaking loose my momentum and inspiration, I've been painting in my journal as a precursor to on-canvas work. Typically, I never make painted studies before I commit to canvas. I often do preliminary sketches but I don't make fully-realized paintings in advance of the "final draft." However, desperate times call for desperate measures. I have a fairly solid notion of the theme of this upcoming show but the details (individual series, techniques, subjects) still need refinement. This little portrait is in my small Unexpected Convergences journal. That is also unusual for me; my show prep notes and sketches usually have their own separate notebook but here, I just wanted to get my brushes moving while I had any semblance of interest in painting.

Fallow times in the studio happen. Just as it storms without, it can storm within. For myself, I find that it's best to work as much as possible at the edges of the tempest rather than waiting for perfectly calm days. A swish of the brush here, a swipe of paint there and soon you're back in the studio and making art no matter the weather.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

10 Ways to Do Art When You Don't Feel Like Doing Art

There are a great many things in my life that can get in the way of art-making. My hands are often shaky, weak, and painful (Parkinson's/Kienbock's.) Sometimes migraines make it impossible to tolerate light, sound, or movement. After surgeries (I've had 12 so far,) I have to spend a great deal of time with the wounded limb elevated, making it difficult to sit at my studio table (plantar fibromatosis/Kienbock's.) I deal with extreme fatigue, a consequence of all these health issues combined. To be honest, there are days when these problems do curtail my art life but mostly, I fight through and find ways to make art anyway because art makes my life worthwhile. Art fills my days with joy, excitement, and contentment so whenever possible, I try to find small ways to stay connected with my artistic life regardless of how I feel. This post lists some of my strategies for continuing to make art even when art is the last thing I feel like doing.

1) A Work of Art Doesn't Have to be Monumental:
While laid up after my most recent surgery, I made tiny (1-inch square!) drawings of everything I could see from the couch. I drew the frames in my sketchbook before the surgery and completed all the thumbnails over a period of several days. Thumbnail drawings are a fantastic way to practice composition and observation skills. They can be precursors to larger works when you are feeling more adventurous or thumbnails can just be an aimless but soothing "pencil-scratching-on-paper" distraction when you can't do anything else.

2) Sticky Fingers Can Soothe a Worried Mind:
I am slowly smothering in paper scraps (like many of you, I'll bet) so when I'm not feeling creative, I just spend time creating scrap paper backgrounds in my journals. I grab one of my many scrap boxes, a foam brush, glue, and journal. These backgrounds will wait patiently for a day when I am ready for a longer, more involved studio session. You could make scrap backgrounds in different color ways or use only certain materials such as vintage book papers.

3) Look To Your Library:
How many of you have waited excitedly for the latest book release, danced around your studio once that book was delivered, flipped through its pages, maybe even marking some pages to return to, and then tucked away all that incredible inspiration on the shelf, ultimately forgetting you own that book in the first place? Yep, me too. So, if you are confined to couch or bed, get reacquainted with all those art technique books you own. The things that you found so inspiring all those weeks, months, years (!) ago are still there. Take advantage of forced downtime to unearth lost treasures in your home library.

4) Keep Your Brushes Moving:
If you want to paint but are having trouble settling on a direction or if health issues are keeping you from more in-depth work, pick a few paint colors, grab a palette, and start experimenting with color mixtures. Make notes. Name your newfound colors. Develop fresh color combos. I keep a separate journal just for this purpose. This is also a good place to practice brushstrokes and brush handling.

5) Gather Ye Roses While Ye Wait:
There are times when health problems simply take over. Maybe you have to burn a lot of energy going to doctors' appointments and having tests or maybe you hurt too much to focus properly. Spend some time digging through your collage stash and just pin up anything that makes you go "Oooo!" Don't overthink this process; just relax and allow your brain to react. The inspiration board you create will be a useful tool later when you are able to be fully present in your studio: it will keep your inspirations front and center so they don't slip away while you are otherwise distracted.

6) Lose Yourself in a Word Salad:
One of my favorite "Want to Do Something but Don't Feel Like Anything" activities is clipping words from magazines. This process generates fuel for found word poetry and journal page titles while simultaneously pruning the stacks of paper products in the studio. While you're at it, clip images too and pin those up on your inspiration board! 

7) Become a Pattern Junkie:
This exercise comes from the delightfully playful Carla Sonheim and her book, Drawing and Painting Imaginary Creatures. Check your shelves because this might be one you bought a while ago and forgot about. Basically, over a series of three to five squares, you build patterns a step at a time. I like to have a bit of extra fun and name those patterns. This is a great way to practice layering different colors and materials. The resulting patterns could be used later to make your doodles extra interesting. (Think patterns for fur, skin, and clothing)

8) Craft Some Stash:
The very best way to develop your own unique style and "look" is to make sure your own hand is visible as much as possible. Each time you use a heavily-branded and recognizable product from another artist, you slip into the background of your own work a little bit. If you feel up to being in the studio but not quite ready to dive into an involved project, try spending time creating your own art supplies. Cut your own stencils. Carve stamps. Create your own personal collage sheets or even your own paintbrushes. These personalized tools will help your art stand on its own and be uniquely you.

9) For the Love of Swatching:
This activity is my number one, go-to task when I am uninspired and/or overwhelmed. I love just sitting with a pile of supplies, sorting and sampling them by color, making notes. It is incredibly calming and astoundingly useful. It also serves as a gentle reminder that I have A LOT OF STUFF and that I don't need more. Sometimes I end up with swatch pages that are out-of-date and need to be redone. Those old swatch sheets look great cut up and added onto journal pages or mixed media canvases.

10) Go in Search of Beauty, Sweet One:
Health issues (or really any stressful life event) can sap your creative energy as you necessarily withdraw from the studio to take care of business. As soon as you can, get back to the world, camera in hand, and go for a walk. The pictures you take can be reference images for future drawings and paintings. The vitamin D you absorb and the endorphins you generate will lift your spirits. The fresh air will clear your head. Look for great color combinations, cool textures and marks, strange people (who won't notice or care that they are getting their picture taken,) contrasting values, interesting compositions. Print and pin the photos on your inspiration board. Draw little thumbnails. See if you can recreate the patterns you discover. Carve a stamp based on an awesome mark you find. Try mixing up a batch of a color that made you swoon.

Know that everything you do - even if it seems small - to keep in touch with your inner artist during difficult times will help that artist resurface after the bad days pass and you are ready to begin again with the joyful business of art-making.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Soul Stories: Seeking Serenity

Sometimes, when you review old journals (especially if enough time has passed to provide the distance a fresh perspective requires,) you discover a thread of thought running through your words, a commonality betwixt the pages you didn't see before. 

In going back through my long-standing journal, "Soul Stories," I realized that I've written a lot about my quest for quiet moments in my life. Chronic health issues and all the requisite tests, appointments, and procedures make for an anxiety-filled life. There is a lingering feeling of being constantly unsettled, of problems going unsolved, of new problems yet to be revealed. In the midst of it all, I've journaled repeatedly about the search for serenity, about how to find small islands of contentment in a sea of unknowns.

In reading past journal entries, I discovered that I haven't quite found the key to calm. My life has certainly gotten much more complex in the ten years since I started "Soul Stories" so I suppose it isn't surprising that I continue to be anxious. However, I don't think I have been giving that issue the attention it needs; worrying has become such a day-to-day habit that I just accept it as normal. This journal has reminded me to actively seek inner calm and to make much more time for relaxation.

What do your past journals have to say to you?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sometimes There's Only Time for a Snail

Sometimes all I have time for is a quick sketch. On another day, I'll start the watercoloring process and stop to let the initial layers dry. Somewhere down the line, I'll take another day to finish painting and maybe another to add shading in graphite. Working in this way, it has taken me nearly three years to approach the end of my "Sparks of Madness" sketchbook but I am there...just a few more pages and then it is onward to "Volume 2." Never trivialize even the smallest amount of time in your studio; it all adds up!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soul Stories: Tune In to Yourself

"Soul Stories" entry: June 2016
As I mentioned in my previous post, I'll be posting images from my journal "Soul Stories" over the next few weeks as I return to this journal project, an altered book journal that I began way back in 2007. If I have time, I'm going to try and go back through my archived posts to tag the "Soul Stories" posts from long ago. However, since I now have a much better camera, I'd like to revisit some old projects with a new, improved eye. If you are a longtime reader, you may see pictures of spreads that I've posted about in years past and I apologize in advance for the repetition. There have been a lot of new followers since I last posted about this journal so I suspect the pages of "Soul Stories" will be unfamiliar to most eyeballs currently visiting Lost Coast Post.

This is the lone page that I completed in this journal in all of 2016. I think I fully intended to do much more in "Soul Stories" at the time I did this page but then I was waylaid by all the other things I needed/wanted to do. Then again, maybe all I needed was this one entry. As is typical with most pages in this journal, I write quite a bit and then surround that with some art, mostly in the form of collage. One of the reasons I drifted away from "Soul Stories" is the fact that its pages are predominantly collage-focused, a medium I have deliberately tried to avoid in the last few years in order to develop my illustration skills and find my own unique visual voice. Collage still feels appropriate here since in this journal, the art is subordinate in importance to the thoughts I am trying to document.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Returning to Soul Stories

"Soul Stories" title page
When I first started journaling (around 2003,) I wrote a lot and surrounded all that writing with a small amount of art. As the years progressed, I wrote less and did more art, ultimately arriving at journals that were almost completely visual with little to zero writing. I think maybe I just ran out of things to say and felt that the visuals (and the process of creating those visuals) said everything I wanted to communicate. However, those older journals are still on the shelf and the uncompleted ones are there, waiting patiently for my return.

One of my first journals is a large altered children's poetry book that I began in July 2007. It is named "Soul Stories." As with most of my ongoing, unfinished projects, I started off enthusiastically. I worked fairly regularly through the last half of 2007 and most of 2008, here and there in 2009, and then skipped 2010 and 2011 entirely. I returned in 2012 for four pages and then I abandoned the project again until June 2016 when I finished just one more page. This January, I felt the pull of "Soul Stories" again.

"Soul Stories" entry - Jan 15, 2017
"Soul Stories" is perhaps one of my most personal journals, a place I visit when I need to extensively document my thoughts, joys, fears, self-encouragement, discouragements, and triumphs. After my recent foot surgery, I needed to return to a verbose style of art journaling as my head felt painfully full of thoughts that needed to find their way onto the page. I'll continue on in "Soul Stories" as long as the words need to flow and then I'll tuck it away again.

In the last ten years, I have undoubtedly posted pictures of this journal's pages but I am too busy to go back through the archives and dig up links to those postings. So, as I post images from "Soul Stories" here and there, please forgive any repetition that you recognize. (If you have actually gone through ten years of Lost Coast Post posts, then go get yourself a cookie immediately and give yourself a pat on the back!) I'm sure many newer readers will be seeing these pages for the first time.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Looking Ahead

2017 is so far proving to be a strange time. In some ways, it feels as if the new year has gotten off to a snail's pace start. Recovering from surgery is a slow, tedious process with steps forward and then back, forward a little bit more then back again. At the same time, I feel like the month has slipped through my fingers. I'm not sure I have a whole lot to show for a month's worth of living save a narrowing hole in my foot (one of the incisions is taking its sweet time closing) and a calendar full of doctors' appointments. Still, I am trying to regroup and make the most of the next few months before the specter of more surgery looms again.

Each December, I typically make an exhaustive list of resolutions which I use actively throughout the new year. I love wish-listing my hopes and goals for the annual fresh start that January brings. This year however, I made a very simple "Do More of This/Do Less of This" list. As always, I have big plans; it's just that I didn't spend so much time detailing those plans for myself. I guess this lengthy blog post will serve that function.

Word of the Year:
I am continuing with "story" as my guiding word/theme/inspiration. In truth, I feel like I could continue onward with "story" for many years to come. I dipped my toes in "story" in 2016; I really want to dive deeper into story-crafting and illustrating in 2017.

Online/In Person Classes:
I did a bit of planning/thinking for my first ever online classes but again, my health challenges pushed some of that to the background. As I continue to heal, I am beginning to refocus my life on teaching, both in the classroom and hopefully online as well. In terms of online classes, I am most stymied by the video component that I want to do. In the end, I'm just going to do the best I can with what I know and have. As far as specifics, I can tell you that there is a trilogy of classes on the drawing board with monster creation as the central focus. I also want to return to teaching in person art classes to adults, something I stepped away from 11 years ago to teach kids in the school system. I'm not leaving the classroom but rather expanding my reach back into the adult artist audience.

Art for Sale:
Throughout the life of this blog (ten years now!) I have kept sales of my art in the background for many reasons. I don't ever want this space to feel like a carnival midway with me barking every other post about things I have for sale. The reality is, however, that I need to make a bit more from my art-making to compensate for increased health care costs and decreased work hours due to lengthy recoveries. I am planning to reopen my Etsy shop and/or offer more work for sale here at the blog. An online class (or two) will help bring in some income as well. I am toying with the idea of opening a Patreon account. Most money-making ideas are still in the planning stages as I have been so focused on my health in the past two months. 

Finish the Unfinished/Begin the Long Planned For:
I have projects that have been languishing in the "unfinished" pile for some time and I am going to decide whether those projects are still relevant/interesting and move them towards completion while discarding other ideas that have lost their gleam for me. In addition, I have a select few projects that have been on the back burner for years, ideas that I've actually done an incredible amount of groundwork on but that are not yet truly started due to my own insecurities. No time like the present to set aside fear and doubt and just jump in!

Take Better Care:
While this isn't strictly an art/blog-related topic, how well I care for myself physically, emotionally, and mentally directly impacts how often I am able to be present in this space and certainly determines how much art I get to do. Self-care has long been my Achilles heel; I am absolutely miserable at it. My body and brain are starting to rebel and if I don't make some real changes, there will be consequences that will complicate not only recovery from any necessary procedures but also daily living. It is time to eject old tapes and craft the life, internally & externally, that I have always dreamed of. It won't happen all at once - everything is a step-by-step process - but it certainly won't happen at all if I never begin.

Regarding This Space:
This is the first January in a while where I had zero doubts about continuing Lost Coast Post. Last year felt like a good blogging year to me and I am going to build on what I started in 2016: posting as regularly as possible, providing more informative content, cultivating more conversation and interaction. I am looking forward to being here and hope that you will join me, bringing your encouraging comments and thought-provoking questions. Together, let's carve an uplifting, creative path through 2017, no matter what trials and tribulations the year throws in our way!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Belated Blog Beginning for 2017

As the calendar flipped from 2016 to 2017, I kept telling myself "I'll blog when I feel better" or "Once I turn the corner, I'll get back to posting." Well, I finally decided that I needed to jump back in regardless of health circumstances. I know that the longer I am away from something, the harder it is to return.

My foot surgery was December 13 and I am still battling my way through complications, both related and unrelated to the surgery. My slow recovery has involved some invasive and painful procedures that leave me drained and disheartened. I am still off work and minimally weight-bearing on my foot. Art has happened in very small, erratic bursts so I don't have too much to show for the last five weeks. Yesterday I had my first lengthy and focused art session in the studio since the surgery so hopefully that milestone heralds the coming of the "corner" I needed to turn. (And to think I might be going through this all over again in July...*sigh*)

While I haven't made a lot of art, I have done a great deal of thinking about art. I've watched many movies and shows that speak to my artistic sensibilities. I've read books about art and artists. I've visited artist websites and blogs. In between doctors' appointments, procedures, bandage changes, wound care, pain meds, and naps, I've tried to infuse my thoughts with beauty, color, and inspiration. I've been sowing creative seeds and I hope that when my body is ready, I'll be able to reap the bounty of projects that I've been nurturing in my brain.

Things get tough. That's the way life goes. After 12 surgeries, I know that I always go through a very physically difficult/emotionally fragile time that usually runs from right before I get stitches out to about three, four weeks after physical therapy starts. I cry a lot and get extremely frustrated with life in general and my less-than-healthy body in particular. However, I have hope that the main complication - an infected incision - is on the mend. I had my first post-op PT evaluation last week so I'd like to think that the hardest days are dwindling. I am very lucky that I have an incredible medical team that has been providing my care for years and who are familiar with the intricacies of my health challenges. From my primary care doctor to my surgeon, hospitalist, pharmacist, and physical therapist, I feel heard, cared for, and supported. I also have a wonderful boss and coworkers who stepped in to make sure I am not wanting for food or company. So it is just a matter of patience and time.

All in all, I thought I jump back into blogging even if I'm not quite back on my feet, even it is just to let you all know I haven't forgotten about you, dear readers, and that I am eager to get back to this space.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Few Last Words Before 2016 Ends

So...one last blog post before I officially withdraw until after the first of the year. My surgery is over and it has been weird and complicated (mostly weird) but it isn't cancer so that is good. I am spending a lot of time on the couch, foot propped up on pillows, surrounded by books: sketchbooks, fiction & reference books, puzzle books. There's a watercolor palette (or two,) drawing supplies, paintbrushes, and more remotes than are necessary floating around my couch nest as well. Two cats helpfully hold it all down in case a sudden, vicious breeze should threaten to blow it all away.

I think it is safe to say that 2016 has been a pretty awful year. Goodbye and good riddance to a year riddled with tragedy and terrible politics. However, here at Lost Coast Post, it is the first year in many that I haven't thought about closing up shop as the year winds down. I felt like comments here took an upswing and that has definitely helped as reader feedback always makes me feel as if what I write and post is being received somewhere by someone. Everyone was very generous to my tip jar as well and that is so deeply appreciated. It spurs me onward to keep creating content-rich posts that hopefully have information and inspiration to take away into your own artistic journeys.

As I sit here on the couch, I am jotting ideas for my very own online class (a series of classes actually.) I know the theme, techniques, and title but all will have to remain secret until I figure out and execute the logistical side of things, a substantial task. I don't want to announce anything specific and then not be able to deliver so I am just taking things slow. I can't even walk right now so "slow" is my mandatory mantra. I am very excited though because I think I can put together a class that no one else is offering. My audience might be small since I won't be following leading trends but I see that as a giant advantage.

Anyway, enough teasing. I sincerely hope that the remainder of 2016 is filled with joy and peace for all of you. I am so grateful for your readership, your comments, your donations, your enthusiasm, support, and patience. I am more in love with this space than I've ever been and all of you are responsible for that. I'll be back in 2017 and hope that you'll join me. Take care of you and yours...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Peace at Lost Coast Post

This is Tuscany, Queen of Extreme Grump...

This is Marley Bear, King of Constant Cuddles...

For the last seven years, these two never occupied the same space at the same time for fear of a tear in the space-time continuum. In the very least, even temporary moments of amicability ended in snarls and scratches, both bodies rolling across the floor in an angry ball of claw and tooth. 

And then, in the past week, this began happening.

No prior warning, no formal declaration of peace: just two fluffy bodies curled together, snoring and dreaming, all animosity dissolved for the sake of warmth & companionship.
I can't help but take pictures of this astonishing turn of events. I tiptoe to my camera and hope that the flash doesn't disturb the sleeping couple. 
Maybe there is hope for world peace after all...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Big Blooms

This painting is my first attempt at painting a vase of flowers as inspired by Lynn Whipple's Big Bold Bloom Wild Painting class. I've been eyeballing this class ever since it debuted but it cost a bit more than I could afford. So I decided to save up all the donations to my tip jar and proceeds from online purchases of my art. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Gretchen, Ryusho, Stacey, Mareen, Loulou, Lou Anne and Ellie! These sweet and generous souls made it possible for me to take this class and I've had so much fun!

I'm very, very selective about the online classes I take; I want to be challenged and I want to learn techniques that are open to my own interpretation. Big Bold Blooms interested me for a number of reasons. Lynn Whipple seemed a fountain of joy and enthusiasm in her promo video and I was not disappointed after signing up. The videos make me smile; Lynn is absolutely irrepressible and her happiness is contagious. Secondly, I really liked the idea of painting in a looser, more impressionistic style. That's just about the polar opposite of how I usually work but as my Parkinson's progresses, I've found that I want to start exploring less precise techniques and materials. In addition, I was intrigued by the subject matter: I've done a few flower pieces over the years (most notably in the Scraps journal) but flowers aren't a regular part of my artistic lexicon. The class also meant exploring a new-to-me medium - chalk pastels - so I knew the materials and subject matter would challenge me.
This first painting has some issues. It is still very tight and a bit too realistic. It will take time and practice to relax on the canvas. I also chose a too-small canvas and the composition is simply too crowded. However, I was surprised to find that I actually loved working with pastels. I've avoided them in the past because of the dust and need for fixative spray. Those aspects of pastels still annoy me but I think the effects you can achieve with pastels are worth that annoyance.

Lynn uses huge, extravagant arrangements as her subject matter in the class videos (which I can't afford) so I went to my local florist and handpicked a few hardy blooms in a variety of shapes and colors. Most of the flowers lasted about three weeks with diligent water changes so I had a lot of time to get familiar with my chosen flowers. It was more difficult to paint a lush, overflowing scene but I found I could make it work. Photographic images helped fill in the gaps.

Georgia O'Keefe said "When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment." I found this to be completely true. It was easy to get lost in the petals, stamens, leaves, colors, shapes, and scents of my bouquet. Time and worries slipped away. I will most definitely be exploring blooms more regularly from this moment forward.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Upcoming Radio Silence

Journal play continues as I navigate the holiday season. Thanksgiving here in the US is over and the advertising frenzy is well underway as we roll towards Christmas. I hope these days, dear readers, whether you are here in the US or abroad, are filled with joy and peace, family and friends. For my part, I am keeping my head down, squeezing in art time whenever possible and focusing on making the next two weeks as productive as possible before my foot surgery on December 13.

Heads Up:
Every year, between December 26 and the onset of the new year, I take a break from blogging. It is an important time for me, something I like to call the "magic hour of the year." It is a critical and cherished blog intermission that I use for planning, dreaming, organizing, recharging, relaxing. This year, due to my unexpected appointment with an operating room in mid-December, I'm going to begin my blog hiatus a bit earlier. It is always a bit risky to push "pause" on posting for an extended period of time - I typically lose a follower or two - but I can't see any sense in blogging while trying to recover. Each post-surgery journey (this will be my 12th) gets more grueling to navigate and I'd like to simplify those days as much as possible. I hope everyone will hang with me until after 2017 begins. There'll be a few more posts between now and December 13 but I wanted to make sure I had posted some advance notice of my upcoming radio silence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Rare Day of Play

Thanksgiving break is here and I spent this past Sunday happily playing in the studio without interruption: no laundry, no teaching prep, no errands. It has become exceedingly rare to have more than 15 to 30 minutes at a time for art. Sometimes I find two or three such mini work sessions scattered throughout a day but that isn't the same as two or three hours back to back. The work - both the act and the product - feels distinctly different and I realized I need to have both working styles in my artistic life. It is a very good thing to be able to dive into a project, focus intently, and get things done before life demands I get on to other stuff but it is also important to have time to work in a wandering, leisurely fashion. I am adjusting my schedule accordingly.

Note: This is another page in my mini "Unexpected Convergences" journal which is beginning to fatten up rather nicely.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Plan

So I created this Convergences journal spread before the election here in America and I'm not really inspired any more by the last line of that quote: "Trust the universe." The time is now to do more than simply sit back and trust that my country (and the world) will find its way back to sanity and humanity.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I can do on a practical level. Without a doubt, I will intercede if I witness acts of malice, cruelty, and/or discrimination against my friends and neighbors. I can vote my conscience and I can support humanity-oriented causes & organizations. But what else can I do - everyday - to foster grace, beauty, understanding, and love? Of course, the answer starts right at home, with me and my daily practices.

Strengthen Myself:
First and foremost, in order to be strong for others, I have to be strong myself. I've never been very good at self-care. In fact, one could say (and some of my doctors do,) that I am pretty pitiful in the self-care department. I've developed a nasty habit of pushing my schedule until I drop wherein I spend time recovering on my back, only to get up and repeat the process. The first thing I ax from my day is "me time" and that leaves me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. Sadly, this is the exact thing that actually advances the progression of Parkinson's Disease. The stakes couldn't be higher. I have to make some drastic changes in my day-to-day routine and priorities so I have a bit more downtime to just explore and enjoy being a person and an artist. I won't detail all my schedule tweaks here (unless they are relevant to the art-making life) but suffice to say, that part of my being is under thorough review and adjustment.

Support My Artist Friends:
I'm making some changes in my artist life as well. A common refrain in the past week is that we need to come together and support one another. A country and ultimately, the world, is stronger when people communicate. Artists, writers, humanists need to rally and beat back hatred with an alternate viewpoint that can fill the holes in people's hearts. But if we artists don't support each other, how can we begin or sustain that "coming together?" To that end, I've decided to make posting comments on the blogs of fellow artists a priority. Anybody who blogs knows what it feels like to not get feedback and what it feels like to be heard. Whether we want to admit it or not, feedback is the fuel that keeps most of us going. So I am pledging to leave a minimum of 5 comments per week on others' blog posts. That's not a lot but it's a start. I just want my artist friends to hear that I am cheering on their endeavors and that what they do matters.

Do/Teach More Art:
Part Three of my plan is directly dependent on success with Part One; I have to find/make more time to put towards being a better artist. By "better" I mean "more committed." It isn't so much about "more" as a number but "more" as a "quality." I will naturally produce more work if I devote more time to my practice but in addition, improving the depth of the work I do create will make what I am able to accomplish more meaningful. I want to push the boundaries of the projects I am currently working on. (Since I have a lot of projects already in progress, I don't think I'm apt to start many more new things...You can laugh if you want to...it's okay. I'm chuckling too after writing that last sentence.) On a related note: If you are looking for new projects to inspire positivity, I think Joyce's "Log of Love" idea is pretty grand and worth supporting.

I'm also setting my sights on returning to teaching art to adults. Eleven years ago, I decided to concentrate my teaching endeavors in the middle/high school classroom and that has been incredibly rewarding. I'd like to go back - even just a little bit - to nurturing creativity in adult students. I have to get past the holidays and another surgery in mid-December but after the first of the new year, I have plans to foster small group classes in my studio and small-scale, inexpensive classes online.

In sum, my plan to save the world is pretty simple: do what I do but do it better and smarter. Of course, the portion of the world I have the opportunity to improve is very tiny, a pinprick in a map. However, if you find ways to make your sphere of influence a happier place, our efforts will add up. That's something I can truly put my trust in...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Flood the World with Light

"Flood the World with Light"

The world is burning:
Hatred stands atop the ash heap, cackling,
Callings to its minions.
There seems so many
And they are emboldened
By the ascent of their leader.
They want to divide,

A constant refrain rings in my head:
What can I do?
Here I sit with above average pain
And below average income.
I have no brand,
No entourage,
No deep pockets
Or friends in high places.
In the grand scheme of things,
My voice,
My reach,
My footprint,
Is very small.
Almost invisible.
I spend time mourning,

I am still tired.
But I am rising.
I am building.
They chant for a wall.
I will give them one.
I will stand against it all:
I will not yield.
I will not be afraid.
If you come for my friends,
You will have to take me as well.

I will flood my world
With light,
It doesn’t matter how broad a beam I cast.
The edge of my light 
Will touch the edge of yours.
We will be blinding,
And Hatred will shrink from our brilliance
As cowardice is wont to do.

Michelle Remy
November 11, 2016

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