The Muses back in Sebastopol met this week to work on self portraits together. Not wanting to miss out I braved the chaos of my garage studio and decided to take the easy way out, using an old lesson I taught many times.
Take a picture of yourself using the Comic Strip filter on the Photo Booth app (if you have it on your computer) and print it out in Black and White. Then carve it up, glue it onto the paper and have your paint/gesso/collage way with it. Add words.
Just give me a space to paint and
I’ll find a way
Between ceiling hooks and oil stained floor
There’s a place to thrive
In a maze of U-haul boxes
Partly opened and fully unorganized
SOMEWHERE there’s a place to paint
To cut and paste and draw and write
Because I’m hardcore. . .
Just help me find those scissors I left. . .
SOMEWHERE. . .
Confusion is often the name of the game these days, but one thing is certain. It will be many more months before life settles again into some predictable rhythm, (and the ability to find the good scissors when you need them!) So I just bought myself a new pair. The girl in the picture is OK, even though the snakes on the head sometimes get a bit out of hand!
This is why it’s good to do a self portrait at regular intervals in order to check in on yourself, or to look back at earlier ones to see if things might have changed. Here’s one from May this year when the Sh”!t was really hitting the fan prior to moving!
The look on her face before leaping the chasm. . .
So many people I’ve met in California have vacationed in the Pacific Northwest. Aside from a trip to Seattle with Ben to look at UW when he was applying for college, I was not one of them. So when my friend Brigitte heard I was moving to Olympia she said, “oh, Hood Canal!” like I should know. But since then I have tried to learn some local geography and Hood Canal is not far, and it’s supposed to be a kayaker’s paradise.
So Andrew and I set off this week, with the tandem inflatable kayak, to explore Hood Canal, an easy 45 min. drive. And ended up, after a lunch of local fried oyster sandwich, at Lake Cushman. We were not disappointed.
The water was crystal clear and the breeze significant enough to be cooling but also to create some wave motion to keep the paddlers busy! We were right at the foot of the Olympic mountain range, Mount Ellinor straight ahead! We ventured up a narrow inlet, through a narrow tunnel and into an enchanted grotto. Hood Canal another time! There’s always another body of water to explore in this neck of the woods.
Still playing around with gouache portraits on toned paper.
There’s still so little time for art-ing these days, which seem taken up with chores related to getting our new home organized and outfitted. Yes, there’s time for exploring, for meeting some really nice neighbors, but there’s so many things to fix or figure out. Like that loud hiss that comes from the direction of the water heater, or the door that locked me into the room and I didn’t have my cell phone and my pleas for help went unheard (for 20 minutes)!
Crazy stuff. It’s fixed now, but there’s always the next thing. I guess houses have to get used to us as much as we have to get used to them.
And I think I need some new clothes. Andrew says my boat hat is not very cool and somehow the color seems all wrong here. I mean lavender? Really? Gray maybe, or khaki, or dull green, but not lavender.
In my “old home” I used to spend a great deal of my time in my studio, a modest detached building next to the house surrounded by garden. The deal about moving was that the studio would hopefully have some degree of separation from the house, the washer/dryer and every other manner of house chore interruption. In the “new home”, that separation will be a wall built inside the garage. . .eventually. Apparently there’s a shortage of contractors for that kind of work here.
So I packed up my “old studio” with that delay in mind, and built a sort of wall partition of those boxes here. Then I pulled out just the supplies for mixed media play, otherwise sometimes known as my Conversations With the Muse.
As you can see there are windows to let in light and even the fluorescents for nighttime and overcast days, and the water is a quick walk across the garage. Who needs more that this?! A fan sometimes, but otherwise I’m good.
The start here was to tear up an old painting, always a great way to start when you have nothing in mind. A bunny kept hopping through my mind, so I knew to put bunnies in. They wanted to hide, but you know they’re not very good at it. The bunnies in my yard are different shades of brown and buff and easily seen on the green grass which they love to munch. In the bunny world you learn to freeze if a possible predator, like one of those towering humans, gets close. Bunny lore has it that you cannot be seen if you stay still enough. Haha! But when the big bumbling human reaches for the cell phone to get that coveted picture, the next thing the human sees is the white of the cottontail and startled, drops the phone! So I had to paint some bunnies since I couldn’t get a good enough picture to share with you here! Maybe there’s a hidden teaching here, but I didn’t find it. The bunnies are enough.
It felt good to tear paper and paste and draw and all that. I miss my Muse Group but I can sit at my table among the boxes in the garage and be happy to be at play again. Time to do another now!
Our new home is beautiful. No doubt about it. Which is not to say that it is without, shall we say, unexpected occurences which must be dealt with or accepted as is.
On the beauty end is the climate and the way the garden view enters our home (now that the recent heat dome is a point of history that is). Andrew has found the perfect perch to absorb the warming rays for a cat nap after lunch.
And then there are the surprises. Interesting sounds. Like the crickets in the toilet downstairs, sounds that is. After watching a few Youtube videos Bob was able to discover the problem and after several tries, silence the crickets, at least for now.
Then there were a few days when we would suddenly out of nowhere hear the first few bars of Beethovan’s Fur Elise. No it wasn’t the doorbell, or the dryer telling us the clothes were dry. No one at the door. . . Finally Bob discovered that it was the old security system which was being activated by something at the street, and he shut it off.
Then there was the discovery that pretty much every wall in the house is painted a color called Spiced Vinegar and it was beginning to feel like a bit much.
But walking the trails around here seems to put things to right again. A couple days ago I was walking on the Chehalis Trail just three miles from home. It reminds me a bit of the Redota Trail in Sebastopol, though the forest is denser and taller. I stopped to look at a lake that was almost covered with some kind of water lily, and a tiny old woman saw me puzzling and stopped. I knew immediately I wanted to talk to her.
And so I met one of my first new friends here in Olympia, Bronka Sundstrom, a 96 year old woman who walks 5-6 hours each day.
We walked for a while together as she told me some of her story. She was a Polish Jew who was interned in a concentration camp during WWII at the age of 12, lost her 7 siblings and both parents while there, barely survived herself. She was so debilitated when finally rescued, that she had to learn how to walk all over again. But she went on to marry a Swedish man with whom she led a long life of skiing and mountaineering, and here in Washington acquired fame for breaking records for climbing Mt. Ranier as an old woman.
Needless to say I had to sketch her portrait, and now I have a reason to see her again and give it to her. Maybe some more of that courage and determination will rub off on me. And maybe this walking-the-trail activity is not a bad to make new friends here, not to mention increasing longevity!
Our movers showed up early on a sunny hot morning exactly a week ago now, and they rolled out the red carpet!
A nice touch. And they were cheerful and anxious to get it right. We were anxious too, traffic directing as the boxes came rolling in 6 or 7 deep and sometimes a bit squished; and with the heavy furniture getting carried up the stairs accompanied by loud grunting and shouted commands (I had to leave for this part because it was so unnerving!)
But no one was injured, and only one piece of cheap furniture crumpled, and so far everything else made it intact. Phew!
And when they were ready to leave I got to meet the co-driver of the monster truck, Precious! She had to come along on the run, because no one was at home to care for her. But I got the sense she was well loved and cared for and even content to watch much of the drama from the bed behind the drivers seat.
And here is my studio! I can certainly set up a table and do some painting here until we find a contractor to do the work. Actually right now I’m on my computer at the back of the space.
I’ve been wandering the garden every chance I get to make new discoveries. The abundance of this summer garden is mind boggling to me. After struggling to garden with clogged irrigation, gophers, deer, and hard clay soil I can scarcely believe this. The green lawn strikes my California senses as a bit scandalous, but during the rainy season here it rains so much that each neighborhood has collecting ponds to capture the overflow and send it draining down to the Sound.
One of my favorite spots is the shade of this willow out front. It’s a green mansion, and several degrees cooler than the rest of the sunny garden. The bunnies we’ve been seeing every day must have gone to their underground homes during this extreme heat wave, but we have seen them lounging on the front lawn. It’s hard to think of them as pests, though the gardeners here say they eat everything.
And ending with the only sketch I’ve done this week of unpacking, done inside and with the fan blowing on me! Last day of the big heat is today, and then more exploring Olympia wonders.
We had 5 or 6 days to do a little exploring of the city before moving into our house and taking on the overwhelming task of unpacking and organizing. We picked the right place for our first meal, a restaurant which proudly proclaimed its Northwest allegiance, the Cascadia Grill. We were welcomed warmly by the owner and Tickles the Beaver (statue) and Jonathan Livingston Eagle (statue) and delicious fish dinners.
At a little bookstore down the street I picked up just the book I needed, Making Sense of Olympia by David Scherer Water. I haven’t had time to read much of it yet, but the first few pages help to set the stage for what we saw on the city streets: There are 83 financially solvent bars(or were before the pandemic anyway), 41 of them downtown and 40 tattoos shops and 58 banks. The question being how a city with a population of 50,000 sustains all that. Oh, and 8% of Olympia’s 20 square miles is city owned parks. So, it’s a great place to be out in glorious nature, have a drink, get a tattoo and go to the bank?
Oh, and have an excellent cup of coffee! The coffee shops have the best espresso drinks I’ve tasted anywhere. The first morning we found one in a clothing store which opened at 7 for coffee. Then we found this one in a motorcycle shop. Great parings that surprisingly work. And always friendly people to chat with.
Later in the week we had an afternoon coffee break at Burial Grounds Coffee Collective and my latte was a work of art! (Day of the Dead style!)
Somehow I think the moms in this town would be fighting a losing battle trying to keep their kids untattooed. I started to feel like I might need to get one myself. . .naw! The untattooed one in the picture is my son, but that may soon change.
The Farmers Market on the harbor is open 4 days a week in high season. And it’s got a permanent roof, which makes sense since this is a rainy place for much of the year. Or that’s what they say. I haven’t seen it yet. Haha! The food is so attractively displayed that it’s hard to put down the cell phone camera long enough to buy something.
When it cools down a bit (111 is the forecast for today, gulp!) I’ll bring my sketchbook to the market.
Have you heard of Forest Bathing? That’s what we were doing on our walk in Watershed Park, a 5 min. drive from the Market. It’s a rainforest with all that lush vegetation. The gold is the light bouncing off the rocks under the water I think. Breathe it in. Pure oxygen.
And five minutes in the other direction is Tumwater Falls and the trail along the river. Can you hear the roar of the water?
Finally it was move-in day and the truck’s arrival at our new home. And the first thing out was my car, which required a tow truck with a flat bed ramp to disembark. More on move-in day coming up next!
But one last picture, of a portrait I did in before the move (just to prove I’m still an artist!).
“Ahhhh!” she sighs. “Don’t you just loooove Olympia?!!!”
Golly, has it been only 10 days since I last posted?!! More like a lifetime ago. Now I know why all my friends were sending encouraging comments to help me weather this move. No matter how positive it is, it is a severe jolt to the system. The best metaphor for the experience is that of squeezing awkwardly down the birth canal. Leaving the comforts of the womb for a sudden arrival and realizing. . . there’s no going back now! Gulp.
I promised myself I would not stop making art through the move and packed all kinds of fun materials. But honestly, what was I thinking?! Too ambitious, at least for this first couple weeks. So I’ll just take you along as I like to do after I’ve traveled – with a few pictures to satisfy curiosity and tell a tiny bit of the story that is unfolding each minute.
June 15 the driver of the monster truck decided not to try parking in front of our home in the country, so the movers loaded everything onto a smaller truck and ferried three entire loads over to a spot on River Rd. to move it again into the big one.
The garden posing for a last memory. Friends on the street were stopping by to say goodbye all day.
Andrew filling his eyes with the view we’d enjoyed for 21 years, since he was 8 yr. old.
I know, this is a hard one to look at. But I guess it’s part of the moving on process. Art and the comradeship of making it has not ended. The Muse group has a life of its own which has grown outside the boundaries of these walls. Brave words from me as I allow myself to feel the loss as well.
We arrived in Olympia just after a significant rain. Sunny and warm. The right kind of weather for a vacation and for moving in. But I’ll admit we had been looking forward to rain after months of drought and elevated temperatures in California. Now we face a record breaking heat wave. Did we bring it with us?
We moved into the Doubletree Inn on the harbor for a week’s wait until we could move into our new home. Time to explore the city and pretend we were on vacation.
And I did one quick sketch just before sunset, staring into the setting sun. It felt so good to finally get the watercolors out!
Stay tuned for more pics of this quirky town (and I mean that is a positive way!) with more than its share of natural beauty!
We don’t generally look at a beautiful butterfly like this Gulf Fritillary, fluttering fairy-like on my studio wall, and think about what it takes for this creature to get to this point in their life cycle. But yesterday I was treated to a partial metamorphosis in progress – the part where the caterpillar stops munching the passion vine leaves and turns itself into a paper sack.
It was an extremely windy afternoon, so you can hear the moan of the wind in the (one minute) video I took, but don’t be fooled. The movement of the caterpillar is not the effect of the wind blowing it, though I couldn’t help but worry that the tender filament by which it had attached its entire body to the wood was extremely slender.
I watched transfixed and imagined what it must take in the way of energy and endurance for this little creature to so thoroughly surrender itself to its transition to the paper body (chrysalid).
In some ways it’s not entirely dissimilar to spending ones days as I have lately, wrapping my life in paper and boxes for a move, not really knowing how it will be on the other – unwrapping – end. It’s a kind of temporary stasis.
Will that fragile casing of the caterpillar be strong enough for it to endure the upcoming change? And what about my own fragile casing? Will I have enough energy to see me through? Haha! Of course I will! But oh, so much still to pack before the truck arrives Tuesday morning. . .
and I take the big leap! Hopefully with elegance and abandon, like this dancer I sketched for practice last week!
Back to packing now. See you on the other side. . .the next post will be from Olympia!
I’ve had the strangest feeling about moving lately, that I’m not so much packing belongings as memories and layers of personal and shared history. And if I had a more efficient/useful/reliable way to accomplish the memory thing, there would not be so many things to find boxes for!
For instance, the wind chime, a gift made by my friend Ellyn that reminds me of her warm and wonderful heart every time I see and hear it. Or the beaded talisman made by Muriel to guard my studio door. Or the metal frog fountain-head from our pond in our Albany home, dating back to when the boys were into tadpole-ing and bringing critters home to take up residence there.
The boys (well men now) are a great deal less in need of these reminders of childhood than I. They are too busy writing the big scripts of their lives, while I am enjoying the reruns.
So these things got packed today along with birdhouses and nests and rocks from my collection. The nests that were too fragile to pack have been distributed to key locations in the yard.
This one is my favorite, nestled in the bosom of the old apple tree behind my studio, inches from the tiny new apples. The history that I leave behind is somehow as essential as that which I take with me to re-plant in the fresh soil of the north. I can finally imagine how all these mini tasks are the structure of ceremony, that of continuance as well as rebirth.
Meanwhile the evening portrait painting continues, as I pursue a variety of poses on Sktchy and much needed practice with gouache.
I have more control and dexterity with watercolor, but love coming in with the opaque white gouache at the end to perk up the toned paper and make the eyes sparkle.
One of the great things about being an artist, i guess, is that after a certain number of years you begin to see that you have a lot to show for your time. It never seems like that when you’re in the trenches of your art making, listening to the inner critic tear you down, or when the sales or positive feedback thins to a trickle. But when you’re a visual artist and you are moving your residence/studio, and packing it all up. . .well if you stacked up my paintings next to me, I would be quite dwarfed. So I guess that means I can account for my time on earth? Ahem!
But then a sizable amount of that painting history has also been sent to its grave in the past month, with the only judge of its worth being myself, the artist and with no ceremonial send off. Happily there’s another small portion of the otherwise discarded art which has been saved to become collage art. And some of that is what has gone into this tiny “book” art.
The Muses got together last week, and made small art books at Nancy’s home. Being a retired teacher she knew just how to teach us the folding involved in this book making. There was the “hot dog fold”, which you can perhaps picture, and the “hamburger fold”. When we started to get confused, those simple food images were surprisingly comforting.
I had brought with me an old monoprint, some of my son’s architectural drawings, and a variety of other papers with homemade stamps like the bird.
I knew we would be busy chatting while collaging, so starting with an in-progress painting seemed like a good idea.
I often like to put some kind of message in white space, which makes the art feel more intentional. I knew it had to do with moving to a new home, but it wasn’t til I got to the word “home” that I realized it was OM. Om being the primordial sound which connects us to this universe. So, no better home than OM. The bird is the Egyptian bird god Ra who brings the blessings we all need.
Another view of the back side. And I just noticed that Ra is flying from one window, presumably here in our Sebastopol home, north to another in Olympia, where we will be in three weeks time! Haha! And you probably think I planned it that way. This spontaneous art making invites the trickster in for laughs.
This folded book design can result in a folded up book with a front and back, but I was using heavy weight paper, so that didn’t quite work. But what a lovely little table top piece it makes, and I just realized it could also be a desktop pencil/pen holder!