Re-creation

I’ve recently started a painting mentorship with the aim of finding and clarifying my voice and improving my technique.

The first few weeks have focused on killing my inner critic (for the moment) and painting with “reckless abandon.” They also came with a recommendation to temporary stop selling work (aside from a fair in September) to discourage the temptation of painting or an imagined “audience“ rather than just painting.

When Thing2 dragged us to see Maverick earlier this summer, I ridiculed Tom Cruise’s oft repeated mantra of “don’t think, just do.” The advice to a younger pilot seemed to be a larger philosophy discouraging critical thought.

As I drove into early exercises, however, I giggled as I co-opted and adapted the motto to “Don’t Think, Just Paint.”

One result was a collection of paintings too numerous to post, let alone hang in my office/studio. Another one was a reignited compulsion to draw anything, anytime, everywhere. The main result, however, was a vacation from my own head and the endless inner debate about what or even if to paint.

Critical analysis will happen down the road, but part of vacation — of re-creation — is disconnecting from doubt and engaging with life with reckless abandon.

Where the Taconics Meet the Greens

12 x 12, oil on canvas

I see this particular view every time we come back from and the Equinox that I have to go back to again and again because I can’t get them out of my head and they never the same two days in a row. This is another one of those spots.

The difference is I have to remember this one because there’s no good place to park and draw or take pictures, so, each time we round this particular corner at the crest of this foothill in the Taconics, I try to commit another part of this view to memory.

Journey of a Thousand Miles

Yesterday I went to the hospital for more bloodwork, including a coronavirus antibody test. Pain in my chest and lungs still keeps me mostly sedentary, with the exception of our daily walk. Even though I walk only a few additional feet traveling between my bedroom, study and living room, but it feels as if those minimal footsteps have, over the last month and a half, added up to a journey far longer than a thousand miles. 

Not long after I started this blog as part of a writing workshop, I began feeling, more than ever, as if I had missed my calling. I had tried to quell my financially unviable passion many times over the years, but, reviving another creative passion for drawing, more than ever, made my day job feel more like just a paycheck than the career I should have made for myself.

I searched for jobs that allowed more time for creativity, and, with teaching, that may come partially true in the summers (the teaching workday does not end when the kids go home). Guiltily, a part of me still hoped for finances and time to align long enough to devote most of the day to writing and art.

This disease enforced isolation is no vacation, but I have tried to use it as a sabbatical —  a time to ask, if time allowed, what I would really want to do with my life. 

I did write on my blog more frequently at first. Daily monotony threatened to flatten inspiration, but I knew a writing life is about showing up.

My chest and lungs make painting painful, so I signed up for an online drawing class. Wanting some structure and to develop my written craft, I signed up for an online fiction workshop. It’s impossible to serve two masters equally, and this was a chance to hone skills and discover which passion burned brightest.

Psychologists are saying now isn’t the time to worry about learning new skills. Civilization is experiencing massive trauma as hundreds of thousands die and millions lose their livelihoods. Working with children recovering from trauma, I have seen how trauma — even more than poverty – causes catastrophic disruptions to learning. Even thirteen-year-old Thing2, mostly estranged from any trauma in his short life, is withdrawn and, for the first time ever, unenthusiastic about school and learning.  

Drawing class was everything I hoped art school might have been. Deliberate drawing practice. Assignments I knew would improve my painting when the f-ing pneumonia (that is officially the new technical term for it) recedes. 

The fiction class was more difficult to dig into. I read the bios of the other students and took 2 days to write mine. There were Ph.D.s and young, bold recent college grads with  much better handles on the craft of fiction.

Then I opened the first lecture. Much of the it was a review of the elements of fiction I teach in school. Then I saw the first assignment – spin a story out of a snippet of conversation from the last week. 

Okay. 

I mean, the only conversations I’d had were, “Hey,” with the kids when they woke up and “What should we do for dinner?”  I can make a silly post out of those, but a story?  And, did I mention, I suck at plotting? Could we start with something easier? 

I was scratching my unwashed head when I heard gunshots from the other side of the mountain. It turned out to be a neighbor scaring off a coyote. It was also the most original conversation I’d heard all week.  I wrote my story in less than an hour and received enthusiastic feedback from the instructor. 

I stopped worrying about the better writers in the class and focused on craft. It wasn’t an entirely new body of knowledge, it was a different way of approaching it, and the approach recharged my writing life. Every day since, I’ve dashed off a blog post, read and then written a short story, many of which, I hope, won’t end up in a drawer. I’ve even returned to old duds to give them better lives. The work and time have become my sabbatical and, though I doubt I’ll ever stop painting, helped me focus on my true passion. 

My lungs will improve, and either from home or at a school, I will be teaching again in the near future. I have, however, already begun planning how to fit making a livelihood into a life’s work and not the other way around again. Some people may, psychically, be in a place to invest in new learning, and I take my hat off to them. For me, however, using this time to examine which parts of “normal” I want to restore has been just as valuable.

Equinox Autumn


Equinox Autumn, 4”x6”, Oil on Board, $45

The day before we left for the hospital, I took down my show at the Oldcastle Theater. I try not to count my chickens before they’re hatched at art shows, but I will admit I was surprised that only one item had sold (I am definitely getting too big for my britches).

they’re 100 different ways to rationalize the results-for the good or the bad-but I’m still looking at it as an overall positive experience. The person curating the show was very nice to meet, and a few people who hadn’t seen my work saw it and sent encouraging feedback.

This is me blowing sunshine. It’s finding the good where I can. And the good is that the paintings will make people at home happy for a little while longer until they go to new homes.

Prints can be purchased on Etsy here.

Oils at Oldcastle

For the past few months I’ve been playing with oil, and because of work and family, most of the work has been done in my ‘studio’ or on the roadside very close to home. None of the spots in my show are famous (except for the Battenkill River), but they pull me back again and again, and the ritual of visiting these places in my very small world has been at once soothing and inspiring.

I’m including a list of the pieces hanging at the Oldcastle Theatre in Bennington, VT below, and you can see a quick video tour on my Facebook page.

There will be no artist reception because the theatre schedule is quite booked this month. They are open between 10AM and 5PM during the week and for their scheduled evening events. They are holding their annual Gala on the 17th of November at 6:00PM, and , if you are in Bennington, it’s a wonderful chance to look at oil paintings and the many other items they’ll have up for bid to support the theatre and the work it does. December 7-8 they are performing a play called the “Curious Savage”, and in between those dates they will be hosting a number of plays and gatherings.

Prints and originals (when still available), can be purchased on Etsy here.

“Under the Apple Tree” 11” x 14” Oil $200

“Return of Cold Rivers” 11” x 14” Oil$200

“Battenkill in the Shoulder” 8” x 10” Oil $125 – SOLD

“ Saturation Point” 4” x 6” Oil – $65

“Piece of Perfect” 4” x 6” Oil$65

Fall, 9×12, $150 Winter, 9×12, $150 Spring” 9” x 12” Oil$150

“Respite” 8” x 10” Oil $125

Sunshine on Etsy

Under the heading of “she’s kind of funny girl”, I decided to blow sunshine up on Etsy.

And there is a funny thing about my new mantra. Each time I feel frustrated or down, it gets easier and easier to start blowing sunshine into my life. It appears to be pretty good source of renewable energy so far. I liked that the place that prints these T-shirts offers a few colors. i’m thinking of ordering the blue one first and using as armor when I do tech-support.