Art Class

So fellow travelers, making space in my days for creative time has become an essential element in my practice of stress management.

There are other aspects in my plan including trail walks (weather permitting, which it has not for far too long into what should be Spring), yoga, meditation, and periodic end of the week debriefings (aka happy hour) with friends and colleagues. Never under estimate the therapeutic effect of venting and laughter over a good glass of wine.

Up to a point these have kept the impact of stress at a manageable level. I certainly am in a better state than I was this time last year. It’s in my overall lack of energy where the impact is most noticeable. With the school year three quarters done, I’m feeling like a marathon runner who’s hit the wall * at the 19th mile. I am banking on spring break next week to help me refuel and hit the reset button so I can cross the finish line mentally and physically intact. “Nine weeks to go, we can do this,” my teammates and I coach ourselves through the cycle of repetitive issues each day.

To push myself out of the motivational doldrums of this seemingly endless winter (indeed it is snowing again as I write this on April 19th) I signed up for an art class at our local Adult Education Center. It was listed as a multi-media painting class, but has turned out to be exclusively focused on watercolors. The error was I believe a bit of Divine Intervention intended to nudge me out of my creative funk because had I known it was a watercolor class I doubt I would have signed up for it; watercolors are a medium I struggle with and I have resisted taking on their elusive techniques for years. The instructor is a witty woman with a sharp eye and charming Germanic accent. My brain tried to tell me more frustration is the last thing I need right now, yet the focused, humorous directives delivered in the soothing rhythms of her gentle voice have drawn me into this challenge.  Besides, it is warm and dry in the classroom where we meet. Absent the opportunity to be inspired by chance moments on the trails I would usually be hiking this time of year I’m grateful to find joy in the small triumphs of mastering simple tasks with a challenging medium.

Art class

Feeling color
Hearing space
Tasting light
Smelling paint which
Touches my soul

 

 

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

 

*the term hitting the wall refers to a point when runners deplete their bodys supply of glycogen, a carb stored in muscles and the liver, resulting in fatigue. The brain kicks into self preservation mode and wants to shut down. It requires tremendous mental resilience to push past this point and continue on to the finish line.

Nine weeks to go.

Life in Black and White

So fellow travelers, there is a challenge trending on social media called Seven days in B&W. Here are the guidelines, which we use as the header for each post:

Seven days. Seven B & W photos of my life. No people. No explanation.  

Post and Challenge someone new each day.

A collection of some of my daily life in B&W photos

The admins of an on-line creative forum posted a similar challenge adapting the theme from daily life to #ordinaryextraordinary. Those guidelines read as follows:

*Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to post one black and white photograph per day here that represents the extraordinary in your ordinary, everyday life. Look for these things, smile at them, shoot and post with *one sentence* telling us why what you shot is extraordinary to you.

Creative challenges spark my interest and jump start my brain by giving me a focal point. A challenge like this encourages me to experience the world around me from a different perspective. Framing common elements of my day in just the right light so they make an impact when rendered in black and white as well as finding deeper meaning in ordinary components of my life has unveiled a rich array of  treasures whose value I now appreciate more fully.

Some of my images from the #ordinaryextraordinary challenge*

I’m also quite certain I would not have had the fortitude to stand up and speak my truth in the Me too campaign without this gift of uncovering extraordinary beauty in my daily experience. The B&W challenges gave me some solid touchstones. Because I was already  committed to those challenges and dedicated to continuing the process, the images I found became trail markers back to normalcy. The mere existence of  joy woven into my every day life helped me find my way back after diving deep into long silent emotions.

This is why art and creativity matter. When society fractures at rates beyond comprehension we scramble to hold on to something, anything, familiar. Creative processes can teach us how to shift perspective to see our lives from different vantage points. Creative expression gives form to feelings we cannot bear to carry within ourselves any longer. It helps us face the unthinkable acts of our inhumanity to each other and embrace the hope we can change the immutable.

So challenge yourselves. What are the extraordinary elements of  your daily life?  Go find them and see them reborn in the clear contrast of  mindful awareness. Maybe take a photo or two and share them. Who knows what ripples of inspiration you may create.

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

*Note: The #ordinaryextraordinary challenge  can be found on Facebook, under The Crazy Ones  page . It runs through October 22nd.

 

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.

Thoughts: Homer’s Garden

Funny (or serendipitous) how the Forces fighting for us toss out those lifelines at the peak of necessity. This morning when frustration had just about hit peak implosion, Tom’s moving post appeared in my reader feed. Reading his thoughts which echoed many of my own I felt a wave of relief pushing back at those time eating demons. I no longer feel so isolated in my fight to reclaim what my spirit keeps urging me it needs. Thanks Tom for the connection and the reminders. If we reach out and listen, we will hear the Truth; none of us is ever truly Alone.

Quarry House

Homers Garden 2

I spent some time in my studio yesterday. It’s the second time in a week I’ve cut aside some time to paint.

The woman I love is always concerned when I am not painting. She knows the bigger story of my life, and how, many, many years ago I got so involved in a busy life that I let my creative life get pushed aside and how, after years of letting it evaporate, I slowly came undone.

Was that the reason for my undoing? Not alone. Other things, in particular, my marriage, were also coming undone at the same time, but the lack of creativity was the sign I have come to understand, of something else, something else.

The lack of expressiveness.

In the end, I have come to believe, creativity is less an end to itself than a method of expressing ourselves, of opening ourselves up, of getting things…

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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.

sketchbooks

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.

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