Timeout for Art: Start Anywhere


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One way to start a sketch is to consider the composition, plot the edges and choose whether landscape or portrait view would best suit the arrangement. Viewfinders – which at their simplest are simply two hands, with thumbs and index fingers held at right angles to form a frame – can be helpful in making those decisions.

Another way to begin a sketch is the “start anywhere” approach: put pen to paper and draw whatever fits in the frame. Sometimes it seems like an other-worldly adventure with surprises at every turn. If brain and hand work together, it feels like one is actually traversing the terrain.

There are surprises and disappointments. The tacks on the door form a random pattern of dots that add interest; the sliver of empty space above the door is a bit jarring and would be avoided in a planned composition. There is angst (if I’d started a bit larger – or to the left – I wouldn’t be faced with trying to make sense of that jumble of fabric and paper tacked on the door).

There is a sense of honesty in a sketch like this, that is born of it’s compositional lack, the record of place and the moment.

It’s rarely a path to a “show-able” drawing, but it’s a good exercise.

Forward…and Back


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Rainy…and bright.

The August garden, a crazy circus of orange and yellow and (yes!) apricot Day Lilies, Black-eyed Susan, pink Cosmos, bright Marigolds and WEEDS, is also alive with trails of pumpkin runners, tomato plants and heavily loaded grape vines hanging over the fence. The asparagus fronds wave a golden mist in front of the drying raspberry canes. The pea plants are yellow: the last, late harvest of peas went into the soup pot yesterday. The potato plants are wilting, a sign that their work is done, and potatoes can be dug soon. The cucumbers struggle on. This rain will help.

August is a mix of living and dying.

Walking down the Fox Lake Road last evening, I noticed more of the same. The wild raspberries, just like the cultivated plants in my garden, are just about done. The milkweed is dying, putting the last of its energy into producing seed pods…but their drying flowers still perfume the air as I pass. Blackberry bushes, I am happy to announce, are loaded with green fruit. It will be ripening soon, and keep us in sweet harvest until the frost.

August is a mix of dying and living.

My sisters were here, with families and friends, to celebrate life in our own crazy ways. August is a mix in our family, too, with birthdays and anniversaries interspersed with dates associated with the death of a loved one. Strength is born of sadness, but more: through loss I have learned to cherish the moment, the life we are given, and the people I’m blessed with. I feel in every hug, every baby’s laugh and every “I love you,” a tremendous gratitude for the insight to appreciate this wild life.

A good friend lost her sister last week; another lost her brother just the day before yesterday. My friend, John, is here on Beaver Island to honor his lifelong partner, Larry, who died last year.

It’s raining today, but the sun shines through.

Life is a mix.

We must forge on.

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” (Jack Gilbert)

“It has done me good to be parched by the heat and drenched by the rain of life.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

“These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.” (Annie Dillard)



august2014 036My sisters are here!

From youngest to oldest, left to right, there is Amy, Robin, Nita, Cheryl, Cindy and Brenda.

They came with children and grandchildren, friends and spouses. Though a few can’t stay the entire week, we’ve had more than thirty people at dinner some nights! We have five little ones under four years old!

These are the best days of the whole year, for me!

I’ll get back to writing, drawing and exercise when this week is over.

For now, I’m enjoying the good company of some of my very favorite people in the world.

Timeout for Art: Sketching


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I’ve been carrying my little sketchbook around with me again.

I pull it out when I have a moment, waiting for a lunch to be served or for the dogs to have a swim.

More often than not, the meal arrives or the dogs shake off before the sketch is complete.

I started this little drawing at Livingstone Studio last weekend. Then someone came by, and we started a conversation. Then I noticed another artist was struggling to hang her work. Then I saw old friends I wanted to speak to. Then someone asked about my painting process. And on the day went, my little sketch abandoned, unfinished.

It used to bother me, having rough-looking, unfinished drawings interrupting the “flow” of my sketchbook.

It doesn’t bother me any more…that’s all a part of the story!



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I used to meet a friend on the mainland, for a couple days of shopping and conversation.

Linda would drive across the state; I’d fly off the island. We’d meet in Charlevoix. Sometimes we’d gravitate north to Petoskey, for familiar sites, family history, bookstores and restaurants. Other times we’d go south, to Traverse City, for a change of pace.

Linda usually brought her dog on these mini-vacations, so we’d take turns: one of us would go in to check out a shop while the other stayed outside with the dog.

Once, in Traverse City, Linda went in to a New Age book store. I stayed on the sidewalk.

After a few moments, Linda came out. “She wants to see you!” she said, “That psychic, she wants you to go in to talk to her!”


In my almost fifty years of association with Linda, I can count on one hand the times someone chose to focus on me over her.

Charming, charismatic and funny, with a deeper, spiritual side and a manner of listening that made any speaker feel important, everyone – from bartenders to shoe salesmen and even my own children – would rather talk to Linda!

Why had this woman asked to talk to me?

Was I in trouble?

Maybe she felt I was loitering? Surely Linda would have told her I was waiting for her.

If it was the dog – if she loved the look and wanted to know the breed or if I shouldn’t be lingering outside with a dog – I would be quick to tell her the dog was not mine.

What could it be??

I went inside. She gestured for me to come over, and offered me a seat. She leaned back in her chair and gave me a big smile.

“So…” she said, “I can tell that you see the Wee Folk.”

What would make her think something like that? What would make her ask it?

I am small in stature, perhaps it was a matter of “like is drawn to like.”

It has been pointed out to me that I smile, even when alone in my car with no one to be smiling at. Perhaps I was smiling, out on the sidewalk with the dog, and she felt it was the smile of someone who associated with Wee Folk.

Perhaps she was a fake psychic, and was trying to draw me in to her strange world by giving me weird imaginary powers.

What to say?

Any reference to weirdness or odd-ball ideas or charlatanism were out: this woman had summoned me when she could have been speaking to Linda, who actually is psychic, and understands all of it much better than I do, and who most everyone in the world would rather be talking to.

Of course I would be kind.

I considered brushing it off with a flip comment: “Some people think I am one of the Wee Folk,” but her gaze was sincere.

I told her the truth.

“I don’t,” I answered, “but I see where they live.”

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In my walks along wood-lined paths and roadways, sometimes – deep in the woods – an area glows as if lit from within, though there is no obvious source of light.

There must be a break in the canopy of treetops, that lets the sunlight through.

Of course there is a practical and understandable explanation.

But when I see a far bright spot in the center of a dark woods, with grass and leaves and mosses of diminutive size, glowing like the saints in old paintings, with twigs laid out as if by plan, I think of the leprechauns and faeries and wee folk.

If I listened hard enough, I’m sure I’d hear their music.

If I waited, I might even catch a glimpse.

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Timeout for Art: Finishing


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The aspect of art-making I like the least is matting and framing.

It’s a tedious job that I’ve been doing far too much of lately.

First, there were things to get ready for gallery openings in June.

Then there was the Beaver Island Museum Week Art Show in July.

Now, coming up on Saturday, the second of August, Livingstone Studio is hosting their “Meet the Artists” event.

It is always a fun day, with artists and art-lovers and curious on-lookers all mingling to enjoy good food, nice wine and wonderful musicians. Sometimes we even stop to discuss the art!

To prepare, though, I had finishing touches to add to several collages. Paintings needed to be fine-tuned, then varnished. Everything had to be titled, mounted, matted and framed

Between the Museum Week show and this event, though, I am sick to death of the finish work!

I’m putting it all away, now.

I think I may just close the studio door for the rest of the summer.

I’ll pull out my sketch book, and let that be enough.

Still, I have to admit, it is nice to see all my “companions” dressed up for their show!

Write Something


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Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain…and most fools do.

~Benjamin Franklin


When I started this writing practice, it was with specific intentions.

A string of deaths in my family, including two siblings, had caused me to think about my own life. Nothing, I tell you, causes a person to realize their own mortality more than the death of a sibling.

We learned that lesson young in my family, as my parents lost two babies in infancy, before their oldest child was sixteen. As brothers and sisters, we noted how those experiences changed us. We lost some of the carefree abandon of childhood. We became more aware of danger, protective of our parent’s feelings, fearful for our own babies. We all share a dark sense of humor.

We learned it again in middle age when my little brother David’s untimely death was followed less than fourteen months later by the sudden, unexpected death of my sister, Sheila.

In science, one is an anomaly…but two is a trend.

Just as I was, as a young girl, forced by circumstance to look at life differently, I found myself looking again at the years gone by…and the time I have left.

I realized that I was mostly wandering blindly through my life, letting forces beyond my control change my direction or alter my course. I noted how many years had passed when I wasn’t really noticing.

I started this writing practice as a means of changing that.

My intent was to pay closer attention, to be more aware of my surroundings and more mindful of each day. I had a few other rules: give credit; don’t be mean; use the practice to hone writing skills.

Looking over the one hundred and ninety plus posts I have published here, I have succeeded, for the most part, in my goals.

Lately, though, with distractions abounding, I’ve gotten a little lax.

The frequency of posting is not a problem: once a week, more or less, is fine with me.

I’ve noticed that, lately, much of my writing has degenerated to the level of the forty years of journal pages that preceded it: whining, self-pity, excuses and complaints.

That has got to change!

We create our world, by the way we look at it.

When something is written down, it is given even more credibility.

Some things are beyond our control, sure, but we can always control our response.

It’s time to start looking up, and to let my writing reflect that.

It’s going to get better!

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

~Benjamin Franklin