” A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure in which he reveals to us the inner working of his soul.” –Leo Tolstoi, Russian author, 1800s. When young, while eating breakfast each morning before getting on the school bus, I always had a couple of favorite books handy for entertainment. Cereal boxes only had so much content and this was in the days before digital stimulus. I actually LIKED studying for spelling tests. Something about words: their meanings, sounds, and placement engaged me. Was I a budding writer? The day an English teacher in high school read my fiction story to the class as a quality example sent a flush of excitement through me and planted itself in my memory. But, I didn’t choose writing, I chose art. The writing, however, tagged along. I have a trunk full of journals, several story starts, and then…I started writing captions to go along with the sketches I post each day. This book, “The New Dictionary of Thoughts” has been a faithful companion in that process. It was published in 1936 and contains quotes from “thinkers” prior to that date, of course. I find the language usage elegant. It also helps that the topics of quotes are arranged in alphabetical order. Autumn and Avarice are right next to each other, lol. How cool is that! And one can not simply walk into the Mordor of writing without the research assistance of the Internet. What an astonishing age to live in! Posting on Instagram has helped me keep my musings condensed, valuable to whittling the words down to their essence and essential in a world of short attention spans–myself included. The writing has become as important as the sketch. That was unexpected. When I look for a subject to sketch now, there must be a concept to go with it. Keeps me on the edge of my intellectual seat. When the visual and the writing come together there is that same “flush of excitement” I felt in my English high school class so many years ago. A few more recent and favorite postings follow:Day 506: BEAUTY or BURDEN? No kidding, standing on a low wall I looked down on some rocks and a desert plant in our yard and from that slightly different perspective I saw this head and shoulder adorned. BEAUTY: Move over Marie Antoinette updo, Marilyn Monroe’s glamour waves, and Princess Leia’s side buns! BURDEN: Or perhaps this is a cactus to bear, an opuntia around the neck, stickers on your back, a prickly conscience. Just a little artistic fantasy to badger the point: BEAUTY (or BURDEN) is in the eye (or heart) of the beholder?Day 520: Traveling the earth tiny Earthlings? I see your excited faces inside that little blimp. Taking a risk to see what’s around the corner? Got toothbrushes and quarters to call home? No, wait! Quarters don’t work anymore. Got your phone chargers? Take lots of pictures! Don’t forget clean underwear and an extra pair of socks! “Rather see the wonders of the world abroad than, living dully sluggardized at home, wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.”–Shakespeare.Day 523: Simple food and drink, simply put, is not simple…now. These essentials of life have brewed and bred a world of complexity and memorable quotes: A Dish Fit For The Gods; All You Can Eat; Chow Down; It Is Meate And Drink To Me (Shakespeare again); Let Them Eat Cake (Marie did NOT say this); and the growing harvest of study indicating that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. (Unless, of course, something is EATING YOU. Think GRABOIDS, “This valley is just one long smorgasbord!” And DINOSAURS, “Let’s get this moveable feast under way!” I digress.) Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may have to count your calories, measure cups of vegetables, ounces of water, and be sugar free.Day 593: Oh, the CRAZY things you could find on the Internet today!!! The U.S. Army has NOT discovered how to teleport people. The National Air and Space Museum has NOT begun breeding tribbles. Archaeologists at Vanderbilt University have NOT discovered the skeleton of a 39 foot tall squirrel. The British Milk Council is NOT selling unicorn milk. Sony has NOT developed a slime resistant proton pack. Verizon is NOT connecting your eyeballs directly into your social media accounts. There are NO pizza scented candles, No T-rex line of T-shirts, and No 3D-printed clam chowder. Dang! Happy April Fool’s Day anyway, lol.
On August 18, 2014 our daughter started a two year graduate program at the University of Houston. Texas is a long way from home. I would miss her. “Mmm,” I thought, “while she is away intensively studying, I will advance my art education by taking on some intensive projects myself.” One was to sketch every day. I bought some 6 x 8 inch sketch books and made up some rules to follow. In essence, my own Masters Program. I would sketch ONLY in black ink, ONLY from life, and this effort would ONLY take 30 minutes a day. Bravely I went to the local school bus stop on that August day and commenced drawing. I had talked to two other artists about posting my sketches on Instagram and Facebook each day as a structure to get me to follow through. I posted a blog about this project on October 26, 2014, when I was at sketch #70. I was amazed THEN, that I had followed through for that long. Tonight I will be sketching #564! I am still amazed and the rules I made up have changed.
THERE comes a time when something you have been thinking about for a long time demands attention. Actually, there are a lot of those “thoughts” that pile up. Which one gets to the top of the pile?! This one did, this week. I have been storyboarding, writing, rewriting, restoryboarding, and on and on, a story about a gal and her ma. They live on a ranch, managing a herd of monsters to keep them “out of folks’ dreams as nightmares”. So, there are always chores to wake up to. The important sub-plot is the mother/daughter relationship. It is a fun puzzle to begin sketching page layouts and design: where to put the type, how to dance around the center spine of the book, how to tell the story on each spread…
THEN the work of “given circumstance” (that’s what they call it in theatre) begins. “Given Circumstances is a principle from Russian theatre practitioner Stanislavski for actor training: what are the conditions of the character’s world, history of the character’s environment, and elements from the character’s personal situation, like, who the heck is Hamlet?!!!
I SPENT some time with the gal character: Delaney Blu. Is she sassy, brassy, big eyed, oozing with certitude and cuteness? Mmmm, perhaps a little quieter confidence, figurin’ things out, obedient not rebellious (there ARE those, lol), still gets into “scrapes”, is a “getter done” kind of gal and yes, cute.
Yes!!! And it is reinvigorating to the creative process. I noticed my neighborhood filling up with children as new families moved in. Conveniently, a yellow bus stops at the corner of our property each morning of the school week. After my initial excitement that there would be more trick or treaters for Halloween (one of my favorite creative holidays), I contemplated inviting the children on our block over to paint. Could be daunting…but these three possibilities came to mind: 1. Spreading goodwill in the neighborhood. (Well, that certainly could make a difference in the world.) 2. Paying it forward. (Sharing what I know about art. I have spent a few years learning about it, lol.) 3. Assisting a budding artist to find their way. (So many teachers, mentors, associates, artists, friends…have contributed to my art journey.) Let the fun begin:
“Your face is a book, where men may read strange matters.” – Shakespeare. I think he was on to something! Much about the artist is always revealed through the art they make. So it was with the children and the masks they made. In September of this year I taught two classes of fifth graders how to make a simple mask. In 45 minutes it was easy to see a connection between their personalities and their created mask-faces…even though they were all strangers to me.
On the evening of June 13, 2014, WE THREE: (left to right) Barbara Edwards, Roxane Pfister, and me, Dilleen Marsh, did have a great time. (We are all wearing jazzy patterned scarves, a gift from Roxane that she picked up on a visit to Greece earlier.) It was the opening reception of an exhibit of our work. Friends, family, even our high school art teacher, Bob Whitney, as well as two of our college art teachers, Glen Edwards and Marion Hyde, came to pay their respects…or just to see if their art instruction had made a difference, lol. It did. So did all the practice we three “girls” have put in over the decades since public school. What an honor to show my paintings along with two dear friends in a bona fide art gallery! Even with the common neighborhood roots and art instruction we have shared, our painting styles are unique from each other. Consider that the soul of the artist does, indeed, show up over time. After an evening of chatter, sharing stories behind paintings, deluge of the children on the refreshment table, posing for photos, and catching up with old acquaintances, we tallied the financial side of this art business. Nothing had sold. Weeks later Barbara sold one of her 6×8 inch still-lifes from the show. Most of Roxane’s paintings were NFS (not for sale) because she is determined to put together a collection of strong pieces to pursue a broader representation. I had completed a painting for the show titled, “Wistful”, (shown below) that was seen by two magazine designers, garnering me two illustration jobs in the months that followed. I also felt that with all the painting, running up to the deadline for the show, that I climbed a plateau in my abilities as an artist. Sometimes there is nothing like a deadline to make you produce. And there is certainly value in the hours spent practicing those brush strokes!
In May of this year a Canadian artist by the name of Robert Genn passed away from cancer. For decades he produced an art newsletter that could be freely accessed on the internet. He blessed the lives of thousands of artists with gathered and personally experienced…wisdom. This quote from him particularly spoke to my heart: “We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there.” From those first drawings in 8th grade to our three woman show in a gallery, WE THREE have been in the vortex of art. The center of that vortex has been friendship. And it is magic…
We Three update May 29 (to see the poster for our show).
WE THREE 3 woman show will run from June 13 to July 5, 2014 at Logan Fine Art Gallery, 100 North 60 West, Logan, Utah. Opening reception is June 13, 2014 from 6 to 9pm.
Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a 20th century American artist whose work focused on the American West. WE THREE are fans and one day while we were “retreating” in southern Utah we saw a brochure advertising a tour of Dixon’s home and studio in Mt. Carmel. Goodness! It wasn’t that far away. So we zipped on over. Found out that a knowledgeable and generous couple, Susan and Paul Bingham, had established a mecca in the desert for us Dixonites. http://www.thunderbirdfoundation.com/ In 1938 Dixon had written to a friend: “Big news is we are going to quit Calif. & build us a log house in Utah, far from any large town. Mormons are simple honest farming people. We like them. Beautiful country, but cold in winter. Don’t know if we can make a living there, but take a gamblers chance.” For one week, each year, for the next six years, WE THREE retreated to his “log house” and under the influence of Dixon’s artistic spirit, we practiced the art of painting.