I recently divorced Instagram. This last year or so was the big social media Instagram experiment. Almost everyday I posted the off-the-cuff doodles I draw on the right side of my day planner under my tag @almostdailydoodle (still there!) The upside is that it makes a tidy little record of my innocuous art online. The downside is how much time Instagram was sucking from my life with all the posting, checking, liking. I thought I was above all that- I guess not.
Doodling is my morning creativity workout. It has become my main art form as of late, downshifting from ceramics and printmaking. It is fun to show my art now and again so I thought I would post them here occaisionally and see how it goes in a blog format.
The title of this post is the first line of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese.”
The poem continues:
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves……
I came upon this poem years ago. It was the first poem that I loved, that I could pull around me like a homemade quilt. It became my anthem of sorts.
Now the interesting thing is Oliver did not set out to write a greatest hit, nor any work of great meaning. According to an interview with OnBeing, she created this poem quite informally to illustrate the difference between end-stopped lines and enjambment to another poet. But words are powerful and when she released this poem to the world it spoke deeply to many people. It’s become one of her most loved poems.
For me, it permitted me to do the work I needed to do regardless that I sucked. Do it anyway. Over the years I’ve agonized over my work like every other creative, but her poem on my wall makes me understand that it’s not the likes, the money, or the accolades. I do not have to suffer for my art. Ultimately, it’s the daily practice of doing and honing my craft. It’s what my soul calls to me to do (which did not include quitting my day job).
Time is no excuse. Write the poems in grocery lines, at stoplights (using voice memo), doodle designs in boring meetings. The dream won’t happen unless you do it- unless you listen to the voice of the wild geese within.
I never was interested in poetry until I read “Wild Geese” until I read Mary Oliver and discovered more poetry. Now I write it. Here is the poem in its entirety…
Every now again, one of my doodles becomes the star of a greeting card- or even a zine. I’ve been making my own cards for years now and have found an amazing amount of material by mining my sketchbooks or my doodle journal. Animals, especially cats, are prime subjects but then I’ve also focused on teapots and Isosceles triangles. Anything can be copy in the right context.
Lately, a series of valentines morphed from my sketchbook. I decided to sell them to help fund the native plant garden that I just started in my yard. I took a design from my sketchbook, copied, cleaned it up, photographed it, put it into my graphics program, and then printed them four per sheet of paper. From there I cut them out and glued them onto good quality kraft paper card stock.
See them or even buy them on my Etsy site. You might be too late for next year (even though I can put a note from you inside and send them on) or be uber prepared for next year!
From my journal. After a few years I’ve realized that the “new abnormal” is the new normal. As if the old normal wasn’t challenging enough! Here are my strategies to navigate this ever changing world, subject to change of course.
I enjoy working with clay bodies other than white (see my post The Color of Clay). In my work, mostly sculptural, glaze functions as an embellishment rather than the main attraction. This comes from my aesthetic and my dislike of the glazing process! I find the contrast between the glazed and the unglazed piece quite interesting, especially with a toasty or reddish clay. Two years ago I started working with this black (actually a deep chocolate brown toned) clay body.
Clay gets its color from certain minerals and pigments. Iron oxide is what makes terra cotta clay red. In the case of black clay, the color is from burnt umber. It is a pigment in short supply these days so a bag of clay will cost you a few dollars more. Any highly-pigmented clay is messy to work with and this is like working with black mud. Wearing a good apron is key. Regardless, the end result of this clay is worth it.
Two years ago I started a daily doodle practice after challenging myself to do something artful every day. I’ve written about this before on this blog but I thought it worthy to bring around again being the New Year .
I decided about the only thing I could successfully commit to doodle in the 2” square of my day planner since it wasn’t being utilized for anything else. The ground rules I made- use pen, no erasing, no self-criticism, go back over it later and add to it if you want. Be spontaneous and just see what comes up. Often I only see the merits of an entry until I let it sit for a day or weeks later. Sometimes I take the previous day’s idea and make a different version of it.
This is the painting I wake up to in the morning and go to bed to at night. It brings me a sense of peace and order when I look at it.
Why did I paint this?
The migration of birds fascinates me: What inspires them to leave? How do they navigate their journey? How can their tiny bodies withstand travel of thousands of miles of such rigorous travel? Then there’s nature- always an inspiration.
In this painting with a base of sponged, brushed, and stenciled acrylic on a 12 x 12” dimensional artboard, we look down on a flight of white birds over forest. Stenciled ferns are below the abstracted trees. The symbol of a river is collaged on the upper left quadrant and the collaged 4 negative triangles in the lower left quadrant symbolize direction. Most of my collage papers are made up of “failed prints.”I bless my failures as they never fail to add the perfect touch elsewhere. Rain is represented in the upper right quadrant by stamping a painted piece of corrugated cardboard.
To add a little sparkle I added a bit of gold leaf at the top. A stamped Asian symbol on the lower right quadrant adds a zen quality to the piece.
I took a larger cradled artboard, flipped it over, and painted it black. Then I mounted the painting inside of it to add a dimensional frame. This is an intuitive painting meaning I paint by what inspiration shows up at the time. The color palette was inspired by another artist’s work and then I tweaked it to make it my own.
Even when I can’t travel, I look at this painting and I can go somewhere else. I’m so glad no one purchased this at my last studio sale. It is called Spring Migration.
(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)
The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur. “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches. Watch that left hip. It shows low bone density. Don’t gain weight. We’ll go from there. No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes. Crabby surgeon departs. I remain in a state of shock.
What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it. The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution. My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange. Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again? Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?
Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly. It can be a lonely path to navigate. Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations. For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge. My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice. Travel? I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework? NO. Cook?- barely. This is my first major injury in six decades of living. I am such a beginner
After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.
Focus on what I can do…
Get a new doctor (check)
Ride my bike
Clean out some drawers
I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard)
Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)
I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished