I have been busy, I feel like I’m always busy – I am in perpetual motion and while I proport to be an artist not enough of my time is spent making art. By far I spend more time promoting my art workshops, designing new workshops, writing about new techniques, and teaching than I do making. I am forever in an internal conversation about the balance of teaching and making. I do enjoy both and to be frank I couldn’t make a living on just the art – people hunger to open up their creative hearts and I love to help them through my workshops. But sometimes I want to make for the making, not because I’m going to teach a workshop and I need a sample, not because I’m going to write a magazine article and need to pitch an idea – just make. So, this week despite an anvils weight of anxiety about all the things I need to do for an upcoming workshop and art sale, despite the fact that there are always contacts I should be making and connections I should be deepening, and despite the absolute mess in my studio, despite all this I chose to make. And what do you suppose I chose to paint? A still life. What a wonderful term – Still Life.
Still –noun -deep silence and calm; stillness – Synonyms quietness, silence, stillness, hush, soundlessness, noiselessness, calmness, calm, tranquility, peace, peacefulness, peace and quiet, serenity
Life –noun – the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death – Synonyms existence, being, living, animation, aliveness, entity, sentience, creation
What an interesting parring – perhaps that is why artists are drawn to create a still life. Something in the tug between stillness and animation the juxtaposition of tranquility and change. A still life is capturing a quiet moment in the act of changing. The fruit will wither the flower fade the moment in between is caught up in the still life.
Unbeknownst to me – in the chaos of my week, my month, my year – still life called. Despite that fact that I didn’t have time for making this week, I didn’t have room for making this week- still life called. I’m so glad it did and I’m so glad I listened. The making of these two paintings calmed me, readied me, revived me. The stillness in the action brought me back into my body and breath and made me ready for this weekend’s teaching – this month’s selling and showing.
I give thanks to the universe for showing me this perfect persimmon, this fecund pomegranate and whispering in my ear to stop, to make and observe this quiet, abundant moment – to allow and honor – Still Life.
It is Tuesday morning and I’m enjoying the rain that continues to fall outside my window. I donned by rubber-boots, raincoat and rain-pants and went for my first rubber-boot walk of what I hope will be a nice wet rainy season here in parched Sonoma County, California. Fully protected from the downpour, I could rejoice in the sound, smell, touch and even taste of the rain. I found myself fully in the moment, relishing the plopping sound of the fat raindrops as they accumulated on the bay laurel and released to the leafy forest floor below. Oh and the smell, the smell is divine, a mixture of the spicy smell of the bay trees and the licorice smell of the wild fennel tall and dry along the road as well as a smell that is all its own – the smell of fresh rain on dry ground – to be more precise petrichor. I didn’t know this word until my friend Jennifer shared it with me. Petrichor means “the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry grounds”. A pair of Australian scientists coined the word in 1964 and I found a surprisingly beautiful video that shows how this aroma is released into the air here is the link.
So I am blessed this day to have experienced this feast of the senses this morning and to be reminded once again to observe this brilliant moment. That phrase has become a bit of a mantra from me and I hope it will remind you to seek wonder every day.
The painting above is a new one. It is titled This is Now. I finished the painting last week and hung at Gallery 300 in Sebastopol CA, yesterday. The inspiration for this piece came from an entry in my sketchbook from some time ago that said only this: This is Now, this is Today – Yesterday is gone – Tomorrow is not yet here – What shall I do? – Who shall I be?
Lucky, my sweet old dog of 15 plus years died Friday and my heart is has cracked open…again. I thought maybe this loss would be easier but its not really. When you love someone, even a little dog, the bargain you make going in is that it will end one way or another and there will be heart break. But the sadness doesn’t mean the love wasn’t worth the loss. It is. Love is worth the loss.
Rest in peace little friend I’m so glad I got to be your companion human. You taught me about being in the moment, that sometimes sniffing around where you’re not supposed to can bring unexpected treasure, that wagging is always better than barking, and most of all how to love unconditionally.
This past week my extended family gathered to help pack up my mom’s life in the sprawling home she built with my father some 30 years ago to move into a two-room apartment at the back of my house. Needless to say, this means things need to be let go. This wasn’t a sudden decision, so my mom has had over 6 months to start sorting into three piles: keep, give away, dump. At the beginning my mom was reluctant to let some precious items go even though she knew she wouldn’t use them because frankly she didn’t use them now. Things like a porcelain tea pot my grandma made that was shoved in the back of a cupboard for 30 years since the last move, old photo albums with unidentified pictures, my dad’s report cards from middle school. When you have space you just fill the void but moving forces a cleansing especially a move like this one. My Mom read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter”. This book helped her a lot to let things go, she tried to pass things on to family but there are just some things nobody wants and those just had to go.
I even had a reckoning of my own in this cleaning process. When my parents moved to this past home they told we three children that they would store a foot lockers worth of items in their attic. They give us each a small trunk and at 18 looking at the precious items in my bedroom I chose the things that were sacred and special to me then. The pile of dolls pictured above is a collection from my sister and I’s trunks. I also saved a vast stack of Cricket Magazines, for some reason the stories and art in those magazines were prized to me at one time but for the life of me now I couldn’t fathom why I’d kept them for over 35 years. There were the a bean bag dolls called Larry Legs that my Grandma made and a red metal cash register. In the end I only kept the red cash register and even that I’m not sure why.
It’s interesting what we save. Some things out of inertia – it gets put on a shelf on a whim and never touched again till moving day. Other things we wrap in velvet and ribbon a put in our underwear drawer for safe keeping- love letters, old photos, wedding garments – proof of our youth and wild ways. But mostly it’s just stuff, pretty stuff, interesting stuff but in the end just stuff. One day to be put into three piles: keep, give away, dump.
I’m grateful my mom is coming to live with me. It will be a beautiful, joyous, maddening, wonderful, difficult transition. But she and I are both up to the challenge, both ready to hold on to what really matters – love of course – the rest, as we all know, is really just stuff.
I’m teaching a two-day Encaustic Collage workshop this weekend at The Bishop’s Ranch where I am the Resident Artist. This class is one I’ve taught many times, so I have a good idea of how to organize the space and materials for success. One thing that I think makes everybody happy is to have things arranged and ready to get creative. While the creative process itself can sometimes feel magical and loose, for me at least, the magic comes from having everything in order, so my mind is free to be inspired. I try hard to give that balance to my students too, I want everything to be at their fingertips with stimulating materials and careful demos to guide them to finding their genuine, creative voice in a new medium. Wish me and my 12 art adventurers luck!
In the busy mix of the weekend I’ll try to take some action shots of my students at work to share at the end of the weekend. Hope you make some time for your creative self too!