Today I join countless others who have come before me when I ask, "How the #$*& did I get to be this old?" I know this is not a novel question and because I try to live in the present I don't ask it too often, but there's no way to dispute the fact that I'm middle-aged. I think it's about time I figure out what I'm doing.
What do I want?
I want to age gracefully. I want to grab life by the dangly bits. I want my life to count for something. I want to be happy. I want to be challenged. I want to read thousands and thousands of books. I want to create art and inspire others to do the same. I want to learn to tango. I want to watch sunsets and moonshines. I want to write a memoir that makes people feel good and strong and powerful while tears run down their cheeks. I want to swim in creeks and hike on the tippy tops of mountains. I want waves to take my breath away for just a moment. I want to squint in the sun. I want to feel calm and fulfilled. I want to feel enraged and passionate. I want to sit for hours with a notebook and a pen. I want to breath fresh air as deeply as I can. I want to be healthy. I want to meet new people and do interesting things. I want to live this life to the mother-fucking hilt.
But mostly, I'm just winging it over here. I'm going about my business, head down, ducks in a row while the clock ticks off the seconds. That annoying alarm continues to ring in the morning. I drink too much coffee every. single. day. of. my. life. There are emails to which I must tend. For some reason, the cats want to eat TWICE a day. Cats are needy like that.
But sometimes things happen to shake me up a little. Recently I found out that someone I love is very sick. It goes without saying that his illness will affect him far more than it will affect me. But still.
I went to see him. I hugged him and talked with him and then way too soon it was time to go home. And now I can't stop thinking about it. About him.
Crying in the car with the radio up really, really loud doesn't help. I know - I've tried.
I can't help but marvel at how I continue to get caught up in the everyday hum drum details of life and fail to live that third paragraph up there. Why? Why is it so hard to live our dreams? Why do we fail to see the precious nature of every moment until after its over?
I'll be pondering this question in the coming weeks because time is short and I'm getting older by the day. But while I'm pondering, I'm going to do my best to live in a way that fills my journals with poetry and art. I will dance. I will be reckless just often enough to feel alive. I will strive to understand that every day is a gift and treat it as such.
I hope you take some time this week to remember what it is that you want and then start making those things happen.
I've been traveling quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, but today I ran my first 5K complete with obstacles and mud and I've gotten around to a small bit of studio work. I've sprinkled images from those things throughout this post.
I'm wishing you a week filled with love & sunshine!
Ahhhh, weekends. I adore them. It's an early Monday morning as I type and I'll admit that I'm not quite as fond of Mondays so before I head off into the craziness, I'm going to bask in the weekend just a little longer.
Sometimes I have a specific project or plan when I work in the studio, and this weekend was no different. I should have been working on a series of art which is the result of some awesome creative coaching I've been getting from Tara Leaver. Never one to argue with the muse, I did something completely different instead. I pulled my sewing machine out of the closet and tried my hand at adding fabric to art journal pages.
As with anything, more experience and practice will improve the results, but I'm excited about the new textures and possibilities that it offers.
I just started sewing without a plan and let it develop naturally. I really like this deep red flower.
It was time to see what surprises my small press held and when I opened it up, there were lots of interesting bits. I wanted to incorporate them into a page somehow and this is the result. Other materials include: watercolor paper, waxed paper, fabric, thread, and acrylic paint.
I couldn't decide which I liked better - the front or the back. Luckily, I don't have to choose. I'm going to insert the page so that both sides show because I think they're both lovely in their own way.
I've been doing quite a bit of art journaling lately because it's a great way to experiment with colors and materials in a way that isn't risky. It's small so it's not a huge commitment of time or materials. If you don't like it, you can paint over it. And the best thing about it - if you've got space to leave your project out, you can add things whenever the mood strikes. Sometimes I find a beautiful piece of paper or see a shape that I want to add and I take 5 minutes to add this to my journal(s). Over time, the layers build up into something thick and gorgeous. Bits and pieces of your life captured on paper.
And you're getting better and braver at creating art with every little step.
I work on three journals at a time. This means that there is always an open page available, even if paint or glue is drying on the other ones. I don't buy expensive journals. As with most of my art supplies, I prefer to work with inexpensive or found objects. I find that it takes the pressure off and I don't get stressed out if something doesn't turn out the way I expect. And if I leave my brushes soaking in water for too long, it's okay. (This happens regularly.)
I've gathered together a list of online resources and inspiration as I've collected as I've been art journaling and I plan to send these out in a newsletter (a way, way overdue newsletter) very soon.
You can see more art journal pics (among a smattering of other things) in my Flickr portfolio.
Yes, that is a tarantula. We ran across this bad boy on the trail yesterday at the Golden Open Space. Of course, I screamed and all that jazz. If you ask me, jumping up and down and hollaring at the top of your lungs is required behavior when encountering a spider with legs this long and hairy. I was just trying to get with the program. My husband helpfully (and correctly) pointed out that the spider was dead and was therefore unlikely to devour my leg.
We're hiking from 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Albuquerque Edition, and I'm in charge of planning the hikes. This is an interesting assignment for someone who is untethered in time and space. I also tend to skim over details because I'm always in a hurry. Like that time the guidebook clearly recommended long pants to protect from the pointy and evil desert plants as we hacked our way through undergrowth.
(An aside: I'm sorry, Don. It was just coincidence that I showed up in long pants while you were wearing shorts. I'm sure the scars will eventually heal and I have learned an important lesson - actually read the guidebook.)
Here's how a hike typically begins:
D: So, where are we heading? Pleasant smile, expectant expression on his face.
R: Just get on the expressway. I'll let you know in a minute. This is accompanied by frantic page flipping to recall (or decide) where the hike will be.
D rolls eyes and accelerates. He's been through this before and is numb.
We eventually end up hiking, but not until we've overcome some small obstacle. We have arrived at hiking areas only to find that one must request access to a private road before hiking. We've driven miles up winding mountain roads only to discover what the entire state already knows - everything is closed due to high risk of forest fires.
I am an optimist. I always think that the drive will be shorter, the hike will be easier, and that there will be more shade. Don is a good sport about it, but each and every one of these things are immediately obvious to him because he is firmly rooted in the detail of life. He could guess what time it is within 3 minutes even if he hasn't seen a clock for hours and has been wandering aimlessly in the wilderness or an underground cave. He counts and measures things in his head without even being aware of it.
And so we muddle through, each in our own world but somehow, miraculously together.
The book said there was a cave, but we were standing right on top of it and didn't see it at first because it requires scrambling down off the rim of the trail to enter. Afterwards, we realized that this cairn marked the spot and we added our own rock on top for posterity.
The Don contemplates the world.
For the record, it was incredibly hot out there and except for this cave, there was not a bit of shade to be found.
This entire area is a series of interconnected arroyos and watersheds, striated with red-clay. Looking down from the top into the drainage basin is striking and beautiful but it was impossible for me to capture adequately on camera.
In the Pacific Northwest of 1928, Julian Powell lives a life that for most appears to be one of privilege—a perfect life in a huge house, servants, and carefully groomed grounds. No matter how idyllic it might seem, it has become a prison for Julian. His days are filled with the endless monotony of family gatherings, gossip, and brown suits. Overshadowing him is a life-long illness. Julian finds his only freedom from his overbearing family in secretly writing books celebrating the beauty of nature. Occasionally he escapes to the local bookstore, with the hope of seeing the town’s eccentric, William Neill. Julian’s life changes forever when he makes the boldest decision of his life. He leaves to take care of an ailing childhood friend, moving to a place that will take him away from all he has ever known to an unexpected new life. He becomes part of a family of his own choosing, and it brings him closer to the man that he’s been secretly falling for—a man who has a prison of his own to escape. As William and Julian struggle to overcome their pasts, will their secrets bring them together or drive them apart?
In recent weeks, I have had two queries asking me how I decide which art to feature at Ink & Alchemy.
Mostly, I wing it.
I try to be fair. I have a method of keeping track of all the creative people I feature (including writers) and I do pay attention in a handwaving, don't-really-care-all-that-much way. I started doing this several years ago because I was seeking inspiration for myself and even though it has morphed into something bigger, that is still one of the underlying goals. I don't want to take the fun out of it by imposing strict guidelines upon myself because I'm just compulsive enough to feel pressured by it.
I feature what I like. I post things that catch my eye on a given day. It's not a whole lot more complicated than that.
I like color. I try to stretch my boundaries because I don't like to get stuck in small places. I like shiny, glittery bits and I live almost wholly in the moment. This means that sometimes I start out with a certain artist or medium in mind, but when I sit down at the computer, something fabulous pops up in my feed or email that I just can't ignore. I'm kind of fickle like that when it comes to art. There are many places in my life in which I must, by necessity, operate according to rules and regulations but I stubbornly refuse to operate from a place of rigidity with regard to creative things. They are my refuge and I refuse to codify them too much.
And if I'm being completely honest, those who interact on the page regularly probably end up featured more often. It's not a conscious decision, but I'm a busy person and when I see your name pop up, it may prompt me to click over to your page or website and see what wonderful thing you have created lately.
Some things that cause certain names to be passed over time and time again:
no new art
lack of color
And a huge pet peeve of mine: if you are using a personal FB profile instead of a page, I am unlikely to post your work. Why? Because unless they are friends with you on FB, my followers cannot see most of your content and it's not the most effective way to do it. One of my goals at Ink & Alchemy is to help others learn how to connect online and I often lead by (good) example.
There are two under-utilized ways to get featured.
1.) Drop me a line with a good image attached and ask. It's not a guarantee, but it's worth a shot.
2.) Post your own work at More Ink. This page is intended for just that purpose. While I typically curate Ink & Alchemy (with the exception of link sharing days like today), More Ink is always available for you to showcase your work and practice your networking skills. I'd love to see what you've been up to!
I try to notice when someone needs a helping hand and put new artists out there. I appreciate reciprocity and repay favors when I can. I encourage you to do that same.
I've got some new ideas stewing over here. In addition to daily features, I've been running month-long promotions for artists and writers on my website. If you're on either of my featured lists (here & here), it's just a matter of time until the spotlight is on you. :)
I'm in the beginning phase of a new effort to assist those without a website to get up and running. Why? Because it's important. If you're trying to manage a platform and create an online presence, you need to have a website. It's your home base. I hear from many people in all types of creative disciplines that they either don't want to spend the time creating a website or they don't have the skills to do so.
I also hear that they don't have the funds to pay for a designer. Understandable, but that doesn't negate the need to have one.
I'm trying an experiment and will take a few initial clients at a ridiculously low price. I'm doing this because I need to work out the kinks in the process and see how it goes. If you're thinking guinea pig, you're on the right track. But don't worry, you're in good hands. You can find the details on my website, but here's what I'll do in a nutshell: I'll create a free website for you and give you a tutorial so that you can manage it yourself going forward. I'll also provide some recommendations about how to get connected online and build a platform.
These sites won't have all the latest bells and whistles, but they will have functionality and provide a static place for you to send your customers. My website is an example of what might result from an effort like this. Do me a favor and take a look and then drop me a line if you'd be willing to partner with me in this new endeavor. Of course, you will need to provide certain pieces of information (your bio, images with titles, etc.).
Personally, I think the service I'm offering is much more valuable than paying someone to design and manage your site for you. If you learn how to do it yourself, you'll have much more flexibility and retain the ability to make changes without paying exorbitant fees to do it. Take my word for it - it's easier than you think!
All of the art in this post was created by the super fabulous Treasure Frey. Visit her website to see more of her creations.
I'm wishing you a wonderful week filled with many opportunities to create something beautiful!