Grab Your Colored Pencils
Colored pencils provide immediate, no fuss, easy-peasey art making on the fly. Even if you’re traveling, it doesn’t take much to pull out a handful of colored pencils and a sketchbook to make something fun and meditative. In lieu of a sketchbook, I worked on a collagraph this week, and it was splendidly calming, despite the chaos. And speaking of disruption, thank you to everyone who left wonderful emails, comments and messages on social media about the fire. We are all hiking towards normal.
The air quality here still requires a respirator, and the ash and soot on the hillside that was our backyard finds every pin-hole opening in the house to move inside. But we have a house for the ash to sneak into. #lucky We’re so grateful for the firefighters – almost 9000 of them now – from many other cities and states. I can hardly imagine the depth of character it takes to fight fires for a living. These good folks left family during the peak of Christmas season, to jump towards the fire rather than away from it. They saved homes and lives of people they’ll never meet. Most folks in demanding jobs require a little atta-boy acknowledgement for working long hours, but firefighters risk their lives in evacuated neighborhoods, and they rarely meet the families who live in the homes they save. I’m so grateful, I could burst.
Clear the Air
When things like fires, floods or hurricanes happen, you get a clear shot of perspective. How about that painting I was fretting over earlier this month? What about the collagraph I was frustrated with? Which excuse did I lean on for not making art the day the fire started? Everything under the heading of artist-angst pales next to something truly fret-worthy, right? Shouldn’t we be making art every day, because no matter how much the results might suck, creating is EASY. We complicate it, with ego. Making art is beautiful. It’s a form of expression, like singing and dancing. Who would squelch the process and throw the mud of judgement on a child happily scribbling with crayons? That’s what we do to ourselves when we smack-talk our own efforts at art making.
What if you lost it all?
I have friends who lost everything in this fire. Homes, cars, mementos, jewelry, photo albums, and computers. Two artist friends lost their homes *and* their studios, and everything they’ve created over a lifetime, including decades of collected work from other artists. A musician friend lost his studio, and every instrument he’s played since he was a boy. Hearing this, I walked into my perfectly small and intact studio, and looked at my very-loved art supplies. How would I feel if they were all burned in a fire? Would I think about how often I used them to create beauty? You bet I would. And if I lost everything I’d made in a fire, I think I’d cry a lot, and grieve hard, and then I’d reach for solace in the knowledge that I used that room, and those supplies, and I made things. That’s the piece that remains a constant in a catastrophic loss of property. The artist is still creative, and you get to take that with you when starting anew.
Can’t lives on won’t street
Life is short, the world is wide, and crap beyond our control happens when we’re not ready for it. This suggests that we should create, the moment a make-something urge percolates up. Block all verbal barriers, and mental brain games that conspire to stop your deliberate reach for a sketchbook and pencil. We can make stuff, and we will make stuff, and we should make stuff – and who cares how it comes out. In the scheme of things, making art is pure, sublime, easy pleasure. Let’s not sully that with layers of unnecessary complexity when the world has plenty of bigger, sadder, more fearful things to ponder. Take refuge in the quiet of your art-making. Be the boss of those audio-cycles in your head saying you can’t, or you’re too rusty, or you lack skills. Press the mute button, and draw something.
Thanks for listening to my rant. I really needed this talk with myself. The close call of the Thomas Fire has been a lesson in keeping my eyes on the important stuff, and avoiding the luxury of unnecessary ego entanglements related to artistic performance. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Above the noise in your head, Make Something.
Thanks for hanging out with me, and letting me vent. I’ll see you in the next post –
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I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.