Missouri River

Winter Blues and Spring Imagined

Icy Missouri River on a bitter cold day

Icy Missouri River on a bitter cold day

Belated New Year greetings! The holidays have come and gone, with whirlwind travel and family visits, and Johntimothy and I have once again settled back into our daily routines at work. The days are busy, the weeks fly by and now, here it is February! We have just endured a week of record cold temperatures, with wind chills at such a dangerous level, the University of South Dakota (along with countless other institutions in the Midwest and beyond) closed for two days last this past week. Today it was a gorgeous 50+ degrees, but the warmth is short-lived as we’re bracing for another week of bitter cold ahead. What can you say….it’s winter!

Missouri River, Burbank, SD, January 30, 2019

Missouri River, Burbank, SD, January 30, 2019

The Missouri River, where we live, is beautiful no matter what the season. But winter brings a stark beauty, with a cool blue light to the view. We love to watch the ice flowing downstream, flocks of geese gathering on snow covered sandbars and the bald eagles swooping in from across the river to perch on the branches of the cottonwood trees.

I’ve been working in collage of late, glueing tiny bits of cut and torn paper in abstract arrangements. There are enough of them now that I am calling the series Paper Gardens, as some of them (some more than others) remind me of the way color and pattern come together in delightful ways in a garden. I work intuitively and these pieces are made in the same way, random bits here and there until the image….or the composition comes together and announces itself finished.

The collage pieces are made on beautiful 6” x 6” handmade paper and all of them can be found over at Missouri Bend Studio on Etsy. They are such fun to make! Playing with warm color and pattern takes the chill of winter away.

After a few months hiatus, I’ve also started the daily drawing project up again. I find that the small amount of time spent making a drawing each day….that is, the dailiness and the ritual of it, help keep me grounded. Each one is a small meditation, a tangible version of letting go and letting my thoughts move through and out of me onto the page. Each day is different and I never know quite what will emerge! Some drawings I like better than others, but the main point is the practice of making a daily drawing. Many of these are also available in my Etsy shop.

Daily drawing, February 1, 2019

Daily drawing, February 1, 2019

Daily drawing, February 2, 2019

Daily drawing, February 2, 2019

Hope your year has started off well. Despite some health issues that made for a rough January, 2019 is shaping up to be a good year…so far. I think I will able to spend more time in the studio, as my “other” work life is now becoming more routine. I’m looking forward to exploring some new territory.

Given the political situation, I’ve been thinking a lot about walls lately and beginning to explore ideas related to walls in some larger scale drawings. Stay tuned and I’ll share some work in progress and my thoughts about walls…through material, meaning and metaphor! Hope to see you next week!

 

The New Year Unfolding

River view Jan 5 2018 SQ.jpg

Happy New Year, dear readers! Please forgive the long absence, but we had some complicated and extended holiday travels that had us criss-crossing the country on a trip that entailed trains, planes, automobiles....and a ferry ride! Somehow, I'm not able to think clearly enough to post images online or anything else when I am not at home at my desk, which doesn't quite make sense in today's mobile environment. But, no doubt you were busy as well with all the holiday festivities and New Year celebrations. Now, I'm quite settled in at home and in the studio, ready for a creative burst to blossom in this new year.

Johntimothy and I arrived home on New Years Day after three weeks of travel that included stops in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh and St. Paul. The New York City stint was all about visiting museums and taking in the sites of New York that we'd not seen...hence the Staten Island Ferry ride, which was, of course, a delight! We made it to the Morgan Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Dia: Beacon, all of which gave us enough inspiration to keep us nourished for the next year. We saw the Michelangelo exhibition at the Met, but the real highlight for both Johntimothy and me was the David Hockney show in the adjacent galleries. I love Hockney's paintings, especially the landscapes of the recent decade, but what I admire most is his relentless curiosity and passion for delving deep into his interests, pursuing everything to the fullest extent. Always an observer, Hockney inspires me to want to take more care, pay more attention....to observe my own world in ways I'd not taken the time to before. 

Meanwhile, as most folks in the United States know, it's been a period of brutal cold and South Dakota has been no exception. Here's the view a few days ago from up on the banks of the Missouri River at the edge of our backyard. That ice was flowing swiftly downstream on it's way to the Mississippi River. Today we hit 50 degrees, which was cause for celebration and a walk outdoors, but we know more cold and snow is on it's way....what else can you expect...it's winter and it's South Dakota!

When we got settled back home, I spent some time in the studio, thinking about what should be next. I had a stack of daily drawings from several years ago that had been part of a collaborative exhibition at USD and as I started looking through those drawings from early 2014, I realized how much I still loved them. That meant that it was time to quit holding on to them, so I decided to send them out into the world through the Etsy shop. Seeing them, also spurred me into changing up the new dailies, at least for now. So, I've started listing some of my favorites from that series, such as the ones posted here, over at MissouriBendStudio. Please stop by and check them out! What I loved about these is the way the BFK Rives paper was sturdy enough to hold a fair amount of ink, so I could do some more involved drawing than I'm able to do on the Japanese rice paper. 

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

January 28, 2014 daily drawing

I don't have any more of that great paper on hand, but I've started shifting the dailies in the same direction on another kind of paper....though it's not so wonderful as the Rives. We'll see what develops with these. For now, I've put the beeswax away in order to explore (or reexplore) some new territory. 

I hope you have found some new sense of inspiration for the of this new year. I'm a bit late getting started, but I'm thinking of goals for the year....along with making a list of the things I'm curious about and want to investigate. I think curiosity is essential....on some level, isn't that what keeps us motivated and what gets us out of bed in the morning? What will this new day bring forth?

Until next time....enjoy your week! Cheers!

 

The Horizon Line

Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Storm clouds moving in, taken on the road this summer along I-90 somewhere in Wyoming

Early last week I headed up the road to Brookings, South Dakota on a day when the winds were buffeting the car at 30-40 miles an hour. I’d had an appointment in Sioux Falls, which is an hour north of us and there was an exhibition I wanted to see at the State Art Museum in Brookings, located on the campus of South Dakota State University, which is another hour straight north of Sioux Falls. Despite the winds and the two-hands-firmly-on-the-steering-wheel at all times, it was a wonderful drive, filled with expansive views and gorgeous sunlight casting a warm glow on the already saffron yellow of the trees and the contrasting fields of dry corn and soybeans awaiting harvest.

Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

Autumn soybean field adjacent to the Missouri River, Burbank, SD

This fly-over part of the country has a reputation for being flat and dull, but here in eastern South Dakota, the land is rolling with gentle rises and expansive views for miles in all directions. We love the landscape and the drive up I-29, especially between Sioux Falls and Brookings, is good for the soul and moments of contemplation.  Our more mundane drive between Vermillion and Sioux Falls is probably equally beautiful, but it is so much more familiar and alas, more taken for granted.

Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

Looking South, Cornfields hedge rows, photo by Krishna Mastel

That hour-long drive had me yearning to be a landscape painter or a photographer and yet it wasn’t really a depiction of that landscape I wanted to capture exactly. I’m fascinated by the patterns in the land, the juxtaposition of luscious colors and by the notion of the horizon. I got to thinking about the horizon line…the place where the land meets the sky and just how visible it is everywhere you look out here. I came to realize in looking out across the land that I live in a horizontal world.

Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

Harvest Field, photo by Krishna Mastel

I began to wonder about the difference between living in a horizontal world as I do, one with so few verticals, and living in a vertical world, where the orientation is up and down and the horizontal views are minimal. On the plains, we have wide-open spaces, farmland, prairies (what little is left of them) and rivers. The highest building in the state of South Dakota is the 11-story Century Link tower in Sioux Falls (per my internet investigation) and in North Dakota it’s the State Capitol in Bismarck.  In South Dakota we do have the Black Hills, the mountains in the western part of the state, which are surely vertical, but they rise up from the plains somewhat suddenly, not like in the east where folks might live in the foothills of a mountain range. When I think of the notion of vertical out here, I think of the roots of the prairie grasses that reached down 8-14 feet into the earth. Those grasses held the land in place for thousands of years until we dug them all up to turn the place into farmland. My orientation is truly horizontal and I'm happier in wide open spaces. The daily view I have of the Missouri River outside my window, flowing horizontally right to left on its way to meet the Mississippi, anchors me to the ground.

Missouri River view, October

Missouri River view, October

This post is filled with views of a horizontal world that I thought I’d just share with you, along with my recent musings. Since I couldn't bring myself to get out the car on that horrendously windy day to photograph the landscape, I combed through some of the photos I’ve taken over the last few months. And then I got in touch with my friend Krishna Mastel who takes some truly gorgeous photographs of the rural landscape in the area where she lives outside of Vermillion. The more breathtaking photos are hers, as revealed in the captions. I’m happy to introduce Krishna to you, as she also has a daily practice that I’ve been tuning into. We’ll do an interview with Krishna in one of our next posts about the abstract photographs that she posts each day. Stay tuned for that! 

In the meantime, would love to hear your comments about this notion of a horizontal or vertical view. Feel free to share any stories about where you live and how that affects the way you see the world. 

Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

Sunrise, photo by Krishna Mastel

 

Navigating the Waters

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

July 6, 2017 daily drawing

I seem to be carving out a bit more time in the studio....enough to get back to the dailies and finish up a couple more ambitious pieces. This summer is filled with visitors and trips, both near and far, so this open window of time is not going to last long....but for now, I'm enjoying the rhythm.

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

Explorers' Notebooks, no.5

 

Another finished piece in the Explorers' Notebooks series. The slow pace involved in making these pieces gives me time to ponder....what they reveal and what they conceal. I wonder if those words, caught in the net, are a metaphor for unspoken thoughts or unrealized dreams. Are they words undelivered or perhaps caught, just in time, allowing them to be sorted and spoken with more care? And that river....it's the one I look at every day out my window, but it is so much more than that, of course. I think of it as the river of time, of memory....the one that sweeps all our days away to join the others downstream, the one that reminds us that change is constant and each day we have the chance to begin anew.

Gathering of Stones

Gathering of Stones

 

Johntimothy and I are also in the process of collaborating on mixed media print works, which we sell in our Etsy shop, The Art Filled Home. You can view many of these works here on our website, as well. I have a stack of beautiful patterned silkscreen pieces that he has made, ready for me to draw on, but I seem to have gotten away from them of late. This week, I finished one up that I like very much. I find I am drawn to a slightly off-kilter composition, just out of balance, yet one that invites relaxation and contemplation. Stones, such as these, often find their way into my work, as yet another signifier of time and memory. And those flowing lines....in some ways, they are much like a river. This piece is just as much Johntimothy's as it is mine....he sets up the color palette and the subtle patterns and I respond with drawing. We have much to explore in this area, with plans to create more scroll-like compositions, playing more with juxtaposing pattern and image. Stay tuned!

 
A newly created fire pit area out by the river

A newly created fire pit area out by the river

Meanwhile, earlier this summer we (meaning, mostly Johntimothy) put the finishing touches on the fire pit area, the project we began last summer. It's so wonderful to be out by the water on a not-too-hot summer afternoon with a cool, refreshing drink. It feels as if we have a whole new living room, actually! There have been quite a few fires in that fire pit, but evenings lately have been a bit muggy. But, Johntimothy has wood, branches and kindling placed just so in there....we're ready on the next night that's just a bit cooler. Actually, I believe I'll head out there now! Until next time....enjoy your week!

 
 

The Flow

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

Approaching storm over the Missouri River, June 29, 2017

I love the long, slow days of summer when the sunlit evenings linger, moving in a kind of slow motion, toward the approaching hour of sunset. While we have breakfast, and often lunch, on the front porch where the nest full of newly hatched barn swallows is the star attraction, the evenings are often spent out closer to the river in our fire pit patio area. Not tonight though....with the menacing storm approaching, we returned to the front to sit through the storm under cover. A little hail, some heavy rain, and then bright skies returned and a quiet hush fell as the ground soaked up that much needed water.  We've waited so long for some rain, I felt myself relax just a bit....for the sake of the parched plants.

In the middle of each day, I try to spend some time in the studio. Days are often filled with weeding, gardening chores, and errands, so I'm lucky just to get to the daily drawing and a bit of journal writing. But always the goal is spend some real time working....that's when all my insights come....during the slow passage of time quietly drawing or stitching on paper. The studio is where the grounding happens and I'm easily thrown off kilter if I neglect my time there. 

 
Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

Explorer's Notebooks, no.5 (in process)

 

This piece above is still in the works, but I thought I'd share it with you now as a way of talking about the intuitive process in the studio. This series, The Explorer's Notebooks, allows me to pay homage to the beautiful journal pages and documentary drawings of explorer's through the ages, while also drawing on my own inquiries in living mindfully each day. I am drawn to the magical capabilities of language, though I am not a writer. As a visual artist, I use asemic writing to spark curiosity and wonder, in myself and in the viewer. With each drawing, I "know" one step at a time what goes where, which means I never really know how a piece will come together until it is finished. I start from a place of unknowing and usually end at a place of understanding, as the slow revelations happen while the work progresses. Putting the understanding into language, which is after all the inspirational foundation of the work, is most difficult. 

In this piece, it wasn't until the main base layer of the piece has been drawn and then dipped in the beeswax that I knew what I was to do next....a net....to capture language. The countless words that we speak or hear during the course of a day, the important ones and those that are lost to oblivion....all those words. Not to mention the words rattling around in our head that never escape our lips....all those thoughts, all those precious words. They hold the power to heal or destroy, create anew or kindle a fire in the heart. What if you could capture all the words that filled your day in a metaphoric net....one that allowed you to sift and sort, holding on to the treasured words and taking back the ones you never meant to say? Or the ones that hurt you....perhaps you could let them go? What if there was a count of all the words spoken....how would you form a tally? And that river.....isn't it really as if all the words are like a constant stream, moving along toward a fast moving river? The hours of our day rush past, sweeping all those words up in a torrent. But the river, isn't that the flow of our collective history....who can say where it is going?

I took this photo earlier in the day and now the piece is further along....I will share it here when it is finished. Our 4th of July national holiday is fast approaching. We'll have some houseguests, including two lively dogs, which will be fun! Hope you enjoy the holiday....see you soon!