Revisiting Myself

Thinking Out Loud…

Re-reading my blog posts

Remembering

Reminding myself…oh yeah, that was what I had in mind!

Reminding myself this is a different day, a different way.

I guess it is only natural to come to the end of a year and look back. Where was I then, where am I now?  It has been nearly a year that I have been doing this blog, and I have wondered whether I am still looking for answers to my creative shift questions.  Or have I quietly made the shift while hardly noticing.

I am more settled  and comfortable in my own skin at the moment.  I say “at the moment” because that can change as I shift points of view.  But I can truly say I am glad, very glad to be where I am in my life.

One thing that is very noticeable, is the change in how I refrain from putting pressure on myself to be other than what I am or where I am.  The decreasing use of “should” has not escaped my notice—neither has the resulting increase in peacefulness.  It is about time.

It really is all about time—taking the time to listen, to reflect, to explore and to play.  I can say I feel “even”.  I don’t know how to describe it any better than that, but it is a good place to be and to begin.

I have always been a planner, a list maker, an organizer, an arranger of chaos.  It quiets my mind—which really helps sometimes.  But it is also a pretty bossy way to proceed.   So I make plans to shut up my inner critic, but now I notice that I am often choosing to forget the plans, the lists, the expectations.  What the heck!  Who am I trying to please?

And what about the big question?  Do I still call myself an artist?  Quietly, the answer comes to me.  Yes.  What I see in looking back over this year of questioning, is that being an artist is just there.  It is in the questions, it is in the seeing, it is in the way I do, and plan, and problem solve, and it is in the way I explore and play.  I couldn’t get away from it if I tried.  Whether it is cooking or politics, bird watching or cleaning, traveling or staying home, alone or in a crowd, it is just the way I am.

After a lifetime of trying to BE an artist, somehow it is more about getting out of the way of the question, and just letting it show up, because it is already there.

I sure hope some of this makes sense.  I sure hope it helps to reduce some of the anxiety we feel about who we are and what we should be doing.  Being an artist isn’t really a great and pretentious thing to be.  It is a way of going about life, thoughtfully alive to possibilities.  We can do that.

 

 

 

Full Circle…

Thinking Out Loud—The Importance Of…Pie

That was a darn good pie.  Apple.  Simply apple.  I love pie.  When we travel we look for places of great pie.  And when at home, maybe once or twice a year, I actually make a pie.

Making a pie is all about celebration for me. A pie can (and does) celebrate a seasonal fruit—apples, pears, berries, peaches, rhubarb.  And I think I do need to make a rhubarb pie next season!   But generally my pie making is at holiday time, and I crank out one (or two) of the old favorites—Pumpkin (for sure and certain!), Pecan (hubby’s favorite), Mincemeat with Hard Sauce (a favorite of our kids, Hard Sauce being the key).  I must admit, the Hard Sauce is pretty darn good, though I can’t think of what besides mincemeat pie one might put it on….in our house the two go together.  It is the way.

So we come around again to the season of celebrations. I wish you lots of the goodness that makes your life rich and full.  I wish you an abundance of quiet moments with those you love, lots of laughter, and lots of hugs.

And whether your days are quiet and relaxed or full of bustle…

Remember to eat dessert!  We’re having pie.

Road Trip, Part Two

My Favorites…

Sometimes I get lucky and the camera grabs exactly what I am looking at, just the way I want it.  The color is right, the lighting is perfect, and the camera doesn’t try to improve it.  This is a smart camera after all…  I’m not sure that I have a goal in mind when I take out the camera (iPhone or iPad).  I often see something that takes hold of me, and I must capture it.  Often it doesn’t work…  And I am so glad that I am not wasting film.

The picture above is from Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, just after an early snowfall.  Sometimes the moment is perfect. Hurricane Ridge allows us to look out over and into the deep wilderness of the National Forest.  I was looking the other way…

But later, further down the road, we stopped for this view of the deepest darkest, velvety green of a wilderness.

The next two views are from another favorite place, Lake Crescent, also in the Olympic National Forest.   Grey days!  The light is silver, the shadows deep.  The shapes of things stand out.  There are fewer distractions when color is muted.

Another thing I like to experiment with is taking pictures up close or from odd angles so that I lose the identifying details and the image moves towards abstract.  I don’t know where my love of abstract art really comes from.  It just feels so natural to me to look at things that way, to imagine, to suggest what goes beyond what is there in reality.

It intrigues me to go in close and see something isolated from its surroundings, changing the context of the view, focusing on just that one thing.

 

How to capture a sense of place is always a challenge.  In the Hoh Rain Forest water defines the place.  Wet is its gloriously natural state.  Though it isn’t always that way.  I’ve been in the rain forest during drought and it feels strange and frightening, anxious and stressed.  This trip the rains came down, sometimes gently, sometimes determined.

And finally, atmospherics…that’s the way I think of it, partly a sense of place, recording a moment captured—all those sky and weather shots I love to go for.

Sunset, Kalaloch Beach, Washington.

Jim stood out in the rain and wind to catch his shot of the Cape Disappointment Light House.  I did not…

As always, Baker Bay, Cape Disappointment, seemed ever different, ever new, and at the same time eternal.

Good trip, and good to be back home.  Cheers everyone!

Road Trip, Part One…

Glimpses of community…

We are just home from our road trip around the Olympic Peninsula and the wild coast of Washington, a month of easy-going travel.  We left on a rainy morning, with just hints of the Fall color to come.

This time I decided to focus my picture taking on the details, the overlooked and quiet things in places of big vistas.  All pictures were taken with my iPhone camera, or my iPad camera—I used both—dealing with dodgy internet, sparing use of electricity/batteries in the more basic National Park campgrounds, and often buffeting wind.

We revisited the Elwah River Restoration project, where two old dams were removed to restore environmental and river health, salmon runs, and renew the cultural importance of a free running river to tribal cultures.  This has been a huge project, and one very close to my heart.  The Elwah runs free now, and salmon are returning, the estuary is rebuilding.  This confirms for me that Nature wants to heal and thrive—especially when we get out of the way.

The community has built a wonderful information center, displaying the history and progress of the project, surrounded by art tiles created by the local children.  Wonderful!  This is just a taste…

Western Washington is slug country.  Our native Banana Slug is big—they can reach 6-8” in length.   They generally eat the detritus of the forest, rather than one’s potted plants.

A favorite cafe of ours displays other options….

Local informational signs began to catch my eye.  This one made me laugh every time we passed it!  “Little Dribblers”, beginning basketball…it also rains a lot in this home town.

And “Kitchen Music” just sounded so welcoming.

And near the town of Forks (setting for the Twilight Series—books and movies) we found this one….I was really glad to know the threat level was low….

With the artistic belief in using what you have, what you find, someone created this…

And someone else left these behind on a shingled beach…

And, finally, one of my favorites, along a neighborhood road quite a ways from town…

There are good things out there, good folks.  What a pleasure!

When in doubt, make stuff.

Thinking out loud…

John Ford was quoted as saying, “When in doubt, make a Western.”  In other words, go back to what you know.  Go back to what you love.

Hand work, made by hand, made with whatever is around into whatever comes to mind—craft, folk art, art—useful, needful, whimsical, uplifting, meaningful, silly, joyful, sad, angry, mournful—all the human voices one can imagine, giving voice, making something, making stuff.

 

I enjoy collecting hand made things, whether in photos or the real object.  But I really love making stuff.  Really.

I have macrame’d, embroidered, knitted and crocheted, quilted (by hand and machine), sewn clothing that would only fit into the decade of the 60s, made all manner of things necessary to boost one’s home decor, and even tried jewelry making.  All things relating to fabric and stringy stuff seem to have stuck with me.  And I am glad.

It is so comforting to sit with my hands busy while my mind can roam.  I also love losing myself in the stitching or knitting as I problem solve my way through the tricksy bits.  I love petting the fabrics, knitted or woven.  I love seeing my made things used, displayed, and treasured for what they simply are—I made that, and I am glad to have done it.

I am going to keep on making stuff.  Some of it will be useful, some whimsical, some—probably and eventually—kinda, maybe, sort of…meaningful.

You never know…

 

Déjà Vu, All Over Again.

Thinking out loud…

Called back to teaching, in a pinch, for a good friend, I learned a few things about myself.

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching.  After I retired, and then after my new hip, I wondered about stepping into the classroom again, maybe just once in a while.  Thinking about going back to teaching is one thing, actually doing it is quite another.  Reality check.   But I am oh so glad I got a chance to try it out once again, and know for sure that the decision I made two years ago was the right one.

It is a matter of energy and stamina.  It is also a matter of accepting my own limitations, as well as my own changing focus.  I heard myself saying to students, “trust yourself, trust your ideas, trust your instincts.”  Those words turned around and spoke to me.  “Don’t be afraid to play out your ideas, don’t be afraid to screw it up”.  I realized I have been afraid to listen to myself, really listen.

I have been trying to force myself to keep to the path I started many years ago—to be a quilt maker, to use the quilt as my artistic expression, my voice, when in my heart I knew that I had said “it” (whatever “it” was) with my last two quilts—

“Threadbare” and… 

“Weathering Out”

I have had my “say”.  I satisfied something elusive in those last two quilts.  The passion to speak in that form is no longer tugging at me.  I can’t be finished! I thought.  I still have good ideas!  But what I don’t have is the passion to sit down and do it.

I have been sad and puzzled about that, conflicted and troubled on one hand, and on the other hand, enjoying the heck out of my (mostly) unscheduled life.  I’ve been writing, and taking lots and lots of pictures.  I have been exploring my interests without trying to make them practical.  I have been savoring life—unfettered, spontaneously, quietly, consciously, and as responsibly as I can.  That I do have passion for.  I have time for that.  I am taking my time.

So I will “cut myself some slack”, trust my instincts, and see where this leads me—playing  it out, trusting that it is the right path, mistakes, missteps and all, right now.

As I fly home across this country I am listening….really listening.

And to all the students I have ever had, I send my heartfelt thanks.

 

Hang Ups.

Thinking out loud…

There is what you do, and what you think you should do…where you are, and where you think you should be…who you are, and who you think you should be.  Well, at least that’s the stuff that bosses me around in my unsuspecting moments.  I blame it on a strong work ethic, learned from a long line of hard working people in hard times.

As a kid, I wondered about things a lot.  My brain was very busy thinking, figuring out things, watching.  I felt I could almost go unseen and slip into the natural world quietly and peacefully, but alert and observing.  I could lose myself in a world of books borrowed from the mobile library that regularly visited our street.  In our household, this looked like inactivity, laziness, time wasting, shirking.  So I took to going off by myself where I could be out of sight.

That was then, but I certainly internalized all that, and I still prod myself in the same way.  I’ve noticed this a lot since retirement.  Having the time to ponder, taking the time to ponder brings up an internal tug of war—this is what I want to do,  but that is what I should be doing.

The difference now is that I do not accept the self-bullying.  I hear it, but I don’t give in to it.  I know it is what we actually do that matters.  It is what I do that shows me where I am going.  As an artist, I have learned to trust this, trust myself—though not without a lot of internal questioning.

Right now I am following my instincts to explore.  I notice that it sure seems to involve a lot of yarn and knitting and fabric building.  My thoughts are beginning to turn to what this might be leading to, but it still feels too soon to jump in and nail down.

I have a lot of questions for myself, and I want to learn how to do so many things that I keep being happily pulled along in the current.

I am thoroughly enjoying making stuff!  I currently have  5 knitting projects to hand—all working with something new to me—fiber, techniques, design or color.  I switch back and forth as the spirit moves me, slowly making progress.  Some projects allow my mind to roam, some require intense focus, and some just feel good in my hands.  I am watching fabric build in my hands.  And at the end of it, there is something produced, to use, to wear, something made.

 

 

Summer Songs…

 

 

Thinking out loud,

The robins get up very early around here.  We know because they sing the morning song just outside our bedroom window.  Even though it is barely light, they are ready for the day.  I turn over and doze until I hear the raucous call of the Pileated Woodpecker, or the crows, or all of them together.  It’s time to get up!

I really don’t mind this kind of wake up call.  I don’t have to leap out of bed, but my brain starts working on whatever is “up” for the day.

As a kid, summers seemed long open ended weeks, time for anything and everything, time to let my mind roam and the ideas sort themselves.  There was time to dream, to imagine, time to watch a stink bug make its way through a puddle, time to watch a popsicle stick sail the rugged seas of the street side gutter, or time to figure out what a shadow was and how it came to be.

I treasure those memories.  And I treasure the ones I build each day.  I watch my back yard bunnies helping manage the lawn.  In the evenings we watch the swallows soar way up high over the back yard.  We watch the dragonflies cruise back and forth on mosquito patrol.  Dragonflies are my special friends because mosquitos seem to think I am on their particular menu…

And in the studio there is relaxed activity.  You could almost say lazy, but it isn’t really.  My imagination is busy…I am stacking up fabric from my stash as an idea brews.  Pulling fabrics out has been pleasurable—I have some pretty good stuff hiding in those shelves.

I’m not in a hurry.  I aim to let the fabrics sing to me.  I’m going to watch them and imagine and discover what story they have to tell me.  I am going to take my time.

Questions to ask…

Thinking out loud…

There are questions to ask, (What was I thinking??), and some not to bother with, (Where did I put that?), and some that just naturally unfold themselves. (What “meaning” am I looking for in this piece?)

One of my strategies for figuring out what meaning an in-progress work holds for me is to list all the words that come to my mind.  I let myself be literal and symbolic, obscure and obvious, humorous or not—just listing the words, the qualities that dodge through my thinking.

Sometimes this gives me clues as to a direction change.  Sometimes a title appears.  I like to have working titles as I proceed, and often these change as the work progresses.

And eventually I bring out my trusty thesaurus, and look up the words I am most interested in.  I look for words that carry the meaning (or hints of it) that I am searching for.

Titles are the clue I provide to the viewer—a place from which to stand and look at my work, a starting point.  Hopefully, the viewer has to (or wants to) ask the questions I have asked myself.  And, hopefully, the viewer finds answers in her own (his own) experience.

It is that connection between the viewer and the work that I value.  It is what I value about looking at art.  If I can bring my own experience to the conversation between me and the work, I am able to have a dialog with the artist.  It doesn’t matter if my experience is different from the artist’s, it only matters that meaning has been carried, transmitted, communicated, shared.

Art grows and advances civilization.  That may seem obvious, but think about it, let it sink in.  Let the necessity of art give you hope and purpose in your work.