Tag Archives: inspiration

Inspiration: Art Is Personal


At least for me it is.  I resisted this for a long time, though.  I think I was afraid that if I let it be too personal, it would not be taken seriously.  So I detached myself from it, instead focusing on experimental landscapes that felt safe.  I was a young woman, trying to be taken seriously (and trying to take myself seriously) while having babies and generally being overwhelmed.  I love a lot of the work that came out of that time period (my mid twenties to early thirties)….. it’s just that it didn’t have that much to do with what was actually going on in my life.  I was full time with kids, and all of the craziness and immediacy that ensues, and didn’t have time to be out photographing and sketching for afternoons, or to come back home and create the large landscapes that I longed to continue with.  Finally, as Julia Cameron would say, the well went dry.  My paintings felt empty and overworked….. the painter’s equivalent of writer’s block.  It was like chewing on cardboard.  

Then I stumbled on a book that tripped me out.  It was Spilling Open by Sabrina Ward Harrison.


 She’s written/painted a few books since then, but that first one is still my favorite.  It is artistically and visually stunning, but what really got me was how personal it is.  It just shot right through me.  This was new to me- the idea that good art could be personal and feminine, and raw,  and just plain tell the truth.  That I didn’t need to distance myself from my experience, and add several layers of hazy intellectualism, in order to make a painting.  It was a new concept, that when I come to the canvas, I am enough.


So then I started asking myself new questions… like if I could paint anything, what would I paint?  If I could use any medium I wanted, what would I use?  I know this sounds silly- like why in the world wouldn’t I be asking myself those questions before?  But I had not let myself think this way in a long time, and it was new.  It has really changed my painting.  And my attitude. Nowadays, I can’t wait to paint.  The resistance I used to feel (you know- that gut churning feeling that procrastination brings on) just isn’t there.


And so much work has flowed from those questions.  The dress series, to begin with, and the nests, and this blog. And I’m finding that if I let my life and desires lead me, the complexity of meaning is still there. Really, so much of desire is universal. And even a dogged kind of intellectualism tags along behind, offering explanations for the symbolism in my paintings.  I like that the explanations don’t come first, though.  The painting comes first. 

I started with dresses.  I think I’ll end with them, too…..


For more about my dress series visit my website.


A Nest Story

As many of you know, I am fascinated by nests. If this nest looks familiar, it’s because I’ve painted it several times…. isn’t it beautiful?

This last winter, as my studio was nearing completion, I noticed a nest lodged in a tree that overhangs one of the skylights.  It was way out on the end, perching there, looking like it should have fallen out long before. It looked stark out there by itself, without even the leaves of the tree to put it into context.  I thought about getting up onto the roof to look at it, but decided that it was out of my reach, a bit too high up for me to get to.  If I stood in the right spot in my studio, I could look up through the skylight and see it. 

One night, the wind picked up, and we live out here on the Northern California coast, which means that it really picked up. It was absolutely howling, all night, with driving rain.  A few times that night, I woke from the noise of the storm, and looked out my bedroom window to check on the nest, and each time was amazed to see it still hanging in there, swaying like a crazy thing on the end of that branch.  In the morning, I checked again, and it was still there.  Amazing.  By then, the wind was dying down, and I was relieved to see that the nest had survived.

Later that morning, I went out to the studio to make sure that the skylights had not leaked.  Everything was fine, and as I was leaving to go back into the house, something caught my eye. There, on one of the wet flagstones by the door was the nest, still clinging to a little section of the branch, looking for all the world like an offering.  



Seeds of Authenticity

It’s really weird to me how life seems to simultaneously speed up and slow down when I get sick, as I was this last week.  Flu. Not fun.  My tendency to stay vertical and moving doesn’t help things. So much to do!  So, you can imagine, not much going on in the studio.  But I did work a little in my new journal. I’ve been thinking and writing about where “deep well”  inspiration comes from. Where new ideas that pop into my head come from. I think it’s different for all of us, but I think for me it is about creating stability, a base, an internal home, to come back to and act out of …a place where the seed of authenticity and singularity can grow.  Fertile ground, inside. Without it, my ideas seem to lose their initial brightness before fading away. For me, the integration of routine (action) and introspection is key.

Another new thing:  A table for encaustic. It will be so nice not to be hunched over when I’m working anymore. My father built this table when I was a kid to hold his photography equipment. He and my mom are moving out of the house I grew up in, and I was very enthusiastic about adopting this table. It is truly perfect. I’ve been itching to start some large encaustics, and now I have the space!

Also, this week I’ll have new work up in Atlanta.  Huff Harrington is featuring new work by gallery artists in their show, Wet Paint. You can check out the announcement here.