Buried


“How are YOU doing,” they asked.

The right word escaped me then but has found me tonight as I listen to each inflection of Thing1’s fevered breath, afraid to sleep in case he spikes again, cataloging the drugs and doses he’s on incase we need to head to the hospital for the umpteenth time this snow-inundated winter, and feeling completely frustrated at not being able to do the one thing every mother is supposed to be able to do for her children — make them better. 
And, for the first time in weeks, mostly because I’m way beyond the “if i didn’t laugh I’d cry” stage of the winter and because I don’t have time to cry and can’t think to write or draw, I picked up a brush and started to paint, and the word found me.

Somehow we will dig out of this endless winter, but right now, I realized that the word I’d been looking for was “buried”, and it had nothing to do with the snow.

Progressions

A Winters Nap

Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting.
I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.

In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.

Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning. 

That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?

I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.

I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.

That Mom just isn’t Right


At the beginning of the summer thing one and I traded spaces. He wanted privacy in the attic office/guest room (translation: at least one story between him and T2),  I wanted a workspace with a window downstairs,  and T2 wanted me close enough closer to him.  

So, for the second time this year, I relocated my desk and printer to a new home. The first time I moved them out of a tiny windowless room with a small skylight whose main selling feature was a two walls  of books.  now I know somethings not right in my head, because it took less than two months before I decided I’d rather be surrounded by the books and paintings then look out the window.

Now I know somethings not right in my head, because it took less than two months before I decided I’d rather be surrounded by the books and paintings then look out the window.

And as John Lennon might’ve said if he had been a nerdy hermit, you might say I’m a bit goofy, but I can’t believe I’m the only one. I hope someday you’ll join me (in your own little cave, of course) and the world will unwind with a few books or even just one.

Here and Now

high water, 5×7

We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire. 
Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along.
When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it. 

Thing2 seems to agree.

Head in the Clouds


I love to stop and ponder the headless statue whenever I go over to Bedlam Farm, the home of bestselling author John Katz and artist Maria Wulf.
This weekend I was there to participate in their semi-annual Open House, celebrating Rural Art and the creative spark that lives in all of us. I love the Open House because you can’t get up the driveway without running into an old friend and fellow art junkie, but this year there was something deeper to love, and it gave me a clue as to what might have happened to the pilgrim’s head.

As happens with every Open House, people from all walks of life and points of view came together to enjoy the art. Throughout the day I overheard people praising the work of others. Sitting under the apple tree on a wicker love-seat, I heard one visitor contemplating reviving her creative life as another enthusiastically encouraged her. We watched sheep herding and listened to kids relatively new to this country sharing their musical talents with a damp-eyes audience.

This weekend ended up being, for me, about nurturing the idea that the things we have in common–the things that bind us–are more beautiful and powerful and than those that divide us. There seemed to be a mass mutual recognition that our creative sparks are worth fanning and when we come together to encourage people’s gifts, we are all better.

That thought kind of carried my head into the clouds as I sat on that love-seat on Sunday, and I realize that’s probably what happened to the little pilgrim statue at Bedlam Farm too. I think he found himself at the altar of creativity (featuring a recycled art sculpture by Ed Gulley) and, keeping his feet on the ground, let his head get lost in the clouds as he chased his own creative spark. 

It’s a worthy pursuit, and I think all of us who had a chance to sit near the altar this weekend went home full of sparks to nurture and share.