Monthly Archives: August 2021

Timeout for Art: Everything Else

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By some standards, this has been a good week for studio work. Often, especially in the summertime when a hundred other things can pull me away, I rarely get even an hour in the studio each day. Many days, I don’t even make it up the stairs!

This week, I’ve spent several hours every single day on art-related activities. Even though one of those days was my birthday. In spite of ripening squash and tomatoes and beans in the garden. Regardless of the blackberries hanging on the vines. And even though I still had to finish mowing the lawn, squeeze in walks with the dogs, and manage all the other stuff that makes up my life.

It seems like I should feel much more accomplished than I do. The explanation for that lies in the words, “art-related.” Because no matter how busy I was, there was no art being made. After working eight hours at my job, I came home Saturday and spent four hours mounting collages in mats. After work on Sunday, I started assembling frames, then layering plexiglas, matted art work and backer board in them. That tedious job continued through Monday and well into Tuesday. Then, each piece needed to be catalogued, and wrapped and boxed for shipping.

Last evening, I received an Email from the Lapeer gallery that is hosting my show this fall. It contained a contract to be signed, and an inventory list to be filled out. Plus – dread – a request for “quality” images to use in their promotions. So. last night, and long into the night, was spent taking photos, downloading them onto the computer, and editing them so that they could pass as “quality.” Today, it was off to the library with my master list, to hunt and peck my way through several documents.

I’ve logged more than forty hours doing “studio work” over the last five days, and haven’t done a single thing that I’d consider art-making. It’s all part of the process, though. The business aspects and utilitarian tasks are not what I thought of when I dreamed of becoming an artist, but they are necessary, too. Keeping that it mind, it was an extremely productive week in the studio!

Joy (Again…or Still)

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When you come to the letter J, in any alphabetical list, “joy” is the likely topic. This I know, because it has shown up as my subject here three times in the last few months. That’s okay. It’s a pretty good thing to write about, whether or not it shows up as a given topic. There are always plenty of things that bring me joy. In no particular order, here is my list today:

  1. The moon on any night, whenever it shows up.
  2. My morning routine, which makes me feel productive and accomplished, no matter what else the day brings.
  3. Friends, new and old. Shared memories make them all the more precious.
  4. Shared memories, with family and friends, are a joy unto themselves.
  5. A summer breeze, especially at night, brings me right back to my teen-age years.
  6. Daughters. I have two, and they are both wonderful, joy-bringing treasures.
  7. But the sound of my daughter Kate’s voice on the telephone deserves its own mention.
  8. As does a hug from my daughter, Jen.
  9. Pie.
  10. A good, rousing thunderstorm.
  11. A smoothly writing pen.
  12. The brightening sky any morning,
  13. And the rooster crowing next door.
  14. My baby sister, Amy. A card and two sweetly wrapped packages arrived in the mail from her the other day.
  15. Cool nights for sleeping.
  16. Whitetail deer.
  17. Being appreciated at work. I swear, a heartfelt pat on the back and a “good job” often feels better than a raise in pay.
  18. A brand new tablet.
  19. Poetry, when it touches my heart.
  20. Blackberries. They are ripening now here on Beaver Island, and I can easily gather a bowlful with a simple walk around the perimeter of my yard.
  21. A clean kitchen.
  22. White sand beaches.
  23. My big dog, Darla, who takes her jobs as protector, snake-killer and spoon-licker very seriously.
  24. Rosa Parks, my fat little Chihuahua who refuses to like anybody but me.
  25. Blackie Chan. This most recent addition to my dog family is a charmer. My heart swells at his earnest efforts to please.
  26. A freshly mowed lawn.
  27. A nice camp fire.
  28. Corn on the cob.
  29. Pencils, with a sharp point.
  30. A quality pencil sharpener.
  31. Wild turkeys crossing the road in rows.
  32. Smooth white stones.
  33. My sister, Robin, who never swears, and has a sweet laugh and great style.
  34. Milkweed. It’s mop head flowers have the nicest scent, that perfumes the air on my walks down the Fox Lake Road.
  35. A bowl of cereal with fruit, as a snack before bed.
  36. Good books, of any genre. Right now, I’m reading Presence by Amy Cuddy, In the Wake of the Plague by Norman F. Cantor, The Paris Girl by Natalie Meg Evans, and (on Audible) Dangerous Old Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
  37. My little tablet, that allows me to listen to audio books while walking the dogs.
  38. Stubby screwdrivers. They are easier on the wrists when – like now – I have a lot of metal frames to assemble.
  39. Short-handled paint brushes for the same “easier on the wrists” quality.
  40. A good thermos.
  41. Hot coffee.
  42. My coffee cup, adorned with blackberries, vines, and blossoms.
  43. Newly-framed art work. Sometimes it is so greatly improved by the frame, I can hardly believe it’s my own!
  44. Beans. My vines are finally starting to produce, and fresh-from-the-garden beans are always a pleasure. Last night I cooked a mess of them with a slice of bacon and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a very pleasurable simple supper.
  45. My sister, Cheryl, who inspires me with her organization, enthusiasm and energy.
  46. Live music.
  47. Old movies. Not vintage-old, just nostalgia-old. Like E.T., or Jaws.
  48. The deep blue color of the water this time of year.
  49. My older sister, Brenda, who I cherish for a million reasons, only one of which is the fact that she is older than me.
  50. Peaches, when they’re not quite ripe.
  51. Grandchildren, in general, and mine in particular:
  52. Michael,
  53. Brandon,
  54. Madeline,
  55. Tommy, and
  56. Patrick.
  57. Maple trees.
  58. Ice cream, in a cone. Double chocolate almond is my current choice.
  59. Chocolate of almost any kind.
  60. Almonds. Whether in ice cream, as a bit of crunch in a salad, or tossed into a pan of fresh green beans, almonds are always welcome.
  61. Pistachios, of course. Whenever I’m talking about nuts, pistachios have a place in that discussion.
  62. The family farm.
  63. My brother, Ted, who writes the nicest, newsy letters.
  64. Cousins. There is always a good connection, and a little different perspective on shared history.
  65. The CBS News “Eye Opener.” They promote it as “your world in 90 seconds,” and that’s often just about all I can stand of the news!
  66. Mail. I love finding envelopes in my mailbox. Even junk mail. Even bills.
  67. Perfume.
  68. Slip-on shoes. Because, life is too short to have to mess with shoelaces!
  69. Birthdays. I used to hate when mine came around, but that has changed somehow. Tomorrow, I’ll be sixty-nine years old, and joyful about all of the sixty-nine items on this list!

Istanbul

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I have been committed, this year, to posting a blog only a couple times a week. I aim for a regular post on Sunday, and an update on art and creative endeavors on Wednesday. Lately, because it’s summer, and I work long days on the weekends, my Sunday blog has migrated to Monday. Likewise, my Wednesday post can be found on any day around the middle of the week, if at all. I give myself a lot of leeway in the summertime. With expanded work hours, added household chores in lawn and garden, plus frequent visitors, a little grace is in order.

For my Sunday – or Monday – blog, I’ve been using an alphabetical list from the Table of Contents of David Whyte’s book, Consolations. With exceptions. I squeezed in a few other topics, when the spirit moved me; I sometimes used the same title twice, to further expound on a idea; and I took a month away from this list, to write from another alphabetical list. Still, for me, not bad.

I had taken up the Table of Contents list because, after writing a blog for almost ten years, I felt I was running out of material. My life is not that eventful! It seemed like even the weather was repeating itself! So, having a list to draw from would be helpful, I thought. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it was almost serendipitous, how the topic presented fell right in to place with other things going on in my life. Other times it was more of a struggle, but always better than scrambling wildly for something worthwhile to write about. Until today.

Today, the topic presented is “Istanbul.” What?! How can we go from ordinary ideas, like “Heartbreak,” “Hiding,” and “Honesty” to “Istanbul?” And what in the world could I say about that? I know only a few things.

If I dig deeply into my memory, and long-ago Art History classes, I can tell you that the city that is now Istanbul was once Byzantium, and the heart of the Byzantine empire. The Roman Emperor, Constantine, renamed it New Rome, but that quickly changed to Constantinople. It was overrun by the Turks in the 14th century, and became a part of the Ottoman empire. Christian churches, including the massive Hagia Sophia, which had itself been built over the site of a pagan temple, were converted to mosques.

The Encyclopedia Britannica informs me that Istanbul is the largest city and principal seaport of Turkey. That, for more than 2,500 years, the city has stood between “conflicting surges of religion,┬áculture, and imperial power.” And that, “for most of those years it was one of the most coveted cities in the world.” So, there it is: everything I care to share about Istanbul!

Timeout for Art: Progress

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Most times, in my world of art-making, I want to tally up what is finished. A dozen new works for the Beaver Island Gallery’s seasonal opening. Eight framed pieces for the Museum Week Art Show. Two dozen completed collages waiting to be matted and framed. It’s satisfying, and encouraging, to note what is done.

More often, though, the most notable aspect is simply progress. I have a lofty goal of having one hundred pieces, completed, framed and ready to be hung, for an upcoming show in my home town. My count right now is sixty-nine pieces, though they are not yet ready for the walls of a gallery.

I have a complex spread sheet. It lists descriptions, titles and finished sizes, plus mat dimensions and frame type. There are boxes that I check off when a mat or frame is ordered, when it is delivered, and when the assembly is complete. There is another box that is ticked when a piece is boxed and ready for travel. And, of course, there are several lines waiting for the 31 pieces yet to be completed, to meet my goal.

In addition. I am working out how to get my work from here to there. Ideally, I’ll be able to transport it myself, help set it up, and attend the opening. There are still issues to work out on that front, including time off work and finding someone to take care of my dogs while I’m away. Plus the logistics of shipping several large boxes to the mainland, loading them (and fitting them all) in to the vehicle I use on the mainland, and driving three hundred miles. If I can’t work that out, in some fashion, I’ll be faced with shipping costs.

This week, I have company. And, I have more visitors coming. And two jobs. Three elderly dogs. I am not yet overwhelmed. I am not panicked. But I can feel it, bubbling up, just under the surface. I handle it by avoiding looking at the whole picture. I just keep plugging away, and continue ticking off items as they get done.

In this busy season, it’s not completion that I’m looking at, but progress. Because, with daily progress, I’ll eventually get there.

Honesty

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Honesty is one of those concepts that hides a dark side. Of course, honesty is a virtue. It’s a valued characteristic in friends and associates. We all like to be considered honest; we strive for honesty in most areas of our lives. We begin sentences with, “Honestly….” to add a bit more credibility to whatever comes after.

A lack of honesty is an often-named character flaw that carries a great deal of weight. If someone is not trustworthy, they are not a good candidate for friend, spouse or employee. When you hear, “I don’t think they can be trusted,” even if it’s just a feeling or an intuition not based on actual behavior, all kinds warning bells go off. We never want to get too close to a dishonest person.

Still, we all know someone who is “a little too honest.” Usually that refers to someone who will not pretend to like your new haircut, or your fashion choices. Sometimes, it refers to an unwillingness or inability to soften the edges of their viewpoints for the sake of amiable conversation. Sometimes it is simply a comment on their bluntness. That’s because, though we revere honesty, most of us partake in a good dose of dishonesty as well.

I know that I do. “My pleasure,” I’ll say in response to a thank you for any number of difficult and unpleasant tasks I perform at the hardware store. “No problem,” is my answer to most apologies, though sometimes the inconvenience was great. “Beautiful,” I have offered, to color choices or design solutions that would certainly not be my own.

These are small indiscretions, and I excuse myself for them. Cutting and threading pipe, for instance, is not a pleasure, in any sense, but I do enjoy some aspects. There is reward in doing my job, satisfaction in being able to accomplish a specific task, and true pleasure in being able to help a customer. Being kept waiting, or being pushed or bumped or stepped on is not nothing, but when it’s not purposeful, and followed by “so sorry,” it really does seem inconsequential. And, is it really dishonest to appreciate someone else’s choices, simply because they would not be my own? I don’t think so.

My greatest dishonesty comes in a different form. I am notorious for “selective sharing.” Though I write about myself and my life on a regular basis, and often post photos on social media, you shouldn’t get the feeling that you know me too well. I’m pretty good at showing the good parts, and hiding the things that I don’t like. I can zoom in on a photograph, to show off an area of garden, without a single weed in sight. I can post a picture of a prepared meal, without showing the stack of mail that is sharing the table with it. While allowing viewers to assume that I will sit at the table to eat, rather than at the desk, in front of the computer, watching gossipy videos.

My daughter is coming for a visit tomorrow, with her son, and a couple friends that I haven’t met before. Today, I’m cleaning house. I’m washing sheets, sweeping floors, and polishing sinks. I’m clearing small collections of dead bugs out of the light fixtures. I’m doing tasks that have been neglected for so long, they aren’t even a part of my weekly cleaning routine. Honestly, I don’t even have a weekly cleaning routine. My goal is to welcome them into a sparkling clean house, and to greet them with, “please excuse the mess…” That’s just how dishonest I am!

Hiding

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Hiding is a concept I was very familiar with as a child. There were lots of incentives. I could take cover to escape from the unwanted attention of younger siblings; I would lie low to get out of household chores. As a loner in the midst of a large, noisy family, I was regularly looking for ways to escape. Often, I would hole-up simply to have time away from the fray, to read, or write, or draw. Sometimes I’d seek out a hiding place just to sit by myself for awhile. And, of course, there were games of Hide and Seek.

Our two-story house had nooks and crannies that seemed perfectly designed for hiding. The linen closet was built under the stairs. The top shelf was shallow, the next one deeper, and on like that to the bottom, that was as deep as the staircase. That’s where my mother kept her Kirby vacuum cleaner, folded into its horizontal position. When the vacuum cleaner was in use, though, that long, low spot was perfect to crawl into. Any of the beds offered a similar space for laying-down hiding. The space under a crib, though, with the side rail down, made a little room that was tall enough to sit, and with bars to peek through.

In one of the upstairs bedrooms, sturdy, deep, built-in shelves occupied the space above the stairs. The top shelf was my favorite “get-away.” I would curl up in that high space for hours, a book my only companion. From that same room, it was possible to squeeze through a narrow opening at the back of the closet that led into a narrow, slant-roofed side attic. When I was mad at my whole family, I imagined “running away,” and living in that attic space. From there, I’d be able to sneak down to the kitchen for food when everyone was asleep. Also, crucial to the fantasy, I’d be able to hear them wailing for me, missing me, and regretting whatever they’d done to cause me to leave.

Outside, there were many places to hide. If the corn in the garden was tall, a child could get lost among the stalks. The yard had trees, sheds and a grape arbor that could offer cover. The orchard, tucked away behind the garage next door, was like being in another world. Fields and woods surrounding the yard opened up many other possibilities.

There were rules, of course. Children couldn’t go down the road out front without specific permission, and most of the time, they weren’t even allowed to go near it. Time in the garden was not restricted, but because it was associated with weeding, watering and harvesting chores, it didn’t hold a lot of appeal. The field, with tall grasses, berry brambles, paths and thickets was perfect for hiding, as well as for games and adventure. As children, we could explore, as long as we were always able to see the roof of our own house, and hear our mother call.

Once, as a child, I picked a big bowl of peas, and sat down beside the black shed to eat them. It was warm, and shady. The peas were delicious. When I finally got up and made my way to the house, everyone was seated at the table. Supper was being served. I was in big trouble. “Your mother has been calling you for a half hour,” my father scolded, “we couldn’t find you!” He was sure I’d been hiding. Though the shed was between me and the house, I wasn’t far away, and hadn’t deliberately concealed myself. I honestly had not heard anyone call. At the time, I was puzzled by it. Now. I understand perfectly, as it happens to me all the time. Lost in my own thoughts, I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me. Now that I think about it, it is kind of like hiding.