One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

24 April 2018

Always Say "Never"

"Painting" seems such a simple word to describe something that isn’t simple at all.

As artists, we try to describe everything…light, color, depth, dimension, perspective, life, weight, texture, liquid, fur, tension, metal, soul and so much more…with paint on a flat surface. No wonder artists seem mad as hatters, sometimes.

The thing I love most about painting? 
You NEVER get “there”.

No matter how many paintings and drawing I have done (and that numbers in the thousands now)…I am still learning things and making discoveries. No matter how close I come to what I want to describe with my medium…there is always something more to work toward.

Lately, it seems as if every painting is teaching me something new and different. That is a pretty heady feeling...simultaneously inspiring and overwhelming. One of the way I keep things “fresh” is to keep multiple paintings going. When one needs time to dry (or my mind needs a break), I can dive into another. Currently, there are five “in progress” paintings staring back at me from the easels in my livingroom/studio (some so different that I have two palettes set up).

Starting back into this one after a break, I noticed my favorite brush of the moment was failing, losing bristles and looking like someone had been scrumbling paint onto a panel with a little too enthusiasm (who? me?). I thought, “maybe it is time to break down and buy some of those dreamy Rosemary brushes that have been on my wish list for some time”. Then my scruffy old brush showed that it still had something to give…and something more to teach me.

So when it comes to figuring it all out as an artist...I will always say "never".

Still craving a handful of Rosemary brushes, though…

DETAIL of a Work in Progress
Oil on Cradled Panel
16” x 16”

29 March 2018

Spider Sensei

A few days ago, I noticed a tiny spider had started hanging out in my soap dish. Rather than move it outside (my usual MO), I decided to live and let live. That, in turn, led to my being careful about respecting its space and valuing its life. I found myself fascinated.

Not wanting to crush the spider, I became aware of how I picked up the soap and put it down. At first, when I would move the soap, it would make itself as tiny as possible in the bottom of the dish. Now, it seems to “trust” me a little more. It holds its ground and goes about doing whatever a spider does in a little soap dish world...and I carefully replace its "roof" when I'm done. Last night, when I tried to take a photo, it waved its forelimbs in the air. Was that a threat...or a greeting?

I wonder what the world looks like, from its perspective. How do I appear in a spider's eyes?

In just entertaining that thought for a moment, I find myself even more respectful of its place in “my” world. Suddenly it becomes, instead, “our” world. The wee spider and I are sharing a bit of space during our relatively short spans of time on the planet. Spider has much less time here than I do...who am I to shorten that based on "my" version of reality?

How much better would the world would be if we spent more time wondering what things look like from other perspectives rather than judging and condemning based on our own fears and biases?

29 January 2018

Saint and Sinner

"Saint and Sinner"
48" x 49" Diptych
Oil on Stretched Canvas

You may be wondering why I would post an image of a blank canvas...two of them, actually.

It is because I think there is magic in a blank canvas. Just as white light holds all the colors of the spectrum...a white canvas holds endless possiblities. It could be anything.

Often, I will stare at my next blank canvas for a while...even when I know what I want to paint. It is a way of owning the space...or connecting with it...before breaking that void with brush or charcoal. This is where every painting begins...

Stage one of the sketch. Once again, I will sit back and stare. I will be thinking about where I want it to go next and where the painting wants to go...not always the same direction!

01 January 2018

From Unspoken to Outspoken

Over the past year or so, I have taken some hits because I have been more outspoken politically. That’s okay, in my own opinion, I have earned a few hits, not because I speak up now…but because I have not spoken up throughout my life.

I was raised in a home where politics went unspoken. As my Mom explains, she hates politics because her father and uncles argued politics ad nauseam when she was growing up. That would put just about anyone off politics. My great uncles were republican, but my Grandfather’s strong democratic beliefs earned him the nickname “Demo” as a young man…and he would go by that name for the rest of his life. That passion for politics skipped a generation.

We grew up rural, sheltered from the horrors of Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge. Watergate was not discussed, Ford was a joke on Saturday Night Live and Carter was a peanut farmer from the South. We did not talk about the fights for equal and/or civil rights. My parents loved teaching us about the past…but they did not engage us in the present. Ignorance is bliss...but only to a point.

It was not until I left home at 17, that I started to pay attention and my horizons began to expand. This was mostly due to my first husband. Before he was old enough to drink, Don knew more about world politics than most people ever will. Over the next decade of my life, so much would happen…and, though it did not come naturally (or nurturally), I started to notice. While Americans talked about MTV and Indiana Jones and personal computers, Islamic Afghan Freedom fighters would spend the decade fighting and dying until they hamstrung the Soviet Union. The Cold War that had plagued us since 1950 was coming to an end. Ronald Reagan was president over most of that decade and Nelson Mandela was serving his third decade in prison. Great and terrible things happened over those years. In 1989, I would paint “End Apartheid” across the front bumper of my truck in support of those fighting that terrible battle…meanwhile, across the world, the Berlin Wall would fall, the Exxon Valdez would spill 10.8 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coastline and hundreds of peaceful student protestors would be gunned down in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

What I discovered when I paid attention, was a world of injustice that offended my innately fair-minded little soul and tore at my empathic little heart. Everywhere you looked there was something or someone worth fighting for. I was pulled in a dozen directions at once…outraged, overwhelmed, heartbroken and discouraged. I donated money, time and art…I recycled and voted. I wanted do more, though, like help clean birds by Prince William Sound. Instead, I told myself that it was better to give the world what I was “good” at by focusing on my art. In hindsight, maybe I was wrong.

The most important lesson I learned by going to DC last June was that we can and should be involved and engaged regarding the issues we are passionate about...and we can make a difference. Our politicians work for us and sometimes we need to hold their feet to the fire. It isn’t easy…it means researching the issues and learning to discern fact from fiction. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and delving into the things that worry or scare us. It means making an effort to think for ourselves and express our beliefs in a world that won’t always “like” what we think or, worse, will respond with hateful vitriol.

There are a lot of good hearted people who don’t get involved. Some don’t think they could make a difference. Maybe they hate politics...who doesn't? Some can’t be bothered to research issues...it gets overwhelming. Others don’t care because their own world seems “safe” and they just can’t relate to the troubles of others. It is easy to criticize social programs until your own house is on fire.

I may not have children…but I worry about the future of my niece, my nephews and all the children/young people who will inherit what we are creating (and destroying). What will we leave them? Will they have clean water and air and wild places to escape to? Will they be saddled with the crushing deficit that the GOP is creating to enrich the rich? Will they have opportunities for education and equality?

Most of us hate politics, or at least some politicians...but you don't have to like politics to be involved. Like it or not, the decisions made by politicians involve you. I would think any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle would want to do whatever they can to protect the future of the children, nieces, and nephews grandchildren they are so fortunate to have and/or love. Our country is on fire, my friends...and we should all be grabbing buckets.

To those who would criticize me (or anyone) for showing interest or being  outspoken about the issues that face us, I say this:
the MOST patriotic and the truly American thing we can do is be involved, speak out, vote and sometimes (gasp) protest..

As a new year dawns, I am squaring my shoulders and preparing to continue passionately and compassionately speaking out and standing up for what I believe in…it is the American way and I am an American girl.

“Well, I won't back down
No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down”
Tom Petty

26 December 2017

Boxing Day

On Boxing Day in 2003, I was trying to make funeral arrangements for my Dad when my phone charger broke. Dad had been ill for a while, but everyone thought he was getting better and his sudden death on Christmas Day was completely unexpected. Less than 24 hours after singing cowboy songs to him as he passed, I was still in shock when I found myself in the most dreadful of places: Denver's Cherry Creek Mall.

Holiday music blared, everything glittered and throngs of happy post holiday shoppers milled and shoved past me. I just needed to find the darn Verizon store, buy a charger and leave. As I made my way through packs of chattering teens, dodged strollers pushed by smiling parents, stepped around cooing couples and tried not to step on giggling toddlers…I started to get angry, thinking “my Dad just died, can’t you people just let me get out of here?”

My own question stopped me in my tracks. Suddenly, I wondered how many people I encountered every day were quietly making their way through some tragedy? How many were fighting for their lives at that very moment? How many were grieving a loved one? How many were worried about how to pay their bills? Were some afraid of losing their home or their job? What percentage were going home to a dying parent, partner, friend or child? Which of them had just been abandoned by a partner or spouse? How many would go home to emotional or physical abuse? Who among them would be unbearably lonely that night…or even at that very moment? How many were depressed and contemplating the value of their lives, or perceived lack thereof, as viewed through a broken heart or debilitating depression? What number of people were trying to get through life facing more than one of those things, simultaneously? How many were trying to just survive until tomorrow? More than any of us ever imagine.

At that moment, in that ridiculous mall, among the hordes of cheerful shoppers, I made a vow to myself…to try to remember that what we don’t always know what is going on in someone’s life. When we are happy…someone is facing unimaginable tragedy. When our heart is breaking…others are joyful. Life doles out its various trials and tribulations at a different pace for each of us.

As much as I try, I don’t always live up to that vow. Sometimes I fail miserably. Admittedly, I took my imperfect humanity into consideration from the beginning when I promised to “try” (sorry Yoda, sometimes try is all we can do). It is easy to forget, to get caught up in our own battles and worries and heartbreak...and it is hard, often impossible, to tell who hurts. Out of sight, out of mind makes it hard to remember to consider the worries that may trouble the people we encounter and cut them some slack. Still, I try.

Every Boxing Day I am reminded of that moment in the mall when deep grief and a crowd of happy people helped carve into my heart one of the most significant philosophies of my life. Every Boxing Day I renew my vow and, during the 364 days between, I keep trying.