creative practice

Finding the Work / Life Balance

Greetings from Missouri Bend Studio! In my last post, I mentioned that I was going back to work full-time, so two weeks later, I'm here to report on progress keeping up the work/life balance that so many of us struggle with. My new job requires a steep learning curve, which pretty much zapped my energy the first week, but I'm catching on to things now (slowly!) so I've turned my attention back to the idea of figuring out my time in the studio. I don't think I want to put the pressure on myself to require that I spend any significant time there during the work week, but I've found the daily practice is still pretty essential at some level. Those few moments of meditative drawing keep me balanced and bring a bit of satisfaction and rhythm to my day. It's also a way of marking time and being present in the moment.

Daily drawing, March 24, 2018

Daily drawing, March 24, 2018

So, the latest incarnation of the daily drawings, which I took up again yesterday after a couple of weeks without doing them, are slightly smaller than previously....now at 5" x 4". I think I will try to make the drawing each day, but perhaps wait until the end of the week to dip them in the beeswax, which I can do in a batch. That kind of workflow feels more manageable and allows me to keep up some measure of the rhythm of a daily practice. Yesterday's drawing is above and the one from earlier today is below. As with all the others, these will find their way into MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.

Daily drawing, March 25, 2018

Daily drawing, March 25, 2018

I also want to have other drawings going on in the studio, which I can work on as time allows, especially on the weekends. After a disappointing attempt in the studio last weekend, I'm happy to report that things are moving forward again as of yesterday. I've finished up a couple pieces that had gotten started, which I've sort of hallmarked as a new series called Impromptus. Each one was a struggle to find the flow and finally came together when I let go (the lesson I must learn over and over and over again!!!) and let the drawing be what it wanted to be. 

There are as many different ways of working as there are people making art...and no one way is right or wrong. I strongly believe we each have our own way of working, along with our own inner language and sense of mark-making. I think my work is always stronger and more satisfying for me when I let my inner creative loose on the page. Play....that's the secret! When we are playing (something we adults have forgotten how to do, oftentimes) we aren't thinking about what move to make next....we just are...free and in the moment, in a full expression of ourselves. When I am in that state, as I finally was when Impromptu no.1 & no. 2 came to fruition this weekend (after much gnashing of teeth, believe me!) we are most ourselves and are making the work that only we can make. 

Yet, I am not without those pesky doubts that lurk quietly in the corner recesses. "These drawings are just goofy scribbles," that inner critic chides...."what does it mean?" the voice badgers. "Shouldn't you be trying to say something specific....to communicate on some topic of importance?" It goes on and on....you probably know those voices. But there is a louder voice....the one that doesn't seem to speak in English (insert your own language here) but projects a kind of knowing and joy and satisfaction....and... enjoyment....and fun, yes fun. I think these drawings are fun....they make me happy and I hope they bring some happiness to you....at least a smile!

Off to the office for me tomorrow....but I'll carry the joy and creative spirit of the studio with me. Hope you do too, wherever you go. Thanks for stopping by!

 

The Pleasures of Reading Three Books At Once

Greetings from the heart of winter! Yes, it is still winter as I write, surrounded by white. Mother Nature is giving us a taste of winter we've not had in quite some time. My work continues to reflect the immersion in this lovely season....the shifts of subtle color, the stark beauty of the trees and grasses against the snow, and the stillness. At least it seems so....life continues to buzz with activity, but winter brings on a blanket of silence that I find quite comforting. My observations turn into memories....and then fade to white.

Index of Days no.4

Index of Days no.4

One of my desires for the new year was to become more observant...to pay more attention to the details, to capture at least a few more of the endless moments that pass by unnoticed. That's what led to this current series, The Index of Days. These pieces seem to be a place where the accumulated observations of the passing days find their way out into the world. If there were a written index to go with each one, I might be able to point here...or there....with a kind of imaginary page number that would allow me to articulate a reference for that bit of image or stroke of paint. Much of it is fleeting...and fragmentary, all of which we use to piece our lives together into something whole and coherent. We stitch the fragments of memories, of captured moments, the things we've said and heard, the words we've read....it's all there, threads in a tapestry. Or for me, here buried in the layers of paint and ink on a sheet of paper.

Speaking of reading, I want to just touch on the idea that occurred to me the other day as I picked up one of the three very different books I am immersed in right now. The books I'm currently savoring are: A History of Pictures by David Hockney & Martin Gayford, Solar Bones: A Novel by Mike McCormack and on my tablet (a fairly new experience for me) Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon Wood. There was a moment when I realized I was kind of juggling these quite different reads....different in subject, style and mood. My linear side thought I should just finish one and then go on to the next, but the maker/artist in me insisted that the simultaneous reading was creating a different experience of each book and that, in fact, the kind of layered reading was informing the work in the studio in a way that was different than had I been reading one book and then moving on to the next. 

I think it is a fairly understood that the reader of the text is part of the creative spirit of the book, in a sense, in the same way that the viewer of the work of art is part of work's life out in the world. Each read...of a book or a work of art is different, given that each person brings his or her own experience and sensibilities to the engagement. But beyond that, in that moment when I gave myself permission and in fact, encouragement, to continue with this balanced reading, I understood that the insights I gained from the Hockney book, for instance, were enlarged by the incandescent writing of the stream of memories from McCormack in Solar Bones. In one of the chapter headings, Hockney says, "We see with memory"....which resonated even more with me after coming from Solar Bones, which miraculously seems to capture in words the way a daydreaming mind flits from memory to memory, moments of heartache turning to joy. And underneath those books, my engagement with the history of the early days of the United States, is a reminder that it all could be otherwise, that our identity is intricately wound up with our culture and the history of our own country in ways that we cannot fathom. History and collective memory connect the fragile past to the future yet to be born. That notion seems to underlie the writing in Solar Bones....and it goes on...the weaving together of text, ideas and understanding.

February 8, 2018 SQ.jpg

All this is to say....if you are the linear type, as I often am, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about what happens in the interplay of reading several books simultaneously. And, if you are an artist, does what you read inform the work that you make? 

One last note....I'm having a Valentine's Day sale in my shop over at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy! I'm calling it Art for the Heart Sale and everything is 10% off through February 15th, in case the 14th catches you by surprise. I think giving a gift of original art is a wonderful way to express your love and affection for the dear ones in your life....I'm just giving you a little help along the way. No coupon necessary....everything is 10% off, so hope you'll stop by!

 

Seeing the Unseen

One of the goals I have for the coming year is to become more observant. I want to pay more attention, to see with intent and learn to practice observing, rather than just looking. This notion occurred to me after seeing a David Hockney exhibition at The Met in NYC, as well as reading a recent book, which I purchased at the museum, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford .

Hockney is quite keen on observing, passionately so, I would say. He is interested in looking with intention with his own eyes, but also utilizing lenses, cameras and the latest technology in service of expanding his view. He has paved the way for a new understanding of the historical use of lenses in artist’s studio before photography was invented. It’s the seeing what is actually there in front of us, not just what we think is there…the way light makes color possible, how we interpret space….all of it.

Although I am an artist, I wouldn’t say that I’m terribly observant. Often small details capture my attention or the way color and pattern create moments of interest for me, but generally, I could use a bit of more intentional practiced seeing to more fully appreciate and understand my surroundings. That requires mindfulness, being truly present and not having one's attention clouded by all that remains to be done...the next thing to do. So, along with the goal of becoming more observant, there must be the effort to slow down and pay attention. This is already looking like a slightly overwhelming task! But as I often remind myself, each moment is a moment of choice. We can choose to stop and pay attention. And the awareness of the choices we have before us in any given moment is actually quite humbling! That alone should bring us to a bit of stillness.

 

After the finishing (sadly) the book of conversations with Hockney, I read The Man Who Planted Trees: The Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and a Plant to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins, which is a truly intriguing book about all those things mentioned in the title! What I actually found most fascintating was the lesson on trees and forests, how they function and how integral they are to making life on our planet possible.

 

Man Who Planted Trees.jpg

 

This book was a reminder that no matter how observant we are about our surroundings and the natural world, our senses can only reveal so much....that there are limits, of course, to what we can possibly see or observe (unless you are scientist, I suppose). That includes the cell structure and the root systems of course, but also, for instance, the chemical aerosols that are continually emitted by the leaves or the communication system that is established in a forest of trees. We think we know what communication looks like...or sounds like, but it's happening all around us in astonishing ways. All your sustained observations can only give you a glimpse of the intricacies of our universe.

And one of the things that I came to understand in the daily drawing practice this week, came from having read that book. Oddly, I found myself drawn more to making drawings that didn't reference actual things in the outside world. By a certain point in the week, when I was making the drawing and I'd drawn some object, such as the leaves in the piece above (January 15th), I'd erase it (yes, those leaves are erased and barely visible....so for once, I'm dismayed at how good my new phone's camera is!)....or mask it like in that little square of paper covering up I can't recall what on the 13th. 

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

Daily Drawing, January 16, 2018

The drawing above for January 16th is completely overworked I think, but reflects the process of trying to find the expression. One of the things I struggle with (if it can actually be termed a struggle) in the daily drawing process, is trying not to make "art." Which means letting the drawing be the drawing and not trying to "fix" it or edit it. And at the same time, there is a need for satisfaction or resolution of some kind....or of having "said" the thing that needs to be said. In the end of course, I want them to be art, artful at least, but it has to come through the back door, otherwise I put too much pressure on myself. 

So, you may feel differently, which would be delightful to me, but my favorite from this week is from January 13th. It feels spare and minimum and a bit odd and though it may call to mind "things" of the world, there isn't an actual depiction. I may see it all differently next week, but now that little grassy mound on the 14th makes me want to block it out. I won't, but I long to!

All this is to say, even as I attempt to be more observant in this world and of this world, my real interest is in somehow giving voice to the things we cannot see, the things we cannot name and those which are fleeting and ephemeral. And maybe that's where the seeming irony of seeing the unseen comes into play....if you aren't careful and watchful, you miss all those glittering gems of experience....like the way the fleeting shadows fall across the floor just at the moment you happen to turn your gaze or how the trunk of a tree reflects a warm golden pink in the afterglow of a certain sunset. 

All these little dailies (minus January 16th, which I've rejected) are all available at Missouri Bend Studio should you want to look further. If these thoughts resonate at all, please feel free to comment or contact me....I'm always interested in the conversation! Cheers!

 

 

The Daily Practice: Krishna Mastel

Abstract Wormhole, 8-27-17

Abstract Wormhole, 8-27-17

Welcome back to another investigation into the work of a different artist and how the daily practice informs the work. Krishna is a friend of mine here in South Dakota with a background in photography.  She is also a busy working mother who strives to keep an aspect of her artistic life alive and supported. I recently began following her on Instagram and realized she too was keeping a daily practice in the form of some really interesting abstract photographs. Recently, Johntimothy and I invited Krishna over for lunch and spent a delightful afternoon talking about our various artistic explorations, along with our respective daily practices and how they inform our lives. My original intention was to somehow capture that lively conversation for our readers, but it was too overwhelming! Instead, I asked Krishna to just give us the gist of her practice....how it began and how it plays out in her life. Below are Krishna's words...and images. Enjoy!

Abstract Wormhole, 10-27-17

Abstract Wormhole, 10-27-17

I began to use the practice of daily abstract as a means to hold myself accountable to myself. Accountable for taking the time to focus on an abstract photography collection that I started several years ago and had not pursued to my satisfaction. In late spring and early summer, I made the conscious decision to work on exploring and developing my abstract work. By late summer, this had morphed into making my work on the collection part of my day.  
 

Abstract Wormhole, 6-17

Abstract Wormhole, 6-17

In my photography, I primarily use 35mm film or a digital camera; however, I also explore with photograms and cyanopaper. The abstract collection consists of different interconnected series. The work explores individual perspective, humanity, the universe, time, and space. 

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-17

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-17

The daily practice is loose. I don't put rules or restrictions on it. I want to keep a playful feel to it. I have found that my daily abstract practice helps me keep a balance in my life.  I have posted a few of my images on Instagram @KMastel. I welcome you to visit me there and also any questions or comments.

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-20-17

Abstract, Kaleidoscope 10-20-17

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over Lunch: A Conversation with Patti

Work table in Patti's studio

Work table in Patti's studio

In our last post, Johntimothy and I had a morning interview/conversation in his studio about printmaking and teaching that we shared with our readers. We turned the tables and Johntimothy interviewed me over lunch at the dining room table about my creative process. 

Johntimothy: You are always raising the importance of “thinking through your hands.” Can you elaborate on what you see as the significance of that process?

Patti: It’s hard to describe, but let me just say that when I try to think about an idea and what it might look like and then go about trying to make that thing….it just never works for me. But when I begin with nothing, letting go and letting my hands move across the page without consciously thinking, then things begin to flow. Often it takes some time for me to understand the internal conversation that is going on, but that’s what it is. It’s like the door to the conscious mind is closed, the “thinking” mind is left outside and the conversation is more below the surface....the murmur you might hear on the other side. Sometimes the result, the finished piece, is such that I still can’t put it into words, as it is beyond words…much deeper. Other times, I can articulate what I couldn’t have before I’d begun drawing.

Bloodlines (acrylic and embroidery on handmade paper)

Bloodlines (acrylic and embroidery on handmade paper)


Johntimothy: But you often work with a theme….Notes From The Ancestors, for example. Or you might have an idea about the blood-soaked land. You were reading about things and thinking about them before you made that piece….what was the title?

Patti: That piece you are thinking of was Bloodlines and yes, it is a good example of what we’ve been talking about. It is an older piece, from a period when I was working on your handmade paper with layers of acrylic and sewing.  It was not that long after we moved out here to South Dakota and I was doing a lot of reading about the westward expansion, the displacement of native peoples and the violence…the blood spilled out across the land.  The land was literally carrying the memory of what had happened, but I didn’t understand that until I made that piece. I understood that idea slowly, through the many layers of painting and building the surface and then the time consuming stitching. I didn’t set out to talk about or make a piece about that idea. I came to that idea of the blood soaked land holding memory through the making of the piece.

Johntimothy: But you have to start somewhere…you choose colors, symbols, marks that end up conveying the ideas.

Patti: I don’t choose them exactly. It’s more like an on demand kind of thing….or a just-in-time idea. I “know” what to do at the right time. It starts with play…especially going back to those early mixed media pieces, like Bloodlines. There are many layers in that piece, many layers of red, which I came to understand as blood…and later lots of sewing.

Johntimothy: Did you see the sewing, the stitching, as a metaphor for healing?

Patti: No, but that is an interesting notion! It was more about another source of layering….I think a lot of the works from that period were a reflection of my understanding of palimpsest and perhaps the land being a metaphor for palimpsest. Recently, I’ve gotten away from the layered painting on handmade paper to the more pared down layering on the Japanese paper, but it is a similar process. It is the same “not knowing” when I start out.

Notes From The Ancestors no.1 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, sewing on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors no.1 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, sewing on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: Most of the work you’ve made in the last few years has been on Japanese paper dipped in beeswax. You’re concentrating on a more direct drawing now, rather than using paint.

Patti: Yes, like the Notes From the Ancestors series. I found myself thinking about what our collective ancestors say to us about how to live, how best to proceed at this point in time. We are not necessarily good about learning from the past. Each generation seems to have to learn the lessons over and over again. We don’t always listen to the voices from the past and I think there is a kind of arrogance about looking back, learning from history about how to move forward. There seems to be a sort of limitation on how we see what I think of as a continuum of the past, present and future. But all that came after I started to make a couple of those drawings on Japanese paper, which I divided into sections, making drawings in each section that related to one another in some way. In the process, the notion of what I was doing and the title for what was becoming a series, came to me as Notes From The Ancestors. Those drawings and most of those that have followed are dipped in beeswax and then often have sewing, beads or buttons as well.

Notes From The Ancestors, no.8 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, button on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors, no.8 (graphite, ink, beeswax, collage, button on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: So, you become conscious about these ideas in the process. You move from not knowing to knowing?

Patti: Yes, that is what I mean when I say “I think through my hands.” It is how I come to understand the world or how I think about the world in which I find myself. It is an embodied knowing, just as there is embodied learning. But, we don’t give credit to the whole body. We separate our mind from our body. Why can’t you think through your whole body? What comes out is an expression of what you are thinking, feeling, experiencing. We all internalize the physical world in some fashion, but it is often happening on a subconscious level.

Notes From The Ancestors no.11 (graphite, ink, beeswax, embroidery on Japanese paper)

Notes From The Ancestors no.11 (graphite, ink, beeswax, embroidery on Japanese paper)

Johntimothy: So, your process of making art is your way of excavating that internalization of the world…to get at it, make it visible and then begin to “see anew” and understand. I think I am starting to connect in a deeper sense to your process. So, this very much relates back to the drawing exercises from your early mentor Richard Loveless. You have talked about this exercise on finding your personal mark since we first met. Can you elaborate on how this works?

Patti: The exercise relates to what I have come to call meditation drawings. That exercise, given by Loveless in one of my long ago teaching certification courses, was pivotal for me. He described it in terms of an internal landscape of mark making that each person carries within them and the assignment he gave us was a way to discover that idea, as well as the individuality of the drawing marks that we make. It was the beginning of understanding my own internal landscape and learning to trust it, as a vast source of wisdom. Not just my wisdom, but the wisdom of everything that has come before. I realize now, that my daily drawing practice grew out of this exercise.

Daily drawings available in  Etsy shop

Daily drawings available in Etsy shop

Johntimothy: So how did the exercise work…can you describe the process?

Patti: Each person was to start with a stack of 50 sheets of blank photocopy paper and a mark-making tool…pencil, pen, brush, whatever was comfortable. We were to find a quiet and uninterrupted place that allowed us to relax….this was homework, so we were doing this alone in our own at homes. Basically, it was then a process of making marks on each of those 50 sheets without thinking about what we were doing. You were to just let your hand move and “listen” to when to turn the page over and make marks on the second sheet, the third, etc. until you came to the end of the 50 sheets. As I recall, the whole thing took less than half an hour. The idea was never to make “drawings”, but to let go and just work through your body and not think about what you were doing. I remember most folks in the class were art education majors and not studio artists, so many found the process frustrating. I think many of them were not able to let go of trying to make drawings. When we all came back for the next class, Loveless had us lay each of our 50 sheets out in individual groups on the floor in that very large studio. I got it right away. I recognized myself in my own 50 pages. Like looking in a mirror….those marks were my marks and could only have been made by me. It was not about filling the page, but feeling when enough was enough and when to turn the page. So, on one of my pages, for instance, there might have only been one tiny x in the corner. So, it was the weight of the lines in the marks you made, but also where you put things, the spaces, the density of the page. That was a powerful moment for me to recognize myself in the mirror of those fifty pages. I began to really trust my own creative process and I came to believe that we each have an inner landscape of mark making.

Getting people connected to such an idea and to trust in it is a whole new conversation. I think our creativity is a fundamental part of natures. Maybe our next conversation will focus on our ideas about creativity and how to help people rediscover that in themselves.

Johntimothy: Yes, that's a big one for both of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Remains

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Explorers' Notebooks no.6

Well, it's been some time since I've written, but the last few weeks have been filled to the brim with travel, along with planning for my niece's September wedding which will take place in our backyard on the banks of the Missouri River. Johntimothy and I have just returned from a wonderful trip to various locations all over the state of Montana where we enjoyed visiting with my extended family in a couple of mini-reunions, along with a venture down to Yellowstone and a spectacular trip through the Bear Tooth Pass. As enriching and thrilling as it is to be away, it does take some time to get your usual rhythms back! So....finally ready to share some thoughts and images with you.

The image above, Explorers' Notebooks no.6, was nearly finished when I left for Montana, so the only thing that was done in the last couple of days was the stitched line on the lower portion....for me, it's an echo of the amazing mountains I saw, but I can see that it might be seen as a time line, part of a chart, or some other documentary evidence. As those familiar with my work already know, I am fascinated by the ability of the book page to document the newly discovered and to communicate across time and place. I've invented those floating forms at the top and the little white snippets that appear to identify them are just bits of book page text painted out with acrylic. I am more interested in the idea of these book pages and their ability to capture our sense of wonder than in depicting actual specimens.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

Flathead Lake, Montana

The focus of my work is of a different kind than actual observation....more difficult to put into language....or visual terms. My search is really about what remains. Until now, I've put that in terms of "the trace", but that has always implied some physical manifestation, something visible left behind. But I've come to understand that to describe this nebulous "thing" I'm after as something tangible kind of misses the point....the longing and the yearning are really all about the intangible, as ultimately what remains can't be held or touched.

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The impressions left after the breathtaking views seen front and center or from the periphery in a moving vehicle, the glance of a stranger, the moments of warmth and cheer when gathered with generations of DNA sharing relatives, some of whom you've only just met....all seep into your being and become a part of you. They become memories, but also more than that, as each moment lived changes who you are just a little bit.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

In the end, perhaps nothing remains in the material world, and yet, everything remains....everything you've seen and heard, everything you've experienced lives in you somewhere and beyond you when you're gone. Call it something, call it stardust. And just how do you get at that notion through the slow process of making small and intimate drawings on paper? How do you open that door to the invisible through the seen and the felt world of material things? That's my quest....that's what is behind the Explorer's Notebooks. I'm trying to document those things you can't point to, that you can't see, but you sense them....put together, it's all that remains.

 

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!

 
 

Exploring New Territory

I've been inspired lately by a new book I checked out from the local public library, Explorers' Sketchbooks (now on its third renewal!). I am struck by the notion of exploration, which is rooted in an innate curiosity about the world. We are used to hearing about all manner of men and women (mostly men, of course) down through the ages who risked their lives to venture into the unknown. But, does it seem to you, that there is a sense that we've essentially discovered it all? While that is not remotely the case, it feels as if, in the public imagination, there is a lack of curiosity about the vast unknown worlds. Think of all those unexplored territories that surround us on all sides....the soil beneath our feet, the expanding universe, black holes, dark matter, the human body, the oceans, migration patterns, traffic patterns, it's endless....we've not even really scratched the surface!

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

Explorer's Notebooks, no.1

I've begun a new series of mixed media drawings, Explorers' Notebooks, that will allow me to explore the idea of "exploration." Inspired by the Explorers' Sketchbooks, filled with images and text including the beautiful journals, notations and drawings, all attempts to capture the newly seen and experienced, I am using these pieces to explore my own inner worlds, as well as the place and moment in time where I find myself. All of which can be seen as uncharted territory. 

While so many places on the planet have been discovered, mapped and described by others, maybe the secret and the way to reignite our curiosity is to attempt an expedition into our own worlds....the places we think we already know. 

Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Explorers' Notebooks, no.2

Speaking of discoveries, thanks to Jennifer Coyne Qudeen for the word "asemic", which is defined as a kind of wordless open semantic form of writing. It is the form of writing without a specified content. I was astonished to come across it on one of Jennifer's Instagram posts, as my own practice is based in what I have always, clumsily called, wordless writing...or some other vague term. To discover that what I do in the studio and the mark making practice that comes so naturally to me, not only has a name, but a codified definition and a whole host of practitioners....well, it feels akin to discovering someone at last who speaks my language. The marks that fill these drawings hearken back to the pattern of writing, perhaps a newly unearthed ancient manuscript, an attempt to communicate down the ages (as the written word is meant to do), but which, for whatever reason, can no longer be deciphered.

Writing and text, seen in these visual terms.....that's my current exploration. Thank to Jennifer and all the countless others who practice asemic writing....you've marked a path for me and now I'm on my own road of discovery. Cheers!

Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process

Explorers' Notebooks, no.3 in process