Spring is already here in Florida, where last year's leaves are falling as spring buds push them out of the way. The lake is teaming with tadpoles, and muscovy ducks are nesting. Mockingbirds spar in the trees like dueling Inigos...their normally delightful songbird repertoir replaced with harsh hissing and crackles.
I just finished a book by Cixin Liu: The Three-Body Problem, a science fiction beauty recommended by my science beauty sister. And wow. A fabulous story, but what really grabbed me was the author's postscript. "There's a strange contradiction revealed by the naïveté and kindness demonstrated by humanity when faced with the universe..." He describes how we destroy other civilizations on earth, yet look up to outer space and assume extraterrestrials would be civilized, noble, kind and peace-loving. He suggests a reversal: "Let's turn the kindness we show toward the stars to members of the human race on Earth and build up the trust and understanding between the different peoples and civilizations that make up humanity." Just the right message for our planet today. Maybe Inigo could become an earthly ambassador for peace.
This piece was unintended. It began as a dark watercolor painting with doodled flowers. I decided to cut out the flowers and collage them into another piece, then saw the interesting shapes left behind once the flowers were removed. So, another challenge! What could I make from the remaining shapes? And then there were tall ships...these were collaged onto watercolor paper with gel medium. Added sky and sea with more watercolor and the mast lines with watercolor pencil. I'm still pondering this one as maybe the basis for a larger collage-inspired piece a la Nancy Frost Begin. But for now, I will imagine the Dread Pirate Roberts setting sail for new adventures on paper cutout ships.
There are some interesting things happening in my studio, as almost ALWAYS happens at the end of 30 in 30. My critic brain is exhausted, and thus my creative brain feels unfettered. Which brings me back to Mark Nepo in The One Life We're Given. He describes how we make our way, how we find each other - in this case, through exhaustion. He was inspired by animals and birds taking refuge on a large rock surrounded by rough seas..."leaning into each other, lying on each other, finding this rock-oasis of wind and sun; too tired once on the rock to fight or be territorial, each having been wrung out by the pounding of the wet hours." And so I find myself, taking refuge on a rock, inner critic, naysayer, bully, whiny baby and fiercely creative artist leaning into each other, too tired to fight. It is here, in the "pounding of the wet hours", where anything is possible.
So I spent a little more time contemplating. A flood of other memories poured in...standing at the foot of Multnomah Falls , the night market in Bangkok, an evening on the beach at Xpu Ha Palace, my sister's incredible outdoor wedding under the tall trees of Oregon, and Ireland of course...ok, these were all things I looked forward to which really blew me away once the day arrived.
This little piece of art is a reminder to allow for the possibility that the things we look forward to might just be even better than expected. Like my next birthday. Not a milestone, but maybe magical anyway. I wonder if Inigo Montoya will be there?
So, dear reader, if you'll indulge a proud a cappella mom for a minute, here is Katie and all the other pirates (including lead vocalist Jon Walls) singing "Selah":
Finding that balance....the tricky part.
After a long bout with a nasty virus, I needed a little extra tension to boost my art mojo. So I dove into a jar of crackle paste. I've never used it, had no instructions AND the jar had been purchased at a flea market, so the contents were dried out and old. If you add some water and a LOT of mashing and smashing, it will revitalize into something really pasty and satisfying. The undercoat of this piece is a heap load of crackle paste, scored to smithereens with many texture tools. This is what gives the trees their lovely lines and grainy grooves, which are quite 3-dimensional in real life. It is probably the most wonderful group of painted trees I've ever made. I will be doing this again and again.
Here in south Florida, it is difficult to get a real nature fix in a hurry. I am feeling the call of the wild...a desire to hike amongst tall trees and listen to songbirds while crunching through leaves and blazing trails through undergrowth. In lieu of that, a suburban hike over to the neighborhood park to peek at the burrowing owl nests will do in a pinch. I hadn't seen them since Hurricane Irma. But there they were, peeking out of their holes. I didn't get close enough for a pic (Pongo is not a stealthy owl viewer), so enjoy this video of burrowing owls in nearby Cape Coral:
"Pouring Water on Ancient Faces" - mixed media on 300 lb watercolor paper, 10" x 22". Ready to frame. Available at Artfinder.
Inigo: Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour, so all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape, after I kill Count Rugen.
Westley: That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying.
from The Princess Bride
Not much time for dilly-dallying! Do you have days like this? Where one hundred and fifty-four things are happening simultaneously on your schedule, and somehow you are just going to have to MAKE IT WORK (thanks, Tim Gunn!) but at that moment it seems nearly impossible? Of course you do.
The scene in our house yesterday: hubby working at one end with a pile up of banking deadlines, me at the other end with a dozen art deadlines. Cleaners furiously trying to clean even as contractors are energetically tearing out drywall and remediating mold damage (yes, you heard it, mold). And Pongo, ever vigilantly making sure everyone knows he is really willing to help them, big old nose in the middle of whatever they are doing. Everyone's phone is ringing and pinging, equipment is grinding and whooshing and swooshing, dust is flying and being swept up and bag after bag of nastiness is being hauled out the front door. Thank goodness I was feeling a wee bit better and didn't need peace and quiet.
This painting, and its title, inspired by the next chapter in Mark Nepo's book, The One Life We're Given. In it he describes beached whales and herculean efforts to save them. This quote: ..when we're too exhausted to uphold our differences, there's room enough for everyone. And when we find each other stranded, we must interrupt our lives to return each other to the deep. As I penned a letter of encouragement to the students of Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday, this quote gave me hope that we could interrupt our lives and cross divides as a nation for these (and all other) children. There is room enough for everyone.
"Bernard" - needled felted wool over armature. Inquiries.
Inigo: He's dead. He can't talk.
Miracle Max: Hoo hoo hoo! Look who knows so much, heh? Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Please, open his mouth. Now, mostly dead is slightly alive. Now, all dead...well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo: What's that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.
[Max puts the bellows to Westley's mouth, and blows air in.] Hey! Hello in there! Hey! What's so important? What you got here that's worth living for?
Westley: T-R-U-E L-O-V-E.
Inigo: "True Love", you heard him? You could not ask for a more noble cause than that.
from The Princess Bride
Well you heard the man, what you got here that's worth living for? A great question to ask anyone you want to know better. And it's hard to be upset about [insert problem here] when you're counting the reasons you want to be around. There are a lot of questions you can ask people to foster a closer connection, including this list from some folks who wanted to try to make people fall in love.
One guy tried answering these questions with his partner. And here's what he said: The questions reminded me of the infamous boiling frog experiment in which the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.
Maybe that's something to consider. We have a lot of major societal divides to conquer and foster common ground right now. A fast-track to connection sounds like something we can do.
I think about these kinds of things when needle felting. "Bernard" was good company while convalescing. A sense of accomplishment without leaving the chair. And though he isn't a painting, he is a creation. While I continue to hibernate with tea, tissues and cold medicine, enjoy a little Billy Crystal. :)
Jen Walls and her imaJENation