Beginnings

January 2, 2017

“Every day is a new opportunity to begin again.”
— from The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

The January 2017 display at the Greenwood Library

The January 2017 display at the Greenwood Library

It’s January 2nd and seems quite natural to reflect and make resolutions for the year ahead.  I like the thought of beginnings, starting something new.  For me, the fresh start applies not only to possible projects I might take on in 2017, but also to relationships.  I have regrets over acting badly at times, especially with those closest to me, but I find solace in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu which I am reading in The Book of Joy.  He says that sometimes negative thoughts and emotions are inevitable because we are only human, after all.  We are not perfect.  So we should accept our occasional failings and forgive ourselves. We hone our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as we work through our flaws, failings, challenges, and heartbreaks.  We can grow through our struggles. We can allow ourselves a fresh start.

 

 

Bonnie making art amidst the sweet peas

Bonnie making art amidst the sweet peas

Despite my good intentions, my painting has been derailed for some time.  Life intervened, and making art fell to the wayside.  Thank goodness for friends whose support jumpstarted me into picking up a paintbrush once again.  I was invited to tag along one of their regular weekly painting get-togethers.  We met at Jello Mold Farm to paint and enjoy a picnic lunch.

How satisfying it was to put brush to paint and make a sketch.  I resolved once again to make watercolor painting a higher priority in my life.  Here are my new (resurrected) rules for living:

1.  Begin again.

2.  Take small steps.

3.  Be prolific.

4.  Slow down.

5.  Enjoy the process.

6.  Welcome mistakes.

7.  Fail better

Here are some words of encouragement and advice from David Bayles and Ted Orland from Art & Fear:  Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making:

“For most artists, making good art depends on making lots of art,” and

“In time, exploration gives way to expression.”

Bonnie's watercolor painting of a greenhouse

Bonnie’s watercolor painting of a greenhouse

Bonnie's drawing of a sweet pea

Bonnie’s drawing of a sweet pea

Katie's painting of Jello Mold Farm

Katie’s painting of Jello Mold Farm

My watercolor sketch of young poppy

My watercolor sketch of young poppy

 

“Begin anywhere.”
— John Cage

Moon snail shell # 21, watercolor over pencil

Moon snail shell # 21, watercolor over pencil

It’s been five weeks since my last moon snail drawing, and I’ve lost momentum.  Life intervened.  First the mad scramble to get ready to fly to New York City in winter, then the actual vacation, return home, return to work, return to errands and daily chores around the house.  You know how it goes.  And now, five weeks, later, I feel derailed and rusty.

But no more procrastination!  Time to begin again.  And since I’m floundering a bit and don’t know quite where to begin, I’ll take John Cage’s advice to “Begin anywhere.”

I’m not happy with moon snail shell # 21 — it’s too flat.  I wasn’t able to bring out its roundness.  My tones are off.  Moon snail shell # 22 is marginally better.  I’m resolved to keep going.

Moon snail shell # 22, watercolor and ink sketch

Moon snail shell # 22, watercolor and ink sketch

Moon snail shell # 22

Moon snail shell # 22

 

 

 

Starting something is not an event; it’s a series of events. . . . Keep starting until you finish.”
— Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Moon snail shell on frosty leaves

Moon snail shell on frosty leaves

This month I will be sharing my latest project, 100 moon snail shells drawn, painted, and captured on paper. (Photographs won’t count.)  The germ of this idea entered my consciousness many years ago when I first read Everyday Sacred:  A Woman’s Journey Home by Sue Bender (1996).  In it, Bender mentions an art exercise that her friend Gale was teaching called The 100 Drawings Project:

“The task of the class was to find and draw one hundred times, one simple, familiar object, portable enough to bring to class each time.  It had to be neutral in content, not religious, not a family heirloom, nor an object that held any sentimental value. . . . Making one hundred drawings of the same object forced Gale to find new techniques, materials, and ways to work.  The goal here was to take risks and exceed limits.  Hopefully, along the way, a personal style would emerge.”

The idea of drawing a single object 100 times intrigued me then and many, many years later it still pulls me.  This year I decided to commit and actually do it.  I had some ideas for getting started, but I didn’t know if I would eventually “hit the wall” and run into artist’s block.  Starting out, I was also curious about what directions this challenge would take me.  I will share my steps along the way in this blog.

Here are my first three watercolor sketches:

Moon snail shells # 1, 2 and 3; watercolor sketches

Moon snail shells # 1, 2 and 3; watercolor sketches

Beginnings

January 1, 2011

“I try over and over to begin all over again.”
     — John Cage

Pierced by a shaft of sunlight, Antelope Canyon, April 2008

This post is a salute to new beginnings.  I do believe that every day is a chance to start over, try again, and move forward with a softer heart, clearer intent, forgiveness, and goodwill.  My imperfections seem overwhelming at times.  But there is nothing to do but get up and do better the next time.

“I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.”
     — from “The Round” by Stanley Kunitz

I wish you all a very Joyous and Happy New Year filled with new beginnings!

New Beginnings

January 1, 2010

A new year, a new calendar

Starting a new calendar and day planner

“Nothing is essential except beginning.”
     — Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins, The Feminine Face of God

I consider every day the beginning of a new year, and therefore my New Year’s resolutions are apt to be on-going efforts to be grateful, appreciate and love my family, learn new things, create art, explore new worlds, and find beauty in my ordinary, every day life.  Here are a few special things I hope to concentrate on in 2010:

  • Pare back my material possessions, give away things that no longer reflect my interests, lighten my load, minimize clutter;
  • Read more poetry;
  • Travel to New York city for the first time in my life, visit museums, walk through various neighborhoods, take pictures;
  • Continue daily posts to my blog through April 14th (the one-year anniversary of its launch) and then re-evaluate its direction;
  • Walk or take the bus to work more frequently (drive less) and explore Seattle by bus;
  • Learn to bake bread;
  • Make at least one trip home to Minnesota to spend time with my Dad and family;
  • Spend more time outdoors hiking and camping.

I don’t foresee any big changes in my life in the year ahead.  My regular life, with its routines and responsibilities, provides plenty of material for growth and creativity and thought.  Books and movies send me on mental journeys, which are almost as satisfying as physical ones.  My boxes of fabric scraps and watercolors are the raw materials for more art and handcrafted projects than I can possibly complete in one year.  If I pay attention, my local surroundings provide infinite subjects for my photography and opportunities to feed my soul.

I must continually learn to keep a fresh eye on my world.  “Though I am always one year older, the year is ever new, renascent . . . and whatever I encounter within the season extending before me will be at once familiar and completely new.”
     — David M. Carroll, Following the Water

Small Beginnings

August 26, 2009

Cluster of green acorns

Cluster of green acorns

There is an oak tree growing on the parking strip a few houses down from us, and I just noticed that it is full of green acorns.  I love the shape of the capped jewel, a little package that holds the promise of big things to come.

Small Beginnings
by Charles Mackay

A traveller through a dusty road strewed acorns on the lea;
And one took root and sprouted up, and grew into a tree.
Love sought its shade, at evening time, to breathe its early vows;
And age was pleased, in heats of noon, to bask beneath its boughs;
The dormouse loved its dangling twigs, the birds sweet music bore;
It stood a glory in its place, a blessing evermore.

A little spring had lost its way amid the grass and fern,
A passing stranger scooped a well, where weary men might turn;
He walled it in, and hung with care a ladle at the brink;
He thought not of the deed he did, but judged that toil might drink.
He passed again, and lo! the well, by summers never dried,
Had cooled ten thousand parching tongues, and saved a life beside.

A dreamer dropped a random thought; ‘t was old, and yet ‘t was new;
A simple fancy of the brain, but strong in being true.
It shone upon a genial mind, and lo! its light became
A lamp of life, a beacon ray, a monitory flame.
The thought was small; its issue great; a watch-fire on the hill;
It sheds its radiance far adown, and cheers the valley still!

A nameless man, amid a crowd that thronged the daily mart,
Let fall a word of Hope and Love, unstudied, from the heart;
A whisper on the tumult thrown, – a transitory breath, –
It raised a brother from the dust; it saved a soul from death.
O germ! O fount! O word of love! O thought at random cast!
Ye were but little at the first, but mighty at the last.