Seems like I write a new post whenever I’m pressed for time in my studio. Maybe it’s avoidance. Maybe it’s just that when I’m struggling or when I’m jumping up and down with joy because I got over my hump is exactly when I feel like sharing that struggle and that joy with you. I’m feelin’ scrappy. That’s it.
Soooo … I’m in the flow and I apologize for my weird sentences and non-grammar.
Today I reflect on the scraps and leftovers, the layers and stashed pieces of beauty that normally stay hidden in boxes until I’m in a creative flow and just need to see what I’ve got. When it’s all out on the studio tables — any flat surface that isn’t covered in ink — I can swim in the colors and textures and gorgeousness and it gets me going. I am simultaneously (well, almost) working on 9 or 10 different images. Some will make it into the upcoming printmakers’ showand others will make it to the “scrap pile” (I rarely throw away a print even if it’s un-good.) I’m experimenting with a short series of four bird nests and two other prints about birds. Plus two of my animal companions and one about home. Just home. Actually, they are all about home, come to think of it. A deep sense of home. Home empty. Home full. Home in a storm. Home when you have someone. Home when you love someone.
I want to share some of my studio scraps. And maybe a couple of prints that are bubbling up from the deep. Not quite done. Not quite ready for framing. Still experiments. Still works-in-progress. I’ll post again when I decide what’s going in the exhibit, PRESS HERE – – and give y’all some sneak peeks.
As a child, my favorite saint was St. Francis. I think one of the reasons I was so drawn to his story was his profound connection to all of creation: sun, moon, plants, rivers mountains, animals … somehow that way of living and being has always resonated with me. I continue to gain inspiration from Francis of Assisi. This is my own version of the Prayer of St. Francis:
Creator, make me a channel of peace,
Where there is hatred, let me plant love;
When I have hurt, let me seek pardon and
Where there is hurt inside me, let me find forgiveness;
Where there is doubt, let me believe;
When I feel despair, let me seek the light;
When the night seems too long, let me remember the morning
Where there is sadness, cultivate joy.
O Loving Creator,
help me open my heart to others before I ask for help;
seek to know the world around me before I expect to be understood;
love with my whole body, heart and spirit
and in doing so, know that I will be loved
help me remember that it is in giving that we receive
it is in forgiving that we are forgiven
and it is in letting go that I am connected forever
to all of Life.
Every journey begins with imagination. Even the journey of a life … that path we travel from conception to death, even this wandering begins with the imagination of two souls. Sometimes the imagining is born of love. Sometimes desire. Sometimes rage or passion or indifference. Always, we begin with the wanting. The wanting to be here. To go on.
Along my way there have been sidetracks, switchbacks, detours. I have strayed from the path, I have been broken, I have fallen down and thought I could not get up, could not continue. I have run out of gas, lost my mojo, stumbled in the dark.I have , at times, wandered without a map. Too proud to ask for directions. Or embarrassed. Following my nose. Or heart. Or something else: a kind of song. Ancient. Wise. Eloquent. Solemn.
And yet, my way has not been a lonely road. I have had companions. They have been my guides, the threads that held me, my constant guiding stars. Among these companions, are my soulmate and husband, Tim, my sons Mickey and Gabe, our sweet old Sam (and now that Sam is gone, our dear old Charlie.)
In my imagination, I walk the road ahead. Steadied by friendship, by love, by faith in something larger than myself. I am grateful for the blessings of my life.
I originally published this post on my old blog that I don’t update anymore, in 2008. Just decided to ressurect the photo and post because it feels true to me still. Hope you enjoy it. ~Maureen
Every time I begin working on a new series, I have mixed feelings. Being held by what I’ve already started mixed with being impelled by what I want to do next. Melancholy mixed with excitement. Curiosity mixed with worry. Delight mixed with feeling vulnerable. Do you ever feel that way when you start something new?
I haven’t yet exhausted my last series (The Mother Tree work) but I’m ready to keep growing and moving forward. I think to myself “I’ll go back to the Mother Tree or the Salmon Forest or the Ecology of the Unconscious.” Will I? Probably not — right now I’m exploring a new(ish) medium for me. My current mixed media pieces have a new look — still mine, but I think better. I love experimenting with materials, exploring different ways of putting marks on a surface, and new ways to express what wants to come out of me.
So, one of the questions I ask myself as I embark on a new series is, how does this have anything to do with the work I recently completed? Where is the thread of continuity between those other series and this one? I’ve been playing with printmaking for several years (in the big picture, that’s not long at all) and have barely started incorporating collagraphs, monoprints and relief printing into my mixed media paintings. Here are a couple of pieces that have some of my prints as part of the composition:
Right now, I’m playing with a small tabletop press (wishing it were alot larger.) I’m trying out techniques that are new to me, but fit my style and objectives perfectly. Chine colle´ is a way to use some of the paper scraps — prints, studies, watercolors, paintings and collage papers I’ve saved. I’m using the old textbooks and readers that have become familiar in my artwork, incorporating childhood motifs along with fish, birds and the occasional nuclear bomb or tree. My personal vocabulary of marks and shapes continues in my new pieces — spirals, circles, spheres, peculiar cross hatching, jabs, roots, geometric shapes and voluptuous strokes. And of course, I’m always passionate about Nature and that’s prominent in my new work: leaves, branches, grasses and other botanical images; water, waves, currents, raindrops; and animals both large and microscopic.
I’m curious to see where I go. That’s a great motivator. I’ll post more when I get something I like enough to say, “This is what I’m doing for the next show.” In the meantime, it’s just a direction.
I woke up this morning to a deep quiet outside my window. The window was open a few inches (I like sleeping with cold air on my face.) Most mornings, even as late as yesterday morning, I awake to the chatter of tiny songbirds in the lilacs just outside. This morning all was silent.
I looked up at the sky. Gray-blue. Little humps of snow covered the lilacs. Soft. Bare of leaves. And oh — the branches! The black brush stroke branches against a hundred shades of white snow! I knew my palette was going to change overnight. Just. Like. That. At least for one or two paintings. Black and white. Simple. Distilled to the essence of pattern. Calligraphic strokes against a pale plain sky.
Last week, my young friend, Grace and I invented our own “art camp.” She stayed with me for four nights and we had 3 full days of creative fun. I sure hope we get to do this a couple more times this summer. Hanging out with young people fills my cup, especially when they are as enthusiastic about life and learning and creativity as Grace is. It was super cool that we got to do so many projects and have some adventures just the two of us. Actually, it was three of us — Charlie came along too.
I promised Grace I would teach her how to make a blog post, so I am going to leave the DIY tutorials until she comes back for our next art camp. In the meantime, here are some photos of some of the things we did and made:
Hearing robins singing has always been my first sign of Spring.
We’ve tried to arrange for our shamanic study group to meet in Montana, our home-ground, for almost 20 years. Well, they came this spring! Yay! And I kinda think everybody pretty much fell in love with Montana’s beauty and wildness. Yellowstone Park, the Yellowstone River and Paradise Valley to be specific.
It’s been a long time since I have visited Paradise Valley and Yellowstone Park in springtime. Starting when my sons were little, we camped in Yellowstone but usually after school was out for the summer, or in the fall. I’d always heard about the incredible spring surge of baby wild mammals and birds there, but I’d never experienced that awesomeness until this retreat. Fall was always my favorite Montana season. I’ve changed my mind, though.
My new favorite season?Spring-near-Yellowstone. Yes. That is a season. Springtime-near-Yellowstone. Not just plain old Spring.
In early May, Mother Earth is waking up in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Waking up in a big way:
Her trees sure woke up — fast! In just a couple of days, before our eyes, the aspens and cottonwoods dressed their bare branches in mists of green, then fully clothed themselves in designer-leaf-garments.
As spring days grow warmer, Earth’s sacred waters awaken. Snow melts. Soft rains come. Rivers swell and fill their banks. The water covers sand bars, willow thickets and ancient boulders. Listen to the sound of a small stream feeding a big river and notice the beauty filling your heart:
During the night the land sleeps. Mists cover the bottom of Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka range. With sunrise, the clouds lift to reveal a snowy shawl on the mountain’s shoulders and, as the day warms, her shawl unravels into rivulets that feed the swollen river. Earth’s sacred waters take many forms.
Mother Earth is waking up with babies. Every kind of wild-fertile-life-explosion-of-exuberance baby: bison calves, wolf cubs, fox kits, fawns, elk calves, gopher kits. Eaglets, goslings, osprey chicks and kildeer chiclets. A hatch of mayflies and a hatch of trout fry, bunnies, ducklings, loonlets and grebelets.
Birds mate, nest and raise a brood. Or they just pass through, feeding all around us – energy for the journey.
A grebe mother floats by with a brood of grebelets on her back. Two of them are just behind, tucked up against her tail as close as they can be, in the wild, rising waters.
Yellow-headed blackbirds sing their water-in-the-throat-joy
Dusk brings the chortling call of sandhill cranes, their color that of deer, goose and fallow field
Canada geese stand on a snag midstream, high water all around them, calling their distress in not-quite-unison
White pelicans glide downriver — a silent line on invisible rolling air-hills
Mama eagle brings home a snake, then a rabbit, a duck, a fish — she’s a good provider
Nuthatch, woodpecker, chickadee, siskin, finch — the timbre of bird-song in a meadow swells to a symphony of beats, noise and vibrant texture
The cottonwood grove where we met around a fire, is alive with aspen-catkin-fluff dancing in the air to the rhythm of bird-song
Above our heads, baby gracklets (made-up-word-warning) strain their wobbly necks from a hole high in an old snag. Their begging calls must fill the parent birds with urgency — bring more bugs! Bring more bugs!
A red tailed hawk screams hoarsely from across the flooding river — an osprey answers at dusk
Our Earth is sacred. There are some places on Earth I can more easily feel and experience that sacredness. The Yellowstone ecosystem is one of those places for me. It is holy ground.
Just for fun, I found some recordings of some of the birds we saw and heard during our retreat. Listen here:
We stayed at River’s Bend Lodge and some cabins at Paradise Gateway, hosted by Carol and Pete Reed with help by their daughter-in-law, Holly. What a great place to stay — right on the river, surrounded by more wildlife than I’ve ever seen in one place. Thank you for opening your slice of Paradise to our group.