Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowy Winter Encourages Artistic Endeavors

Last Thursday's storm brought another foot of the white stuff.

Teeny-tiny component of a much larger sculpture currently in progress.

Wheelthrown cylinders for a new sculpture in progress.

Kiln loaded and ready to fire.

It's been a snowy winter. No one will dispute that, not even those who live in the south. We have all had our share of it and it seems we can barely get shoveled out from one storm when another is forecasted on the way. This morning I had a "snow alert" in my inbox. Apparently we got another 4 inches of snow while I was snoozing, and last night the weatherwoman on WSCH news cheerfully alerted all the viewers here in downeast Maine that there is a "potential for significant snowfall mid week" with the next storm.

More than a few times over the past three weeks my arms have been reduced to a jello-jiggle after shoveling. It's a bit different here on the coast than what I was accustomed to in central Maine. On the coast, we tend to get a heavier, rain/snow-mixed precipitation. So, when the rest of the state has that light fluffy stuff that isn't a back-breaker when shoveling, we usually end up with a heavy, sticky mess that would give even the most Herculean of men quite an upper body workout.

This winter the forecast has called for more-than-usual "coastal huggers". Those storms that go out to sea are often clipping us here in Lubec. While the rest of the state (or even the next town north of us) may be dry and sunny, we are getting dumped-upon with whiteout squalls and mass accumulations.

So what does this mean beyond lots of shoveling and an enormous plow bill?

Snow days. The kind where the phone rings at 5:30 in the morning and the voice on the other end of the receiver tells me to go back to sleep. (But I never do!!!)

We've had four of them so far this season. Sometimes that elicits complaining since they have to be made up at the end of the school year, but I have sort of resigned myself that already. There is nothing that can be done: Mother Nature is in control.

For me, the snowy days have been great for studio time. Instead of my usual two days on the weekend and scattered weeknights, I have been able to squeeze in an extra full day which amounts to approximately ten additional hours of sculpting.

Winter is wonderful for creating, especially that which requires much thinking and reflecting. The stillness allows me to be more in my head and less distracted by the pull to be out in the garden or heading out of town, etc. Being snowed-in is the ultimate. Everything that was previously planned gets dropped from the schedule and that makes for pure creation.

I am currently working on two clay sculptures simultaneously. In general I don't like to have my mind scattered amongst too many things, but sometimes that is inevitable. The main component of a sculpture I began almost four weeks ago has a fracture so may need to be re-sculpted, and while I am waiting for that situation to become more clear I have begun a second major piece. With clay, I am always working against the clock. Different steps need to be done at a particular moment when the dryness is "just-so". I may come home from work some days exhausted, but I know that if I don't commit a few hours in the studio that all the previous labor done for a piece may be for naught.

Art is like that. Creating is pleasurable, but it is still work. Inspiration is a motivator, but once a piece has begun, the steps need to continue along at a specific tempo, whether or not the energy is there.

At present moment, the sun is still over an hour from rising. I've yet to assess what amount of snow we actually received overnight. I'm hoping for a shovel-free Sunday so that I may spend as many hours as possible in my pottery cave.

The beginning of a new piece always begs for extra attention. The anticipation of what it may become is at its height.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Odd Couple

It does perplex me, how people are able to get along well enough to live together for any length of time, but somehow we manage. We begin with growing up in a house with siblings and parents, sometimes grandparents as well. Squabbles are the norm but unconditional love is ever present. I consider it training for the adult years.

During college, we achieve some level of independence, but then we graduate, seek a mate, and do it with all over again...COHABITATION.

When you live alone for any length of time, you become quite comfortable in your own routines. The toilet seat or toothpaste tube is tended to in a manner likened to your personal preference. Maybe laundry loads always include matching socks, and dairy has its own shelf in the refrigerator. The thermostat is at optimum level. The nightly TV shows are always to your liking. Then suddenly, it is all turned upside down when you fall in love and decide that you will spend the rest of your living days with one particular person.

Chris and I have been together for about twelve years, and have lived in the same dwelling for almost eleven of them. We are not exempt from individual quirks that can bring a person to a near neurotic meltdown, but in most cases, we can pluck the humor from our day to day.

I told Chris that I was going to find an "Odd Couple" video and post it for the next blog. I'm not sure he believed me. As I prepared to blog this morning by watching the 70's reruns, I was belly-laughing with just about every episode I watched. I could find correlations to our own habits and lifestyle here in Lubec. Of course, it is highly exaggerated. We aren't exactly Felix and Oscar, but clips such as "Insomnia" and "Psychic Shmychic" had me in stitches.

I won't tell you which one of us is the "Oscar" or the "Felix": I'll leave that up to your imagination. incidentally, in the sitcom, one of the characters is a writer, the other a photographer. In my estimation, that makes for a pretty good combination.

What really got me on this thought pattern was that I received an email the other day from an artist in New York whom I had met last summer when she and her husband visited Lubec on vacation. I instantly saw correlations between that couple's relationship and mine and Chris'. Both Patricia and I acknowledged that without our husbands' support, there is no way that we would be able to be the artists that we are.

I had heard, years ago, that there is no way two artists can live together harmoniously, that they are each always vying for the spotlight and inevitably jealousy ensues. I have, however, found the opposite to be true. Chris, an artist with words, and myself an artist with the visual, make for a perfect team. Because we are both so passionate about our art, we understand one another and the idiosyncrasies that come with the territory. We keep strange hours, working morning until night, obsessed with the project at hand. Weekends are not for down-time, rather they are an opportunity to continue our work unfettered by the usual weekday demands of errands and job.

We both recognize that creating is as necessary as breathing. And that is key in our relationship. We make space for each other to be the artist and the writer. We support each other: artistic cheerleaders.

So it is with deep love and understanding that I post the video clip of Felix and Oscar. I imagine that soon Chris will be watching the segment as well and (hopefully!) laughing as hard as I did. I can see his hand coming down in an enthusiastic thump upon his desk each time he chortles. The banana on the beans really got me going!

Some of you know us pretty well and have a good guess who is who is this relationship, but truth be known, Chris and I are each a little bit Oscar and little bit Felix.

If most people are honest, they will recognize the duality in themselves as well.

Post Note: So there is no confusion, Chris does housework, cooks meals, and is always don't go reading too much into the video!!! (um, I do those things, too!)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Artists and Their Funky Homes

Daine Langley's home/studio, located on Westport Island, Maine

Diane in her Wildwood Gallery on Westport Island

Two of Diane's encaustic paintings
(and a wall-hanging that I made!)

Diane's hallway to a very tiny, rustic, galley kitchen.

Artists live differently than the rest of the population. While some people strive for the beautiful home with matching curtain to plate dinnerware, we often exist in a bit of a hodge-podge existence. The home is seldom considered completely tidy - with everything in its place as if plucked out of a Martha Stewart Living catalog. Instead, we tend to not be able to refrain from acquiring quirky objects that we think could someday be great in a painted still-life or assemblage, or perhaps offer some sort of inspiration for a work later-on down the road. Have you ever wondered why the artist has a rubber chicken or wagon wheel sitting in the middle of his or her studio? This is why.

I always love to visit my friend Diane. I don't get to very often since I live so far away. We first met at USM in the late 1980's where we were both art students. It had been almost two years since I last saw her, but we try to keep in touch weekly.

Diane lives on Westport Island in an old 1800's schoolhouse. That's pretty nifty in and of itself. If you visit her in the summer, you get to see all kinds of beautiful plants enveloping the grounds and house. There are a couple of outbuildings: an old barn and a smaller structure that houses her gallery.

It's the inside of the house that always amazes me. No matter how many times I visit, it is always a new experience. Diane is constantly moving furniture and switching out artwork to fit her mood or needs and the studio never stays any one way too long. When I walk into the main living area which is her studio, all the senses are brought to full attention. I want to touch everything, look at it all, and more often than not, there is the smell of something yummy cooking in the kitchen. Lilly the cat is parading around in her beautiful long fur coat demanding acknowledgment. A dozen or more in-progress projects are strewn over various tables, chairs, or hanging on the wall or from the ceiling.

In one corner of the room, floor to ceiling book collection and library loans. In another corner, her sewing equipment and fabrics for slow-cloth and quilting. By one window her encaustics are set-up, another window lights her easel for oil painting. The computer (which is extremely outdated and seldom works) is tucked in another corner with piles of papers and photos surrounding, and in the middle of the room, a large table for workshops and a small loveseat and chair for reading and guests, albeit, it is covered with her current rug-hooking projects. Spinning wheels, looms, sewing machines, and furniture that tells a story are randomly sitting here and there. Walking through the space is no easy task, having to maneuver a multitude of interesting items.

Diane doesn't own a TV. Her time is spent reading and working with her hands, and tending to daily tasks that keep life running as smoothly as possible. She is always busy making something whether it is for a show or a gift. I love receiving her emails that read something like: "two pair of socks finished one sock for emma done started quilt for birthday gift encaustic paintings wrapped for show need to get rug hooking example ready for Tuesday's class spinning group here on wednesday think i'll make blueberry scones car not working right not sure i can find someone to plow maybe i will do some oil painting today" (long list lacking most punctuation - but I seem to somehow be able to decipher it all.)

I am blessed to own several pieces of Diane's work from over the past twenty years, from oil paintings to quilts, to slow cloth and rug hooking. I have watercolor paintings from her last trip to Ireland and this past Solstice I was gifted homemade items which included a new pair of hand knitted socks in earthy but bright homespun/dyed wool colors. My toes are very happy!!!!

It's not an easy life for Diane to keep up with the demands of modern society, i.e. bills! But she is doing well to keep art at the forefront of her existence. There are many sacrifices, and everyday simple pleasures or material items are things that many folks take for granted. Diane lives simply, and is grateful when she makes a sale or fills a class. As she says "I have become accustomed to eating."

Click here to visit Diane's Blog.