So I went to the Monterrey Aquarium a few weeks ago, and now I am finally finding the time to do some painting in my journal of this one awesome guy I was able to watch for some time. In his tank, he transformed from day-glow pink to rock grey in a few seconds. Octopuses show their emotions with their colors, and one theory about their use of ink is that it actually provides some privacy for hiding important emotions.
They are one of my favorite animals on the planet.
I tagged this image on my Instagram account, then eagerly clicked on that tag to see all the other cool octopuses. . .
Sad tears because all of the other posts tagged #octopus were images of dinner plates, grills, and bites of octopus going into mouths.
The value of art - I don't think anyone disputes it's value.
How about the value of an artist?
How do we support artists? How do we "invest" in them? How do we let them know their effort is valued and enjoyed. How do we express our thanks? with money? with reviews? hanging their work on our walls and on our computer screens? sharing on Facebook?
Most of you know me as an artist - probably as a mixed media collage artist who has the occasional gallery show, and has written a few children's books. This is because our social media selves came into being while that was what I was doing with my life. How many of you know that I was an architect first? One of my best friends here in Colorado, I recently found out, did not know that about me. I have publicly been sharing my work for a few decades, and have identified as an artist for a few decades, but now I am in a new chapter.
I am now a teacher.
Yes, I am taking a hiatus from art. Right now I am teaching Chinese kids ESL on line, and I love it. I love it because it is fun, but more importantly, I love it because I am appreciated and payed. The kids thank me, the parents thank me, the company I work for thanks me (and pays me) and I am pretty sure that my family thanks me for the financial contribution I am finally able to make. Being appreciated in life is not only nice, it is essential. At least, for me.
A few days ago I was offered an illustration job; 20 - 24 color illustrations, the pay? $65.00
For all. For 20+ pieces of art. . . . I had spent about a day, reviewing their story, coming up with a concept, painting some tabby cats, scanning and creating a template for the work, making a mock cover. (I like the work and am proud of it I will post it here.) The art director loved it. I told her my rate was $100 an illustration, she said she would see what she could do. Their offer $65 for all 20 illustrations.
What is it in this world has made us think that art should be virtually free?
Because, in part, it is.
We can open a subject page in pinterest or google images, and see a billion free images. We can copy and paste them, make them a screen saver, print out a version to hang on our wall. Art is everywhere and it is mostly free.
and how about music? Click on youtube, search almost any artist and/or song, and there is a version for you to listen to. I actually get my music at the library by copying their cds. (totally legal if not for commercial use) and listening to them on my computer. At least the library did pay the artist for the work.
I heard of a very influential musician from the 60's that headed a whole new era of music, Nick Drake, https://youtu.be/Cche-h83qNQ , you can listen to one of his songs there. With a few clicks, here was his whole catalog to listen to. In his life, there was no internet, so he did not catch on, and he died an early tragic death from deep depression. If he had been more appreciated, would he have been as big as Bob Dylan? He slipped under the cracks, as most great artists do. We only hear of the ones who got very lucky and had a public success. They become legends. and wealthy. and deeply appreciated.
So back to my idea of how we don't appreciate artists.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't want to think of what this world would be with no art.
No great music.
No beauty of the earth captured in photos, film, paintings.
No beautiful voices singing, soaring music to inspire us, drum beats to dance to.
I do know that we live in a time of tremendous access, a time that almost any art and music we hear of can be found and listened to or looked at within a few seconds. That is the most tremendous gift we have.
and I am very thankful for it.
But please, world, please value our artists.
Pay people who dedicate their lives to making art.
Pay for your music.
Pay for the art on your walls.
Pay for the films you enjoy.
Let our government know that organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts are the core of our civilization and it's expression. Have a voice that supports art and artists.
I am happy taking this hiatus, I am enjoying the very positive feedback and the helpful paycheck. I will continue to make art for myself, how could I not? and I do think one day, I might reenter the marketplace. In the meantime, I can work for joy and self expression, and earn my money another way.
and I can also publicly appreciate all the musicians and artists, and I can that share their brave work with the world.
Listen to some Nick Drake.
He deserves our appreciation.
I love when fun things come in the mail -- this is a coloring book journal that I just received from Kiev, Ukraine!
(An aside: The envelope got my attention, because my Grandmother emigrated from this part of the world way back in 1911, when she was 13 years old. And she kept a diary. Which I still have. But I digress.)
I love the idea of some of the pages having ready-to-color pages, in a detailed zentangle format. About one third of the pages have coloring pages, and the rest are blank. If you want some inspiration, as well as some mindless coloring material right there already in your journal, this is the book for you. The pages have a wonderful variety of topics: mandalas, feathers, birds, owls, fish, boats, water, so many cute things to color!
I see that it comes with blank pages, dot grid or ruled. So whatever you fancy for the journaling pages, you're covered.
My last post is from December 2016, the longest I think I've ever gone without posting here, in the eight years I've been blogging.
My reason: I started a new job, and I planned and executed my first ever trip to South East Asia. In short, I did a deep re-boot of my life, and I am here to say YES, yes to a reboot, to examining every aspect of life and changing what needs to be changed, deepening what needs to be deepened, and discarding what needs to be discarded.
My new job is teaching ESL on line to Chinese children, and I love it. Each morning I get up around 3 a.m. and prep, then go on line and open a screen which allows me to chat and teach one-on-one to Chinese children. We laugh and joke around, I review a power point of various words, pictures, and ideas, and they learn to speak English. My job requires lots of smiling and tons of encouragement, and I find that the very positive energy I need to exude for my teaching bleeds into my whole day, and I am happier. The truth is when you make yourself smile, the body learns from that particular muscle action, and then you smile more spontaneously, and become happier. Starting each day like this is almost a prayer and a spiritual practice now. I envision each of my students in a vibration of love, then I teach. It is a profoundly pleasing way to start the day.
My reboot voyage was to Bali. Bali is a deeply spiritual place, I stayed at 5 different locations: at an Ashram, at the rocky coast, at an ecovillage, at Ubud, a town where wood carving and silver making are the most important part of the tourist economy, and at a luxury beach resort. The ecovillage was the most inspiring, the luxury hotel, the least. The ecovillage (called Lumbung Cottages) was deep in the mountains, and walking around the grounds you felt you were living in a botanical garden. Altars and stone figures down hidden pathways, dancing waterfalls and streams, rice paddies and palm trees cultivated in rows to feed the visitors fresh, organic food, sleeping in Balinese intricate wood carved houses, the whole experience was so magical. Living amongst the food you will eat just feels like a very important way for your body to be connected to the land. I am inspired to make my garden create more of the food we eat.
"Let the beauty we love be what we do" as Rumi says, has a deeper meaning for me now. The order of my life has shifted, both with the need to be up so early each day to teach, as well as to focus on my garden and the food and herbs I am growing. I had struggled for years to make my art earn money, and now I feel relieved of that burden. I can now make art and grow food for joy alone. I don't have to struggle with the effort to force my creative work to earn money, and this feels like a huge gift and release for me. I teach, earn the money, then create in my garden and in my studio letting the work be whatever it wants to be, which is such a better balance for me than the stress of always worrying how my art or herbs could earn me a living.
I am happy to move into the future, and to share some of what happens here.
and here are a few images of Bali:
At Mundung Cottages ecovillage, surprise statues, beautiful plantings, and natural materials were down each mystical path.
At the Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa, these blue door greeted you into the compound.
The view from our balcony at Mundung Cottages.
Balinese celebrate and honor Nature each day, this young woman was taking offerings to a small stone temple just below our house by the sea.
An example of beautiful Balinese wood carving.
Our cottage at the Ashram in Candidasa.
Giving thanks for the beautiful experience of living in the ecovillage for a few days.
I found these photos of some pages from a stack of journals in the folded book format I used for a few years. Fun to look back, and if you are a journal keeper, you have a pile, a stack, even a bookshelf full of memories to revisit.
Another advantage to this practice!
"Whether you're keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it's the same thing. What's important is you're having a relationship with your mind"
Why are there diarists whose words get shared and passed on and repeated and quoted? (Anais Nin, I'm looking at you!) Because when we are brave enough to express our own inner truth, when we are brave enough to value our own experience in our own voice, when we are brave enough to know that it is a valid way to spend our work life, our leisure life, our creative life to simply express ourselves, we give a gift to everyone who happens across our work.
Sharing ourselves is not narcissistic or entitled. Sharing ourselves is a gift. We are all made of the same stardust, so why not realize that whatever our own unique voice has to say is going to connect somewhere, somehow, deeply to another bit of stardust? That maybe our little expression might compel that other bit of stardust to be brave enough to have a voice of their very own.
If you need a creative outlet, then you should have that outlet. If you need to write or collage or doodle or ink or draw or paint, if you need to sew or sculpt or express -- then it is your gift to the world to share this. You don't have to wait until it is refined or perfect or finished. It's the act of sharing that is the inspiration.
SO, friends, go out there and express yourself! I happen to do it in Midori journals with words and collage and stamps and ink.
What is your way?
What is your voice trying to say?
Being an artist is to be of service.
Being an artist is to notice.
Being an artist is to find your own authentic truth, and work to share that.
Because if you really notice, you will fall in love.
The standing people (trees), the rooted people (plants), the two leggeds (us), the four leggeds (lots of other animals), all of these beings, if you just notice them, you will love them.
and to start with loving yourself is a pretty awesome way to begin.
So naturally I got out my journal and procrastinated!
But what a fun way to procrastinate. I started with the little watercolor painting (on the right) of flowers. Then I scanned it, and made a repeat pattern. Then printed it out, and added some washi tape, a few words, large and small, a date stamp.
My mind felt at ease and I felt good about the beauty I had created. So this is another very helpful way to get ready for an interview.
Journaling as therapy -- hooray!
and if you want to know how to make a repeat pattern in photoshop, here are the steps:
1. create an image.
2. go to filter, other, offset. Set the pixels to 1/2 size of the original image.
3. fill in the center with more of the pattern.
4. go to edit - define pattern
5. open a new image (make it pretty big so you can see lots of the pattern.)
6. edit - fill with the pattern you made.
I have too much going on, a book in the works, an on-line job I am busily applying for, stacks of books to read, cards to make, ornaments to construct and hang on our mantle, blah blah blah.
and Winter has set in here, cold wind, some snow, the need for hot drinks and warm sweaters which leaves me wanting to hole up in bed with a book.
So, all that is just to explain why no entries these last 4 weeks.
I miss working in my journal, and will aspire to get back to my hard-earned habit of spending time cutting and pasting and collaging and inking and writing random thoughts as they occur in my little booklets.
In my last post, I described the practice of asking a question, then picking a random journal off the shelf, and opening it up to any page and seeing if the Universe provided some special insight.
So let's give that another go, right here and now.
My area of interest I propose is: I would like insight into my work life.
So here is the random book I grabbed, looks like it is from 2003 - 13 years ago.
It is kind of a pretty book, with a beaded cover. I was so fancy back then!
and the dates are April 2003 - June 2003. So I guess I filled up that little book in just two months. I will note that this is back in the era where my writing was the focus of these journals. I had not yet fully realized the potential of collage to mine inner gems of the sub conscious, something I gradually morphed into doing in my journals.
and the words? I was complaining about renting a movie, being unable to make it play, calling my husband and not being able to reach him.
Then a gripe about my relationship to technology.
Well, not sure the point, I love and use technology in my work all the time.
In fact, I just spent most of the day designing and producing labels for my vervain calendula soap, which goes on sale today in my Etsy shop.
So what is this Chiromancy telling me?
That maybe, sometimes, it's just a random page, I guess.
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."
Can you believe, this is my bookshelf full of journals?
The first entry date of the earliest journal I still have in my possession is 7 April 1987. I was still in graduate school, I had a two year old at home, was ragged with exhaustion and overwork. The pages are filled with words, maybe a few doodles. It would be years before I started adding collage and mostly visual art to my journals.
Last night I went to a book reading by Robert Moss. He is a prolific writer about dream shamanism, the practice of re-entering your dreams to get insight and information from other realities. I love his work and have practiced this for about 6 years. I have sections of my journals devoted to recording any dreams I remember (and it is true that the more you work at remembering dreams, the more you do remember them.)
One thing he spoke about last night was the practice of bibliomancy -- when you choose a book that is meaningful to you, set an intention with a question or an idea you want insight into, and open the book to a random page, and read the first thing you see. What you are doing, in essence, is trusting the Universe to provide you magical insight. Here comes the profound part -- he said your personal journals are the most powerful choice for bibliomancy, that they are a database for your own magic, and can give the most profound and personal insight into your intentions.
Just yesterday, I was gazing over at this shelf full of journals, wondering why in the world I am so compelled to keep these logs. That for almost 30 years, I have been recording ideas, remembering dreams, making collage and saving photos and ephemera from my life, looking for some kind of insight. Frankly, it's been a huge time commitment, and I haven't seen the payback that much.
A whole new reason to be happy I "wasted" this time. So right now, this actual minute, I am going to set an intention, and open a random journal off my shelf, and consider the meaning offered. I promise, no edits. Let's see how this bibliomancy works with my own journals.
My question: When I return from my visit back East, should I look for a paying job over the holidays?
The answer: I hit upon a page dated 7 March 2007. It is a collage of some mail art I received in response to sending a catalog I had made from a Goddess Mail Art Call. I had lots of Russian participants in this mail art project. This page documented several images from a few of the artists, as well as a request for some mail art from me for a project documenting Yelabuga, a small Russian town. It shows the back and front of the card, and three images from other mail art responses.
So how would this mail art collage answer my question?
Hmmmm. Make more art, don't seek outside employment?
Reconnect with the mail art community?
Work on documentation of art and mail art I already have in my possession rather than spread my energy outwardly?
I am not perfectly clear what is the Universe telling me with this answer. I guess I have to work with it more.
Let's try this once more, maybe that first one was the practice . . . . .
This is from 31 January 2003. I am longing for a sunny place, like the beach. (funny because we will be going to the beach on our trip back East, so a bit prophetic.) I also talk about the below-conscious way of communicating that elephants have and how that's a bit like sending vibrations across the miles. Is this journal entry sending me information across the years? and elephants? How does this relate to me working when we return from our trip?
If my journals are indeed sending me messages from the Universe, they are a bit mysterious to me right now. Maybe this work takes practice. . . .
"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."
Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (Sark) said that.
and it really sunk in for me.
I often wonder what I am doing, fiddling around with collage, painting birds, lettering funky letters, re-writing inspirational sayings, interesting graphics, stamps, maps, carved erasers.
Why do we do creative work? Because it gives joy.
I listened to Sark give an hour talk about creativity and finding one's writing voice, and the real crux of the message is that we find our joy in saying something true about ourselves. And we only have to say this to one person. We don't have to tell the whole world. That's too much pressure.
Permission -- permission to do our work simply because it is what we must do. It's not about making money (we might need to earn money in another way.)
An Unangan writer (Ilarion Merculieff) said something very profound in another podcast I was listening to: "that we have to unburden our hearts before we can think clearly." That when our emotions are clogged and repressed we can't be authentically ourselves. After we allow our emotions to be acknowledged, then our brains become clear. He said if we would just take an hour a day to either laugh or cry or both, (yes, an hour) that if we did that for a whole month every day, you would clear the ego and what would be left would be our pure divine aspect which is true love and compassion.
Forgive yourself, and let your heart rule.
Letting our creative expression be an important part of our practice is so key.
Key to joy.
Key to magic.
Key to speaking our truth.
For me, I love to fiddle around in my journal, paint a bird, splash some paint, stamp an inked eraser, glue down a stamp, add some words.
I recently attending the Mountain West Herb Conference in Breckinridge. It was a marvelous set of lectures, hikes, and inspirational workshops on using herbs, mostly wildcrafted, as medicines and healing agents.
I learned that 99% of the biomass of our planet is plant and tree material. In other words, all the animals (including insects) make up only 1% of the biological material in our world. Maybe we should be protecting this aspect of life! I doubt the biological balance of our planet would function without the 99% who do all the work. (sound familiar?) I have a new appreciation for the plant allies in my garden, and I have been making journal pages honoring the attributes of the green (and brown and red and purple) friends I get to spend time there with every day.
In fact, weeding our garden is my favorite break from work -- my studio is in our walkout basement, so all I have to do is turn my head to see the beauty in our yard. Right now a purple clematis is showering the arch trellis in brilliant purple flowers. Just a glance brightens my outlook.
Here is my little ode to garlic - one of the many vegetables and herbs we enjoy:
“Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery.
The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist."
This journal entry had a lot going on. Then I added more.
Then some more.
Then a bit more.
Then I loved it.
(Media used: German language book and map pages, bird painted in watercolor then scanned and printed on an old book page, washi tape, ink, marker, Tibetan textile print, carved eraser block, printed, then scanned and reproduced into the square, Anais Nin quote from book.)