In February of this year I shared with you my sketches for two characters I am writing children’s book stories about: Driz and Siz. I was happy with my little “cute” girls and merrily sent sketches and manuscripts out to agents. No takers. Time passes. One day, surfing around on the internet I went to a site hosted by Will Terry, children’s book illustrator, who generously shares his experience and wisdom.http://willterry.com/ Here’s a quote from that insightful moment: “The internet ignores mediocrity. It ignores good. It ignores really likeable. It only celebrates excellent or great. You have to be willing to sacrifice and be great. You have to figure out what you want to do to be great. It can’t be forced. Do what you really, really love. Once you find that – don’t look back.” I looked at my “cute” characters and saw “likeability”. Aaargh! Considered two questions: What do I really, really love? What is holding me back?
An inexpensive and creative children’s art project! Or for you moms and grandmas out there, an activity that is “Creative Simplicity Itself”.
On my way back from the 3 Woman Show in Logan I had the great privilege of spending a few hours with my grandson, Jayson, and his brother, William. I love these two little guys and am grateful to their mom and grandma, Melissa, for their generosity in arranging for this time. We played treasure hunt, hide and seek, Sorry (the board game), caught up on their latest karate moves and ate from a vending machine… Then William asked, “Are we going to do an art project?” I was in the middle of explaining that I hadn’t brought my “craft/art box” with me when this idea popped into my head (I am sure I got this from some other creative person somewhere). Following are the instructions for “Creative Simplicity Itself”.
1. A piece of 8 1/2 x 11 inch white printer paper for each person participating.
2. A color for each person. We chose a crayon each because they had crayons handy. Markers, pencils, paints or any other way to use color would also work.
3. Each person starts a drawing of anything with their color. We set a time limit of a few minutes to work on it and then said “Stop!”
4. Before passing your paper-with-started-drawing onto the person sitting next to you, you write a word (any word) at the top of the page.
5. The next person uses their color to add to the drawing you started. With a time limit. Also adding a word (any word) to the top of the page.
6. Keep rotating papers around the table until all have added to the drawings with their colors and words.
7. Then it is story time! Each person tells a story about the art work on the paper in front of them using all the words written at the top of the page.
I was really impressed by the creative stories that William, the 8 year old came up with. Even Jayson, 5, got into the swing of it, if mostly to use the drawing as a mask, lol.
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!
Finally, after 5 years of saying I’d like to try it I did a “night” painting. From 10-12midnight I stood under a yard light and painted the attached study of a shed on the site. There is a floodlight on the corner of the shed that gave some illumination to the scene. It was in front of this shed on the gravel driveway under the shade of this big tree that Maynard Dixon painted some of his later year paintings. The temperature was perfect and the light never changed. Couldn’t tell what my colors looked like so depended on a study of values. At first when I would hear a twig snap behind me I was startled into fantasies about what could be creeping up behind me. But interestingly enough, the night time traffic on a nearby road began to be a comforting rhythm to me. Like waves in the ocean.
Susan Bingham painted some great florals from life at the studio with us. One day we were talking about her grand vision for the Maynard Dixon site and I suggested that she come up with some good ghost stories in its background to draw visitors. She replied, “As a matter of fact . . .” She showed us a stone Maynard had begun carving as his headstone. He had carved “MD HIS PLACE” on it. You could only see “MD”. Most of “HIS PLACE” was buried in the dirt. The next day or two, at Barb’s suggestion, we dug out the rest of the stone and provided another tourist attraction at the site. Attached photo shows Susan, me, and Barb at the stone.
The beginning of the week at Mt. Carmel was a pleasant temperature. But about Wednesday afternoon the heat began to descend. At one moment while all three of us were painting in the Maynard Dixon studio one of us spoke up and observed:” I don’t know if I am having a hot flash or it’s just warm in here!” This is a sketch of a cow’s skull hanging in the studio and these are photos of Barb and Roxane working in the studio. My work station shows a blue cloud formation on the painting to the left. Thank heavens the nights were cool.
I sat by an irrigation ditch on the Dixon home site and sketched while listening to the slow gurgle of the water. When I woke up this morning into my head had poured a possible story line for a children’s book I have been working on. Funny how flashes of insight come unexpectedly. Sitting by the ditch reminded me of my early days on a farm. Playing with my sisters and friends in the local irrigation ditch. While I was sitting there I sent my sister, Deon, a text to follow through with a weekly call we have. (It had to be text because my phone wasn’t getting reception in Mt. Carmel.) Her reply text said: “Let’s you and me meet up by a stream of water under a tree and sip some tea and talk about life under the moon.” She did not know I was sitting by a stream sipping my herbal concentrate, always contemplating life, albeit under the sun, lol.
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”.