Saturday, February 14, 2015

Write Art Life Art Write

This year for the Village Fine Arts Association Poetry&Art Night I will be submitting 3 paintings. For the last two years I've submitted 6 poems, and won 4 awards. I told my therapist who gave me a card to join a writing group a few years before I entered PAN "I'm not a writer." And one step out of the first gathering, I wrote an article that was published. I  told an art friend years ago, "I can't do watercolor-it scares me." And here I am, creating the best art I've ever done. Medium. Where your art lives you live. Poetry & Art Night in Milford, Michigan was started by Thomas Lynch and Suzanne Haskew. The art and writing scene I have been blooming blessed to drop into is in Milford, Michigan. If you are unfamiliar with Thomas Lynch's work, get familiar now. This minute I figured out how the universe works. I have goosebumps. My birthday is coming up, I'll be entering my 65th rotation around the galaxy, and by golly, I just this minute figured it out. I couldn't go to my first watercolor class with Jeane DeHann, because Dad went into the hospital with congestive heart failure. She is an artist I admire. And Barbara Weisenburg, a gracious member of the VFAA, and an artist who created two paintings I own, called to offer some alternatives. She miraculously offered to teach me what I would have learned from the class. Miracle. Stuff turned into rich soil, into growth into harvest. We struggle each day with stuff. Our stuff recently is Dad's fall on Feb. 2, working to get physical therapy in the house, my brother with Alzheimer's being freaked by the new stuff, me wondering if I can do all this without combusting, and damn. Here it is. Dad is here in the senior complex because that's what my parents chose. I'm here to give my brother a good quality of life. And subsequently understand that parents don't have a clue with kids, no matter what age, and forgive and forget, and learn to love in a different way. That fear of dying is stupid and wasteful when we can carry each other over. And that's what Thomas Lynch does and Suzanne Haskew did with their lives and their work. In art and writing. Carry each other over. And wasn't this always there? Except for the awareness. Rosemary Jozwiak told me 10 years ago "all you're missing is faith in a good outcome."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Art Therapy for Caregivers

My watercolor instruction is therapy. I figured that out this week when we were covered in 14 inches of snow, and Monday class was canceled. Creativity immersion is a way to dispense with thought processes and emotions attached to random brain access, and be free. Started 2 paintings, messed both up pretty badly but I saved the paper to use the other side. Dad fell on Sunday, hurt his knee and we're dealing with the aftermath of that. I am not doing well with this. He says he's not a good patient-I think I'm not a nurse. I am trained after long practice to be constantly vigilant, which is exhausting. He sat down on the top step last night going to bed, and couldn't get up. I heard him sighing and since this sounds a lot like the precursor to congestive heart failure, I investigated. An hour and a half of trying to get him in bed. None of my suggestions were any good. Perhaps he had a mini-stroke and his brain wasn't functioning well. Scott, who had to step around his father on the floor to come out of the bathroom, was freaking out, repeating "It's OK" over and over again - trying to calm himself, I think. I'd suggest a method to Dad: he'd want me to do something physical- lift him, put my feet in front of his so he could push off my body. I ended up walking down to the neighbor and asking him to help me. Today we'll have to make plans, none of which include continuing in this untenable situation. The stairs are not an option any more. Meanwhile, I'll hope to continue to find peace in watercolor.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Artcraft Station

Clutter creep was getting in the way of my new watercolor obsession. I have a large board for 16x20 painting (with an amen to my therapist who asked "when are you going to work bigger?) and I had negative space to play in. What started as organizing the clutter into different clumps became a day-1/2 of doing a good job. Confession: I actually binned some books. For a reader who learned early not to bend corners or deface books I thought it'd be tougher. Threw away my father's massive collection of cords to unknown unowned tech. Relocated the ancient useless tools on the pegboard up and out of the way and moved my tools down and handy. When I was done tossing and stacking, I put stuff back saying out loud "related to jewelry, related to painting, related to tools, related to cleaning, related to bath." I bought online (!) a drafting stool. On the cement floor are two of my grandmother's handmade rugs which have been gathering dust in plastic bags under my bed. My grandmother and my mother are with me in this space - the Greenbrier bag I carry my watercolor supplies to class in was mom's. When I finished painting the particleboard surface, I remembered a piece of glass mom had made to fit her dining table. When the antique went away, the glass remained propped against a closet wall. It fits the work area perfectly. And wipes up with water! A little bit of heaven in the Artist's Dungeon. Maybe I need to start calling it the Artist's Retreat.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


At Crazy Wisdom Bookstore this afternoon, we will be talking and sharing stories about aging. I called this get-together Coming Down the Mountain with Grace. It's a phrase I liked from a philosophy bath product my sister got me years ago that had on its label how you come down the mountain is just as important as how you go up. This morning I've been thinking about the skills we need to go up the mountain. Agility, physical strength, tenacity, attention, care, planning. So do we need these to come down the mountain. Maybe we're missing the physical strength of youth, but we're wilier, better at navigating, and we know to duck and weave. The downhill slope is faster, and there are those pesky obstacles that remain from the ascent. The ascent is how we learn. The descent is how we apply the knowledge.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Pez Murder

The victim. Male. Bunny. Broken neck from deceleration trauma (hitting my cubicle wall at speed after I hurled it.) Xacto knife added post death for photographic effect. Crime scene chalk outline and police line tape by me. Between bouts of crazy deadlines and frustratingly redundant edits to enormous documents, we had fun in the graphic design boiler room. During slow periods, some printed graduation and birthday posters on the giant plotter, designed wedding packages, did favors for preferred management consultants. I created 2 lines of greeting cards. Don't know what everyone did in slack times, but we worked fast and well together in busy stretches. Somewhere on the planet there are rooms of graphic designers and illustrators (I hope) hunched over their Big Macs, and I hope they're having as much fun as we did, more often.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Pez Murder

Once upon a time there lived 10 graphic designers toiling in a small room with the door shut. We had seasonal KEEP OUT signs taped to the door. The empire we served had global offices, and we edited and drew for a couple of shifts until we passed the gigantic overbaked Powerpoint files off to Tokyo or Toronto or wherever there was capacity. Capacity. That meant women sitting doing graphic designerly stuff not related to Powerpoint presentations. Lots of emergencies, plenty of overtime. We were excellent designers, fast and creative and easily bored with the same ol' same ol'. One Easter season, teeth-gritted with files delivered to inboxes that weren't the right version, requests to fit a 200 pg. edit into the schedule, guys in ties standing over our shoulders pointing at monitors, I flipped. I threw my rabbit Pez against the wall of my cubicle, breaking its neck. Wo, I said, I just murdered my Pez dispenser. Silence in the room, then the sound of drafting chairs rotating to the center, designers making eye contact. Then a swelling swish and click of overworked artists on a drawing toot. I stuck my exacto knife in the back of the rabbit's neck and printed a police tape. The printer queue was scrolling printing 1 of 2, printing 10 of 12. Vicki printed a blood pool and a bloody glove. Beckie printed a chalk outline, bloody paw prints heading up the wall of the cubicle so we then knew how the killer escaped. All the kitschy cutesie stuff on monitors got shoved up to the police line, including Marian's picture of her cat. Beckie printed a wanted poster of the empire's VP, who later came by to see what the commotion was about. She used his smiling mug picture from the annual report, which was brave and briefly terrifying while he held it, read WANTED: NICK THE THUMB. He didn't fire any of us. We were able to figure out who ratted to Nick and worked out a long, long season of thwarting his every move. We kept The Pez Murder going for weeks. I'll be posting the pictures here, remembering the spontaneous fire of creativity in a small room with a KEEP OUT sign on the shut door.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 and Personal Power

I'm participating this year in a different way than previous years. This year is pantsing the experience: no outline, no character templates, the skimpiest of plot ideas. Yesterday the writing flowed. In the spirit of not flow this morning, I watched a TED talk on Dan Gilbert's research. Talked with a friend about what makes a book interesting. And how complicated humans are. Tried to find the quotation "far from the works of man," and realized again how the internet is not organized around what I think I want to know. I did remember where "it ends with a journey," came from. Shakespeare in Love. But I may be misquoting. It starts with a journey? Life starts, continues and ends with a journey. Human beings are as changeable as they think they are fully formed. Life's journey is the tug between the ease of memory and the difficulty of imagining. Experienced a couple of revelations that may help the writing, even though these were repeat revelations - concepts it is hard to keep in front of me day to day. All control is illusion. The diametrically opposed realities of power and power over. All of which reminds me that there is a difference between writing a strong woman lead, and writing a kickass female superhero. A strong woman lead digs for, finds, and uses her personal power, often without believing in that power to begin, even if it doesn't always pull a rabbit out of a hat for our hero. *I love the Rocky & Bullwinkle" preview. Bullwinkle says "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,' and Rocket J. says "That trick never works." A kickass female superhero uses many of the same methods that the power-over practitioners use: superior physical strength, guile, and a utility belt chock full of alien artifacts. Personal strength is for everyday wear. Every day heroes. A woman's road trip story must begin and end with that. The journey of personal power.