Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Suddenly I See

The initial blocking in wasn't too bad

So, after yesterday’s fiasco on the first painting for 2019, and realizing the perspective was way off, I went in the studio this morning to wipe off any loose pastel, so I could turn the paper over to re-use on the backside. Surprisingly, once the color was down to the bare minimum, I started seeing potential. Maybe it’s salvageable.

I thought by adding more color, I'd start to get
a better perspective of what I needed to do
I hated this.

I re-looked at my reference photos. I’d taken the photos with different focal lengths with the intention of creating a cohesive composition using the various aspects from more than one photo. This time it didn’t work out so well. (Usually I’m able to use aspects from different photos, but I messed up with this one.) I put away the photo that was throwing off the perspective and found another to use.

Because I was able to wipe off most the old pastel, I was surprised to discover I could use what was left as a decent background for the updated version. I changed some lines and added more color. I also rough-sketched in a branch to start giving the hint of what’s to come.
I'm excited again. This might work after all.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel so much better than I did yesterday … and to think my intention this morning was to totally destroy it and do something different.

closer view

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Starting the First Paintings for 2019

Last week I cleaned the studio and readied two (of my four) easels for new paintings. These will be the first for 2019. I set up new papers and on Friday, chose photos for the two paintings, and lightly roughed in the first bit of outline.

Today I made it back in the studio, started adding blocking in of shapes, and color to the sky. Already I hate the first one and I’m debating whether to continue or scrap it. I put in a little more color. Sometimes doing that is a boost to keep me going, but with this one, I don’t know if I’ll continue. I’m not feeling it.

I realize I got the perspective all off. That’s what I get when working from more than one photo. Oh, well, sometimes I just have to cut my losses and move on.

The second one I like. It’s another beach/sand dune scene. I’m trying something different with the underlying grassy areas this time.

I’m a person who has to “feel” what I’m working with. Choosing photos from which to paint is sometimes a challenge. I’m excited when I first take the pictures and print them out, then later I’ll look at some and think, “Why did I print that?” I have a whole stack of photos that when I finally got around to doing the painting, the picture was no longer talking to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Another Book Topic

Last night’s meditation led me on another interesting journey … as happens often. I was left feeling I need to put these meditation-inspired ramblings into a book and call it “Conversations within Myself.” (The writing muse has me by the throat. All I want to do is write!)

These meditations offer insight into life. I’m shown different sides of situations while allowing my mind to develop, transform, solidify, question preconceived beliefs, or assimilate some form of teaching. I think about what I think about and how I think about it. (OK, I’ll admit to overthinking ... or maybe I’m just not afraid to admit.)

Words and thoughts constantly run through my mind. I’m always thinking, from the moment I wake in the morning until I fall asleep at night. (Sometimes when I wake in the night, too.) Often, it’s just daydreaming drivel, but other times, a topic grabs hold of me and I’m taken on an interesting journey; at times controversial and other times enlightening.

A comment gets made or I read something that sends my mind spinning off on a winding path. There’s no one true answer as the trail leads down, in, around, among, up, out. Thoughts jump one to another; sometimes not in a logical sense of order. Words gush from above, while others stir up out of my soul and heart. I never know when it will stop. Suddenly, the flow shuts off, and I feel breathless, emotionally flattened, unfinished, like there’s more, but my brain won’t take any more at this moment.

Nothing is conclusive. I’m left in wonder. But I also feel the topics that come to me need to be brought to the light. It’s not that I expect everyone to believe what I say. They don’t have to. Sometimes what I write is what others think but can’t put into words. Sometimes it’s just my ramblings.

Whatever it is, I’ve gained a little more understanding of life, and even if I’m left with more questions, there’s still a feeling of accomplishment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shorter Sentences in Writing and Talking

“You can’t write like you talk,” is something I often say. Talking doesn’t have punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Talking isn’t always in full sentences. Talking and mind chatter can ramble and babble, sometimes seeming to go on and on. Writing is more formal. It follows rules.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, but today I’m writing in a different context. Today I am thinking about what else an already-filled brain can take in.

My thoughts went to those who talk and talk until your eyes glaze over. Yes, I wonder how often I do that, too. Sometimes I can go off on an idea or story and don’t stop. It’s like I have so much on my mind, when I finally get a chance to talk to someone, the flood gates open. My mind certainly seems to talk non-stop. I have to often tell myself, “Stop!”

But when it comes to writing, we can’t just ramble on. It makes me realize how we see differently than we hear. Seeing words written can put them in a different context than hearing someone speak them. The spoken word gives us signals from the speaker. In reading, we only have our own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge to interpret the meaning or intent of the words.

What this has made me realize is that the brain needs pauses. If I ramble on and on in my speaking and the listener’s eyes is glazing over or he’s trying to get away, that’s a clue his brain needs a rest. It’s similar in writing if sentences are long and rambling. By the time the reader gets to the end of the sentence, he has forgotten the beginning or has lost the intent of the words.

As much as I love words, I’ll get bored and skip sections if: 1. A description goes on and on in one, long sentence. 2. If an entire paragraph is one long sentence. 3. I have to read a sentence more than once to understand what’s going on. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

This is giving me a greater appreciation of periods; ending one sentence to give the brain a brief rest before diving into the next sentence. It’s like stopping to take a breath when talking (and give the listener a chance to take in what you said). The period between sentences allows the reader a brief second to catch his mental breath, in a way. It’s a pause to let the brain assimilate the information it just took in.

It doesn’t matter what kind of reading we’re doing. Most of us aren’t writing college theses and we’re not out to prove to the world how smart we are. As a matter of fact, if we want people to understand our point of view, we have to make our writing easier for them to understand.

This is not saying people aren’t intelligent or can’t handle it. Part of it is because we all have so much on our minds nowadays, it’s hard to take in any new information. Plus, if we want people to enjoy the reading, we, the writers, have to make the reading enjoyable! That means writing to make the reading easier.

Maybe fiction writers are better at this. The fiction genre isn’t necessarily out to convince readers to the writer’s point of view. It’s those of us who write in nonfiction where we might be trying to prove a point or defend ourselves somehow. Those, too, trying to educate readers. In the telling of my stories, I’m always hoping that my words could possibly help someone else. Not that I’m telling anyone what to do or how to live their life. Just that, perhaps, something in my life I write about could trigger something in them to help them deal with a similar situation. (I sometimes take things I read from someone else and turn it around to make it a positive for me.)

And, maybe, here’s something to consider if you’re trying to get a point across: Think about how we learn. “See Spot run.” “Dick and Jane went to school.” We remembered this. No, we are no longer just learning to read, but if, as writers, we’re trying to teach or lead or help or provide valuable information, will someone learn from a long-winded dissertation or from sentences that seem to twist around until you don’t know whether or coming or going?

Did I just prove my point? Ha-ha. It’s something to think about. At least this is how my brain works nowadays. Information in short spurts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Writing Roadblocks: Unanswered Questions

One of the issues I run into in writing a travel memoir is letting unanswered questions become roadblocks (pun intended) to my progress. Today’s topic was how to write about uncomfortable instances without sounding whiney.

I write on a personal level, giving a real-life point of view. I don’t sugar coat. I don’t make it seem like every day is full of glorious adventure. There are problems. There are mistakes. And yes, sometimes there is downright miserableness.

So, how can I be true to the real-life aspect and not sound whiney sometimes?

The goal is to show readers that it’s OK to acknowledge the less-happier situations. When you think about it, most travel books are written about wonderful sites, fabulous scenery, interesting places, etc. Yes, there is adventure and sometimes hardships, but most of the time, it seems like it’s all a fantastic time.

And, for the most part, it is. But, not everything goes as expected. Multiple issues may arise. There are disappointments. Sometimes, when in unfamiliar situations, fear and other aspects may cause emotional upheavals which can affect the enjoyment of the journey.

I want to show what it’s really like to travel; the good with the not-so-good. Not all parts of a trip are full of wonderful sights and positiveness. So, how do you get through that? Because, after all, the trip really is an amazing adventure and the good does outweigh the bad.

How do I deal with it? By writing about how I come to terms with scary situations and how to handle the unexpected. Yes, I’ll admit sometimes I totally fall apart in the moment, but I also use it as a learning experience. I ask myself how can I do better next time?

Each moment is an opportunity to learn, oftentimes minor, hardly noticeable. Other times, a situation can affect your mental outlook for a while until you deal with it …

Like that time within the first two hours of a trip when I almost got into an accident on a round-about. For the next half hour, I was paranoid about the thought. My mind spun ‘round of what could have happened and how my trip would have been ruined, until I got on a nice, quiet, windy, mountain road and was able to calm myself down.
The lesson here: Yes, I almost caused an accident, but I didn’t. At that point, I could have simply acknowledged thankfulness and put it behind me, instead of dwelling on it the rest of the day and being fearful every time I was in heavier traffic.

There are always going to be issues to deal with while traveling. We shouldn’t hide them. I want to talk about my full experiences and hopefully, if and when you get a chance to travel, something I may have dealt with will help you get through your situation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Where Did I Leave Off?

View of Charleston, S.C., from the hotel

After way too long, I’m finally getting back to my book of 2015. The first draft was done, but then with moving, renovating, other life issues, and a trip to attend a wedding in Wichita, Kansas, the book was put aside. Now, with two books with first drafts, I feel compelled to finish them before going on to any other writing.

For a while, I debated about which book to finish first, the 2015 trip or the 2016. There are options for going either way. I feel incomplete because I haven’t finished either one. And although I’ve also written the main body of the first draft to the Kansas trip (which I just finished last month), I can’t do more on that one until I finish the previous one (not that it really matters which one I do first). Finishing weighs heavy on me.

Sometimes, I get stuck on questions for which there are various answers. I have to stop letting issues like this put off re-starting. One big question is the use of names. This is an issue with many writers. When to use a name, what kind of permission to get (do you need a legal form?), to be formal or informal. One of the last suggestions I read was to just use a first name or change the name.

I never use someone’s name without permission. I ask, and if yes, will just make a note of it. But after all this time, are those permissions still valid. Then, too, I feel I owe these people who gave me permission to mention them in my book. It is my way of honoring them for taking time to talk to me.

Yes, I could probably let it go and move on, but I don’t want to. I put too much work into both manuscripts to just give up. I took hundreds of pictures on those trips and there are stories to tell. I fall asleep thinking about it and wake up with it on my mind.

Yesterday, I woke mulling over the 2015 trip. Decision made, I’m ready to get on with it. I have to do this, even though it’s been over three years now. The time-frame doesn’t really matter. The story matters along with the life-lessons learned.

The start, or re-start, is made. The excitement returns. I can’t wait to tell my story.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sizes, the Comfort of Painting, and Another Lesson

I spent a little more time in the studio yesterday morning making a bit more progress on “Grassy Marshlands.” I also did some work on “Path through the Dunes.”

Both scenes have their own challenges, especially as they are totally different. The first is lots of grass with a meandering stream leading towards the mountains. Lots of various shades of greens (and other grassy colors) and trees. The second is a sand dune with a path over the dune to the river. Different landscape and terrain.

What dawned on me this morning, and maybe one of the causes of my struggles, is that the four paintings in process on the easels are all bigger than I usually do. Yes, I’ve done a couple of bigger paintings before, but generally like to stay around the 11 x 14-inch size. The current ones are different sizes between 12 ½ to 21 ½ inches.

Since I started working in charcoal, then pastel, I randomly “tore” the 21 x 31 sheets into smaller pieces, sometimes getting as many as four paintings out of one sheet. The randomness of the tear made them various sizes which I used as one of my quirks. The last portions I did was closely tearing the big sheet in half.

I’ve talked before about how each painting is its own journey, and that there’s always something to learn. I realized that once I started these last four paintings, I’m not comfortable working on this bigger size. (I’ve always been amazed by these artists who do painting in sizes of feet! That’s not for me.) And now I’ve figured out that even the sizes on the easels are too big for my style.

Here is what I’m discovering for myself in working on a larger scale. (I write this and laugh because it’s not really that much bigger than what I prefer, but just those few inches make a difference in my comfort.)

I’m not a total impressionist, so there’s the balance between “blur” and sharp lines which seems to be more difficult on a bigger canvas. A bigger painting means standing back farther to see the whole painting (and in a small studio means bumping into other things.) What I see as mistakes stand out more. Also, the bigger the pictures, the more cost of matting and framing. And, I suppose I should admit, there’s often a lot of self-doubt during the process.

So, to I keep pushing out of my comfort zone and go big?

The other option on my mind is to choose a consistent size, keeping all my paintings the same size. If I choose a conventional size, matting and framing would be cheaper. My technique would hone to that size.

I’ve never been much for convention. I strive to do things my way, finding out what works for me. I don’t want to be like everyone else or do it like other artists. I want my own twist, my unique quirk. Working alone means a lot of trial, error and making discoveries. Sometimes I stumble. But, for the most part, I am always amazed and pleased at the finished painting!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Determining If It’s Positive Progress

Today I spent a little more time in the studio. I want to get this painting finished. It’s been on the easel too long.

In one aspect, I like it. I like the scene, the colors, and the vibrancy. On the other hand, I’m finding it hard to really like it. I don’t want to give up, though. I’ve spent too much time on it. Then again, I’m feeling quite discouraged. The texture of the paper still gives me a hard time.

Usually by this point, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m normally past the “hate it” stage -- and while I don’t hate it, I don’t like it. And, living alone, I don’t have anyone to “run it by” unless I post to FB or someone should happen to stop in. Ah, what a dilemma.

So, do I let my determination to finish win out or should I throw in the towel and move on? I have other scenes I want to paint, and it wouldn’t be the first one I’ve put aside to (maybe) finish someday. I could add this to my stack in the back room, ha-ha.

It’s funny, in the posting of a photo, I see things I want to change. There's still a lot of work to do. Sometimes the photo doesn’t lend to a good painting composition and I adjust a line of two. Do I go back or give it up and move on? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Each Painting Is Its Own Journey

I worked on “Grassy Marshlands” yesterday. I do not like that textured paper, even using the backside which isn’t quite so textured. And that’s OK. At first, I felt “unworthy” because so many other artists love working on texture. But, as artists, we don’t have to be the same, and we don’t have to like working with the same tools and supplies. That doesn’t make one person wrong and the next right. That doesn’t mean I’m not an artist because I don’t do it the way most others do it.

It’s funny how I always choose a view thinking, “This is going to be quick and easy.” It never turns out to be quick and easy. Every painting presents its own challenges even though I always do similar types of scenes: sky, water, mountains, trees, vegetation, rocks, et. al. Every time I think, “I get it now” when working a particular type of scenery, it doesn’t go any easier on the next painting ... or even on another part in the same painting.

Part of my mind believes if I do one set of trees, the next bunch of trees should be easier. However, each scene presents a new challenge. Maybe it’s in the leaves or the way the branches bend. Maybe it’s in the bark, type of tree, or how the light shines on it. Or perhaps it has to do with how that area works as part of the whole of the entire scene.

I like doing grass and trees, so why do I feel so challenged with this painting? Can I blame the texture of the paper? No, not totally, although that non-smoothness does not make blending look as I prefer and the colors seem to muddy quicker.

Perhaps my answer is simple enough: Each scene is its own. This is not the last scene! The curve of the landscape is different. The lighting is different. The types of grasses are different and how the blades rise along and above the water. The clouds are different, and the reflections are not the same as in the last painting. So, why should I feel that, just because there are similar items in the scene, it should paint the same?

Change the way I think! Look at each painting as its own journey and go at it as if I’m on a travel adventure. In a way, it’s exactly like one of my trips. I learn something new each time and have a totally unique experience even if visiting a place I’ve been before or painting a similar landscape. The in-the-moment exploration opens new doors to discovery.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Writing Fire Blossoms

I finished the first draft of Chapter 15 on Saturday. It's still feeling blah, but, hey, I'm getting through the first draft and that's exciting. Now there's just the last day -- Niagara Falls and the dash for home.

Couch/meditation time is often when I get those revelations and the words just pour. Saturday evening, I wanted to organize all those notes I’d written during the inflow of words flowed the past couple of nights, but I couldn't figure out how to start. Somehow this type of organization messes up my brain and sets me to spinning. What categories/headings do I need? 

I keep thinking about the question "Who am I on the leaving and who am I on the return" I used on the first book. Somehow it feels important. Maybe this is that recurring theme I need ... but if there's a question, shouldn't I there be an answer? I'm not sure I have one even after the three long trips. Perhaps the changes are so subtle I don't recognize them. Maybe there needs to be more trips before I can put it into words. Like learning by repetition. I have to keep challenging myself with the traveling until I "get it." I dunno. Maybe there's no real answer ... yet. But, like I said, it feels important. I'm missing something here. It will come.

The hardest part right now about the chapters is my faulty memory and lack of fully writing while traveling. Heck, it's been over 3 1/2 years since the 2015 trip and 2 years to this week since the Wichita trip. And if I'm having trouble remembering Wichita ... still, I'll get these done and feel good about it.

As for some of the repetition, I can use that as a learning experience/education in becoming more comfortable driving through cities and in heavy traffic. I can talk about how repetition helps us learn. The more I get to do it, the more comfortable I will be ... maybe, ha-ha. I don't know, maybe I really don't ever want to get over my fear of big cities. Perhaps that's something to admit, too. Maybe.

I'm still struggling with the outline concept, especially at this time. The first draft is done on the 2015 trip, and one more chapter and the epilogue will finish the first draft for Wichita. I do want some semblance and organization of all the side notes so I know where and how to put in that info. Those thoughts/ideas coming through and are important. 

Yesterday, when I settled down to work on the book, I found a bit of an outline in a template folder listing the parts of a book and some general notes of how to put a book together. I took all those "revelations" and thoughts from the past couple days about writing travel memoirs and I put many of those in that outline format. Ones that didn't seem to fit there, I made a page in outline form for general notes. 

Most of all this are reminders of what I need to be aware of when traveling and writing. And yes, I do need reminders. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to fully observe. Or I think I can research the details later. However, researching later doesn't capture the emotion of the moment and I need both.

I printed the pages. I'm back to feeling the need to have hard copies. I'm more apt to open a binder and read over the notes, then peruse a myriad of documents on the computer for info. If I put together a binder of how and what to write, to remind myself what to look for and pay attention to ... this could help me when I settle into a hotel room at night to write about the day (when I do the next trip).

I had a blog writing on the last travel day, but then I found that was only the run home and not about Niagara Falls. Day 16 will be in two parts; the tour of the falls and that petrifying dash for home. So, I had to start the beginning of that day from scratch. My journal isn't as detailed as I'd like. And I have sooo many pictures of the falls to go through!

The excitement continues on getting the current book done. There's still so much to do, though. I want to go on another trip, but I won't until these two books are done and ready for publishing.

Today I plan on gathering info online about the falls and the actual places I visited for the "just-the-facts" history sections. There's a lot to cover about the falls. I don't know if I'll finish the full chapter today.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Writing Muse Has Me by the Throat

The Muse has me by the throat. She is on top of my head with octopus-like arms wrapping around me head trying to keep my focus on the writing. Her voice is a constant whisper in my ear about what to write about, how I can make the next move with the books and how to write better descriptions and developing the story-telling.

Coming up into Indianapolis on a storm-filled day
I continue making headway with the Wichita book (my third travel writing memoir book). Talking about it helps me focus and gives me the drive to work through the obstacles and self-doubts.

Yesterday, I figured out where I am with that first draft. I thought I was ready to do the last chapter, chapter 16, but I didn't have any photos printed of chapters 14-16, and I discovered chapter 15 was never finished. Photos help me remember situations and find words to describe the landscape and such. It still bothers me that there are things I have no words for -- descriptions of architecture, even things in landscape like land formations, types of rocks, etc. I’m always amazed and fascinated that things in the next state or states can be so different.

This morning I was wondering if I should spend time on a Writers Helping Writers FB page. They talk about everything and anything to do with writing. I've not paid that much attention because how and what I write is not usually discussed. But maybe if I ask, there are people on there who write travel memoirs.

Self-doubt soars when I'm floundering. I need some feedback as to what and how I'm writing. I need that push of encouragement and when others don't write the way I do ... It's not about being told what to do, it's more of a sharing of what we are working on. See, I can't even describe it. Hmmm, so how can I turn this "obstacle" into a learning experience to help me move forward?

I finished re-reading my last book “Too Cold for Alligators” (TCfA) last night. (I hope I can come up with such good titles for these next two books.) Anyway, I realized TCfA does have what it takes for a travel memoir, and the end IS very emotional, and I DID talk about what I learned and all. From what I can tell, it falls in all the parameters of travel writing memoirs. Yes, there are mistakes and repetitions, and I would love to rewrite it ... but as that's already been published, I should move on.

Another question I have is: Is it wrong to talk about the previous book in the next book? A friend who read the first part of the second book (I still haven’t come up with a title yet), because I went to some of the same places I did in the first. But I don't see why I can't talk about those places again. After all, I'm not saying exactly the same thing. The circumstances are different, my mind frame is different. Why can't I be saying, "The last time I was here, the beautiful camellias were in bloom and this year, although I'm traveling the same time of year, they've already turned brown and dropped to the ground. Still, this place is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. I love the ..." Plus, I also went to other places so it's not all exactly the same.

I’m in a different place mentally and physically now. The reason/excuse for travel has its differences. Yes, there are some similarities and I’m still dealing with traveling alone, learning to recognize what I want and to speak up. Similar, yet still different. I meet different people, circumstances are different. And it’s sharing – the amazing aspects of life and what’s around me and overcoming the obstacles and challenges that get in the way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Books are Calling

I’ve a few book ideas (and actual books in process) for a few years. I started strong the end of last year after taking a hiatus, but I got distracted when gardening time came, and I was spending time in the studio at the easels. The writing call is back and it’s strong. How can I do any other writing until I finish these? I feel a part of me is incomplete.

I’m not finding fault with myself. I chose to work on other projects: around the house, gardening, and pastel painting. Plus, the whole getting older and slowing down process is teaching me to be OK to do projects in smaller increments. I can’t spend all day on one project, and, regular life gets in the way. So, I am learning to do what I can do at any given time and accept that I work slower, need to take more breaks to clear my head, and even take an occasional nap.

First and foremost, I am a writer. Now as summer is waning down, I’m ready to get back to the writing. I have a new outlook on it all and I’m eager to do better. Maybe this in-between time was giving me time to figure out how I want to be writing the travel memoirs, deciding that’s it’s not just a story about me, but one to hopefully give others insights on traveling

One stumbling block was I had the first draft of a 2015 trip complete, then came moving to Hillsborough (along with a house renovation), and a trip in 2016. I haven’t even completed that first draft yet, and now that the writing muse is calling, I’m stuck deciding whether to finish writing the first draft on 2016 (two chapters to go) or do I go back to finish 2015.

I’m feeling the need to finish the 2016 first draft, however I’m really being pulled to do updates and finish 2015. Both are important to me. The first drafts were pretty much recording everything about the trip. Now I have to delete mundane comments and repetition of driving days. The hardest thing about book writing is stopping or being interrupted. I don’t want to stop to eat (and heaven forbid I have to prepare, cook, and clean up!) There’s housework, chores, gardening, socializing … and my work as an editor. Oh, yeah, and painting in the studio.

Stay tuned. I have some reading and note taking to do tonight in planning these two books.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Putting Two Photos Together to Create a Better Scene

The gardening projects wane – not that I accomplished everything on my projects list. This year I took a detour from developing new gardens and finishing last year’s paint job on the porch and deck. I like what I accomplished, but I feel I’ve done enough for this year. (At least for now.) The pastel painting muse has returned (maybe with help from all the rain lately), and I’ve been spending time in the studio.

I finished a pastel painting I’d started in March and one I started in June. Every time at the easel is a learning experience and I go from feeling guilty I’ve not “trained” like other artists to being strong in my conviction to do it my way.

It’s not only about the painting but the adventure and discovery. I find it interesting how I might read or hear something a few times, then one day that same comment or tip flashes the light bulb on. Ha, ha, I finally get it!

Maybe it’s because I have to be mentally ready to hear the message. Maybe it’s about repetition finally sinking in. Suddenly the need to paint ignites and I am at it again.

Does that mean it goes easy? No. There is always something to learn, some aspect to experience. I go from the excitement of doing a new piece, to not-liking how it’s going, to feeling discouraged and self-doubting my abilities.

This is why I have multiple easels and paintings in various stages of progress. When I get too frustrated with one, I can work on one of the others. I eventually get back to the one giving me grief and I tackle it with a fresh set of eyes.

So, I finished the two and they are ready to go to the framer. I cleaned up both areas and set new BFK Rives paper on the two easels. I looked through my photos I put aside as possible paintings. The one of a sand-dune was calling, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt the composition wasn’t right. Now what?

The photo was from an area I’d visited before – a spot where my mum had spent her early childhood and where her ashes were released. What if I looked back through previous photos? Maybe there would be something I could put with this sand-dune to make a more complete composition.

Preliminary layout of "Between the Dunes"
working with two photos.
I researched dozens of photos and during a visit in 2016, I had taken a photo of the scene right next to that dune. Wow, how amazing is that! I can “stitch,” or rather, tape, the two photos together to make a beautiful scene. The horizons don’t quite line up as my position wasn’t the same in taking the two photos, but I can make it all work for the painting.

Also, in that same series of photos, I came across four more photos that I can stitch together to make two more wonderful paintings. I printed the photos and made notes. Then I chose two scenes, went in the studio, and soon had the preliminary drawing/layout done in charcoal for two new paintings. I am so excited!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Being Strong in Who I Am as an Artist

I am reading “Painting Brilliant Skies and Water in Pastel” by Liz Haywood-Sullivan. She describes the preliminary steps: cropping, multiple thumbnail sketches, blocking in shapes, figuring out values, and choosing colors, among other comments and tips.

I also researched online (again) articles on types of paper and board for pastel artists. Most prefer surfaces with textures to hold the pastel. I prefer a smooth surface. I do not like the sanded surfaces, either.

Making progress on "Path to the River."
My mind jumped into self-doubt mode. I don’t/can’t work like that! Is this how “real” artists work and if I admit how I work, will those “real” artists look down their noses at me? How can I call myself an artist when I don’t work like that? Maybe … if I was 30 years younger … I could go back to the very basics and start all over again.

Should I force myself to paint on surfaces I don’t like? Do I have to conform? And if I admit how I work, will other artists and art viewers not like me or not see me as a serious artist?

But wait! Haven’t I been working a long time developing my own style of painting? Haven’t I always been proud of myself for not following the norm and discovering my own way of doing things? What makes me think I’m wrong just because I don’t do it like most others? I’m not wrong. I just do it MY way.

My very-good friend, Nan McCarthy, is an amazing photorealist, and her style and technique is totally different than mine. About the only thing we have in common is that we both work with photographs and we like similar subjects. But, she follows all those preliminary steps and spends a lot of time planning her painting even before she picks up her paintbrush. Part of how she works, even after all these years, is to study other artists’ techniques to try better perfect her own style.
Our techniques may be opposite, yet we have the most amazing conversations on art and style. We support each other and have even done shows together.

As for changing how I do things? Part of my painting is about the journey. Each piece offers a unique, challenging adventure (even when doing similar scenes). Every time I think I’ve mastered an aspect, the next painting throws a curve ball. It’s a backwards treasure hunt. Instead of digging through rubble to find the treasure, I build layers to find the gold in the finished painting.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Growing older, changing, adapting in life and art

I don't mind thunder storms from a distance. It's those loud booms and cracks that make you jump (don't like adrenaline rushes) that bother me. It's like I like the deep sound of a Harley (though not when the guy sits there revving), but the sharper sounds from the "rice rockets" are annoying. I still like the old rock ‘n’ roll music, but no longer cranked loud. I don't like loud voices, especially angry voices or those false, loud, excited, pumped-up-trying-to-sell-you-something voices.
"The Hill" still in process; getting close to being finished.

Quieter, softer ... hmmm ... that's even coming through in my painting. Instead of pushing for those sharp photorealistic lines (when I’ve never strived to be a full photorealist), I'm learning that it's OK to have softer lines, more impressionistic backgrounds ... which is something I wasn't conscious of before because I don't really like impressionism. I wanted sharp, clean lines … like my photography.

It’s funny, too, how my art is turning to be more like me. I’ve described myself as being soft, and fuzzy around the edges, and now as my art gets looser, it too, takes on more fuzziness. (Though I still want some sharper lines.)

Maybe I am closer to an impressionist painter instead of a realist, and yet, even those lines blur. I don’t quite have my finger on it, yet. But I’m coming into a greater understanding of life and art.
I still have to do things my way; figure things out my way. I don’t, and never have, fit totally into one category and probably never will.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Treasure Hunt in Painting

I didn’t get in the studio this week. Instead of painting, Nan McCarthy and I went to the Jaffrey Civic Center to see their latest art exhibit. I’m always amazed that artists can work in the same media, and yet, because of different styles and techniques, the paintings can have a totally different feel. Even if another’s style doesn’t appeal to me, I’m still fascinated by the process. I enjoy hearing artists talk about what they do and how they do it.

Peaceful Autumn Waters -- in process
What amazed me was that I didn’t feel any of the paintings were similar to mine. Does that mean my paintings aren’t good enough? Don’t think that! That’s the old, low self-esteem thinking. My paintings are good enough and I’m very pleased with them. (Oh, OK, I can always find fault, but I can’t allow myself to do that.) No, not every one is perfect, and many remain unfinished, but the ones I do finish, mat, and frame fill my heart with joy.

However, I am adamant in not doing things the way others do. I want to find my own way and have my own style. And, as I told someone the other day when she remarked how she can’t wait for the end result, I am fascinated by the process. Don’t get me wrong, I love the finished piece, but there’s something intriguing in the experiences between beginning and end. I learn something new with each painting and that’s exciting! 

I do similar scenes most the time, but each painting has its own obstacles. There are challenges in every picture because not all scenes are exactly the same. Light, shadow, reflections affect leaves, bark, grasses, sky, water … everything! I constantly ask myself questions. Why isn’t it working the same as it did last time? How do I do …? How did I get the perspective off? Why didn’t I notice that aspect before? Why isn’t that shading right or shadow or reflection? Am I leading the viewer in? And it goes on.

I am not a photorealist. I don’t want it to be perfect. I allow changes, and I want to do it all free-hand. That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with using projectors, rulers, T-squares or other means of transferring the exact image. I just choose to be more open to creating something new, something not exact. Plus, I believe the painting itself will lead me to make changes.
It is a discovery, almost a treasure hunt in a way, as I figure out how to recreate the picture from the photograph. The photo is just a guideline and I often use more than one photo to create a scene. I add trees, rocks, and bushes, and I also have to figure out lighting as I usually take photos at the height of the day or on days when the sky is dull.
Another exciting aspect is when I take a photo to post progress. The new photo almost always shows me something else, something I missed, or something I should add. No matter how many times I study the original photo, a progress photo will tell me more. It can be like finding a gold nugget … a sometimes it’s fool’s gold. Still, I love it, even during the ugly stages.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Contemplating Art and Guidelines

An opening reception to the latest art show and busy work weekend are behind me. I am ready to get back into the studio.
I’m a person who makes lists and collects sayings. These days I have to write everything down. (Do I blame age or just too much on my mind?) I get distracted and forget things easily. I’m not complaining. I like my life – except when I get overwhelmed.

Today I was back to thinking about my list of tips to pay attention to when I’m painting. (I mentioned this in the last blog.) I debated about typing them up on a sheet of paper (right now they are handwritten on various scraps) or make them up as labels where I can put around the easels to remind me as I’m working.

Just typing them on a sheet or having them on the computer will mean I’ll seldom read them. So, I can either type them on 2x4 inch label paper or handwrite them on colored index cards. (I’m all about the color!) Big dilemma and sometimes I’m not good about decisions. I often end up putting off the decision and not doing any of it.

Why do I feel I have to do this? Because, as I mentioned last time, the minute I pick up a pastel or brush, I dive right into painting and “forget” the rules. My friend, Nan, who’s an awesome photorealist painter says I am intuitive in my art. And I definitely agree. BUT …

There are those times of self-doubt, and it’s these times when I can also look at the notes and realize that, yes, I did follow most the guidelines. There will always be that aspect, though, in which I follow my own path. There are times when it’s like the painting is moving me to do what it wants. My hand just moves.

I enjoy what I do, even through the “ugly” stages. I know eventually I will pull together a painting that pleases me. Sometimes I’ll pull it from the easel and set it aside. I know I’ll go back to it some day because there’s a reason I was drawn to do that scene. I currently have six of these in the back room and every time I go in there and see one, I want to put it back on the easel and finish it. As of yet, I haven’t because I’m working on the new ones … but I’m tempted …

What I do makes me happy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Losing perspective

How many years have I been painting? I have my lists of reminders: tips, techniques, what to look for, experience, and all that. I even have reminder labels on the wall in front of me. (‘Course, I’d have to look up to read them.) I keep promising myself that this time, I’ll pay attention to the rules.

However, the minute I pick up the pencil, pastel, or brush, all those self-promises fly out the window. I’ll look at the photograph I’m using for a guideline, but once I turn to the easel, and my hand starts moving, everything else disappears from my mind. I work for 10-15 minutes, glancing at the photo every so often. 

Work in process
Then I step back. The perspective of the reflections is off and they’re all leaning to the right. The colors are too dark. The shape is wrong. What was I thinking? Where does my mind go while I’m painting? 

It’s not that I’m not thinking as I paint. I am conscious of blending, shadow, light, colors, and lines. So, where do I go wrong? Somehow, somewhere, I lose myself. But really, is that a problem? I often feel the painting wants to help paint itself, and I let it.

I’m happy with the end results, and that’s what counts!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Finding the Right Descriptive Words

Descriptions are always hard for me. So often I’m in a situation and I don’t know the correct terminology for what I’m seeing, or I don’t know how to make it sound more interesting. How many times can you say, “rolling hills” or “mountainous terrain?” And, when I’m traveling, is what I’d call a rolling hill in New Hampshire, the same as the rolling, hilly farmlands in New York?

And what about buildings and architecture? Even in watching a lot of HGTV with the home renovation shows, I’m still not sure what the difference is between modern, contemporary, and more. What about cities, road structures, and bridges?

I do quite a bit of research before, during and after my travels (mostly after) because I like to provide a little history or information on areas I visit. However, I’m wondering about the amount of time I spend in research. It always sounds like a quick thing. Oh, it’ll just take a moment to look this up online, and next thing I know, an hour or two has gone by. It’s not like writing is all I have to do, ha ha.

One of my goals is to make a general list of types of terrain, architecture, roads, bridges, and more. That way when the time comes, I can choose a word from the list then elaborate more if it’s needed. I’ve already researched types of clouds. But again, here is a time-consuming project that takes me away from writing the actual book. 

Oh, these dilemmas. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Writing and the Carousel

Sometimes I have so many thoughts and ideas running through my head, it’s hard pulling them together for a cohesive writing. My brain starts spinning. Do I follow this thread of thought or do I write about that other? The carousel spins faster, and the ideas get thrown from the horses to be lost in the darkness.

Last night I was asked a series of questions about my travel writing. All great questions which, although I’ve kind of touched on the various subjects, the overall topic is mostly avoided. I wrote the questions down, and later, while meditating, further thoughts on the questions emerged. Once more I have a list of notes that are related, but not written as a complete piece.

I have dozens of these scrap pieces of paper filled with notes to include in the books or other writings. I never seem to fit them in and yet, they would be integral to the story, to better understanding the writer, to further open various topics to readers, and to add helpful suggestions and tips. Too often these insights fall by the wayside because I don’t get them pulled together. I lose the momentum of that in-the-moment thought process, that flow of fiery creative writing.

Sometimes I get stuck trying to figure out where in the book this topic should go. Should I fit it into a chapter? What about the preface, prologue, or epilogue? Should it be its own chapter? I just can’t make up my mind. It just becomes more head-spinning and eventually falls off the carousel horse.

That said, I do make progress, and the ideas will cycle around. However, when the do, they won’t be exactly the same. It will be different time and space. But that’s OK. I continue on. I do the best I can.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Stuckness in Writing

I easily get stuck during the writing process. Oh, not in the subject matter or what I want to write, but with the various thoughts that interfere with the actual writing. What do I mean by “various thoughts that interfere with the actual writing?”

It doesn't take much to distract me.
It’s because I am a multi-thinker. I don’t just think about one thing at a time. I am not that focused on one thing. Even if I’m on one project, various aspects of that project crop up in my mind and I break off the concentration to jot down notes on the newer thoughts. Then I end up with all these side notes, often on multiple pieces of paper. 

And when this happens a lot, I lose my train of thought on what I was focused on, and I get “stuck” on figuring out where I should go next. Do I keep writing the actual chapter or do I stop to pursue the latest side-note line of thinking? My mind spirals and I get confused and frustrated. The creative flow smothers and the spark goes out.

One area I always get stuck on is trying to keep things in chronological order. This is important in most cases, but not necessary for all. So why do I let myself get stuck on chronological order? When isn’t chronological order important, especially as I’m writing a travel book?

Chronological order is not important if the creative flow is shut down; if I worry so much about it that I become confused and frustrated about what I should do next.

For instance, with the latest book, as I’m writing the day by day adventures, an idea will often pop into my head about something that should go in the introduction or epilogue. And once one thought process interrupts the flow, others do. So, do I stop writing the current chapter and add the new introduction thought processes to that chapter? At that point, I’ve lost the spark for the current chapter.

Sometimes, the new thoughts aren’t even about the book, but something else entirely. Too often I’ve started books that never got finished because a new project claimed my attention. There are times when there are so many ideas, I get totally overwhelmed and nothing happens. My brain shuts down and I’m depleted and stuck.

I was in the middle of writing my 2015 adventure to Florida when moving and renovating the new house broke that creative process. I had the first draft done, but before I could get back to that book, my oldest grandson announced his wedding and a trip to Wichita happened. Now I’m trying to get the first draft (after over a year) of the Wichita trip written so I can go back and finish the 2015 story. (And this isn’t even talking about my art work.)

I am determined to get both these books written! When the stuckness holds me back from getting the book completed, I have to look at it from another perspective. I worry about results down the road when I need to focus on getting the first draft written. My head was spinning again.

I took a break from the writing for a couple of days to organize the notes on scrap paper, printed sections of the manuscripts, photos, receipts, and various notebooks written-in during the journey. I looked into differences between preface, foreword, prologue, and introduction. This gave me further clarity on what I need to do.

But the biggie, and what I have to keep demanding of myself is: Get the book written! All that other side stuff can be done later. The organization has helped me gain clarity. I’m ready to buckle down to the chapters again. I will get this book written!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sasha Perspective on Traveling Writing

Sometimes in my traveling, I can’t find the right words to describe what I see. It’s rather ironic that a person who works with words has such trouble coming up with good descriptions. 

Then again, maybe it’s because I’ve not traveled a lot in my life. I am not familiar with other places. I spend time researching histories of sites visited, but to research types of landscape or architecture adds to time-consuming work when I just want to write.

I am not out to present a text/technical book. I write from a personal perspective with those bits of researched historical facts inserted. My books are not just about sites visited. The trips are not just about physical places. They’re about the total experience of traveling, and that includes all the emotional aspects of the journey, too.

I don’t want to separate myself from my emotions. I spent too many years hiding who I really am. I refuse to live that way now, and that is reinforced in my quest to live whole-heartedly. To share a traveling adventure means my readers get the whole package; the exciting times, the stressful moments, and the downright scared occasions. 

This is me, living whole-heartedly, and being a happier person because of it.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Attempting to get on track

Although I’m not supposed to be thinking about the pictures of the Wichita trip, I never printed them out, so I do think about them. Should I print them all? What’s the sense of having these photos if I don’t have them where I can see them? I put a lot of work into taking the pictures and editing them. Is that all for naught? My mind gets stuck on this stuff.
Black Water, Mo., the day I'm supposed to be writing about
But I have the book to finish writing and that’s what I need to focus on. However, my writing time turned into photo printing, then looking for information I misplaced. My hour to work on the book turned into two hours. 
And of course, there were kitty and gray rat distractions. Now I have to get on with finishing this week’s InterTown work … and I haven’t even had breakfast!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Over Thinking and Stressing

I’m back to working on my book on the Wichita trip from 2016. Sometimes my mind just goes ‘round and ‘round and I can’t get clarity. 

Annette Vogel and I are going to be publishing a few books. We’ll be working with a local printing company. She’s more of a graphic-design person and I’m the writer. She writes, too. We’re working on a book together, plus we’ll both have personal books.

With her help and patience, I’m getting a better understanding of the publishing and printing aspects. I’ve also given up trying to do it all myself. Layout and getting the manuscript print-ready stresses me out. I just want to write and have photos. So, to partner with someone who is good at what I am not, is such a relief!

I kept trying to force the idea that I want lots of pictures in my book and couldn’t understand why, with all this modern technology, I can’t have it that way. A couple friends who’ve been in the printing business had explained it, but the other day with Annette explaining it again, and I finally “got it!” (Sometimes I need to be told something more than once for it to sink in.) 

Basically, it’s about printing plates which may have 16 or 32 pages on each plate and the pages may not necessarily be in order. To have color on one page, would mean paying for color on the other 15 or 31 pages whichever the size of the plate, and that means lots of financial cost. So, even with technology and printers using computers, the plates still retain the way ink is used.

My dream of printing a book with color photos placed where they go in the story is broken.  I’m sad, but I have to face reality. I’ll still be able to do e-books that way, though. 

I am stepping back and returning to basics. The stress over how to fit in all the photos was keeping me from the actual writing of the book. Annette said the pictures is jumping too far ahead. Photos will come later. “Write the book first!” she said.

Right now, my goal is to get the first draft written. I have 11 of the 16 regular chapters done. The obstacle, for me, is that I had almost the entire 12th chapter done, but somehow it got lost. I need to get over the mental hurdle of having to rewrite the entire chapter. Just do it!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Upside-Down Ice Cream Cones and Lollipops

Yesterday I talked about my revelation about the roundness of the canopies of deciduous trees versus the pointiness of evergreens. It wasn’t anything new to me, of course, just that it hit me in a new way giving me a moment of little-girl-joy. Seeing it in a different light helped me through a “stuck” part in one of my latest paintings.

Later, when I was telling my friend, Clare, she said, “Evergreens are upside-down ice cream cones.” Once again, the light bulb came on. Yes! I can see that. And if evergreens are upside-down ice cream cones, then deciduous trees are lollipops!

Finessing the trees before moving on to grasses and water
It’s funny, I can read how-tos and art-related articles, and logically understand a process or someone else’s way of doing something, but it’s not until I am at the easel working and finessing my own style and technique that those tips or directions set in. Sometimes it’s a couple months later that something will click in my brain and I’ll remember what I read or heard. Then I’ll work it into my painting style. It’s like I can’t just take someone else’s way of doing it. I have to discover it for myself, in my own way and time. (That reading, or comment probably stews in my brain and at the right time, will come out.)

Since getting into pastels, I’ve been blocking in more when doing the preliminary work, but with natural landscapes, I wasn’t thinking about actual hard shapes, just a roughing in. And, too, maybe it’s the writer in me that just seeing a picture of how someone blocks in didn’t mean much, but now having descriptive words helps me see better.

I believe, too, that the universe (angels, spirit, muse, God) sends messages. It comes through to me sending me into what I call little-girl-joy of new discovery. Yet, often it’s not new, just that my brain processes it in a new way. I get that vision of my little-girl-self running home crying out with joy, “Mama, mama, look what I found!” I’m dancing inside myself with discovery.

This type of joy makes me want to jump up and get right back in the studio. It makes me want to paint or write. It fires my soul. I love that I get the messages this way instead of the old critical, negative way that came across making me feel stupid that I didn’t get it before this.

The work is a continuous journey with each piece giving me a variety of challenges. I am constantly learning, and maybe, as a writer and an artist, somehow the two have to crossover. Sometimes I can’t find the words to describe a scene I’m writing about, and sometimes I can’t really see what I’m painting without words to describe it. I am determined to find my way. 

It can be frustrating, but there’s excitement, too. I love it!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Joy of Discovery While Knowing I’ve Always Known It

This morning while journaling and writing about the progress made on my paintings yesterday, I realized something important. In one photograph, deciduous and evergreen trees were kind of mixed. I realized the deciduous have a more rounded canopy and the evergreens have pointy tops.

The little girl part of me is dancing with the excitement of discovery. This is so exciting! Why didn’t I notice this before? 

The adult logical mind brushes it off sarcastically with, “Of course, I know that about trees!” And I do know that. After all, I’m a nature-lover and I’ve been painting landscapes for years. So, how do I explain this child-like joy of discovery feeling? 

Work in process; getting the trees right is taking time
Maybe the joy is because, for some reason, the tops of those trees jumped out at me from that photo, when normally in a scene like this, I wouldn’t pay that much attention. Maybe it’s because the universe decided I needed a little child-like joy after intense stress the past few days. Maybe it’s telling me that, in this picture, I need to highlight this area as a bit of focal point. Or maybe this is, literally, an instance where my brain just acknowledged seeing “the forest through the trees.” And maybe it’s my logical mind describing in words what my eyes are seeing.

I often “just” paint the trees, especially the trees that are kind of the background landscape. My mind kind of goes numb, and I just dab away. These areas are often the parts of the painting when I say the painting paints itself. 

And maybe I can just sit back and relish in the excitement of a little-girl feeling of discovery and be happy.