” 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.
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:
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.
What influences what we become? Who do we travel with? How are we affected by what we see and experience? It is insightful for me, having arrived at my 60th decade, to have plenty of history behind me to look back on.
Now 16 days away from our “WE THREE”, three woman art show reception on June 13 in Logan, Utah, my “looking back on” continues…
WE THREE: Barbara Edwards, Dilleen Marsh, and Roxane Pfister are three weeks away from our three woman art show at http://loganfineartgallery.com/. As I am “assembling and retrieving” art…I am thinking of “retreating”. Lol, not as in “escaping”, because I am thrilled and honored to show work with my dear friends. But in “remembering”. As I said before, WE THREE have gotten together more than 20 times over the years to RETREAT: a period of seclusion, esp. for spiritual and artistic renewal. Just wanted to share some of those memories…
WE THREE artists began to cement our friendship in 8th grade. It was 1966. Congregating under the influence of our art teacher, Bob Whitney, in Ucon, Idaho, Barbara Summers, Roxane Mitchell, and me, Dilleen Humphries, took those first steps on an art trek together that has spanned 5 decades. In high school WE THREE were part of five founding members of Bonneville High School’s Art Society. Drawing and sculpting and only occasionally painting were our daily disciplines. We were well versed on the life of Michaelangelo. Unusual and fortunate for a high school art experience. Then college. Rox took off to Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. Barb and I settled at USU in Logan, Utah in the fall of 1969. Two years later Rox joined us at USU. Under the tutelage of Glen Edwards and Jon Anderson we began to paint. At first it was in acrylics…then occasionally oils. In 1974 Rox and I drove off (actually, my sister, Deon, was driving-it was her car) across the southwest desert to the “art” gold of California. We were going to be famous illustrators! Barb married our USU teacher, Glen. Years, marriage, and children later WE THREE are now all living in Utah. After high school and college how do you stay in touch with your friends? Remember, this is way before FACEBOOK or even the internet. We’d occasionally get together, drop in for a visit, pair up and do a workshop, or go plein aire painting… and then we began “retreating”. RETREAT: a period of seclusion, esp. for spiritual (and artistic) renewal. Our first ALL THREE retreat was in 1988. We went to the Teton mountain range to paint. Since then we have “retreated” about 20 times. Logan Fine Art Gallery has extended an invitation to WE THREE to exhibit as a three woman show in June 2014. What is the value of traveling the art “road less traveled” with friends? We could give you an earful…”
This idea occurred to me while in church. Someone was speaking about how whatever is in our heart comes out of our mouth. Or who we are INSIDE will show up eventually on our OUTSIDE. I drifted into thinking about the prickly thorns on a cactus coming from the integrity of the cactus to produce those prickly thorns. Does a cactus have a thorny heart? What if the cactus was a man…would the hurtful thorns he spewed be evidence of an unsympathetic heart? A missing heart? Wouldn’t it be interesting to actually know where thoughts are drifting off to among the congregationalists at church, lol?!
Supplies: 8 1/2 x 11 inch black cardstock, pastel, chalk, or prismacolor pencils, origami paper, tape, and glue.
1. Use the black cardstock as your base. Colors really “pop” on a black background. Cardstock is stiff enough to survive the art-making process and still be hangable on the refrigerator door.
2. Roll a piece of origami paper into a tube and tape it closed. If it is hard for some fingers to roll the paper, roll it around a pencil to help you get started. This tube of paper is the main “line” of your art.
3. Glue the tube of origami paper onto the black cardstock in the position you want it-straight, bent, or flattened. We just used simple Elmer’s glue. Glue sticks are not strong enough to hold the “line” to the cardstock.
4. Use pastel pencils, chalk, or prismacolor pencils to color in the rest of your design. (Markers will not show up on black very well.)
5. This project could be done on white paper with any art supplies you have on hand. The concept is to see how “line” is used in art and “What Does A Line Inspire?”
On the 12th, my fabulous daughter, Katie Marsh, assisted me in placing flyers and posters of the 3 woman show around town with the hope that the Utah Opera Festival crowd might be enrolled in taking a peek at our art. I think I only had courage to hand out flyers to groups of smartly dressed women and say “Go Girls!” because of my stage actress daughter’s backup.
That night, at our opening reception, I had the pleasure of showing off my friend, Roxane’s, new technique with a palette knife to attendees. Roxane, meanwhile, was winging her way to China with her scientist husband, Jim. I did not know Susette before that evening although I had admired some of her paintings. Happy to find out she was a very pleasant, intelligent bundle of energy, easy to get along with.
Rox and I went plein airing while Barb (clever girl) stayed in the studio to paint. We discovered the engaging snake gesture of the Sevier River (attached painting), the prevalence of animals around us (dying chipmunk by the kitchen door, chipmunks and blue jays eating cornmeal puffs out of Rox’s hand, baby buffalo romping with a herd, a bounding deer, and dead deer by the side of the road). We also discovered, or were reminded, of the intensifying heat. We drained ourselves painting in the sun. Being engulfed by the concentration of painting, the heat can sneak up on you and not be noticed until you start putting your paints away. Then you become conscious to the fact that it takes all you have to walk back up a hill toting your supplies and sitting down in the car with the air conditioning on is paradise.
We ended our week with a couple of trips to nearby Panguitch and their Hot Air Balloon Rally. In the day the balloons hang from the sky silent and ethereal, like dew drops. At night, in the propane glow, balloon colors intensify and interesting crowds of people swarm through the streets. We three have taken on the project to paint a hot air balloon painting each by next year’s Dixon #7. Remember girls?! All there is . . . is The Work!
Each year for the last six years I have journeyed with art buddies, Roxane Pfister and Barbara Edwards to Mt. Carmel, Utah for a week’s art retreat at Maynard Dixon’s home site. This year we went for the last week of June. Rox, Barb, and I have wandered in the world of art together since middle school. It is a precious long term friendship that has only deepened over the years. Paul and Susan Bingham, owners of the Dixon site and an accompanying prestigious art gallery have been very generous in providing this art opportunity for us and others. Even as I am writing this I am struck by my good fortune to have dear friends that I can share my passion for art and life experiences with, paint and draw to my heart’s content, adventure in the semi-wilds, laugh a lot, be under the influence of the ghost of Maynard Dixon, and be inspired by the quality art of the Bingham gallery. Following are bits and pieces from the week. This first sketch is of Diana’s throne. Waking up with a full bladder, hunger pangs, and the anxiety of making a living with my art, I climbed the 4 minute hike to an overlook that inspired Maynard Dixon. Sitting on a rock in the early morning quiet, amazed at the enduring magnificence of the landscape, the anxiety took a backseat and I started the day’s “work”.