Previous month:
June 2012
Next month:
August 2012

July 2012

Lean In, Part II

Studio bulletin board

"I think there is a certain age, for women, when you become fearless. It may be a different age for every woman, I don’t know. It’s not that you stop fearing things: I’m still afraid of heights, for example. Or rather, of falling — heights aren’t the problem. But you stop fearing life itself. It’s when you become fearless in that way that you decide to live.

"Perhaps it’s when you come to the realization that the point of life isn’t to be rich, or secure, or even to be loved — to be any of the things that people usually think is the point. The point of life is to live as deeply as possible, to experience fully. And that can be done in so many ways." 

- Theodora Goss (from her blog post "Fearless Women")

Georgia O'Keeffe

“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”  - Georgia O'Keeffe

Amelia Earhart

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life, and the procedure, the process is its own reward."   - Amelia Earhart

Anais Nin2

"For too many centuries women have been being muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue — that I had to do the job myself."  - Anaïs Nin

The School of Art Institute in Chicago, 1890

As Sheryl Sandberg is quoted as asking in "Lean In" (posted here almost exactly a year ago): "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

For women especially, but also for all creators who are Outsiders in one way or another, that's a powerful question.

Terri WindlingImages credits are in the photo captions.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

This week, two songs from Dry the River, a young English band from Stratford, East London. Their musical influences range from folk and bluegrass to hardcore punk -- but I personally prefer the accoustic end of their repetoire, where the group's vocal harmonies, Will Harvey's fiddle playing, and the beautiful lyrics penned by Peter Liddle (the group's lead singer and songwriter) come to the fore.

Above, the band performs their song "History Book" in Gospel Oak, London.

Below, a haunting, stripped-down version of their song "Bible Belt," performed in a park in Stratford. This one cuts close to the bone for me, which is precisely why I love it dearly.

Blue Collar Cinderella 8x9Sketch above: Blue-collar Cinderella

"The trick of it is, don't be afraid anymore...."  

Inspiration...and return

Patti Smith

“The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It's the artist's responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.” - Patti Smith (from Just Kids, her excellent memoir about life and art in '70s-era New York)

Hans Christian Andersen illustration by Edmund Dulac

As Smith says, the flight through the incorporeal realm...

The Bumblehill Studio

...must be followed by the return to the material world...


...where we turn our visions into earthly form with the tools we find at hand.

In order to capture those all-too-fleeting visions during the potent time just after "the return," it's important, I think, that tools at hand be the ones that are truly best shaped for us...for the artists we actually are, as opposed to the artists we may have wanted to be, or felt some kind of outside pressure to be.

For some young artists, it can take a bit of time to discover which tools (which medium, or genre, or career pathway) will truly suit them best. For me, although many different art forms attract me, the tools that I find most natural and comfortable are language and oil paint; I've also learned that as someone with a limited number of spoons it's best to keep my toolbox clean and simple. My husband, by contrast, thrives with a toolbox absolutely crowded to bursting, working with language, voice, musical instruments, puppets, masks animated on a theater stage, computer and video imagery, and half a dozen other things besides, no one of these tools more important than the others, and all somehow working together. For other artists, the tools at hand might be needles and thread; or a jeweller's torch; or a rack of cooking spices; or the time to shape a young child's day....

To me, it's all art, inside the studio and out. At least it is if we approach our lives that way.

Art above: An illustration for Hans Christian Andersen's "The Garden of Paradise" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953).

When inspiration comes

Blackberry brambles and Tilly

“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days," said novelist Graham Greene. "One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”

Or walked through the fields...

Dartmoor blackberry blossoms

...past the blackberry brambles...

Dartmoor Blackberries a thorn-torn skirt and muddy brown boots...

Chagford, Devon

...with a faithful little black companion...

Chagford, Devon

...leading the way.