Friday, March 6, 2015

poetry and Mary Oliver

I have always loved poetry.

Jump rope rhymes of childhood still spring to my mind at opportune (and inopportune) moments.

Say, say, oh playmate, I can not play with you...

Memorization assignments from elementary school stir around inside me and pop out of my mouth.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things..."
from "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll

College scrutiny did not dim my love of poetry, in fact, just added to my internal arsenal.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies...
from "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron

My appreciation of poetry has continued as I have aged. These days my attention is on the poetry of Mary Oliver. Her contemplation and introspection and artfully crafted poems make my breathing slow and invite me to read aloud her words again and again. Like this poem, "Wild Geese." I hope you will read it aloud. Again and again, too. Like me.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I hope you will have about an hour to listen to Krista Tippett's interview with Mary Oliver (from February 7, 2015) on the radio program "On Being." Listen here.

Canada Goose, photograph Katherine van Schoonhoven at Ridgefield NWR

Sunday, March 1, 2015

breaking the shell

Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding
Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

watching paint dry

"Watching paint dry" is a phrase my father used to describe something that exceeded the definition of boring. Funny. I have discovered that it provides a still space of quiet inside of me and helps me be completely in the moment.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'll meet you there

Out beyond ideas of 
 there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

a step on the path

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Monday, February 2, 2015

clearing clutter

beginning painting books
In 2005, when I took my first art class, I did not own a single art book. Not because I wasn't a book collector, because, believe me, I was. I have a library full of books about music, literature, theology, history, nature, travel, birds, and other topics. But none about art.

My art classes answered a lot of questions but raised at least as many more. I started to acquire beginning books on how to draw trees, how to draw the figure, how to mix color, how to arrange a still life, and so on.

As my interest grew, so did my book collection. I collected books on painting florals, landscapes, water, buildings, en plein air and in the studio. Books on composition, color theory, painting substrates, and on and on and on.

Little by little, I added books that were filled with plates of paintings by painters. The Group of Seven, Matisse, Picasso, Manet, Monet, Hopper, Rembrandt, Bischoff ... too many to name.

In the last several years, I have not looked at those beginning books at all. I have loaned several of them out to interested students, but I have not used them beyond that.

Real estate in a studio space is precious. My book case was full of books, many of which I no longer looked at. Time to clear out the clutter!

Now there are empty spaces for the new books I will collect, books about painters and their paintings and drawings. Books like these new purchases:

Sarah Mclachlan "I Will Remember You."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Acrylic paint, ink, colored pencil

The small leaf pattern you see in this piece comes from poinsettia petals. I used them as a stencil and as a stamp. Sometimes it's good enough to go out to the studio and play with color.

If, like me, you've had a rough patch in life lately, I hope this old Johnny Cash tune. "I Won't Back Down" speaks to you, too.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 ending

For years I have wondered what to do with my Christmas poinsettia plant. If watered and cared for, it can last many months and seems incongruous in full bloom at Easter. Not that I mind the dissonance of a Christmas plant in spring, but eventually I stop watering it and let it die.

Not so this year. Petal by petal, leaf by leaf, I deconstructed my plant and used each piece as part of a nature print. Carefully rolling inks and paints over the parts and then pressing them to paper. It was a sweet labor of love.

By pulling something apart and reconstructing it in a new way,
 the truth and essence and beauty comes into focus. 

Wishing you all a peaceful end of this year, and a beautiful construction of 2015!

Daniel Carter "Auld Lang Syne."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

overcoming dissatisfaction

Mixed media: acrylic, ink, charcoal, pastel

I coach myself: Don't panic, don't worry, don't even feel tense about it! It will pass.

And eventually it passes.

Whenever I put my work out into the world in a show, after the initial excitement and rush of attention and positive feedback, ...

I feel lost.

Empty and grumpy.

And dissatisfied with my art making.

Now that I have experienced this up and down cycle many times, I am better prepared for the down time. And this time I have tried something new.

A challenge.

What would happen, I asked myself, if I painted over one of those scrap sheets I used in my printmaking? Just use the sheets of brayer cleanings and texture wipings as a base and painted over the top to create something new.

Since I considered the scrap sheets trash to begin with, I really had nothing to lose. And I painted. One. Two. Five.

And that empty, growling feeling has lifted!

It hardly matters to me what comes of these pieces, but I am thrilled with the process of taking random colors and textures and shapes and creating something new. Overcoming feels pretty strong and wonderful. It reminds me of brighter days ahead.

One of my most beloved Christmas traditions is making music with my sons. It's harder to do now that they are grown and have families of their own (and their own traditions). This year, we will all be together for Christmas Eve and I am hoping we can play together -- with added music and voices from their wives and children. Even if it's mostly just noisy and not terribly musical, it will fill my heart with joy!

Wishing you all  Merry Christmas, happy holiday, and joy in the coming days!

Enjoy this hauntingly beautiful arrangement from The Piano Guys, "O Come, Emmanuel."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Archetype" in the news!

"Green Eggs" Eternal Child archetype

There's still a few weeks to see the "Archetype" show at In Bocca al Lupo Fine Art Gallery!

Ellen Spitaleri of the Portland Tribune found a lot to enjoy about the show. Read her article HERE.