Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why I Journal

Although my journaling style, the "how" of my expression, varies wildly, I am unequivocally certain why I journal.  There is an urge deep in my soul, a river of emotion pushing at its banks, seeking the slightest opening through which it can rush, expand and overflow.  My reasoning, logical, controlling self stands at the gap, finger in the hole, fearful of what might emerge if the river should break through.

In the past, I have played Shepherd to my life, vainly corralling chaos in order to bestow a sense of power and security.  Yet, the Shepherd is getting very, very tired and the river on the other side of the wall is waiting.  Little by little, I experiment with letting that emotion through, employing art journaling as the conduit.  Paper, paint, ink, stamps, collage, writing: the words and images flow, sometimes trickling and sometimes raging.  I journal in fits and starts as I’m not ready to let all my emotions wash over me.  I often start things, tasting the cleansing release as the art begins to arise from that locked away place and almost as quickly I pull back.  It is too much; I can not control it.  It will sweep me away.  I gasp, both at my temerity and the possibilities that letting go reveals.  Each time, I let the waters make more headway and I become less resistant to its advance.  In fact, I am beginning to welcome it.

Control is an illusion; pursuing an illusion can be deadly.  My emotional and mental health has stumbled under the self-imposed mandate that I must always be at the helm of my ship.  I struggle against currents and I battle the winds, hoping to create calm, however fleeting.  But I am learning that sometimes my ship must drift, gently bumping up against life’s obstacles.  The occasional floundering upon the shore is inevitable and not irreversible.  I can recover; I can set sail again.   My quest to control the universe is an ill-fated concept, one whose map leads to disappointment, fear, and a sickness of spirit.  Art is a new map to follow.

So, I journal and the stream beneath my feet gains strength, growing bolder with every entry I complete.  My resilience in the face of unexpected and ongoing challenges improves.  I learn to confidently navigate my way through the crests and troughs of life, experiencing it without uncontrollable apprehension and reflecting upon it with wonder.  My long-suppressed spirit emerges, first in the art and then, in my personality, and then in my actions.  The journey to my authentic self begins in my journal, page by page, and port by port. 

Originally written February 10, 2006 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

100 Things

Over the next month or so, I hope to enrich and deepen the content of this blog as I always envisioned it as becoming a resource for my readers.  Blogger now has a "Page" feature which allows me to add up to ten tabbed pages of stand-alone content in addition to the home page.  I have begun at the beginning: with an "About Me" page entitled "100 Things," a list of (obviously) 100 little facts about me and my life.  Click on the little tab underneath the header and If you get through all 100, have yourself a cookie and get back to your art!  Thanks for reading! 

New Year, New Challenges

As 2010 winds down, I am gearing up for the challenges I have decided to tackle for 2011.  I have always adored the concept of vowing to make something every day for a year as if such a commitment would be the only way to demonstrate that I am indeed an artist.  And I have started a couple of those "every day" projects in Januarys past and usually, by February, I fall behind and give up.  I look at that unfinished promise and mourn the lost body of work, berate myself for my woeful lack of followthrough.  Indeed, life struggles have gotten in the way of a few promises in the last few years; there are some past ventures still incomplete and they weigh on my conscience every day.

I have a feeling 2011 will be different.  2010 was the first year in perhaps a decade when I felt like I made progress in my health issues.  I still went through the usual remittance and relapse cycle but overall, I feel like I actually gained a little bit of footing.  I hope...no, believe...that the trend will continue into next year.  In celebration, I am planning on finally finishing up long-neglected projects and tackling three new, interconnected challenges.


This year, I looked for challenges that dovetailed with my current and renewed interests.  In the past six months, I have become intensely focused on reacquainting with and expanding my drawing and painting skills.  I am more focused than ever on art journaling and I am, in general, working to bring creativity into all aspects of my daily life.  So I have decided to participate in three challenges launching this Saturday, January 1st: The Sketchbook Challenge, organized by Sue Bleiweiss, the Art Journal Every Day project hosted by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and finally, the annual Creative Every Day mission guided by Leah Piken Kolidas.

Here are some important things to note:
  • These challenges overlap in goal & mission and I will not hesitate to use work for one to satisfy the monthly theme for another (or vice versa).
  • I am taking everything ONE MONTH AT A TIME!  I will not regard laspes as failures but as opportunities to begin again.  
  • I will post every Sunday my "Challenge Check-In" as a means of recording what I did that week for one or more of these projects.  I will be celebrating quality, not quantity!
  • As I participate, I want to feel happy, excited, expanded.  If I start to feel burdened or overwhelmed, I give myself permission to take a break without guilt.
That said, I can't wait for the challenges to begin!  I hope you'll join me in making 2011 a year of creative abundance! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all my my faithful and patient blog readers a wonderful Christmas, full of health, happiness, and hope!  May the coming new year bring you all that you dream!

Lost Coast Post will be picking up steam in the next few weeks as the holiday craziness slows down.  Among other things, Lost Coast Studio Saturdays begin anew on Saturday, January 1st, 2011 (how fitting!) and throughout the new year, I'll be documenting my participation in three online challenges (see top of sidebar.)  Lots to come so I hope you'll get a chance to join me as your own brand of holiday mania winds down.
               Take care always,
                          Michelle

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coming Up for Air

Well, the last month of college hijacked both life and the computer as my boy had four papers and so, so many tests to complete before he was able to sign off on his first semester of school.  He still has one last final due tomorrow and then we can breathe a huge sigh of relief and relaxation for about a month.  For my part, I also had final projects and portfolios due in my watercolor class so the Lost Coast homestead has been humming with frenetic energy. 

I've been journaling in between painting assignments and have discovered that as my days become crazier, my pages get simpler.  This page from November 24 ended up with this absolutely beautiful background and though I intended to tinker with it beyond the painted tree, I fell in love with the minimalist quality and just walked away happy.  Every so often, it is nice to have a more "reserved" page to rest one's eyes upon in the middle of a highly detailed journal.

In other news, check out the new, fresh look for Lost Coast Post!  It was high time I dusted off my barely serviceable Photoshop skills and banged out a new banner and once I got going, I managed some matching buttons.  Then, I had to relinquish the computer to the scholar in the family for some more ponderings on string theory, Voyager 2, computer use among school groups and the societal commentary in George Romero movies!  I have to say...as much as I love being a student, I don't miss the term papers days one bit!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lost Coast Studio Saturdays Begin

I'm going to try out a new regular feature here at LCP called Lost Coast Studio and (at least to start) it will post on Saturdays.  I'm going to aim for every Saturday but let's see how I do 'cause you know things can tend to get a little wild in my corner of the universe...The content will vary from week to week: musings on storage solutions, creative block, prompts and/or challenges, tutorials (please Santa - bring a video camera this year!?!?), product and book reviews - whatever might be cluttering up my brain as I sit in my studio on Saturday mornings.  Hopefully, most everyone will find something useful, enlightening and/or just plain curious in my ramblings...


Today, we're peeking into my sketchbooks to see what I've been up to recently.  I've kept informal sketchbooks long before I ever became interested in art journaling.  I generate lists of random thoughts, focus on research for projects and assignments, write-up lesson plans, and make oodles of doodles for show/product/business scheming, visual daydreaming, and cartooning.  I have a lot of these sketchbooks as I love to compartmentalize content: one book for cartooning in pen & ink, one for painted doodles, one for art show stuff and so on.  My watercolor class has renewed my interest in cartooning and character development so I've been working in this particular watercolor sketchbook rather enthusiastically.  For some reason, I have people heads and woodland creatures on the brain so I am sort of rocketing back and forth between the two subjects (next week it may be a totally different tangent.)  However, I am trying to develop a little more discipline when it comes to cartooning by creating model and expression sheets of individual characters.  Model sheets are great for breaking the habit of having a drawing always cemented in that ubquitious full frontal pose; for more dynamic characters, turn those doodles to the side, make 'em dance or crouch - anything to get them moving!  I also like to take notes on colors I've used or style choices that work (or not).  Eventually, I hope I can make this approach to sketching an ingrained habit as I think my cartooning will improve in leaps and bounds with the addition of a little discipline.

Well, there you have it...Lost Coast Studio - Week One.  Hope your weekend is full of creative energy and inspiration!  And if you have anything in particular you'd like me to ramble on about in a Saturday post, pop it into a comment...    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Painting Out in the Wide World

"Watcher"
"Touch of Violet"
watercolor
These little landscapes represent my first ever plein aire painting experience (this class has generated a lot of firsts.)  After packing up my folding chair, palette, paint box, brushes, drawing board with paper attached, water jar and a gallon of spare water, I joined my class at a local wildlife preserve to practice three-tiered landscapes.  I discovered several things:
  • It's all about the layers, baby!
  • Clouds move quickly...
  • A perfectly sunny day with only a slight breeze is a blessing indeed...
  • Sunny days can be deceptively chilly...
  • It is impossible to paint with mittens on...
  • It is impossible for me to paint exactly what I see fast enough so the word for the day was "interpret."
  • Another word for the day: "relax."
  • Insect guts make an indelible smudge mark when snuffed out in the middle of their trek across your painting...
  • Wildlife preserves have a lot of wayward insects...
  • Scout your location ahead of time to reduce what you need to carry into the field.  (I was seated on the observation deck right next to the bathrooms and consequently, a source of water - no need for the jug o' water.)
  • Try to burn images into your head so you can continue to "interpret" when you get home...
  • The world is filled with A LOT of shades of green...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For a Moment, Awash in Inner Silence

As per usual, things have been chaotic for me and mine here on the Lost Coast, necessitating yet another extended absence from publishing.  I think I can only handle one whirlwind at a time and this time, the particular storm keeping me off my feet is college (for myself and my son.)  I'm just taking a single class but the fresh inspiration and new environment has my brain flying off in as many tangents as can fit in a day (and believe me, that's A LOT!)  I'm studying watercolor but I find myself experimenting in all sorts of things as I get a welcome (and long overdue) jolt of outside feedback and challenges.

Last week, for the first time ever, I worked from a real live nude model.  I managed to avoid it all through school, not because I'm a prude but because I simply didn't want to tempt my evil inner critic out into the open anymore than he already is and when it comes to realistically representing the human body, something inside freezes up and the self-criticism gets deafening.  So I decided from the the outset that I would set aside any notion of a "good" outcome; I just "knew" the end product was going to suck so I focused completely on the process.  The challenge here was to capture the figure's essence and energy WITHOUT using a pencil.  This particular pose lasted 20 minutes so there wasn't a lot of time to waste whining anyway; the model settled into her pose, the instructor started the timer, and off we went!  Colors had to be chosen on the fly and unexpected movement of the paint had to be either "corrected" before it dried or left alone.  The instructor did not walk around and help anyone; after the briefest of lectures on human anatomy in the previous session, we just dove into figure painting and it was definitely akin to free diving as opposed to scuba diving with all its reassuring equipment, extra oxygen and all that.  Yep!  One breath, a brush, paint, water, the paper, the model, and the clock.  Tick tock...

Lo and behold, I discovered something.  With the damn critic bound and gagged in a corner of my brain, I was able to fully immerse myself in the process AND I didn't drown!  (This is something I have experienced only rarely in my artistic lifetime.)  In fact, when I finally came up for air after three hours of painting, I actually *gasp* liked some of my work and the stuff I didn't like?  It truely didn't matter.  The critic had not one word to say.  Silence is golden.  I don't know if I'll ever paint the figure again as it simply isn't my area of interest but this experience was invaluable.  Taking control of the critic is possible and necessary.  It is possible to not be afraid all the time.  How refreshing! 

P.S.  More to come as I get stuff scanned and my thoughts organized...stay tuned and once again, thank you all for your infinite patience with my erratic publishing schedule...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Wonder of Just Knowing


"Moon Over Rabbit Bluff"
watercolor; 10"x14"


Let's see here...how well did I follow the "rules" on this assignment?  Sun?  Nope.  Required palette of reds, yellows, oranges, and perhaps a touch of purple?  Not quite.  Sunset?  Maybe if you rewinded this scene back a few minutes.  Three-tier landscape?  Yes (although I see once I scan it that my horizon line is sinking to the right...Oh well.) 

When my watercolor class was asked to paint a setting sun in the course of learning about layers in a traditional landscape, I knew immediately that I wouldn't be so interested in depicting a sunset as I would be the moonrise.  At the end of the day, sometimes there's a moment where those two celestial bodies coexist in the visible sky, a gentle argument between starlight and sunshine.  That was my guiding vision as I proceeded along blissfully, completely ignoring the fact that almost everyone else was dutifully capturing a variety of toasty warm sunsets.  I washed the background with brilliant quinacridone magenta, medium cadmium yellow, mineral violet, and a stunning, sparkly amethyst purple (yes, it's made from genuine amethyst!)  Once the sky was dry, I lifted out pigment to reveal the moon, readying herself for the coming night.  The foreground is executed in a thick, deep, royal dioxazine violet. 

What really tickled me about this painting is that the "story" - two wild bunnies watching the moon rise over the Pacific - just suddenly appeared.  I had painted the bluff and the trees and stepped back.  In front of me, I saw a place and a time but nothing more.  I needed an event, something to give the painting a bit of power and purpose.  And then, in the next moment, I knew it would be rabbits.  I knew there would be two.  I knew one ear needed to be flopped over.  I just knew.  There was no prolonged, agonizing period of analysis or pitched battle in my brain over finding the "perfect" solution.  Those rabbits just appeared in the painting like a slow-developing polaroid that suddenly resolves itself.  Love that...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lux and Rebellion


"Autumn Lux"
watercolor; 10"x14"
(Insert heavy sigh here)  For the past month, I've been fully ensnared in the college homework, housing inspection/paperwork and art teaching schedule that seems to consume my every waking minute.  The only art I've been doing is during my "Techniques in Watercolor" class and since the start of the term, that work has been focused on the basics such as brush handling, washes, glazing, mixing and color wheel construction and use.  It is useful information but is largely review for me.  I am eager to push the paint into new frontiers and it is only in the last two sessions that we have been allowed to play a bit with assignments that require a bit more imagination.

However, even these most recent painting lessons have been accompanied by restrictions and I have discovered that I am chafing against any sort of rules laid down with the best of intentions by my instructor.  In the piece I present to you today, we were asked to work with a palette limited to yellows and reds (and of course any mixes derived from those).  We were asked to specifically avoid colors from the cool hemisphere of the color wheel.  Well, you guessed it!  I'm one of those students; I just can't help myself.  Here on the Lost Coast, green maintains a strong presence, even in the depths of winter.  And I love those leaves caught in between the glory days of summer and the cool release of fall.  My muse tried really hard to please the professor - honest.  But muses being what they are, I defiantly crossed into the forbidden zone and stole away with a dash of deep, rich phthalo green.  Sorry, Professor Silver.  It is what it is and I love it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Bounty of Distractions...

...are keeping me from my playtime (and blogging obviously).  Let's review:
  • Struggling through the first (and thankfully usually the only) upper respiratory ick of the school year...I swear all I have to do is walk past the school and I get sick...every single time...
  • Planning and prepping my class for 50 middle schoolers (starts tomorrow - yikes!)
  • Starting back to college with an art class ("Techniques in Watercolor") to supplement my degree (and to force some regular art time)...
  • Getting my newly 18 year-old son settled into a college routine of his own while he is also miserable with afore-mentioned ick...(he's a trooper though and I am very proud of him!) 
  • Sewing and painting furiously for an art show to hang in November/December...with every stitch I think "What was I thinking & is it too late to switch gears!?!"
  • Booking two more shows for 2011 and wondering when the crazy impulse to overschedule will subside...
  • Considering joining a local artists' collective...it would mean I'd have to build a large stash of work with a consistent look...hmmmm...
  • Visiting family so I can get in some snuggling time with my baby nephew!
  • Cleaning like a woman possessed for annual housing inspections...I will be sooo glad when those are over! (A ream of paperwork precedes those appointments so there's that too...)
  • Chasing and chastising my neurotic & naughty marmalade boy while trying protect calico girl from his shenanigans...this is also prompting a few "What was I thinking!?!" moments...
AND just this morning...
  • Moving furniture in the studio so apartment maintenance can get the old, tired stove out and a new, much more cooperative stove upstairs and into place...can't wait to bake in something with a reliable thermostat!  Oh, and dials with the numbers not rubbed off!  (It's the little things, people!)
Lost Coast Post will return to its regular (well, semi-regular) broadcasts on Monday, September 13...hope all is well (and frantic-free) for you and yours!  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Flame of Change

The planning and pondering continues here on the Lost Coast at a breakneck pace.  On the one hand, a creative fever is a good sign as it means I'm nearing the heart of my true passion; on the other, there is the potential to burn up with the heat of too many ideas bubbling up all at once.  Still, I'm letting the fire burn, containing its enthusiasm only when necessary and otherwise waiting to see what the flames will reveal.

This crazy idea for a new project sparked to life about a month ago.  Since my wrist fusion surgery in 2008, making a full, tight fist has continued to be difficult and that complicates both my precision and endurance in the studio.  Notice that your wrist bends upwards when gripping something; hand and wrist muscles work together to hold an object.  Take the wrist movement out of the equation and the hand has to try and do all the work.  As using scissors is considerably less painful, I began leaning more heavily on collage with unaltered magazine images.  Although the work is physically easier, it is also emotionally unsatisfying.  Now and then, on a "good hand day," I would create a page entirely from scratch and the upwelling of glee was undeniable.  In turning down the easy path, I had forgotten the challenge and reward that my own work offers.  Some soul searching produced a moment of clarity and that became the following bonfire of goals:
  • Re-dedicate myself to physical therapy:  Curl, stubborn ring and pinkie fingers, curl!
  • In general, return to art that is heavily imprinted with my own hand & soul...
  • Illustrate (and share) original characters (no matter how tentative I am)...
  • Test the creative writing waters & see if there are any stories still alive inside...
  • Employ a specific theme for inspiration & consistency...
  • Explore that theme in a single project for at least a year... 
  • Radically reduce time spent collecting and increase time spent creating...
So there you have it!  Now you know the why, the when, and the how...all that remains is the what and that, dear readers, is a subject for another day!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shine On

I started doodling these little spud-headed characters way back in 2004 so after browsing my sketchbooks for inspiration, I decided to convert one of my ink scribbles into paint.  I think this face style is a bit too simplistic for my upcoming needs; I need to develop something that has the potential for a broader range of facial expressions.  However, this little "sun child" has his own charm.  I think the background needed more pizazz  but this really was just an experiment in blending and shading.

Experimentation is the word for today...and tomorrow...and the day after that.  I'd like to develop some illustrative consistency before I launch into my Big Idea.  I also have other projects & interests calling my name (I'm oh so behind!) and I'll need to tackle and complete those before I can really lean into my adventure.  But little by little, an itinerary will emerge and when the time is right (probably beginning in November), I'll be ready to fully focus on my plans.

What are those plans?  (I know, I know - enough suspense already!)  For now, I'm keeping the theme of my journey close to my heart, letting the idea take root and blossom a bit before transplanting it into the world.  I will say that my general scheme is this:  take a unifying theme and explore it in word and image over a long period of time (hopefully one year).  I'd like to compile all my explorations into a single volume.  I'm not sure if I'll work on this project to the exclusion of all else; it remains to be seen how far down the rabbit hole I fall.  Tomorrow, I'll elaborate a bit more on why I'm even looking down that rabbit hole in the first place.  Until then, I wish you all a sunny day and artful times...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Provisions

I've had some trouble spilling words this morning so I've popped some classic Paul Simon into the WinAmp player and as my head bounces to his simple rhythms and poetic lyrics, the thoughts are starting to roll.

For me, a big part of any project is the hunting/gathering stage.  I'm pretty darn good at collecting and I suspect many of you are as well.  However, there is a dangerous comfort in collecting, an insidious, seductive illusion of accomplishment.  I've lost count of how many times that a Big Idea has seized my brain and subsequently, my pocketbook.  When the pursuit and purchase fever has cooled, I'm left with a grand pile of supplies and little else.  In the aftermath, I chastise myself for all the wasted money, time, and energy.  My self-loathing eats my imagination for dinner and then I can only wait for the next burst of inspiration and hope I can rein in the collecting compulsion.

For my upcoming artistic adventure, I have vowed to use ONLY what I have on hand; I will NOT cast even a single eyeball towards new papers, paints, pencils and so on.  I will NOT gaze wistfully at all the new doodads and doohickeys that are sure to hit the stores this fall.  If I am craving an infusion of fresh supplies, I need only dig through my swollen stash; I'm sure to discover things I forgot I have.  I WILL jump off the mad, mad, mad rushing train of consumerism I think is running down so many artists.  I will try to dodge the pitfalls of product worship and avoid the dead energy of pre-determined materials. 

I am not advocating a return to charred wood and rock walls.  But let me say this: the greats didn't spend their time in art stores.  They had their heads down in the studio, worshipping story and image, not the next big CHA release.  Packing provisions for my next project will be as simple as turning to the left or right in my studio and as I simplify the baggage, my ideas will finally be able to take wing.  Sweet, indeed!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Voice Lessons

The Girl with Hair in Her Stars
Every new venture, no matter how well-planned and how eagerly anticipated, begins with a measure of nervousness and self-doubt.  The voice trembles, the hand hestitates, the heart questions.  It is in simply moving forward anyway that ultimately shakes loose the grip of fear.

Realistic, edgy, and/or dreamy portraits of people aren't one of my artistic strengths.  I think I could get better at it over time if I practiced and I used to think that's what I wanted to do (it is sort of a trend after all.)  But my sketchbooks are filled with something more akin to cartoons, characters and critters not quite of this earth.  These oddball beings are clamoring to be heard; they want to materialize from the mists of my imagination into a world that may or may not look kindly upon their appearance.  But things are getting sort of loud in my head.  It is time to listen, no matter how scared I might be.  It is impossible to sing if I never open my mouth.  Pure cacophony may come pouring out (especially at first, so consider yourself warned) but in time, certain pleasing melodies may emerge. 

Over the next few weeks, part of my processing will include experimenting with different face styles, practicing shading.  What head shape do I like best?  What type of eye seems most expressive?  Do I need to add a mouth?  Basic cartooning was one of the most popular classes I've ever taught at the middle/high school level and I am going to take my own advice and practice, practice, practice!  Or in the vernacular:  Doodle my brains out!  I'm looking for something that starts coming up consistently, a style that suits the subject.  I want to look at a portrait and see somebody or something familiar looking back at me.  And in that moment, both the artist and the idea will have found their voices.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Thought with Legs

As indicated in previous posts, I've decided to pursue a fresh path in my art.  I'm not stomping off into entirely foreign provinces, just launching a more thorough and impassioned expedition into the world of whimsical illustration.  It's certainly not that I'm disenchanted with my previous work; I just want to venture into the most authentic, rewarding, and frankly, challenging territory possible and when I surveyed my past artistic forays, I discovered that my most personally satisfying work contained lots and lots of hand-generated details.  For me, collage with magazine clippings or vintage photos often feels forced, awkward, impersonal.  And when I sat quietly, going further back into my creative origins, I remembered that I've always loved to create characters; I even did a fair amount of fiction and poetry writing once upon a time.

So, after a period of intense reflection, the necessary journey became clear, as if a heavy fog had lifted.  My head is flooded with ideas and I'm falling in love all over again.  My bags are packed with all the tools and techniques I feel leave the most authentic fingerprints.  I'm processing, researching, doodling, planning, and notetaking like mad.  I actually have a very specific adventure in mind and more will be revealed on that topic over the next few days.  I hope you, dear readers (a small but fierce contingent), will follow along with the creative caravan soon departing the Lost Coast for destinations unknown.  

Friday, August 6, 2010

There Be Monsters Ahead...If I'm Lucky

Hand-drawn monster ATCs
All my downtime in recent months has generated some unintended but utterly vital introspection about my art, past and present, and that quiet deep-thinking has revealed a bold new journey ahead.  With my days so often limited in terms of energy and physical capablities, I discovered that when I do make it into the studio, I desire two things: a feeling of childlike joy bubbling over in everything I create and an authentic, personal relationship with my creations.  Looking back through a ten-year portfolio and reaching back even farther into the mists of my childhood, I had an epiphany of sorts, a realization that is shaping up to be a huge whirlwind of new energy and exploration.  When reviewing my work, I paid attention to those pieces and processes that caused a flutter in my stomach, a smile in the corner of my mouth, a giggle, a deep sigh of contentment.  I asked myself:  What am I in love with?  What stands in front of me as a mirror, not of my outer self but of my shy, long-neglected inner persona?  What art flows from my hands and soul like so much spun gold? (Not that it is easy to do but that it emerges from me sprinkled with whimsy and light.)  It took awhile, this process of review and reflection, but common threads started to emerge and those threads are going to become the weft and warp of a grand, magical carpet destined to carry me off on fresh artistic journeys and personal expressions.  Some of those paths are actually old ones that I abandoned to the choking weeds of self-doubt.  A few are avenues I pondered but avoided because I was so damned intimidated by others who have gone before me.  Now, however, I look down at this carpet woven with all that makes me happy and wonder what's the harm in stepping on and seeing where it takes me?  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

May the Dawn Break

Re-entering the world after an extended absence is so very difficult, especially when there is no guarantee that it won't be necessary to disappear all over again.  Even the computer screen feels uncomfortably bright.  But re-engaging the world is necessary and good and lovely so I'll make another attempt at doing so for as long as I can stand the light.  Coming to terms with permanent disability is a monumental mental task and in adjusting to the notion that my life may forever have a different path than what I imagined, I let all other extraneous pursuits fall by the wayside.  Becoming comfortable in my own skin, accepting my body for what it is, appreciating it for all it has already given me...these thoughts have loomed large and needy in the forefront of my mind.  Acceptance is, by no means, equal to acquiesance; giving in doesn't mean giving up and so I type these words as one sort of portal to the world.

Throughout the past several months, I've journaled on and off.  Sometimes, just keeping up with the mundane demands of life was enough challenge for days on end and art often got shoved to the side.  Most of my journaling was done in a book I started just for private ponderings; I've been pretty relaxed about publishing my pages but I felt I had to have at least one journal just for me.  Even in that journal, there are some pages I won't mind airing out in the open.  And when I wasn't actively doing art, I spent time thinking about art, weaving a sort of nest of dreams to contain my unsquashable hopes for an full-fledged, wildly satisfying artistic career.  Of course, growing working wings is an awkward, ugly process, all full of stubby, half-realized beginnings.  The trick is to believe that all those unfinished starts have the potential to continue to grow and transform into something really beautiful and useful.  To do that, I need patience, perseverance, and the courage to brave the light when the darkness has been so comforting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Crayola Doesn't Make A Color For Your Eyes


Fell in love with this tune and singer this morning...so much so that I decided to wade through all the technical mumbo-jumbo required to try and embed a video using Blogger...whew! So worth it though! Do your artistic self a favor, search Kristin Andreassen out on Amazon, and download this sweet song from her album "Kiss Me Hello."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Imagining Myself Back to Life

When creative passion packs its bags and walks out of my life due to lack of nurturing, it takes some work to coax it back home.  Late last year, my artistic self seemingly left in a huff, tired of being neglected, of being pushed aside by all the attention-demanding health issues and general lack of forward momentum.  Once my "mojo" went on vacation, it seemed like it would never return.  I was slow to realize that in truth, my passion hadn't really left but instead, had gone into deep stasis.  It was waiting for there to be room, not only for its mere existence, but for its joyous flourishing, expanding, searching.  It took me a while to recognize my muse, waiting patiently on the fringes of my consciousness but once I knew She had not abandoned me, I slowly set about preparing a space in my mind for Her return.

I was so fatigued and in so much pain that even sitting upright was exhausting.  So I slept - a lot - trying to stockpile energy for those basic functions of day-to-day living.  But when I laid down to nap or when I turned into my bed in the evening, I would decide upon a subject to ponder: how to translate a particular idea into a journal page, how to solve an attachment issue on canvas, how to express a certain emotion visually and so on.  Then I would snuggle deep into the flannel covers and imagine myself in the studio, setting out the supplies, brainstorming options, weighing the possibilities and solving the problem.  In reality, I went several weeks without a single artistic action, but in my mind, I worked for hours, slinging poetry and paint with abandon.  If I didn't want to tackle a specific issue, I would simply lay there in the dark and try to imagine all the colors I owned of a particular supply, turning the palette over in my mind, keeping my sense of color alive amid day after day of grey.

Then, one day, I just knew I was ready.  The muse had gone from the fetal postion to anxiously hopping about, eager to fuel a little bit of creative fire.  But I didn't aim too high.  I didn't hand the muse Her orders and try to crank out something off my massive to-do list.  Instead, I just let Her play.  She was very tentative and out-of-practice at first and, as I was/am still coping with a variety of physical obstacles, my muse was easily drained of energy.  Everything I did had to be really simple and free of expectation.  At this point in time, some days are better than others but I continue to progress.  My muse is happily reconstructing her fortress in my head, painting the walls in colors just as brilliant as I had imagined them.  The magic is back. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dispatch from the Edge of the Storm

It has been a really long while since I've felt, physically and emotionally, like exposing myself to the glare of living out in the world.  After a while, invisibility becomes comfortable, peaceful.  But it is time to re-emerge and give life another try.

Beginning around October, I began struggling with a huge fibro fatigue flare and when it rains, its pours.  My hands started to fail me (ongoing severe tendonitis and swelling) and six new fibromas were discovered in my feet.  I completely lost the will to create.  It was all I could do to continue teaching; sometimes it would take the entire weekend to recover from one three-hour session with my students.  Out of desperate necessity, I shunted all my energies into basic survival.  And, as a result, my art simply withered up and disappeared.  For at least two months, I produced nothing.  I would sit at my studio table, hoping for inspiration but the mental and physical energy required to drive creative endeavors just didn't exist.

Slowly, oh ever so slowly, my energy has crept back.  But I discovered that the long absence from art-making had dulled my creative faculties.  So I began with nothing more than painting serendipity papers.  Some days, I spent only ten to fifteen minutes in the studio, making random marks.  A few days were spent only looking at paints, appreciating color combinations, considering applications.  I did a lot of reading.  I had to nurture my creative self like a fragile new flower. 

I'm still not 100 percent.  If I want to have a sustainable level of energy throughout the day, I have to very closely monitor the balance between energy output and reinvigorating self care (and down time.)  It is frustrating; I have many outstanding commitments that have not received my attention in a long while.  However, I am trying to take small steps and as I try to journey forward, I hope those around me can be patient with my inch-by-inch progress.  The light out here in the world seems awfully bright.

Thank you to everyone who has offered up words of comfort and support, waited steadfastly for me to decide to rejoin the world, and who has cheered me on in good times and bad.  You are all deeply appreciated!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Just A Little While Longer...

Due to health issues, I have been on a hiatus from blogging since late November 2009; I just wanted to pop in and say that this break will continue a little while longer.  I hope to resume posting from the Lost Coast on February 1st...please stay tuned.  
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