Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday

...hope you enjoy these excerpts from my sketchbook which were done over the past 6 months.  I was inspired to start a regular post called "Sketchbook Sundays" this week after visiting a blog where the artist posts images from her sketchbooks every Sunday.  I think it's a great idea to post recent work regularly.   The past six months I've been drawn to work more with pen, india ink and watercolor.  This creative thread started with these drawings and  quick sketches late last summer/early fall.  The quick sketches on the newsprint divided in quadrants came first then the india ink drawings.  Look for more from my sketchbooks every sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Cole Porter Singing Day

Today is going to be a singing day.  I have a rehearsal coming up this afternoon that I'm really looking forward to.   Lately  I've been writing a lot about snow, visual art and the creative process but have neglected to share things about my musical side.  My intention when starting this blog was to write about my creative life so now it's time to balance out the visual with a little sound.

I was asked this fall to sing a collection of Cole Porter songs for a cabaret themed Valentine's Party.  My friend and his partner put on excellent themed parties centered around live musical performance.  They transform their large studio space into whatever environment fits the theme of the party.  My friend picks and arranges the music and gathers many musicians to collaborate and partake for the sheer fun of it!  I can't wait for this year's party!  The space will be transformed to a 1940's style cabaret with rich fabric curtains, tables, drinks, candlelight, art and music.

I've really enjoyed this new and different musical project for a number of reasons. Up until now  I haven't really sung Cole Porter's material and have only dipped my toes into jazz singing and musical theater.  I love new experiences and learning so this project has been perfect.  Also,  I've been nervous about memorizing all the lyrics and pulling off the material in performance because some of the songs are so wordy and tell a story... like "Let's Do It" and "Anything Goes". I have it though, I know the lyrics and it only took a few weeks of consistent repetition to feel like they are really up there in this brain of mine.  I love working with a new group of musicians and singers and enjoy the comradery and team work that's involved with getting ready for the performance.  Finally, I get to dress up for the part...which to me is great fun!  It's all about make-up, clothes, and transforming myself into a sultry cabaret singer.  I found a great evening gown at a thrift store for 10 bucks!  ...and it fits like a glove....I just can't eat any extra helpings of ice cream or mexican food if the zipper is going to go up without a hitch on February 12th.

So far, my favorite songs that I will be singing that evening are "Begin the Beguine", "Love for Sale" and this one as done by the great Ella....  enjoy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meditations in the Snow

I've been taking walks and snow shoeing in Northampton while staying at a friend's apartment and taking care of her two adorable kitties.  I found a path by a stream, behind the houses that make up the lovely neighborhoods surrounding Smith College.  The path has shown me many of it's secrets which gives me feelings of peacefulness and delight.  Some signs, perhaps coincidentally or not, came to me on my walk.  There is a spiraling labyrinth under a thick layer of snow with colorful Tibetan prayer flags hanging over it, made by a small community of three neighboring families.  It's a space tucked away from it all where you are invited to walk, reflect and say prayers.  Although I was tempted to go into the spiral, the smooth, beautiful whiteness of the untouched snow as it contoured over the spiral was so pure and poetic that I couldn't disturb the image with my footprints.  I want other's to have the opportunity to stand and admire the spiral's shape in the snow and reflect.

I've been reading "The Way To Freedom: Core Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism" by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and thinking about Buddha's teachings and instructions, and the law of karma or cause and effect.  Coming across these spaces unexpectedly while I was on a quiet walk to get fresh air, exercise and let my mind wander was an interesting and synchronizing way for the physical surroundings to affirm my state of mind.   Later as I came out of the woods that followed the stream on to Smith's campus I found a sitting pagoda with Japanese style gardens around it and a Buddha peaking out of a snow drift.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shadow Shapes on Snow and Ice

One of my favorite things to do in the winter, after the snow falls, is to look at the shadows cast against shades of white snow.  I love the blues, purples and grays that appear in abstract and recognizable shapes when the sun or moon comes out on a clear, cold day or evening.  I walk and look for interesting things that happen when light plays against objects and textures.  The subtle ridges and lines created by wind over the surface of a field of snow and the play of light against these surfaces can make for some interesting abstract images.  Trees show another side of themselves as their mirror image is cast in shadow on the white covered ground.  Snow, light, wind, cold, ice, trees, plants make some nice art during the chilly days and evenings of winter.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Path With Shadows and Light

Here is the third india ink painting I made recently.  I finished it on Monday and am happy with what it shows me.  This world is full of light and shadow both outwardly and inwardly.  We all must navigate territories which are full of light and shadow.  The path is our life as it unfolds before us and fades away behind us. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

New India Ink Paintings of Winter Trees And Thoughts About My Creative Process...

I painted these two pieces with india ink and water on newsprint with the intention of loosening up and with the hopes of  feeling less attached to the outcome of the creative process.  The images are 18" x 24" and a bit bigger than what I've been producing.  There is something freeing in knowing that if you do not like what you are making you can just crumble up the paper and throw it in the wood stove.  There is also something freeing about producing more work and focusing on the practice rather than focusing on the result or product.

I am becoming aware that I need to practice freeing up my creative process.  I have the tendency to move slow and put a lot of energy towards individual pieces, exercises and materials.  It's almost like I'm too focused on the end results.  I'm realizing that this kind of approach to my practice whether it's making visual images, practicing the piano or singing makes the flow more cumbersome.  To get better at anything you have to exercise the brain and muscles and therefore repetition is the key.  Yet I am fighting this habit/personality trait of mine.  I become attached to the idea that the end result should be good or interesting.  Notice the phrase, "should be".  These words and thoughts are rarely helpful. I expect too much and put pressure on myself.

What's really interesting is how this edge is continually coming up for me, even as I try to do a sketch, a doodle, a drawing, or a painting a day as a practice with no expectations.    Last night as I produced my sketch of the day I squirmed as the image came out.  It was an image of a female figure and, man, I quickly judged it as "eww, ugly, yuk, why am I doing this!?" Yes, it really is not very good but I need to get comfortable knowing that some drawings, exercises, work, sounds, ideas are just going to be that way.  I am quick to judge myself.  I'm getting to know this side of me.  It's there. Maybe this tendency of mine will always be there but perhaps I am capable of living with it more comfortably by gently steering my focus towards strengthening the muscles of detached productivity and repetition.

I have a third "Winter Tree" composition which was made around the same time as the above two. I just put some color on it and I also made some value adjustments.  I will post the third piece later this week as right now the water color is drying and I am not with my home computer to upload photo's of the new image to this blog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

After a holiday hiatus...

The eventful solstice/full moon/eclipse is behind us as well as the Christmas and New Year gatherings, expectations and reflections.  As I sit down to reconnect with my blog and write this, the first week of January is coming to an end, and snow is falling and gently covering the trees and ground with fresh and beautiful white. 

Like the new white, untouched snow, the new year seems fresh and yet ripe with both potential and uncertainty and the unknown.  For me, this new year is not one of joyful resolutions and brightly optimistic plans.  Instead it feels positive but serious...mysterious.  This is a time of deepening and reflecting on myself, my heart, on my relationships and on my path as I continually create the life I lead and desire to lead.  This is what I'll call my striving of being and becoming.  The striving of appreciating and being present in the moments that are my life and the striving of continually and consciously making choices that create a fulfilling, positive, creative and authentic life. 

I missed writing and sharing over the last few weeks as this blog has become a pleasurable way to personally and publicly journal using photos, thoughts, ideas, art work, garden work and music.  Very soon there will be more posts that are already in the works showing recent art work that I created in the time I wasn't posting, trees, thoughts on study & the creative process.... stay posted.  For now, here are some pictures I want to share.  They were taken between my last post and now.  Then, very soon, in a couple days, something fresh and so 2011!
During the hiatus I spent good time in my cheerful and cozy living room, thinking in front of the wood stove and Christmas tree  and enjoying the quiet light and warmth.

My very, very special friend, Gilligan, joined me on the couch for cozy hugs a lot of the time.  Una, my other very, very special kitty friend joined us too!   They are such good company!

Oh, and there was the pre-Christmas Italian food extravaganza at the infamous Northampton neighborhood eatery, Joes, with a dear friend.  We had a blast and honestly couldn't get over the amount of food we ordered!  A couple other diners marveled at our spread, shared some laughs and took our picture before we dug in.

... and finally a photo of a cold and bright winter sundown taken earlier this week as I pulled up the road on my way home from work.  I see this as an image telling of bright and positive things, actions, creations and manifestations ahead.  Wishing you good things this new year...