Category Archives: doing life

Inspiration: walking and seeing

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“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”   -Rumi

One of the trickiest things, I’ve found, about making images is the simultaneous need for experience and innocence. On one hand, we want to bring our years of experience to bear in the studio. On the other, we want to be able to see as if for the first time; an adventurous and inventive eye must not be hobbled by what it thinks it knows and sees.

This summer, I’ve been walking the same route through the fields, almost daily, and like to practice seeing things with a fresh perspective. A few times, I’ve taken my camera, and it has been so fun to look through that magic window and see how limiting the view can sometimes expand how I see. 

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Artistic perception is this great elastic thing that must be exercised to stay limber and responsive. Ironically, doing something repetitive is sometimes just the thing to practice keeping things new.

Leap…..

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Sometimes, the hardest thing is simply beginning.

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And once I begin, it is rare that I want to stop. As I approach a painting session, or a block of time in my studio, or begin a new painting or body of work, my doubts and insecurities often crowd me, beckoning me toward some other soothing activity like working in the garden or reading a book. Baking cookies. Catching up on email. Cleaning the toilet.

No, really, it is fascinating to me that after 20-something years of painting, that I can still have these feelings. It’s like that squirmy, resistant feeling you get right before jumping into a cold lake or swimming pool. After jumping, I always get a little rush of adrenaline, and then have the thought that it’s really quite nice. Wonderful, even. 

How do I get to the other side of those feelings with my artwork? I remind myself to just begin.  Then I give myself permission to do something other than painting in my studio if I just do not feel the flow after a little while. I could tidy my studio, or do some preliminary drawings, I could go outside and photograph, make some color charts, write in my art journal. Whatever. But almost always, I find myself caught up in the riptide of creative momentum, and I paint. 

“Leap, and the net will appear”

-Unknown

Momentum, Revisited: Routines and Habits

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What makes a routine work? 

When I first started writing this blog, I had recently been to a yoga workshop, taught by Rod Stryker, called “Yoga of Fulfillment”. One of the most powerful things I came away with was the idea of a “Samkalpa”.  Samkalpa means a resolution, a resolve, or an intention. Mine is defined by my desire to have momentum in my studio time, and to feel the thread of fearless creativity running through my life, weaving what then seemed fractured, together. Since then, I’ve supervised the building of a studio in back of my home, to better integrate painting into my busy family life. I’ve been much more productive than I’ve been in a long time, and have at times felt the momentum running strong.

I’ve always gotten my household and homeschooling “work” done in the mornings, and eked out a few hours of painting in the afternoon. Most days. Much of the time, this works great, and I love the way my studio warms up in the afternoon, and the sun through the skylights. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how the first things I do in my day pretty much always get done. I don’t find myself wondering first thing in the morning, “hmm….. I have time to either take a shower or brush my teeth. Which one do I do?” But I do find myself having that mental converstation with myself over, say, painting and exercising at 4 in the afternoon. Or painting and seeing a friend. It dawned on me that the things I do first are- literally and figuratively- the things I put first. So I’m experimenting with getting out into my studio earlier (after I’ve brushed my teeth, of course!), and working a bit longer. It feels strange and different. But productive. 

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of it is not checking my email before I go out to work. But if I do, before I know it, I’m reading the New York Times online, or catching up on my blog reading- and there goes an hour. Or two. Ahem.

So I’m curious about you artists out there- what habits and routines do you have that help you get your creative work done? How have you changed unproductive habits to productive ones?

Cruel To Be Kind

Sometimes, you have to almost kill something to make it work right. 

I had that thought last week, staring at my oregano. Meet my oregano:

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Last year, I planted this in my garden. It did well, growing tall and blossoming late in summer. By fall, it started to turn brown and sickly looking. With my kitchen scissors, I trimmed it back, hoping this would be enough. And still, it continued to get worse. So I took a deep breath and cut it all the way back to the ground. Not being a very experienced gardener, this always scares me when I do it. Sometimes the plants love it, and sometimes they just die. All winter it seemed as though the oregano was dead. 

But spring arrived, and it came back about eight times bigger than it was before my hack job. I’ve just been amazed, and as I stood the other day looking at it after clearing the weeds away, it occurred to me that one of my paintings was in a similar state of need. 

I’d put hours and hours into this painting, and it just wasn’t working. It bothered me every time I looked at it, and every time I looked, I found something else I didn’t like. This painting was sitting in my studio, daring me to do something about it. And I’m a pretty experienced painter, but it always scares me to risk destroying something to try and make it work. 

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I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose , because, though I loved parts of it, I didn’t love it as a whole…

Here it is, with it’s new layers obscuring the parts that bothered me, and ready for new imagery to be put on.

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I like it better already.

I can’t help loving lists…

Those of you who know me well know that I love lists. I am positively addicted to my “Ampad Project Organizer”, and write a list in it every day. Without it, I feel unanchored. Today, I was reading Beth’s blog, and she had this great list. In the spirit of list making (and not having those photos of new work that I promised!)… a Life List:

(I’ve highlighted the things I’ve done) 

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars- Joshua Tree was especially memorable
3. Played in a band- not a rock band, but jazz band and orchestra/concert bands for 8 years.
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower- on the hood of a car, when I was 15 
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Climbed a mountain 
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo 
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13.Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
24. Built a snow fort- with my kids, as an adult
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse. 
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. 
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise 
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied- 
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing- a few times. I was the crazy girl too paralyzed to move. Never again. 
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung Karaoke- Last year, in NYC, koreatown. The dynamic duo made me do it.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt 
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. 

46. Been transported in an ambulance – when I was 11, I ran through a sliding glass door, and then told the ambulance workers all the jokes I knew. Which, when  you are 11 is a lot.
47. Had your portrait painted. 
48. Gone deep sea fishing 

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling 
52. Kissed in the rain 
53. Played in the mud – I don’t think I did much else as a child. Much to my mother’s frustration. We stole all of her spoons to make mud pies.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater – Grew up going to the drive in with my parents. went as a teenager to the Santa Cruz drive in.
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business – I had a jewelry making business for a few years.
58. Taken a martial arts class 
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – And tons of chocolate for concert band in middle school.
62. Gone whale watching 
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check – All the way to china and back.
68. Flown in a helicopter 
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy 
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial 
71. Eaten Caviar- once was enough (I agree with Beth)
72. Pieced a quilt- very badly, I might add.
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job 
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person 
80. Published a book  *someday…
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car 
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper 
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life 
90. Sat on a jury 
91. Met someone famous 
92. Joined a book club 
93. Lost a loved one 
94. Had a baby – two, now 12 and 15!
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit- sued my landlord in college for not giving me back my deposit. I won.
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

I’ll Add #100, Little Known Fact: Played the baritone sax in junior high and high school jazz band. I could make a lot of noise with that thing.

Inspiration: Snow

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I went to visit snow and play in it last week, and the timing couldn’t have been better. After many months of drought, we’ve been blessed with precipitation. Here on the coast, it’s been rain and more rain. In the mountains I was greeted by a blanket of pristine, dry, sparkling snow. My daughter and I went snowshoeing, and I brought along my camera. The landscape reminded me of my “White” series, and I was totally inspired. I’ll post a few more of these this week… I think they may inspire a few new paintings….

New Work #8: more winter wax

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We are having a delicious, drizzly February day here, and the starlings outside are making quite a racket. My wind chimes are going a little crazy. I’m just enjoying it all, taking care of family life, and baking ginger cookies (because that’s what I do when it drizzles outside!) Also, sharing the latest “Winter” piece, above. I feel like I’ve finally struck a balance between complexity and simplicity in these latest pieces. I am enjoying letting the wax be what it is, not fighting or trying to overly control it. For instance, when I first started adding the tiny white dot areas, it frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t get them all to look uniform. Some of them are big, some small, some stick up and others are flat. And it’s all dependent on too many factors- like if my pallet is heating up or not (it’s on a thermostat, so there are slight variations in temperature as it cycles on and off), or how long I hold the brush on the pallet to warm it up again, or how many dots I try to make before returning to my pallet (which, of course, has everything to do with my mood and patience that day). Etc, etc. But then I just gave up. It is what it is. And I fell in love with the variation. Now, I just let it be, and I think it is one of my favorite things about these little paintings. Sometimes, acceptance can truly transport us to new places!