Monday, May 20, 2019

Deadlines and Feeding My Soul

Working on the summer guide, my big spring project which I only have about two weeks to get done on top of everything else I do, is finally in its finishing stages. Hopefully, I’ll have my end of it done today.

The stress was definitely less this morning (except for the nuisance blue jays) and was the first day this year I had the slider and front door open. I went outside early to put up feeders. I can’t resist the little birds, though I chase off the jays. It was raining, but warm; so warm, I stayed outside to do a morning yard walk-about. I’m always amazed at how much plants grow overnight. Very exciting … except for weeds, black flies and mosquitoes, and my fear of ticks.

I considered moving a few more rocks to create a new flower garden, but with the wetness, the dirt on the rocks, and the fact I overdid it a bit yesterday (my back was sc-uh-reaming last night), I decided against it. But I so wanted to! I stood there surveying my little yard contemplating how I’m going to extend the new garden. I can’t wait … but I have to take my time, do a little at a time. It’s the way I need to work nowadays, and that’s OK.

What is the difference between what I want to do and what I feel I have to do? What I really want/need to do is paint more and when did I last do any real writing, like work on a book? I want to do the gardening, too, before the days get too hot and buggy. These are the things that feed my soul, and I always get extra stressful when I'm not nourishing my inner being.
I went through my pile of accumulated notes the other night. I’m always making lists and writing down thoughts and ideas to work on later, and the pile of paper gets higher. 

There are so many projects and writings I start working on, but they fall by the wayside. It leaves me feeling incomplete, discombobulated. For some reason, that latter word comes to my mind a lot. I think it really describes how I feel often. I've used it often throughout the years. 
The last couple of days I've done my journaling in early evening because I chose to work in the morning to meet dual deadlines with the summer guide and the regular weekly edition. That meant I gave up my meditation time. It doesn't help with it staying lighter later as I'm not getting to my “nesting time” until later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Butterfly Bounce

April 27, 2019
7:20 a.m.

The roar of the brook – no, river – buzzes under the music playing inside the house. I pull back the curtains on the slider to welcome the morning. Oooeee, the water levels had risen over night! No wonder it’s so loud. The huge boulder in the middle of the brook is totally covered over, the water rushing over it in waves.

The torrent rages with lots of white crests as water gushes over rocks and bounces off the banks on its hurry to get to the lake. I consider waiting until the rain stops, but I have to go out now and don flannel shirt, coat, and sneakers.

I take many photos from the deck overlooking the brook, but that’s not enough. I have to get closer and gingerly make my way down the steps to wade through wet leaves and wintergreen with its red berries creating tiny pops of bright color in all the dullness. My feet are soaked by the time I make the 50 feet or so to the top of the bank.

The noise is almost deafening. For a few seconds, I just stare, mesmerized by the turbulence. There are so many nooks and crannies, small waterfalls as water rushes over boulders then splashes in brighter whiteness before gushing on. With all the different nuances I could stand here watching for quite a while.

I work my way a few yards downstream to take photos from various angles, then work upstream. It starts raining harder and water drips off my hair, runs down my face, and soaks into my coat. I make my way back to the house and finish my regular morning routine. But even when settled in my chair, the movement of the water, seen through the slider and between the deck balusters, keeps distracting me. Oh, I love this view!


"Martha's Sunset" pastel painting in process
The garden muse has been winning out, but as it was raining yesterday, I slipped into the studio to do a little art work. I debated the two new floral sketches I’d started and thought about the next landscape, but with three in process paintings on the easels already … I turned to “Martha’s Sunset.”

And again, I contemplated giving up on “Grassy Dunes,” but it’s not letting me.

I have to admit, there’s something fascinating with experimenting and figuring out how to get a specific effect. I get one part looking OK (to me), but then something else needs adjusting. I know I can’t make it exactly like the photo (because that’s not what I do), so the goal is to just make it look really intriguing. There’s a line of trees between the darker ones and the mountain range. I feel I’m struggling, yet, it’s not looking too bad. I’m not even sure how I’m going to do the foreground. It’s rather featureless. I guess I’ll just have to improvise.

In the meantime, I had to get back to editing. There’s a deadline to meet.

By 3 p.m. today and deadline met, I was glad I went out to the brook this morning. The water levels dropped once it stopped raining, and while occasionally the water gushes over the top of the huge boulder, it’s no longer totally covering it.

I do get carried away with taking photos, but I love sharing the beauty of my surroundings through pictures posted on Facebook. It’s my way of giving to the community.

Once more the butterfly bounce carries me from project to project: writing, painting, editing for the newspaper, taking photos, and more. Oh, and this time of year, the flowering gardening adds another component. A little done here, a little done there and I happily follow my heart’s whim.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Surrender to the Mystery

I open the slider curtains being careful not to step on Pele. I spend a minute looking around to see what has her attention, but nothing catches my eye. I move on with my morning routine and while at the kitchen sink preparing to make coffee, I look out at the brook.

Taking flight
Something unusual catches my eye. Tall and skinny with long legs, it takes a few seconds for my brain to register. A great blue heron is standing on the huge boulder in the middle of the brook! He is very aware of me. He must have been watching when I opened the slider curtains. I’m surprised he didn’t fly off.

I quickly grab my camera, but the height won’t work out nor is there a clear shot through the screen. I use manual focus and press the shutter button a couple times anyway. I move over to the slider, but the deck railing blocks the view.

The only alternative is to stand on a stool (an iffy attempt for me). Will he still be there? He’s definitely watching as I hoist myself up on the stool, but he doesn’t fly away, and I focus the camera and get more photos. We watch each other. I wait for him to move … and wait.

I love Pele's reflections in the glass
Leo comes to the door and Pele is just on the inside. They are face to face. I take a quick photo looking down on them. Leo rattles the screen to come in. The blue heron watches. He finally hops off the rock to land in the water.

I gingerly get off the stool, shoo Pele out of the way and let Leo in. I slip out the door in bare feet. The thermometer reads 38 degrees. I carefully cross the deck hoping to get a closer, clearer view of the big bird, but this is too close for the heron and he spreads his wings and flies up the brook. There are too many trees to get any photos. I hurry back inside. Brrr, it’s cold!

In reading “The Artist’s Way Every Day” by Julia Cameron, I was really taken by her comment, “Surrender to the mystery of the creative journey.” Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I do without realizing it – when I’m not caught up in trying to “get it right,” ha-ha.

Creativity, for me, is a mystic journey whether it’s painting or poetry. I seldom know where it’s really going or how it will come out – until it’s done. I love the surprise.
Today’s work in the studio had me adding touches to the sky. Then I moved down the page and began working the horizon. I dab and daub and rub and feather. I make a few sharper lines, blend colors allowing the mystery and the discovery to be revealed.

"Martha's Sunset" in process
It’s quite the challenge when working from more than one photograph. I use one photo for the main scene but choose various sections from the other photo(s). Often there is … what I call busy-ness … that clutters a scene and I’ll leave that out. Other times I’ll add extra bushes or rocks depending how I want to shape the composition.

What’s interesting, too, is if someone is familiar with the scene, it’s still recognizable even with the changes I make. They’d have to look really hard to know what’s different.

Earlier I lined framed paintings on the couch. (I need to find wall space – some will be off to a show.) Of course, I have my favorites, and I notice the progression in my style and technique.

Yeah, if I look hard, I can always find something I should have done, but I can’t dwell on that. I laugh at myself thinking if I did that particular scene over … Yep, there’s always room to improve … and even ones I may not fully like in the end have an opportunity to, perhaps, return to and finish someday and make totally beautiful.

I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished. I am so happy! There is just something about having pastel in my hand and my hand moving to create and enhance the scene. Or holding a pen to page or fingers on a keyboard to write. The creativity flows and the heart and soul are filled with joy.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Working through the Challenges

19-008 “Martha’s Sunset” WIP; Started March 1, 2019

I got back in the studio and really worked the sky. It’s a challenge, for sure, choosing the correct shades of gray, blue, orange, cream and yellow.

And then, my hand just moves without my thinking about what to do. How much do I trust that I’m doing what I’m supposed to? I layered, I rubbed, I wiped off and did it all again.

I kept stepping back and every time I did, I bump into my pastel cart. I finally wheeled it out of the way after saying, “Ow!” too many times.

I worked more than I meant to at this time. As usual, whenever I walked away, I’d turn around to look, see something to adjust, and go back. In the end, I decided to shorten the foreground and moved the tape up 1 ½ inches.             

I’m pleased with the progress. I’m always amazed the painting is never exactly like the photograph, but then, to try to get it exact would drive me crazy. I enjoy letting the picture help create itself.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Scene Calling to Photographed and Painted

Chickadees keep my Pele-kitty entertained

The morning of April 8 was dark and rainy. I recited the old adage “April showers bring May flowers” knowing every day will bring new sprouts shooting up out of the ground. There are already some sturdy looking shoots coming up in an area I don’t remember planting anything. It’ll be exciting to see what those are … tulips, daffodils? Some kind of first-up perennials of the year.

The garden manual I began four years ago has not been updated in a long time. (Neither has my editing manual.) Both have been pushed into the background as other projects take my time. I can’t complain as I follow my heart – and whatever muse has me at the moment. I like it. Life is interesting and I make it more so by finding things I enjoy.

April 9 was another dark rainy morning. The ground was still white-spotted from the occasional icy snow the day before. The frosting on the hemlock and spruce boughs were eye catching.

It was foggy, too, when I headed out to pick up my friend Jane and to meet our other friend, Nan, for breakfast. The dirt roads were wet and a little slick. I like going the back way because the scenery is more enjoyable. Driving was better on the paved roads.

We passed a picturesque area calling to be photographed. Fog wound around an impressive birch tree on the top of a hill. The tree’s branches formed an eye-catching elegance, like a stately lady posed at the top of the stairs waiting to be noticed. Evergreens rimmed the bottom of the hill; the lady’s audience waiting with applause, and in the far distances, more trees and mountains.

I’ve taken photos of this scene in the past. One I used as inspiration for a charcoal drawing, and another was a summer scene for a pastel painting. None were from this angle and neither had fog. (Funny how a direction change can make a scene totally different.)

I didn’t want to stop because we all had other things to do. As it was, it was going to be a short breakfast (and, of course, breakfast and conversation was good.) But I was a bit disappointed. I seldom get out on a foggy day and I so love doing fog paintings.

Today, April 10, starts out as another gray morning but no fog. The back deck has more snow than the previous day. It's all pock marked, so it looks funny. I guess other drippings caused it ... not sure how exactly. It looks like the deck was spread in sunflower seeds, then a light layer of icy snow covered it.

Yesterday’s scene of the birch tree is calling me. It wants to be photographed and painted. Should I make a run over? Go now before I settle into the day’s projects? Should I time it to be able to get lunch takeout at in in-town restaurant?

I finish my morning routines, and, for the few moments between projects, that scene begins calling louder. I have to go, I have to! If I wait and spring really starts emerging, that particular view will be blocked.

Looks like a flying saucer crash landed
I don outerwear, then take photos of the brook before leaving. The ice on one of the bigger rocks looks like a flying saucer crash-landed. The temperature is only 32 degrees and the roads are covered in icy snow in many places. I drive with a little more care. Tree branches, frosted in white, bend from the weight of ice. The ice gives them a lacy-ness. Mother Nature creating works of art.

I reach the spot I call “the Hill” in eight minutes. Uh, oh, there’s a ditch alongside the road with running water. There’s no room to pull over. Too much brush and fallen trees don’t give a clear view of the scene I want from the roadside.

There’s an old pull-off space probably used years ago by the old farm. I don’t dare park there for fear of getting stuck or having the weight of the car force it to cave into the ditch. I don’t want to park farther down the hill because it would be too hard for me to walk back up.

Hmmm, what to do. I want this picture! It is a quiet morning, not much traffic here. I’m going to chance it. I leave the car running with the blinker on and grab my camera. I don’t usually go on someone else’s property without permission, but this area is far enough from the house I don’t feel I’m trespassing.

I cross the ditch and pick my way through dead leaves and field grasses, going around a couple of big bushes to reach the stone wall bordering the field that is home to the birch tree. I get seven photos before the camera stops working. Oops, dead battery. Seven should do it, though.

These scene calls me and calls me
Back home, after giving Pele and Leo kitty attention, I import and edit the photos, getting ready to print when something Nan said yesterday rattles my brain. She said she always prints a black and white photo along with a color one. This helps her with values.

Duh! I used to do that all the time! When did I stop? And why? Goodness. So, I edit four of the photos to also be gray scale and print them all. I’m not sure which angle I’ll choose for the painting. I’ll spend some evenings playing around with preliminary sketches.

While I was at it, I also gray scale the three in-process paintings currently on the easels. I’m still shaking my head how I let this important step slide out of my awareness.

The sun is poking through and I’m eager to get in the studio.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Distractions and Detours

I let Leo, the neighbor’s cat, out to chase off the gray rats. (He visits every day.) I sit back down and movement-reflection in the slider glass has me turn to look out the window of the front door. The chickens are out across the street and flapping their wings in the sunlight. They make my insides smile. I like to see the chickens and ducks. They cheer me up.

Not quite the angle that I wrote about from my chair inside
Turning back towards the slider, sunlight filters down between hemlocks and bare trees creating a dappled play with light and shadow. A gaping, dark hole between the ice layer and water catches my attention. The caverns along the far edge of the brook are bigger today. One section of the top ice shelf on that side stretches across the water towards a shelf on the nearer side looking like huge yawning mouths … or toothless old men grinning at each other over a game of checkers.

It’s hard to look away, but it’s time to get in the studio. Yesterday, I received some tips on how to paint raindrops and want to put what I discovered to the page. But first, a detour outside for photos and a little fresh air. Leo joins me on the back deck. He jumps up on the rail and keeps brushing against me as I try to focus the camera. Silly boy. He likes it when I’m outside with him.

Back inside, I still don’t get to the studio. It’s lunch time, my big meal of the day. I peel potatoes and put them on to boil, and while waiting, I start editing photos taken two days ago. Yeah, I’m behind again.

I scoop the cooked potatoes into the big, round, yellow bowl that was once my grandmother’s. I love this bowl; it’s a perfect for potato mashing. (It was once a set with a shorter square bowl that my mother used to use for Jello.) I add a little milk and mash until most the lumps are gone, then cut up a stick of butter and shake salt and pepper into the concoctions mashing it all into the potatoes. I take my first taste to make sure it’s how I like them … add some garlic salt. Oh, my gosh, so good! Mashed potatoes are my favorite comfort food!

We had potatoes a lot growing up. Dad had a huge garden with one section a big potato field. My mother would either cut up the potatoes for home fries (sometimes mixing in hotdogs which I didn’t like at all), or she’d just peel and boil the heck out the ‘taters. She didn’t like milk, so we’d just ladle a couple of potatoes onto our plates and mash them with a fork adding margarine (we never had butter growing up) and salt and pepper.

The only time we had mashed potatoes with milk mixed in was on Christmas when Dad’s sisters would visit. They always cooked Christmas dinner, and Nellie would put milk in the potatoes and in the carrots. (Mashed potato in hot lunches in junior and high school back then was instant potato crap – awful, tasteless stuff!)

Talk about a detour! This was supposed to be about pastel painting!

I finally made it into the studio. I’ve been so involved with “After the Rain,” I’ve been ignoring this. Today I decided to poke at it and added more color. Sometimes taking artistic license from how the photo looks exactly brings on new challenges. I end up creating parts that aren’t in the photo to bring it all together, and sometimes I really struggle with that because I can’t always get a clear picture in my head.

I like to bring some of the foreground into play a little early to help give perspective and show where I’m going. It helps me see possibilities. There is so much foliage in the picture and it’ll be interesting to see how I deal with that.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ready to Move on to the Next Pastel Painting

There's snow on top, then layers of ice. Between the lower ice shelf and the water, icicles hang down, some looking like fierce sharp teeth and others like they should be on a crystal chandelier. The water, what is visible, is dark and fast-flowing shooting out from under one section of snow-covered ice to disappear under another. 

Some snow/ice sections are shaped like irregular flying saucers with a wider white top and tapering down to a smaller-circumferenced ice stand or rock with dark cave-like openings along the shoreline. I can't help but look and get caught up in the minute variations. I finally edited and posted photos taken the past four days.

Driving home from breakfast with artist friends on Wednesday, the gauge in the car read 34 degrees. I went out on the back deck to take photos of the brook and the thermometer there read 42 degrees. Not that warm, but with the sun, it felt balmy. I took my time, put up a couple of bird feeders. (I only put them up when I’m sitting here and take them down at night.)

The ducks were out across the street and ran down the driveway to the edge of the road where snow melt was running. It was funny to see them trying to splash in the small stream and hearing their nasally “Quack, quack, quack,” and seeing their little tails wag. Soon they settled onto a bare section of lawn where the warm sun had melted the snow.

One of the issues with living alone and being an artist is there’s no one else to pick up the slack of doing chores. I can’t devote the time on pastel painting or writing as much as I’d like. It’s necessary to take care of every-day living. Sometimes a few days go by before I can get back in the studio.

Interruptions to the creative flow can make it harder to return to a project. I deal with that by taking one day at a time and not stressing over what I’m not getting done. I strive to enjoy every moment and celebrate even the little accomplishments. And I do accomplish something good every day!

I managed to sneak tweaks here and there on the rose of Sharon painting and signed it. I decided not to crop it. I practiced more with raindrops, and after re-doing them, I called the painting done, let it sit for a day, then sprayed it with fixative.

As always, I question. Am I really done? Should I do more? Too often, though, excess tweaking doesn’t help. I need to walk away and leave it alone. And already, paintings on the other easels are calling, “Me! Me! My turn!”