Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Detail

50"x44" (in progress)

Paint gets laid down in layers. I start with a layer of gesso on the canvas. Maybe a layer of light blue will go on top of that. Then I begin to “sketch” the composition. From there, I just sort of play with the colors and shapes, beginning with broad strokes, and gradually refining and adding detail.

This is how the moments of our lives get layered. We keep what works and we refine or erase the rest. We go through “ugly” phases, which are just part of the process.

We’re not quite finished with that part yet.


I’m working on a large canvas. It’s a common theme for me, fish swimming in the trees. I add detail, and then I may obliterate with a big brush, and try again. All of those layers are still in there. That process informs the final result. The old details still lurk within the layers of paint.

In the same way, the details of my life still swim in hidden layers, informing today’s version of me. The disappointments and unsuccessful attempts dart about in the deep end, though the surface may appear calm or reflect something beautiful.

I must learn to forgive the fish that I’ve added detail to prematurely, remembering that painting is a process. I must also be kind when I’ve made a decision too soon and find myself uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Circles

I walk in circles. I keep doubling back, or looping around to places I’ve been before. Without realizing it, I end up where I’ve been. Revisiting places that I can embrace, or at least experience again, and then loosen my grip.

A place is just a place, the glue is all in my brain. It wasn’t the place, that is just the scenery. Just the backdrop for the life that played out there. A place for people to spend time doing the things that people do.

When I’m one of the people, it takes on significance, because those moments helped to make me who I am.

So I saw the house I lived in as a child. The building we once owned. The house where I spent my wedding night.

I stood there, in the very rooms, but I was not quite the very person any more, and the rooms had all changed, too.


The paths are fairly well worn by now, and I imagine I’ll see a few more familiar sights before it’s over.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

Cow

When I was a kid, maybe 12 years old, my dad took a trip to the Holy Land with his father and his brother.

I asked him to bring me a wood carving of a cow. I think I mentioned it several times, the way I do.

It would have been so easy for him to say he couldn’t find one, and that would have been that. I wouldn’t be thinking about it some fifty years later.

But dad accepted the assignment, and later told me how he searched the markets.

So I know my dad thought of me on that trip, and that is the important part.


I still have the cow, carved out of olive wood, but my dad’s search for it is what makes it special.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Interesting

I remember, and it doesn’t seem like all that long ago, sitting in my friend’s bedroom with other high school friends. We talked about having a reunion someday in the States and bringing all our kids. Billy asked Rhoda how long she thought it would be, since none of us had kids, or even a romantic relationship.

The whole idea seemed so far away. I was still in high school and I was the oldest one in that group.

There is no way we could have predicted the path our lives would take. What seemed like a lot of twists and turns along the way, now seem so obviously the straight and only road our lives could have taken.

It’s a mercy we can’t go back and change the uncomfortable things, because then we would be someone other than who we are now. We would have missed important lessons that, while painful at the time, were necessary to get us here.

It has never been convenient for me to attend the reunions that have been held over the 4th of July, and I have nothing to prove. No one to impress. Even though I have the most wonderful kids.

The highway of my life has certainly been interesting, and I share it with whoever wants to know about it.

If I can inspire someone else in some way... to find and express their creative voice... to adopt a teen... to become a nurse... to write... then those detours and disappointments... those losses are well worth it.

When I was in high school, I didn’t think there was anything interesting about my life.


I was the artistic one, but so what. I drew funny pictures of my friends, and we all laughed. Karen kept the pictures that I didn’t value, and my high school friends still look at them and laugh.

This is what I want to do as an adult artist! I want to create images that people will keep looking at, and keep being entertained by. I had never recognized the success I had as a child and teenager. All I did was illustrate the life we had as expatriate children on a palm lined west African beach. I literally drew the events of our days as accurately as I could on notebook paper and a ball point pen.

Everyone advises writers to write what they know. My life was interesting, and it still is.

I’ve fallen into the habit of drawing again, the way I used to. I draw my kids, or local wildlife (and ligers) often with a humorous twist.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Portals

You might think that our creative impulses are just little slivers of ourselves. A little detail that gets shrugged off and just kind of sits there, separate from the artist.

I think they are more like portals. The action pulls something out of our stream of consciousness, but it is not alone. A lot more tends to come out with that gesture.

I don’t always recognize the theme at first glance, but it is there, like the tip of the iceberg. The closer I look at it, the more I begin to see.

I am not talking just about masterpieces. It applies to quick sketches, too. Especially the quick sketches, in fact. The ones that had no time to be contrived. The unintentional line that results in a shape I could not achieve by force.

I hold the moving pen, but I don’t manipulate the line. It swims out in its final form.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of quick drawings. Ten to fifteen second drawings. They’re fun to make, and often fun to look at.

I follow the path that leads me to my next big thing, and it can lead to something bigger than me.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Bigger than me

Rake

I think I’ve written about this before, but I don’t want a manicured lawn. I don’t want a carpet of green, free of weeds. I don’t want anything so precious, contrived and high maintenance!

I planted pine trees about 24 years ago, and then put up a wooden fence. The trees grew, and I put in a bonfire pit. The trees kept growing, and began to shade out the grass. They’ve been dropping pine cones into the yard, and the squirrels have been dispersing the leftover material.

My dream for my yard is to have my own private forest, complete with forest floor, right here in town. The kind of ground that recalls camping trips.

When I was a very little kid, we went camping somewhere (probably near Detroit), and I found myself alone on a path. I wasn’t afraid of being lost, because I could follow the path. What I was afraid of was dinosaurs. As I got a little older, I realized I didn’t need to be afraid of dinosaurs, and that’s about the time I started to worry about wolverines.

Yesterday, one of the kids wanted to rake. I had to convince him that I don’t want my forest floor raked up. What? Put it in a pile? Then what? Get rid of all that organic material that will become soil?

I don’t have many deciduous trees, so I don’t get many leaves. If I did, I would want them to stay right there on the ground.

He had a valid question.

“Why do we have a rake?”