Well, as you can see, I am out of practice with this blogging thing. I have made my 53 Stories pieces but I have forgotten to post them here this weekend. Ha! So, here are three new stories to catch me up!
I read a blog post by another artist recently where he described his family’s lifestyle as “radically home”. I love that. He and his wife are artists that work from home and their children are unschooled. I can relate to a lot of his posts as an artist and parent and have really fallen in love with this phrase so I am appropriating it. Right now I am schooling my girls at home again and I work from home, with my studio being anywhere I light with the children these days–or maybe out in the garden or meadow, if I am lucky–and quite often propped up in bed with dogs on my feet. I am happiest when we live and school this way and I feel more inspired to make art and to create things for my home when we live this more deliberate family and home-centric way so it just feels right to borrow this phrase to describe or name our lifestyle. After coming out of a few years of trying new things with school and community, it feels like a necessary and intentional act to name our way of living–the way to which we are returning — the way I wish we’d never left.
As is the practice for me each year as I approach a birthday, I am starting a new series of works. It’s a gift to myself to make a new piece of art every day until my birthday and share it with others. Beginning tomorrow, 53 days before my 53rd birthday (I do not count the actual day. I complete the series the night before my birthday.), I will post a new image from the series I have dubbed 53 Stories. I have been batting about ideas for a theme for this series for weeks and realized last night that I have been overthinking it. I am going to keep it simple and make sketches that reflect my feelings about our life here at the Acres. This series is going to include 53 narrative watercolor and/or ink sketches celebrating our radical home life. In the spirit of naming this lifestyle, I have decided to add a layer of words to the work this go round too. This may prove to be more challenging than the making of an image–but it’s the challenge I have set for myself. So, do check back now and then and see how this plays. And now, I am now off to start my first little drawing…
I am on a quest for something new. I feel I have been preparing for this adventure for a while. I have spent the last decade tending my children and chickens, rabbits, gardens and bees — as well as my creative sensibilities. I purposely extracted myself from the local art community back then because I was bored and couldn’t breathe and needed time to find my own way again but I wasn’t quite sure what that would entail so I have meandered through all sorts of projects and plans, in search of –something new or more true for a while. I grew weary of theme shows and festivals and charity events. I wanted so much more–but couldn’t figure out what that meant so I took a step back. During that time, I wandered off into the woods and found a wonderful place to breathe and think. I certainly found inspiration. I have filled sketchbooks with drawings and ideas for years now. During that time I also set up a kiln, picked up needle and thread again, played around with natural dyes and found my way back to my beloved watercolors. I’ve also become a devoted amateur naturalist and usually have my camera and field guides in tow. I even illustrated a book during that time. So, you see, my tool box is in much better shape and I’ve honed a few skills but now, it feels like the time has come to sort out what all that work was for and move toward — something new.
It’s funny. I am reading all of these wonderful books with my children for school these days so I can’t help comparing myself to some of the characters. Some days I feel like bumbling Pellinore from The Once and Future King searching for my Questing Beast “lest the poor creature die of loneliness”. Other days I am probably more like the feverish and fearful Fiver from Watership Down following my crazy and unpredictable visions, in search of the perfect spot for a new beginning but I think perhaps I’d rather think of myself as Bilbo Baggins. I am a bit like that Hobbit, giving into my adventurous “Tookish side” and heading off on an adventure despite my love for home and hearth. I am a restless and strange sort of creature like Bilbo in that way. I crave comfy chairs and full cupboards and clean handkerchiefs but something is certainly always tugging me away from the shire so my bag is packed with maps and expectations once again and I am venturing forth to find the elusive something new. I hope I know it when I see it!
Wish me luck.
The dog woke me up early this morning, long before the sun rose and I couldn’t get back to sleep so I started perusing my favorite blogs and stumbled across this one on the On Being blog by Courtney Martin, called “The Power of a Crew”. It hit a nerve and I went on on of my Brambly Rambles on social media and because I often regret doing that and usually delete the ignored ramble, I wanted to copy it over here so I could hold on to these thoughts that poured out of my not quite awake mama head this morning. I have been trying to find a way to rekindle the blog and this post seems a good way to start. This is the first match thrown into this fire I am trying to reignite.
I have been thinking a lot about this idea of a creative tribe. Over the years I have been a part of many interesting artist communities or O and I had close relationships with other creative couples who understood our goals and quirks –and financial limitations–but over the past decade that changed. After I became a mother, almost 12 years ago, my ideas about “the work'” changed but more significantly, my schedule, my financial priorities and even my work space and materials changed. The biggest changes have been social though. I no longer have close friends that I go out with to dinner or for a beer on the weekends because most of my old, dear artist friends don’t have kids or started their families earlier than I did and young, untethered folk don’t know what to say to or expect of a middle aged mother. Mom painters with young kids don’t get dinner party invitations, especially when that mom brings 2 small people along with her because well, family first! I have spent the last few years cultivating relationships with other parents and teachers at the school my kids attended for a while but most of these friends are not artists and our lifestyles are so different that it’s all very superficial –for the sake of the kids–and my life started to feel very divided and untrue. Living a dual life is really hard and makes me a shitty parent, wife AND artist so I spend a lot of time daydreaming about art projects while cooking or snatching moments to work while my kids are asleep but there is no tribe to remind me why I am still grabbing for those moments. There is no tribe to give me support or advice or inspiration. Who has time or money to go to hip coffee shops or bars or art openings when you have two tweenie kids at home and a lot of bills to pay because buying a house seemed like the right thing to do a decade ago? Not I. If I had money like that, I would buy groceries or shoes for my kids or fix something in my house that is broken — or maybe, just maybe art supplies. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss having a community of creative friends. The Park Slope pizza and beer writers night Courtney Martin writes about sounds so far from my reality now but it is a romantic fantasy that I hold on to. I am the slightly unhinged, totally enraptured artist mother, alone for hours in her head, trying to make art while caring for her home and family and still managing to find time to “get to the studio to throw paint against a canvas” but never finding a way to seek out the tribe anymore. I am trying to sort out what this means for the future of my work and sanity. My art, the process etc, is who I am but the connection with a community of creative people isn’t part of how I work anymore. Maybe when I am in my 60s and my kids are college bound, I will find a new way to connect. I am seeing posts online about so many creative collectives these days and my gut clenches every time because I know I am on the outside. It isn’t really that I am jealous. It just feels like things have shifted. The old lone artist and stable artist model seems to have slipped away and pop up events and collective happenings are where it’s at (and this is where I started! Remember the Flood and Mystic Chamber Salon Birmingham people? The Fifth Gate?)–but I am not sitting up late nights with other single people drinking beer and eating pizza and dreaming up ways to make the happenings happen. I am not even sure I should be or want to be–but the dream niggles at my brain. I miss it. I am not giving up this quest to connect. I know I will find my way again. I always have–but I can’t see which way to go for now so I am still squirming in the brambly thicket. For now, I am still drawing in the wee hours while my children sleep and writing before the sun comes up, before I go to the kitchen table to school my children. I am still listening to audiobooks while I work to keep my brain fluid and open to dreams and words and ideas. I don’t have any close friends anymore and O and I can’t afford a social life anyway so books and podcasts and yes, social media have become my lifeline and every now and then, if I am lucky, I get to go out and see what others are doing with their art and that little glimpse acts as a spark to keep the fire going in my head and heart so thanks to all of you that live creative lives and share your work and keep this fire lit for me. You are my virtual tribe–my crew–even if you don’t know it.
I haven’t felt the urge to write a blog post in ages. Ages! I have missed it. I started teaching at the school my girls attended a about 3 years ago and my life seemed to change in ways that made it difficult for me to manage the time for art making and writing–or gardening or walking in the woods or cleaning my house or cooking… I lost myself a bit as I was drawn into that community. It was an inspiring, if not challenging few years. I made new friends, read new books I might not have read, had conversations with myself and others about things of great importance that taxed my brain and body in ways I could not have imagined. I do not regret that detour but it was not the road I was meant to travel for very long, it seems. I think my road runs parallel to that community’s road for long stretches but then mine veers off into quieter, wilder places for even longer stretches and I need those places — so here I am 3 years older, a little more weary and a lot wiser (and grayer) for going down that side road but ready to get back to my wild places and work.
Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
I thought I might write a new post today. I feel one percolating. I always write a post on All Hallows Eve. My head is always full of stories and images this time of year but I have been painting a lot more than writing lately and so I am offering you a picture instead of words this year–and a link to a wonderful poem by Annie Finch called Samhain. Enjoy! All treats! No tricks!
Perhaps I will write something …tomorrow.
It is Autumn. The leaves are starting to fall, making the ground crunchy. My Cypress trees are turning orange. Acorns are falling. Hickory nuts and walnuts are dropping to the ground. The summer garden is done. Spider webs are between the trees and in tall, dry grasses, catching the bees, moths and butterflies that are out gathering pollen from the goldenrod. Beggar ticks and lice grab my clothes as I walk through the meadow. The ragweed scratches at my eyes and nose with it’s peppery pollen. Sound travels differently. It is clearer and sharper–not dulled by the heavy, humid air of summer. The air today is fresh and the light sparkles making the world look golden and bejeweled. My mind feels clearer and full of purpose, grateful to be rid of the itchy, miserable dog days of summer. My thoughts have turned to wood gathering and sweaters and boots, soups and hot drinks, flannel nightshirts and socks, quilts and bedside books. It’s time to harvest my mind’s crops and put away stores for winter.
I have ideas for paintings and sewing projects that have been growing in my head. It is time to collect them and let my hands work to turn these dreams into art. It’s time to get up before the sun and walk the woods and roads with my dog and try to photograph the ghostly, shadowy magic that happens this time of year. It’s time to be quiet. It’s time to be home.