Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Time in Between: Only we can live our own lives

Blue holes, like the Georgia O'Keefe painting at Art Institute of Chicago


My recent change from working stiff to retired person/All Art, All the Time is yielding unexpected benefits…the richness of TIME…I never realized before to what extent I had to ignore the subtleties of life, the crumbs on the floor under my table, the lack of variety in my meals, the many sunny breaks that I just totally missed, the side trips to books and internet information that enrich my learning.

Karla Chamberlin Hot Flash Woman #91

Carla Murray

  I’ve just discovered Raymond Carver, after living in one of his home bases for almost 9 years now…a book of his short stories and poetry. He grew up in Western Washington with scoured low rolling hills, spare poetry and writing, forcing the reader to participate by filling in blanks, like Alice Munroe. I started keeping a list of the books I read since I stopped my Regular Job, but there were too many to keep track.

Back to Graphic Grannies

I watched a video on Toulouse Lautrec, whose colorful paintings and drawings, and energetic line, I’ve loved since high school. I took the time to watch it again, loving his line, the colors, the way the foreground figures are detailed, and the background blurred, then a marvelous movie production of Romeo and Juliet in garish colors and style. Today I even got myself back to drawing the comics…The lesson to keep bringing myself back to the Work….and rejecting the work that doesn’t resonate enough to continue. Therefore it takes more of my day now to just live my life…I think about it as immersing myself IN the water, instead of trying to skip along the surface of the waves. This new attitude will improve my health…enjoying life!

Ally helps David on Family Card Night

I have rejected numerous Possibilities, but am tasting others. I find that I am perfectly happy staying home and switching among projects, reading, being outside, exercising, enjoying meals. This morning I got myself back to my magnificent eight-foot drafting table, despaired of becoming a cartoonist, and then got down to drawing. Returning myself gently to the Work that is important to me, again and again without beating myself up for time away, is my current path--being kind to myself in spite of my slowness.

I waited a few minutes too long to go and get the mail and heard the rain start. I don’t think I ever noted the exact moment of rain starting or looked out the bay window over my computer and saw an eagle flying in my line of vision, before this time of living deliberately.

Goodies from Stash Fest in LaConner. Attended with David, many, many projects cooking.

Wild clouds over Ediz Hook

Spending Time is a apt phrase...I am spending mine freely on the moments in between.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Double Edged--Life Lessons from Brain Research

Sketch and parts for my most recent sculpture

Learning to manage myself, again and again, I am attracted by every shiny experience, material, idea. I know I don’t have the energy, time, or money to explore them all. Now I’m without the obligation to make enough money to support myself--money making being the force that seems to drive most activity in this country. When I was previously self-employed as an artist, I tried to balance what I wanted to make with what I thought the Public would want to buy, having to return to health care four times to insure that I could reliably pay my mortgage.

Muslin body--experiment for another piece

The OT jobs were never about the joy, ONLY about the money, although some were less onerous than others, and I met wonderful people. Being in charge gave me some satisfaction, until again and again I was driven away by higher management that stifled me. I have Always Been an ARTIST, and my years doing craft shows to make a living gave me the best work satisfaction. Thankfully, I have been able to continue some art work in the background all through the 50 years of jobs and saving, making me a world-famous doll maker/writer and a locally-known painter and sculptor rather than simply retired or unemployed. I do continue to present my own internal challenges regarding where to spend my time and energy--so many possibilities!

Apoxie Sculpt held with T pins to hold the chopper upright

I’ve just read MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor…who describes the exceptional serenity she experienced when her left-brain hemorrhage quieted her constant self-talk…Monkey Mind, in her case Mean Monkey Mind. Both sides of the brain are required for creativity--the constant flowing stream of ideas and possibilities (right brain) tempered and forged into fruition by the linear left brain.

There are two seasons here in the Northwest, the light and the dark. Later this year I must make specific plans for surviving the darkest months, December and January, with some carry over on each end. I remember from past instances of being self-employed realizing that I am photo sensitive, and need to plan around that challenge. 

Painting the stripes, dilute acrylic paint

As during my previous incarnations of being self-employed, I like to get up early (as long as there’s some light) and take care of business. I’m learning to mother my own self and also cut myself slack for lying in the warm cocoon of bed and listening to the news or reading. Dark, windy, rainy mornings continue…it would be easy to fall into the black pit of depression. I remind myself to stop trying to “fix” anyone but myself. The Romantic Ideal of one person who will love us totally and be everything to us, and us to them, has not worked for me. I combine a group of friends and family, as well as my own self-love to put together my perfect life.

I painted the handle of the chopper to match the red stripe

The book my friend, David, gave me, DAILY RITUALS: How Artists Work, demonstrates a wide variety of approaches to life and creativity/productivity. I am still honing my approach. The principle of discipline and regular work habits plus walking, dreaming, driving, and showers for composing and solving problems. Routines to prepare one’s body for productivity. The luxury I’ve gained with “retirement” is time to research people/paintings/ideas of interest that cross my path…along with sitting outside to eat lunch or read…learning how the left brain gives us the chatter and negative self-talk, but Dr. Taylor says that the negative message can be diffused after 90 seconds. We have to stop the negative message going round and round and wearing a groove in our circuitry.

Double Edged, for right and left hemispheres 

Build the rituals and habits that work for you. “Art is Work” Milton Glaser, but So Rewarding!

Crocus and a yellow fire hydrant on one of my inspirational walks

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Growing Pains--and Joy

Close up of the surface of my painting table--Inspiration Everywhere!

She asked me how old do I feel…the typical question. For the first time in my life, I feel my age, 67, not 35, not 18. But I’m trying not to harbor any pre-conceived ideas about how I Should feel at 67. This process of growing into the present phase of my life, the Now, is full of pain and joy…or appreciating all the hard lessons I have learned over my years and struggles with my relationships with the world, its people and demands, and being over and over drawn back to the work that gives me the most joy, is endlessly fascinating…working with Art…

Self Portrait, Phase 2, after messing it up
Self Portrait, Phase 1

I am tempted to escape into quilting, arranging pretty colors and patterns, and that does support my eye and my habit and gives me products that others can enjoy and that will keep them—and me--warm, a practical application of my skills and energy. I am finally having a quilt made from a top of bright colors and fruits, a cover of pieced fabric with a history as a tablecloth for a Mexican-themed Thanksgiving, and cloth gathered from when I was a teacher at International Quilt Festival, the patterns reflect my various life incarnations…and I am giving to myself, to have it made up, so I can USE it, not try to sell it…in the summer nights here.

Use the Good Stuff--a block for another personal quilt

Quilts are Visible Histories. When I was a child, the Depression was as real to me as my mother’s memories and stories. My grandmother taught me to sew, and my mother’s friends gave me scraps of the fabric from their dress making…that was still a real part of women’s lives when I was a child. Now slave labor in distant countries makes it un-economical to create our own clothing. Most mothers must have regular jobs in addition to mothering now, 

Icon inspired by Picasso

I continue to find myself tempted to spread in many directions, join a group of Surface Design artists, a city committee to plan the waterfront…I was very involved when the project first started, painting to music at the Juan de Fuca Festival. I taste--I pull back. The long drafting table in my bedroom calls with more Graphic Grannie Commix ideas. I did indulge myself in playing with the Miro show at the Seattle Art Museum, even though I haven’t seen it in person yet…a portrait of him from a photo in his own Miroesque style, but probably not the Artist Trust GAP grant application, since I already have the supplies for years of potential future work…Stay open, Stay Loose, Go Deep.

My portrait of Miro, based on his style

See more of my art projects on my three Facebook Pages and my other blog: Come join me this weekend, making fabric journals at Quilted Strait, 3/22/14

Fabric Journal with Button grandmother on the cover

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Making Stuff Makes Me Happy

Blue Holes on March 1, 2014

Rabbit, Rabbit for the first of March and the beginning of my 68th year. There are aspects of blue between round, blurred-edged clouds above my curtains…and shocks of sun randomly shooting through. This is a month of many aspects, like me. 

Two sculptures taking shape on my north facing studio table

Yesterday I renewed my passport, just so I’ll be ready to go anywhere, even the 23 miles across the Strait to Victoria, BC. For the first time in years I put my occupation as Artist. Now I can afford to make the little money that most artists make…I’m not comfortable as a huckster…I see what it takes to be known, popular, comfortably wealthy. I sold my extra financial cushion ($1000 a month into forever) for two extra years of freedom now…and I won’t regret that. 

Where is my One? Starts to take shape...use the Good Stuff!

  I’ve been discarding previous commitments right and left, re-visiting my Myers-Briggs INTJ personality style…and as the women in my online Three-dimensional Doll Construction class from all points of the globe say: Nothing we create is truly original, we build from materials and ideas that evolved from others.  We are each a ball of swirling mist of many aspects and no lasting substance…and we find what joy we can in engaging with materials and ideas…and in recognizing each other and this glorious planet in the process.

Starting to take shape...over a period of months

So I will keep making things, reading things, learning things, cooking…Experiencing. There is no hierarchy of value, from quilts to sculptures, from the perfect grilled cheese to Beef Wellington (I haven’t tried that one yet). I write and read every day, and have for most of my life…at moments stringing glittering chains of words/ideas to fling out into the ether…or an image or combination of colors that makes me…and maybe you…stop and catch our breath.

Paperclay hand, painted with acrylic to coordinate with the ceramic face

Today I don’t even mind that my parents discouraged me from going to art school in 1965, because I was way too self-conscious to do any good work. I really had to make a living at whatever I learned in college…and now I DO NOT HAVE TO make a living, just a Life!!!! I can spend ALL my time making quilts and Fabric Journals if that’s what I enjoy, doing yoga, driving around, eating good stuff--as long as I don’t get overweight, because I don’t want the health risks from that. I DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE MYSELF ANY MORE…and I’m recovering myself from having to prove myself to ME…that dual nature/multiple nature without substance that gets me into mental difficulty. I like writing well enough for its own sake to just keep doing it…and reading. Read ALL of Brain Pickings and Alan Watts…the duality that subverts us. Did an essay on quitting my job, and the agony of trying to justify my existence when I am not required to.

Finished piece

 Sampling TED talks…SO MANY POSSIBILITIES~I just had to sit with myself and be patient. I’m getting into the groove, MY groove—no one else’s. Patience, and I see that I am putting out work, and I enjoy that. I wish I’d taken process photos of painting the Emerging 2 sculpture--went from dead white to stripes of mixed interference purple and peach, to covering the whole thing with a watered down peach/purple glaze to stroking with chalk in red, turquoise, tan, and smearing… looks like something made of stone, sort of…well, Enough. 

I can throw away healthcare emails with only a second’s thought now, soon none. I may not become renowned as an artist, but I am quite a bit happier. Patience with myself, and following my instincts to jettison what needs to go, emphasize what’s left…a distillation of the previous 67 years, and each moment fresh and new but built on my past.

All Art, All the Time!

Emerging 2

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Learning to Love Myself--and Be Patient with the Process

86) Vivian of Colonel Hudson's Famous Kitchen

A Valentine to myself…I feel my systems not consistently supporting my will, my fears not consistently supporting my happiness, or should it be “contentment?” We inherit genetic material and an upbringing that conspire to make us who we seem to be. I am gradually banishing my Calvinist thinking, and taking whatever time I need in order to cogitate and create…and lie on the couch with a novel to rest after a walk for exercise, seeing, smelling. I had been struggling with work that supported me, but didn’t feed who I perceive myself to be. I chose time over money, and now I am spending my time.

Nude in Chair. acrylic and pen on mattboard

MOMENTS OF PURE JOY (one of my previous books) essays and paintings about my need to celebrate. No one died regretting taking time to enjoy the smell of an apple/bacon/blue cheese pie baking; blue sky, blue Strait, white ships and Canada out the front window; a painting in progress, even if it is still a struggle; anticipation of a friend coming for lunch.

Experimenting with more large mixed media stuff

On Brain Pickings this Sunday, Kate Keffery explains how aging and death make way for slightly more evolved genetic material…right now I want to demonstrate to myself the advantage of my maturity of thought and vision and eye/hand coordination for another 15 years or so. I have earned…and lucked into the opportunity to do nothing but eat, sleep, and eliminate…and I’ve eliminated a lot of previously appealing activities. The right to do nothing turns out not to be what I want…never has been…but today I was sitting in my most comfortable bent-wood rocker, in the sun, looking at a book of Alice Neel portraits, reading quotes about her focused desire to draw and paint, and I realized that no matter how Impatient I may become, I MUST continue with this prickly process of reading, looking, drawing, writing, painting, sculpting, thinking, being patient, and working to see what will Emerge. Art is Work…and it is the work I want to do!

Slow progress

The luxury I have purchased for myself by retiring from health care at 67 instead of 70, is the time to work slowly, but persistently. See other activities and ideas at my other blog: and my three FaceBook pages: 

And my website, where you can purchase my books, and eventually ebooks, and order your own portrait painted:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MY Groove

I just have to sit with 
myself and be patient. 
I’m getting into the groove, MY groove—no one 
else’s. Patience, and I 
AM putting out work. I 
wish I’d taken process 
photos of painting the sculpture, went from 
dead white to stripes of mixed interference 
purple and peach, to covering the whole 
thing with a watered 
down peach/purple glaze 
to stroking with chalk in 
red, turquoise, tan, and smearing…It looks like something made of stone, sort of…well, Enough. 

Joy that I can now throw away OT emails with only a second’s thought—it’s getting easier to put the health care job behind me, but I see that already, a few weeks from 67, I get tired more quickly than I used to. Switching activities frequently and taking breaks to lie down and read are necessary…but remember, I don’t have to make a living now…I’ve already done that, and saved enough. I may not become renowned, but I am happier. Patience with myself, and following my instincts to jettison anything that doesn’t feel sufficiently important, even when I wonder if there will be anything left at all. Trusting my instincts has always been my path.

My Honda Fit in David and Brian's Driveway Sunday Morning

Threading needles is becoming challenging again…need bigger eyes, brighter lights…worry about losing independence. I see women much younger than I am selling their "inspiring" aging stories online, and I rebel. I will be grumpy and happy...and not claim to have anyone else's answers.

Mosaic in Port Townsend

 Small trips: Ferry gliding always more quickly and apparently effortlessly than I anticipate. The lythe young woman getting into the passenger seat of the car next to mine. A stylishly cut yellow-green wool coat, knee-high brown leather boots. Artfully-colored hair beyond her shoulders. Polished. The car is a silver Toyota Rava with an Early-Success man at the wheel waiting to share the coffee and Danish she sets on the roof as she glides in.

Sun and Gray in Port Townsend, but NO Snow!

The Mountains to southeast...not sure which ones...all these fingers of water

My first solo trip to Artist and Craftsman Supply in Seattle…I’ve made enough money selling portraits to stock up on 18” x 18” canvases and black, two shades of blue, white acrylic, some media,  pens for cartooning. I made it to David and Brian’s house in Shoreline, with what felt like a couple of near misses, “I’m from out of town” hands in air, and some “Re Calculating” in that annoyed tone the GPS gets when I can’t tell which choice she means….good thing it’s not a man’s voice.

Soup Starter at Banana Leaf

David drives when we’re together, but if I’d known it was going to snow four inches in three hours, I’d have insisted on taking my Fit with the Studs…much slippage from other cars on the road, abandoned cars, and no sign of plows or preparation from the city. We had to leave both David’s and Brian’s car and walk the rest of the way in snow glitter. The dog enjoyed it.

I got out Sunday morning, through still-unplowed slush--couldn't wait to get home... 
running home in time of crisis…I guess that means this Northwestern Peninsula town is really HOME, after 8.5 years here. How do we define HOME…our safe place? I hug my self. Made myself the same apple Roquefort pie recipe David was making in Shoreline…not as pretty…I don’t like following recipes, so my baking is uneven. David has been taking all kinds of cooking classes, the latest, pie. He says he has the soul of a Fifties housewife...Brian is one lucky guy!

Banana Leaf shrimp with fried egg and crab...YUM!

Monday morning I awoke to pounding rain, nixing my plan to go and see a movie I’d latched onto in Port Townsend. I hadn’t stopped as planned in my rush to be home and safe from Seattle the day before. By the time I’d wrapped the packages to ship and paid the bills—good to have some concrete things to accomplish each day—there was brilliant sun, and I reminded myself, not for the first time, that most of my Obligations now are tasks I create, and it makes sense to go with the weather and the opportunity, while my opportunities are still broad.

North Beach, lovely light, righteous rocks

Happy that I didn’t move to Port Townsend as planned in the Eighties, because it wouldn’t be such a treat to visit if I lived there. I had a house all rented, but wasn’t ready to make the break with the East Coast…and now I’m Home here. My perfect birthday has become a trip to PT, the beach, William James Book Sellers (5 varied volumes for $51.50), a special meal, and a movie in the Rose Theater.

The new Starlight Theater at the Rose

I’d become fixated several months ago on seeing The Great Beauty, and it was exquisite, with Roma  as a main character, and a message to me about the importance of continuing to make Art even though life is meaningless. An extra treat was seeing it in the Starlight Room, a new adult viewing area over Silverlight Café, next door to the Rose, with a mélange of cozy chairs, cushions, chandielliers, and popcorn in cut glass bowls. Life can be Drama (in the best sense)…if only we make it so. It was a perfect day…and home to book group.

Participating in the Movie Ambiance

And so you’ll know I’m not neglecting my Art work…as Milton Glaser says, “Art is Work.” But this is the work I love.