Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Momentum (or lack thereof)

Well, after a wonderful time with family, I am having a hard time getting back on course. Part of that might be that not everyone is gone yet. Even though Jeff is in Montana right now, he's kind of still here and I'm looking forward to seeing him for a short time before he heads back to his life on the east coast.

I feel strangely at loose ends even though I have a million things I could be doing, but I ran across this quote and I thought I would share it with you. It resonated with me because of some conversations I have had with Kate about blazing a new trail, particularly in the art business. We talked about the fact that the road we are blazing can be filled with ideas that don't work out, mediocre responses to work that we thought did work out, and even outright failures. In a traditional job you get constant feedback in the form of payment if nothing else. It is challenging to keep in mind that the success we're looking for is often at the end of a long, long path of little or no positive feedback, but that that path was necessary to get us to the place where something really positive happens.

The quote encouraged me; maybe it will hold something for you too:

"Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down". Charles F. Kettering.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Team NorthWest Rocks!!

Team NorthWest emerged from the 8K run victorious. We not only ran the race, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, but we all surpassed our goals for the day.

Norm's goal was to run, finish the race, and not have a heart attack. Mission accomplished. In fact, he came in at a time of 53 minutes.

Kate and I had a goal of finishing in under and hour. Mission accomplished. We both finished in 54 minutes.

Cy finished in an extraordinarily strong time of 41 minutes.

Jeff was with us for the weekend, but didn't feel comfortable racing. He was going to take photos, but had too good of a time with old friends the night before and couldn't get up in time. (Read into that what you will.)

What a wonderful visit we have all had. The race gave us an excellent excuse to train and get together. We're all motivated to keep running, maybe even doing a 10K next.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Our 8K run is in four days! When I suggested this family activity many months ago it sounded like such a great idea.

The good news is that I'm finally close to breaking the 11:00 minute per mile barrier that has proved to be so elusive. The bad news is I'd like to shave 1 minute off of my per minute average by Saturday. Not happening. Oh well.

Good enough will have to be good enough.

I've been playing with my art lately, trying some new things, reacquainting myself with old things. One new thing is a different drawing technique, which I really like. I start with a rough shape of the thing I want to draw first.

This is the big picture that I need to help me keep things in proportion, but it is so simple that it doesn't overwhelm me. Then I rough in the shapes like this:

I'm starting to narrow my focus, but it's not too much visual input.

Then I narrow my focus more, taking one detail at a time. By this point I'm ready for the visual input because I have reference points and I'm not confused. (This picture imported sideways for some reason.)
I've tried this method with several complex subjects and had some results I'm pleased with.

Another thing I've been working on is values using ink washes, and then my old friend, watercolor washes. (The watercolor onion imported sideways and WOULD NOT allow itself to be imported any other way. Art has a mind of its own.)
Kate and Cy come day after tomorrow. Jeff comes the day after that!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sometimes Grendel's mother gets the better of me

Grendel's mother ate me up and spit me out today.

That happens sometimes.

Sometimes she just toys with me to let me know who's boss, then flings me away after holding me in her iron grip, but at other times she destroys me. (In this picture, my companion, Sprecka, has sensibly run home.)

The run was tough from the beginning. Maybe I should have started earlier when it was cooler, maybe I wasn't hydrated enough, who knows? I knew in the first 5 minutes it was going to be tough. I almost turned around and went home, thinking I needed a rest day. But I talked myself into continuing, if only for my companion. No mind games worked today. Today was just "let's get through this", grit your teeth, head down, make it home.

I've been feeling in the grip of Grendel's mother in other ways too. Doubting myself, my decision to quit a secure job. Wondering if I could possibly have enough talent, persistence, and simple belief in myself to actually make money through art.

I guess the solution is a lot like the run: continue - put your head down, persevere, work through it.

I am excited about a couple of things. One is simple: I ordered some new art supplies and I'm so anxious for them to arrive so I can start playing with them. Every time the UPS truck comes by I'm like the townspeople from The Music Man who are waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon - "Oh pleeeeese let it be for me!" I'm also working out a new painting idea that will go with my warped nature series. (I don't think I'll eventually call it that, but for now it helps me to keep my ideas organized.) My first painting in that series was the pansies that I distorted to make look like Vegas showgirls (you have to see it to understand). My new idea is promising. I'm also playing around with another series that will go with my "Take Out" painting featuring the Chinese take out container and trigger fish in the ocean.

Tomorrow's another day. I hope you and I don't spend it in the maw of Grendel's Mother.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Call me Beowulf

Sprecka and I went on the long neighborhood run yesterday and we were awesome. We slew Grendel and Grendel's mother!

It's one of many mind games I play with myself as I'm running. You know. Yesterday I didn't feel like running at all so I tell myself: "You only have to do the short run today. 35 Minutes max." Then I start feeling pretty good so I tell myself: "You only have to do the medium run today." Farther into it, I'm feeling pretty good so I tell myself: "Let's do the big run today!" 20 Minutes later, I'm beginning to tire, so I tell myself: "Just run to the next block." I get to the block and I set a new goal, and so on.

The problem with this particular run is that after running 4 miles, you are faced with not just one bugger of a hill, but two!!!

Pull out the big gun mind games.

Norm and I watched Grendel this weekend, which took me back to college and reading Beowulf. As I was facing the first monster hill I named it Grendel. Perfect.

To bring back life to the barren land I, Beowulf, must slay Grendel. Fortunately I have my trusty companion, Sprecka by my side who is fearless in the face of this monstrous evil in front of us. We attack!! We fight. The monster tries its tricks but we are unfazed. We cut off its arm and slay the beast.


My companion and I bask in the glory at the top of the hill and we have a lovely respite for awhile, catching our breath, savoring our victory. But what is that ahead of us? Oh no!! The horribly awesome mass of Grendel's mother rises before us, standing between us and our homeland. She's ticked - we killed her son, so we must die, slowly and painfully.

We attack again, and again. She keeps coming at us but we dig deep and once again, WE ARE VICTORIOUS. The beast is dead and we stand on top of the hill.

My companion and I barely have any breath left for cheering but our hearts are light as we begin the last small hill (I have opted not to name it), heading for home.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finding my focus

I've been thinking a lot about focus my running, in my art, in life! I'm a big picture person which has many advantages, but like any gift, it has it's downside, like becoming lost, overwhelmed, or just plain confused.

I attended my first yoga class today and found that much of yoga is about focus. It was hard for me in many ways, so I think it will be good for me. I've already shared my thoughts about focus during running.

My latest drawings in my illustrated journal bring this into, well, shall I say it? FOCUS!

There is a container on my back deck full of flowers that have drawn my eye as a possible drawing subject for practice. When I had completed the drawing (adding a little watercolor wash for color), I was dissatisfied with it. I decided that it lacked focus.

So I asked myself what had drawn me to this subject in the first place. I realized that it was the yellow flowers in particular, so I decided to redraw the container, focusing on the yellow flowers only, leaving the rest more to the imagination.

I felt the drawing was much more satisfying. Art is a person's unique view of the world, presented for the viewer to experience. Finding my focus is finding and presenting my unique view.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

I'm so excited about a couple of new things and newly appreciative of a couple of old things, so I thought I would share them with you.

I love my new purse!!! I wanted a purse that would serve dual purposes: be an attractive enough purse to take places, but also be able to carry art supplies and sling on my back for walks. I found it at EuroComfort and I love it. There is a place for all of my favorite art stuff and my everyday necessities.
You can see here that it stands on its own and has a nice adjustable strap to throw it over my shoulder or on my back. It is well designed to have plenty of pockets inside and out. You can also see here my second favorite thing: my illustrated journal.

I love my handmade journal! I've been re-reading an old book of mine about creating an illustrated journal. The author laments the fact that finding a good journal is extraordinarily difficult to find. She then goes on to list the qualities of a good journal: strong enough paper that will stand up to drawing, erasing, pen work, even a light watercolor wash; paper that does not have a slick surface and has enough of a tooth to take graphite well; creamy color rather than bright white. She goes on to say that commercially produced journals are just not adequate and that she used to be able to get wonderful journals that were handmade from an artisan, but that they weren't available anymore.

How fortunate I am to know an incredible artist who creates these beautiful well-crafted books and a mother who bought one for me for my birthday!!

Speaking of gifts, I am becoming reacquainted with two old friends: my palette and my 1" flat brush.
My parents gave these to me so long ago, I think I was about 18 years old. If you look closely you can even see my maiden name on a piece of tape on the brush. That brush has been my workhorse for over 30 years and still is in excellent shape.

What are some of your favorite things?
(Norm: you are not one of my favorite things - you are one of my favorite people. We'll leave that for another post.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why I Run

Why do you run?

This was a topic on our Running to Win website that TeamNorthwest uses to track our mileage as we prepare for our upcoming 8K race. The website offers a forum where people can communicate with each other. I haven't ever felt the urge to participate in this particular forum, but I have thought about the question and today seems like a good day to answer it.

First of all, here's a training update. In June, I ran 58 miles! Last week, I ran 17 miles. As you can see, I'm making progress even though it feels at times like I'm not. Today was the best run to date. Norm and I were able to run the full 4.45 miles without stopping!! Additionally, we were well under a 12 minute mile, which has been my goal for awhile and has been maddeningly elusive for some reason.

So why do I run? Well, there's the obvious health reasons. When I run I eat better, feel more energy, deal with stress better...all of those well documented reasons. As we were running today I was thinking about other reasons that I run. When I'm running, I have to concentrate on the immediate to be successful. If I think too far down the run, either in time or route, I become discouraged. It just seems too hard, too far, too impossible to accomplish. This is like life, I think. Most of the time you just have to live in the current moment - looking ahead too often can leave me disheartened and overwhelmed. I also like the necessity of having to concentrate on the physical demands of running. It narrows my focus. I have to think about the task at hand which gives me a respite from the contemplative thoughts that can plague me.

When the going gets tough on a run, I like to think about my muscles and how well they're working. I talk to myself about how thankful I am that I can run. I know that things beyond my control can keep me from running: weather, schedules, injuries from out of the blue, even broken noses. When it's really tough, I say encouraging things out loud, like how well my muscles are working. My favorite thing to say to myself is from a movie called "Armageddon", where the commander barks out: "This is what we train for, so SUCK IT UP!!!". I love saying that out out loud. Norm sometimes tells me to stop talking. I think his way of coping is different.

That's pretty much why I run. I hope you enjoyed your week-end as much as I did.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The ironies of talking to myself and listening to others

The art studio is up and ready! I've spent most of this week sorting, throwing away, packing up, and cleaning over 10 years of "stuff" in my art room so that it would be a functional place in which to create. There were moments of being overwhelmed. I would find things that needed to go to another location - go to that location, only to become distracted by the disorganization in the new location - eventually managing to make my way back to the studio to begin the process again. The day of reckoning is coming when I must face the basement: the final resting place of "stuff".

With my art studio inviting me to do something other than cleaning, I began my illustrated journal. Just putting something down in this beautiful, handmade book was daunting. On a run yesterday, I pondered the roadblocks in my thinking. Would the things I draw and write about be good enough? For who? I'm not creating this book for public consumption - ahhhh...will it be good enough for me? That voice inside of me that tells me that I'm not good enough. If I actually commit something to paper, maybe it will confirm that voice.

I'm trying to talk back to that voice, but it's hard. My running is an example of how hard this can be. I've been trying to tell myself that no one cares if I'm walking or running as they drive past...I need to listen to my body and walk when I'm too tired and run when I feel recovered. No one cares but me, right? Yesterday after I had run for quite a long way before walking, I slowed down to let my heart recover. I was walking happily when a man yelled from his yard, "You're the slowest jogger I've ever seen". So much for the theory that no one notices or cares but me!!! Self-image while running is another roadblock for me. I've told myself that no one cares what I look like as I'm running but me. A pick up truck passed me and barked at me a few days ago. Well, I was running with Sprecka. Maybe they were trying to encourage Sprecka. Honestly, what's a trying to turn over a new leaf self-critical person supposed to do?

Part of cleaning out the art studio involved going through years of teaching materials: curriculum I developed, examples of student work and notes, photos from Williamsburg and the Seattle Institute, and awards/recognitions. Closing any chapter of your life is always a bittersweet thing to do, but I talked to myself about the difference I'd made in many students' and teachers' lives, knowing that I did my absolute best and that I had done some incredible work. Last night, after a baseball game, I ran into an officer in the school PTO, who remarked to me after obviously hearing that I was not coming back next year, "So I guess this means that your husband won't do the balloons for our family fun night this fall". So much for the impact I've had on students!!

I'm off to take a nature walk. Trees, grasses, flowers, and the wind blowing through my hair, I understand.