Sunday, August 30, 2009

Passionate Repose

One of the first books I read about the steps one needed to take to become a professional artist started out by asking the reader to determine if he/she were passionate enough. It stopped me in my tracks. Passion?


That's a pretty big word, full of sweat and temper and ... stuff.

Since then I've read other books, blogs and journals about the trials and travails of the artist's life. Nearly all of them encourage, warn, advise or admonish the reader to find, dig up or uncover passion. Live on it! Let it drive you! Run headlong into your life! Be intense!

I believe what the world needs more of is calm repose.

I'm just now back from two weeks off. Fourteen days of not working in my studio. And honey, I'm hear to tell you, it's fantastic.

I did not do one extreme, emotional, fiery, thing. Read a couple of books. Pulled weeds, washed windows. Watched Handsome Husband fish. Watched two Fine Young Men get sunburned. Watched movies. Picked tomatoes. Visited family. Allowed three really nice people to buy some of my art. The strongest feeling I drummed up was when I got up in the morning..."Ooh, goodie, coffee!"

I eased through the day. I sat and thought. I practiced tranquility. Every now and then I'd move - not much, but enough that the squirrels didn't try to bury acorns between my toes.

I believe in calm repose. I believe it's necessary. I believe we should do it often and with great regularity, daily even.

If I spent time in a passionate dither, would I have time to look at the cottonwood tree across my alley and study the way the leaves changed color when the breeze ruffles through them? Does passion allow contemplating the color in the shadows as they creep across my yard? How do I sit very still in the early morning and catch the sun's first rays on the very tip-top leaves of my maple tree if I'm all wiggly with aspiring fervor?

Passion's fine for teenagers, but it seems to me that what the grown up art world needs more of is deep breathing of the yoga variety. Slooooow down.

Allow time to let the sun cross over your feet while you sit in the garden. Allow your heart to beat slowly. Allow your muse to come to you slowly, surely and confidently.
Allow yourself time to think, time to ponder, time to enjoy your artistic expression.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Birthday List

As you remember, last week was my birthday, which means it's time for another Grateful List.
One item for each year. (Yeah, I know, it's kinda long.)
My Official Grateful List for 2009:
Number 1 - always - my family. All of you.

The rest, in no particular order:

coffee shared with good friends

fresh vegis from my garden - or anyone else's garden for that matter

Angela, Robin, Marcy & Nicole at Graham Gallery

good books

soft blankets on chilly nights

good paint brushes

friends. all of you.


time to relax

calm water

people who make me laugh


Grandpa's recovery

excellent food shared with friends

good framers (Warren Cradduck, Lincoln, Ne., and everyone at Graham Gallery)

cool evenings

a garden full of black-eyed susans

comfortable shoes

good jeans

long car rides with good friends

fresh corn on the cob

honest politicians

smart blogs

my easyl plein air easel

a butterfly bush full of butterflies



modern medicine




understanding that comes with prayer

smart people

eye glasses

starry nights

pre-packaged mulch

folks who build stuff

good haircuts



offers of help

mechanical pencils

Burkholder Project

people who know how cars work

good teachers


digital cameras

hot showers

plain t-shirts

clean windows

people who read my blog

It's amazing how quickly I came up with this list. It's a great way to celebrate, and an excellent exercise in, well, remembering how great we have it. Try it for yourself.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

What are you grateful for this year?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We Reached 100

Whew! It’s complete, done, over. Finis!
Mavis Penney, Canadian painter-coach-mentor-friend and I set out on March 2nd, 2009 to paint one 5 x 7 painting each weekday until we had 100 completed paintings. We’ve been posting them daily since then.

Day 2 - Early March 2009

"By painting each day for 100 days I hope to learn about that which exists off the beaten path, to learn about seeing, to learn about myself."

This is the statement I shared at the beginning of this 100-day challenge.

So that leaves me asking myself that question: What did I learn?

Certainly I learned about mixing colors and making brush strokes and preparing 100 gessoed boards. Loosening brushwork and pushing colors beyond reality was almost necessary after awhile. Painting trees purple or skies yellow was less a risk than an allowing of something that was natural to me. It was nice to have an outlet to allow that expressiveness.

I learned to look for color, beauty and interest where my intellect, and neighbors, said there were none. And most often I found what I was looking for.

Day 6 Raccoon Skull

I learned that sometimes is okay to do something because all the cool kids are doing it. Now that I’m one of the cool kids, I find I don’t need it so much. I am a daily painter for sure. I just don’t see a need to finish a painting every day. I prefer to let things settle a bit, and return later with a fresh eye. Working out a color choice or a composition needs peaceful consideration. It’s hard to do when the clock is ticking.

I learned that doing scary, challenging things can lead to unexpected outcomes. New opportunities have opened themselves to me because of the relationships, energy, and pile of paintings this project has brought about. (Mavis and I are included in a very cool site called Following the Masters, hosted by Michele Burnett. I'm also a new member of the Burkholder Project, due, in part, to the stack of daily paintings I brought in to show Anne Burkholder. )
I learned to know when I'm licked, and by the 74th day I was toast. I learned to allow myself a rest. After all, this was only a painting challenge, not building the Great Wall of China against Mongol invaders.

I learned to take what I do seriously, but not to take myself too seriously.

I learned that setting challenging goals is important for my - or anyone's - personal growth. I believe now that achieving them is maybe not so necessary. The triumph, at least for me, was in the honest attempt. Dealing with inconvenient time frames, the anxiety of starting and finishing constantly, the emotional roller coaster of delight and disaster (sometimes within minutes of each other) and deepening faith in myself despite looming doubt is the true hard work of what Mavis and I chose to do.

Day 100 - Across the Pond 2009

We're done with our 100 paintings in 100 days challenge. As Mavis suggested to me, I'll let out a yelp of triumph and allow myself a dance across the room.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy Birthday!

I know you've all been waiting anxiously to see who gets my Great Big Shiny Birthday Gift.

Handsome Husband was kind enough to draw a name out of a cereal bowl on his way to bed.

The winner of Day 95 - August Cottonwoods is...

Karine !! Woo hoo sweetie!!
Thanks to all of you who commented this past couple of weeks. I appreciate all your birthday wishes.
Karine, just as soon as I'm through blowing out candles and licking the cake icing off my chin I'll package up your new painting and mail it to you. Congratulations!