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'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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This Morning in America

"We need to stop looking to politicians to make our world better. Politicians don't make the world a better place. Everything that's ever made the world a better place has come from inventors, engineers, scientists, teachers, artists, builders, philosophers, healers, and people that choose love over hate."
Don Freeman

I have a personal rule here at Lost Coast Post: Don't talk about politics. Today - and today only - I am breaking that rule. 

I am fairly active on Twitter and anyone who scans my tweet history can quickly determine my political leanings. Here at my blog, I have stubbornly kept the focus on art, even when it was painful to do so. This morning, however, I feel it would be irresponsible and disingenious to not discuss how I am feeling right now. 

I wrote my previous post (regarding Inktober) before the election. In an effort to post more frequently, I try to write things ahead of time and schedule them to run throughout the month. So, on the morning after such a momentous event in our nation's history, I am apparently doodling science fiction creatures, either blissfully unaware of what just happened at our voting booths, completely uncaring or worse, celebrating gleefully. There is nothing further from the truth.

Just for today, I am choosing to write here and now about politics. There is the certain risk of losing followers. I don't care. I stand for inclusion, kindness, education, tolerance, compassion, and thoughtfulness; I have no idea how a vote for Trump supports any of those ideals. Think about this: our nation's first black president will be handing the keys to the White House to a man (using the term very loosely) endorsed by the KKK. If you read that, and believe deep down in your soul, that that reality is a measure of progress, please unfollow me. I can't stand the idea that someone with that kind of hate in their hearts would come here and claim to be moved by my work.

This morning, and I'm sure for days, weeks, and months to come, I will be in mourning for what America has done to itself and the world. This *morning* though, I will do art. And I will go to work and teach art to 40 sweet-faced, enthusiastic middle schoolers. We will draw and color and laugh at our efforts and celebrate them too. We will tackle hard things, learn from our mistakes, and try again even if we are afraid because that is how real, lasting, meaningful progress is made. 

As devastated, embarassed, and ashamed as I feel, I am going to stand my ground. I will make art with abandon, no matter my personal obstacles, for as long as I am able. Now, more than ever, beauty must be sown. Anyone who believes in positivity, light, love, hope, and togetherness needs to stand strong, especially for those most threatened and disenfranchised by this election outcome. I stand up for those things through my work. It is a small thing to be sure but it is what I have to offer. I know, that through art and invention and writing, we push back against ignorance and fear. I see that fact in action everyday in the classroom, whether my students are middle school children or adults.

And so, I turn back to my paint, paper, canvas, clay, journals, joy...because that is what heals me. I hope each of us finds our way and that in the end, when this nightmare ends (and it will,) I hope, with every fiber of my being, that we will find ourselves standing together. Go make art people - in whatever form or fashion suits you - and sow that in your world...please, please, please...  

Continuing Inktober at My Own Pace

As predicted, life got in the way of completing the Inktober challenge within the month of October. Out of town travel was a monkey wrench in my efforts that I saw coming but it still threw me off track immediately. I never really got back on worries. I have completely enjoyed this series of illustrations (especially the theme & color scheme) so I'm going to keep going until I finish 31 drawings. It might very well take me until next October to accomplish this challenge so you've been warned. If I'm posting Halloween-themed drawings at Valentine's and the Fourth of July, you'll know why. I'm big on breaking the confines of "rules" these days in order to adapt to what my body needs so I'm continuing Inktober at my own pace.

Another heads-up: I am having my twelfth surgery in mid-December; left foot again this time around. I've known for a while now that this fibroma surgery was going to have to happen but a visit to the foot surgeon last month resulted in planning for surgery much sooner than later. I usually schedule surgeries for summer break when I have lots of free time for recovery but the surgeon was concerned that waiting six more months - given how fast these latest growths are progressing - would mean a much more complicated surgery. So...back under the knife I go. Five weeks until surgery day; the countdown is on. Lots to do before then: three pre-op appointments, Thanksgiving with family, Christmas shopping/making/decorating, new unit starting today at school (illuminated manuscripts and the study/performance of Midsummer Night's Dream,) the second of two annual housing inspections, and art...loads of glorious art! Never a dull moment!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reevaluating My Journal Style: Part 2

The pages in this post represent the type of journal that is currently the most inspiring and useful for me. I periodically review my personal trends and preferences in art so I can better utilize my time. My various health challenges make me very aware of the passage of time. Parkinson's Disease in particular is having an increasing impact on my technical skills and mental focus. As with most people, I want to make the most of the time I have. Interests also change over the years and I like to have a conscious awareness of what is setting my soul on fire. So you might be wondering "Am I ditching all my other journals to work in this fashion full time?" My answer is a resounding "No way!" 

While this "kitchen sink" style is what I am currently craving, each type of journal serves a unique and important purpose. Messy, grungy journals fulfill the need to play without boundaries. Journals featuring a single focal image and streams of single-spaced writing let me expound upon and examine emotions and events. Travel journals document a physical journey. Altered or handmade books with a carefully composed, artistic style serve as a bridge between the visual arts and creative writing. Sketchbooks filled with imaginative doodles and drawings are practice fields for my study of illustration. Those sketchbooks I fill with drawings from life form a portrait of the world around me. 

There are as many journal styles as there are journalers and there are no journaling commandments. "Thou shalt not keep more than one journal at a time" is not carved in stone somewhere. Neither is "Thou shalt focus on one style alone" or "Thou shalt not leave a journal unfinished." It is good to know where your attention is being diverted to on a regular basis but at the same time, remember that life is rich with variation. And so shall be our journal shelves. 
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