Patrons at the Tacoma Art Museum (dressed to match the painting — serendipity!)

“Anything that invites reflection becomes a point of departure.”
— Maxine Kumin

I don’t take enough time for reflection.  It seems so easy to breeze through my days doing the work I’m paid to do, getting lost in a book, being entertained by television shows and DVD movies.  But after a while, that’s just not enough.  I need to transform all this passive input into action.  I need to find meaning, to work with my hands and make something.

There’s a constant need to feed the soul, but then also to create something out of that nourishment.

“Must be out-of-doors enough to get experience of wholesome reality, as a ballast to thought and sentiment.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, November 4, 1852

Do you feel that, too?  What do you do to invite reflection?  To get grounded again?

The paintings in art museums invite reflection.

Are you transformed by art? If not art, what then?

It is truly my pleasure to write these blog posts, but there are times when the backlog of ideas for new posts has been depleted, and I wonder if I’ll find anything worthwhile to share ever again.  It amazes me as much as anyone that I’ve posted almost every day since April of 2009.

At first, I wanted to document in photos and words the little seasonal changes I observed over the course of a year in my ordinary life in Seattle.  Then, writing my blog became a habit of sorts.  I still walk through my life on alert, always on the lookout for possible ideas for blog posts.  Sometimes I start with a poem or quote I’ve discovered in my reading, and then try to find an image to illustrate that idea.  Sometimes I start with an image, a photograph I want to share but have to find some words to go with it.  I don’t try to write long essays or post too many photos in one blog post.  Rather, each day focuses on the pleasures of one small idea or image.

I am most comfortable when I have a small backlog of ideas, but I try not to get too stressed if my well is running dry.  Right now, for example, I’m thinking ahead to late February/early March when I will be out of town for a week.  Can I prepare enough posts in advance to have something ready to publish each day of my absence?  I worry about this, but then something happens and invariably all turns out okay.

Like the neighborhood walk I took yesterday with my camera.  I didn’t know what would strike my eye, but it turns out I was almost overwhelmed with lovely images.  Suddenly, nature seems to be stirring out of its winter dormancy, and I’m seeing all sorts of things going on.  I took photo after photo, and after uploading them, I’ve mentally sorted them into themes for a week’s worth of blog posts!

It’s funny how I can walk the same streets day after day and not see anything special.  And then a new day, and it’s like I’ve got some kind of special glasses on that allow me to see with fresh eyes.  I’m still learning that I have to trust the ebb and flow of my creative life.  And that the Universe will provide if I am open to it.

I’ll end with three photos from my recent neighborhood walk — images that I like but can’t figure out how to incorporate into a full blog post.  Enjoy!

Thorns on the bark of these trees

I like the pattern of these buds standing all in a row.

New growth cutting through old leaf

Watercolors and sketchbook on my work table

I’ve lately had a hard time finding time to paint.

No, that’s an excuse.  I haven’t committed to making painting my top priority, and maybe because it is important to me, it’s become in my mind a “big thing.”  And you know how “big” projects can sit like an elephant in the room, too large to tackle, and so you fritter away your time accomplishing smaller tasks that are actually do-able.

I am old enough to know that you can’t just wait until you are inspired to make art.  Thinking about being an artist won’t turn me into one.  I will only become a painter by sitting down and painting.

“Inspiration comes during work, not before it.”
— Madeleine L’Engle, Irrational Seasons

“. . . a writer who writes only when she is inspired will work three or four days a year.”
— Katherine Paterson, Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children

I also know, from long experience, that the first step to being productive is to simply jump in and get started.  There is no need to wait until I have a full day free to get out my watercolors, brush and paper.  I just need to commit to five minutes.  And then I’ll be over the hump, the procrastination, and invariably those five minutes turn into an hour or two.

I recently read a passage in a book about Georgia O’Keeffe that talked about an interesting exercise for artists:  “During her first stint at the Art Students League, when she was a mere babe of twenty, she learned and absorbed a lesson from William Merritt Chase that would serve her well for the length of her long life:  Paint a picture a day.  The idea was a multifaceted lesson of genius.  Painting a picture a day trains you to:
a)  not take your work or yourself too seriously;
b) capture the energy that led you to paint this particular thing in the first place;
c) loosen up (you’ve only got a day, so no fussing around);
d) remember there are more where this came from (there’s always tomorrow); and
e) love the process; the enjoyment you had painting that kitten in a basket is more valuable than the painting itself.”
— Karen Karbo, How Georgia Became O’Keeffe:  Lessons on the Art of Living

I’m intrigued by that idea, but given my work schedule at the library, I don’t think I can commit to painting a picture a day.  I would be setting myself up for yet another failed New Year’s resolution.  Maybe in the future.  For now, I am hoping that talking about my struggles to sit down and paint in this blog will help me to keep my nose to the grindstone.

I love my Google Reader service

Jellybean and I enjoy "A Collection a Day"

Where do you find inspiration?  During the past year, I’ve been looking more at blogs, especially those that include beautiful images, color, nicely designed graphics, book recommendations, etc.  I now find my Google Reader account indispensible.  It’s a real time-saver because Google checks the blog sites I’ve chosen and displays any new posts in one place, my Google Reader account.

You can set up an account of your own at http://reader.google.com.  It’s free.  And you can add any number of “subscriptions” or blogs/sites you want Google to track for you.

Here is my personal blogroll, i.e. sites I subscribe to on my Google Reader account:

And, of course, https://rosemarywashington.wordpress.com.

I’d love to hear about which blogs you follow and find inspiring.

Inspired by Gardens

May 18, 2009

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

Rhododendron at Rhododendron Species Garden

Rhododendron at Rhododendron Species Garden

Fern rolled in a tidy package

Fern rolled in a tidy package

Like green lace and white butterflies against the sky

Like green lace and white butterflies against the sky

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”
     — Vincent Van Gogh

It’s easy to find inspiration in a public garden.  These are a few photographs from Friday’s day trip to the Rhododendron Species Garden on the Weyerhauser campus.    The rhododendron is the Washington state flower, and it is a ubiquitous shrub on Seattle lawns and gardens.

“It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance … To perceive freshly, with fresh senses is to be inspired.”
     — Henry David Thoreau