Listen to “Forest Spirit”
“The Humble Ms. Kitty Takes a Bow”
“J. Fox Takes a Walk with His Imagination”
“Imagination through art allows for magic to happen, lifting the spirit and the heart during these uncertain times“. This is the title I chose for the up-coming exhibit at the Ashland Art Center that opens this Friday. The art that has come through me over the past few months has been cheering me up. I hope it has that affect on you too. My four year old Grandson, Jasper, inspired “J.Fox takes a walk with his Imagination”. On our walks together, he reminds me of treasures to find and magic to see. His imagination is vivid and strong. And it is a balm for my heart. I am reminded how important it is to nurture imagination, not just in children but in all of us. It is one of the joys in life. It is through imagination and dreams that new ideas are formed. If you can imagine it you can make it happen.
“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality“. Jonas Salk
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus“. Mark Twain
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination“. Albert Einstein
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will“. George Bernard Shaw
Sorry, I got carried away with the quotes. You get the idea. I say in my presentations and in my book, “Drawing On The Dream”, that I have a strong imagination and I am not afraid to use it! I am not afraid to trust my imagination either and let it reveal itself through my art and put it on display for others to see, feel and experience.
Because we are so bombarded by the media and bad news, and social media, I worry that we are losing our ability to see and imagine good outcomes in our world. God knows I struggle with this and I am at times devastated by the senseless cruelty done by people in our world. But, I refuse to give in to this hopeless view. My art is demonstrating a different point of view, a different outcome, a different possibility. I have a life affirming, magical, imaginative, story to tell. Honestly, it takes everything I’ve got to pull these characters and visual stories past all the barriers of worry, judgements, sad news, sick friends, doubts, fatigue, distractions and so on. This is my task as an artist and human- to not lose hope, to not give in, to stand my ground and fearlessly use my imagination and abilities to enhance our world. For our children and grandchildren’s sake and for the good of all beings.
Here’s to lifting spirits and hearts everywhere.
“Bear at Rest Tossing Worries Aside”
I don’t begin with an idea, I begin with a feeling.
Lately I have been thinking that I don’t deserve the praise that people share with me about how my work affects them. They are full of praise and I thank them but the plain truth is, I haven’t been doing my real work. I feel like a fake. Maybe my best work is behind me? Am I worthy? Oh, these doubts that come up are so tiresome. I don’t know If I am worthy but I will not let these uncertainties stop me. I never have and I never will.
A lot of things are on my mind. Worries of one kind or another, not least of which is the fact that it has been a while since I have worked on a monoprint in my own studio, by myself. It is amazing that being an artist/business person/and teacher, keeps me away from my real work as an artist. Supply and demand, demand and supply. It is nice to be able to make a living as an artist, but its weird that this keeps me from my work in the studio. I take a deep breath and let it all go because this is sacred studio time and there is no room for second guessing or doubts, or worries.
Today I light and burn sage to set my mind and body at ease. I ring my sweet bell to bring me into this present moment. I breathe deep. Finally, I have a day with no demands on my time. I make a prayer for my work and set a silent intention to be here now. For this is my path to the sacred. An art prayer. Allowing the ink to speak to me and bring forth something that I need to know right now. To let magic happen if it will. I begin with a large plate, 18 X 24. I haven’t done a large print in a while. I know that it is a major commitment of time and physical energy. The nice thing about it is that working large gives me room to draw. And so I begin.
I am scraping the ink on the plexiglass plate with a palette knife and turning the plate around and around making marks and sliding the ink across the plexiglass plate. With a brayer I roll on black ink, here and there, giving the drawing a little depth. Shapes are beginning to emerge for me and I see an eye and a black snout but I feel that there is something more. There are two images that occur, a bear and a dog. An hour or two have gone by and I am starting to feel a bit anxious. I don’t know which to choose, or perhaps there is something else that I can’t see yet. I breathe and know this is the process. It has always been the process and always will be the process. Slow and wrenching. I am sure about one thing and that is, I trust myself and what will come. I trust my process. In my head I am saying to myself “It is okay, everything is fine. Just breathe and trust.”
Finally after looking at the plate from many different angles, I choose the dog
I immediately know in my body that it is not the right choice. This is hard to describe but sometimes I find my way by a wrong choice. I will have to reroute the drawing and inking by wiping and adding, while not losing the thread of what I have and see on the plate. At this point, what this is, is still emerging out of chaos. I am trying to breathe an decide how to do this when I am interrupted by a visit from my daughter and and baby Esme` and three year old Jasper. It is a short visit. I love them so much and I always love a visit. I hate to tell them that I am in the middle of something in the studio. They understand. From the distraction and break I worry that I will lose my momentum with the piece. Wow, those tiresome old worries never give up. I do not allow myself to worry or panic. I am determined that the image will be there.
It was actually good to step away from the piece because this allowed me to have a fresh perspective when I returned to the work. I am still in what I call, art head, or perhaps its the zone, or where the luminous door opens to allow the conversation with the art soul, or heart soul. It’s like I am a little sideways. I am looking ahead but I am seeing with different eyes. Art eyes. A part of me is inside the drawing or the image that is trying to emerge. I am trying to hear and see with different senses. I know that I know how to save and use my mistake of my dog choice. I dive back in to curiosity to see what will happen. I go back to the eye and the snout but most importantly, the eye. I have decided to bring the bear back to the front. Bear in a boat.
The eye stays. It is my life line to the emerging story. This is the right direction because my body says yes. I spend the next 5 hours drawing and coaxing the image with a black brayer, a fork, a rubber pencil tip, and Q tips. I add ink and then wipe it away. This is a bit like sculpting.
Definitely a boat. I wonder what Bear is holding in his/her lap. What is the story. I breathe, I relax, I stop myself from thinking. I breathe into my belly. Trees come into my mind and my body says yes. A tree, or trees. What about a forest? Yes. Now it is starting to flow. What about a companion. Raven. Is that an angel, planet, or moon above raven. I am not sure.
I see creatures emerging in the forest and birds in the trees. I don’t want to do much more to the drawing on the plate. I like the freshness of the lines and the texture of the ink. I like leaving some mystery. I like the feel of it. It is time to pull a print.
Here is the print:
So far this is what the piece has told me:
Bear in Mind – Bear and Raven float on a cosmic sea of wonder and shifting possibilities. Bear is the universal seed star within the cosmic womb of life and Bear carries the heart garden and soul forest within her body for safe keeping. She is attuned to the music of the spheres and knows her way by the pathways created from the cosmic dance of life coming in and out of existence through the upheaval of exploding stars. Ah, this is the way of it. Holding on and staying together through the sea change, no matter what, we are in this boat together.
Once I have pulled the print there is still an image and ink left on the plate. I add a little more black ink with a small brayer to some areas that need it like the crow/raven. It has been a very long day. I roll the oily blue ink over the plate to protect it until tomorrow when I will be adding more drawing and color. I am excited to see where this piece will take me tomorrow.
July and August 2018
Okay, here’s the thing, don’t judge me, I play solitaire to cope when I’m stressed and when I want to distract myself. When I have just told off my Dad. When my art projects are at a stand still and unresolved. For the art stories as yet unwritten with a deadline looming. For the things I can’t get to. For the endless mind blurring, joy sucking, smoke filled valley that we have lived with for most of July and all of August. Day after day. For the first time, since living here (thirty five years) I am thinking I need to have a “Grab & Go Bag” of essential documents, treasures, photos, food, and survival gear, ready to grab at a moment’s notice. What do I take? What is necessary besides the family and the animals? The terrible fire in Redding, California has made us all think that this could happen here. It’s a worry and a stress.
The smoke kept me indoors. I admit I had a bit of cabin fever. Though I spend my time in my studio I can’t work on my monoprints in process. I just can’t think clearly enough to concentrate on these pieces. I blame the smoke.
When I am not playing solitaire to forget about the smoke or the other things I do to distract myself. I look around my studio and see things that I have collected or saved, intending to finish them one day. Well that day has come. I am dipping old paint brushes, that I have been saving for years, in paint and hanging them up to drip and dry. I have no idea why I am doing this, except that it makes me happy. No other reason what so ever. I am trying not to judge myself. Life is hard, I can’t go outside. My friends are traveling, getting away from the smoke. I can’t leave because I am teaching the next two weekends and the classes are full.
I spy some figurines in my studio. Some are broken or have been given to me by friends or inherited from my mother. I have the idea to switch their heads. I think to myself “what would people think if they saw me cutting the heads off little figurines” Yep she’s finally completely lost it. But I am enjoying myself. I love switching the heads on these figurines. I have saved them from a boring life and re-purposed them. A change of mind. A different point of view. And like the paint brushes, I am doing it because it makes me happy. No other reason and this is reason enough.
The Altered Figurines have taken over my studio and now they have their own life. I have created little books for each of them. And will be showing them at the Art Center for first Friday September 7th 5 to 8. They will only be on display for a short while so I hope you will be able to come and see them.
The smoke finally cleared and so did my head, I was able to finish all of my new monoprints and mixed media pieces for the Art Center. Yay! https://www.ashlandartcenter.org/
You can now order my book from your local bookstore, Amazon, and from my web site shop.
or My Migrainal Summer
or Death walks beside me while life swirls around me.
My youth and the energy of youth is gone. I simply was too busy to notice. I seriously don’t know how this happened. One day at a time. Imagine that. But it was so fast. Zoom, here I am older. People die, life goes on end of story. I am here for a limited time. Time is not on my side and there is so much to accomplish.
I forget to breathe. Slow down and breathe. I am breathing in, I am breathing out. I am moving through my life with a sense of urgency. Can I accomplish what I want to accomplish in the time I have left. People are depending on me. What if I die before I am ready? I think more often than not, death happens when you are right in the middle of something. I will die sooner – or later. Until then, “I gotta get’er done! And because of my family of origin, I am determined not to fail, even if it kills me. I once heard Jean Houston say, “There is work to do!, You can rest when you’re dead”. I have succeeded in getting a lot done. Oh, I have been able to do it, but there has been a cost. I have been determined to save the world with my art. Yes, this is true. It is that big and important to me. In my heart this is what drives me. Yes, I believe what I teach- “What I create may be crucial to what the world needs now”. I must do all I can. When I am gone will any of it matter, anyway? These are my thoughts since my migrainal summer began.
On July 6th, I have a blinding migraine complete with the light show. I felt hit by lightning. I was at a point of completion with my latest project. My job was done, the show was hung, all my ducks in a row, and I was on my way to the spa for a relaxing pedicure when it slammed me.Oh I got my pedicure, I wasn’t about to reschedule. That’s what I am talking about. I can’t just stop and say no, I have to follow through and finish what is on my list even though I really can’t breathe well and all my nerves are on the outside of my skin. I am suddenly vulnerable and want to cry and go lay down in a dark and quiet room until it passes. I’ll just sit here with my sunglasses on and calm myself and pretend this isn’t happening. I can’t speak because if I do I will sob. I manage to get her done and get home and lay down.
Mostly I feel like my world is crashing. I can’t think clearly and I feel like I am dying. Visions of moments in my life are coming to me. I remember friends who are gone. I think to myself “it will be okay if I die”. I will be alright as long as Costello, my dog who died seven years ago, is there to meet me and Randy too, my brother/friend who died thirty four years ago. I can see them clearly waiting for me. I think, Jeeze, I gotta get up and quit these thoughts. I think I just need to do something normal. I am okay I am fine. This is just a migraine.
Oh, that same night we have tickets to Spam A Lot, a Monty Python play. I am not going to waste my money by not going. No one that I know can go nor do I have the where with all or the clarity to find some one. It was my idea and Don won’t go without me. I have never sat through a play with sunglasses on until now. I had to put toilet paper in my ears to quiet the sound. I don’t remember the play. I was stupid to go. I wish I had stayed quiet in my bed. The toilet paper got stuck in my ear and Don had to use a flashlight and tweezers to pull it out of my ear. I am in tears. Three days later I am feeling a little better and I decide to go to an open house. It was nice with wonderful food and great company. At the open house a photographer was taking photos and using a flash, lots and lots of flashes. At first I was annoyed and then I realized I was starting to have acute migraine symptoms. I don’t remember the drive home. This is bad. Oh my god I am wondering, have I been cursed? Seriously.
Now weeks have gone by and it has been filled with doctors visits, medications and supplements and body work. My tests are normal. But I am not right. It is like my body hasn’t come back on line. I am worried and every other day I am panicked and uncertain if I will survive this. I am told that erratic blood pressure will do this. Oh and did I mention the ringing in my ears that has escalated to a high pitched alarm the past two weeks? Yeah, it’s really bad.
August 21 2017. Eclipse day. I am told that it is a good day to pray. I pray for us all. I pray that the change that is upon us will ultimately be a good change. May our hearts turn toward our common relationship as humans and earth beings, stewards of all life. We all want to belong. We want clean water, safety, kindness, good livelihood, enough food, community, the arts, imagination and dreams for our children to realize. Freedom to love and freedom to be, all without fear. Everyone is deserving.
On a personal note;
At this point, I am six and a half weeks into this migraine. It has unhinged me. I walk as if on thin ice, carefully, so as not to unbalance my fragile grip on recovery. The constant ringing in my head is like an alarm that I cannot turn off. On the outside I look the same but on the inside I am on a roller coaster of anxious emotions, barely able to keep my heart steady. My ground is shifting. I am in a tippy canoe on a river of vulnerability. When I am in the thick of it I cannot think clearly or make decisions. To calm myself I lay on the couch and through a tall window I watch the cottonwood leaves shimmer in the sunlight and move in the breeze. I am holding on to this focal point and life line to this present moment right here right now where there is only this and – I – am still – Denise.
In these six weeks I have been unable to print or do new work. When the fog periodically lifts I am able to work on pieces already in process it soothes my soul and massages my weary nerves. Art has always been my life line, my breathing tube, my voice, my connection. I am my art. My art is me. I surrender over and over. As I draw I pray that it relaxes my blood flow. Take me inside the image, heal me, and help me get through this uncertainty.
I pray for myself to find my way through this sluggish adventure. I imagine if Gaia (the Earth) her self was in distress, which I believe she is, if we could hear the distress, it would sound like the high pitch ringing in my ears and head. It may not be a coincidence that my body is going through this during the time leading up to the alignment of the eclipse. There is so much upheaval in our country and the world. And in my body a re-alignment is taking place. My intention is to see it through. To embrace my new super power of sensitivity, with kindness and love. To get through this as gracefully as I can.
I feel that my work telling stories and bringing images forth is not yet complete. I hope it is not yet my time to die, though, this is what it feels like. My wish is to flow, to release, to move with ease, to relax, and let it be and let it go. I will not hold the overwhelm in my body any more. Perhaps this is a great ending. (“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”. Lao Tzu) May I embrace the new pathways being built within me. Letting go of what no longer serves me and my well being. May I know a balanced health and renewed vigor. Please may this ringing in my head ease up.
A few days after the eclipse I begin to feel better. I am so much better now (knock on wood). Though I have had some set backs and some terrifying side effects from medications. I am a little shell shocked by the whole ordeal, but grateful to be my nearly normal self again. I am making the choice to rest when I need to instead of constantly powering through. I realize that it shows little respect for myself when I constantly crank it. Even though the migraine forced me to rest and heal, I have been choosing to allow myself time if I want it and in doing so it has expanded my sense of time. Weird huh, but true. I feel like I have more time now that I am moving through my life at a less urgent pace.
The 9 week migraine took me on a sight seeing journey through my life and let me look at the possibility of my death. This journey led me eventually to the threshold of love for myself and my life as it has been, and as it will be. Today the migraine or the possibility of the migraine walks beside me, to my left, behind my field of vision. But I feel its presence as a reminder to take my time and slow my pace. I am filled with gratitude for every moment of expanded time allotted to me. A gift.
The summer is heating up and so am I. With exhibits and shows coming up for me in the fall I have quit teaching to devote my time to creating new work. I have been obsessed with these small portraits that will be shown at the Art Center for July. I have enjoyed carving them and creating monoprints from the carved stamps. The colors are rich and satisfying. These portraits are light hearted studies of characters that have shown up in my work in the past. Light hearted images are just what I need right now. They cheer me up. This is what I want to put out into the world, a little bit of good happiness and a smile.
I have been working on larger pieces for my exhibit at Hanson Howard Gallery here in Ashland in October. Although who knows, I may do some more animal portraits from the characters in my book. My book “Drawing On The Dream” is scheduled to be available for purchase at the Hanson Howard opening. My fingers are crossed that there will be no delays with the book.
I will be participating in the Ashland Open Studio Tour October 14th and 15th.
I will be showing new work at the Roby King Gallery on Bainbridge Island in November.
Last but not least is my annual Studio Sale November 18th and 19th.
It has been a beautiful Fall here in Southern Oregon. We have moved into our beautiful home that is now attached to my studio. The studio has a new paint job and a new roof. I think I have finally gotten rid of all the construction dust.
I was wiping dust off my rollers for my demonstration during the Studio Tour a few weeks ago. Since then I have been working toward my annual sale. I am pleased to say that I will have lots of new handmade books and new originals and a few new magnets and cards too. I was a little worried because building our house and moving was all consuming. I didn’t work in my studio from May to mid October. Right now I am in full swing. It feels great.
It was not easy for me to be away from my art for so long. My art work is my soul work in the world. When I am not doing my work i definitely feel ill at ease and un-grounded. All is well now.
I will have some new work at the Art Center for this First Friday.
I am showing work at Hanson Howard Gallery and the Art Center here in Ashland, OR. You can always call for an appointment at my studio, Kester Studio or email me.
I am exhibiting my work at Snow Creek Gallery in Mt. Shasta, CA. and Roby King Galleries in Bainbridge Island, WA.
I am working with White Cloud Press to publish my book “Drawing On The Dream, finding my way by art”. It should be out next summer. I just gave them a fully text coded version, whew!, it’s hard work to get a book out in the world.