March 31, 2007


‘Hyacinths’, pastel drawing (with plant in foreground)

This one is hot off the press, you can still smell the fixative spray. The flowers were imperceptibly opening even while I was drawing it.  As I wrote in the previous post, teaching is getting me back to drawing again. And E, my 10 year old student brought in an example of art she liked . In helping her understand the technique involved, I got fired up to loosen up a little with my own approach to drawing.

The aim here wasn’t at all to do something super-realistic, and the color match was more coincidence than intent.  I was moved by the almost black purples, and the purple buds with a tinge of green, and I was anxious to use some of the deep dark rich new pastels I’d bought.

I discover repeatedly, that the work I am happiest with is where I am just being me and drawing.  And not trying. Has anyone been gradually led, as I have, to the discovery that being oneself is actually enough?  It seems that I receive the most of what I want- creating beauty, fulfilling an intent, being valued, when I am not striving for anything. Often the things I just toss off seem to carry the imprint of all the years of discipline and craft, and stand solid by themselves.  Sure, there is a small effort and some work involved in a drawing such as ‘Hyacinths’, but the main element is in receiving what is there and being in relationship with the subject.  Sting said that he experienced song writing as a sort of grace, as a standing back, getting out of the way and receiving his songs.  

Artists work with gifts. The blooming hyacinth is a gift, and the joy of seeing and communing with it and being able to reach into a box of varied colors and play with the light, shadow and purple-greens is a gift. And finally, showing it to someone and having them be touched by it completes the circle, ….or opens up a whole new field of communion to explore together. 

Horse crazy

March 31, 2007


Recently I’ve begun taking on private art students again after a long period of not teaching. It is incredibly stimulating to my own art; I’ve rediscovered the delight of drawing simply for the joy of it. My Friday afternoon student is 10 years old and horse crazy, as I was at that age. We discovered that here in Holland, she had the Dutch version of  Walter T. Foster’s,  ‘How to draw Horses’  book. It was the same one I had as a child, and it was one of the few books I rescued from our old house in Pittsburgh after my father died. So I showed it to her and we had fun looking at the similarities and telling each other which horses we’d already drawn!

One of the things I enjoy about her in regards to her art is that she is fearless. She tackles each new drawing with the assurance that she can do it. Through her, I see how years of ‘being an artist’ can sometimes be the worst thing for one’s art-I mean one’s real, close-to-the-bone and soul art. The art that has nothing to do with galleries, trends, or superficial identity.  I am reminded that being oneself is sometimes the most important ingredient in making art because it produces something authentic.


March 24, 2007

amsterdamse-gevelsresized.jpg   Amsterdam house fronts

I was looking at some featureless modern buildings in the city and comparing them to  historic shop fronts and houses. It wasn’t so very long ago that buildings were designed with decoration as an inherent part of the whole, rather than something stuck on later. You can see, in the old details- brick laying, relief sculptures, window frames etc, a sense of pride in craftsmanship. This always communicates itself to me as some kind of connection to tradition. I get a feel for the actual hands that did the work back in the 1700 or 1800’s. There is time, care and story contained in craft. The buildings come alive for me because I can connect to the people that made them through my senses. My eyes are delighted by the visual beauty and my hands can vicariously feel how it must have been to work with the materials. And I am nourished by the lineage of craft being passed from generation to generation.

There was an age when beauty, detail and tenderness were valued above expediency and cost.

Art is Veiled

March 20, 2007

Calm village 
‘Calm Village’, oil pastel on paper

Following on the last post, I copied down something Sting said during the documentary. It was along the lines of, if you are singing, ‘Down with this, down with that, that’s journalism, but, ‘Art is something else, something veiled’.

‘Something veiled’, art is mysterious, below the rational, beyond the  intellect. The X factor, the binding element, magic!
I so appreciate art that gives me room to use my own imagination. Songs, books, paintings -full of symbols and enchantment, honest pieces of someone’s world shared with me the listener, reader, viewer.

Work that says, ‘I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me.’ (Mark Helprin, from Winter’s Tale).

Art and healing

March 11, 2007

 Sting - All This TimeI’ve been watching Sting’s DVD, All this Time and have been struck most by the kind of person he is. I’ve always liked his music alot, but what comes across in this film is his integrity and the sense of community he has built with his band.

Certain artists reach a point in their lives where the central question changes from, ‘How can I get as much profit as I can from my talent’, to, ‘What can I bring into the world, using the gifts I’ve been given’.  I think every profession has this choice.  I don’t think it is an ‘either/or’ thing, more a question of the kind of motivation that one’s art springs from. I also feel that social awareness and profit can go together nicely.

Back to the DVD, the film has a tragically ironic edge in that Sting has planned a gala concert at his villa in Italy for several hundred invited people. You see the band, full of good spirits, rehearsing for the concert.

The date of the rehearsal is September 10, 2001. 
The next morning the camera crew catch them all in a state of shock, watching the nightmare unfolding on TV.

Together,they decide to go ahead with the concert. The first song is ‘Fragile’.  At the end of the song, there is absolute silence. That moment captures the triumph of music, community, and courage over the violence of 9/11. It is one of the most moving things I’ve seen. 

Tai Chi

March 8, 2007

In Tai Chi today our teacher emphasized the importance of letting go. The movements are controlled, there is a sort of beautiful tension in them, but it isn’t rigidity. He explained that the surface muscles sould be soft, but the deeper muscles are flexed. He had a student hang on his outstretched arm and she couldn’t budge it, yet just under the skin, the arm felt soft to the touch .

I love the analogy here, I see the deeper muscles as ‘intent’, and the surface muscles as ‘will’. Increasingly in my life, I find that I can use less superficial effort to get things acomplished. When I stress about something and try to force solutions, thing seem to stay stuck;  but the times I’ve been able to really let go and trust in the deeper intentions to solve things, then life flows.  This applies to everything from sticking to a diet to designing a website or keeping the house clean.

And like Tai Chi, if the movement/action comes from a quiet center, it is easy and pleasurable, but at the same time powerful.  It seems to go against our society’s work ethic, that getting things done can progress in a relaxed way; we need to feel and look like we are working hard to be taken seriously! But really, letting go is so much more efficient, and it has beauty and grace in it.

Today, I am writing this first by hand in a little journal, on the train moving through the Dutch countryside. I started the journey feeling rushed and tense. After closing my eyes and doing my Tai Chi mentally, my breathing was back to normal, and I felt completely relaxed. I proceeded to effortlessly solve a design problem I’d been wrestling with for 6 months. It didn’t feel like work, it just happened, and there is was. It wasn’t even an Aha!, just a quiet, perfectly right solution.

I’ve been an artist long enough to know that things need their incubation time. Why, though, when it takes longer than it ‘should’, do I have to learn every time all over again to trust, and that the right solution needs time to ripen and will appear when it and I am ready!?


March 4, 2007


Heart Angels   pastel on paper 

 It  is taking awhile to get my website up so I’m starting this blog in the meantime. Also, since I’ve had a ‘portfolio career’ and I want to keep my site fairly simple, this is a good place to share all the ‘other’ stuff I do.

I like practical, connected, and meaningful art. I am excited and inspired by the arts in healing and community art.  For the last years I’ve been committed to finding alternative paths for myself and other artists so that we have choices outside the traditional ways of exhibiting and exploiting art. I have done a lot of thinking about right livelihood in relation to art, so will be airing some of those ideas here.

Over the years my thinking has been inspired by other artists, writers and friends, and I look forward to sharing some of those sources.