Tag Archives: artlife

Winning While Not Winning

Back in September I applied for an artist’s residency at Big Bend National Park, an opportunity to live and work for a month in one of our largest and most remote wilderness areas, right on the Mexican border (image above.)

As I worked on the application, I gained a new understanding of why I paint the way I do:

My painting is both objective and reverent observation, a deep, active appreciation of the natural world.  My aim is to inspire others to look more deeply and develop a more profound appreciation for our world.

tulippoplarblossomsw

I wrote quite a bit about why painting on the Border would be important to me, and I’ll explore that in a later post.

I didn’t get selected for the residency. When I got the email I was mildly surprised, as if I really believed I would. In the email from the National Parks Art Foundation was a personal note that I was one of the finalists. Which felt really good.

Last year’s Artist in Residence at Big Bend was painter Dawn Waters Baker. I fell in love with her work instantly. I feel it beautifully captures what I had imagined creating at Big Bend.

Please go look at Dawn’s beautiful paintings and leave her comments if you can.

Dawn talks about ‘the emotional landscape’ –  not what is there but how we experience it, what we feel. That really comes through in her luminous paintings. They are filled with awe and a deep respect for the space. And she called the final show Reverence.

I’ve never been one who takes rejection particularly well. But this was a whole other experience. I got to know myself better by applying. I looked forward to bigger, more spacious paintings and the magic of a desert landscape. I enjoyed dreaming about how I would fulfill the residency requirements. And then I fell in love with Dawn’s paintings.

I feel complete, or pau as my Hawaiian healer friend Carol Burbank would say. It’s all good.

Small Press Expo 2016

I had a wonderful time at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda MD today, with my companion Maddie who is 14. We each went to different panels and met up to compare notes.

I am new to the world of contemporary comics and I have to say: WOW! It was such a vibrant scene – the exhibit hall was packed with creative happy people, colorful, expressive, curious, interesting, and fun. I played a new card game with giant demo cards, met my graphic novelist hero, Noelle Stevenson, ran into some fan artists I know, discovered a magical book about Monet’s Mouse!

I attended one panel with several comic artists discussing how they support their drawing habits. Creatively, of course!

Tomato Fairies

Cathy G Johnson works as an illustrator, teaches after-school programs and sells books and prints- real hand made screen prints!

Here’s a book she offers for reading online: “Going Back” – a travel journal.

Eleanor Davis is an illustrator you’ve probably seen around. She recently illustrated a New Yorker article “The Most Exclusive Restaurant in America, and here’s one of a series of Google Doodles:

Aimée de Jongh came from the Netherlands to #spx. Here’s a video she animated:

The whole thing filled me with hope for the world, so many happy creatives making magic and sharing it with an enthusiastic audience. I won’t miss next year’s show!

defy reality: be an artist

This recent post from Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds got to me:

Nobody wants you to be an artist.

It’s for a lot of reasons. Some come from a good place — they think, hey, we want better for you. The life of an artist is hard. Be a bricklayer, a doctor, a ROCKET LAWYER, something, anything. Art is how you lose. Art is how you die. Don’t be an artist, because we don’t want to see you struggle, starve, and go mad.

Some of the reasons come from a deeply cankerous place: jealousy (“why do you get to fritter away your hours MAKING ART and I have to sell toilets?”) or misunderstanding (“art isn’t work, it’s just lazy piffle for lazy losers”) or alien menace (“ART GIVES HUMAN BEINGS HOPE AND IT MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER FROM EXTRATERRESTRIAL FORCES”).

Some governments don’t want artists because art is truth, even when couched in illusion or deception. Some schools don’t want art because how do you test art, and everything is about the test, goddamnit. Want to get a mortgage? Tell them you’re an artist and ha ha ha oh shit.

Art is a hobby, art is a waste of time, art is a thing you do when you’re in elementary school or in the retirement home. It isn’t a life. It isn’t a career. FUCK YOU, NO ARTING.

Chuck Wendig’s blog goes on to explore where his will to persist arises from. For him, it involves a lot of fierce defiance, a big don’t-tell-me-what-to-do with a lot of cursing. And, I get that, being infuriated by this ignorant culture and the stacked deck that creatives seem to face.

illustrator: Shricka

But what if that “F-you” attitude doesn’t really energize you? What if your art needs to be about connecting and caring? What if you really DO care what other people think?

To some extent Chuck is absolutely right, Nobody wants you to be an artist. There’s plenty of discouragement to go around.

But listen inside: YOU DO. YOU want to create, pursue, invent, explore.

Then get to work.

Forget perfection. You can’t control success. You aren’t anybody else. You are you. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you. Let their disbelief charge your batteries.

You can believe in you.

Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Make something. Create something.

That’s the place I need to dwell. I want to paint. I live for creating. So, back to work! I have buttercups to paint. It’s great work if you give it to yourself.

Cherry Blossom Joy!

I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.

CherriesPhotog2016
Ducks check out the Photographer

When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.

Morning at Capitol Plaza
Morning at Capitol Plaza

Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!

“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?”

I heard poet Tracy K. Smith read her poem by this name on Studio 360‘s tribute to David Bowie. Tracy won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection called “Life on Mars,” inspired in part by the Starman in his many identities.  She credits him with showing her “the imagination as something that is capable of creating a whole new world and a whole new sense of self.”

I thought it was a pretty fabulous poem.
“Don’t You Wonder Sometimes” — Tracy K. Smith 

1.
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being – a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure

That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.

2.
He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours

Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.

Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?

The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.

3.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
he’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.

I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before the rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
Go ahead.

I’m a Winner!!!

Although four days ago I want at all sure it was possible, I just validated this years novel at 50,631 words and got all the fun NaNoWriMo winners goodies: Congratulations video, a purple bar, and badges, banners and a certificate!

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.35.06 PMBut the best reward is, of course, having done it. When it got boring, I wrote. When it got scary, I wrote. I even wrote in my sleep and found a subplot. (turned out to be a red herring, but actually a necessary one!) When it got hard, I wrote more.

At 60 years old, overweight with a bum knee, I can’t run a marathon, but for the 4th out of 5 years I CAN WRITE ONE.

This year’s story is a continuation of last year’s Only the Rust Remembers, a dystopian post climate disaster adventure story about three unlikely companions. The civilized world has contracted into what is now Ontario, and has rebooted the heavy industry around the Great Lakes.

In Book 1, it’s 2173 and in Gary, IN a blast furnace explodes, catapulting 2 of our 3  heroes on an unexpected journey. In Book 2, the three of them set sail on a steam tug boat across Lake Erie. But one of them is in the brig! Will they escape the Security Forces that are hunting them? Will they find Tayya’s grandfather who holds the secrets to the past? WIl Hal ever speak to either of them again?

You will have to read it find out!

I learned during this NaNo is that there is a Book 3 to this story. Tayya will need to return to the rising revolution she left behind in Salt City. Garez and Hal may not be so eager to go back. So stay tuned, the epic will continue.

And, I have made a commitment to the path…. of EDITING! The beauty of NaNo is that it’s a big crazy push to wrote a Rough Draft, ROUGH being the operative word. It is not suitable for anyone to read. Before I have a First Draft I need to essentially rewrite each one of these chapters, polishing and clearing up problems with grammar, plot, and continuity as I go.

The good news is that three chapters of Book 1 are already revised. And now that I’ve invested so more into these characters I’m committed to seeing them through to the end.

Thank you to all my Writing Buddies*** this year, for all your encouragement! I am so proud to have so many successful NaNos in my local writers group!!! We will have lots to celebrate on December 7th. 

***

Cheryl Holloway and other members of AWWG

Tidewater Retreat

On October 17-19 I was on retreat with my AWWG sisters in Mathews, VA. I had never visited this part of Virginia before and was smitten with the peace and big sky. This is a bit of my scribblings.

In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Pattern: clouds march offshore, moving south along the coast. Clear inland. This is counterintuitive to our inland weather, usually West to East.

Broad soft curling rivers of salt marsh sweep and weave, flush and suck, swell and drain up and down the seaboard like lungs. The silt that creeps into corners, the poisons that filter down from our civilized behavior fan out and settle. 

But then: the sea fills to bursting, inhales a great wet breath up into the rivers. Back toward their source, breathing saline into small channels, seething between reeds tangled with plastic trash, dragging the scum with her when she falls back away toward the moon.

Like the trees, there’s an exchange. At first it’s not so obvious, but here is the swish and pulse of our body’s lymphatic health, breathing salt soup life, in and out of our pores.

She seems boundless, indefatigable, infinitely absorbent. We clever ones already test her limits, tinkering with the chemistry set of the globe. It looks like the calcium cities built over eons by coral will be bleached dead before we ever learn their language. And yet they gave us Florida.

Here the dawn comes: extraordinary color the camera won’t get. Greeny sky, violet pink clouds, slate blue waters, all very Maxfield Parrish: smooth fields of tonal color and flawless gradients. The clouds feel muscular, bubbling, and constrained along the beach like eager horses. Later in the day they will wander toward and lumber over us. In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

River Painting: Deep Summer Afternoon

I’m in the last throes of completing a series of river pictures that have been ‘almost done’ for weeks now. I nudge each of them forward every time I get out the palette, and yet they seem to stay stubbornly in the ‘not quite yet’ camp. ALMOST!!

Last Sunday I completed this one: (click for larger view)
summerclouds

Deep Summer Afternoon, ©2015
20″ x 16″ Oil on board; $500 unframed

This was one of those summer days when you can feel the thunderstorm wanting to happen. Living on Piscataway Bay gives me the most wonderful relationship with the sky. I am so much more in tune with the movement of weather and celestial bodies than I was living in the big woods.

Moyaone Market this Saturday, October 3rd.

Come on down for new paintings and new things happening at Clearwell Studios

My Shadow, the Fannibal

One definition of myself holds that I’m a kind-hearted person who shouldn’t love violent and scary stories, serial killers or for god’s sake CANNIBALS.

But, due to the mysteries of fandom, I find myself on the edge of my seat tonight, and tweeting with a few hundred thousand, maybe more, Fannibals for the finale of the NBC TV series Hannibal.

I swore I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t like the books, and Silence of the Lambs was too creepy. I don’t need a vicious killer show to watch, life is too short. I don’t remember what changed my mind, but it was only a few months ago that I watched the pilot episode and I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ll not try to sell you on the show; it’s been cancelled, (although vigorous Fannibal lobbying may have some clout) it’s about an elegant murderous cannibal and a mentally unstable profiler who have an unhealthy obsession with one another – not everyone’s cuppa.

If I did make my case, it would sing the praises of the writers and particularly their excellent gender swapping of key characters. Also, the use of myth and alternative states of consciousness is fascinating as well. The Wendigo and antler theme are amazing and beautiful.

I would also laud the art department, including the food stylists, who work under the direction of none other than Jose Andres of restaurant fame. Everything to look at in this show is a feast for the eyes.

Well, one more surprise, for me, as I am still scratching my “I’m supposed to be a nice girl” head: I’m cleaning out folders on my Mac and find a painting from 2010 called Integration, that I created for some very deep and intense therapy work.

henkelp3intergrate

It’s very Hannibal-esque. I guess I should have known.