‘Cupcake’, ‘Sweetie’, ‘Honey’, were endearing nicknames given my little friends by their family.
My Mom called me “Hurricane”.
Eventually, as a sensitive adolescent, I suggested the destructive meaning of the name was a bit offensive.
“Ok,” she said. “How about Whirlwind?” with a twinkle in her eye. The irony not lost on her, I was under 5 feet tall, less than 100 pounds.
A Force of Nature, she said.
My brother calls me “Taz” for the cartoon character, Tasmanian Devil. “In a really good way.” he adds.
Its this positive force of energy I often channel in the studio. Finding balance between this kinetic enthusiasm and calm deliberation is key.
After all, the turtle wins.. channeling the hare in spurts. Like HIIT.
HIIT training emerged into the fitness world by storm in 2010. The appeal reaches beyond health benefits, attracting those with less time for fitness.
High Intensity Interval Training is applying quick intense bursts of effort alternating with periods of rest, or of lower intensity.
HIIT also great practice for creating art.
Artist demonstration ‘shorts’ ( brief glimpse of process) and artist work-in-progess videos are a popular request. Onlookers want to be entertained. Interactive multi media viewers want to know methods. SEE the action condensed to 10 second video.
Skills long developed may look effortless, giving the impression the art ‘arrived’ to the artist unbidden, unperceived, without intention.
Much of an artists process is problem solving internally. If you can’t see the struggle, like in a running race, it’s hard to convince there is any kind of deliberation.
Prolific doesn’t mean easy. Fast doesn’t necessarily mean “skilled” nor does slow.
One needs to adjust in the moment to what the painting calls for.
Controlled intention with each stroke, and brave exuberant confidence help.
Be the Whirlwind and the Whisperer.
Evening at the Dock 11×14 oil on canvas ( shown crop and easel)$700.oo
Winter 11×14 oil on canvas ( shown in day & studio light) $700.oo
The large rough burlap sack secured to my wrist by a short piece of twine dragged behind me on the sand.
Grasped in my small fist was a heavy long wooden pole, a nail embedded on the end. It was during the high heat of summer, clad in my cherry pink bathing suit, I scoured the shore barefoot.
Beach go-ers frolicked nearby, the scent of tanning lotion, hamburgers and cigarette smoke clung to the air.
A part of the wilderness and wildlife we lived among, growing up in Provincial Parks we learned firsthand responsibility to each other, and nature. Protect, respect, live cohesively.
It was the mid 70s before littering was an offence and smoking wasn’t cool. During busy seasons, beaches, trails, and campgrounds became visitors personal trash dumping ground.
On this particular summer, park staff were on strike. While the garbage was oblivious to guests, and a statement to strikers, to my parents, it was an atrocity.
My Dad, the Park Supervisor, explained garbage would make the animals, birds, even the fish in our fresh water lake very sick. It would make the land & water sick, and disturb the delicate ecosystem in every way. We needed to act.
For days on end, my 7 year old brother and I used long poles to impale and collect trash to burlap sacks.
One group of adults found my activities novel, shouting derogative comments as I gathered my findings. A piece of trash flew into my vision as I shifted thru pure white sand to retrieve hundreds of cigarette butts.
“Here kid, another one for you. Ha!” They laughed in unison, finding pleasure throwing trash at a 6 year old tied to a burlap sack.
I remember them well, lounging on their blankets, oiled bodies glistening in the warm summer sun, discarded sunflower seeds scattered among them.
I ignored them as trash continued to fly toward me, but not before my icy stare caught the instigator in a short stand off. My brother scampered over to lead me to another part of the boreal forested beach, where we worked alongside.
These days, my parents wisdom still rings clear “We live here, and life privilege comes with responsibility.”
It’s easy to sit by and point obvious blame to those who disregard the state of our delicate earth, our home.
But human nature is a funny thing, even the word fight when used for positive change, can elicit defensiveness. Threats and visions of disasters can cause debilitating fear, producing a cowering urge to hide, deny, look away from scary images.
Our biological makeup requires resistance and run from threat.
The very language we use can create more friction when it’s a time for unity and problem solving of a situation to immediate and obvious to ignore. The circling term ‘earth in jeopardy for future generations’ stalls proactive action, because it gives the illusion of ‘time’. It won’t happen to me, it will happen to someone else.. down the road.
Having an intimate relationship with nature as a youngster meant by the time our family moved to town, our connection to wilderness ran deep and secure.
During my work presentations, exhibitions and expeditions, I meet people who have no understanding or experience in nature. People sadly deprived of parks, gardens, and others who believe nature is a holiday.
We live 90% of our lives indoors. How do we convince people to protect what they have absolutely no ( recognized) relationship with?
A friend working with species at risk said “we made a mistake using the polar bear as an icon. Most people will never see one, or come into contact with the arctic environment. It doesn’t seem real to them. ” We spoke about using the family pet cat instead. Imagine the heading “Betty, the orange tabby’s life is in jeopardy because of global warming.”
I understand enough to know my own ignorance, only to know at time when we need unity and solutions, I see division, fingers of blame, and hear warring words.
Positive language and action of protecting our universal home may spark innovation, problem solving at its best. Initiatives, growth, invention, gather, invite, commune, collaborate. We are humanity after all, we have cured diseases and taught ourselves to fly. We can do this.
“There you have it folks, that’s a wrap.” said the newscaster after delivering the latest devastating climate science, leaving viewers terrified in their seats. That isn’t a wrap, I thought.
Humans are motivated by hope.
Where are the directives individually and collectively to create positive change? Where are the amazing images of incredible eco- friendly biodegradable products already developed? Where is that story? and why isn’t it going viral? What clean sustainable companies do we support, and list of products we refuse to collect? Where are the stories of bringing a strong nature element back into society?
Building a positive engaging relationship with nature creates an emotional connection. Thou it may be naive, I believe its a critical necessary step toward a deeper understanding of what nature provides and what’s at risk.
A strong relationship with nature is an investment we all reap the rewards from, our individual health, and our global health.
As a child on the beach that day, I watched holiday & weekenders depart for their camps and cars at dusk. Gulls flocked overhead searching for discarded French fries.
As the cigarette smoke cleared, quiet enveloped me and sunset shimmered over the lake.
I remember feeling sad for them. Off to their busy noisy cities, they missed the best stuff.
An understanding that nature isn’t temporary at all.
Wilderness is the source of all life. Seen and unseen. The very reason they had cities, camps, cars, clothes and french fries lay beneath and around them. Forest, land, water, animals & plants.
The brilliant path of colour washed over me. I wished they could feel its vibrant energy and peace, offerings of nourishment, body and soul.
And wishing they too, could now breathe the fresh air.
Accepted to the Artists for Conservation in 2009, was a privilege, knowing artists are selected on the highest credentials of quality of work. An industry pro suggested I focus on animal art, like the majority of its members. “Its the one genre you can win awards in, and where the money is. People want to see elephants, deer and birds. Landscape artists are outdated.”
What could be more dated and current as habitat? Without habitat there is no wildlife, there is no life.
I contribute funds to World conservancy, and hope to remind people in my work in a powerfully emotional way, of our universal connection to nature. Fall in love with nature, renew a sense of belonging in the outdoors and we naturally become invested in protecting it.
“Keep close to nature’s heart.. and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir.
All artwork above is available for purchase, email me email@example.com
Biophilia ( nature inspired) and the Behr 2020 paint colour “Back to Nature”are current interior design trends.
Experts say quality ’craftsmanship’, sustainable, repurposed materials, textiles, natural stone, warm woods, ivory palettes, millwork, handmade quality furniture and lighting is the new wave of design. Recent elements include canvas inspired wallpaper created specifically to host ‘ beautiful works of art ’ featuring ‘nature’. ’ Dark cabinets, patterned tile, ‘overdone brass’ and metallics are out. Whitewash and subtle monotone textures are in.
They are trends reminiscent of historic traditions and a Yukon home I visited 3 decades ago traveling with a colleague from the arctic circle. Helen wished to visit her retired friends en route to Dawson City. Winding our way thru a wooded dirt road to the remote log cabin, I wondered about the people who made their home here, hundreds of miles from civilization.
Emerging into a small clearing, a beautiful little timber home sat on forested shores with expansive views of a private lake.
A massive cast iron stove with fire ablaze greeted us upon entering, surrounded by cozy handcrafted furnishings covered in well loved quilts. The multi purpose kitchen off the living area featured a makeshift shower, four cabinets and a doll size sink resurrected from a trailer. The kitchen window needed to be small enough a bear head not to fit thru. It took three attempts to find the right size. “Grizzlies” the homeowner said, in conversation over washing teacups, “are determined.”
We enjoyed homemade bread slathered with berry jam, drinking in the home’s warmth. I was amazed at their ingenuity creating this beautiful home, making nearly everything in it. Functional items were works of art. Consciously chosen artifacts fed home and spirit, including a stunning original landscape painting. Longing to retire among nature, a quiet life away from noise and crowds, this place spoke to them. “I can fish off my front deck.” He said.
These days, like with Helen’s northern friends, creative storage and functional multi purpose space is forefront of new design, with home office, fitness/ health areas gaining popularity. ( See my post on Wellness Architecture here. and below) Outdoor living spaces, views of nature inside and out are much desired.
Commercially, corporates are recognizing the productive benefits of healthy, pleasing aesthetic work spaces, including fine art, nature elements, comfortable furnishings in their budgets and plans.
2020 design continues toward soft palettes of ivory brick, and stone coloured floors. Wood of a lighter hue is a major feature, like honey pine floors, countertops, grey timber beams, accents, and furniture. Reclaimed wood is a statement in design, beauty and sustainability, repurposing historical planks.
Nature is the focus in art, also themed thru fabrics, lighting and floor rugs. Out with geometrics, in with botanicals, one article said.
‘Gallery’ walls with a selection of several small art pieces are out, instead, walls with large feature paintings are in.
Current clean less busy/ornate designs, emulating warmth of natural materials could be a response of often over scheduled, electronic consumed lives.
People are craving uncluttered restful spaces and connection to wilderness.
It’s a yearning for nature infusion, unique comfort and tactile pleasure of handcrafted furnishing, dinnerware & textiles.
Masterfully crafted pieces are a wonderful tangible reminder of self sufficiency and creative human spirit.
Emerging trends focus on human and planet health, rejecting mass produced disposable items, instead cherishing original pieces.
Its a wonderful resurgence of reviving our roots, reaching beyond aesthetic decor.
We feel good in spaces reflecting nature because it’s an integral part of our biological makeup. They feed our space and soul.
Fresh restful palettes, organic materials and nature focus invite mind, body, and spirit opportunity to rest. To dwell in possibility.
~ “The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate- it is life, intensified, brilliant life.” Alain Arias-Mission.
~”Design is everything” William Merritt Chase
Interior photos, construction & design by Gray Development Group, Photos courtesy of GDG. Windsor Ontario. www.graydevelopmentgroup.com
Craig Forget Reclaimed Wood original art www.craigforget.com photos courtesy of Craig Forget.
Handcrafted Dinnerware by Dayna at the Pottery Cupboard. www.potterycupboard.ca
New Artwork shown above~ all art is available for purchase.
Artists may have invented the work from home concept.
Cave drawings are a great example.
Art created in these home studios were more than decorative, representing language, history, culture. Accuracy was critical. Confusion over a buffalo or tiger sketch could result instead of finding dinner, you become dinner.
Those with skill were highly revered. I can just imagine demand of their work, traveling with their charcoal to document friends genealogy, map rivers, or do a little freelancing.
“In medieval times ..” the working classes often set up craft and trade-focused shops in their homes. They offered goods and services to support their families in living spaces that were architecturally designed to accommodate working from home. As time went on, merchants and craftspeople before the Industrial Revolution created what might be described as the first home offices. These hybrid work-homes had street-facing shops or workshops, and private areas set aside for day-to-day living.” Flexjobs.com
These days, with the growth and accessibility of technology, all kinds of diverse professionals are working from home. They are designing websites, prosthetics, and performance gear. They’re reviewing water samples, essays and archeological discoveries. Editing books, grant submissions and portfolios. Working remotely is no longer an anomaly.
“There has been a cultural paradigm shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace – and remote work has capitalized off of that newfound freedom.” Remote Year.
Thou some are thrilled eliminating commuter traffic and set up shop in the outback, jungle, or converted attic above the garage, not everyone copes well with solitary environment.
Some miss social interaction, interpersonal feedback and workplace camaraderie, the feeling of belonging. Change in our culture and social dynamic may cause a longing for the ( non- virtual) ’tribe’.
“Sad solitary feelings ( loneliness) experts believe the reduction of life span due to loneliness is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Jessie R. Shafer RD.
Feelings of isolation affect all kinds of lone wolves. Whether working alone in your new start-up, perhaps recently retired, or a year sabbatical to finally write that novel, or just finished college to jet solo around the world designing software, maybe running a home based business from your kitchen table.
Self employed artists can relate, and surprisingly, help. After all, we have been doing this for a really long time. Ever since Cavegirl Jane carved out a wee spot in the dwelling to work on her wildlife drawings.
Help is the reason a client reached out, when the downsizing of her Toronto corporate office required her to work from home.
After discussing her major concerns, I offered strategies to counteract her challenges. ‘Connect’ 15 min daily for a virtual chat with colleagues, I suggested. Talk shop, not shopping. Organize a weekly luncheon with work friends. (desire more tips I shared? email me, perhaps a future post topic)
Being a lone wolf these days doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. There are ways to maintain a sense of real connection, and be engaged. It doesn’t take a huge effort to find ways to connect and bring a sense of belonging back to your life.
I run most mornings to engage with nature, the occasional puppy & neighbours. A quick wave, hello, a smile or a furry pat is enough to fuel my sense of community. Even brief interactions can be restorative.
Many artists have unique ways to venture from the cave and find familial connections. Some join fitness classes, yoga, meditation. Others attend music events, dinner parties or occasionally workshops. Artists will pop to join a plein air session, or travel to museums with art groups.
Babysit, dog sit or volunteer. It doesn’t have to be directly work related. I often prefer it not be. How refreshing to join a songwriter, potter, business mogul or yoga teacher for lunch. See what the local nature club is up to. Gym mate camaraderie high-fiving during a cross-fit workout is a great boost.
If schedule allows, I meet a weekly cycling group. This fit bunch of fella’s spark a wide range of stimulating conversations. I always learn something during our county rides. Its a wonderful combination of stimulating my body, mind and enjoying their companionship.
Creatives don’t even have to venture from the studio to feel the strength & love of artistic community. Robert (& now Sara) Genn’s twice weekly letter arrives in my inbox, bringing wonderment of discovery.
‘Dear Dawn,’ it begins, as does my education. The free newsletter may include painting tips, art history, or industry insight. It may have a hint of the philosophical, threaded with humour, be profound, lighthearted or practical.
Always engaging, never disappointing, always inclusive. When he realized so many artists were on their own all over the world, he hoped to both inform and bring a sense of brotherhood & sisterhood to combat loneliness we all sometimes face. ~ Painters Keys link below, and my tribute to dear friend Bob.
If you are solitary in your pursuits, there are wonderful creative ways to find your sense of community. You aren’t alone, we understand the dedication required to be self motivated and the challenges of flying solo. There is a diverse global community here rooting for you. High-Five Sister/ Brother, peace & love.
“Art is a form of love. Art is the ultimate gift. Art heals life.” Robert Genn
“Someday we’ll find it, that rainbow connection, the lovers the dreamers and me.” Kermit the Frog
“Sunset on the Lake” 11×14 oil $700.oo (Thanks to Lynda C. for photo credit)
“Sunrise Graze” 14×18 oil $910.oo ( in progress, nearly complete). photo credit to Kathy Rissi ~ Ride the Wind Ranch
Photos above: me in studio and with recent painting SKY 4×3 ft $4,335.oo
I relish days like today, with the studio bathed in late afternoon summer sunlight.
Butterflies visit purple Russian sage outside the studio window, and gold finches feed on little yellow buttercups. Every once in a while, a lovely breezes catches the wind chimes delivering a scent of lavender.
We used to call them lazy summer days. Remember those? enjoying an iced tea on the deck, puttering in the garden, going barefoot all .. day…. long. Quiet nature walks after work or supper on the patio. Weekends visiting art fairs and beaches, long bike or paddling excursions. Exploring and actually taking time to soak it all in.
When is the last time you heard someone announce ‘embracing a lazy day’ on an outdoor hammock with a good book?
The recent phrase ‘ I’m busy’, is so common it’s been written in song. “Wildflowers” by Matthew Szlachetka reminds us “Busy. We’re all so busy, We forget to take a look around.”
Megan Wycklendt of the Washington Post writes “Six reasons you’d be happier if you stopped saying busy”. Her article was published in 2015, I wonder how much progress we have made?
Gary Burnison says successful people don’t say ‘busy’, reporting being specifically honest with responses is key. As Megan wrote’ busy’ is not ‘a feeling’. Nor is it an activity.
Professional Artists cope with deadlines, multi tasking, media, inventory, books, interviews, social media, while fielding emails, calls, texts from dealers and clients, on top of creating original work on a consistent basis. The pressure to produce work and self employed running a business can easily be overwhelming. It’s easy for us to be pulled into the ‘busy’ realm of response.
Last month, wandering down to view a brilliant lakeside sunset, I spontaneously stopped in at a fellow artists studio.
I knew he would be watching the sky, heading out soon with his camera in tow. It had been months since I had been in the area, so it makes sense his first question was ,”Hey Dawn, how is work? are you busy?”
Well, yes, I said, things had been going well, new projects, new clients,” His next comment had me laughing out loud. “Well, is that just busy work, or is it inspired work? because those are two different things completely.”
Here’s hoping you all have some lazy summer days amid the chaos. That you have the patience & time to watch a spider build a web,( even a small one) or watch a sky unfold into a beautiful summer sunset.
That you sit a spell on a rock, amid natural ferns and listen to the trickle of a waterfall. No electronics, or rushed commitments, just you, the sky overhead, earth beneath and forest surrounding you.
~ Life is ten percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you respond to it. ~ Lou Holtz
How do you feel about change?
New years resolutions usually involve some kind of self improvement change, how are yours coming along?
Even if its for the benefit of health, relationships, dwelling, work, or community, change can be challenging. A friend in health care divulged “People don’t change, even when circumstances can be dire.”
Why does humanity resist change? why is it so hard to make changes, and how do we overcome? How do we light the fire, face the fear, and begin?
In part, it comes down to habits.
“Half the time you are awake is spent with automatic behaviours: in other words, Niklas Goke writes “ You spend 1 out of every 2 minutes doing something you aren’t even aware of.” “Habits Matter.” He says change is about energy consumption, and changing one keystone habit can have a beneficial domino effect.
“Why facts don’t change our minds” the logic of staying with false beliefs when presented with truth, James Clear states is also a tribal thing.
The obvious we may neglect to realize, “Change is unavoidable” writes Jeffery James, highlighting benefits of change here.
What about when change is unbidden, unexpected and terrifying?
“With life and death on the line, survivors “Perceive and Believe,” writes Eric Barker: they “immediately begin to recognize, acknowledge, and even accept the reality of their situation… They move through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance very rapidly.
“Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. That is an important step in creating an ongoing feeling of motivation and preventing the descent into hopelessness. It also provides relief from the unspeakable stress of a true survival situation.”
Gold nugget wisdom. Implementing change, unexpected or desired is about being conscious of habits, energy expenditure, facing the obvious, and wanting to be part of the group. Facing huge shake ups, lives can depend on perceiving the situation quickly and reacting appropriately.
Celebrate small success’s in the journey.
In addition, my thoughts why we may reject healthy change and how to implement positive transformation.
1. The word ‘change.’ , Lose it.
Language, externally and internally can be ohhh sooo powerful. Whether in self assessment or professionals are verbalizing :
“CHANGE: your habits, job, relationship, weight, fitness, artistic style, attire, . etc”… suggests, rather critically, you’ve failed. Whatever you are doing isn’t working or positive, and well. stop it. right now. Super pumped about turning a new leaf? or overwhelmed, self berating?
This can lead to the path of denial drawing people like zombies, turning to the comfort of bad habits and questionable beliefs, like ‘smoking might be good for me.’
2. Lose the word change, and implement positive emotional connection. “How do you feel about…:
“Evolving your style? stretching your reach in your work?”
“Working for a company whose vision is aligned with yours?
“Embracing your innovative entrepreneurial spirit and opening your own company?
“Introducing a new fun fitness regime? ”
“Meeting someone new who values you?”
“Adding daily nutrient dense meals that will satisfy your cravings?”
*Note, the word change becomes: transformation, growth, life additions, evolution, embrace, vision, satisfaction, value, quality, freedom, opportunity.
With emotional investment involved, the more we connect, and the more motivated we can be. Change can be less about losing and all about gaining. Revisit and write down positive words daily that describe your vision, associate them with your beginnings.
3. Be Real.
After failing at fad diets and disliking exercise, she decided to just live it up and indulge in life.. even if it meant shortening it. The health magazine expert suggested she write a letter to her grandchildren explaining why she will no longer be around.
Harsh, yes. Effective? possibly.
What truths do we tell ourselves? Be honest about why these changes matter. You may not want to write future grandkids, but making notes & revisiting your ‘why’ can keep you on track.
4. Enlist the pro’s.
Research action plans and enlist professionals. Recruit your tribe. Art dealers, mentors, business professionals, Doctors, fitness trainers, accountability to a running or weight watcher buddy, family, support centres, etc.
Be open to professional advice, not meant to criticize, but to help. Letting go of the immediate defensive mechanism, we can learn so much and recognize their gift.
Here is to new beginnings, and friends, ..EVERY DAY is New Years.
~PS: After applying at a reputable gallery when first moving to Ontario, the owner agreed to review my portfolio and conduct an interview. His comments were unlike any I had encountered in my art career:
“How committed are you?”
“You have a high stress office job, you need to change that. A less stressful day job frees your energy for creating. You work in acrylic, I would like to see what you can do in oil instead.”
I could have left to not return, feeling slightly criticized and rejected. Instead, I recognized an experts wisdom from working in the field for decades. He understood art, the market, and his clientele.
I bought oil paints on the way home, mucking them up for a good year before I even had an inkling of how to use them. I left my office job to work in a brewery, canning beer by hand. Although the smell was really bad, the stress wasn’t.
A year or so later, I unveiled my first oil painting collection ever at Farmhouse Pottery.
It was an unexpected success. Later, a second show, even more so. At the end of the exhibit, the owner & I sat alone with a celebratory beverage. “And.. “ he announced, smiling, “they will call you an overnight success! “ his grin exploding into an infectious deep belly laugh.
“She doesn’t come here to paint, she comes to throw rocks around at her Dad’s.” ~ cafe patron.
A painting hiatus to visit family and work on my Dad’s landscaping are joyfully necessary to keep my creative juices flowing.
Inspiration is the fuel of motivation, feeding everyone, regardless of occupation or circumstance. It’s the fire within which drives motivation to act. Whether it be pick up a brush, get off the couch, implement a healthy goal or design a business plan.
Motivation to act on your dreams/ goals begins with the spark of inspiration.
Inspiration is often viewed as external such as: ‘a beautiful sunset inspires an artist to paint.’ Yet, if an artist isn’t emotionally invested, the painting will fail to connect the viewer, and its likely the brush won’t be picked up at all.
Inspiration is internal, it’s all about emotional connection. Love is at the core, and that incredible feeling is transferable to all you wish to pursue.
For or me it’s often not direct, a conversation with my nephew will inspire me to pick up the brush as much as walking in nature.
Understand what lights you up, tapping into it to fuel your pursuits is a skill you can develop.
Inspiration fuels intrinsic motivation, and this sense of internal purpose keeps one on track for the long run.
And my friend, a careerin art is so much about endurance to stay the course, despite criticism, negative judgement, business overwhelm, financial stress, etc.
Maintaining creative flow may not require adding more artistic pursuits such as workshops, field studies, studio work, art talks, collaboration with colleagues, videos, creative books, etc.
It can be beneficial to subtract activity…. like all of the above.
Immerse not in work, but in nature.
Study not subject matter, but people, a new language, happenings upon in your daily wanderings.
Listen not to podcasts but songbirds.
Disconnect from technology, instead connect with family, friends, the earth.
Challenge yourself not in brush but exercise techniques.
Wander favourite trails without camera, notepad, book, music or sketchbook. Capture it all in full attention with your heart.
And once in awhile… among colourful abundance of flowers and dragonflies , throw some rocks around in the garden.~
Killarney ~ 8×10 oil on board ~ $500.oo
Storm passing ~ 18×24 oil on canvas ~ $1,210.oo
When in the business of inspiration, it’s best to find inspiration in everything. Therefore, its easy to get to work.~ Dawn
Photos above: Garden, with Dad, in the studio this week prepping boards and new work.
In the early 70’s stories of the forest creature flourished when Roger Patterson’s 1967 Sasquatch film reached the masses.
The park where we lived was a perfect setting for tales of ‘sightings’ to go viral among campers.
My Dad applied logic to comfort my fears “There would be scat, skeletal remains, evidence if they existed’. I was unconvinced… because, well, there were pictures. Isn’t that evidence enough?
Living in a vast wilderness, home to all kinds of creatures was a part of our daily life.
To a six year old, it made sense to believe Bigfoot wandered among them, and Roger’s photo haunted me.
One sleepless night, standing on my bed to see out my window, I worried, was it stalking us? Hearing my tearful whimpers, my brother quietly entered my room dressed in flannel Charlie Brown pjs. Climbing up, he peered out alongside me.
Gazing at the inky black moonless night, I whispered my fears. He agreed, “Yes, he could be out there. I feel sorry for him.”
“He is alone in the dark. People are afraid of him and don’t like him. He probably would like to have a friend. He must be really lonely.” I mentioned the scary photo.
Beyond the wisdom of a 7 year old, he replied “Is he chasing, or running away? afraid? We don’t really know.” From that day since, I make a conscious effort to not be drawn into ignorant assumptions. Besides, if fretting about a mythical creature, why not believe he is one of the good guys?
Assumptions without truth can dangerously lead us on a merry mind chase. How we perceive events and others is a choice. Look at face value, or consider possibilities. Seek truth.
Dismissing stereotypes, approaching people and situations with a positive open mind may release unnecessary stress and the negative tizzy we get ourselves into. Even if we don’t know the whole story, shedding positive light widens perspective.
The art world is a commonplace for myths to circulate, and yet, art can offer a world of hope. Art is universal, can increase tolerance and sharpen critical thinking in the viewer.
When we stop judging, we don’t just become open to possibility, we free ourselves.
“Art is about paying attention.” Laurie Anderson
“I shut my eyes in order to see,” Paul Gauguin
“One can only see what one observes, and one observes only things which are already in the mind.” Alphonse Bertillon
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.“ Rachel Carson
His love of northern forests, pristine lakes, wildlife and quiet spaces drew him to a career in Parks.
In those days the job was physically demanding requiring self sufficiency. Perfect for an athletic person comfortable being alone in the wilderness.
“Note the distinct difference of pine and spruce. Now draw them,” Dad instructed as we wandered northern boreal forest. Happy to be with my Dad in the park, surrounded by the scent of pine, I dutifully turned to my paper.
I don’t remember the detailed lessons of pine & spruce he taught that day when I was a child. But I do recall the spread of his wide shoulders under his kaki shirt swooping down to scoop a pine cone in his calloused hand. I remember the timber of his gentle voice and the easy manner of which he walked. I remember that moment so clearly, my love for him shining in my heart as it does today. Sharing shyness and a love of wilderness, we walked to the sound of chickadees in the bright summer sun.
He is a man of few words, who stands by them. Never to offend, always in respect and kindness. A leader by example. Not once have I heard him raise his voice. Never. Not in anger, fear, or celebration.
He fought forest fires and injustice, broken trail and found lost hunters. He tracked, tended wounded wildlife, and worked undercover to catch poachers. He spent recreational time playing music, sharing it with others. At 86, he still does.
He can still hear the soft call of a crane over forest & village chatter, and is attentive of wildlife migrations. Mom would say, “you can take the guy out the park, but never the park out of the guy.”
Dad’s sensible teachings translate to the work I do, and how I live my life.
When I was 14, Dad proposed a one-time weekend job cleaning the forest fire crew’s quarters. ( paid from his pocket.) Approaching the empty bunkhouse, he said. “Remember, for the summer, this is their home. Do not judge how they live, or them.”
My duties, he explained, were to clean, mop and scrub every room, surface, floor, fixture, appliance, including the communal bathroom. It took two full days and need to develop a strong constitution for offensive odours.
Nearing the end of my task, while transforming bathroom ‘appliances’ to their original colour, Dad arrived to check on my progress. Leaning on the doorframe he gently inquired. “Did you clean underneath the urinals, wall behind, plumbing hardware ?” I looked at him in slight horror. “Dad, these guys won’t know if I cleaned under the bowl.”
“You are absolutely right…. but you will.” He continued, “Never forget your name goes to every job and everything you do in life. Your name. Your accountability. It doesn’t matter if they notice any of it. You know and that’s what counts.”
As teenagers, Dad didn’t want us to apply for summer park jobs. “It won’t matter if it’s a fair hire, getting the job on your own. You will be treated differently, by staff and fellow workers. You will be seen as the kids who might have had an easy ‘in.’ You don’t want to be those kids, and I don’t want you to be either.”
A few years ago, in preparation for a wilderness journey, I sought his advice.Thou I grew up in nature, I hadn’t tackled anything quite like the expedition I was about to embark on. Traveling fully self supported in remote wilderness with 5 strangers was a little daunting.
I wondered if he would suggest what to pack, portaging or paddling skills, safety tips; yet, it wasn’t surprising his advice involved none of the above.“Do you trust your guides and have faith in your abilities? if you don’t, you shouldn’t be going.”He said.
When you think about it, if you don’t apply due diligence or believe in your skills, it doesn’t matter what you pack. Isn’t this true about so many things in life?
Thou some families aren’t supportive of an art career, my parents have been my biggest champions. They attended nearly every exhibit and bought my work at full price thru the gallery. When I said I would have given them the painting, they were equally horrified. “This is what you do.” said Dad. “If you sold cars for a living would you give them away? It’s your work, and we are pleased to collect it. ” Mom added.
It was an honour to have Dad attend my recent exhibit in Saskatchewan. When a massive snowstorm arrived opening day, I said “Don’t worry, even if no one shows up, we will still celebrate.” Dad replied with a smile, “Yes. You have already done your job. You dreamt of showing here and you’re here, now, aren’t you?”
To the easy- to- hug, ever kind, steadfast man who gave us a life surrounded by nature and support, my Dad, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you so much for always being there for us, for your generosity, gentle honest guidance and deeply enduring love.
“The more the marble wastes the more the statue grows.” Michelangelo
It can be super motivating jumping aboard the self improvement train these days. Embracing growth, improve skill sets, reduce bad habits and seeking joy can be a positive track to discovery.
If not mindful, this journey could become a freight train of constant self judgement, comparison risks and relentless desire for impossible goals of perfection. Art & humanity are naturally, beautifully flawed. A fact, at times forgotten or linked to shame.
When that happens, positive vibes no longer fuel learning fulfillment. Instead, energy depletes, disrupts and hinders progress. Its a no-win situation of push pull ; wanting to improve combined with severe self criticism.
Artists may experience this within ( art is life long continuous learning skill) and externally. People often value art more if it looks like something they have seen before. “… paint like Van Gogh and you will be onto something. ” “ Realism is the only mastery.” Fans express opinions of the art, how the artist should look, or behave. “You need to dress like an artist and brood. Artists are usually moody, right?”
You may have encountered similar circumstance of negative peer pressure, unrealistic demands set by others, or yourselves. The acceleration to be more, driving what makes you special, away.
The wonderful reality is, you are unique from anyone in the world, and this is to be celebrated along a path to evolvement.
As the wise Dr. Seuss wrote:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!….
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!