Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

“It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

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8/21 days – Inspiration

Nature more than anything is what inspires me. Not to copy in painting, because I have a camera for that, but the energy, the impressions, the joy of having open horizons and weather all around you, the wildlife I see every day just outside my window. All the colours of the garden and the sunset, the seasons.
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Beginning of the end

Do I feel a slight hint of spring on the frosty breeze? When the sun is out, I can almost imagine…. So I put the laundry outside on the line! Aaah, yes, I’m definitely ready.

Not quite there yet
Not quite there yet…

I’ve been working on a few things this week that I thought I was going to blog about, but none of them are quite done yet. I did finish my dry leaves printing experiment and I’m not very impressed, so that project post got archived vertically as we say here. As in, I’m not even going to bother scanning the results for you. Cochineal prints lovely on paper though, but it also  pokes a lot of holes, LOL.

Knitting and spinning progress = 0

I’ve been thinking a lot about my painting etc. which normally is a really bad sign, and probably is in this case too, but I seem to be all over the place and that’s not very constructive either. To improve your skills it really works best to pick a theme and make multiple versions. You rarely fix all your mistakes in one go.

One minute I’m into intuitive abstracts, the next I’m trying for the impressionistic turneresque landscapes in my mind which on canvas then looks more like a naive illustration for a childrens’ book. Which I kinda dig too, in fact it could be a very good way to warm up for a picture book which title has been floating in my head for 7-8 years about my horse Charlie. Problem is, I have the format in place, but the actual plot is missing. Would be a great tribute now that he’s gone. I also had wanted to do a series of cartoons around the critters, probably for 10-12 years, but made TWO crummy attempts. Now we have Fergus who is everything I wanted to do exactly, and I’m not jealous, I LOVE Fergus, but I’m not going to copy any of it when he’s obviously so much better than anything I can output at this time. 😉 However, my brain has produced a couple of cartoon sketches this week, nothing original, but I may just work on them anyway – for the practice.

Charlie's favourite trick - as you can see I take my riding dead seriously
Charlie’s favourite trick – as you can see I take my riding dead seriously

So it’s a lovely day out today, and even though I’d really like to work on my mandalas and one of my wip paintings, I should go be outside. I’m sure I’ll feel all the better for it. Dog to be walked, firewood to be stacked, maybe I should actually go riding on the old silly? And all the frozen horsepoop in the paddock is probably going to unfreeze real soon. It’ll be so good for my back and biceps….

And, well, spring on the way also means photo weather, if my old Canon 20D is still willing (shutter has passed the average number of exposures for this model). Not that it’s impossible in winter, I just don’t like being outside in the cold wind and the batteries die to quick. Anyone want to sponsor me a 7D house?! I promise I’ll do at least one excursion every week to a new location. 😀

Daily doodle

It’s all the rage on creative blogs – a post a day, a collage a day, a journal page a day, a photo a day, a heart a day, 365 days challenges.

A Dpoodle a today.

And it makes sense, if you want to keep the flow, get in the groove. You need to show up every day and do your thing. For a long long time I didn’t, I let life run me over, I was exhausted and kept saving my ideas for tomorrow. “It’ll soon get better, and then…” turned into years… But I’ve learned recently, if I want to get it done, I need to get started. No matter what life looks like today.

Being me, I do know however that a fixed project commitment every day doesn’t work for me. Making it a duty, heck, that’s why I became self-employed so I wouldn’t have to show up on time for somebody else’s gig, you know, the sun is shining, perfect time to go riding at 11 am! (or paint – don’t get many hours in winter).

Besides, once I begin thinking about it, I can suddenly imagine doing a doodle a day, a written something a day, a painting excercise a day, a yarn a day, a photo a day, a knit-one-row-a-day project, a cartoon character a day, an index card sketch a day, a horse a day….. (see, I’m making lists again!)


I also have a list of things I’d like to study, artsy as well as “bookish”. Schedule a day where that’s what I’m doing for xx hours a week. But I need to take it slow because I know what happens if I don’t. Multitasking is poison to the soul!

So I’m not going to commit to any one particular thing a day, because suddenly life happens and I’m off in another direction for a while. But, starting with my converted book I’ll try to show up every day and do “something”, not just gab or think about it (which I’m really good at as you’ve gathered). I have plenty of little things I want to do that are not art in themselves but preparations to make art, such as stencils for use on book pages and elsewhere. Font research. Great for days when art scares you, but you still want to feel some accomplishment.

In fact I think I may have so much fun with it that I started on its partner. I even looked for the part 5+6 that I knew I’d seen, but I’ve thrown out quite a few books over the last years, both my own, to make more room on my shelves, since I’ve reached the limit for more shelves, as well as my MIL stash that lived in the loft for a while. The stash, not the MIL. So they were gone, and recently too as I recall, when deciding I couldn’t be bothered reading them. A whole stack, same size, different designs, would have been cool though! Maybe.


The covers are a work in progress. The pages I either slather with gesso, making the old paper more sturdy as well as preventing markers from bleeding through to the other side. It contains chalk, so it dries quickly and also makes a porous surface suitable for inks and watercolors. Or I sometimes use leftover paint from something else to make a little background that I can later use for collage or paint something else on top. If you add a lot of medium you allow the text to be seen through the colour, you can even use matt acrylic medium to get the same effect as gesso but keep the text. I pull out every 4-5 pages so it doesn’t get monster thick when I add all those things, the spine being the width it is.

The thing about this project is no pressure. I don’t need to get an idea to work on it, I just mindlessly add a bit of paint and maybe something likeable comes out of it. I haven’t wasted expensive paper if it doesn’t, but maybe it’ll keep me in or get me into that flow. It feels like it’s now or else – having wasted all that precious time already. So this is my way of reminding myself over and over that a new software is being installed. I’m going to drag my resistant twin kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat.


Maybe eventually I’ll come up with something that I’d actually like to document and collect every day, for now I’m publishing my intentions so feel free to check up on me and keep me to it. 😉

In return I promise not to actually pester you with my antics daily. Maybe just a special doodle once in a blue moon?

But just to make it harder on myself, I’d like to hear your ideas for “something a day”. Do you think it’s a good idea/routine/challenge and why?