Friday, January 23, 2009

More Images

Doing It Better

It's too early in this sub-zero winter to be talking about the ice breaking up. But I think some of my own internal ice is starting to shift and move and melt.  As far as I can figure, that's as good a thing as the warm winds of spring will feel when they finally arrive. I've always been the kind of person who pauses right before sharing something I've done, allowing enough time for that shifty thought:  IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! to creep in. Sometimes the thought arrives even earlier, like just as I get to my art table ready to create something. Or when I'm sitting at my computer prepared to write. And that's when the next thing I know I'm doing email, watching TV, or playing mindless computer games for hours on end.  

I've been working at keeping a visual journal for several years now, but something has been preventing me from truly throwing myself into it the way I am able to let myself go with my written journaling. There are always these thoughts bouncing around in my head: I'm not doing it right.  I need to do it better. It's not good enough! No matter how many times I tell that inner critic to go sit in the corner and keep her mouth shut, I let the voice in and I falter. My work falters. For the past couple weeks I've been PLAYING with some of my "failed" collages and other pieces (like ATCs and postcards), using them to create art journal backgrounds digitally. Okay, this is too much fun for words!  And whether they are "good enough" or not, I'm sharing a few of them with you (above and in the next post).  

On the night of the inauguration I kept hearing people say that our new president made them want to be smarter, to find ways to contribute, to "do it better." President Obama and his beautiful, community-minded, giving family make me feel that way, too. Seen in that light, "doing it better" is a good thing. A place for me to begin is right here in my studio. In a spirit of playfulness. Practicing doing what I love. Finding ways to share it. Because, after all, that's how we get better at anything, isn't it? Today, still basking in the warm glow of Inauguration Day, that feels like spring to me!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Images and Words, Words and Images

On evenings like the one in the photograph the winter sunset over the houses across the street knocks me senseless.  Deep reds and oranges, densely brilliant hues and tones contrasting with black silhouetted branches and snow on the rooftops.  This image is one of many midwestern images that kept showing up in words on paper and then later as pictures pulled from magazines and pasted down on journal pages during many years when the only snow I ever saw was a brief dusting in the foothills above the San Fernando Valley or on TV (and then this kind of orange sunset usually meant something was on fire).  My longing for four distinct seasons was what started my first notebooks devoted almost entirely to images (no way was I ready to call them art journals at that point -- they were my Dream Books, a place to turn my longings into visual affirmations).

These notebooks were in addition to the morning journaling practice I've had for over 30 years of madly scribbling, dumping anything and everything onto the page, usually while drinking two cups of coffee and often before speaking one word OUT LOUD. (Along the lines of Julia Cameron's "morning pages" from her wonderful book, THE ARTIST'S WAY, or Natalie Goldberg's freewrites from WRITING DOWN THE BONES, this is writing that clears my head and allows me to go on with my day. The writing serves primarily a meditative, prayerful, therapeutic purpose with an end-of-the-year "payoff" -- poems, story and art ideas, character sketches, and other creative jottings ready for me to develop or ignore.)

Once my Dream Book affirmations worked and we moved back to Minnesota, I let myself begin to explore the amazing world of art journaling.  I love the way the form marries words and images, how it obscures at the same time it illuminates.  It's a great way to play with different mediums and can take pretty much any shape, size or form.  I like to keep several going at once (because I'm impatient and hate to wait for paint and glue to dry) which allows me to work on different surfaces and with different materials.  Right now, for instance, I've got two altered book journals going, one index card -- using heavy watercolor paper and a vintage card file, and several fabric (art quilt) pages like the one on the right.   

For me this work/play is like making the poem or story visual, while keeping meaning veiled in mystery -- left to the observer to discover through their own response.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Writing Myself into the New Year

I'm sitting at my desk surrounded by notebooks -- my writing and art and life journals from 2008 -- and am in the middle right now of a process I do each year sometime between Christmas and the middle of January.  I go back through my writing notebooks of the past year, pulling out poem drafts, story ideas, character sketches, art ideas, notes about marketing, and drawings I want to save. As I work through the 20-25 notebooks, I'm also reading the year's story of my ups and downs -- as an artist and writer, of course, but mostly as a PERSON -- and thinking about the year in front of me.  

Now, I'm not big on resolutions. They go the way diets go for me.  Badly. Let's just say they stimulate a spirit of rebellion.  So, yeah, I'm thinking about the things I'd like to do differently. But what works better for me than making a resolution (or five or 20) is to look at how I want my day to go.  Do I want the balance to swing toward art or writing or both?  Do I want solitude?  To be inside or outside more? What keeps me from doing the creative work I love? What can I do (ya know -- TODAY) to change that?  In what ways do I want to share myself and my work with others? Where do family and friends fit in?  

Gradually, as I've taken this time at the end of one year and beginning of another to ask myself these questions, I've begun to experience each day as the gift that it is. Days that actually DO yield creative work -- like the 40 or so pretty rough poem drafts I pulled out of my journals today and the mixed media art quilt ("Mardi Gras Me-dusa") above, that this time last year was only a sketch or two in one of those notebooks.

So, here I am, answering a couple of this year's writing myself into the new year questions by starting another new notebook (of sorts) -- setting out to keep a blog! Hoping to connect with you here and wishing you a happy and creative new year!