An Artist's Quest

flying

Thinking of Mark

272. thinking of Mark

“The Space between Heaven and Earth” currently showing at the Mendocino Art Center

My cousin Mark died today and I feel compelled to write about him and how I feel. He was just a few years older than me, 57- I think, and he died of cancer that had spread within his body. Mercifully he only knew for a couple of weeks and, I’m told wasn’t in much pain even at the last. That’s comforting, I think, at least comforting to me. He was an extraordinary man, full of wit and wisdom, sarcasm and sweetness. He was one of the strongest, most persistent people I’m sure I’ll ever meet. You see when he was in his teens he began showing the signs of muscular dystrophy, and while the disease weakened his muscles he carried on his life – he lived and learned and loved and though he was in a wheel chair for decades he was fiercely independent and spent most of his adult life advocating for people with disabilities. This paragraph is not enough, no words will be enough, but I wanted you to know, I want you to know he was here on this earth, he was important.

As a sometimes confused and always questioning Christian, I don’t really know what happens when we die. My dad shared his thoughts a few days before his death: at birth we are in one place warm and familiar and then there is a great commotion and we are in another place distinctly different and death seems to be like that, we are in one familiar place and then a great commotion and now to another place. This is a comforting way for me to think of death, as a rationalist I know we are made of cells, and molecules and atoms, particles of dancing protons and electrons. When we die those things still exist in the universe but their purpose is changed, they break apart and reconfigure but are still here. The molecules of Mark’s last breath still float in the air repurposed, reclaimed but here among us just the same.

I watched a documentary awhile back about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was fascinating and illuminating. One scene I remember is at the bedside of a man who had just died. The tradition calls for prayers and chants to be sustained around the body for many hours (perhaps days?) to encourage the floating spirit to not be afraid and to not jump into the first living thing to pass in front of the suspended soul – in essence cheering the departed one to reach for a higher level existence in the cycle of reincarnation. Oddly today as I thought of Mark I thought why not try out the strong body of the grasshopper. Wouldn’t it be lovely for him to bound and leap with such strong legs? Besides a grasshopper lifespan is short – within the year he could leap his way into a flitting, flying sparrow and try that body for a while, there is much to learn from the little sparrows strong wings, I’m sure. Three years from then perhaps a wise old owl will suit Mark’s fancy, soaring above us all in the long cool night air. Or maybe a dolphins body would fit well, how playful and lithe he would be let loose from that heavy damn wheel chair.

So just incase, I put the cricket I found in my kitchen this afternoon gently outside and whispered in my cupped hands before I let it go – you’re free now JUMP!

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Ode to Crow

A page from my Mixed Media Mindfulness journal- using acrylic paint, pencil, crow photos printed on Grafix adhesive transparency- and of course my recent favorite a bit of Colortool spray paint

A page from my Mixed Media Mindfulness journal- using acrylic paint, pencil, crow photos printed on Grafix adhesive transparency- and of course my recent favorite a bit of Colortool spray paint

I came upon a dead crow the other day while walking my dog. At the scene there were no feathers strewn about no sign of a struggle so maybe it was just this crow’s time. I kept thinking about that crow and its kind, about crow life and community, crow work and pleasure. Where I live crows have found a niche, they forage and hunt, they crack walnuts and acorns by dropping them on the road from high up in trees- I’ve seen this myself- clever critters. They heckle and pester the birds of prey like the hawk and owl that live in the trees near by. At dusk they seem to gather together in community in a big oak tree between us and the dairy next door, later they fly off to roost for the night somewhere else, our oak tree seems more like stopping by the pub after work to chat with friends. I don’t really know much about a crows life but I do know that anytime I’m asked what superpower I’d want if I had one I always say flight – and whenever I ponder a next life, if there is a next life to be had, I think please let me be a bird. And not a humming bird (too busy) not a woodpecker (hard headed) I don’t think eagle or even hawk is in my future (too noble) –  although the crow is much maligned, I think a crow would suit me fine- clever and social, a little bit pesky, but interesting and a fine flyer defiantly a fine flyer. So if the universe is listening I wouldn’t mind seeing for myself how to get there as the crow flies!


Flying High: the next step

Ariel photo of The Bishop's Ranch that I took last weekend

My drawing done on the iPad using the photo as the beginning but not the end.

My drawing done on the iPad using the photo as the beginning but not the end.

This is just a quick post before I run off to teach art to 48 kindergartners later. I had a nice relaxing labor day weekend and spent some time drawing on my iPad. I used the photos I took last week from the plane.  The challenge is to take the image from photograph and edit and enhance and imbue it with something of the feeling of the day and of the place.  You can’t leave in all the details but you need to leave the important information so it still reads right. Any how here’s what I came up with, I like the feeling I got – the pop and I hope the wonder too1

Photo of the Estero de San Antonio (I think) taken last Monday

Drawing of Estero de San Antonio

Drawing of Estero de San Antonio

For you iPad artists out there I drew the images using the Brushes app.  Then imported my drawing into Photoshop for iPad then into Phototoaster – these help to rough up the image a bit from the smooth lines of the Brushes image – and also manipulate the color to saturate and make it pop!


Flying High

Up top is Jim and his sweet plane, below starting on the left is The Bishop's Ranch, then the folds of Russian river valley vineyards, next the bridge on Hwy 1 just south of Jenner, then a river wending west from Petaluma

Up top is Jim and his sweet plane, below starting on the left is The Bishop’s Ranch, then the folds of Russian river valley vineyards, next the bridge on Hwy 1 just south of Jenner, then a river wending west from Petaluma

Just a quick post to say I had a fun, high flying morning today. I got a chance to fly over part of Sonoma County today with Jim DuVander -THANKS JIM!  I took oddles of pictures, below are just a few.  As my loyal followers you know I’ve been creating art quilts using photos I’ve taken from commercial planes as my starting point.  This was my first chance to fly over my own back yard in a small plane, nice and low!  I’m really looking forward to getting to work on my iPad drawing with some of these images as my jumping off point.  When I’m done I’ll blow them up big, have them printed on fabric at Spoonflower then go at it with some free-motion quilting…..So much fun to be up in the air on such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place!

If you want to look at some past examples of high flying iPad drawing and art quilts click the blog posts below.

August 15th post of iPad drawing

February 12th post of stitched quilts