Thursday, July 31, 2014

morning work {painting an old table}




I am a collector.  A large part of my artistic and creative process is in the activity of discovery and collection.  I have been understanding this with increasing depth over the past year.

It began in the fall when I was finally able to move my work and pieces of this and that into my new home studio space.  I gathered together objects that I had collected over the past several years into one space and discovered two, well maybe three things.  First I had enough stuff to open a small shop; it was way more than I could personally make use of; and what I loved almost more than the objects had been the act of gathering and collecting them.

First the discovery and collection and next the playing and arranging -- the mixing of styles, elements and materials -- in short the curation of many old and only partially usable things.

These three discoveries led me on two paths: the first was quite concrete, renting a space in a sweet and sassy little vintage shop in my village (I love that I live in a place that identifies municipalities as villages); the second a bit more abstract -- an awareness that for me the creative process is deeply rooted in activity and experience, in the gathering of objects and ideas, participation, observation and action.  It was process rather than product that I needed to focus on.

Almost one year later, I am still keeping up with the vintage shop because it is a direct outlet for my collecting bug -- a quick repository for the objects I can not pass up.  And I am farther down the path of discovery, entrenched in a process that is ever circulating and trying to be present in the experience.


with gratitude,
Joanna

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

coloring a princess {Tuesday artist date night}






This afternoon I found myself on an artist date with my daughter.  For a little more than an hour we drew, cut and colored a three foot princess on brown craft paper. 

I taped our project onto the craft table in my work space, and my first ten toes, the changer of my universe, perched on top. 

We talked little, except to exchange a few ideas.  My four year old daughter is a focused artist.  Wide green eyes and a broad smiling mouth were the first things she drew -- like her eyes always open, looking and seeing.  And her mouth wide with discovery and anticipation, smiling, mostly, as she goes, always wanting to participate; always participating.

Working with her I find my place and let her lead as we go.  I am soothed by the rubbing of crayon on paper, but more tense than I would expect to be engaging in this simple process. 

I think about the difference in our experience here at this table.  Her so focused on her masterpiece, a drawing that matches her in size, scooting over it with excitement and precision.  And me afraid of what my crayon marks will look like, not artistic enough, not saleable, not worthy of being hung on the wall.  How much purity in creation she has, how uninhibited by ideas of failure that only prevent one from succeeding. 

I feel so clearly my inhibitions, fears that restrict me even when alone in my own space with my daughter.  So in that moment I choose not to move on to another project and let my daughter finish the princess alone.  I choose to stay here at this table with her and draw silly lace with a crayon and color arms orange and purple, I choose to be present with her and with me. 


With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, July 28, 2014

a wild and beautiful morning

wild:
not subject to restraint or regulation; passionately eager or enthusiastic



stepping outside this morning I expected to be met by the warm thick atmosphere that has been so present and lingering the past many days.  But instead, cool dry air, instant relief.

I sit down on a padded chair in a protected corner of the porch, the dog follows suit and rather than running out into the yard for his morning relief, lays down at my feet.

And then I am met by something else that I did not expect -- wind -- the wild disruption of strong wind.  I immediately think of a hundred things that I can not do today because of it.  The relief of the pleasant temperature is lost and I am left with the wind and my distaste for it.  In front of me our young birch trees move wildly and I feel accosted by the sensation. 

Within moments my daughter comes through the door with the breakfast she has made for herself; a salad of baby carrots and tomatoes with parmesan cheese.  She sits down next to me and eats mostly the cheese, carefully gathering it up with her delicate fingers. 

I feel my chest tighten against this wind, even though I am mostly protected from it where I sit.  I notice how badly I want it to stop; so that my resistance will fade.  How badly I want to feel security rather than movement around me.  And then I realize, quite strikingly, that I can not control the wind, or the change or the beauty that it brings.  And so I try very hard to just sit and let the air move around me. 

The moments pass, I do not know how many, and amazingly I begin to feel movement in me.  I begin to feel softer, more pliable, peace.

In short time I hear my own beautiful windstorm coming down the stairs from slumber.  Twenty more toes, accompanied by their father, jabbering and sniffling -- joyful sounds of chaos and love.  And inside me the joyful movement of chaos and love -- more willing to be part of the greater movement. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

looking for a tractor in the fabric store

look:
{verb}
to direct your eyes in a particular direction




We don't always look in the right places for what we are seeking. 



And then again, sometimes we find what we are looking for in the most unexpected place.


With gratitude and wishes for a happy and adventurous weekend,
Joanna 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Listening {Tuesday artist date night}

 
Laying in the grass listening.
It is dark and the trees are moving in the wind.
The grass is cool.
I am entranced by the sound of the trees moving in the wind; swaying in one smooth and powerful motion, a continuous ebb and flow dictated by the movement of moving air.  

When I was a child I lived in a small house surrounded by deep woods and it was this sound that would rock me to sleep and it would frighten me when the wind grew stronger and the sound of it moving in the trees grew louder. Sometimes they would creek also with the motion, and I would grow more afraid. They were clearly more powerful than I.

But tonight, laying in this cool grass, in a place I did not know of all those years ago, fear and power are not my foes, I feel small and comforted by it.  Comforted to know that there are things more powerful than I.  

I let my body relax into the earth beneath me, I tuck a light blanket in around me and listen. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My day in Chicago {Tuesday artist date night}





{Thursday evening}

A day in my favorite city, the place I found my life, my love and me.  And I came home to an equally satisfying place.  I am tired but inspired.  I am spurred by the energy that moved me through the day; through places I have moved through before.

Late this evening, after arriving home, I let the dog out and back in, and rather than turning left to go up the stairs to bed, I was drawn to continue, down the hall and up another set of stairs to my own private sanctuary; it is in this place that I now sit, in dim light and silence -- completely full. 

I sit down to write, not draw my day.  It seems that scenes enter my mind in images and come out in words.  I am not inclined to see an apple and draw one, but to write its color and how the brief immensity of its presence is both significant and inconsequential.

Today was significant.  Significant to my memory of who I am, significant to my belief of who I am and remembering the distances I have traveled.  The paths I have walked, the long busy streets crowded with traffic; the slow trails, knowing not where they lead.
 



{Tuesday evening}

My Thursday morning date with me merged into a Thursday afternoon date with my husband in the beautiful city where we met, fell in love and began our life together.

It went like this, we were to have a couple of hours to ourselves and then meet up to spend the rest of the day together.  Basic plans made to structure our day.  But as I went about my morning on my own, with no particular plans, not caring particularly where I ended up, I began to see that the way we structured our day was a beautiful metaphor for the workings of a relationship; two people in one existence who move in and out of one another's space. 

There is always a tension between the time together and the time apart.  Longing for oneself and longing for ones-other.  It is the existence where freedom and dependence dance together, trying always not to step on the other's toes; trying not to lead out of time.   

I walked down crowded streets that I have walked many times, with no agenda but to have no particular agenda.  I was aware of the time and aware of allowing myself the freedom to be free of the minutes.

As time passed I found myself growing more in anticipation of joining my husband.  I thought about the day of our first date, in this same city, I had an exciting research appointment that lasted most of the day, it occupied my attention; but I remember vividly riding home on the bus, growing in anticipation of our upcoming time together; not knowing that we would be marking the beginning of a lifetime together. 

It has been this way throughout our relationship, this coming and going from one another.  He travels often for work, which has meant concentrated time together and apart.  It has meant constantly renegotiating our dance of freedom and dependence.  

This morning that was meant to be about me, became about clarity, in my own mind, between me and my other.  The coming and going, the longing and parting the constant interplay of interrelationship.  

I hastened my steps, bought a sandwich and went to meet him on a sailboat.


With gratitude,
Joanna  

Monday, July 14, 2014

barefoot


{written on Saturday evening}

Barefoot running in the rain with my daughter
soggy grass cushioning frenetic feet. 
Faces smiling in freedom. 
We are two souls in one laughter,
one only in what we share,
not who we are. 
Running in the rain,
feeling the motion of our bodies and our connection.


With gratitude,
Joanna

Friday, July 11, 2014

art

It is quite late in the evening after a full day that has left my mind overflowing, it is time for bed, but I need to write first.  I sit down at my table and open a notebook, words about my day flow out.  They begin simple and then become increasingly flowery and abstract.  I turn the page, a fresh sheet of paper and fresh thoughts. 

On the table next to me is a stack of old dictionaries, I have gathered them here and there.  I pick one up and begin to page through.  I love the delicate pages of this book and the light aroma of must arising from them as I flip -- I love paper, the handling of something tangible.  I turn again to the front of the book, it was published in 1953.  I flip forward again and find my word, ART.  In 1953 Webster defined it this way: human ability to make things; creativeness.  I page on; who is an artist: a person who works or is skilled in any of the fine arts, especially graphic arts. 

I close the book and pick up another, in 1935 art was this: the employment of means to the accomplishment of some end; and an artist: one skilled in any branch of high art.

I move on again, now picking up a slight book with a delicately embossed cover, on the back of the third page; copyright, 1877.  I pause, this book is older than I realized.  How far removed I am from those numbers and how captivated by them.  How, after the passage of so much time, did this small book come to arrive in my hands -- that is art.

I begin to page through slowly.  The words are tiny and accompanied by tiny, intricately rendered illustrations; acorn on page 8; air pump on page 13, and on page 22, art, no illustration: cunning or skill.  Artist: the professor of an art

Such formality, if only one of these tidy definitions communicated what it means to be an artist , if only it could capture the meaning of the art we make. 

My favorite was found in 1953: human ability to make things, creativeness.  This definition is just broad enough to mean something.  I love the inherent quality that it captures, it is a human to make and making is inherently creative.

Made like these decades old books I am holding, absorbing their ideas and compiling them into something else.  What is making but the transforming of objects or materials into something new, the process of looking, absorbing and deciding.  Producing things that elicit new ideas, new feelings, new experiences.  There is no obligation to be restrained by the bounds of beauty or academics.  At its core making is a process and it is through process that we discover; new worlds and new selves. 

With gratitude,
Joanna

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

wondrous tuesday {artist date night}




Two doors and a window, like the choices life offers.

This past week was filled with many experiences, some of them are still festering in my writing mind hoping to come out in some form or another.  But among those many experiences was not an artist date. 

Of course that time with me was in my mind and on my list; but the time I spent in its place was rich with the depth of my own family.
 
We traveled and we talked.  We spotted pink cars through the window of the moving car.  We spent wonderful time with extended family and visited, for the first time, the final resting place of long passed family now connected through the mere experience of that visit.

These connections are invaluable to me, and through them I feel more connected to me and more sure of what is important; in that way that experience reminds us of our most treasured values. 

So even though I failed in my commitment to me, I triumphed in my commitment to being present and involved in the moments I am moving through.  The choices are continuous, but sometimes saying no is actually saying yes.  And I will try again next week.

With gratitude,
Joanna

Monday, July 7, 2014

returning


I write my favorite quotes on the wall in my bathroom


I am sitting at my kitchen table, pen in hand, taking a time-out to scribble a few words and feeling paralyzed by my inclination to put some creation forward.

I want to mop the floor and make pesto, but I am not in a hurry, there is no must-do list today.

My children are sitting together watching a show, that is alright now.

I am met head on with the resistance this morning.  The fear of 'what if I do' and 'what if I don't' I feel it creeping down my arms and tightening the grip on my pen.

I get up to fill a request for cheese from the refrigerator and return.  I pick up my pen and pause. I don't have an answer --there is no start and stop it is all settling into the process.  The moving between life's requirements and our passions and learning to indulge in the places were they are one.  

The movement of this pen has softened the tension that drove it and I can feel myself settling into the intersection of art and life.


With gratitude,
Joanna

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

artist date night tuesday 


Last Thursday at the Rockford Art Museum on a date with me


In her well know book the Artist's Way, Julia Cameron introduces us to the idea of the artist date.  She describes it this way,

An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.  In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers.  You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. you creative child.  That means no lovers, friends, spouses, children --no taggers-on of any stripe...Yes your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to...
This is a practice that I have participated in on and off for years, not always calling it by name.  But now I believe it is time for commitment.  No matter your present calling, life demands so much.  And it seems all too often it is ourselves that slide to the bottom of our massive to-do lists. 

So tonight I am sitting down on my couch, dishes in the sink, laundry to do, unfinished creative projects calling to me, to commit to this relationship with myself called the artist date.  And to make it a little more interesting for me, and hopefully for you, I am going to write about them here.  So tonight is also introducing the start of my first series on the blog Artist Date Night Tuesday. I would love for you to join me on your own artist dates; or athlete/engineer/naturalist/reader/writer/lover-of-life dates, and share them with us here.  Whatever it is that moves your heart, let your heart be moved.   

So with that introduction made, here is a little about my first artist date last Thursday evening.  I must say first that I did not set out last week to start a project.  With my husband out of town for work, I decided I would take myself out to an artist lecture at a near by art museum.  Walking into the building was like a breath of clean air and an emergence into me.  The space was reflective and inspiring and made me think.  The talk, with photographer Juan Fernandez, was interesting, informative and made me think. 

Afterwards I took myself out to a simple dinner where I sat and thought some more and then I began to write.  There were ideas about what art is or should be and how being an artist fits into those ideas; who I am as an artist and what I want that to mean.  And then came the vary basic idea that I was just so pleased to be having this experience, to be considering these ideas, to be having this mental conversation with myself and my notebook.  And from that I knew how vital it is for me to do this.  It is the food.  The oxygen.  The peace.

Whenever I question the validity of self-nourishment I settle on ideas such as these; is through being inspired ourselves that we inspire each other.  Of course we matter just as much as those people and places and projects that top our to-do lists but it doesn't seem to be in our nature to believe it.  So we have to carve out time, and take dates with ourselves, just like we do with those we love, so that we can begin to believe it and live it.  To live that we matter just as much, not selfishly but honestly.


With gratitude,
Joanna