A necessary understanding of the importance of imagination in my life turns the very idea of coming in for a landing on its proverbial ear. Not, I assure you, in the sense of making a crash landing, my dears. It’s simply that the exquisite security and comfort of realizing it’s time to let my imagination take over, rather than inviting me to curl up and suck my thumb in a cozy fetal position as though my project is a fait accompli, makes me eager to take to the skies. Quelle surprise! Here am I, lazybones extraordinaire, looking with pleasure upon the prospect of digging in to work with a passion.In the meantime, it’s a joy when the creative juices begin to flow. The laws of physics have taught me, as has long experience, that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. In like manner, a spirit dancing the glorious dance of invention tends to build up steam and grow increasingly hungry for further invention. Boredom and lassitude and dull deconstruction have no place in the middle of the rushing river; everyone to the oars and full speed ahead!Just as bad attitudes and actions tend to lead to more of their like, an awakening of the creative urge can spur an upsurge of yet more desire for innovation and art. The muse is a hungry creature. A ravenous creature. Mother of invention that she is, I think perhaps her middle initial is ‘&’. I hope I can be a good acolyte, if not precisely her child. It feels so good to move forward and upward, to fly.
When I post drawings, they almost always require a digital tweak or ten to be clean and sharp enough for putting up on view. Most of the time, it’s merely the need for getting rid of visible dust and scratches or evening out the tone across the piece to more accurately reflect the appearance of the original, stuff like that. Even a direct high-definition scan doesn’t eliminate all of the little oddities.
No doubt there are endless ways to do what I do to the images much more simply and cleverly and efficiently. But having as little technological skill and wisdom as I have, I must content myself with doing in a hundred steps what others can do in ten. At least until I have the time, the money and the gumption to get the necessary education, anyway.
Still, slow and ambling and rambling as I am, I get the occasional urge to mess around with the existing drawing and manipulate it further digitally. Silly, yes, given that it takes me eons to do the first drawing part and a multitude more ages to do anything further via the digital medium. But you know how these things are: inspiration or perspiration, it’s all a command one has to obey once the Muse prods me in that direction. Here’s last night’s drawing (above), followed by the series of phases I put it through today. That is all. For now.
I would like to state for the record that I am not, nor have I ever been, to my knowledge, an actual doodlebug, either zoologically or as a rolling or flying vehicle, a dowsing rod, or a method of seismic activity tracking. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those. And it’s probably safe to say that my garden and numerous dimly lit corners of my home are probably full of living and dead pill bugs (what we used to call potato bugs when I was growing up), and I confess to thinking it highly amusing that these creatures are in fact tiny crustaceans that live right in my house and look like–indeed, are scientifically named after–armadillos. House Armadillos or Domestic Crustaceans, either way kind of weirdly cool in my estimation.
But I digress.
What I am is one of the many humanoids prone to doodling. And that’s not a bad thing, either. Doodling (or randomly scribbling on whatever is handy, usually a cocktail serviette or textbook or office paperwork or top-secret legal document, depending upon one’s status and age and current supposed activities) often leads, though many a grade school teacher would vigorously deny it, to thinking. And on occasion at least, thinking is not an entirely bad thing.
Whenever I’m struggling to get a piece of writing, a drawing, or frankly, any other project underway, there are few motivational tools that compare with doodling. The serendipitous or random mark that merely records a purportedly thoughtless and pointless motion of the hand can sometimes come to resemble an actual Something, and well, Something almost always leads to Something Else. In drawing as in life, just getting in there and starting, whether I’m ready or not, is the best way to potentially get anything done. Who knew!
Today’s doodle is brought to you by my propensity for turning many of my scribbles and scrawls and squibs and squiggles into things that resemble simplified linear paisley patterns or rosemaling, or any number of other folk design traditions. Once I get going on them, I find it meditative to a degree just to follow the whimsical path of inserting repetitive forms and line treatments, geometries and organic outgrowths of the marks, until I’ve filled much of the available space. Many of these folk-like, repeating elements become almost a trademark doodling style that might be as identifiable to some as my handwriting. Though, hopefully, more legible. And while the doodles don’t necessarily lead to specific or pictorial drawings in and of themselves, they do lend themselves neatly to a more relaxed and receptive state of mind in which those more concrete thoughts and ideas can indeed begin to insert and assert themselves usefully. And that can lead to different sorts of drawing, whether more topical or more sophisticated or more directed. Or not! The inspiration is in the action.
Today I was led by the doodling, not to a different drawing entirely, but to scanning it and playing with it digitally, first layering colors all over the place, then digital textures, then altering the proportions of the image, and lastly, stitching the resulting mash-up into a larger grouping of four copies of the same image arranged in a pinwheel fashion and then stretched, skewed, cut-and-pasted, and electronically stamped into a fabric-like whole that uses the same idea of the initial doodles repetitions-with-evolutionary-changes so that the end product still seems to appear quite handmade, as it’s not symmetrical or fully even from side to side or top to bottom. Now, if I were to take that square and repeat it, even if I turned it 90 degrees each time, for example, it would finally become more machine-made in appearance as well as manufacture. But that’s just mental doodling right there, isn’t it, because I could further alter the combination every single time I ‘copied’ it.
Which illustrates exactly what I was talking about as characteristic of doodling. One thing does lead to another, as long as we bother to do the initial one thing.
So I shall begin with a resounding Thank You. To another three gracious and inspiring bloggers who have nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank You, amazing Eve and marvelous ‘Nessa and sweet Peaches! Eve’s poetry and prose move me so deeply I sometimes think she reads my mind–but with better compositional and editing skills than I have. ‘Nessa inspires me with her old-soul attitudes and resilience in the face of committed creative work in such a public forum as a blog at what seems to this aging lady like a tender age indeed, putting out fine and fiery writing as well. Peach Farm Studio is a lovely land whose mistress creates fabulous letterpress art and, as inspiration and adjunct to that, plays with beautiful and wonderful text, music, imagery and any other ingredients that can be combined to make the Studio’s output a joy.Another heartfelt Thank You to the incredible Cecilia. She who presented me with my first VBA has now passed the Reader Appreciation Award my way as well. There is probably no irony at all in the fact that one of the rubrics for proper reception of this award is that one should pass it along to one’s own six most faithful commenting bloggers, but not to anyone who’s already received the award–and you guessed it, she’s been easily among the six most frequent and thoughtful and uplifting commenters here from Day One. One of my first frequent-flyers, period. And a constant source of gracious good-humored help and outsized compassion and good sense to push me ever upward and onward.Now, in case I needed an extra boost, ‘Nessa popped back over to my place to tell me she’d also nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award, and that deserves yet another moment of humbling contemplation of my embarrassment of riches and the great aid lent me by all of you, to which I add Thank You again, no less joyfully and with equal amazement at my good fortune.All of these are among my cloud of muses and angels, my support and drive and comfort in the form of family, friends, and teachers–all of whom are represented among you, my gracious and ever-encouraging, in the deepest sense of that word, readers. So I Thank You all particularly and sincerely for all of the strength, wisdom and joy you have shared with me since I began this blogging adventure. It seems far more than mere months ago that I began to meet you all–you have become so much a part of my world that I move through my days buoyed by the mere knowledge that you are ‘out there’ thinking up innumerable ways to brighten and improve my life, even when you don’t quite know it. That, you might well note, is what family and friends and mentors do, and oh, you do it very well indeed.
At the end of the year I can look back and be thankful for so many fine things, and one of them is clearly the great experience that my dive into the untested waters of the blogiverse has turned out to be. Thank you for making it not only painless but a great pleasure, a steeply upward learning curve, and generally smooth sailing to new and delightful places. I cannot begin to tell you how much I look forward to seeing those places with all of you.
For the moment, I shall wrap up here by recognizing those others who have so sustained me with their commentary. There’s the wonderful ChgoJohn, who also has already received this award himself because he’s always out offering wit and succor and freshly-sauced pasta to everybody around these parts; the sweet cfbookchick, so tender-hearted, poetic, quick with praise and generous with clever commentary as well as being a fellow ooh-sparkly-objects human magpie; the gentle, celestially-inclined Barb of Just a Smidgen, who consistently provides far more than a smidgen of encouragement and sunbeams and shared love of music hereabouts; the warm and open-handed Marie in her Little Corner of Rhode Island, who nurtures all while slyly tickling our ribs and funny-bones, stealthily adding bits of great practical advice all the while; and the self-effacing fairy godmother of Ireland, Our Lady of Just Add Attitude, who eschews awards (luckily for me this one officially doesn’t require her responding to it at all unless she so chooses) despite producing award-worthy posts of her travels and thoughtful ruminations on all sorts of good food and pretty things and then turns around complimenting everyone else as though she’s never heard of such talent. All of you, whether you know it or not, have been an amazing and unexpected joy in your sharing yourselves with me here.
It could but most certainly should not go without saying that these are all joined in my field of heroes by such fine characters as Ted and Nia, the two bardic Dennises, Raymund and Caroline, Desi and Lindy Lee, Anyes and Bella, Neil and Geni and oh so many other worthy and outstanding blogger colleagues and friends. And of course there is that particular fella who patiently shares me with my magical laptop kingdom and who works to keep the roof over our heads as well as still making me glad every time he spontaneously yells out “I LIKE YOU!” and gives me a big goofy wink.
Farewell, good 2011. Come on in, great and glorious 2012! And to all of you out there reading this, may you have a year full of peace, love, joy and ridiculously fun creative living.
Well, Honey, when a mommy artist and a daddy medium love each other very much . . . .
I can’t imagine that there is an artist or creative person alive who hasn’t been asked many and many a time where he gets his ideas or what inspired her to make this piece of artwork, write that song, take whatever photograph or choreograph any given ballet. In many cases, the answers are hard to condense into sound-bite-sized, manageable pieces for the occasion, because much creative endeavor is the tangible end result of a whole lifetime’s experience and train of thought, and we all know how often and how easily that particular train gets rerouted, redirected, diverted and derailed along the way.
But in general, most of us can point to pivotal moments that shaped our thinking, whether on an individual project or about our artistry as a whole. We can cite particular persons and their artistry that inspired and enlightened us and informed our own work as we grew. And for many of us, even we who are relatively late bloomers, a lot of the fodder for this inspiration begins early in life and creeps up on us subliminally to a certain extent.
I’ve already mentioned my long-ago irritation at being ‘bundled’ with Edvard Munch because of my Norwegian roots–and, of course, how ridiculous I realized that irritation was once I discovered that contrary to my belief, the more I got to know his work the more I actually admired it. Now, naturally, I take it as high praise (if perhaps hyperbolically so, though I’m happy to take it anyway) when my stuff is seen as meriting any such comparison.
My personal Style, if there is one, is defined more by a tendency toward slightly aggressive lines and bold coloration and faintly eccentric leanings when it comes to subject treatment than by any distinctive media, techniques or actual subjects. My affections in art are too fickle and my attentions too fleeting for me to be easily contented with any defined set of materials and topics and applications. But I find ideas and encouragement and guidance in the work of many painters, poets, draftsmen, printmakers, essayists, storytellers, architects, boat-builders, jewelers, botanists, lycanthropes . . . dear me, have I wandered again?
Part of the trick in pinning down who has been an influence on my work and where I’ve gotten my inspirations and ideas is that I’m very much a holistic, integrative and analogous operator, so in true Liberal Arts fashion I pull my many threads together from many divergent and possibly unrelated sources. The only consistent thing is that I try very hard to steal from the best.
My gifts are not musical, but I love music. So although my piano skills are fit only for personal amusement and my singing limited by spasmodic dysphonia and lack of practice to in-car singalongs and serenading my spouse with occasional outbursts of bent versions of formerly-familiar songs, I often work with music as my inspiring accompaniment. My paintings could be said to derive more from Aretha Franklin or Felix Mendelssohn, The Real Group or Tomás Luis de Victoria, than from Munch or Vincent van Gogh, though both of the latter have lent me many of my ideas about brushwork and coloration. My writing is more directly writing-derived, perhaps, but all of the favorite writers that spring to mind (Ogden Nash, Vladimir Nabokov, Dr Seuss, JRR Tolkien, S.J. Perelman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tomie dePaola, Geoffrey Chaucer) are on my hit list because of the lyrical, even musical, qualities with which they treat poetry and prose. I love children’s books as much now as I did when an actual child, because the best of them of course comprise a perfect and literal confluence of verbal and visual imagery, something that becomes more deeply ingrained in me by virtue of drawing the senses together. And in that way, my writing is often led to incorporate certain textures and moods and colors or to carry a particular ambience by either pictures (real or imagined) or simply the weight of a visual experience I’m hoping to evoke with words. I’m no synesthete, but all the same I do depend on the interaction of all my senses to shape each of the creative works I’m developing.
I did once make an entire exhibition devoted to portraits of people (mostly historical figures) who had had influence of some significant sort on my art and my creative life, and perhaps the most telling thing about the gallery besides that I had deliberately filled it with nothing but portraits (a form I’d studiously avoided all along in my artistic journey until then) was that very few of them were of visual artists. Most were of composers, singers, and writers. A few were agents of social change, a couple were people I actually know, and a handful were influential in the philosophical or spiritual realms. The writers and musicians ruled the room. I doubt that would change hugely if I were to do such a survey of inspirational influences again. I do know that there would be a new character added, but I’m not certain how exactly I could represent in a portrait my network of online muses in blogdom.
Otto von Münchow is a very nice man. But I don’t have to tell you that, if you’ve done any looking around the web. I’ve never even met him–in person–but it took very little time looking at his blog and ‘conversing’ with him in the process before I saw how much help he offered not only me with his photographic and creative-production insights but also shared with all of his other readers and correspondents. And then he went and shared a Versatile Blogger Award with me. I’m humbled, and I’m touched.
Yes, there are those who would say I’m tetched. It’s how I got where I am today! And where I am is in truly rarefied company, as I’ve been learning over the last number of months here in Bloggerville. I am surrounded by deeply gifted and incredibly generous fellow bloggers, some of whom have taught me more in my short stint as a web denizen than I learned from many an arduous class project and long years of practice. (Okay, I’ll still say the years of practice made it possible to actually understand and make use of some of the good stuff I’m learning here, so no, my young friends, don’t skip that part!) I know I’m one seriously fortunate person, surrounded by, as my good friend Nia aptly identifies them, a glorious cloud of “angels and muses”.
The Irish/Norwegian saint Synnøve is one of a select group I chose to make mixed media portraits commemorating for a collaborative program with organist David Dahl a number of years ago. The fabulous Dr Dahl agreed to create a performance program with me, and despite his renown as a Bach expert, even agreed to plunge into French Romantic literature to please my whim–something he not only performed with superb fire and panache but taught me a lot about in the process. I loved the preparations: David would join me in the organ loft for a flurry of ‘howzat’ samples he played from a number of great composers in a wide variety of styles and moods and colors within the fantastic treasury of my dream realm. He told me about the background of the pieces, how and why and when they were written and by whom–and who that composer studied with–and so on. Gradually we winnowed down the possibilities as I began to talk, in return, about what sort of imagery these evocative pieces inspired. I fell in love with each and every song and movement, and with the genre yet again.
I also decided, as the good Doctor played, that the exquisite and potent Finale by César Franck was reminiscent of a solemn procession of saints, so I decided it was a good excuse to play around with a series of portraits, beginning with figuring out which ones it would most interest me to envision. My main criterion was simply that I was on the hunt for saints famous for more than martyrdom. While I recognize that being willing to die for your beliefs, whatever they are, my school of thought tends to be more impressed with how incredibly challenging it is to live for your beliefs. So I looked for people beatified and sanctified for their deeds rather than their being dead. The princess Synnøve certainly seemed to fit the bill, what with evading an oppressive forced marriage, adventuring off on the wild open sea to who-knows-where and landing in remote Norway, creating a community there, and then fending off pagan attackers. As well as a few other attributions that become even more mystical and magical. In all, a history that says this was one tough Celtic character who went to great lengths to shape her own destiny, and in so doing shaped others’ as well. Eventually she was joined in the recital processional by a number of other intriguing worthies–educators, hospitalers, rescuers of the poor and builders of bridges among them–and I found a large quantity of inspiration, not strictly artistic either.
That’s what I find in this new endeavor of mine too. A long parade of angels and muses that bring to me new knowledge of art, of self, and of life. And I am ever so grateful for the gifts!
We who are inducted into the Versatile Blogger community are tasked with telling you friends a little more about our selves and then sharing the gifts of the award with others whom we deem deserving as well. I’ve done this twice before (thank you, dear Cecilia and Nia!), so I’ll try to be succinct.
Versatile Blogger Award protocol:
1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers.
2. Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
3. Share 7 random things about yourself.
4. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award pic on your blog post.
So here’s that Pack of Facts about me:
1 – I’m one of those awful excuses for a human being that doesn’t like blueberries. There are a number of fruits I’m not crazy about for texture but in the juice or coulis form I’ll slurp ‘em right up. Not blueberries. Don’t like the scent or the flavor any more than the texture. Yet the blueberry bush is a plant I happily put in my garden because I think the shrub is beautiful year-round, and even the berries are very pretty to look at. Go figure.
2 – Even a complete non-athlete (there are few who can begin to compare with me for lack of skills) can have a Sports Injury. My only-ever stitches are hockey related. Too bad I wasn’t making a brilliant goal play at the time, but at least I got a little scar to show for it.
3 – The dentist is my friend! I am something of a rarity, not only enjoying visits to the dentist but also hitting the 50-year mark without ever having gotten a cavity. That’s thanks to good dental care on top of a bit of good luck: my parents both have “normal” teeth, so it was clearly not straight-up genetics that gave them four caries-free kids.
4 – Besides some costume design and construction for theatrical productions, ecclesiastical vestments, and other clothing design/construction projects over the years, I’ve had a few evening gown commissions–favorites are probably the plastic-garbage-bag (Hefty Steel-Sak) gown in silver and black for a costume party (I labored over the hand-cut lace edges) and the plastic wedding gown made for an exhibition (that one had plastic doilies for its lace).
5 – No cigarette or smoking device of any kind has ever touched my lips. Wait: I did try a couple of bubble gum “cigars” in childhood (banana was my favorite of the chewing gum flavors, I think), does that count? But thankfully (for both my lungs’ and my wallet’s sake) I never had the remotest urge to experiment with smoking.
6 – I think my husband has one of the most beautiful singing voices I’ve ever heard.
7 – Many of my art projects arise from random exposure to topics, objects and ideas I encounter whilst “on the way somewhere else”. Ah, serendipity!
I know that some of my favorite bloggers have received Versatile Blogger recognition before, and I do know that it takes a great deal of time and effort to meet the requirements of acceptance, so for the following blog-stars, I personally exempt you from any of the responsive requisites, but I want to recognize publicly how much I admire your work.
Today’s Sparks Blogroll of Honor:
The Bard on the Hill
With thanks and cheers for all that you do in the blog universe, I bow to you all! Onward and upward, my friends!
Just because I believe that inspiration and the skill to fulfill it are best bought with persistent and focused labor doesn’t mean I don’t think it lies all around for the taking, too. There’s just so much astounding and strange and beautiful and fun stuff in every imaginable cranny of the world that the real charge here must be to keep all senses twitching at all times, not least of all the antennae of intuition. And I also lean toward the ‘it’s all been done already’ theory of creative endeavor, wherein pretty much every grand idea in history has very possibly already been had and it’s our pleasure and somewhat difficult responsibility to somehow recombine the DNA of our arts into something new and wonderful that’s now our own. So I have no hesitation about going shopping amongst all kinds of artworks extant for a better chance of gathering useful inspirations from them to move me toward my own next project.
When I go to an art exhibition I’m not only basking in the inherent attractions of the works hanging on the walls and filling up the galleries but also filing away molecules of inspiring marvels and, not least of all, building up a slight head of steam that makes me antsy to get into the studio again myself. When I attend a concert, dance, play or other performance, I’m absorbing whatever tremendous artistry, craft, skill, design, and magic came together to make the moments possible, and on the side, I’m mentally revising, redesigning, rehashing and reinventing on my terms every aspect I can imagine, making it mine. It need not diminish my admiration for the work in hand, but rather tends to let it bloom in every direction as an expanding universe of potential artistry. Granted, I am no dancer, haven’t acted since high school (unless you count acting competent, or like I’m not scared, when the occasion requires), and I’m certainly no great shakes as a musician of any sort. But I’ve attempted each just enough of each to appreciate the fineness of what I’m seeing when I sit at the feet of masters.
Even when I dine, the food and its preparation and context can provide a wild cornucopia of not only tasty satisfaction and belly filling sustenance but also another source of artful inspiration of every sensory variety. It might lead to more food (a grand enough goal, to be sure), might lead instead to some seemingly unrelated object’s invention.
Most directly of all, reading stuff that makes me shiver with happiness or shock or reverie or any other sort of appreciation has a strong tendency to get the creative juices flowing–specifically, toward my pen point.
It’s all, and always, research as it happens. Right down to the purposeful hours I spend staring into nebulous space after the fact, looking for that miraculous confluence of thought word and deed that will combine all of my life’s experience into the right synchronous process of art-making to produce my next inspired work. Luck, be thou a true lady . . . tonight, tomorrow, forevermore. Muse, approach.