What Feeds You?

View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

View of the Missouri River, October 2, 2017, Burbank, SD

 

A day of intermittent drizzle, cool and gray, tinged with melancholy....just around the edges. Maybe not melancholy...that may be overstating the mood....I'm really just talking about a day of introspection. There is a blue cast to the light that highlights the deep rich reds in the sumacs on the bank. So beautiful.....always an inspiration.....nourishing for the spirit.

Nourishment...sustenance....food for the soul. As I sat in the reading chair looking out the window this afternoon, I thought about that notion and the idea of posing the question in a blogpost, "What Feeds You?" It was mid-afternoon when I went downstairs to interrupt Johntimothy in his drawing to ask him this question. He's still chewing on the it (no pun intended) and we'll discuss his thoughts in another post. But I had already posed the question to myself and the answer was immediately at my fingertips. Books. I am fed by the printed page. 

A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

A pile of books and reading material is always within arm's reach

Many things actually inspire me....the view out my windows, the landscape here in the rural Midwest, the works of countless other artists. But I think this question of "what feeds you?" is a bit different....it's more fundamental and about food, nourishment, sustenance.

So if I answer that question, I turn to the idea of what enables me to be a maker....what actually feeds my work, where do I turn when the well has run dry....when I'm hungry and weak. I turn to books. I eat those magic bits we call the alphabet that turn into words, that tumble together into ideas and metaphors, which break down in my body into the essential minerals that feed my own creative practice. Turning to other works of art for such sustenance does not feed me in the deepest sense, as I find myself trying to imitate the works that I love. A level of frustration sets in, as those were not my works to make and I can only want to have made them. In the end, I can only make the work that is mine to make, fed by the creative practice that is reading.  

"No two persons ever read the same book." -- Edmund Wilson

This idea, expressed so simply by Edmund Wilson, that no two people read the same book, gets at this idea that reading is a creative act in itself. No two persons actually look at the same artwork...or the same film either, but those are visual mediums and words are more abstract, at least to me. We read each book through the lens of our own experience that allows us to visualize and bring to life what is conveyed in words on the printed page. The film we see in the crowded theater with others is already a visual medium....we experience it in our way, of course, but we don't create our own version of it, as we do with a book. There is a different resonance with language that I find more sustaining. I'm not a writer, but written language becomes visual language in my work, in ways I cannot articulate....with words. 

And because books are so important to me, often my work takes the form of the book page. The daily drawings and any number of works I've created over the years, often harken back to the book....it is that fundamental to my creative practice. Visit my Etsy shop or view some of the series of works here on the website and you will see that the idea of the book, the form of the printed page and the magic of reading are at the core of what I do. 

Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

Ancient Book Page, graphite and ink, collage and sewing on handmade paper dipped in beeswax

For more about this idea of the book as food for the soul, I encourage you to follow the link to the essay I came across this afternoon by Olivier Nyirubugara. It's definitely worth a read! 

What feeds you? It's an open-ended question. I'd love to hear from you about what you find sustaining and nourishing....what gives you the energy you need to thrive? 


And now, I'll leave you with another quote that makes me chuckle....so true of me!

"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books". -- Jorge Luis Borges