Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The long and the short of it

Today is the first day of winter.

Which also means that it is the shortest day of the year.

Which also means that EVERY DAY FROM TODAY ON WILL BE GETTING LONGER - leading to my favorite time of year...SUMMER!

But, in my determination to not wish my life away (I wish it were summer now; I wish it were then, not now), I will share my attempts to embrace the now, particularly my impossible mission progress:

4 mile run on the Centennial Trail - 12/16/11

28 degrees - freezing fog

As we approach the end of the year I also want to take the time to thank you all so very much for following this blog. I truly appreciate your support and insights and look forward to spending more time together in 2012.

On that note, I will be taking some time off to be with family, so look for a new blog post after the New Year.

Merry Christmas

Have a blessed New Year


Friday, December 16, 2011

So self-centered

For once, I am thinking only of myself.

You're probably thinking one of two things:

  1. What?!!! This is NOT the season to be selfish, (at least not out loud).

  2. For once? Ha! (This is for those who know me well.)

For the record, I am speaking artistically.

I have a mission to paint two pieces that are strictly for me. It could be said that I always paint for me. Except for commissioned work, my projects are self-determined. I paint whatever seems to be demanding to be painted. But the work is still somewhat outward focused, projects designed to go out into the world to find the people they were destined for.

Not these two pieces. These are for me. They sing to me and it is time.

One project has been patiently waiting since the summer. I will paint my hawks. I want this painting to manifest the magic that I felt during the time these four magnificent fledglings perfected how to be hawks, with me right there. It was my "Summer of the Hawks". I'd like this painting will be a tribute and reminder.

The other project is new yet strangely clamoring for immediate attention. It will be based on this photo:

I've never felt the least desire to be part of one of my own paintings, but when my husband took this photo at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, I was captivated by it. Usually I compose a painting, but my thought is that this one will be much like the photo, somewhat Andrew Wyeth inspired, if I'm so lucky.

I love that I am on a path that offers no hint about where it is leading, that I am alone, and that I am looking at something that the viewer cannot see - a visual metaphor for my life if I've ever seen one. Not that I am alone, of course. I have wonderful loved ones who have journeyed with me. But we each experience life uniquely, and therefore in some ways will always be alone. We cannot know where our paths will take us, and we each see the world in a way that others cannot.

I plan to share studies for these two projects with you. Studies are especially important for these projects for a couple of reasons. One, these two pieces seem to want to be BIG (at least that is what they are whispering to me, right now), and two, they are demanding to be painted on TWINROCKER watercolor paper!! (Maybe this is really me wanting to paint on this paper. It is so expensive. I have their website tabbed on my computer and I visit it periodically, my nose leaving prints on their virtual glass display window, with my grubby fingers holding my meager pennies in my hand, hoping for the day when I will be good enough to justify spending so much money on such an extravagance.) I will be completely freaked out when actually faced with a blank sheet of this paper, so smaller studies will be absolutely necessary.

I'm telling you all of this to give you a preview of what I will be working on but also as a bit of accountability to the work, so that I won't be as likely to chicken out and work on something safer. Of course, since the creative muse who has been assigned to my case is who she is, none of this may work out at all or I may end up with something totally different. Who knows?

I just can't see that far ahead on the path.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quality of the day: wonder

I woke with anticipation this December morning
my excitement and determination adequate weapons
against the ice and cold.

To see the birds of prey
fierce, not tame
demanding my respect.

To see the elk
who decided to be elsewhere that day
but they are sovereign beings and I wouldn't have it any other way.

To see the land
not dead, but dormant
stunning in austerity.

To see the lights
an unexpected oasis of color and life
in a frozen world.

May your days be filled with wonder.

Turnbull Wildlife Refuge
Manito Park

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel

The man thought he would explode if he listened to his wife and son's chatter a minute longer.

"Why don't you two ride ahead?" he said. "I'm going to rest here a minute." He leaned his bike against the old mill stones that lined the trail and walked over to look at the river.

"You sure?" His wife saw him take a deep breath as he kept his face turned away. He didn't answer. "OK. We'll ride on ahead and then come back for you." She watched him for a minute, concern lining her face, and then turned with a bright smile to her son. "Let's race to the next mile marker," she challenged.

"Ha! You'll regret that." He surged in front of her and she followed.

"Oh, God. What am I going to do?" The man wiped his hand across his face and stared at the river. The voices of his family were replaced by the familiar memory of a shuffle of footsteps and the tap of a cane. "Dad, what do you think?" he asked softly.

He could see his dad shake his head the way he always did when he thought his son was being particularly stupid about something. "About what? What's the problem?"

"I was laid off. Twenty-five years of working for this company and I'm no longer needed. We got bought out; they closed the division. No more job." The man continued sightlessly watching the river. "Been looking for six months, can't even get an interview. They say I'm overqualified, but there don't seem to be any jobs at my previous level."

His shoulders sagged and he took a ragged breath. "It wasn't supposed to be like this. Wasn't this when it was supposed to get easier? It did for you and Mom. It did for most people my age. How is this right? How is this fair?"

"Fair?" He could hear his father's short, gruff laugh. "Life's not fair. I think the biggest disservice our generation did yours was to teach you that life was fair. Look at history. Was there ever really a time when people could expect fairness? Hell, look around you. Look at those old millstones you've got that fancy bike of yours leaning against. Cast aside, old technology. That bike of yours will be the same. Things change; people are always reinventing the wheel - life just rolls on. And it will roll right over you, grind you into the dust if you let it."

The man could see his father gaze off in the distance as he leaned on his cane. "You know, when I think back, I can honestly say that the best times were when your mom and I were struggling, barely making do. Later, when things got easier we got complacent, maybe sleepwalking a bit through the days. There's something to be said for having to stay sharp.

"There are lots of ways to die in life, but two stand out: being too afraid to take risks, and being too complacent to need to." The old man laughed. "Be thankful that at least now you don't have to worry about the being complacent part."

"I'm tired, Dad."

"I understand. Do you hear that? It's understandable. Life isn't fair. But you're going to be OK. You'll be more than OK. You're my son, aren't you? Now get rolling!"

"I miss you, Dad."

"Pops, who are you talking to?" The man turned around to see his son and wife standing behind him. He hadn't heard them return. He smiled sheepishly. "Your granddad. I pretend he's still here sometimes when I really need him. It helps me to remember what he taught me."

"Dad, are we going to be OK?" his son asked.

The man's gaze moved over the old mill stones, his bike, and landed on his son. "Yeah. We'll be OK. We'll be more than OK. I'm your dad, aren't I? Now let's get rolling."

Reinventing the Wheel

Watercolor - 9 1/2" x 13 3/4"

Centennial Trail Series

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fold, or all in?

Inspired by the Centennial Trail Series of paintings. Of course, it's about more than just running.

I planned and prepared well
before I set out on the trail
but it is cold, so cold.
"Push through it", I tell myself.

I am alone
my footsteps, my breathing, and my chattering teeth
the only sounds I hear.
Voices of fellow travelers, small animals scurrying in the bushes,
snakes slithering across the trail
even my brother hawks -
all gone
part of a different season.

I want to fold, go home
my excuses easy to find, logical, full of common sense
full of something.
That's what makes it so hard; sometimes you have to fold
and wait for another hand to play
but how many times have I folded when I should have gone all in?

I see white trees standing out against the burnt sienna shoreline.
Nondescript in the earlier lush, green days of summer,
this cold, stark season brings out a beauty
that I recognize in myself.

It still hurts; still is so hard
and cold and lonely on the trail
but I'm feeling something else, an energy
warmth from inside brought about by movement
and sheer perseverance.

It has to be this way
a level playing field of choice: all in or fold?
heartbreakingly easy to fold
because the return of going all in can be so great.
The trail is hard; every day the choice is new again
and you have to do it alone.

Although as I continue
I see others on the trail.
No easy Sunday afternoon participants here
they have already folded.
There is a depth of acknowledgement in the greetings we exchange,
because you can't get this far on a whim.

The sun feels warm on my face
even though it is still icy cold in the world around me
it no longer cuts at my heart.
Energy flows through to my fingers.
I feel strong, alive.

Tomorrow I will face the same choice,
and it will be just as hard as it was today
always a level playing field.
I might fold tomorrow - it has happened before
but today,
today I went all in.

End of a Season - Watercolor, 8" x 10 1/4"

Standing Out - Watercolor, 10" x 13 1/2"

Perseverance - Watercolor, 8" x 10 1/2"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's face it

You don't get much better than this.

Visiting the Omaha Zoo

with my husband and lovely daughter over Thanksgiving.

No matter how you look at it,

email, Google Talk, Facebook, texting, phone calls

nothing is as good as face time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What a card

Need a unique, inexpensive gift for Christmas?

I have a limited amount of cards available from the "Dueling Dragon" series of paintings. They come in packs of six, are prints from the original paintings, and are printed on high quality card stock.

Pair a pack of these beautiful cards with one of the full size "Dueling Dragons" prints for a very special gift.

They are available in my shop now!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Courage, dear heart

When I was a little girl, I read all of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books - many times. There is a line in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that has buoyed me in difficult times. The character, Lucy, along with the other characters are on a ship surrounded by darkness and filled with unspeakable fear.

Suddenly Lucy sees a flash of white. Aslan, the mighty lion, has come to Lucy in the form of a white bird and whispers into her ear, "Courage, dear heart". Even though the darkness persists, she is comforted, knowing that she is strong enough to withstand the darkness - that the darkness is temporary.

Winter is difficult for me. I was looking out our window at the first snowfall, feeling that darkness surrounding me. You might have experienced that darkness; it can come in various circumstances. My eye caught a bit color and was drawn to a Christmas cactus that was blooming for the first time in three years - as though whispering to me, "Courage, dear heart".

Today, as in every day, I am thankful for so many things, having been truly blessed in my life. But I am especially thankful for those flashes of hope that God sends to us when we need them.

Whether you are enjoying a season of light or enduring a time of darkness, I am thankful for you and wish you blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear hearts.

P.S. - These fellows showed up for a visit:

A small joke: Why did the turkey cross the road? To avoid being turkey dinner!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You don't impress me much

OK, so a funny thing happens whenever I finish an art project.

I go into a funk - a small pit of despair, adrift and at a loss.

You would think that finishing a project would result in a boost in confidence. For some reason it does the opposite for me. I just finished two major projects that I am very pleased with. One was an addition to the Centennial Trail Project, the other was a commissioned painting with matching cards. I had to overcome several obstacles on both projects and I am very happy with the way they turned out. So what happened?

Into the pit of self-doubt I went. I won't bore you with the details of my sojourn in the pit. Eventually I clawed myself out - using the hand and footholds that I have painfully carved out as a result of previous visits.

During my last time in the pit, I thought about this pattern of post-project despair, and I realized that maybe I just needed to not be so impressed by it. Instead of feeling that panic of "I am in the pit...again!!!! WOE IS ME!!!", maybe I could just get out scientist me and take some notes: "Hmmmmm, I notice that when I finish a project, I have a dip emotionally. Very interesting," all the while taking notes in my Book of Me.

I know it sounds somewhat narcissistic to have a Book of Me, but it has actually been very helpful in noticing patterns in my behavior. Neutrally listening to the fear voice that runs through my head has helped me to minimize its debilitating effect. Just like I have learned that I need to build a bridge back to the studio after time spent away, I can also set up helpful transitions for moving from the end of one project to the beginnings of another.

In the studio, I am working on a new painting. Here is a value study for it:

I also have lovely new cards from the Dueling Dragons Series of paintings:

The commissioned piece that I spoke of earlier required that I solve the "how to turn a painting into a card" mystery, which has resulted in my also being able to offer these cards. They will be in my shop very soon.

I am thankful that while the fear voices are still with me, and probably always will be, I am learning to not be quite so impressed by them.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Get it while the gettin's good

Or Mission Impossible

(Too many Saturday mornings spent watching Rocky and Bullwinkle in my formative years make a second title often seem appropriate.)

As winter approaches I have a goal, a desire, a wish all rolled into one. I want to keep running - somehow. I said that last year and I failed.

I have an even greater incentive this year. My thinking process during running has become amazing. Running not only makes me feel better physically and emotionally, it is the incubative (I just made that word up, I think) process for major projects. If I could attach a recording device to my brain as I ran, an entire book would be near completion. As I run dialogue from this unwritten book pops into my head, art ideas bounce around, blog post possibilities announce themselves.

Super Sprecka and I on a recent run on the Centennial Trail

How can I do without that for four months? I have to keep hold of this superpower ability while it's here. Who knows how long it will last? And here's the worst part - no matter what indoor physical activity you do all winter (treadmill, elliptical) when you start running again in the spring it is as though you were back to square one!

Life can be unfair.

What are the obstacles to winter running?

  • Snow

  • Ice

  • I live on major hills and am known for falling and breaking bones in my face (yes, I did that in the summer, so no excuses there)

A running expert told me that if I just got in one decent run (3-5 miles) a week, and did something else indoors the rest of the week, I would keep my running fitness come spring.

Possible solutions:

I could run in a school gym. (This sounds incredibly boring, but I am hoping that my superpower will kick in and I will be transported to that other place of incredible creativity during the hamster-like gym running.)

I could run in flat areas that have been plowed.

With either of these solutions I will have to get over my aversion to getting in a car to go someplace to run. It just seems like such a ridiculously American thing to do.

I will keep working on other ideas to make my impossible mission possible. Any thoughts?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Polka dots and poetry

Or, bridge building 101.

Many people (slight exaggeration, perhaps), have asked where I get my bridge building ideas. After all, in order for the bridge to work, it has to meet important criteria. It must be:
  • fun

  • stress free

  • for the most part, directed from elsewhere so that I don't have to think too hard

For your bridge building pleasure, I thought I would share some of my current favorites.

For loose, fun exercises, I turn to Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists. This little guy came from one of those bridge building days.

When I'm in a silly mood and just want to play with a pencil you can't beat any Mark Kistler book. If I want to get messy and feel like an 8 year old again, I turn to this fantastic book by Denise Logan.

But my favorite current bridge-building activity is to add color to this beautiful, hand crafted coloring book


When this incredible creation arrived, I was momentarily frozen with indecision about what to do with it. It was so amazing that I didn't want to ruin it. I turned to one of the line drawings and decided to just add some watercolor washes without worrying about it. Then I knew what I had to do.

Add dots -
and lots
of dots.
Here a dot
there a dot
everywhere a dot, dot.

I don't have to worry too much about it. Just add dots - wherever they seem to want to go, in whatever color they seem to want to be.

Dots are strangely soothing and very playful. You can add them while listening to your favorite dot-type music. They are a perfect bridge-building activity.

I thought about what to put on the facing pages of my beautiful polka dot illustrations and it hit me (while running, of course - all my most inspired ideas come while running): poetry!

Polka dots and poetry.

Poetry can be intimidating and serious, but paired with polka dots? Preposterous.

When I was young I wrote poetry all of the time. I'm sure it was very bad poetry, but I loved it and I loved the process. So, I've decided to fill my beautiful Photosynthesis book with polka dots and poetry.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How about a story?

"What do you do?", someone asked recently.
"I'm an artist", I replied.
"Oh, an artist! What KIND of artist?"
I smile. "I tell stories."
"Stories?" Confusion. "I thought you said you were an artist."
Still smiling, I explain: "I see the extraordinary in the ordinary and I tell their stories.

The Wind, the Wild Spring Daisies, and the Old Gnarled Tree

"Look at me! Look at me!"

One glorious spring day the wind was passing over the land, its touch first gently moving the grass then swirling around the leaves of the trees. It heard a noise at odds with the peacefulness of the day.

"Look at me! Look at me!" shouted a chorus of voices.

"Aren't I beautiful?" asked one voice.

"I'm just as beautiful," said another.

A shrill third voice cut in. "Well I am even more beautiful than any of you."

"We're ALL beautiful", sang the chorus again. "Look at me! Look at me! Look at US!"

"Who is making that racket?" The wind sighed, then moved in the direction of the noise. Cresting the hill the wind saw the source - wild spring daisies.

As the wind moved around the dancing flowers, they preened and swayed in a flamboyant greeting. "Hello Wind. You're making us dance. Aren't we beautiful? Look at us! Look at us!"

"Harrumph", replied the wind.

It was then that the wind noticed that the daisies were near an old friend, a twisted, gnarled tree that looked out over the river. While it is true the wind was as old as time and seldom even spoke to the creatures that lived on the land for such a short time, the tree had been there for so long that over the course of the months and years they had struck up a friendship.

Brushing up against its old friend in greeting, the wind grumpily asked, "Doesn't that noise bother you? As if they even matter. How long will they last? A few days? A week at the most. Yet listen to them, as if their beauty means anything."

The old tree chuckled and stretched its smaller limbs with the help of the wind's lift. "Ah, my old friend, leave them be. They make me smile."

"What?" The wind wailed. "How can they make you smile? All they think about is what they look like. Do they appreciate or even notice you? You who have been here longer than most, giving shelter and support to those who only think about how young and beautiful they are! They know nothing."

"Ah, they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, my friend," replied the tree, stiffly stretching its limbs out over the grass. "It doesn't matter if they realize how we support and nurture them. It brings me joy and in return I get something of youth back from them. We compliment each other, even if they are too new at life to understand. You and I, my friend, we understand."

"But it will pass so quickly," argued the wind. "Next week there will be new wildflowers to take their place. Shouldn't we make them realize how inconsequential they are, compared to us?"

"How would that help us to be more?" asked the tree. "You are doing what you were created to do; you don't need someone to tell you that what you do is important. You know that it is. Just as I know that what I do is important. And, I get the pleasure of enjoying others doing what they were created to do, like our young friends over there, and even you, my old friend."

"How did you get to be so wise for such a young creature?" laughed the ageless wind as it tickled the old tree's branches and moved out across the river.

"Look at me! Look at me!" Came the shouts again a few days later.

The wind paused in its journey and went to visit the daisies. No, not the daisies. The wind saw that the daisies were already gone. In their place blue wildflowers were dancing, calling out, "Look at us, Wind. Aren't we beautiful?"

"Yes, you are, little flowers," the wind replied kindly, swirling around them helping them in their dance. "You are indeed."


10 1/2" x 14"