Saturday, October 27, 2012

Walk a Mile...

Each year, in late fall, I awake to the sounds of gunshot coming from Kitty Hawk Bay, and I feel sick to my stomach. I envision birds dropping out of the sky just as they are seeking refuge and rest from a long flight. The idea of killing anything is repugnant to me. I'm the type of person that will capture a moth or spider in the house and release it outside before Buddha and Erb have their way with it. But recently I have walked, or rather waded in another man's boots, having come to the unpleasant realization that although I value all life I am a hypocrite, dining on a burger as long as I don't have to do the dirty deed myself.

V. and E. have been my friends for as long as I have lived here. Both are incredibly talented artists, able to "pull" birds out of pieces of wood, carving the most wonderful creations, many of which decorate my home. E. in fact, made the sign for The Crooked Little House which hangs over my front door. And in the off season, V. is a hunting guide as was his father before him. When they approached me about working on a project with them based on hunting, my first instinct was to refuse. But I have learned to take some time to think when making any decision. I struggled with this one, weighing my friendship with my principles and the fact that things aren't always black and white. There are more than 50 shades of gray!

So over dinner one evening, I listened to V. talk about his love of the land and his experiences with his dad. He shared with me his extensive knowledge of the marsh and took me out in his boat to see the creeks firsthand. I focused on listening and tried to keep an open mind as he told me about the grueling schedules and upkeep of the blinds. I came to the conclusion that V. is much more honest in his way of obtaining food than I am. I not only treasure his friendship, I respect his way of life as well.

Will these experiences make me a fan of hunting? Never. I couldn't take another life. But they remind me to keep an open mind. So try putting the ego aside and stop talking yourself, and listen to those with different opinions. It helps to view things from a new vantage point that will either reinforce your own beliefs or give you tools to explore new ideas or another way of looking at something. You don't have to change your ideals or opinions but at least acknowledge that everyone has valuable input to share.

And yes, I agreed to work on the project.

finished painting



So this week I'm adding several photos to show how my sketches aid me in creating finished paintings.
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"To be able to listen - without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said ... such listening is rare."     - Abraham Maslow

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Pleasure of My (Own) Company

The northeast wind blew attitude, the sky was bloated with abundant sunshine (don't you just love the word abundant?) and the temperature was in the mid-fall range. Fate intervened this past week, giving me a much needed morning out of the studio. I had to make the trip down to Salvo to deliver some work and see a friend I rarely get to visit with, especially during tourist season. The ocean glittered, full of diamonds and pearls as Prince and I let loose at full volume while crossing the Oregon Inlet bridge, one performing much better than the other.

Spending time alone is a necessary activity for me when the world becomes too intrusive. My mind needs to rest from the everyday chatter so I can focus on the beauty around me and be grateful. I like to take my time when I am alone, stopping to do a sketch when something catches my eye, grabbing a bite to eat, walking the beach or a trail at Pea Island, even visiting a local shop hoping to find that special item for a Christmas gift. I keep a cell phone in the car for emergencies but otherwise it's turned off. I'm not that important that I need to be available 24-7, nor do I want to be. Whatever situations arise, they can wait till I return home. I need time to stand still so I can rejuvenate, refresh, rethink. And I do all these things best when I am alone.

Vibrant patches of goldenrod were the first things I noticed on the drive in sharp contrast to the browning sea oats bending in the wind. These clumps of yellow dot the dunes and roadway for miles. This year the grasses were glowing in brilliant shades of green, probably from the recent rains, looking like the seasons can't decide if they are coming or going. Canary yellow machines prowled the road and climbed sand piles, scooping and pushing sand off the roadway and fortifying the dunes for the nor'easters that are sure to punch the coastline over the winter. At the southern end of the ponds at Pea Island I spied small flocks of snow geese, a surprise since it seems too early for them to be here. And the new inlet formed by last year's hurricane briskly rolled in rippled water, flowing steadily under the narrow, temporary bridge. A line of vehicles kissed each other's bumpers, squeezing onto the sandy shoulder, discharging fishermen to try their luck with whatever chances to swim through the inlet.

It was a wonderful morning of "catch up" with my friend Kim at her fabulous gallery. On the way home I parked at the north end of Pea Island and wandered up the trail a bit, stopping to do a little sketch while the wind wrapped its chilly arms around me. As I made my way back towards Bodie Island I could feel the tendrils of daily life reaching out to me, pulling me back home. But it was okay because I knew another adventure lurked on the near horizon which I'll try to remember to write about next time.

In the meantime I'll continue to sing at the top of my lungs, O-bla-di, O-bla-da...


"Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement."
        -   Alice Koller

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Simply Leaves

Remember the fun you had as a kid walking through the freshly fallen leaves, listening to them crunch under your feet, smelling that fragrance of lost summer, eying the array of color, sometimes all in one leaf? Maybe like me you had the pleasure of jumping into the leaf piles your dad had just spent hours raking up, burying your sibling or getting covered yourself, bits of leaves forcing their way down your shirt, tickling your neck. And perhaps you too collected the best and the brightest of those leaves to seal between sheets of wax paper to hang in a sunny window like a piece of stained glass.

I still love strolling through leaves and looking, not only for the most colorful, but for those with sculptural aspects that will challenge my drawing skills. I enjoy trying to get the angles right, twisting and turning and folding into themselves, creating interesting shadows on my drawing table. Then I get to work on capturing the colors, blurring into one another like a bunch of old tie dye shirts. Buddha and Erb wait patiently, noses in the air catching the outside smells clinging to the leaves. When I'm done I'll toss the leaves onto the studio floor for their amusement. So here are some of my studies from this past week. I'm also including a little refresher course on why we are treated to such beauty in the first place.

Leaves don't really change color; the colors are always there, but the large amount of chlorophyll (this is what converts the sun's energy into food for the tree) that gives the leaves their green color through the growing season masks the other colors. When the chlorophyll dissipates in the fall, the other colors show through. The colder weather also causes the trapped glucose in some leaves to produce bright reds and purples. The shades of brown are from trapped waste.

Trees drop their leaves in the fall to keep from dying of thirst because leaves use up huge amounts of water. During most of the year that's not an issue, but in the winter, "psysiological" drought occurs and the tree can't absorb enough water. It mostly survives on stored food and water in its trunk and branches. Without its leaves, the tree can survive for a much longer time making it through until spring arrives, thawing the ground and bringing quenching rains.

So go outside and play in the leaves. Collect some and make a stained glass panel. Smell them, touch their brittleness, maybe even try to draw some!

"Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower."    
                                                 -  Albert Camus

Sunday, October 7, 2012

They Always Come Home, (hopefully)

No profound thoughts this week I'm afraid. Saturday was the first of my three shows this fall so I spent much of the week framing and wrapping prints. This meant I had little time to get outside and sketch. But I did encounter something wonderful in my own back yard that truly lifted my spirits.

One of my greatest disappointments has been the disappearance of the glass lizards from The Crooked Little House. My first spring at TCLH I discovered them by the woodpile lazily moving about, not too threatened by my sudden appearance, and was immediately enthralled with the gorgeous creatures. Coming from New England, I had never seen one before. But after a couple of years they had vanished from the yard. And now, many years later, like kids just out of college, they have returned home.

Early one evening, Buddha was perched on his favorite chair by the back door, and I noticed he was staring intently at something at the base of the back steps. When I peeked out, there was my glass lizard, waiting for his dinner to walk or crawl by. Of course I had to go out and say, "Welcome Home" and do a couple of sketches. I so wanted to pick him up, but because they drop their tails so easily hence the name glass lizard or glass snake as some people call them, I resisted the urge. You can see in the sketches, this one had already lost a piece and the new section of his tail has grown back a lighter color. While my hair is turning gray showing my age, this beauty shows he's an adult with a greenish color on top and yellow below.

Sadly, their numbers are declining in certain areas because of, you guessed it, loss of habitat. Build another house and like dominoes, it affects everything down the line. But today I won't dwell on that because I have a return, a glass lizard has found a sanctuary at The Crooked Little House.

PS: Since I always have a sketch book with me, I did this little pencil sketch at the show in Duck, NC between customers. Never got to finish it, but that's a good thing because I had lots of customers.

"What do they call it...the primordial soup? The glop? That heartbreaking second when it all got together, the sugars and the acids and the ultraviolets, and the next thing you knew there were tangerines and string quartets."              - Edward Albee