Water, fire, love

October 29, 2008

Continuing on with recent work, here are some more from the series (see more in ‘Gallery of Current work’ under the ‘Pages’ heading to the right).

The far left one I just made for a friend, it is only 3 by 3 inches.

I like the one in the middle best. When I look at it I get that gut feeling of connection and rightness that comes with one’s best work.  In person it is strong with the dark turquoise shades, and the little metallic gold lightning flames just glow.

I guess one of the things that is most satisfying with breakthroughs like this, is that I can recognize elements of some of the art which has really moved me in the past recurring in this work. Like the period when I was immersed in Krabbé’s oil paintings. I hit a dead end trying to imitate them, but after having let it go, I see elements of what I liked most surfacing in this work.  For instance, some of the forms, but most of all the feeling of lightness and play.

Once again I have experienced:  in art, if you want to do something, you need to approach it sideways, never head on. At least that is how it works for me.  Things need to be left alone to ferment and ripen in their own time, and then, when you least expect it, it snaps into place entirely surprising you, yet entirely your own.

New direction

October 29, 2008


First piece    (top)                                                           Birthday Party


One evening I sat down with my oil pastels and played for awhile. I’d not touched them for several months because even though I felt a sea change was needed, I couldn’t seem to break out of my old ways of working.

I didn’t like the final piece at all, and partly in frustration, and also just to see what would happen, I ripped it methodically into a number of large strips.  They were wonderful little miniature paintings and I started to collage them on the same color paper I’d used for the original. 

The next night I did the same, but this time I worked on a drawing knowing it would be ripped into pieces.  This was tremendously freeing for me because I didn’t have to think out a composition, I could just let loose with the colors. 

This way of working led to a series of 16(so far) oil pastel collages, 25 x 25 cm (about 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches)I like how the collages evolved from pure abstract to containing some recognizable things. The appearance of creatures, birthday cakes, houses and more were surprises and delighted me. I have rarely had such a good  time creating work.

Well into the series I started to go back and weed out some old work and use it for the collages. I’ll add more images here later, including some closeups.

Quick art

October 16, 2008

Materials: iroko offcut, handmade vegetable paper, oil pastel tinting of wood, old camera filter, collage paper, silk thread. Size about 1 x 3 inches

I love doing these little assemblages at the beginning of the day, because, especially if it is a day with lots of business stuff to deal with, I get the feeling of having gotten my art time in.

They take so little time primarily because I always have these materials within hand’s reach in my studio.

I recently went through my collage scrap box and weeded out*, but still am left with a selection of rice papers, old wrapping paper scraps, scraps of handwriting and calligraphy on tea tinted (pseudo parchment) paper, postage stamps, hand stamped and rollered papers from my monoprint work, scraps of letters from friends with cherished handwriting and postmarks, my hand painted brown wrapping papers and tissue papers, etc.
In a separate hand sized plastic box I have precious scraps of hand marbled paper, beautiful cancelled stamps and other mini-treasures that would normally get discarded for being too small to keep.

In my work table drawer I have a small sewing kit with a tangle of silk and cotton embriodery threads. In a pinch I can go to another drawer and find a sampling of my hand painted silk scraps, felts, wools, and rainbow nylons from my old umbrella collection.



* (I made up little cellophane packages of extra papers, if anyone is interested in having some I can mail them easily. They cost 2.50 euros each.)

Peace Pilgrim II

October 15, 2008

Continued from previous post: Peace Pilgrim.

The most intriguing aspect of Peace Pilgrim’s story for me is: Exactly what kind of changes have to happen within the life of a middle aged woman living a conventional life of material comfort to propel her to set out  to walk across a vast country alone and penniless in the name of world peace?

In her book she tells of a fateful night when, filled with deep yearning, she walked through the woods until dawn asking God (substitute a word you are comfortable with- ‘ Higher Self’, ‘Universal Intelligence’ etc) how she could be of service. She did receive a clear indication of what she would do; but between that moment and the one in which she left her old life to set her first step for peace, were 15 years of rigorous psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical preparation.

On the hour long video about her life on You Tube I can understand her family’s puzzlement about the transformation of their ordinary sister, ex-wife, relative, ‘Mildred’, into this powerful spiritual teacher. When asked they just can’t figure out where the impulse came from to make her cut her ties so irrevocably and become this unrecognizable person.

Peace Pilgrim, from her book:

When I started out my hair had started to turn silver. My friends thought I was crazy. There was not one word of encouragement from them. They thought I would surely kill myself walking all over.  But that didn’t bother me…There was much pressure to compromise my beliefs but I would not be dissuaded. Lovingly I informed my friends of… two widely divergent paths in life and of the free will within all to make their choice.

There is a well-worn road which is pleasing to the senses…but leads nowhere. And there is the less travelled path, which requires purifications and relinquishments, but results in untold spiritual blessings.

So when I am feeling bogged down by all the clutter in my life, both mental and material, I reach for Peace Pilgrim and drink deeply of the purity of her teachings. I feel that her preparation to take on her pilgrimage plus the nearly 3 decades of walking  ceaselessly for world peace created a truly enlightened being.
Her family may be bewildered by the power and authority of her words, but for me they are genuine, healing and empowering:

Who am I? It matters not that you know who I am; it is of little importance. This clay garment is one of a penniless pilgrim journeying in the name of peace. It is what you cannot see that is so very important. I am one who is propelled by the power of faith; I bathe in the light of eternal wisdom; I am sustained by the unending energy of the universe; this is who I really am!




Peace Pilgrim

October 15, 2008

from the book,’Peace Pilgrim, her life and work in her own words’. ‘photo taken by Jim Merrill, courtesy Linda Ann Scott’

Mildred Norman Ryder, AKA Peace Pilgrim
Spiritual teacher, Non-violence advocate

Peace Pilgrim crossed the US on foot 7 times, covering 25,000 miles before she stopped counting. 


While I’ve been in bed sick this past week, I’ve picked up my old Peace Pilgrim book. I have always been  intrigued by this incredible, joyous woman who at age 44 set out alone across America to walk for world peace. 

When I lived in Pittsburgh in the late 60’s and 70’s, everyone knew who she was.  I may have actually seen her walking along the highway there, I’m not sure. I do know I carried a newspaper clipping about her with me wherever I went for years.

The thing is, I have something about Peace Pilgrim; there is a part of me that secretly yearns for the courage to do even a fraction of what she did- ie trade a self centered cluttered life for a clear, one pointed, spiritually centered one.  Oh, we all do it theoretically in parts, but she unequivocally chose a path of service, and the difference between that choice and half-measures is exponential.  

She walked briskly along America’s highways and roads carrying no baggage except the few items she could fit in the pockets of her tunic like a comb, a pen and paper. She followed the warm weather north in the summer and south in the winter. Everyone she came in contact with was touched by the simplicity of her message and the commitment of her pilgrimage to,

‘remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food’.

Just imagine this small elderly woman walking next to highways day and sometimes night – often sleeping out in the open on the ground, or going without meals!

She confided to a good friend  on the eve of leaving her old life, that she was doubting whether she could really give up all her physical comforts for the kind of impoverishment she was about to undergo. But she admitted that even though she had all the outer signs of comfort and success, she felt impoverished in that life. As it turned out, impoverishment is the last thing she felt:

When I began my pilgrimage, I left the Los Angeles area without a cent, having faith that God would provide me with everything I needed….Without ever asking for anything I have been supplied…When you have spiritual security you no longer have need for material security. I don’t know anybody who feels more secure than I do- and of course, people think I am the poorest of the poor. I know better. I am the richest of the rich. I have health, happiness, inner peace- things you couldn’t buy if you were a millionaire.

So how does a middle aged woman, living a conventional life like you or me, arrive at the point where she sets out penniless without even a blanket or coat, to walk alone across a vast country? See next entry.

60 second art

October 14, 2008

offcut art

offcut art

Its been a slow week here while I recover from a heavy chest cold. The fever and cold symptoms made me uncomfortable, but I have enjoyed the little cocoon of quiet and the respite from obligations.

Being ill gives time for reflection and reconsideration of priorities. Untrue things seem to fall away, leaving the bare bones.

Rende has just finished making a grave marker for a client, I will shortly design lettering and burn it in (first time I’ve used this technique). He had a whole lot of very attractive little offcuts of iroko wood, about a sixteenth of an inch thick and 1×3 inches. I brought a stack of these irregularly shaped slices up to the studio and put together the little assemblage above using a scrap from one of my discarded oil pastel drawings. I like it because it took about 60 seconds, and says just what I want it to. I might do a series.

For the rest of us

October 5, 2008

This is a continuation of the previous post, ‘Brave little businesses’.

There are thousands of new small businesses and they are all marketing up a frenzy, so much so that no one stands out from the crowd. Most of us have limited advertising budgets, so how do we compete?

  • First, try to get out of the ‘competition’ mentality. Concentrate instead on doing what you do best in your own way, and you won’t have to compete with anyone. 
  • Consider that who you are may weigh more heavily than having  the coolest folder. I’ve noticed that work opportunities grow out of meeting people one to one, rather than spreading publicity material.
  • And genuine mutual pleasure in someone’s company leads to more business opportunity than having a good elevator speech.
  • The tone of your selling is important. I note a real desperation under so much marketing. It is understandable, you have taken a big risk to set up your business, you have to prove to yourself, others and the bank that it can work, and you have to survive financially; that is a big load for a small starting business to carry. Unfortunately any neediness coming through your approach will scare potential clients away. The antidote to this is in the next point:
  • Concentrate on what you already have and build on that with joyful focused energy. Start out from a feeling of already having enough no matter how the business part pans out. I know this seems unreasonable when money often is the bottom line, but try to get out of a position emotionally where this is true.( read Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist)
  • Love what you do and share your passion with people you know and meet. You enthusiasm will be infectious; people will want to be part of whatever you are doing.
  • Be alert for what comes on your path and take advantage of it. I recently helped a friend at an Elders fair. I did it for free and happened to meet an old acquaintance there with whom I may be able to develop another project.
  • Put down roots in your neighborhood and district;   fill an existing local need  with the work you do. Reach out and collaborate with other small ventures.
  • Create oportunities for others that you would like to have for yourself.
  • There IS enough to go around. Operate from this principle.
  • Once your business is known in your community, grow organically (gradually, naturally)from there.
  • Try to avoid large investments or high operating costs so that you won’t have even more pressure to earn right away
  • Make giving an integral and natural part of your business. Don’t see it as promotion, but as how you would like to stand in the world.
  • There are times when no action is possible. Don’t passively wait for something to happen, but be in a state of positive alertness to any opening which could help you progress.
  • You aren’t in a state of needing, but of having enough and letting this spread by creating channels to share what you do best with the greater community.
  • And, of course, use whatever conventional marketing practices that best fit with you.

I feel that everyone can find at least 10 clients who believe in them and use their services  or products. Let friends and associates know what you are doing and keep developing new ways to share your knowledge and talent. This is called ‘warm networking’ but I see it primarily as a way to build community and create a give and take with the people around you.

The ironic thing is that when the points above are practiced sincerely, they usually benefit your business as well.

Brave little businesses

October 5, 2008

I visited with a fellow artist this morning who was grumbling about too few visitors to his gallery. ‘There are just too many things to do in our area, and too many artists’, he said. He was saying in effect that there isn’t enough to go around. 

This is an easy mode of thinking to fall into, especially if you have started your own  business and things are not going well.  I can cite any number of outside factors for why my work might not be selling enough; the economy, people’s tastes, the competitor down the road, my own aversion to hard selling, etc. 

I’ve been in enough circles of artists who were caught in the victim role to know that you don’t progress much when blaming circumstances for your own lack of success.

But there are just so many new brave little businesses out there encountering the same problems: women whose kids have left the nest starting on a new career as a masseuse or alternative healer; people who have been disillusioned with corporate life and are setting out for themselves; the list goes on. 

I encountered someone recently in a field very close to mine, her folder was catchy and well done and the text very close to what I had considered for my own promotional material. But reading it from the point of, a business manager, there were so many holes. What kind of specialized training does this person have, all the claims about how effective she was were from her own hand, and honestly, in the end there was nothing in the folder alone that would convince me to hire her.

It doesn’t help anymore to shout out how good you are, everyone does.
It doesn’t help to be the coolest, because someone else is always cooler.
It doesn’t help to have the newest approach because in 15 minutes someone with a newer one will come along.
So how do we small self-employed creatives with slightly marginal businesses compete? 

I admit that there are new entrepreneurships that are hugely successful, it is always possible you will hit on a formula that exactly clicks with upcoming trends.

But I am writing for the rest of us. Please see next entry for my vision on new marketing attitudes.