Saturday, August 20, 2016

August Sanctuary Studio gathering...

Our August Sanctuary Studio gathering began with a reading from Frederick Buechner on how art invites us to stop, look and listen to the world around us and thereby to increase our sense of awareness of the present moment.  We worked with collage materials and metallic paint to reflect on color and light we notice at different hours of the day or different seasons of the year.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Inspiration for Art Camp

About a year ago, a friend sent me this blog post by Seth Godin titled, “What is your ART?”  

The following sentence has been with me and inspired my thinking as I prepare for my time as Artist in Residence at Art Camp.

“Art is a human act, a generous contribution, something that might not work, and it is intended to change the recipient for the better, often causing a connection to happen.”

As I think about what I hope and dream for my time with young artists on the mountain, I return to these elements: human, generous, risky, change and connection.

I look forward to working with our hands, to an environment that is high-touch, imperfect, natural and full of stories - stories of the moment, the material, the maker and the meaning.  My focus is on art as a practice and I look forward to the opportunity to practice in community.  

After my time with staff training, I am greatly inspired by the counselors and directors leading camps and their gifts of time, energy, spirit and love.  I can’t wait to see how this sense of abundance at Shrine Mont inspires young artists.  For me a generous environment is one with faith in abundance so there is open sharing of ideas.  I love watching artists inspire other artists and see the development of ideas and new iterations. 

This is one of my favorites.  To me there are always two risks when making art.  It might not work out.  OR, it might work out in ways that are a surprise and are different from the original intention.  The first is the risk of beginning, the second is the risk to continue. Continuing and working through challenges invites the maker into surprise, co-creation and a new story.  

This gets back to the idea of leaving room for surprise within the process.  Rather than thinking of art making as predictable steps to an outcome, it is an invitation to a journey. Journeys always bring change, even if just change in perspective. 

To create is to be vulnerable, to be real, human, a risk taker, and to be generous with something that may only come clear through the process of sharing; to create is to invite change.  
This vulnerability opens us to connection, to love.  A caring and supportive space and community allows us to make these connections.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Packing for Art Camp...

A few years ago we anticipated a big snow.  While others made last minute trips to the grocery store, I ran out to the art supply store and my studio to ensure I had enough projects to work on should we be snowed in for a few days.  
It’s the same for me when I travel.  There are two parts to my packing, the usual: Clothes, toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen.  Then there’s my art bag: sketchbook, pen and pencil, watercolors and maybe some scraps for collage.  How much is enough?  Will I want a crochet hook, any small unfinished projects I should bring along? I usually have to pack and unpack several times to get down to just what’s essential.  
I feel a bit the same way as I prepare for my first summer as Artist-in-Residence for Art Camp.  I’ve been collecting ideas and researching supplies since staff training in June.  I want there to be a variety of medial and choice so young artists can find something that really excites them.  I want to have just the “right” thing for each artist. 
As I reflect on my own process, I am reminded that once the journey begins, it’s as much about improvisation and preparation.  
One one family trip, I feel in love with the light on trees and fields along the road and began painting small watercolors in the front seat of the car as my husband drove.  I used my water bottle for water and put the paintings to dry on the dash board in the sun.  This ended up very different from imagining myself sitting in the woods painting but invited working quickly as I would try to capture colors just as they slipped from view in the moving car.  
On a train trip last summer, I had trouble defining shapes with watercolor as the train moved along.  I switched to collage but noted the paper I brought was lacking greens.  This was a chance to use my paints to create a palette of papers that I then tore to make the collages.  
In both of these cases, my excitement to make something and record what I saw overcame the worry of having the “right” materials.
Packing for art camp I’m reminded of this.  I want to invite improvisation and surprise and to remember that as much and I put into preparation, there real invitation to create comes with limitations and sometimes those limitations are the greatest gift.  I can’t wait to see what we will need next week that I haven’t thought of and to see how we will improvise to make it work.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sanctuary Studio with Inspiration from Rachel Naomi Remen

On Wednesday evening, we began our art and quiet time with a story from the Kaballah as told by Rachel Naomi Remen in an interview with Krista Tippet.  You can hear the conversation entitled “Listening Generously” at this link:
The story is rich in imagery and connects to themes from Celtic Christianity about finding the light and inherent goodness in all of creation.  

These themes emerged in our discussion and sharing as well.  One participants shared Quaker ideas around prayer as a way of holding someone in the light along with the idea that there is dark and light in all of us.  

Another participant heard the part of the story about the breaking up of the light of the world and connected to the way a prism breaks light into colors of the rainbow.  

We shared images of spirals, stars, and the new light of day as well as other images from the natural world.  

In discussing the process of creating with collage we noticed the way some creations began with a specific intention and then found pieces to fit the plan while others began without a set idea and let the work evolve as they found different elements to add.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016


More lovely time for walking and enjoying nature here at Shrine Mont.
Also a full day continuing to get to know staff for camp.  
In our rest time I had time for a short nap and making a few mini collages...

Friday, April 8, 2016

Art Making as Meditation and Pilgrimage

I've been reading The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner.  Her words about an inner process during art making speak to my own experience.   

Consider your art making time as a meditation practice where the only "goal" is to be aware of the voices inside you, especially the critical ones.  Notice what they have to say and then gently return to your practice.  Over time you will discover that these voices of judgement and insecurity are the same ones that rise up and undermine you in everyday life.  Art becomes a place where we can grow familiar with them and dive into our inner life despite their distraction.  It also becomes a place to welcome in the voices of joy and ease and recognize things that make our hearts delight.  

I am glad she mentions not just the critical voices, but also joy and ease.  I often find that it is only by moving through the voices of doubt and criticism that I can get to the voices of joy and discovery. For me, materials help with this as they pull me in to the present and into a way of being where shape and color and seeing take over so there are fewer words, fewer voices in my head and the possibility of new ways of seeing.  

Paintner writes about how practice can serve as an inner journey into the unknown, one that helps us to be open to discovery and to newness around us.  

Art-making as pilgrimage helps us to understand the arts as a process of discovery about ourselves and about God.  When we enter the creative process with the intention of listening for the movements of the Spirit, we discover new insights about ourselves and God.  

We will add a monthly gathering for exploring art and meditation in April and May, on the second Wednesday of the month, April 13 and May 11 at 7 pm at St Aidan's.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Different Kinds of Conversations

I read an article this week about my first drawing professor, Richard Crozier.  The article originally appeared on the UVA Today website and can be accessed here.

The part that interested me the most was Crozier's response to being asked "What do you want to communicate to your students?"
"I want them to realize that art is something they can do.  I want them to keep their mind open, to look at art. For the rest of their lives, no matter if they become doctors or businessmen or anything really, if they continue to look at art then we will have accomplished something.  They will think that is something I did.  One looks at art in a very personal way when one has drawn and painted.  There is a real conversation taking place."
This idea of conversation has been on my mind a lot lately and feels central to what I hope that creative practice offers.  I love the idea that having drawn and painted gives one the capacity to interact with work by another.  To look differently, maybe even to empathize with the maker in the experience of viewing the piece.

I shared this quote this week with a group of parents and teachers gathered to reflect on creativity with children and one parent, Robin Wilson, wrote this to me in response.
This helps me flesh out some thoughts I've recently had about music.  I studied music for 7+ years with mixed feelings in the end.  Since then I haven't needed any of those skills (reading music, keys, transposing from a clarinet or harp to the piano, etc.) & it has crossed my mind if I "wasted" that time.
But my daughter's been very interested in singing & music, & I finally found a songbook with more than just lyrics- it had the music as well.  It dawned on me those skills I learned are doing more for me now in that I can make music accessible for her.  Maybe we don't always need to learn something for ourselves, but to give that to someone else.
We were at a park one afternoon and there were some sticks on the picnic table where we were sitting.  I started tapping rhythms and then my daughter joined in and we both led and followed (which is now a dearer afternoon to me after our discussion yesterday) and then other kids came over.  It was all simple rhythms I remember from very early on in my music education, but it was fascinating to see the kids respond!
So for about 15 years these skills lay dormant & now they are finding their place again.  My conversation with music needed a period of quiet, & now it's time to resume speaking.
I wrote my last post about an activity with materials that seemed to be a conversation without words. There was a back and forth and opportunities for leading and following.  Robin's story and connection to music now make me curious about what other ways we offer chances to practice intentional listening and sharing.