Notes on Tossing Out My Old Artwork

In the doldrums of this pandemic my creative image energies are ebbing more than flowing. It’s times like this at times all I can muster is to tidy up. Usually that involves just organizing my workspace. Then after years of procrastination I faced down the leaning pile of old cardboard portfolios full of aging class artwork and design projects that lurked in my closet. The problem is when you hang onto old work there’s really no room for new- physically or metaphorically.

 Bye-bye charcoal nudes, bye-bye watercolors, bye-bye drawings. Yep you were “A” quality, fun, but at this point, are not doing anyone any good including myself.  And woe to my son who would be stuck sorting  them out when I’m packed up to the Rock of Ages Rest Home. The recycling bin is full. I have a well stocked collage box and plenty of classy bookmarks as souvenirs. I took pictures of the T-shirts I designed and donated them to a thrift store where someone can put them to use. 

Bidding farewell to old creative work of any kind is like saying goodbye to parts of oneself- but thinking about it, all that hard work and practice is still with me deeply embedded in the work I do today. When I peruse all those past efforts I think of them as either good or bad but merely steps along the path to where I am as an artist today. 

We are but at some total of all our work and practice. The beat goes on.

I love my clean closet. 

That’s over with!

There’s a Pen for That

You want to be a writer, but you don’t know how or when. Find a quiet place; use a humble pen.

Paul Simon

Recently I received a question on my Almost Daily Doodle Instagram feed.  “What kind of software do you use?”  I had to laugh.  I guess the software would be my hand and my hardware would be my pens.  Years ago when I had to make money I did much of my illustration work by computer but I found working by hand so much more intimate and enjoyable.

I began my love affair with pens in elementary school in the early 1960s.  In the third grade, there was this rite of passage where we all learned cursive handwriting.  It was time to put away those rotund pencils they gave in first and second grade to learn our letters with the privilege of using a pen.  This was the first taste of the grown-up world and we relished it.  My girlfriends and I were particularly fond of adding stylish curlicues to our letters and using flowers to dot our Is. Then there was the endless practice of refining our signatures.

To showcase our newfound skills we begged our parents to buy us Shaeffer fountain pens that used little ink cartridges. Blue was the preferred color of the day.  It was a badge of honor to have a blue knuckle on your middle finger where those pens would at times leak.

Many schools have dropped cursive handwriting in favor of keyboarding.  It’s a shame since there are documented benefits to the brain in the areas of thinking, memory, and creativity when you write with pen to paper. I do most of my writing by hand first before typing on a computer. My pen helps me think.

In my twenties, I became an accomplished calligrapher with all manner of dip pens until carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand curtailed that pursuit.  I’ve had all kinds of artistic endeavors since but now in my 60s, I’ve returned to the simplicity of pen to paper to do my artwork.

I have a variety of sketch pens I use- nothing too expensive.  Recently I’ve switched from Microns to Hi-Tech and now Uniball Signo.  Recently while perusing the Jet Pens website for a reorder I came across their fountain pen section. One can spend a fair amount of money on a fountain pen but I found a Pilot Metropolitan for $19.50.  Live it up!  Third-grade joy here I come! 

Since it came I’ve been sailing over smooth paper for my journal and other writing.  What fun to write with a nice pen!  If you want a simple pleasure consider getting yourself some cool pens (and nice smooth paper).  Check out your local art supply store or go to JetPens.com.  Below are some samples of my favorite pens.  Happy writing!

A Zine is Born

Zine (according to the Urban Dictionary)

Some sort of publication, usually mass-produced by photocopying(in some cases, scanned, put on the ‘net, or copied via fax)on any range of topics, but usually filled with passion. A means of telling one’s story, sharing thoughts, and/or artwork/comics/doodles.

The instructor for the Zine lesson of my year-long Words & Pictures class made a 16 page zine of his favorite mustards.  Now there’s a quirky idea.  How could I top my favorite mustards?

 I took a look back in my sketchbook and came across some silly doodles of triangles.  The triangle doodles eventually morphed into silly triangle birds.  Then I noticed that all the triangles happened to be isosceles triangles (two sides of equal length).  Hmm.  How about if I made a zine just about silly things made up from isosceles triangles.  Thus I went about writing and publishing my first zine, The Isosceles Triangle Illuminated.

This was a perfect pandemic project.  I had a hilarious time brainstorming and drawing my triangle ideas.  The hardest part was correctly photocopying the back to back so the pages would be in the correct order.  Instead of Holiday cards, I sent them out to friends for a good laugh. 

Want one of my isosceles triangle zines?  Use my contact page and for only $5.51 I will send you one!

For more info on making a zine click here

My Words for the New Year 2021

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.  That concept sounds so burdensome.  Instead, I have a personal tradition of picking one or more words to aspire to live by for the coming year.  I revisit these words from time to time and check in on how I’m doing.  (Writing them on the bathroom mirror is a very effective strategy.)

My words for 2020 were acceptance and focus.  I almost wore out the word acceptance with the pandemic and political matters and it’s unlikely I can ever truly accept the damage of the forest fires had here in Oregon this year.  Climate change is unacceptable and is something I will always fight against.  Thus it has been a mixed bag with that word.  FOCUS has been an ongoing challenge for me but I am happy to report that I am BETTER!  Being a creative soul I am forever distracted by my thoughts and every shiny thing that comes along in my day.  Now though, I am more aware of my distractions and am honing a system to keep me on track.

This December I mulled over what my new words would be.  I wait to see what will bubble up to my subconscious and pick the ones I resonate with the most.  So drumroll..  my new words are:

Commitment–  I allowed myself this year to go “fallow” and dabble in a lot of creative pursuits.  Now I am ready to synthesize what I’ve learned into specific avenues.

Generosity– Give more of my time, talent, and money to others

Focus – This word remains on the list as I need more work with it.

Let the year unfold!  What are your words for 2020?

and my poem for you this New Year

A Toast for 2021

It’s the season of new

the Earth has spun through the heavens

and arrived at the place we call the beginning

a bookmark we humans have put in the order of things

the New Year, the first day of the first month of the 21st year of the 21st century

All is new, yet all the same

a cycle in a continuum of millennia

yet a comfort that we have a fresh start in our minds

Shall we proceed then with our new slippers

virgin calendars full of exotic pictures

day planners devoid of marks

and forge on with gusto?

for we have been given another turn

a blank canvas to paint another 12 months upon

Let us mix up our palettes with new intentions

hope, faith and the unseen circumstances that will surely find us

stroke, splash, and drip with abandon

make your marks with love, touching others with color

bringing forth new memories

painting this Earth a brighter place

Check out my other blog onesweetearth.art.blog on sustainable living.

Why I am Still Blogging After Four Years

My WordPress account just renewed.  Here it is- my fourth year and I am still at it.  My first post was on Jan. 4, 2017.  I started blogging during the aftermath of the 2016 election.  At that time, I thought I could not survive the chaos, but here I am, bruised by events but not defeated.  I am thankful for the companionship of my pen which has acted as a lightning rod, keeping me grounded during difficult times.

When I write down the bits of my life the unremarkable becomes remarkable. Those bits become a pathway back to myself when I get lost. Writing combs the tangled strands of my thoughts back into an orderly fashion. When I share my writing with others in a blog post it’s like leaving footprints in the universe to perhaps help others on their journey.I have shared poetry, personal stories, opinions, artwork and photography. It’s been a hodgepodge of myself.

For the most part, my blogging is a weekly practice, a Sunday morning ritual that affirms my existence. I have no master plan or theme as is advised.  During the week I try to pay attention to what pops into my mind worthy to blog about.  It’s an intuitive process.  I don’t fret about topics.  I write for myself but I’ve noticed that the posts where I stay truest to my own sensibilities get the most readers.

If you are reading this post, I am grateful for your time and attention.  It’s gratifying to have readers from all over the world, sometimes from countries that I have never heard from.  Today I have had readers from India, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mauritius, and Malaysia. I have met some great blog friends and hope to connect with them in person some day in the non-Covid future!

If you are not a writer, I encourage you to write a few words a day.  It doesn’t have to be good- but if you make it a daily practice, you will improve.  It’s a journey worth pursuing.  If you choose to blog- go for it. It’s much more meaningful than Facebook Meanwhile, see you on the blogosphere!

Alanna also blogs about sustainablility on onesweetearth.com

The Zen of Doodling

Exploring “Creation Meditation”

Start with a shape, a circle perhaps?  Or maybe begin with a line, straight, zigzag, or a series of turns, twists and loop de loops?  Add onto what you started with maybe a pattern…Circle, line, circle, line, dots.  Punctuate with a triangle- just for fun.  Take those lines for a walk and see where they take you, putting off any specific destination in mind.   Work with in a small area like 2”x 2.”A calendar block, the back of a business card, or a post-it note is perfect.  A small space provides comfort lest you prefer journeying in a vast wilderness of white space. 

Work in pen so you won’t be tempted to erase.  Fill in some shapes if desired. Put letters, numbers, keyboard symbols, and words in your tool box.  Keep working until you feel an end point.  Then leave it.  Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.  Often you will be charmed by a doodle that you didn’t like initially.

The rules are simple- no erasing, no judgment, no starting over. Let your hand go where it wants to go.  This is merely a creative exploration to see what comes up.  As you progress with this practice, maybe add recognizable objects.  I seem to be fond of birds, teapots and tea cups. Sometime my random shapes become objects without intention.  Odd cars and animals have been known to appear and I delight in building on to them.

 If you are a writer you can doodle with words and letters.  Start with one word and through a stream of consciousness; add more words that might relate.  Feel free to put them upside down, sideways, smaller, bigger, thick or thinner than the original word.

This exercise functions in some ways like Julie Cameron’s morning pages.  Allow your pen to express what it needs to express. Doodling has freed me to examine myself, my fears and my willingness to explore.  It allows me to have a little fun without worrying about outcome.

I started this practice because I no longer had time to do my visual art daily due to all my writing and home improvement projects I had undertaken.  Inspired by the book, If You can Doodle, You Can Paint, by Diane Culhane; I knew I had the time to do at least a daily doodle!  My day planner had an unused square.  First thing in the morning after I planned my day, I started doodling in that square before I got out of bed.

After several months of this, I have fallen in love with these quirky expressions to the point doodling has become a favorite art form.  As with any practice it has evolved.  I have developed more of a style with reoccurring themes.  Some of these have wound up as part of larger art pieces, and some I am going to expand into pieces in their own right.  Some have inspired stories, but the vast majority remains “creation meditations.”  This detachment from outcome can lead me to places I never would have gone.  As a result, I am less inhibited in my creative process. My doodles have gone wild inhabiting my journal, notes, or wherever there is a fallow piece of white space.

I doodled all through high school and university courses to help keep me focused.  Remembering this, when I taught a middle school, I allowed students my doodle during lectures when they did not have to take notes.  For many people like me, lines provide an anchor.  Now much later in life, I have again allowed myself the pleasure. 

Try it!  Buy yourself some special pens.  I am especially fond of the fine line pens from Jet Pens if you don’t have a local art supply store you can visit. 

Happy doodling!

PS- see more doodles on my new instagram feed @almostdailydoodle. I’m also blogging at One Sweet Earth.

The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version

This is a rehash of a post from 2018 with some new modifications for the times…

monalisa-4893660_1920It shouldn’t be that difficult.  Most people open their eyes, pop out of bed, and voila!- on with their day.  For me, making the transition from Dreamtime to wakefulness is a sacred ritual.  This can sometimes take up to an hour. Even when I was working full-time I always allowed some time for this. Now with COVID 19 &  sheltering in place, there seem to be no people to be held accountable to, nor yoga or pool schedule to meet and no medical appointments.  Now I am left up to my own motivation.  It’s gotten to be more difficult not to be tempted to sleep in.

First step- avoid reading or listening to the news.  I fail to see the point of starting the day feeling depressed.  It’s curated to produce nightmares. (Plus, there is a dearth of good news to be had even though I know it exists.) My phone is in silent mode or better yet turned off.

Place my 15-year-old dog, Bandit on the bed.  He makes me smile.  Then have to free the  “wild img_2131hamsters” that populate my head and if I don’t get rid of them my day seems chaotic.  Essential to that process is to brew a cup of tea, heat up my “hottie” for my tight back, and do a quick meditation.

I spend a few minutes in my planner thinking about my goals for the day or week. I have been finding that scheduling joy into my day can really help to keep the lonely demons away.  Anything from reading a good book, walking the dog, gardening, phoning a friend, or watching a movie IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.  Then onto my journal where I may write anything that’s been lurking in my mind, a poem. Finally, I add a funny daily doodle in my planner for fun.

Now I am ready to transition from human being to more of a human doing with a foundation of centeredness that I hope to carry with me throughout my day.

Next step- remove body from bed and get to living in this simplified yet complicated world.

Continue reading “The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version”

Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

This is a repost from 2017.  I have been traveling and have not had the time to create fresh content.  This essay of Gilbert’s is timeless no matter if you are a writer, artist, or musician.  I reread it from time to time just to give myself a reality check!

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life”

Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska

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2020 Photo Juneau Daily Empire

I just returned from a week’s visit to Juneau, Alaska. Juneau was one of my residences as a young person as I explored the far North in the late 1970s and early 80s.  Besides visiting friends and seeking better snow for XC skiing than Oregon had to offer, on this itinerary was attending the 20th annual Juneau Wearable Arts Show.  This was my second time for this event after about a 10-year hiatus. The show is put on by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and all proceeds go to their organization.

This is an extravaganza where a majority of the attendees dress to the nines to enjoy the show in a hall equally dressed up.  There is dazzling lighting, a long curving runway, and img_3380several large monitors placed where you could be sure to have a good view.  The professional emcees also wildly decked out.  This year they had a local drag queen star and a well known local actor running the show.

Juneau is a relatively small town remotely tucked away in the seclusion of Southeastern Alaska’s majestic landscape with the only access being by boat or air.  Still, residents value the arts and know how to come together for a really good time.  The entries are from local artists who strive to use recycled and/or unique materials to assemble the garments to match the year’s theme.

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2017 entrant that was removed- SAD! Photo by Juneau Daily Empire

 

This year’s theme was Joie de Vivre (French for “Joy of Life”).  Unfortunately, the show was smaller than in years past.  Artists have boycotted after an entrant in the 2017 event was accused by a local citizen of cultural appropriation for her geisha themed garment (really???) She was then pulled from the next performance. Still, aside from the politics, I enjoyed the night with all the flair and people watching. I appreciated the fact many of these artists take the better part of a year to fashion their pieces.

Continue reading “Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska”

Dealing with Your Inner Critic

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If you are any type of creative person you probably have a cheerleader on one shoulder and your inner critic on the other.  My muse is my cheerleader, that voice that feeds me sparky ideas and inspiration.  My muse is the positive force in my life.  My inner critic, in contrast, argues with my muse.  She likes to shout words of discouragement and fear in my ear to the point I quiver with self-doubt.  Unfortunately, she’s an annoying fact of my life.

I have come up with strategies to deal with this bitchy pest that tries to drown out the voice of my sweet muse.  One of them was to give her a name and draw a picture of what she looks like….

Helga, my IC, is an ample pickle-shaped-figure with spiny whiskers protruding all over her grotesque, gelatinous body.  She has a high whiney voice resembling the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.  The only facial expression she has is a grimacing frown of disapproval.

Daphne, my muse is a sprite of a being that emits light from her colorful body.  She dances with joy and speaks to me in cheerful songs of encouragement. Her voice is softer than Helga’s and can be easily drowned out.

I’ve become more adept at isolating those two voices by putting an identity to each.  When Helga gets too annoying I visualize swiping her off my shoulder with a THWACK and then dropkicking her out the door. (So satisfying).

Inner critics tend to love periods of creative inactivity.  The best way to keep the beast off your shoulder is to diligently keep up your work on a daily basis in some form. Even 15 minutes a day of seat time can make a huge difference can add up to a full article in a matter of days, a chapter, a painting. Set a timer and go.

You can read about the creative process and motivation all you want but the only way to have to leave your squawking inner critic behind is to build momentum. The bike won’t go unless you start peddling. The muse loves to feel the wind in her hair.

Best of luck.

MUSE

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.