Dec 29, 2010


The holidays are mostly over, I just turned 37, my apartment is complete enough to ignore all ensuing tasks for several weeks if necessary and it's time to make paper. I have two batches of pulp waiting for me at home. I made them a week ago and have been stymied by my desire to make book pages that go together. All my practice at making pages that don't necessarily make sense and somehow I have fallen into my old habits. Well, it would be nice to finally make a whole book. The photo above is a collection of sketches I made after I made the pulp, thinking I wanted to use the Before Coffee poem that I just painted. I felt like there was some promising illustrations brewing there but I couldn't figure out how to be spontaneous with the actually making of pages if I had illustrations all planned out.

Yesterday I went for a long walk in the forest which reminded me of how I most like to live and make art. So today when I sat down to work I went with my first impulse: tracing paper, pencil, and writing about the moments from the walk that were still fresh in my mind. Next impulse: type it up and edit out the fluff. Then it was time to get ready for work but I feel a book beginning to form within me. And I feel like all I have to do is keep following my next impulses. We'll see how it goes.

Birthdays are always a really good time to take stock of ones progress in life and get really uptight or depressed. I had a brief moment yesterday when I thought something was terribly wrong for the fact that I am not redecorating a home I've owned for many years and watching children I reared graduate from college. Then I went into something like Tortilla Flat consciousness. It's a story by John Steinbeck and I read it so long ago I can't tell you anything meaningful about the plot or the characters. But it was the first time my mind opened to the fact that ambitions and success, and not even health or intelligence are what make us happy. Being with life as it is in the moment is the real joy. Of course, in the novel the characters used a destructive amount of alcohol to achieve their bliss, but it left a lasting impression on me that has not translated into such abuses. Instead it just promotes this intense endearment in me toward all my past failures, poor decisions, and lack of worldly ambitions. Then I can appreciate my life as it is without needing to pretend like it is some act of transcendence that I should live so simply.

Dec 21, 2010

Before They've had Coffee.

A woman walking. 
The forest is dark.  
No one has thought the trees 
into existence yet, 
so the woman slips between 
their naked spirits.

Of course the first thing I do upon settling into my tiny apartment is begin a large painting, 30'' x 22''.  But I had several things going and it all works, and is so much fun. Who knew being organized would be so fun? It is distracting having my life and art take place in the same room. It is easy to get side-tracked by the claw foot tub. It is also easy to get sidetracked by the unfinished painting and let the noodles overcook.

This is another one of those paintings that makes me feel like I am finally beginning to make the work I want to make. For as often as I feel that way you'd think I'd be deep into this work, but it runs from me as I chase it. Always the task seems to be presence. If I am present with myself and the materials and let go of ideas, painting is satisfying. All of life seems to be that way and somehow I come up with more and more excuses to think and fret. Oh well. Here's the under painting:

Dec 20, 2010

Getting Settled

The moving-in process is one that grows exponentially. The small space leaves little room to hide from boxes and piles and paintings leaning against the wall waiting to be hung. And I've had to start my kitchen over from scratch which requires constant trips to the thrift store for the occasional find of a necessary tool in good shape. Of course I'm also adjusting to a much longer commute to work, an hour on the bus instead of a 20 minute walk. Aside from taking full advantage of the claw foot tub, I have had precious little down-time. 

The time I have spent painting is reassuring, I really like my new space: lots of light and the parking lot outside, rather than being a drab feature, lends an active energy. This is not a place to hole up and gaze at my own navel with existential questions, but a place to participate in life. 

At some point in my apartment search I realized that I wasn't looking for particular features as much as I was looking for good energy. Apartments that don't have any place for energy to linger were easy to dismiss because I felt so unsettled in them. Ones with stagnant energy were challenging because they felt really good to be in since I am sort of cat-like and gravitate to stagnant chi. But I always had some reservation that made me hesitate to apply. 

The one I chose felt totally neutral. My brain had a few reservations but the rest of me wanted to apply for it very badly. I was hoping for the decision to come obviously from my heart and I was afraid that my eagerness was just impatience. My heart however, was quiet so I had to go on my best guess. I had to decide if I wanted to hold out for the possibility of something better, or follow the energy in me that was trying to say, Now...this is a perfectly good place for you to live your life, you don't need to manifest some dream apartment on a shoe string budget. Well, who could resist such down-to-earth advice? Though, I think I am manifesting a dream apartment, it's just different than I had imagined, probably better, too. 

These photos are close-ups of a window shade I made out of my handmade papers. Individually they look kind of like paintings, mmm....

Dec 13, 2010


Today I am not an artist, mystic or trying to achieve some special feeling. I am alone on the gravely beach in the snow. I am a wreck by the world's standards. Everyone could decide they hate me, that I have a social form of leprosy. My heart would break several times a day but I could still come here and sit.

I have spent the last week moving. Quite a chore, but I really like my new place. It is the smallest apartment I have ever lived in, about 320 square feet. It is well laid out so I was able to set up a cozy living space with a nice table to work on and even a place to make paper in the bathroom. I used to think that I needed a separate studio to work in but now I am content with a system called putting things away. Many artists, at least young ones, do not like to clean-up or put their tools away, they want to be messy and "spontaneous." For some people this truly is a part of their nature, but for some of us it is just laziness. I find that cleaning up and putting away is a good meditative time to keep my work grounded in reality. It is sort of like paying respects to the endeavor.

I came across some old work in the process of moving. This is an ink painting I did while visiting Eld inlet everyday. It is rough but I love it.

Dec 4, 2010

The ground hardened into winter. She walked under the melting sky.

This did not turn out anything like I was imagining, but I like that the unpredictableness of watercolor over acrylic and handmade paper makes things feel earthy. It seems to have the some rusty quality of trees in mossy, wet northwest.

Dec 1, 2010

Each Tree

Each tree, its own asymmetrical song of time.

I've decided to embrace redundancy. It is a totally normal thing for artists to do variations on a theme for whole series and even entire careers. Somewhere I got the idea that every piece I made had to say something different and look very different than my other pieces. Of course then I worried about whether or not there was any cohesive voice to my work. Now I'm going to be content making art about trees and talking about how beautiful they are with little variation. I have already overused the word soft in my writing...why not make it a motif?