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!

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 Art Of Bothering

image courtesy BBC (RubberBall / Alamy)

Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any crazier, it has. The issues confronting this country (and the world beyond) makes one tempted to roll over on ones back, legs up in defeat. I need not mention them. You all know- especially in the USA.

This enormity of disasters makes one wonder- is it all hopeless? What good can I do that will make a difference? I’ve been thinking all this week about this question “why bother?” This is what I came up with…

Continue reading “The Art Of Bothering”

The Darkest Time is Before the Dawn

Courtesy Getty images

November 2016 when our current “Toddler in Chief” was elected president was a dark time for the United States. We have continued our plunge into more darkness since then. The only good thing that came out of it for me was that I started writing- copiusly. This blog was born soon after in January of 2017. I knew nothing about blogging but just started to blog because I had to. Some 412 followers later I went back to some of those original posts when I had no readers, let alone any followers.

These two poems still apply now, when George Floyd, a black citizen was brutally murdered by a police officer for no reason this last week. The resulting protests and violence is a symbol of our country having enough- of racism, inequality, Covid 19, and the policies of our 45th president. Out of the ashes comes new beginnings. Let’s hope it’s soon.

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Continue reading “The Darkest Time is Before the Dawn”

I Don’t Have Anything to Write About Today

IMG_3645I don’t have anything to write about today but say, you should really see the Hawthorne tree in the driveway bursting forth into a blaze of magenta blooms and how about those pie pan size exploding pink peonies on the kitchen table that Mary brought over as a May Day treat from her garden, eye-catching saffron-colored bundles of stamens and pistils in their midst.IMG_3644

I don’t have anything to write about today but the blaze in the woodstove on this chilly May morning cheers me, as well as the news that Raymond saw a pair of scarlet tanagers in the trees by the west fence line!  I haven’t seen tanagers in years around this place- so exciting to know they are still around.  They must be migrating through. I wonder where they go? And darn, wouldn’t you know that we have a pair of ground squirrels that moved in and are making a fine Swiss cheese mess of the yard along with the huge party of voles living below ground.

branch-387101_1920I don’t have anything to write about today but wow- all of a sudden the lettuce is big enough to pick in the garden along with some kale and chard and even a few snow peas to throw in the evening’s salad and I’m so excited about the flower seeds I started that are almost ready to plant.  The vegetable garden will be so colorful this summer!

Back to birds, the black-headed grosbeaks returned to the feeder and will probably stay to nest in the yard.  Oops, the hummingbird feeder is empty.

Gotta go.

 

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Also blogging about living sustainably and making nature your friend at One Sweet Earth

Pandemic Poetry

Bringing light in these uncertain times is a plethora of poetry being shared.  It’s amazing the power that poetry can have bringing our attention to the matters of humanity. The last of these is mine.

And the people stayed home.

And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

– Kitty O’Meara.

Continue reading “Pandemic Poetry”

The Art of Launching a Second Blog

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IT’S A BLOG!!

Now, why would I want to do that to myself? Like building and maintaining a blog with almost weekly posts isn’t enough of a responsibility? The short answer is that I have more to say about an entirely different subject than this blog on my personal meanderings can handle. My new genre is on how to take action to preserve the health of the planet in the age of climate change and other environmental degradation.  This form of activism is by making small lifestyle changes.

I started chipping away on the concept of my new blog “One Sweet Earth” in late 2019 with the hopes of a New Year’s launch.  That was wishful thinking as I forgot how daunting building a new blog can be.  Selecting the right theme, how to build a menu with categories and pages is daunting enough without wrestling with WordPress’s new block editor.  Then there’s writing content and in this case illustrating it. A good portion of “One Sweet Earth” is in my sketchbook.

Continue reading “The Art of Launching a Second Blog”

How to Fall in Love With Poetry in Eight Minutes

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Robert Frost

His voice made me halt abruptly as I walked my dog down a country road. I was listening to a new podcast on my phone. It was a most comforting, soft Irishman’s voice, padraigotuama_headshot-300x300-1the kind you know the speaker has depth, an old soul worth a listen with total commitment.  That voice was that of Pádraig Ó Tuama, the host of the podcast “Poetry Unbound”, part of the On Being Project  He was introducing himself and the podcast.  Then he began to read the poem  “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin.  Not only was I was utterly transfixed by the way he read the poem, his interpretation that followed illuminated this piece in a way that I never could have in my own reading.

I came late to poetry, the reading and writing of it.  To be honest there are few poets and poems I really love. I have been guilty of quick reading,  passing over an author’s words like speeding down a road without noticing the scenery. But with Padraig’s reading and interpretations, I am finding new love in unlikely poems.  He pays attention deeply to what the author is saying in each line and then makes the poem come alive to the listener.  After his guidance, he reads the piece again so you can fully appreciate the poem’s magic.

Continue reading “How to Fall in Love With Poetry in Eight Minutes”

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”