Friday, February 6, 2015

It's not for trying

It has been a strange couple of months...

Sounds like the beginning of a story, doesn't it? It is.

When I joined the Puget Sound Book Artist group a few years ago I slowly discovered that artist books were more than simply joining paper and glue together in new and interesting ways. Artist books are really about the "story". I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t really KNOW that. I was so focused on making books that I didn't always pay attention to the story I was creating. (Actually you don’t really have to even think about it unless you decide to exhibit your work. Then is when you have to explain yourself!) It was last year during the PSBA program Conversations with the Artist I heard myself saying things like: “The muse made me do it”, and other similar cop outs. I was spinning a story. OMG! What other stories have I been telling myself and others? Awkward --- so, rather than focus on myself (do you hear -chicken cackling?) I started listening to other people’s story-telling.

Like a drone hovering over the surface of the earth, I listened with a enlarged ear. I was really surprised to hear the feeling with which people told their stories, repeating them endlessly and each time with more em-pha-sis. Frankly, most of it was excuse making, but some of it was just plain self-destructive. Being raised a good Christian woman my heart went out to them. Things needed to be fixed. Unfortunately this couldn't have been farther from the truth. It was definitely a wrong notion. Truth is - people like to be stuck. They like suffering. They seldom want a way out. As you might imagine this epiphany was difficult to accept. It forced me back to listening to my own story.

As I was saying... it has been a strange couple of months. Last fall I was having great fun – burning wood, making prints, digging up roots and experimenting with all sorts of natural objects. My first attempt resulted in this:

I was so thrilled with the results that I held all resulting images to that same feeling. See the downward spiral? I kept trying to 'master' the results until the holidays came. It was easy to be distracted by fresh storytellers and activities designed to "take you away."
All January I boxed my feelings about last fall's printmaking work. I tried a new project. I changed up the medium and methods but there it was again, something was bogging down forward movement. Was it the realization I would have to come up with a plausible story about my work? I thought perhaps that was it so I gathered other people's words, thoughts, philosophies to try and describe my work and my message (story).
Prayer wheels with sound, coverings with images of the air, tree of life and earth.

For a while I thought it was working - I was creating. I thought I was in the flow... but then burned fingers, torn paper, damage requiring a re-make. I am not a perfectionist, really, more of a one shot artist so this should have been a sign. Fortunately there was no one to hear the words emanating from the studio: shouts of "What is your problem? What is going on? What's the story (excuse)?" If there were folks around they wouldn't have been able to hear the shrugging of shoulders in response. I didn't understand why. I cried, "Where was my muse?"
Eventually recognition of resistance came to roost. Gotta love resistance. Not totally ignorant, but a slow learner, I finally understood that when you meet resistance you should change course. So I did. While sitting in hot water it came to me - FEAR! It could be fear, the root cause of most resistance! Words tumbled through my head; a book took form. Dark and foreboding, black and white images took shape. Book and words created and completed... still that didn't quite seem to be the reason either.

When in doubt check them out - the stars and moon that is. Maybe it is something beyond my control? Indeed I am scheduled for an 'interesting' year, but there were pockets of hope as well. So what was my problem? My star sign really doesn't take well to others telling me what I can or can't do... so I persisted. Yet, I not totally stupid - I know that meeting resistance head on is bound to hurt. So instead I go out in nature. Nothing like nature to restore one's senses.

I walked past the flags I have hung in remembrance of my mother.
She taught me that all struggles eventually pass. I continued down the driveway
to see the daffodils who have pushed their heads up.

I look around. There at the edges - the blackberry is creeping it's way across the pasture. Even in winter the persistence with which this plant grows is admired. With a big sigh, yup, today is the day. It is the day to go out there and learn "resistance is futile" from the master - the blackberry. I might as well, nothing is happening in the studio!
I gird my loins and layer up. So many blackberries so little time. Realizing it may take the rest of my lifetime to see green pastures again! But this day the the dead canes are softened by winter rains. I may have an advantage. For three hours blackberry and I were deep in combat. Within minutes she whipped her cane across my face. Softened with rain my ass! (Sorry, I thought the story needed em-pha-sis). My bad - my attack was on blackberry was too direct. Live and ... dare I say learning. The showers came and went while we were locked together in an uncomfortable embrace. Words were exchanged.
So I guess this is how it goes. This is how the story is created. You just get 'out there' in the mud, thrash around in the underbrush, learn to use a side attack to reach your target or suffer cuts and bruises. Gee, sounds like the story of life, doesn't it. I guess that is the basis for all stories.
Realizing this, I think I will sidle out to the studio and play.


  1. Have you heard this one ~ "The only way out, is through." Just let whatever it is happen without overthinking it. Eventually what's meant to be will come forth. Have a good weekend! Hugs.

  2. I enjoyed reading this for many reasons, perhaps just knowing that somewhere on this earth it is green is exciting to me...even if a battle begins again. I battle a thistle patch and a raspberry patch...I'm not a fan of either thorny plant. I go outside to get close to God, His handiwork is evidence of His love for me. Love your creativity...