Tag: pen and ink

starting over again

It seems surreal that i am back here again: being an artist who sells her work.  A week ago yesterday, we had an event here at the studio, after which i  committed to keeping the studio open every Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the rest of the year. Last night, i was so excited at the prospect that i barely slept.  Just being out here, making art, opening the door to sales, this is a big deal for me.

Truly, i believe that this is only happening because of the intervention of other artists.  Several provided me with amazing support when i face tasks that were impossible while this body languished in such a diminished state.  They have proven themselves willing to help me out when i have been overwhelmed.  In an act of belief that still boggles my mind, i have been blessed to share my studio space with creatives willing to partner their art with mine at these events.  You can see their work at these etsy shops, if you cannot travel to the coast of Maine:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/nekojindesign
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thecommonshaman
https://www.etsy.com/shop/theperfectcup

i cannot quite process the generosity of spirit that they are displaying.  Between these two and those who unflinchingly had my back over the past few  years, it has helped me create a new perspective when other people comment on my return to the world of art.  Things that would have crushed me when i was still alone, now give testimony to my good fortune.

At the first event we hosted, just over a month ago, people were surprised to see me.  They laughed, “We thought you were dead.”  Scores more told me that they heard i was having problems financially and physically, and that they were shocked i had made it through. i wondered why they talked like this, so comfortable at articulating their surprise at my continued existence, until i remembered that i am an introvert without family and have a learned to suffer alone rather than spill it out onto the shoes of random strangers.  Not to say people haven’t had to clean off the slime of woe after talking to me, but when i am on the edge of survival, i crawl into my hole and to heal.

Thus, when things got really bad for me, i retreated into art and the work that needed to be done to move from one minute to the next. It was all i could do. Overloaded as i was, i could not reach out; rejection would have been that one thing too much to bear.  No one else is responsible for those tendencies in myself, but realizing that they created the environment for those comments to appear was incredibly helpful.

By in large, i found i could eventually laugh at those statements and reassure people: i am alive, i never stopped making art, and here i am back to running a business, albeit part time.  However, it shook me to my core as a reminder that i am truly starting over.  The work i have been doing was invisible to the rest of the world, unless a manuscript wandered into your email’s inbox.   No one else saw that i had never fully surrendered; now, many can witness how reopening with hope and a support network is the greatest blessing possible for one that has been so alone.

Last week, a couple pulled me aside to discuss with great satisfaction what had been the hardest time in my life – when i had to start going backwards, cannibalizing the studio instead of investing in it, when i could not move my arm, when tumors had taken over to the point i could barely bend over without howling in pain, when i first found out that my hips would have to be replaced.  All this time later, they were still so pleased with the buy they got on the equipment i sold them so that i could keep living.  They let me know they had only come by to see if i was still selling off my tools at bargain prices.

While they gushed about the memory, i could not help but hear the echos of my the howling cries that night, realizing that with that sale of a wheel and kiln, i had admitted to myself that i was too broken to work. 

Exchanges like that would have made me feel excruciatingly isolated before, but my situation has changed.  i had people sitting beside me, ready to tell me things would not get that bad again.

My heart started to sing with gratitude over the miracle of human beings willing to roll up their sleeves and help me out, who stayed in touch and kept supporting my compulsive vocation to create.  Having people in your corner is always a blessing, but in this moment, when i realize that i am not hobbling forward by myself any longer, it feels like the sun has come out to shine on my life.

However, there is no room for denial: i am starting over as a business woman. People, quite literally, thought i was dead.  There is no greater indication that i am starting from scratxh than rising from a perceptual grave.  This voyage into business has to be different, too.  i am undertaking this journey hyperaware that my body’s needs cannot be pushed aside. Still, opening myself up be here in the studio, ready to make sales, feeds the best part of me.  This feels like a miracle.  i want to dance with gratitude; if only it didn’t hurt so much to stand.

And that sound you hear?  That is me shouting thanksgivings for the people who love me and are willing to help.

feeling like an artist again

This weekend we had an event at the studio.  My business sign went back up and we compensated for the fact that the studio is still in the chaos of change by putting up a tent and selling our wares from the front yard.  This involved both my art, and the art of my roommates – check out their work at Neko-Jin Designs and The Common Shaman.   (Their work is on the right and I can attest to the quality.  The jewelry is powerfully lovely and those pillows are freaking huggable.)

The experience has left me exhausted and in a lot of pain, but for the first time in ages I feel anchored in what I do – I am a maker to my core.  During the first day, Friday, I was able to make 60 wee watercolors and pen and inks. Although, insomnia did help with that glut of drawings.  Yesterday, I made about five slightly larger pen and inks.  Today, I was a poet.

Sitting in the sun with nothing to do other than create and sell art was a joy.

A lot of locals came by, pleased that I am not either dead or moved out of the area.  It let me know how far I have hunkered down during this past two years.  Oh, but the change in my circumstances brings up such optimism.  Life has gotten better.

This time in 2015, I could not move my left arm much at all, I could not throw, I lost nearly all my income for the full year. Surgery on the shoulder in October 2015, then a hysterectomy in February 2016.  But by June of that year, things began to change.

Even now, I am still struggling – my hips need to be replaced, I am in a cauldron of pain – and yet, I am still making art.  Somehow, I have survived all of the crap that came my way.  Even heartbroken, I made art.  Even when I can barely walk,  I am making and selling art.  I am working as hard as I can to keep my house and have been grounding myself in faith that I can do it.  There have been days that I had to dig deeper within for strength than I thought I went, but it worked!

I continue forward with both my regular job and the art that is my vocation.   The first has not dented my passion for the second.

I am so grateful for the friends who saw me through this weekend.  Perhaps I have been whining too much in these blogs, because what I should be shouting from the rooftops is how wonderful life can be when you have friends that have your back.  To be able to rely on people and know that they will be there for me, that is a priceless, beautiful thing.  They set up the tent, set up the products and then tore them down in the evening, three days in a row, all with out a stitch of help from me because I could not move any of those things. What a blessing it is to have people who do not just share your dreams but are willing to put their shoulders into fulfilling them.  This is a case of actions speaking so loudly, all words were drowned out.  Without their kindness, none of this could have been done.

Basically, this is a blog of thanks.  I am grounded in what I do again, which will help all things – the physical struggle, this financial difficulty, my regular job, my art.  If you were here, you would be able to see my smile, hear my loud, outrageous laugh and listen to me sing to my cats about the glories of life.

I have “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” tattooed on my arm. Too often, I need the reminder. But, today, I did not read it.  Indeed, I did not even glance at it.  The next few months are going to be very hard, financially and physically, but good friends are teaching me that I can trust in the universe enough to reach out.  I am asking for help and receiving kindness.

This is the miracle of my life.

Because, I am talking about asking for help, I am compelled to say: you can make me $3 closer to being able to sustain myself while I am recuperating from surgery. My end of that deal will be to keep making art, even when I am flat on my ass in bed.

But for now, let not think of what could go wrong.  Instead, let’s sing songs of joy and thanksgiving!

love and compassion

Survival. 

It is a sign of strength to survive hardship, without a doubt, and the last three years have thrown enough hardship in my way that I am proud to have moved through it all and found myself at this moment of promise and change.

However, I am exhausted. Every day, I struggle with pain and fatigue to the point that it has made following my passions – particularly as an artist and writer – feel beyond my reach.  While I make art, releasing it into the wild has demanded more than I had to give.  Add on to that the chaos that we all face, living in this time of change and turmoil, and it has been everything I could do to survive.

Lately, my roommates have been talking about how we all need to stop surviving and start thriving, which is a marvelous ideal and one I enthusiastically endorse. Only, I have quietly wondered how.  How can I be in the position I am financially, spiritually, physically, and yet shift my weight away from survival and into transcendence?

Finally, it occurred to me as I was driving home this evening how to accomplish such a thing for myself, even though I am still treading water, struggling to stay afloat.  

There have been a few times over the past few weeks, in the middle of massive change, heartache and new beginnings, that I could feel this inner core of steel – like a tempered sword – deep within my being. Each time it appeared, I was able to act with compassion and kindness because I knew that I could flex and bend but would not break. At first, I thought they were random miracles, but this is part of something deeply significant.  Today, after meeting another friend for dinner and running into another at the grocery store, I was awash in love, both mine for them and theirs for me.  As I drove, I felt taller, straighter, stronger and could sense that flexible, shining, unbreakable steel. 

That was the epiphany: love was the way to shift from feeling overwhelmed and unprepared to feeling like I am already thriving.  It might be as simple as throwing compassion out, whether or not it is returned.  Harder, but still vital, will be turning the same inward, especially if I am in a terrible place emotionally.

For years, my art has an act of love.  Love for creating, love for the poems and stories and images that flow out of me, a very real sensation of using them as vehicles for sending love into the world.  As my art and I have grown, I have also realized the role of kindness within the creation of anything.  All art goes through an ugly stage – maybe all personal development too? – and patience and kindness are required to get to the final point, whether it be a mess or a masterpiece. 

So, here I am, again.  All of the sputtering false starts from this time of struggle have left me with an opportunity for a new beginning.

For three years, arguably much more, I have been surviving.  Like a turtle, I hid under my shell, for protection from a world that can feel so terrifying and capricious.  The world has not changed, but I have reached my personal rubicon.  I have stood up, taller than I ever thought I could be.

I need to turn to love, to kindness and to compassion – both with myself and others.  I will keep offering up this art that I make, in open hands, because that is the first step in moving forward.  This is the unfolding of beginnings, the first step in a journey of change.

 

Howling at the moon

Right now, i feel like Godzilla.  i am stomping through-out my house, absolutely graceless, quivering with agony.

The dog must have eaten something particularly appalling, because he has been sick all day, taking out every blanket, towel, sheet and quilt covering every soft surface in the building. He even nailed one of the cats. If he weren’t still begging for food and acting ridiculously cheerful for one so gastrically challenged, i would be more worried.

Thankfully, i think he will make it through this prodigious mess.  For the past two hours, he has been content to sleep on yoga blankets on the floor.

As i watched him suffer today, i realized, i don’t think i am doing much better.  Most of the time, i force myself into this state of magical denial. All is well, my body loves me, i can do anything – and then, on the odd night, all the illusions are stripped away. No matter the power of distractions, i start to feel it. pileoartMy mind starts to list all the things that i have to do, projects on which i have fallen behind, all the price paid for my current situation. Between the physical discomfort and the psychological torment, i am reduced. What remains is the most brutal fundamental: i am suffering and right now, there is no miraculous solution.  i am stuck with this pain, with this frustration, with the sheets being slowly cleaned of various disgusting things, so i can’t even lay down and take what comfort that could bring.

Thwarted, i did what i do – i made art.  Now that my brain is coming back to itself, realigning after stopping the antidepressants, two qualities have returned to me: the need to create and the hatred for being idle.  No slack is given for feeling this desperately bad, other than to shift what work i would do.  Since i could not throw as i had planned – i started working on pen and ink drawings.  The stack above includes most of the poems and drawings of the past three days.

dieoflonelinessPoem after poem poured out of me.  Drawing after drawing.  i lost myself in the world of art, and delighted in it as long as my focus lasted.  For the past hour – between one and two am – the pain finally reached the stage where i could do nothing. i howled at the moon, absolutely impotent against this misery. But in the silence between breaths, i kept staring the pile o’ art i had made.  Tears of rage streaming down my face, i looked over some of my favorite poems from today. i was comforted.  One soothing thing in the middle of the boiling cauldron has been this recognition: i have finally become a champion of my art.  i love these poems.  The images are smooth and i find them lovely.

Even on a night like tonight, when i am shouting at the laundry for taking too long, when i am wild with distress, when i ranted at the moon about the injustice of these ridiculous burdens, i have made some beautiful things.

And, i am grateful, even in this agony.

beautiful, joyous women

imageFor the first time in quite awhile, i was able to sit down and draw. As i wrote in my last post, i have been having a hard time working up enough focus or heart to make any kind of visual art.  Only a handful of pen and inks and two half finished paintings had come, along with a very small amount of pottery.

imageSo, tonight, after the errands were done and the snow started to fall, i let myself be romanced by the beautiful incorrupt smoothness of good drawing paper.  Once more, as it has so many times the past eighteen months, i was struck by how much joy the fluid ink manifested, particularly given the aching pain still echoing in my emptiness.  Yesterday and today, i have felt a bit like i am coming back to myself, but the process is strange and surreal. Half the time, i feel like i am still completely lost.  The other half, i feel like a mason, laying brick after brick, rebuilding.  “The reconstruction goes slowly, ma’am, but the foundation will be more stable in the end.”

imageAt any rate, as i drew, my spirit lifted.  i realized that there is something for which i need to be more thankful: the gift of joy.  Even when traveling through perilous darkness, i have been able to steal moments of joy, beauty, fleeting seconds of grace. i have held them all in my hands, glowing shards of memory, to light my way in dark places.  Tonight, i got a chance to let my fingertips be a conduit for love and happiness i did not see within my heart at the time.  If such a blessing doesn’t remove the darkness, it will at least warm me through this frozen night.

 

poem: what drawings teach

They always have open arms.

i am the one
who has resisted –
keeping myself
from welcoming
every moment
with pure joy
or patient acceptance.

i have learned my lesson.

Come to me,
and i will embrace you.
i will find some purpose
to this dance
in which you lead me.

My heart
has survived
so much –
surely
that means
i can be
as open,
as willing,
and as generous
with bliss
and gratitude
as these figures i draw.

i render myself
within their curves
and smiles.

My eyes learn
fearlessness
from their gaze.

Art becomes reality
in small, hesitant steps,
a little more shading and nuance
added to the bare bones
every day.

If i can create beauty
and strength
on the page,
then what will i be able to do
with the plastic material of life.

18 november 2015

poem: the artist’s prayer

Please.
Help me.

i reach out,
my hands grasping
for something
to change
all this stress
and fear
and crushing anxiety
into a solution,
something actionable,
a clear path
toward
temporal salvation.

But all that comes,
filling my hands
to overflowing
like a tap
turned full force,
is art.

So much so,
i could work
every waking moment,
rushing
from pen
to easel
to wheel
to computer
and still not bring it all
into being.

Forget cleaning the house.

All deviations
from this purpose,
from my bliss,
bring on vague pain.
The more i labor
at cross-purposes
to my calling,
the worse it hurts.
Discomfort grows
like mold
until it takes over
everything,
becoming
howling,
dangerous
despair.

So, on my knees,
i pray.
Tears in my eyes,
i beg.
With all the blood
in my veins,
i beat out
supplication:

Help me.
Guide me.
Save me,
for i am so mad
with passion and dream
that i will keep walking,
moving forward,
undeterred
by this glorious
catastrophe.

22 november 2015

singing prayers

IMG_0018 IMG_0022Last night, flooding had overcome my path.  Roads had closed in Belfast and Searsport, blocking my way home.  Instead of fighting against it, i stayed in Rockland for a while, got myself a decent meal, and then started heading north fairly late.

After all that rain, with my tiny car being buffeted by winds, it felt magical and surreal. The trees were already dancing like headbangers; music was electric in the air. i began to sing.

Song is an important thing to me – i adore music even though i have no real talents in that area.  IMG_0020This time, though, i was able to weave lyric after lyric, a seamless fabric of rhyme and rhythm, for nearly the whole hour home. Thanksgiving, fear, joy, loneliness, hope, stress, it all poured forth from my lips.

When my song finally stopped, i started thinking about the art i made yesterday, many versions of spirit and love.  In the only watercolor, the top right image, this woman holds her heart out to you, spirit flowing from her, dancing joy in her other palm.  As i painted, it made me wonder where the deeper currents of my mood might be going.  Last week, i lost my friend Fawn, next week i get surgery, night before last i had heard about another death that startled me, yet her face didn’t seem to be anguish to me. Much more the pain of change.

The dragonflies were for Fawn and her daughter.  i am gearing up for more dragonfly work.IMG_0019

The woman to the right cradles Spirit, letting it rest its broken wing.

And above to the left i included the last image i made: what a third eye she has!  The sun itself.

This is a terrifying time for me.  I have said this for months: everything is on the cusp of change.  This perpetual standing on the razor’s edge has taken a toll on my feet.  In six days, they will fix my left arm. i am facing a long rehab period while my shoulder heals itself. All of my bearings have been lost: financially, career-wise, emotionally, physically.  At this moment, i have no clue what tomorrow will bring. Indeed, i can dream and work to manifest what i need with the best of them, but none of truly know what the future brings. All i have to do is look at grief pouring over facebook to learn that lesson again.

Yet, in the middle of this, there was music.  The face to the right, just above these words, that gentleness looking at broken Spirit, made me nearly weep with joy.

There is a great parallel for my heart in this situation with my shoulder.  If i work at it, i can convince you that nothing is wrong, my fingers move even though i only sporadically feel them.  i enjoy full mobility and can keep you from seeing the searing pain; only a few movements are guaranteed to induce tears.  Indeed, i can make you laugh telling you stories about unintentionally flashing someone who was in my front yard or about the great lengths i am taking to make sure i can wipe my arse after surgery when my left arm will be all trussed up.

The jokes rarely end, but underneath them, in the quiet of the night, when i alone in my car singing, i realize that i am still completely raw from this summer’s great depression.  i continue to react with shocking intensity and vulnerability.  i am exhausted and raw.  But, then again, it is also i imagine how gently someone would hold the Spirit, catching it so it won’t fall, and then render it in ink.

Perhaps tonight i will sing as well.  Fear and hope, despair and joy all sound better in verse with a sweet melody.

 

quick and dirty

reachingout_qadFor two days, i have been utterly unable. Yesterday, it took all i had to put up the open flag and sit here in the studio.  Stuck in my comfy chair for hours, i drew with a cheap pen on cheaper paper – a fairly primal purging of image and idea.  Even at that level of semi-solid, i still managed to miss a friend visiting because i went to the bathroom. While i was able to chat with some wonderful people, there were no sales and simply staying awake had taken so much from me that my legs wobbled beneath my girth.

By the time five pm came around, i was ready for bed. i tried, very hard, to get some cleaning done, but could not move my limbs in a coordinated manner. Breaking three things in less than ten minutes, i surrendered.  Coordination and grace have become fantasies when i am in that much pain and that exhausted. So, instead of useful, tangible progress on the problems of my life, i created more of this quick and dirty drawing while i waited for the sheets, quilt and mattress pad to finish in the washer and dryer.

i keep hoping that things will get better. i repeat “All will be well”; i meditate for over an hour a day trying to keep the wolves at bay.  Maybe this weekend, i whisper to myself, i will make a big sale. If i advertise here, then i will maybe get a bump on my online sales. Perhaps that website or this commission will come through.  This job might be the one that i take, which will make the forsaking of art sit with greater comfort inside my heart. Most of the time, i am able to convince myself to keep going with these quiet reassurances.

Only, the past two days, i have been struggling so hard to move and breathe – i got stuck in my bra this morning, because i could not lift my left arm in or out – that all hope transformed into delusion.

praying_qadYesterday, i noticed the trees behind my house are turning autumn colors. They have always been particularly easy trees, ready to shed their greens at the first quick breath of cool air, but their eagerness feels even more like betrayal this year. Today, the wind and the rain smell of autumn, and i feel the urge to grab the clock off the wall and smite it against the cement floor.  i would hold off fall with a sword. Time, as always, shows no regard for my needs or wants and just keeps charging on like an angry, blind rhinoceros.

i wish i could explain it to myself, why i struggle with such desperate, perilous despair.  Even though i have been assured that this is incorrect, even irrational, i perceive myself as particularly week and unadaptable. Would someone else be crumbling like this?  Would their loved ones praise them for having such reasonable mental breakdowns or would they be praised for holding their head up and taking life’s blows on the chin?

i face major life changes, yes. i am falling apart physically, without doubt. That each of those feeds off the other, too, cannot be disputed although an engaging debate like the chicken and the egg could take place. i was already a broken unit before i decided to pursue art with all i had. Then, using all i had, which so clearly wasn’t enough, i wound up becoming more broken. However, i refuse to give myself permission to have myself days like today and yesterday.  i hate myself for falling apart, which does nothing to keep me active and healthy, but instead fills me with shame and graceless resentment.  i draw to stop thinking about my situation, or myself.  Only, even that desperate art reminds me of how futile this situation is: fall is coming, i cannot stop time, and i am dissolving.

As much as i hate to tell you this: i have nothing to give the world today. No strength, no inspiration. Indeed, i think with this blog, i will have used up my full allotment of words for the day.  Once more, i will use all that i have to make useless art – hoping beyond hope, this madness that drives my heartbeat, that somewhere in word or line, i will find that one thing that can save me.

feeling like an artist

IMG_2515When i make art, i do not necessarily feel like an artist.  i feel like a lucky fool who is getting another chance to do what delights her.  Indeed, during this year of relative hardship, i have had very few moments when i felt like an artist.  Lots where i felt like a mess, or a sales woman, or a failure.  But, few where i felt empowered by what i have created.

This past weekend, i received six of my pieces of art back, professionally framed, and that made my heart soar. Then i put 66 small pen and inks and 10 large ones in mats and bags, which elevated my spirit further.  Saturday, i participated in the Bucksport Art Festival and for the first time this year, got a chance to see a huge amount of people react to my artwork.

And that made me feel like an artist.  More, it made me feel like hope is something more than a delusion.