Spirit of 60 Road Trip Part Seven: Glassy-eyed Wonder

So fellow travelers, in my first post I alluded to an event which guided the timing of this trip.

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Acquiring coveted tickets to one of the viewings for Chihuly Nights at the New York Botannical Garden had more to do with when I scheduled this road trip than it being my 60th birthday. In all honesty if I could have picked anywhere to be on my birthday I would have spent it with my daughters in Portland, Oregon. However an impending alignment of the sun and moon required choosing between heading west for a solar return in July or a solar eclipse in August.

The eclipse won so hopefully I will be writing about that adventure next week!

So the main lunacy of this expedition became a late afternoon drive from Oyster Bay to the NYBC, a trek which involved navigating both the Long Island and Cross Bronx Expressways, which I might note are not so “express” at that time of day. Allowing myself two hours to make the 35 mile drive turned out to be just about right.  No, don’t torture yourself by doing the math to figure out my average speed; I lived it, trust me you don’t want to suffer needlessly.  We are after all on a quest to seek the counterpoint to suffering.

What I will say is every minute on the congested roadways was absolutely worth it.

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Illuminated

Garden fantasies create

Glassy eyed wonder

 

 

 

But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Enjoy~

 

 

 

 

 

~ and these are just a smattering of the images I was able to capture.  There are many more, which will make appearencs over time as I discover the words embedded in them.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

 

The Gift

So fellow travelers, this graceful image greeted me this morning when I opened my WordPress reader feed.

The sketch is by a friend I first met in our online creative group.  Her post credits the original artwork as drawn from the photography of another creative tribemate.*

The image invoked one word

JOY

A simple yet deeply liberating key to to a question I’ve been working through for a few weeks.

And then a comment I started writing on my friend’s post turned into a haiku.

Ribbons of summer

Petals dancing joyfully

Gift of gratitude

Ripples of creativity flowing across the miles, connecting spirits, expanding joy. A reminder too, we need more joy in this off balance world.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editor’s note: color sketch by Kathy Cary from an original photo by Jeanette Randall. You can follow Kathy’s work on Instagram


Sailing with Vinnie:  Chasing the Horizon

So fellow travelers, a while back I wrote about a creative adventure involving some Van Gogh inspired art for a good cause.

Sailing with Vinnie the final version.

A few of my friends commented on my project; one thing led to another and soon I was signed up for several paint events with various groups of friends at a local art studios.

One session held at a small independant studio session had a distinctly different atmosphere from the Van Gogh fund raiser, which was held at a locally owned franchise studio. The concept of creating a painting in a casual setting was the same but participants could choose different paintings. The supervising artist walked around our stations giving us simple step by step directions for our chosen artwork. We shared snacks and beverages, chatted about our families, concerns about current events and joked about our not so artistic abilities.

This last bit was one thing our studio host was quick to turn around. She would point out elements in our paintings that worked well, giving simple suggestions and encouraging each person to step back and look at their painting from a difference perspective. She gently reinforced the intention of working on different paintings is to minimize self-judgments and comparisions with others.

We judged ourselves anyways.

Why do we demean our creativity so definitively? Artistic endeavors do not have to produce  a masterpiece every time. Not one of the great artists through all the centuries could do that. Where is it written we have to be good at art to enjoy making it? We cut ourselves out of too many opportunities to try something new expectations of mastery.

Still, I understand the tendency to be overly critical.

I always end up tinkering with my work afterwards until enough of the “not quite right” spots are “good enough.” 

This scene from the recent painting class sat on my easel at home for a couple of weeks until I adjusted a few little details that nagged at me. One of the Adirondack chairs looked awkward, there were some areas in the water where the color was off and a smudge along one of the tree lines that needed “erasing”.  Thank heavens for the forgiving nature of acrylic paint. 

It’s been a little surprising to find how much joy I feel while painting. When my daughters were young I gave myself the gift of taking art classes for a few years. The busyness of life slowly encroached on my creative time and my art supplies were packed away for close to a decade. Coming back to the easel now I find, awkward smudges aside, the “masterpiece” syndrome holds less power over my process. Trusting my instincts of how a painting feels as it unfolds helps me tune out the voice of my Inner Critic. When my work looks right to me it is “good” art. Inspired by the pieces I accomplished in the past few months, I’ve been grabbing little snippets of time to work on an unfinished landscape left over from my summer art class days many years ago.

So now there is a stack of blank canvases in my art corner and the long days of summer vacation about a month away hold the promise of creative horizons yet to be sailed.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sailing with Vinnie, part two

So fellow travelers, the painting from last week’s little art adventure has been perched on an easel nagging at me to reconsider it’s merits.

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Those iconic Van Gogh swirls are harder to achieve than they look.

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Vincent’s famous Starry Night 

The studio which hosted the fundraiser I attended offers an SOS event once a month. Save Our Stuff is a free session where participants of previous events can bring their paintings to rework them.  It’s scheduled during the last week of each month.

I’m not that patient.

So yesterday after work, I pulled out brushes and paints, then got to work.

Acrylics are easy to fix because even darker areas can be covered by a new layer. Still, reworking the swirly sky (which to me looks more like kindergarten roses than stellar Van Gogh astronomy) meant either completely repainting the sail or working meticulously around it.

I mentioned I am not that patient, yes? I’m also not that steady of hand. Yet I did manage to leave enough of the sail when repainting the sky. Then, using dinner as a distraction, I managed to wait for it all to dry enough to retouch edges and details before adding the ode to Van Gogh sun.

van gogh redo

While this fix feels better to me, it still feels unfinished. Maybe Vinnie and I have some additional collaborating to work on. We’ll see where our little boat takes us.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sailing with Vinnie

So fellow travelers, just a little artwork from a fun “Painting with a Purpose” event celebrating Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday.

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Raising funds for the PwP artist’s grant program seemed a fitting way to honor him. Artists struggle to make a decent livelihood, in fact, Van Gogh sold only a few paintings in his short lifetime. He died by his own hand never knowing he would become one of the most famous and recognized artists of the next century or that his unique style would inspire painters of early modern art or that his use of color and techniques would influence artists for decades to come.

The currently trendy painting studio franchises may be better known for merriment than masterpieces yet there is a good measure of merit in encouraging people to have fun with art. Everyone at the event I attended left smiling and laughing with their own unique interpretation of a sailboat navigating the waters under a Van Gogh inspired sky. I called mine “Sailing with Vinnie.”  Look closely you might see him soaring free.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Three Birds Blue

So fellow travelers,  last week a run of unseasonably warm weather had me out on the birding trails well ahead of season.

 I recognized the chirrup of a song I usually do not hear until Spring has sent Winter well on its way. Looking up I spotted three bluebirds sitting on a wire, taking in the afternoon sun.

Bluebirds, in  February

And not just, one but  three!

A rhythmic dance of words emerged as I took mental pictures to help me sketch later on:

Three birds blue

On a wire

Puffed up chests

Sunlight bathed

Hawk cries high

Sudden flight

Farewell friends

Spring still sleeps

Snow must melt

I will wait

Your return~~~

Winter is back in full force now. Lake Effect snow rushing in ahead of a roaring cold front with  64 mph. Brrrrrr. I’m hoping my three friends are hunkered down in a safe spot til this storm passes. Seeking sanctuary. A sign of the times.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Treasure Hunt Hidden Talents

So fellow travelers, it is said the first shall be last. Truth at least for the initial post I wrote while in Portland a few weeks ago. It required me to recognize the depth of change  and emotion I had not processed over the past year before I could put words to virtual paper.

The main reason we went to Portland in 2014 was to see Favorite Oldest Daughter and Favored Son In Law, who had moved there earlier that year. From the moment I landed at PDX the city caught me off guard, drawing me in with it’s quirky charm, relaxed vibe and phenomenal food experiences (one does not eat meals in Portland, one has edible experiences, at least I do)

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The patio at the Tin Shed, which after Portland’s food courts, is my favorite place to eat

When we returned the next year, I was fully prepared to find the charm  was just first time visit magic. Again, the I  was delightfully surprised. By the end of our second trip, my husband and I were set on the idea of relocating to the area when we retire a few years down the road. So this year, with both daughters now living in Portland it was the experiences I shared with my family that became my focus.

One Saturday while my husband went to the rock climbing gym with our older daughter ThaiRockclimbingEdit                                                                              Favorite Oldest Daughter rock climbing in Thailand

I went to a bird sketching workshop at the Portland Audubon Nature Center with our younger daughter. She found the class shortly after she moved to Portland and it sounded like a perfect fit for Team Loonatics.  I hit several art store sales to stock up on the supplies we would need, making sure to hand carry the essentials in case our checked luggage wandered off to a random destination (it didn’t, but I know better than to take chances with anything I absolutely need to have when I arrive on a long trip.)

Jude Siegel, the artistleading the workshop, was a vivacious and skilled instructor.  She lead our small, diverse group through several basic drawing exercises, designed to teach us to really see what we would be sketching.  She worked on shapes, proportions, perspective and then moved onto color mixing. We worked with watercolors, a medium I have always found challenging yet her tips and demonstrations gave even novice artists the confidence to dive in and start creating.

During our lunch break, my daughter and I found a shady bench outside where we sat to eat and talk about her new plans for college. Last spring she transferred to Portland State University’s Honors Degree program after finding the curriculum at TUJ did not offer enough to hold her interest.  It had been a tough for her to leave Japan. She still talks about how much she misses living there and had looked into other colleges in Tokyo hoping to find a course of study she was interested in. Listening to her perspective, I had to notice how much she had grown and matured in just one year.

We spent several more hours, working away at our new found skills.

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At the end of the workshop each participant shared their work and Jude asked us to talk about what we had learned. Her one caveat was we not speak negatively of our artwork in anyway. Each person spoke honestly of the challenges and everyone’s experience of the process was slightly different.  Yet we all came away with a feeling of success and everyone expressed a desire to continue working with what we had learned.

It was the time spent, learning something new, just two birders stretching our creative wings that I will treasure and remember every time I take out my little paint set and work on a new painting.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

Art Show

So fellow travelers, our high school has display space in one area for student art work with rotating exhibitions through out the year. It is a space I visit often during the week, taking a few moments to appreciate the awesome pieces on display each month.

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Allie Brown and Riley Carlucci

Once a year, during the last week of school, an entire wing and lobby are converted into gallery space for the senior art show.It’s become one of my favorite moments of the year.

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Each senior who has taken classes in the art program is given a display area and I love watching their portfolios unfold.  Reading their individual artist statements is fascinating.

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Kylie Fischer

There’s a gallery reception one evening during the show and it’s not uncommon to over hear parents murmuring comments of astonishment at their child’s accomplishments

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Marisa Madonna

Naturally, there are pieces which speak to the angst and challenges of teenage years

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Anna Davis

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Katie Doyle

and pieces given to flights of fantasy

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Brihanna Drake

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Austin McClaskey

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Carl Livingston

For a week, the long hallway is filled with color

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Brad Krahl

and texture

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Courtney Hines

 

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Jenny Boden

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Danielle Johnson

and artistry reaching beyond the young years of these graduating students

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Mike Morris

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Sarah Hamilton

and my own spirits rise with hope for this future generation of creative spirits.
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Claire Shonyo

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Art Class in the Sky

So fellow travelers,  the sky has been a wonder this winter.

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Whether I’m  lingering longer on our daily walks because of milder temperatures or there is some atmospheric magic afoot, most days have offered breath taking views. It’s impossible not to be inspired by what I see at day’s end.

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I recently treated myself to an impromptu painting class, a Paint and Sip event at a favorite independent coffee house. Attending meant I was supporting two local businesses while indulging in my love for really good coffee and artistic exploration.

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I used to take art classes in the summer. It was a way to take time for myself when our daughters were toddlers. Over the years my art supplies got tucked away or used for school and girl scout projects.

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My finished version of the “Northern Lights” project we created that evening.

The one night art session was so rewarding, I decided to start dabbling again, so in addition to fresh paint and blank canvases, I’ve been collecting images with my phone camera to study and use as references.

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This sky greeted me when I left work today.

Being part of a supportive creative community has empowered me to follow the whims of my creative impulses. I’m not going for a masterpiece, I’m going for experience. I am experimenting, having fun and gleaning some inner contentment along the way.

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A study of clouds, in acrylics;  playing with textures and shades. 

Of course there’s a haiku tucked among the clouds of the sky gallery I’ve been visiting.

Sunlight colors clouds
Ev’ry day new sky paintings
Gratefully received

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Tonight’s gallery: a blaze of colors and tantalizing tree forms .

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

What does it mean to be creative?

So fellow travelers, some thoughts on creativity.

Author Jon Katz, recently posted a piece in his blog about the importance of creativity. He framed the topic with the issue of taking time to be creative and focuses on the struggle of women’s creative expression.  His post got me thinking. He makes valid points regarding women putting off creative expression being related to society’s marginal attitude towards creativity. I would add this is as true for men who would benefit equally from creative expression yet push it aside in the pressure to achieve worldly success. His message, “You don’t have time not to be creative” is universal.

From the responses to his post on the CGBF* page he hit a few chords. One of Jon’s best traits is his willingness to accept differing opinions provided they are not shrouded in hostility or personal attack.  Those parameters are what make the CGBF a reliable haven for creative exploration and allows for some lively and thought provoking dialogue.

I added my own comments, something along the lines of my own growth allowing me to see creativity in many forms.  I listed examples of teachers, dog trainers, computer programmers being creative in their own way. For many people “living (their) life in a meaningful way” may not take the form of a poem, painting or photograph. When a bio engineer creates a better prosthesis I see this as creativity from a different perspective. Still, some sliver of discomfort begged attention.

It was his opening reference to “hobbies” and “painting a watercolor on vacation once a year or so,” which stuck with me like a stinging nettle. For many years, working full time while raising two daughters afforded me very few hours for creative exploration. This is not an excuse; it is reality. There are no more than twenty four hours in every day. During those years when the girls were young, scrapbooking, which definitely comes under the category of a “hobby,” became my main creative outlet.

Were those scrapbooks less of a creative expression because they are seen more as a craft project than art? The question itself points to the way in which “arts and crafts” activities are marginalized. Here’s where the line between “creative work” and “art” begins to draw itself in the sand. Certainly I did not consider my scrapbooks  “art,”  even though the time I spent creating beautiful pages built around memories was every bit “an essential expression of (my) spirit” as if I were writing poems about or painting portraits of those moments.

Working as a special education teaching assistant for our local school district allows me the luxury of an extended summer vacation, something most working mothers do not have. It is a gift of time I consider worth the smaller paycheck. One of the things I did for myself was to set aside enough money to take summer classes, so over the years I explored everything from birdwatching, backpacking and orienteering to knitting, drawing and painting. I always had good intentions of continuing my art time beyond summer, but once we were back in the throes of daily life, consistent time for artwork took a back seat. So yes, I was “painting on vacation once a year.”  To feel like that kind of creativity somehow doesn’t count points to the “falsehoods” we have been taught to tell ourselves about the value of what we chose as creative expression.  Those falsehoods start terribly young too.  I always feel a tremendous sadness when a student tells me they can’t fit art/photography/woodshop/creative writing/culinary arts into their schedule. I have been known to undermine the best efforts of counselors by showing kids a way to shift course loads so one of those classes can fit.  I am such a rebel.

One gift of becoming a member of the CGBF was the opportunity to have a place where I could share the results of my renewed creative interests.  I started taking photos of more than family events and “we were here” vistas, then I took photo classes to challenge myself to improve. When my commentary on the posted work grew longer or generated clever haiku, with some gentle nudging from fellow members I realized I had enough to say to consider starting a blog.  Now, two years later not writing is no longer an option. I hope I am becoming a better writer in the process too.

So there’s the crux of the matter.  It comes down to what we tell ourselves about being creative. If we believe we should only be creative if our stuff  is good enough to be called art, we will not fell compelled to find the time to be creative. If we just give ourselves a chance to take the first steps of creative expression and turn a deaf ear to the voices of judgement. both internal and external, soon we will find “don’t have time not to be creative.”

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*the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm can be found on Facebook.  Our contributions can be viewed by the public. Come visit and be inspired to be creative.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.