Listen to “Forest Spirit”
Bear becoming Crow
Bear wants to know what Crow knows
Crow knows how to survive and thrive
She rides time like
a surfer rides a wave
Crow teaches adaptability
Watch this, see what is reflected in my eye?
Now fly inside
Feel this, be this,
Now, do it all backwards
Go for the shiny things, you know,
Like the things you are attracted to
Become that, now let it go
Hey, I’m over here, are you listening?
What is in your peripheral vision?
See the landscape mirrored in my eye?
See yourself? You are in me, I am in you
Now lets fly in, and out, and back again,
Of course it doesn’t make sense
No questions! This ain’t a brain thing,
It’s a heart thing, a soul thing, an all or No thing
Feel that lifting sensation?
That’s your heart coming into alignment
Go toward the lifting sensation, sideways
Never approach what you want head on
Sideways is best, that’s it, you got it,
Now own it.
You adapt by owning your place in the world
No matter the when of it or the where of it
This time that time all time no time Chronos
A story worth sharing
On a recent Sunday my husband and I were installing my new old Griffin etching press into my studio. The press weighs about 600 pounds, so once I decided the placement this is where it would stay. No pressure. Just when I settle on an inch here, an inch there and I say “I think this is good” my cell phone rang. Even though I was right in the middle of making decisions and cleaning the studio and moving furniture to fit the press in, and my husband was looking at me like “okay now we have to get the press off the rollers” and the music was rocking, I answered my phone, which is not something I would normally do when I am busily engaged in a project.
The woman on the line said her name was Robin and that she was trying to place an order on my web site but she coudn’t get it to work. I asked her what part is not working and tried to pin point the problem. She began to cry. I turned off the music and held up my hand as a signal to my husband that I needed to deal with this call right now and the press would have to wait, even though I had waited two and a half years for this press.
Robin told me that she was in stage IV cancer and was in hospice care and that she just couldn’t seem to follow the steps to complete the order. She shared with me how much she has loved my work and that my images made her less fearful about her death. She said that she had a little money left and that she wanted to buy my work to give as gifts and thank-yous to the people she loved and to all the people who had helped her through this dying process. She wanted me to send the prints and cards overnight to Portland where she lived. I told her that I could do that and she gave me her order over the phone. She placed a large order and said that the giclee print of “She Let Her Words Fly Forth as Blessings like White Birds Cheering the Heart” (above) is one that she was keeping for herself because it makes her feel safe and held and had a healing quality that spoke to her heart. I was feeling choked up and very honored by what Robin was sharing with me. I asked her if there was no chance to beat this cancer and she says not at this point, there was only a little time left to her. When she said this I suddenly saw her surrounded by luminous beings with their arms outstretched waiting to catch and help her. I had only known Robin for fifteen minutes but I saw this image in my mind’s eye very clearly. So, I believe her. I told her about the vision I saw around her. She got teary and I got teary. I told her that I would get the order in the mail the first thing in the morning. We said our heartfelt thank-yous and goodbyes.
When I hung up the phone I knew that I was going to drive to Portland even though I couldn’t afford to take the time but I knew in my heart that I couldn’t afford not to. I wanted to make sure that the order got to her safely and the only way I could be sure of that was to take it to her. It took me the rest of the day to print out the giclees and to assemble the order. I would drive up Monday and back on Tuesday because I had to get the studio ready for a class on Wednesday.
I called Robin the next day and she was immediately concerned about the order. I told her that instead of sending it I was going to deliver it to her. She was relieved and so happy. She was worried that she was going to die before she could make sure the art work went to the right people. I couldn’t leave Ashland before 3:00 but I would do my best to get there between 7:30 and 8:00. This would work for her. On my drive I reflected on all the times lately that I have been thinking “Does it really matter what I do? Does what I do really make a difference?” This past year was the busiest year I have ever had. And I can really stress out trying to get things done like shows and deadlines, new art ideas, working time at the Ashland Art Center studio, time working at my home studio, teaching, home life, walking. And when I am tired I think “why am I doing it?” Then I got a call from Robin and I know why I do the work I do. I am so humbled by her situation and the fact that one of the last things she wants to do in her life is to buy my work and give it away to her loved ones. What a gift she has given me. I will remember this. I asked her how she knows of my work and she says that her counselor has several pieces of my work in her office and that her counselor saw me on Oregon Art Beat. We just can’t know how the little things we do will affect people or when. That Art Beat segment was 4 years ago.
I made it to Robin’s apartment between 7:30 and 8:00. Her best friend and care-giver Theresa was there and they both welcomed me like an honored guest. But I was the one blessed to be allowed in to this very private life and death event. I didn’t know what I was going to say to her but I wasn’t worried about it. I just knew that being fully present and just showing up is enough. I gave her a gift of a Story Art book. I wanted to give her something new so that she could enjoy it for as long as she had left. She was thrilled with the gift and she gave me a gift of a small carved wooden bear. This meeting for the first and last time was very poignant. Robin told me that when she is on the other side that she will be an advocate for me and my work. I thanked her for that and we said our heartfelt goodbyes and soul-to-soul thank-you’s.
Robin lived for another six days and she was able to give all the art work to her loved ones, including a personal note that accompanied each piece. For someone I had only known a week she has had a huge impact on my life. I am humbled and awed by her affirmation of me and my work. Thank you Robin Hall you have blessed my life and I am grateful to have known you.
I just got back from a wonderful trip to Georgia. It included family, friends, and book making classes. I also attended Peggy Rubin’s Sacred Theatre in Atlanta, where I facilitated a collage and writing exercise. The collages were all perfect for each participant and the writing was astounding. I was not surprised. When given the chance to be creative, people are creative.
I am always pleased by what people create when they are reluctant or weary of doing an art project. My goal as a teacher is to give just enough guidance and offer a safe opportunity for people to feel at ease while they create something new. There are many factors that come up for people when they step out of the ordinary and endeavor to make something creative. Some of the things that come up are:
I am not an artist.
I am not creative.
It has been too long. I am not a visual person.
What if I make something amateurish and everyone judges me.
What if I fail miserably, it is better not to even try, because then I will be safe.
Everyone else knows what they are doing. I don’t know what I am doing.
These are just a few of the things that go through our heads when we challenge ourselves to do something out of our comfort zone. Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you can not do.” I often think of this when I am scared or reluctant to do something. This feels really really (really) important; to do the thing that I think I cannot do, even if I make a mistake. Because for me it is a worse feeling not to try than it is to try, no matter what happens. When I do something that challenges me I feel alive and connected. I say to my students, “When you do art, there are no mistakes, they just lead you to new possibilities.” I will tell you a secret. I don’t know what I am doing. But, I do know what feels right and what doesn’t feel right. This I know is true. Through practice I have a strong and unbreakable trust for the creative process and for the communication that comes about when I begin to make something out of nothing. I don’t know what I am doing but I trust the process to reveal to me just what I need to know to follow the spark of an idea to its fulfillment and consequently to my fulfillment. This is Art Making.
I have never been so busy with my work nor have I ever been so driven. I mean I drive myself really hard. Is it this year 2012? Is it the sign of the times? Is it that I am realizing that I have a limited time here on earth? I don’t know but I am exploding with ideas and dreams and I am doing my best to manifest all of them. My friend Diane Ericson (amazing fabric artist) said to me recently “just because I think of an idea, doesn’t mean that I have to do it”. I keep reflecting on this statement as I am racing the clock to get everything done that I have set up for myself. When something comes into my head to do, I think of Diane’s comment and I want to let it go and not do it, but instead I think of how cool it would be to do it and so it begins.
I am driven to create the images and ideas that come to me. My husband is used to this fact about me. I can see it on his face when I say “you know, I was thinking…”. He is thinking uh oh now what does she want me to do. But he is always a good sport and he does his best to accommodate me and my ideas.
My latest project was getting a body of work together for the wall upstairs at the art center. I wanted the art to be all the same size and matted and framed the same. I wanted them all to have a story, The Story Art idea has been with me for a while. I didn’t want the text or story to be on the wall with the art like I usually do. So I came up with the idea to create a book to go with the exhibit, and I wanted it to be a nice hand-made – artist-made book. And this means me. First I had to finish the art work then come the stories. Boy, I can tell you I can get very cranky when I am working on a story and it hasn’t come into focus yet. Some stories are right there, easy, given to me like a gift. Others I really have to work for. It’s like the image is trying to be clear but I am thick headed and pressured by the timeline. Oh I can tell you this is so uncomfortable and anxious and itchy. It is enough to make me want to holler “why me! Why do I do this to myself” and then run like hell away from being an artist. Then I remember It’s not about me, it’s about the art. Its the art that is trying to realize it’s self. Art really does have a life of it’s own that is independent from me. I did say yes to art and doing my best by it. After all, I absolutely love the art of making . even though I make lots of mistakes, my imagination and drive to create something that isn’t, – is enough to carry me onward to whatever my goal is.
I don’t have too much to say right now. I think it is because I am in “art head”. I have been immersed in doing art or creatively thinking about art every day and pretty much all day. Switching gears to write takes a different part of my brain. That being said, I have been printmaking this week. I am very happy with what has been appearing on the plates. When I am printmaking by myself I can go very deep and when this happens the emerging image takes me with it on it’s journey of becoming. The “hot off the press” piece below gave me chills(in a good way). I know that there is a big story with this image and the prints that followed. I will have this piece and the consecutive pieces on display at the Art Center this First Friday. I will show all of the prints in my next newsletter. They are so “hot” that I haven’t photographed them yet.
When I am not in art head I am in “dog head”. Ursula, my dog is very good at putting pictures in my mind, like, pictures of me getting my walking shoes and keys, or of her walking on her favorite trail, or her running in the water, or her catching a ball, or of me giving her a treat. Whenever I pause and look up from whatever I am concentrating on she is looking at me and planting pictures in my head. I am not kidding. She is really good at it. And it works too because the next thing I know is that I am looking for my keys even though I am right in the middle of gluing a book or something.
I am grateful for Ursula because she gets me outside in this beautiful Fall weather. I love these cool mornings and I love 80 degrees during in the day. Today I love being an artist.
Hot off the Press
This photo is from above my sink in my studio. I made the “Trust” sign at least 25 years ago. It has been prominently displayed in my studio work place ever since. It reminds me to trust my work, my art, my self. It reminds me not to lose faith or heart in what I am doing as an artist and as a human. I hate to admit it but there are times when I do lose heart and worry about money and how to keep it flowing and not let it affect my work. There have been times when I go into contraction and fear around the lack of sales and how I will pay the bills much less buy that new press I want. I wish money wasn’t part of the exchange and I wish it wasn’t how we measure success in our society. It does get in my creative way when I feel that I have to justify myself as an artist with respect to how much money I am bringing in. I do not have the answers and I don’t know how it will all work out. I can only know where I am in this present moment and I choose to be in trust.
Along with the “Trust” sign is the “Art is Always Worth it”. This I added to the wall about 10 years ago. I don’t think of this sign in terms of money worth. I think of it as, no matter what my circumstances or my state of affairs, doing my art is of utmost importance. Art is always worth it even though I cannot always see or know the effect my art has in the world and whatever the effect or affect, this cannot be measured monetarily. It comes back to trust.
I have the “Caution Mind Your Head” because when I am in my head I am trying to know what I can’t know. I am trying to figure it all out. And when I can’t figure it out I go into worry and I back track and start doing the things the way I have always done them because this is what I know but this doesn’t work anymore because this is a new day with new challenges.
Yesterday’s solutions do not fix today’s problems. My heart just isn’t in doing something the old same way. So I try to mind my head and stay in my heart and breathe and trust. Sometimes doing all this is a lot of work just to keep myself clear enough to be an artist and allow what I am reaching for, to reach for me. This is one of the magical things about art making. When I am in trust with my work, my art, and my self, my creativity is unstoppable and alive with potential and purpose. When I am doing my art I am the best that I can be.
The “I Taught My Pet Monkey” card speaks for itself.
I just learned that EARTH without ART is, Eh?
Ashland Art Center update at Studio 2:
I am at studio 2 Tuesday, Friday and Saturday 12:00 to 5:00.I have “Creative Clippings” (bags filled with paper, print pieces cards and images for collage, scrap booking, art projects). I have originals, small and large framed and unframed. Book, books. and more books. Cards and card sets and magnets. I have giclee prints. Come see my Hot Off The Press wall, where I am displaying monoprints in process. I encourage you to drop by and visit me and the other awesome artists working upstairs and downstairs in this unique Art Center.