No sooner had I put pen to paper than we were informed the California State Park we were staying at for the night was closing because of the corona virus outbreak. Off we go. Maybe later I’ll be able to get last week’s post together.
Day 58: March 19
If nothing else then just make lines and the rest will follow later. Even if I barely make one piece this week of lines, little by little every day. How life can crash in. We are traveling long days, much longer than we ever did before. We may slow down here, but home is the goal.
Day 59: March 20
I was able to put a little paint where it was needed on various pieces last night. Then worked on lines on a piece this morning. We were still in California when the new state-wide shelter-in-place order went through. Moving east. Still working on art through this.
Day 60: March 21
Tired. If you wonder where the progress photos went, I killed the camera on my phone. One too many drops. Photos will have to wait until the end of the week batch. It’s too much of a hassle to do it daily. Finished a textured piece last night. Working on others this morning. Started collecting more plant stuff on the road and, after learning my lesson, they are flattening in my sketchbook. Some of these earlier pieces are being held down by linen strips because they are so unruly.
Day 61: March 22
I did something this morning. But that was ages ago and a state of the union away. I showed up. Goodnight.
Day 62: March 23
Coffee. Pen. Paper. Morning light. Road.
Day 63: March 24
I’m here, minimally. But every little bit adds to the whole. Will attempt to carve out time to document works today. We. Will. See.
A driveway stay for a little over a week. Long enough to completely scatter our things across the camper. A breath of stability and exploration of the coast.
There were challenges finding the correct location of the tide pools. Challenges, I say.
Attempt no. 1 brought us to this beautiful bay we could park right next to and waltz up to the shoreline. We arrived just before sunset at low tide.
Attempt no. 2 “I think it’s this way.” We parked and had a few choices on trails to take through the low shoreline scrub brush leading into the cascading dunes. I followed, blindly, my husband up and down the coastal dunes (sand mountains?) to a dead end with rubber legs. And back up I slogged through the sand. We tried another trail. Up and down the dunes to the tide pools.
Attempt no. 3, with new directions, we tried again following a reasonable trail down through the shore vegetation to the tide pools.
I can’t forget visiting Morro Bay and Otters…
Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon
Near Hearst Castle the Elephant Seals gather for the breeding season. Thousands. Hundreds were on the beach and so many more were in the water. Mostly they lay on the sand barely moving, flipping sand across their backs on occasion. We followed the sounds down the beach to where an older male was chasing away an interloper and the yearlings and pups were playing.
After leaving the main beach we stopped at another roadside pullout. My husband thought it was a regular beach (signage was in not apparent) and just before reaching the beach I stopped him from coming face to face with a young male elephant seal.
Los Padres National Forest
Big Sur. We stayed on the south side for two nights and it rained in California. For a brief moment the sun shined and we took a walk to the ocean cliffs. Where I was quickly about the abundance of poison oak in the state of California. I made it out of California unscathed.
We left the campground in Los Padres National Forest and followed 1 up the coast to Monterey. We camped at Laguna Seca with it’s epic green views and racetrack. Racetrack. Yes we camped to the sounds of race cars zooming all day.
250 years old with a literary and canning past, Monterey sits by the ocean with its gem the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ve never been to one so I have no comparison. All I can say is it was spectacular and inspiring. When we arrived the octopus was active and moving around it’s tank. Swelling and swirling his arms. In addition to the real Octopi there was another beautiful multimedia exhibit dedicated to how octopi and squid were historically depicted. There were schools of fish swimming in current tanks, jellyfish dancing. rescued shore birds, touch tanks, sharks, a green sea turtle, and art exhibited by artists dedicated to bringing awareness to the problem of plastics in the ocean.
Unfortunately for me I was the recipient of an ignorant and hostile public policing effort at the Octopus tank. A young mother, with a brood of homeschool kids, took it upon herself to attack me for my camera’s meter light because the sign said no flash. Then there was a mob reaction. Another woman chimed in with: “haven’t you taken enough photographs, you can stop so the rest of us can enjoy the exhibit.”
I was so frustrated and angry. Not one of those women felt the need to say a single word to my husband who was also photographing. And a guy next to me flashed the octopus with his iPhone, but he just “made a mistake.”
It took a male staff member to step in and set the mob straight. And as an artist I’ve been singled out more than once in my life for not following the rules as other people, and often, women see them. And more than once I’ve had to stand my ground, hold my breath and carry on knowing that I’m on a different path they don’t understand, I’M NOT WRONG I AM AN ARTIST.
We made a stop an hour outside of San Francisco so I could attempt to make contact with someone in the city. We crossed over the Golden Gate for fun (not fun) and later the Bay Bridge for me to search a six story public library with no luck on finding this person. My heart breaks for this country of haves and have nots. I wish others understood, or tried, a little, to understand how fragile mental and financial stability are.
Northern California & Touching Oregon
Its sort of a blur now. I’m writing this and it is still recent history. That wasn’t even days ago I was in San Francisco and now its under a Shelter in Place order. The thing about the old truck was we didn’t have a radio. We couldn’t listen to any news in the truck and we were often places with poor service. History is now catching up so fast now that we have the news available in the new truck. When we were driving up the California Coast to Oregon the Covid-19 troubles seemed distant. By the time we landed in Brookings, Oregon it was obvious that we needed to head home. Now California is shutting down state parks. New Mexico already shut them down.
With great sadness, my feet kissed the Pacific Northwest and turned tail. We are heading south to head east because it is still winter in the Rocky Mountains. It is time to go home. The world is out of our control and it’s time to go home to the roads we know.
The rest of this tale will hopefully be of the long road home.
A little color study. Not the sexiest work, but the best way to systematically understand the colors. And of course I had way too much paint left over… so more of those spare paint types of pieces will probably be in the works.
Day 51: March 12
I also worked yesterday on some texture studies. Which I continued this morning. What a frustrating challenge to get things to stay in place. Today I white washed the pieces to make the textures pop out. To be continued.
Day 52: March 13
Lines. Lines. More lines. Struggling to find some new insightful thoughts to regurgitate here.
Day 53: March 14
Is this mid-project exhaustion? 53 is so many days.
Day 54: March 15
I about ruined a piece this morning. Added spare paint to it to cover areas I didn’t like. Then it got out of control. So I washed it all off. I like the way the lines look worn now from being under water.
Day 55: March 16
In the spirit of exploring textures and with the inability to find supplies on the road, I worked plies of toilet paper onto a piece last night with paint and added lines to it today. Can’t find hand sanitizer either. It’s going to be a long road home. I don’t know what further measures will be taken to slow the spread of this virus and I hope we don’t get caught up in it on the road.
Day 56: March 17
That didn’t go as planned. Again. Tuesday’s never seem to be a good day for one reason or another to lay the art out for documentation.
We left Arizona ready for a short drive. We didn’t have that long of a drive to get where we were going. Then I had an inspiration. Hoover Dam was only an hour away? Why not? What could go wrong.
First off. Hoover Dam was more than an hour out of our way.
Second. We needed to stop to eat before we saw the main event. Then pick up something from the store. Then stop to check out something. Then, well, nature called.
Then we had to have our truck and camper searched while the dogs went mad. Ok. That wasn’t so bad? The Hoover Dam was a lot. More than I expected. I also had no idea what a people magnet it was.
While stopped at the turn around point (because you aren’t allowed to go into Arizona) for the Dam, I saw it. A critical repair on the camper didn’t hold.
Now we were trying to find a place to camp for the night. And my husband vetoed the campgrounds for camping on BLM land instead. We drove along Lake Mead thinking we had it all figured out.
Then dark descended on us like a curse. We didn’t find anywhere. We drove through the desert night sure the next rise would yield a little BLM camping gold nugget. It did not. The last rise gave way to the vast lit spread of Sin City herself (huge and sprawling), and there was no where for us to go but through it (turning a 30 ft camper around is a challenge). After the subtleness of Arizona the lights of Las Vegas hit like a planetary object. Also, you can smoke and gamble in gas stations. Pro-tip pay outside so you don’t come out smelling like an ashtray from that 60 seconds.
It took some convincing… but I got my human to agree to drive over that line. I don’t believe he regrets it yet. (Also since when did google maps welcome users to a new state? I’m sure California is the only state that it has done that with).
There’s both more here and less here than I expected. There are little pockets of civilization to get gas, food (food is a relative term) and camp. Great stretches of empty desert. But, where is the grocery store? We went to the nearest town and nope nothing there. Why did we drive there? Because the wind storm knocked out the power and internet and we couldn’t get fuel within Death Valley. Might as well get some supplies too… nope.
Yes the wind storm. Days of wind. Though the first night it hit, it came on like an angry bull. We watched the dust storm gather at the base of the mountains. In the night the gusts reached as high as 70 mph. It has been a few days and it is still windy. There is a fine coating of dust on everything including the cat.
Despite that this place is magical. In every direction a new texture, a new color, a vista, a canyon… We explored the roads leading to the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, the Artist’s Palette, the Devil’s Golf Course and then the Racetrack Playa. After the Racetrack everything changed.
It was 60 miles to the washboard gravel backroad that takes you to the Racetrack Playa, then it is another 26 miles of rough riding up, yes up to the valley it resides. Plus the extra miles when we attempted to take a different route out and found that no we do not have a 4×4 with high clearance. It was dark by the time we reached the blacktop.
Then the check engine light came on with 60 miles to go back to camp.
The doldrums. We were marooned in Death Valley with low supplies and waiting on an alternator to be shipped. I focused on art. I scanned my polaroid collection. Started editing them. Worked on my 100 day project. We tried to keep shopping at the store to a minimum because of the premium prices. Then we ran out of dog food. The store had a cute little bag. We ran out again. Crossed our fingers that the store restocked, and it did.
When the alternator arrived, it did not work. Nothing worked. (More about the truck situation here)
Death Valley to Pahrump to Lake Mead to Las Vegas to Lake Mead to Valley of Fire to Death Valley
Here in my tale we start driving in circles. We sever ties with the old truck and finally make the commitment to a new one. With a lot of mixed feelings. I write from Death Valley where the troubles began, sitting in a new-to-us truck, and I’d be hard pressed to unravel our journey between leaving and returning with the exception of a few notable experiences.
We drove through North Vegas, which I was told, was the “hood.” Twice we did that. The first time was the night we drove through when we were looking for a place to stay for the night before we ever reached Death Valley. Then we drove through during the day. The same road from the desert that opens up to the city. I the daylight it is littered with trash. (Other routes into Vegas are not). I saw a man laying in a parking lot at ten am. his shirt was pulled up over his torso. His torso twisted in one direction and his legs in the other. I could not say for sure if he was alive or not. There was a woman with bright blue afro styled hair wearing a surgical mask hitting a small man approaching her on the sidewalk. Near an intersection an older man in a wheelchair with no legs was nearly in the road, slumped over, sleeping, I hope. Later in another area of the city I saw a tall thin man holding his dirty blanket around his shoulders trying to get into the dumpster pen at a fast food joint. He gave up and slumped against the side of the building. His head hanging between his knees. I tried to go back when I could to get him something, but he was gone. Implored my husband, said look, he isn’t begging (referring to the professional beggars that are around) , I must. But I failed at that kindness, and it will be one of those moments I regret.
And then we were able to finally leave Las Vegas. We tried for the Valley of Fire to the north, but it was unbelievably crawling with people. We drove around a couple scenic roads before heading back to the campground in Death Valley for a night.
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park
In the winter you can still see the world’s biggest tree. As long as you are prepared with winter tires, 4×4, chains and ok with the idea of being snowed in while they clear the critical roads. On February 20th it didn’t seem likely. The mountain looked like early spring. By the afternoon of the 21st though, everyone, including us, evacuated the campground for lower ground. Storm was coming. And we weren’t staying to experience it. Nope.
But I saw them and a few days before it didn’t seem likely I would. We tried to enter from the south, a direction that was closed for the winter and the locals weren’t giving up the correct information about how to go about seeing the giant trees. Google? Cell reception was hard to come by.
Once set on the right road we climbed into the rolling green back country. Followed a winding mountain road through early spring oak forests and cow pastures. Then we climbed up and up a winding mountain road. The trees changed from hardwood to pines and then we saw the first monumental sequoia just before the entrance gate.
The things I learned about these trees that are going to stick with me the most:
They have no taproot. You cannot walk up to and touch the biggest trees. Well, you shouldn’t, if you don’t want to love them to death. They are being protected from all the tourist traffic by foot paths and a little wood fence. Unfortunately, while breathing in the General Sherman Tree, I witness two different groups of people ignore the fence. A young man speaking French from one group and a few individuals from a group speaking a language that sounded Russian/Eastern European. Another individual with a middle eastern accent chastised the second group. Declaring they “educate themselves,” well said stranger and thank you for using your voice.
The air quality is horrible. For us, for them. They are under assault. I didn’t expect the smoky haze, the locals are aware, but it has not saturated into the public sphere. This air is trapped here. Saturated. From below you can barely make out that there are any mountains. From above the land disappears into the haze. My clothes smell smokey and there were no campfires. There were no active wildfires in the area. I’m searching for the explanation of why there was so much smoke in the air. I’m told it is just the bowl effect of the mountains and the prevailing winds trapping everything in.
Joshua Tree National Park
I almost forgot that we visited Joshua Tree! We were unable to secure a camping spot and camped on nearby BLM land then drove through the park on our way south. I since learned that Joshua Tree, like many natural wonders, is threatened by climate change. Experts believe the future holds a time when there will no Joshua Trees in the park.
Did I know there was an inland sea in Southern California? Maybe once I looked on a map and since long forgot it. We drove along the western shore admiring the deep blue sparkles against the distant blue haze mountains. So we stopped to check it out.
The beach sand was made of minuscule shell particles. The closer to the water the sharper and larger.
Then you are assaulted by the aroma of the Salton Sea. The posted warnings were to not eat the shell fish, but swimming was fine. My ocean drinking dogs weren’t interested in these waters. The Salton Sea is a beautiful manmade mistake (yes, man accidentally filled an ancient lake/sea bed). And if cared for she’d be the bell of the desert again.
Forty-five miles of sand dunes cresting in light and and shadow. Changing color with the light. Pure form. Hundreds if not thousands of people come every week to these BLM managed dunes to play in the sand with their toys, but I came for the light.
And I got to see part of the Sonoran Desert bloom in white, violet, pink and orange.
When I started I figured I’d make maybe 50 pieces. I’m on track for one a day even though I don’t finish one each day. I work here, there and then all of a sudden a bunch teach the finish line together. Today I worked with a textured crow again, and again used the leftover paint to experiment with. Definitely not how I want to create work, but still a fun thing to explore.
I have to acknowledge this. It was supposed to be a color study. But oh no no no…
Things went wrong quickly here. The colors didn’t work the way I imagined. Then it just kept getting worse. I’m still thinking of ways to salvage it. But I feel nauseous looking at it from the color combinations.
Day 44: March 5
It isn’t that I don’t have time or ideas today. It’s that I just don’t want to. Not even a little bit.
I’ll start some pieces just with color. And leave it at that. No pressure today.
And then I never stopped.
Day 45: March 6
Traveling today. Had to fight for my work time this morning.
Day 46: March 7
No Internet Service.
Day 47: March 8
Did minimal today and yesterday. Was busy with human interactions. But I did start a big canvas…
I’m going to work on that separate from the 100 Day Project, even though it has sprung from it. I make the rules here.
Day 48: March 9
Day 49: March 10
This week became about exploring color. I was working it out on the paper and letting the colors surprise me. I think in the near future I’d like to explore color more.
Yesterday being entirely too windy for photos, this morning’s work time was spent catching up on documenting last weeks progress and posting the blog. Now we travel. I hope to touch paper later…
Day 37: February 27
It’s a slow start to this week. I started the bones of a new piece, but I cannot do much else. The camper isn’t stable enough to do lines and I don’t want to pull out the paints. I am thinking it’s about time to break out a canvas though. I feel I am ready to begin a body of work based on where I am at currently. My one thought is… “can I get myself to continue making small studies past the 100 Day Project?” Working out different ideas at the 5×7 level has given me many new ideas. I’m not one to work in a sketchbook, I like to put my energy into works not sketches. This is something of a compromise. I’m forced to explore “mistakes” (which I love) and follow them into new creative paths, but I’m not invested into a large piece.
Today I feel very confident in myself. I feel I’ve found a way to open it up to include exploration so I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice a medium or idea I love, nor do I have to keep working with one forever and always. I’m not looking at other art with doubt for my own choices.
I feel like I’m here. I can draw, paint, explore texture, symbolism… all in the same piece. Yes! Yes! Yes! One million times yes!
Day 38: February 28
A lot and yet a little happening this morning. Been sitting here working for some time. Peace in my heart.
Day 39: February 29
Just a little bit today.
Day 40: March 1
Came very close to nothing happening today. Then I caught a second wind and prepped some pieces with white paint tonight. When you are not feeling it… you can always do groundwork. It’s also very clear if I don’t work in the morning, I’m going to struggle to do something.
Day 41: March 2
Very productive this morning. Working on a lot of pieces, but not finishing anything.
Ok… maybe I am finishing things. I don’t love everything I’ve made, but I’m glad I explored them.
Took up a lot of the day.
I showed them in person for the first time to real live humans other than my husband this week. It was good practice being able to explain the process. WHAT? I used complete sentences about my work with people I didn’t know well and I think I even made sense. This process is working for me. Make art, daily. Preferably in the morning. Reflect on it using the blog. Who cares if anyone ever reads it, there’s an accountability that makes it happen, it works for me.
Day 42: March 3
That’s a wrap on week six. Explored color combinations and layering color combinations on textures this morning.
Yesterday afternoon through this morning we spent in an area with no cell service. I was able to get a lot of pieces to a starting point and a couple ready to take some color this morning before we packed up for the road. I even varied some techniques. This is a good time to explore those “what will happen if I do this” moments.
Day 30: February 20
I had some time on my hands. We had no cell service so I went to bed early and woke up in the wee hours of the night. I had a lot of extra hours of dark to fill with creative practice.
The Cow Skull on White Ground:
I began by playing more with the idea of a textured shape. That worked well in the previous skull pieces. The textures took the paint well and added interest without me working for it. For this one I knew I wanted the skull on a white ground. But white isn’t white, is it? I like using negative space. I felt a lot of pressure by professors to fill that space unnecessarily with details. For this one I used extra textures, a little color and played with paint drips. Even though it is nowhere near precisianism, it reminds me of Georgia O’keefe. I came to it from my own direction, but I recognize I may have interests inline with her work. Started reading up on her life and work.
Added a layer of burnt Sienna to the cow skull shape. Let that dry before fleshing out his lights and darks and adding splatters/drips.
I wanted to continue to study the acrylic colors: white, burnt Sienna and raw umber together. Decided to try a contrasting textured with ceramic cement.
I hate leaving leftover paint so I smeared it on a piece of paper. Then came back to it later and added some doodles.
I wanted to try out some green. I hated it. I tried mixing it a few different ways. It has also become an experimental color study.
Day 31: February 21
I’m so tired. Today was turned on it’s head. Instead of spending the day with art at a campsite in Sequoia National Forest we drove pointedly away from there. A storm was coming. So I touched the paper tonight. Caught up my notes to the blog on the 100 Day, because there was no internet connection up there either. And now I stare at that atrocity that is the green color study. I’m not ready for THAT. I think I’ll put some color on a raven.
Day 32: February 22
I tried last night to make that green experiment into something. Everything made it worse. So I painted it black, because that’s what was in my hand. And that sparked my interest, but the previous brush strokes were to visible. I mixed in the ceramic stucco texture and let it dry overnight. This morning it struck me to make lines, of course. From this piece I think I may want to explore more.
This morning’s second finish; another raven. Playing with different applications of texture and color combinations. I was going to polish it up more, but decided to leave the painting areas less perfect. Not usually something I’d do, but I’m leaving more room for experiments right now.
Day 33: February 23
This morning I started in on The For Agreements… then my human pushed me out the door. Don’t know if I’ll get back to anything today or not.
Day 34: February 24
I don’t think the lines were working this morning’s piece. I’m going to paint over them later. Try something else…
Day 35: February 25
Ok I don’t hate it today. But we are going with a different color combo. Onward.
All I wanted to accomplish to day while I had access to electricity was finish editing the polaroids for my website portfolio and then I’d do some work on the 100 Day Project.
Instead, I just finished doing meditative lines on a 100 Day piece just before midnight to relax after my thumb drive failed and erased the last batch of edited images before I could transfer them.
Not all days can be easy.
Day 23: February 13
I had a shower epiphany. Usually I have driving epiphanies, but I’ll take it wherever it comes… work on 100 Day later.
It’s later. I’m very happy with where my head is going ( blog post about the epiphany). And my 100 Day works are going exactly as I’d hoped. Better even.
Day 24: February 14
I took a moment to apply a little paint to one piece while waiting on my husband. Nothing else. Today was a day for adulting.
Day 25: February 15
Another day for adulting. I did a little more painting on the same piece from yesterday and added a little more texture. It is not done, but not much time for that today.
Day 26: February 16
Things are back to our more typical rhythm I think. Had the time and ambition to put some effort in this morning. Starting reading articles about Georgia O’Keefe.
Day 27: February 17
Today was a long travel day. I did the meditative lines on the third longhorn piece. Also re-drew the skull outline that I lost in the first layer of paint.
Day 28: February 18
This week was more productive theoretically and less productive physically. But I never thought I’d produce high volumes of work. At the close of the fourth week I’m happy with the progress. And even more happy with the mental breakthroughs. Hopefully with the end of truck problems I can put more concentration towards creating. I did make an effort to touch paper every day even if I didn’t feel like it.
It was always a good possibility that we would leave home for the road with Truck, but not return with him. (Yes I think of my husband’s large white diesel truck as Truck and a him, for no clear reason).
In the town and with the people I grew up with, a person’s car was often as much a part of their identity as their personal style. Truck has been a part of my life since I met my husband in 2009. Kurt somehow had all the qualities I wanted in a partner (not that I was looking!). So I joked to myself (never out loud) if he rode a white horse the deal is done. Then I saw he was driving a big white truck and I figured that had to be close enough.
Over the years Truck has been a problem. There was us stuck in the middle of no where in a sugar sand back road because Truck is more of an Egyptian pyramid stacking brick than an ideal off-road vehicle. Oh Truck could tow, but was not created as a 4 wheel drive, a much needed aspect of having a truck in the north. Lucky for us a plucky 4wd came along and pulled Truck out of the predicament. While me and Kurt’s kids watched.
Kurt came home with a topper for Truck so our dog at the time, Baby, would be able to travel around with us, especially back and forth downstate. The particles of that topper are still with us. It fell apart and had to be dismantled for the trash. Not all of it made it yet…
I had to buy a car (instead of a tiny truck like my Tacoma) so Kurt could make efficient monthly trips downstate. While I was more than happy to make that sacrifice, I would be left with Truck. And often you could find me laying in a mid-winter snow bank crying next to Truck. Truck idling on a sheet of ice with cat litter scattered around all the tires, chunks of wood, carpet remnants, and whatever other idea I could come up with to get the giant useless block to move. I failed time and time again to move that mule. 5,000 pounds of two wheel drive.
I gave Truck it’s first dent down the side of the bed. Years later Kurt gave the other side a perfect match.
You could find me attempting to park the beast in any lot, with any amount of room. Then watch me walk away cackling, swinging the keys, as that extended cab With an eight foot foot bed careened across however many spaces I needed. Of course I was parking away, far, far away from the doors, way over yonder.
I had to run errands with the step-daughter and in the middle of traffic Truck starts smoking inside the cab with that telltale electrical fire smell. I know things here and there about cars and their problems, but cars smoking and maybe on fire? Nope. It was a panic response to get the kid safely out of Truck, then we had to wait an hour for Kurt to come. It was luckily only the end of the speakers. I think one one worked, sometimes. Maybe. We haven’t listened to the radio in months on this trip.
When we were still driving in Michigan, when our road adventure was fresh, there was foreshadowing of Truck’s doom. The engine light came on briefly and then we forgot about it.
Until Death Valley.
When the engine light comes on there things get complicated. We just finished coming from Racetrack Playa, which was 26 miles (52 miles round trip) of washboard gravel one way. We had 60 miles of moonlit desert blacktop to drive when the check engine light came on announcing the end of the alternator. We waited four days for a new alternator to be delivered to the Post Office and Kurt had to be there waiting for it. But it didn’t work. And Kurt did things. We drove Truck with a charged battery to civilization and got a part to regulate the charging, for whatever reason the truck’s brain was going bad. That fix caused over charging.
After days of Kurt fiddling and researching…
The end has come for Truck, 2000 Dodge 2500 with 396,451 miles in Las Vegas, Nevada. All the things wrong and all the things we needed from a vehicle just made it impossible to keep Truck on the road.
No more crooked driver side seat. No more cracked windshield. No more “shut the radio off, I can’t understand it.” No more rattling rusty Michigan body. No more fighting with the tail gate. Or the doors that were possessed. On the other hand we definitely didn’t attract the wrong attention. No one was looking at Truck and thinking “I want what they have inside.” I’m sure it was thief repellent.
Truck, you were there for our first date and us falling in love driving around seeing the sights in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You kept us safe on long trips. Hauled all the materials we needed to fix our house. Rescued the other cars when they broke down. And you got us over 10,000 miles across the country.
If you have followed along this far I’m sure it is clear I struggle with my identity as an artist. I’m using both my time traveling across country since October 30th and the 100 Day Project to focus on developing my artistic voice and understanding my motivations. And along the way completely muddling up my website. Your welcome reader.
Today I had a breakthrough. It started two days ago really. I posted a piece of bird wing on Instagram. At first I was going to stop myself out of fear of losing my audience. Instead I went ahead. I decided I need to be authentically me and that includes sharing my inner world. I added a caption about how I saw beauty in life cycles.
That started it, but I didn’t know it.
I’ve been reading books about artists, following art blogs, going to galleries, museums and listening to art related podcasts. You know, immersing myself. Out of this came the idea that there is a thread in my life, specific to my experiences that can inform my work. Other artists could point to childhood memories that easily intertwined with their adult artworks.
I just could not see it.
I always felt like I had to make a choice. And each choice would be leaving behind an aspect of creating that I enjoyed. If I chose painting, I’d have to let go of blockprinting. If I chose drawing I’d never paint. If I did trees, I couldn’t do animals. If I tried a new medium it wouldn’t fit with the rest of my work.
I was missing what my work has been about entirely.
From dead trees, ravens, crows, up-cycling, cats, decaying buildings, dying saguaros, desert vistas, water, spiral symbols, animal bones, skulls, gardening, seasons, the mysteries of world religions, even attention to textures and certain aspects of Japanese culture it’s been about life cycles. And importantly life out of death.
Perhaps because the day I was born, October 30 (the same day we departed) was the one year anniversary of my Grandmother’s murder. I grew up with that as the dinner conversation for years. My father never got over it. My aunt wrote a fictionalized book inspired by it (absolutely worth reading: available here!). I’d say it was the single most defining event of my childhood.
Then during my twenties, when I most needed to lean on my father for support to go back to school, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He made poor life decisions, leaned on me, and I spent five years watching him die slowly before the real end when I watched him suffer for weeks and eternal days. He didn’t know where he was, let alone who I was. I had a complicated relationship with my Father. It took time to understand his imperfect humanity. When the time comes to say your final goodbyes to a parent or someone with a terminal illness, you too will find complex feelings hidden away to deal with.
After that I chose to work in home health for two years and a nursing home for over four years. (After college I felt no inspiration to do art, until the ink doodles started compulsively taking over and I couldn’t ignore my creative needs anymore). I wanted to give to others the peace I had from knowing my father was cared for. Being close to death was somehow being close to my father. Giving comfort and kindness to the sick and dying was giving it to him, in a way.
For a long time, unconsciously, my art work has been about life after death. Life from death. Beauty in death. I just didn’t know it. I don’t need to change what I’m doing. I just needed to understand it. I can accept and embrace the materials, media and subjects that speak to me. And know I’m giving something to the world uniquely mine that I can be proud of.