Looking for Holes

Are We Specters or Seraphs?, ink and colored pencil on paper, 14″ x 11″

Sometimes I feel like being a little abstruse. Sometimes I want to be willful. Sometimes, I’d rather not make sense.

Holes and Mourning, ink, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, 22″ x 14″

Rather than looking for things I have lost, I prefer to go looking for the holes through which I lost them. When I am tired of mourning for real things, I start to inhabit invented things. Maybe the narratives of my days people my made-up places despite my best efforts, but if I do not go around noticing them, it is almost like they don’t exist. If I am willful enough, abstruse enough, the world can be made of typography and wings for words and simple places to drop off my thoughts and let the waves of mind and time carry them away.

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Static Friction

From Inside, acrylic, ink, oilstick, and colored pencil on paper, 18″ x 24″

Lately, my whole body feels like a live wire. My blood feels carbonated and my skin feels tight. There’s a yell growing somewhere between my lungs and my throat.

Let me confide– I’m losing it over here. I have spent hours and hours of the last few weeks painting and writing and sketching, trying to out some of the tension and urgency from my body, my mind– wherever that frenetic frenzy resides­– but to little avail. And yesterday, I was struck by this notion: I am never going to get rid of this feeling.

Gah! Perish the thought!

Untangling Slowly, ink on paper, 18″ x 24″

But wait a minute. Let me examine this for just a second. What have I ever accomplished when I have felt just plain peachy? Nothing, because I have never felt that way. The times in my life when I have felt strong and resilient are the times when I have taken on this panic in its fullest expression and channeled all of my fears and neurosis into accomplishing the things that terrify me.

I’ll admit that it is waaay more convenient to turn on angsty rock from my teen years, dance the night away in my pjs, and go to sleep convinced that I feel better. But let’s face it; what really allays my demons from tormenting me is doing the boring, horrifying, self-exposing things that they use to taunt me. Things like rewriting my resume, teaching myself the technology I need to run my own art career, contacting artists and gallerists that I know, and dragging myself out into the world to talk to people in museums and galleries and coffee shops and grocery stores about who I am and what I am doing; to find out who they are; to discover what we can interchange and create.

Static Friction, ink and colored pencil on paper, 8″ x 5″

When I take my life out into the world, I become so occupied with confronting my fears that I productively expend the energy I would otherwise use to fret and berate myself over how terrifying everything is. The unfortunate part of this handy equation is that it’s a bit like static friction; I have to reach a certain level of frantic before I become frantic enough to move. And, bummer wisdom, no amount of understanding about how my brain works can sub in for the gritty business of actually gearing up and doing the hard stuff once I’ve reached that point.

But hey, I can feel it…it’s a comin’.

Things to Draw: Ducks Diving Underwater, Abstractly

Ducks Diving Underwater, acrylic on paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/4″

Although the prompt was for ducks, I couldn’t help thinking of cormorants. I grew up with a book called The Story About Ping, which is, indeed, about a duck. However, the scene that has always stuck with me was about cormorants.

“Then came a boat full of strange dark fishing birds. Ping saw them diving for fish for their Master. As each bird brought a fish to his Master he would give it a little piece of fish for pay. Closer and closer swooped the fishing birds near Ping. Now Ping could see shining rings around their necks, rings of metal made so tight the birds could never swallow the big fish they were catching.”

From the book, rings and all…

As a kid, I felt sad for the cormorants and relieved for Ping that he didn’t share their plight. It was an early lesson in servitude and freedom. Rereading it now, I think of contemporary economic realities; many of us work for others and struggle to achieve true financial self-sufficiency in a system designed to hold us in service, often without our even realizing that that is the case.

Blueberry Scones and Silence Pictures

Sometimes words just aren’t the thing. Sometimes it is better not to try to speak or write, to run the risk of judging how you feel. Sometimes it is best to bake a batch of scones and eat one by yourself while you work on discovering how to tell your life in pictures.

Peaceful Panic, acrylic on cavas board, 9″ x 12″

To Be Seen, acrylic and ink on canvas, 23 1/2″ x 19 1/2″

In Sadness, watercolor and acrylic on paper, 8″ x 4 1/2″

Scone musings and recipe after the jump… Continue reading

Hype and Hopefulness

We Were Wilder Once, acrylic on unprimed jute, 26″ x 16″

On Wednesday, I shipped this painting to Arizona, to Christina of the lovely EmelinaQueen. We met in college, where this painting was part of my senior showcase. A year-and-a-half has passed since that exhibition, and, lo, this painting suddenly found a home. Unexpected and awesome, especially since Christina and I reconnected through this blog.

A Usual Wind, acrylic, mold and water stains on unprimed canvas, 20″ x 16″

And, can you believe it, on Friday, I dropped this painting off at the Westmont Museum of Art for a juried show I had entered?

I feel a sense of wonder and even slight giddiness, which makes me instinctively suspicious. Can this streak of luck last? Is it luck, or is this what happens when you get out of your comfort zone and actually attempt to achieve the things you desire? Do I dare to hope for more success or would that just be hyping myself up in preparation for crashing disappointment?

Personally, I’ll opt for not hoping. Hope occurs to me as an expectation waiting to be dashed. Better, it seems, are gratitude and inspiration to work harder and be braver. And also to remember what fellow painter Daniel Galas said (in an interview with Studio Critical): “If you aren’t being denied fifteen times a year from submitting your work for shows, you aren’t applying enough.”

So forget these minor successes. There’s always major rejection to work up to.

Things to Draw: A Tin Man…

A Tin Man with a Broken Heart, Broken but Still Working, ink and colored pencil on paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8 “

I swear I didn’t go fishing for this one. I’m trying not to be that self-indulgent. He’s pretty cute and forlorn though, huh?

I can’t say I don’t relate a leetle bit. But hey, this is how creative folk deal with the vagaries of life…we make songs and images and words of it all.

Honey Lemon Financiers and Lighting the Dark

A couple of nights this week, I had the pleasure of making dinner for a lovely gentleman named Wally. My mom personal chefs for Wally and his old friend Frances. When my mom and my dad went away for their anniversary this week, I offered to stand in as a cook.

Wally is eighty-six years old. He lost his wife, Claire, just three weeks ago. Though dinner is usually served in the dining room, Frances decided to rest that night, and Wally asked if he could eat dinner in the kitchen with me for company. It’s a funny and typical part of being human that each of us tends to feel our own suffering most acutely. I am intensely sad for Wally’s loss; I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a person that you’ve loved nearly all your life and shared and grown with. But I also couldn’t help feeling just a little envious. Sixty-one years. How can you know, when you look at some one, with all the thrill and ignorance of youth, that you want to be beside them for the next sixty-one years, and more if you could have it?

Paper cranes symbolize luck and longevity. I find them soothing, and I tend to make multitudes of them in times of loss and uncertainty.

But it’s easy to ask that after the fact. He told me, “I asked her to marry me for four years before she finally said yes; she had a wartime divorce and she wanted nothing to do with it.” And even when you do find people and places and things to occupy time that make you happy, it’s a rare happiness that doesn’t engender some sadness. He said, “If she had married me the first time I asked, we would’ve celebrated our sixty-fifth.”

I find it both comforting and disappointing to be reminded that there is no getting out of some suffering in this life. I neither want to deny sadness nor grow more out of self-pity. I want to be with life the way it is, and uplift it where I can. If I’m being honest, I am shaky on my feet right now. From relationship and career changes, from loss of community and the uncertainty of youth. These things happen. But as Stanley Kubrick said, “However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

For Wally, there is finding consolation in the company of others and a small cake made with love. For me, there is the beauty of objects and the hope that I may be of comfort to others when I can.

Recipe after the jump… Continue reading

A Thing to Draw and a Journey

An Old Hotel, ink on paper, 5 3/8″ x 8 1/2″

Hi there. Sorry for the radio silence. It’s been a week, and by that, I mean a helluva week. It’s also been over a week since I last posted, which is technically a breach of contract, since I committed to posting at least once a week when I started writing this blog. I am apologetic for that, but I am also working on not minding, or at least, not holding it against myself. Beating myself up for mistakes I have made is an unconscious habit of mine, and while I consider it a fairly human habit, I am really, seriously working on it right now. Forgiveness is the theme of the moment.

Forgiveness for hurting others in the struggle to support myself. Forgiveness for hurting myself in the struggle to navigate life.

Unlike in California, spring exists in the mountains of Arizona. It looks like this, among other things.

I took a trip to Arizona to visit two of my closest friends for their graduation and to give myself space to start healing from a recent choice to leave some one that I love to pursue my own path. Spending time with old friends is both a balm and a new ache. I am blessed to know so many wonderful, strange souls. Being in their presence reminds me that there are indeed others who find science poetic and nature hilarious, art impossible to live with and impossible to live without, and the whole tumult of being a human just absurd in general and therefore fantastic. It is hard though, figuring out where to look for such people away from the moth light of academia.

A home once mine in a town once mine.

This is one cornerstone of the forgiveness puzzle. Understanding that the struggle to find community, purpose, and affirmation post-college is not a failing on my part, but an almost unavoidable aspect of life for those of us who have the privilege to pursue and benefit from higher education. In college, you self-select to meet people with similar interests, values, and goals, and then come together underneath the banner purpose of your school and major. At Prescott College, we were “for the liberal arts, the environment, and social justice.” It’s a damn good crowd of passionate, opinionated, proactive, and magnificently humorous people. And I miss them. And I miss the shared momentum and joy. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be stressed. It’s okay to wonder how I will ever get by in life when I some times feel so alone on the path. I’m not truly alone, and it becomes easier to move through moments of loneliness when I’m not caught up in resenting myself for them. This is what I am learning.

Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) is recognizable by its unique checkered bark and ability to incite wonder and acceptance in the hearts of observers.

And then there is forgiveness for love lost and love given away. For hurting some one I care for. For being so angry at myself for choosing to leave that I did it utterly unskillfully. For missing him even though I made the choice to be on my own. For berating myself for all of the above. And even for this: being chaotic and confessional, rather than steady and unswayed. I wrote an essay once relating myself to a forest and its fire cycle: we go up in flames so that new seeds may germinate. It’s an apt and a comforting metaphor, but at times I can’t help aching to be calm and resolved instead of wild and reckoning. To be even instead of tumultuous. To be some way other than the way I am. Forgiveness for that. I can feel it growing among the embers.

Thanks to pinyon-juniper woodlands and the butterscotch smell of Ponderosa pine trees for cradling me in my sadness. Thanks to you all for love and patience.