Everyone's a critic...

Some of you have already seen this series of photos. One of the top-all-time-favorite stellar moments in the city. What doesn’t show was the week before. The same squirrel vying for attention with the journal I was writing in. This was the second time the curious little rodent showed up and a friend captured the moment. Thanks Sarah @makelemonaide.

Some of you have already seen this series of photos. One of the top-all-time-favorite stellar moments in the city. What doesn’t show was the week before. The same squirrel vying for attention with the journal I was writing in. This was the second time the curious little rodent showed up and a friend captured the moment. Thanks Sarah @makelemonaide.

A couple of artist friends recently questioned the point of spending their studio time trekking outside to paint or draw and expressed feeling pressure to produce “real work” for sale. I spend roughly 70% of my art making time in a studio and can attest inspiration abounds whenever and wherever we have a making idea and decide to act on it.

The interaction with even proximate nature, i.e. sidewalks through a city park, have nothing technically to contribute to the latest studio portrait or abstract. They have everything to do with keeping us alive and interested. Studies show getting out of our comfort zone increases our creativity.

For several years, at my favorite painting park, one goose slowly waddled in as close as possible and stretched its neck until it could look over the edge of my knee to eye the sketchbook in my lap. Stood there. Stared while the goose pals moved on. This happened enough times I could rule out the seeking free food theory - especially after I explained I don’t feed the Wild Things people bread because most of it will kill humans let alone the birds. The goose hung out for as long as I painted and found me every time I went to the garden. I’ve felt sad since it hasn’t been around last season or this spring. Either the goose found a girlfriend, met an unfortunate demise or didn’t like the direction my art making was going.

I’m posting a painting soon of a heron who let me photo and sketch him for over an hour from a few feet away. Then, the beautiful creature literally followed me from tree to tree while I walked through the park. When I left, he escorted me out to the gate. Some say herons can be mean and to take care. I feel companionship. I’m not worried. Watching birds in their natural space can teach us a lot about balance in our lives. Especially watching a heron do Tree Pose for an hour.

Last week, I went out for the first time this very cold spring. Easel set up, deep into the moment. Gradually an awareness of sound, plops at regular intervals around where I was standing, brought me back. My first thought was I don’t want bird poop on the page or down my neck. I investigated and discovered the miscreant was a squirrel perched on a high tree branch pitching rather large, and when they found target painful, seed pods. Aiming. On purpose. I don’t know if it was the same squirrel from the photo op last year saying hello or a stranger squirrel commenting on the quality of my painting. Everyone’s a critic.

The interaction got my attention. I researched the characteristics and behaviors of squirrels to ponder the example they may offer for my art and life. One of the most applicable learnings is squirrels have a lot of fun while they are working hard. Point taken.

These informative experiences are available for all of us if we are willing to be aware and respectful when they occur. Walking the neighborhood, the trees in an area about five blocks from my front door kept catching my eye. Motivated by fresh curiosity about the configuration for a possible painting, I pressed further into the growth and stumbled on a natural area! Thirteen years I’ve walked by. The beauty of the few acres with snow falling sparked a new painting series.

When we venture out in the world, we find surprises. These may become our primary subjects or the energy of discovery may suffuse other work. We develop a personal connection to the image when we make a record with sketches or photos. We own the piece with our whole being and all of our senses contribute if we choose to bring the moment to life again through our art.

If studio painting is your thing, I fully support you and go back to work.

If you have disabilities discouraging you from being out and about, know there are many safe parks with paved walks, easy parking and access. Paint the reflections of apartment windows across the street or the florals in the local grocery store.

If you want to join the conversation or have questions, please leave them below. I’d like to hear from you.

Next, some thoughts on how changing up occasionally in the studio benefits our creative work.

Guardian...

Lynx.jpg

From the same era as the moose, a colored pencil sketch of a Lynx. One followed me home from grade school. I remember the rustle in the leaves, the weight of the body landing on the earth behind me. I wasn't afraid of the wild things. I felt instead as if the cat were a guardian seeing me safely in. My father told me I was making up a story, then later after he'd gone out to find and follow the tracks, apologized. Different family dynamics when you grow up wild.

An extra hour...

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

Palmer, Alaska has a current population around 7,000 ish so imagine how modest the population was in the dark ages when I was young. The Dark Ages used to be the ten centuries prior to the Renaissance. Now the Dark Ages is reclassified as anything before Apple. Palmer is located in the Matanuska-Susitna valley, the Tigris and Euphrates of The Last Frontier. The 43 mile drive from Palmer to Anchorage on Highway 1 is about 45 minutes on a good day. Before Sam Hill’s revolutionary vision of paved roads made it to the Far North, the trek between Palmer and Anchorage seemed interminable. Of course, it was Much Longer the reverse direction.

Now, Highway 1 runs north and south while the moose still run east and west. The ineffective merger creates confusion for moose and drivers alike. Add snow and it’s a 3-D, real time Dodgem. On any given day, part of the scenery is at least one car whose driver lost. Even in good weather, Alces Americanus may unexpectedly become a new hood ornament.

Ted Pyrah commuted almost three decades from Palmer to teach in the Culinary Department at University of Alaska at Anchorage - in addition to running a farm, now the largest U-Pick in the Mat-Su valley. In a passing comment about his morning, Ted shared one idea that’s stuck with me and changed how I view personal time and contribution. Thank you, Ted.

He told me he built in an hour every day specifically to be available to help people in trouble along the road during his drive to or from work. He said if he didn’t need the time he had a whole unplanned hour available every day.

People need help at the most inconvenient times. If we’ve allotted time to help into our schedule, we have the time available. Yes, sometimes the incident doesn’t fit the agenda, however, it all works out. We really do have all the time we need.

Footnote: On a serious note, Moose are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet and may cause serious injury or death in altercations or collisions. Moose kills are given to the first-up organization or individual on a roster to harvest the meat. Alaska is not keeping up with the rest of the world by installing animal overpasses. Overpasses attempt to alleviate human and animal suffering, however, it hasn’t yet been determined who will teach moose to use them. The animals were here first.

The best laid plans...

Collagraph approximately 22x15” Cracks me up. Tend to forget the image will be in reverse when I plan a print. A definite signal to practice right-side-really-on-the-left by making more collagraphs..

Collagraph approximately 22x15” Cracks me up. Tend to forget the image will be in reverse when I plan a print. A definite signal to practice right-side-really-on-the-left by making more collagraphs..

Why do our resolutions tank so soon? Actually, mine haven’t since I stopped making them - a guaranteed win to start any given year. TaDa!

Resolutions are 4000 years plus of embedded genetic coding driving us to promise the gods we’ll be good if they don’t rain destruction on us. A few centuries ago, resolutions became a part of western religious observances as a way to determine once a year if our moral compass still functions. The irony is not lost. No wonder our intent backfires when we have an ancient ritual driving us while society has moved on. Our “resolutions” are on a slippery slope to start with. When we understand and separate how much of our decisions, responses and feelings genuinely belong to us from what is ancestral, cultural, historical knee-jerk genetic programming, we stand a pretty good chance of handling our life as it comes. 

The current iteration of manifesting leads to the same end if we treat the Universe as our personal concierge, especially when other people are involved in our preferred outcome. Herding humans who have no clue what they’re supposed to do for and with us is like minding mice at a crossroads. My rule of thumb? What is my business, another’s business and the gods’ business. Thank you, Susan Grace Beekman. I’m over my boundaries if I’m involved in any business but mine. Although, I have plenty of opinions when asked. 

Limiting the Universe to the parameters of our knowledge base and imagination also becomes problematic in manifestation. Most Alaskan’s don’t know how to swim. The 9 months of ice and below freezing water during the few weeks of summer may have something to do with this. When I went “Outside” to university, the apartment had a pool and I decided to learn. Every morning and night I faithfully repeated the intention while I imagined with every fibre of my being backstroking across the pool - primarily because I couldn’t figure out how to put my face into the water and breathe at the same time. I can still do a terrific backstroke, although I need a life vest to snorkel in water deeper than my knees. Now, I petition the Universe for the right next step and move forward on my desires one right next step at a time leaving the path and future open to coincidences or shifts along the way. We all know Yoda stated empirically, “Do. Or not not. There is no try.”  

So, we’re circling back to the last post. When we consider our goals and make resolutions have we taken into account our personal rhythms and consulted our heart for preferences? What has real meaning for us? How are we attempting to propitiate the gods by offering sacrifice? How many of our goals initiate from guilt? Are our goals really Great Aunt Harriet’s desire for us? What would we rather do to meet our need to improve while being soul happy? Speaking of happiness, when was the last time we were happy and what were we doing we’ve forgotten to do? 

Goals rarely work as well as they could when we don’t account for our feelings. How many times have we attained an objective only to realize the outcome didn’t make us feel well? Or, how is the intent helping us avoid issues central to our life mission? How many aspirations begin in guilt because society dictates a mainstream norm and our path may be in the margins? 

Our life breathes a huge sigh of relief when our personal integrity is supported by our direction. 

If you want to join the conversation or have questions, please leave them below. I'd like to hear from you.

A time for everything...

Tree and Sun. Acrylic on paper. Approx 10x10”

Tree and Sun. Acrylic on paper. Approx 10x10”

Time doesn’t exist and yet is the most valuable commodity for many of us, so we latch onto anything that promises to effectively manage our time and productivity. What if we stopped with the time obsession and began to notice and live by our rhythms? What if we lived for our purpose? What if we gauge our path by how we feel while we’re on course compared to suffering the side effects of sidetracked?

Screenwriter, author and playwright C.S. Whitcomb turned me on to the concept of a creative cycle. In the west, artistic ideas and the work to bring the ideas to fruition are respected. However, a necessary balance in the cycle is rest, renewal and taking an opportunity to clear away to make room for the new. We generally don’t understand this concept in the west where work ethic is considered a moral good. If the world isn’t beating us up enough for being unproductive then we take over and berate ourselves as lazy procrastinators. What if the rest period is the most critical for us to generate ideas? What if tossing the notes and scraps in the dumpster clears the way for the latest, newest, best ideas? What if we need to wander memory lane to mine our experiences or project to the future and visualize where we’re going? What if we need a rest from the “high” of chemicals flooding our bodies during an expressive period. “Normal” can seem depressed compared to a time of intense output because the physical returns to chemical baselines.

Some of us naturally fall into the rhythms that bring us joy. Others of us need to suss out our individual tempo for life. When are we at our best daily? Perhaps our inspiration has a monthly or yearly rotation. What if summer is our best generative time or what if a limp dishrag has more get-up-and-go than we do in August? Until we understand ourselves and live to take care of our tender patterns, we may experience train wrecks. With people, in business, spiritually or even physically. My most vulnerable time for accidents with power tools is when I’m tired. When we know our patterns and sequence of ideas, work and rest, we’ll be far more effective generating what we love to contribute to the world.

If we are solitary workers, we tend to forget there are other people on the planet. The Dalai Lama said, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” Tension, and consistently compromising our high energy work periods in favor of another’s will kill our spark. If we want to live and work in relationship, we must rely on respectful communication to come to consensus around boundaries for our work sequence and space.

So, the point of examining our cycles and rhythms is to find our best (and worst) times to be original and artistic. Only after we know how we operate and move in the world can we even begin to fully achieve our intentions.

If you want to join the conversation or have questions, please leave them below. I'd like to hear from you.

Next? The difference between resolutions, goals, intentions and manifesting.


Time Benders...

Archetype: Perfect Mother. Metal and petrified wood

Archetype: Perfect Mother. Metal and petrified wood

I favor the sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry and draw on the walls of the cave lifestyle. However, some overachiever invented a sundial for their back yard and before the rest of us could blink, we have a Simon Says attached to our wrist, reminding us to stand up and live longer. Some artifacts suggest timekeeping is as old as the 30 thousand years old petrified base of the sculpture above. Humans came out of the primordial soup stuffing their planners with appointments as a way to establish productive superiority over their neighbors.

While we may have a craving for techno candy, our body and brain hasn't evolved much past the raise crops and tend flocks stage. Our soul short circuits when an artificial intelligence badgers us about everything from our bad mood to the room temperature. We struggle for balance while the gadgets run right over us. Until we make the space to be alone with our thoughts and feelings, sans the ever present devices, we won’t figure out where we want to go, let alone set a resolution to get us there. We lose confidence in our ability to determine our individual tempo and rely on external tools to manage our creative lives.

Circadian rhythms, the internal chronometer of our ancient ancestors, timed to the moon tides and sunrise, are functional in our 21st century bodies if we learn to hear them. The myth of the creative hedonist is giving way to healthy lifestyles. Research shows humans function better and are more productive when their activities are based in ritual and routine. Most humans share approximate rhythms, however, we need to pay attention to our discrete body and how we feel, then support our unique artistic tempo through the days, weeks and months of the calendar. We know our schedule works when we feel animated and able to pay attention to what totally rocks our socks.

At this juncture, Einstein would point out linear time is a false construct because everything and every plane exists concurrently. Past and Future is a simultaneous existence where time is no longer the absolute Newton proposed. I love Einstein. Time is flexible. We can bend whatever the Universe uses to pass the time to longer or shorter stretches than we logically think we have. As a result of recent experiments with neural connections and eye movement, scientists are on the way to confirming Einstein’s hypothesis and suggest we will succeed in bending time. In some ways, we already have when the past exists in our memory and the future captures our imagination while we sit here with our feet up in the present.

Next we’ll consider how to make the most of time. We’ll explore the rhythms of creative work, check out why our resolutions might be slipping and consider alternatives.

I did this?

Manzanita Sunset, Pastel, 20x12”

Manzanita Sunset, Pastel, 20x12”

Do you ever look at a painting and say, “I did this?” as if you’re coming around from total amnesia? Manzanita Sunset is one of the pieces that does it for me. Sometimes, my art amazes me and other times I think I should have been a plumber. Good friend and great abstract artist, Marilyn Woods https://woodshillstudio.com gave me a gracious kick in the sitdown place by telling me to get out of my own way. I totally appreciate the honest people who grace my life and her counsel was good for all of us who sometimes trip over our own self absorption. I was making art making too hard. I was making painting ~ Work! Too much pressure is a joy killer and most of our pain is self-inflicted. If art is an avocation or our day job, the minute the process stops taking us to our happy place we need to take a breath and re-evaluate. The number one reason I go off the rails is not honoring what I feel called to make and chasing after what seems to be popular or what will sell or what will get the mosts likes on social media. Here’s to a great 2019, getting out of our own way and making ourselves happy! The side effect of that will be performing amazing art!

Kids today...

ChristmasKidLetter.jpg

On my walk today found this stapled to a pallet empty of firewood. The world weary adult part of me wonders if this is really the handwriting of a “kid.” The rest of me doesn’t care who wrote it. Exactly what I needed to hear.

Lightening up...

Winter sketching kit…

Winter sketching kit…

The winter painting kit is much smaller and easier to carry than the warmer weather “haul the whole studio if you can fit it all in the back of a Mini with the back seats down” effort. At the top is a water cartridge paintbrush and Pitt indelible marker. I usually pick one paint kit - the smaller Altoids box of gouache primaries or the watercolor kit with more colors. The cut-off sock cuff slips onto the paint container and fastens down with the rubber band. On site, I pull the sock onto the wrist to serve as a “paint rag.” Completing the winter kit a 3.5x8.25” Handbook. An even more compact choice is a 4.25x3” Pentalic Travelers book, or for real winter luxury, a Handbook 7x10.25.” Everything fits in the secret phone compartment everyone has in a coat or a hip pocket. Add a headband to warm the ears, fingerless foldaway mittens and you’re all set.

Still sifting through...

Aeons ago. 17 x 14 inches. Pencil and charcoal on paper.

Aeons ago. 17 x 14 inches. Pencil and charcoal on paper.

Still sifting through layers of work from forever ago. Actually, was looking for sketch paper this particular size for a new experiment and found a few clear pages in the back of the book. Of course, spent several minutes side-tracking through the older drawings. I liked this one. People have asked me how I manage the “unusual” technique I use. Simply comes out the end of the pencil.

Siuslaw River Bridge...

Siuslaw River Bridge. Florence, Oregon. Acrylic. 40x30"

Siuslaw River Bridge. Florence, Oregon. Acrylic. 40x30"

Wandering around Florence stumbled on this bascule bridge across the Siuslaw River. I was captivated. The camera was not and jammed after one shot. Several sketches later, I used this image for a black and white drawing, a transfer in the Living Their Memories series and this painting. The symbolism of the classic arch endures.

Happy making...

Working The River. Pier 14, Pilot House. Astoria, Oregon. Acrylic. 24 x 24"

Working The River. Pier 14, Pilot House. Astoria, Oregon. Acrylic. 24 x 24"

Everything about making this painting is happiness. Every single brushstroke, glaze, wipeout. I was born on the water and have a house close to the beach. Grew up on the working docks and played underneath them when the tide was out. The colors bring joy. The geometry soothed. E.T and Me. 

Silence is worth gold...

Close up from Siuslaw River Bridge.

Close up from Siuslaw River Bridge.

Exquisitely content when it's so quiet I can hear the paint drop into the interstices of the canvas. Pure heaven. Closeup from a new painting, Siuslaw River Bridge, Florence Oregon. 

Get. A. Job.

Crown Water Tower, Portland, Oregon.  Acrylic. 40x30"

Crown Water Tower, Portland, Oregon.  Acrylic. 40x30"

Does anyone else ever have a painting that won't grow up and leave home? This one came close to a dose of gesso. Why is totally curious to me. Could be the figure this one is painted over wasn't happy about her outcome. I was happily rambling and when I saw this quaint water tower, I was totally charmed. Then the painting became so high maintenance, I finally told it if it wanted to survive, it needed to go find a home of it's own. 

Possible painting...

Acrylic and Charcoal on paper. 24x24 ish. 

Acrylic and Charcoal on paper. 24x24 ish. 

 

Experimenting with different papers and surface treatments. May have found one I want to pursue. 24x24ish. This may grow up to be a painting one day...

There has to be a first one...

Stacks, Oil, 40x15.75"  From Working The River

Stacks, Oil, 40x15.75"  From Working The River

The first painting from Working The River series. A professor suggested to us, if we wanted to develop a "style" and loosen up, we needed to paint one substantial painting a day for a year. Spend at least three hours with a 16x20" ish canvas everyday, no matter if we were sick, just dumped by the boyfriend or the world was ending ~ we paint and at the end of the year we'll know who we are as a painter. This piece was my brave beginning of this era ~ a return to oils and to find out who I am again in the work. Completion took double the time over the course of a couple days. As a more mature artist, I learned I want to take some time with painting. I don't want a quick date, I want a whirlwind romance so when I pass my work on the street I at least know the name. 

Very. Serious. Work. ...

No Exit from Working the RIver series. Oil. 36 x 18"

No Exit from Working the RIver series. Oil. 36 x 18"

Some things crack me up and I wonder if anyone else sees the humor in life around us the way I do. This door is several stories up in the Blue Heron Paper Company. As if a few frayed ropes would stop someone who is determined to ingress or egress. Part of the series showing this fall. 

Normal is only on a washing machine...

Black and white charcoal on toned paper. 11 x 14"

Black and white charcoal on toned paper. 11 x 14"

Tried to "slow down" and "get normal" in the sketching this morning. Couldn't pull it off. It's best to move out of the way...

Subconscious choices...

Pastel on toned grey paper, approx. 10 x 12 inches.

Pastel on toned grey paper, approx. 10 x 12 inches.

I was running out the door with the old standby charcoals to a life drawing session. Passing the pastel cup I subconsciously pulled a yellow, red and blue to take along. I realized these are the colors I see reflected off skin by warm lighting. This portrait drawing was relegated to the shred pile, however, when I pulled it out a month or so later the image held a certain something I still can't identify. #roxannecolyerart #pastelpainting #drawing #makingartmyway