Friday, December 30, 2011

The Life You Want

Beauty in the Simple

I have a friend, Cecelia Durkin, who owns a wonderful fair trade store called Women's Work.  Her subtitle is : "Enabling women to live their chosen/desired way of life".  One day  this last month when we were trying to connect to deliver something, and we were both running in circles, I finally asked, "Cecelia, is this our chosen way of life?"
Frequently as the new year rolls around, I find myself declaring that I'm going to simplify things, not get myself into so many obligations, declutter, etc. etc.  Sound familiar?
This morning as I was in the shower, noticing the three bottles of shampoo ( now really, I can only use one at a time), and was thinking about how my closets and cupboards get full, and how that theme runs to my art supplies, canned goods, clothes that I then have to make room for, I had an epiphany.
I thought of Annie Dillard's Book, The Maytrees.  One of my favorite lines was when the long gone husband returns to her dune shack and wants to know where the mirror went, and she answers something like "I got rid of it.  It wanted products."
Recalling that answer makes me think about what I need to get rid of.  Not just the stuff.  Not just saying no to invitations, requests, opportunities.  I need to identify what the culprits are in my life that demand stuff, activity, energy that I don't really have any interest in.  What are the underlying anxieties or bits of laziness that get me into my messes?  Where are the mirrors that want products that don't serve me and the life I desire for myself?
Where are yours?
Let's throw them out.
Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I've been away a lot the last few months, often without easy internet access, so I haven't been posting to my blog. Perhaps you've noticed, or maybe you've been plenty busy yourself.
But this is the time of year to restart - school, cooking, work, friendships - whatever you've had to break from during the summer. 
When it's hot out, I tend to make meals that require very little cooking.  I avoid contributing one more calorie of heat to the environment, if I can help it.  But now that it's a little cooler, I'm enjoying firing up the stove, figuring out what to make from the bounty we recieve each week from our local farm membership.
This past week I made salsa.  Salsa is like pesto or spaghetti sauce - there are a million ways to make it, once you have the basics down.  I've blanched tomatoes, tomatillos, and hot peppers till the skins slip off, thrown them in the food processor with onion, garlic, basil, cilantro, parsley - and voila!  Simple.  This is the way some of my friends from Mexico taught me. 
This week I decided to broil the vegetables.  I love the sweet flavor this imparts.  And I had some fresh okra, too, so decided to throw that in.  I also roasted the onion, rather than use it raw.
So here's what I used:
    A few tomatoes (6 or 7 medium)
    About 7 small to medium tomatilloes
   5 jalapeno peppers
   an onion
    4 okra
I roasted these till they were charred on all sides, then removed the skins and stems as necessary and put them in the food processor.  I added a handful of fresh cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, whirled them till they were processed, and stored them in the fridge. 
We've enjoyed them with chips, but also as a topping for eggs or fish.
Let me know how you use your late summer vegetables!  I'm always looking for good, simple ideas.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Celebration of Life

Yesterday we attended a memorial celebration of the life of a friend of ours who died recently.  And what a celebration it was.  There were lively musicians playing banjo, bass, tuba, and trumpet; her husband who is a remarkable photographer had put together a  slide show with images depicting her life and paintings, including video clips of her working on various projects.  After seeing her when she was so ill, it was wonderful to watch her full of life, painting with her cat helper, mugging for the camera.   Ten to twelve people were invited to speak, to tell their stories - and as each one shared Margaret's impact, she grew larger in our midst.
We each have Margaret stories full of love, humor, observation, admiration, gratitude.  They are our individual pieces of her.  But there was so much we didn't know.  A hint of the fullness of this life came out in the community gathering.

While there were plenty of tears as well as laughter and the missing will continue, you knew that this was the perfect way to honor her life and to rejoice in the gifts she has given each of us.

Margaret Crenson's 2010 Christmas Card
from her painting

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Inspiration from Quotes

Robert Fulton Quote - Acrylic and Ink on Paper
Sometimes  you come across a quote that is so rich in imagery that you find yourself running for your pencil or paints.  The other day I was looking through  a Kaatskill Life Magazine and there was a nice little article on Robert Fulton.  It felt serendipitous because they used some photos from the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, NY, where just last week I'd left some work in their gift shop.  The quote used at the beginning of the article was this: 
"As the component parts of all new machines may be said to be old, it is a nice discriminatory judgement, which discovers that a particular arrangement will produce a new and desired effect... Therefore, the  mechanic should sit down among levers, screws, wedges, wheels, etc. like a poet among the letters of the alphabet, considering them as the exhibitions of his thoughts; in which a new arrangement transmits a new idea into the world."
I love this statement.  It IS poetry, and seems to fit so many creative processes, whether art, music, writing, scientific discovery.
I had to start getting this down on paper.  Here is my first attempt.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Into the Woods

Looking for frogs
Marcus has been itching to get back into the woods, streams, ponds, trails - wherever he can find animals.  I've  wanted to take advantage of this enthusiasm but with the kids being  sick so much of the winter, we haven't been able to get out to explore.  Lately there's been a lot of rain; yesterday we had a brief window between school and the next storm so we headed out.   I'd gotten him some good boots over the winter, and picked up some nets from the pet store.  I can't tell you how thrilled he was to be able to get into the small stream by himself.  "You stay on the bank and look for frogs, nana.  I'll go in here and see if I can find some."
And snakes

We had a great time in spite of the hordes of mosquitoes.  There is little more thrilling than introducing children to an environment that is so rich in lessons.  You take them to the smorgasboard and watch them feast. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Year of Drinking Green Smoothies

In response to an online challenge I began drinking green smoothies for breakfast a little over a year ago.  It was the perfect time of year to start, when your body craves good fresh fruits and vegetables. I experimented a lot with various combinations, including things from the yard - plantain, dandelion greens, violet leaves, raspberry  and grape leaves, and plenty of fresh mint.  As the season progressed I was able to use all kinds of greens from the CSA we belong to, no longer depending on the store for the kale and collards I especially like.  And I could get local fruits, except for the bananas that give the drink a nice consistency.
I worried about winter - I was afraid that drinking a cold beverage for breakfast might not appeal to me and I'd lose the habit.  But I found that I did still enjoy them.  And if I wanted to switch up on an especially cold morning, I would have eggs or oatmeal, and get right back to the smoothies the next day or so.
Today's beverage is made with kale, collards, plantain, mint, banana, apple, and pear.  Tomorrow it will be mango, banana, and pineapple, plus greens from the store and yard.  Much as I love spinach and lettuce for salads, I don't care for them in smoothies - they have such overpowering flavors, whereas the kale and collards just seem to blend right in.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Muse Slips In On the Line in a Poem

Spirit of Poetry
Acrylic on Paper, 10" by 8"
I sometimes hear the question, "Where do you get your ideas for your paintings?" And my answer is as varied as my themes: the season, my mood, experiences, what I've been reading.  My formative years did not include television; we listened to radio programs, and read constantly.  Both of those entertainments require active imagination, and provide good training for seeing things in your mind.  There are some passages in books, and epecially poems that are so alive and present that all I have to do is edit what I'm seeing.  Which point of view do I want to use?
One of my favorite poets is Catherine DeVinck.  She entered my life in the 1980's when a friend gave me a collection of her poems entitled A Time to Gather.  My husband and I used one of her poems at our wedding.  And lately I've been envisioning a number of paintings as a result of rereading her work.
This painting was inspired by her poem in the section The Spirit of Poetry.  I think I could paint a whole series on this one section alone, it is so full of gorgeous imagery.  I encourage you to look for her books - there are many of them still available.
Where do you find your muse?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bumps in the Road

Harvest Goddess - egg tempera on gessoed stone

You may have noticed that I've been absent here, after a flurry of postings in February.  The Thing a Day Challenge was so much fun and I got a lot of work done that felt really satisfying.  And then March - no challenge, the usual family colds, sore throats, school closings requiring more babysitting hours from me, and my creativity seemed to slow down.
One of the biggest bumps turned out to be the confirmation that several of my standing stones had been stolen from a shop where I have my work.
I had first noticed two missing back in December, but was told that some things had been moved around, put in the window, etc.  The manager said she'd look carefully through everything.  I had thought about taking them to shows in the fall, but never got over there to remove them; still I said I'd look through my things to make sure I didn't have the one.  I didn't.

Flame Madonna - egg tempera on gessoed stone
We couldn't figure out how anyone would take them - they're heavy, not something little you can slip in your pocket.  And the fact that two of them were missing seemed odd.  But with winter coats and bundles, it wouldn't be too difficult to remove them. 
There are no security devices in the store.  And being a friendly community, the people who work in it might not be that vigilant.
Then in March, when I was back at the shop, I found that a third one was gone.  Now we knew for sure that someone was focussing their energies on taking these stones.  I was sick  I felt stalked, violated.  Any time I tried to paint I experienced grieving.  I debated pulling out of the store.  The manager said she'd move my things closer to the counter. There are plans to install security cameras.   I still don't feel safe and am not sure whether I'll stay there - but I do like the store and the group of people.
I'm trying to put this behind me.  There may not be anything I can do to recover these particular stones.  But I can take a cue from the rebirthing of this spring season around me and watch to see what might come forth.

P.S.  the images of the first two are so poor because I had to crop them out of booth shots - I'd never gotten around to taking individual pictures of them, somehow.
Contemplative - egg tempera on gessoed stone

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thing a Day - the Last 5 Days

Doodles and Crows Ink on Paper

Somehow I missed posting the last 5 days here, though I did send them in to the Posterous site.

On reflection, this was a great month for pushing through periodic inertia.  Even on days when I felt super busy or was sick, I was determined to create SOMEthing.  And the funny thing is that it was energizing. 

Crow Pin  Acrylic on Waterworn Stone

Overall, I came up with ideas through the month that I'd like to revisit and work on more thoroughly.  When we creating alone all the time it is often difficult to judge the merits of a piece.  I found that when I photographed them to post, it was easier to see what might need tweaking.

Crow ACEO Acrylic on Coffee Grounds

Challenges can be so useful to a creative spirit - dare I even say, essential?  Thing a Day was a good one for me.  But there are others to look for - and many that find us. 

Opened Pomegranate ACEO's  Acrylic on Paper

Opened Pomegranate 6" by 6" Acrylic on Canvas - unfinished
What are the challenges you've been working with?  Have you purposely sought any out?  What have you learned?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thing A Day 22 and 23

crow pin, acrylic on stone

Desert Sunrise with Crows, Acrylic on Paper, ACEO

Yesterday and today were busy so I just painted some small things.  The interesting thing to me is that although I've painted a lot of crow pins in the past, I found that I've changed how I do it.  The differences are small, but noticeable.  Since I've been working with all these crows this month, I'm no longer satisfied with the way I used to do paint them.  I added a little detail to the body and a very thin line of paint  in a lighter color to set the crow off better against the background.

Today was a babysitting day which means I have to carry my supplies with me.  Sometimes it's fun to set a challenge to use only a couple of colors.  I chose a dark plum and a pale yellow and combined them to get the muted pigments that felt to me like a desert sunrise.  Then I added a couple of crows, although in the one little painting I think it's a condor- it's big! 

Desert Sunrise 2, Acrylic on paper, ACEO

One of the things I've loved about this event is that it has freed me to experiment and play with various materials.  I'm not so hung up on the outcome - more in the process and what I can learn from it.  And I've learned that I can do this  even with very little free time. 
Desert Sunrise 3, Acrylic on paper, ACEO

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thing A Day 20 and 21

Acrylic on canvas 5" by 4"
Yesterday was really busy.  In spite of the fact that the temperatures have plunged again, the longer daylight and couple of warm days we had last week put spring in my head when I sat down last night to paint.  So I just did this little painting of a jack in the pulpit - it's one of my favorite spring woods flowers - always seems like such a sweet surprise.

Julian of Norwich, Acrylic on Paper 12" by 9"
Today I had more time to paint and wanted to come up with an image of Julian of Norwich for a friend.  I'll do something more traditional of her, too, but liked this simplicity with a background of her own words.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thing A Day, 16, 17, 18, 19

Mary Magdalene Acrylic on Paper  8" by 5"
I'm back.  I took a few days off and removed myself from my daily routines - no phones, newspapers, family, friends - not even much speech.  I took my paints, a journal, camera, and yoga mat and spent three days at Holy Cross Monastery.  It's only 15 minutes away and yet if felt like I was in another country.  I was tired when I left.  It's been a long time since I've felt really well.  But between the final doses of an antibiotic and the rest, meditation, and prayer, it feels like I've been re created.
And I did a lot of painting.
I was assigned to the Mary Magdalene room, overlooking the river.  I had a good desk for painting, situated under the window.  I watched the ice move back and forth on the river, the moon  and sun rises.  My days were silent except for the daily offices, listening to the monks chanting.  Even meals are taken in silence.  I listened to birds, the wind, melting ice, a violent thunderstorm.  I suspect if I'd had binoculars I'd have seen eagles on the ice flows.  And could it have been swans that I saw this morning flying south with the stray snow flakes?  
Here are two versions of Mary Magdalene with pomegranates and crows.  I had been wondering what the link between these two things might be - and here they are with Mary Magdalene and Mary and Jesus, a perfect fit.
The photo is one I took this morning from the cloister walk - a representation of today's thing a day - the re created me.

Blessings on you this day.
Mary Magdalene Acrylic on Paper, 12" by 9"

Mary and Jesus Acrylic on Paper 12" by 9"

Holy Cross Monastery

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thing a Day 14 and 15

Valentine Crow  Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 12"

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and not only have I always loved this day, I usually celebrated it enthusiastically.  But this year I'm just coming round from 6 weeks of not feeling so hot, my energy levels aren't back to normal, I'd been babysitting all day, my husband came home sick, so after supper I retired to my studio to paint something that might address both my theme for Thing a Day and also Valentine's Day.  It was such a windy night that I decided to paint a crow in a tumultuous sky.  I'm still playing with the wet paper techniques.  Once I'd gotten the base down, I just painted the crow right into it with quick rough strokes so it would look windblown.  And I gave it a piece of red thread in its beak - it seemed like the perfect Valentine for a crow to bring to its mate when it was tired.  A small gift.  But thoughtful and bright.

Crow Carrying Valentine  Acrylic on Canvas, 9" by 12"
I'm still drawn to that image so today I went back and did it differently - more stylized.  I like this version, too.  I like thinking about simple gifts, carefully chosen.  If I were this crow's mate, I'd be thrilled to get this cheerful bit of ribbon for my nest.  Forget the flowers, the jewels, the things we're told we should want.  Thought chocolates would be ok, too - I'm sure crows like chocolates.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thing a Day, Days 11, 12, 13

Preparing Paper with Watercolor and Water
On the 11th day, I tried an experiment.  I had been visiting with friends who are watercolorists and they told me about a technique they use to lay down a background on their paper. You know how someone gives you a little tip about how to make something easier - and you are just amazed that you never thought of it.  They mentioned taping their paper to a board so it didn't warp.  So THAT's how it's done?  And then they do swirly things with spray bottles, etc.  I taped my paper, sprayed away, put a little color down - and made a holy mess.  Everything was so wet it had to dry overnight.  And it didn't look very good.   But it was flat.   I'll have to go ask for more details.  That was enough for the 11th day.

Crows Eating Pomegranate Acrylic on Canvas, 9" by 12"

On the 12th day I painted a pair of crows on canvas, eating pomegranates.  Remembering things crows can stand for - in some cultures they are symbols of fidelity, faithfulness; and pomegranates are symbols of indisolubility of marriage as well as fertility or fruitfulness.  So they might want to sit in the same tree together.

Day 13 I chose to illustrate a legend of crows as protectors.  The Buddhist story is that when the first Dalai Lama was a baby the home was attacked by robbers.  The parents were away and couldn't get there in time. Fearing the worst they were surprised to find their son was fine when they got home, being protected and cared for by a pair of crows.  Also, crows have anticipated the births of five dalai lamas, including the present one.  You will notice that the background for this painting is the paper I played with on Day 11 - so it didn't go to waste.

Crows Protecting the Dalai Lama Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 12"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thing a Day - Tenth Day

Crow Brings Lightning, Thunder, Wind
Once a month I meet with three friends - two painters and a weaver, to discuss our creative lives.  I always look forward to these sessions and today when we met and were discussing the insecurities we all face, Peg told us that she'd just come back from a conference on creativity.  One of the speakers had said that there were successes and experiments.  I love that idea.  Because that's the way we need to approach our art - we don't just put out great stuff with every try.  We have to work at it until we get something we're satisfied with.  Diane showed us a painting she'd done - she had completed ten versions of it, playing with colors, tones, arrangement - until she got the serenity she was trying to achieve.  We all agreed that the important thing is create regularly, being gentle with ourselves, learning from whatever we are doing.  And that those lessons carry over into our larger lives, help us to look at the challenges we face in relationships, in day to day interactions.
Today I wanted to play with a roiling sky.  I used the background story that comes from many North American cultures that the crow represents a supreme being, that when it flaps its wings it creates great winds, thunder, lightning.  I also wanted to work on the shape of a wing when the tips are flipped up, either by the wind or the force that occurs when the bird wants to change direction.  This is not my most successful painting since I've been working this month.  But I learned from it and had fun.  There are things I like about it, things I'd do differently next time.  And there will be a next time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thing a Day Days 8 and 9

Crow Eating Pomegranate Seeds - 2" by 1 3/4" Acrylic on stone

Yesterday I got pressed for time and decided to paint a crow and pomegranate on stone.  I found that the practice I've been getting painting both of those things made it come together fairly quickly, even though it's so tiny.  The stone is a smooth beach stone, 2" by 1 3/4".  I haven't come across any stories that directly connect crows and pomegranates, but they have both been used in myth and symbolism for thousands of years, across cultures and religions.  I find myself making up stories that will connect the two, sure that they have encountered each other.

Today I turned to the Pacific Northwest, using a story from the Haida people, a first nation of the islands off the coast of British Columbia as my inspiration.  The story is that the crow stole the sun from the master of the sky and gave it to the people.  Having lived in Washington state when I was young, I have a clue as to what a precious gift that would be.  This painting is done with acrylics on paper and measures 12" by 9"

Crow Giving Sun to the People

Detail of Crow Giving Sun to the People

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 7 Thing A Day

Travel kit contents, palette extra

I was babysitting today so figured I could take a few supplies and paint while the baby was sleeping.  I keep a little travel kit handy for just such times - some water color tubes, scissors, tape, glue, a compass, various brushes, pencils, sharpener - and I took along 3 bottles of acrylic paint: charcoal brown, gray lavender, and black. I packed a palette and my handy eye dropper bottle.  But I forgot paper.  However, I found some blank ACEO cards in the kit.  (That acronym stands for art cards editons and originals - they are popular with some collectors, being a standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2") 

Crows Roosting

I ended up getting three cards done.  It's a gray day.  My daughter's house has good views of massed trees from most windows.  It was good practice playing with the trees, adding my dear crows.

Crows on Branches

Crow Flying to Tree

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 6 Thing a Day

Roosting Crows 7 1/2" by 6" Acrylic on Paper
Today's little painting is crows coming to roost in the evening.  This is such an intriguing event.  Years ago when I ran I noticed that crows would be flying toward the sun in the mornings, accompanying me along my path until I was ready to return home.  And in the evenings I would see them gather along the river, flying toward the last rays.  They would flock to trees - but not always the same tree.  So who decided where they'd bed down for the night?  Is there a hospitality committee?
Many people find this phenomenon remarkable.  Some think it's frightening.  Some love the noisy raucousness.  I'm in the latter category.  I think of them as crow blossoms.
I read In the Company of Crows and Ravens that in ancient times the Hebrews marked the beginning of the Sabbath by when the crows began to roost.
I have to comment on the quality of this painting.  It is not particularly good.  I grabbed thin paper.  I didn't have a lot of time.  It's not the best that I could do.  It is simply getting an idea down visually.  It is something I'd like to come back to later and work up with more care.  I think the idea of this kind of challenge is not to get bogged down in insisting that we don't show anything until it's "really good".  I've found that there are many things I haven't tried because of that excuse.  At this stage in life, I just want to play more, to experiment more, to take these small steps to discovery.
How about you?  What discoveries are you making?  What risks are you taking?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thing a Day 2011, Days 4 and 5

Opened Pomegranate Acrylic on Paper 4"x 5 1/2"

Day 4 I had limited time so just did a small painting of a single pomegranate that had been opened and some seeds had spilled out.  In Jewish tradition the pomegranate symbolizes righteousnes because of the saying that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate and 613 commandments in Jewish law.  Greek mythology tells the story of Persephone being abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld to be his wife.  Her mother Demeter eventually was able to bring her back.  But if the rule was that if someone ate anything in the underworld they couldn't leave.  Persephone had been tricked into eating some pomegranate seeds.  Some stories say 3 seeds, some 6.  So she was compelled to return to Hades for the same  number of months as seeds that she had eaten.  This became a legend of how we got our seasons.  Pretty important little seeds.  I just love how jewel like they are.

Day 5 I have a crow pulling apart a pomegranate and feasting on seeds.  And perhaps she'll share them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Playing with Pomegranates TAD Day 3

Playing with Pomegranates Acrylic on Paper, 11" by 9 "
 So here we'll try again to show you what's going on with the Thing a Day event. 
This day I decided to play with pomegranates.  The shape is pretty simple.  But the colorings and subtleties offer lots of choices to fool around with.  Eventually I have more complex paintings in mind, things that I put off doing because I'm afraid of messing them up.  So maybe if I work on components, getting elements down that I like or don't like, it will be less intimidating.  So here are some intact pomegranates.

Are there things you put off doing because you worry about not being good enough?  Can you break them down into smaller pieces?

Thing A Day: 2

I haven't had much success posting my daily work on my posterous site so figured I'd do it over here, in case anyone wants to follow along.  I'm really enjoying the challenge of coming up with something new to work on each day, and more to the point, making the time to do it.  My other activities don't stop for this month, so some days it feels a bit more difficult - but so far rewarding.  So here is what I painted on the second day:
Crow with Pomegranat Acrylic on Paper, 9" by 11"

In the Genesis flood story Noah sent out the raven before he sent out the dove.  It doesn't say what happened with the raven - just that it flew back and forth.  But in other flood stories, the raven returned with signs of land.  I've chosen to give it a pomegranate branch.  Pomegranates are symbolic of fertility, abundance, fruitfulness.  I think most of us are looking for fruitfulness in our lives.

I planned to post day 3 here, too, but for some reason it's not allowing me to add another picture.  So I'll write a new post for that.  Sorry if this means more mail in your inbox.
This day I decided to play with pomegranates.  The shape is pretty simple.  But the colorings and subtleties offer lots of choices to fool around with.  Eventually I have more complex paintings in mind, things that I put off doing because I'm afraid of messing them up.  So maybe if I work on components, getting things down that I like or don't like, it will be less intimidating.  So here are some intact pomegranates.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thing a Day

Winter Crow Flying  6" by6" Acrylic on Canvas
A friend tipped me off to this Thing A Day online event that takes place during the month of February.  The idea is that every day you make something new and then post it at the Posterous site.  This is their 5th year running it - and there are over 490 participants.  The rules are very simple: make something new every day (no old stuff you just want to pull up and share now), and post it.  People do all kinds of creative things - fabric and textile projects, photos, recipes, poems, paintings, etc.  Since it's so open, I figured that I could at least come up with some small thing each day - and if time allows, something a little more involved.  I like the idea of pushing myself a little every day.
I've decided that my theme will be crows.  I love them.  They're right up there with ravens, in my book.  But we have more crows for me to watch than ravens.  In 1982 I wrote a poem about them - and keep going back to it in my mind.  Now that I'm painting I can explore their shapes and habits in other ways.
I may also work pomegranates into some of the work in the days ahead - I'm not sure why, but the combination of crows and pomegranates is very engaging.  I did recently finsh reading Sue Monk Kidd's Travelling with Pomegranates, which certainly brought up some of the imagery of that intriguing fruit - but I've been thinking of doing something with them for awhile, anyway.
I'm excited to see what lies ahead.
How about you?  What are you dreaming up these days?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

I've been painting for nine years.  And over that time I've learned to appreciate how one thing leads to another.  

Chickadees in Spring 7" x 7" Acrylic on Stone and Paper

When I began I let the shape of the stone dictate what I was painting - and came up with some neat pieces.  But after a while I had a whole bunch of "neat things" and needed to turn them into something people could use.  So that led me to making them into pins and pocket icons and framed pieces.  Gradually my painting evolved so that I was telling larger stories.  I took up iconography and began more formal training in that discipline.  I found that I could combine my love for using egg tempera and painting on stone, discovered ways to work on larger stones - and came up with the standing stones. 

Through the Hudson Valley Artisan's Guild that offered yearly challenges around a particular theme and the requests of customers,  new ideas and techniques developed.

Recently someone asked me to make a feather pin for her - but she had a particular type of feather in mind.  As I worked with her on the feather, I began to think more seriously about how much I love crows and ravens and my mind started playing with how I could work up  a series of paintings about these engaging birds.  Years ago I had an experience with crows that I want to paint - but I haven't got the skills down yet to do it justice - so this will be a path that I hope will bring me closer. 
Guinea Hen Feather Pin  Acrylic on Stone
One of the best experiences I ever had at a craft show was when a family - a middle aged couple and their older teenaged son, came into my booth and spent a lot of time looking very carefully at my work.  She read my artist statement that mentioned how I'd started painting later in life.  She was almost in tears.  Her husband encouraged her to talk to me and find out more about my process.  I'm not sure what her story was - but it seemed that she was at a crossroads and her husband and son were encouraging her to follow some thing that she needed to nurture.  We talked about starting small and gradually learning how to take the next step.  You don't have to know it before you start. 
I hope she took that first step.  I hope she has found fulfillment and satisfaction in her work.  I know, for myself, that I just need to maintain my practice.  As I work in good faith, I will progress - and I'll get that painting done yet.
What kind of steps are you taking to fulfill your dreams?

Study of Crows