I thought I'd share with you one of the daily practices I've taken up since my time at Brush Creek in Wyoming. Actually, I started these "morning pages" the morning of the first day at Brush Creek and have been doing it every day since. I had taken a ream of inexpensive printer paper with me for this purpose and decided to start my studio day with making 10 "non-thinking" meditation drawings....very simple marks on the page, turning the page when the urge spoke. This practice was taken from an assignment I had decades ago actually, in an art education class with an amazing professor, Richard Loveless, at the University of South Florida. His assignment called for us to find a quiet place and a simple mark-making tool and do this exercise with a stack of 50 sheets of paper. Simple marks, made without thinking, without analyzing, without seeing the activity as "drawing" per se. Letting the hand move as it wanted to. The class members brought their pages in and we spread them out on the floor.....it was a very powerful moment to realize that each person had their own "inner language" of mark making....their very own pattern of speech that made itself known through their hands. I've never forgotten that assignment....even while I was doing my initial fifty pages, I realized that I was certainly tapping into my inner psyche and bypassing the "editor" and the thinking mind. I've recommended this exercise to any number of people and, almost always, people find it very insightful.....unless they are thinking and working through the pages and making "drawings"....then it's much less powerful. There are clear threads that will run through 50 pages, some of which may only contain a simple mark on the page, depending on when you felt the urge to turn the page over. For instance, it will be evident that there is a way that you organize the space, the kind of shapes or lines that come through pretty consistently, as well as an individual sensitivity to touch with the tool in hand. I recognize myself when I see the ten morning pages I've been making daily for over a month and it is clear that it is the same person as the one who made the marks on those 50 sheets of paper over 20 years ago. This is a very powerful tool to help you find yourself when you are lost and give you back the confidence in your own voice that may have been left behind somewhere in the wilderness.
Since coming home, I've added an additional practice, which I do right after my "drawn" morning pages and this is a shortened version of the actual "morning pages", the practice found in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I'm sure many of you know this book and have had it change your lives, as I have. I have taken up the writing practice of just two pages (front and back of one full page) also as a way to connect with my own thoughts and free up the space for the intuitive mind to play. For a number of years I got up quite early and did three pages of writing my morning pages and found the practice very enlightening. I wrote things that I had no idea were on my mind and the process of writing also allowed new ideas to develop because I was thinking through my hands. It's possible that this was the period when I first began to voice the idea that I think through my hands....many of you have "heard" me say that even now.
All this is to say that these practices are part of a daily routine that also includes yoga and reading and art making and any number of other activities, like eating and sleeping. I'm a creature of routine....I like rituals and rhythms, which keep me grounded and provide a framework for the unfolding day. This is not to say that there are no more difficult days in the studio, but I'm finding it much easier to get back on track because I have a map and I'm not too far from the path back to the moment.
These aren't too easy to see, but below is a sampling from my daily pages.....10 pages each day for over a month.....this is quite a growing stack! I keep them in order as I do them and add the date and the sequential number at the bottom of each page. Pages below are taken at random.
The added benefit of doing this is that many of the pages will give you ideas for new work or compositions and any number of other unfolding possibilities. And each day may be slightly different, as your mood, your surroundings, etc. may reveal themselves in ways you didn't realize. The key is to get out of the way and let your hand move across the page where it wants to. And now for a sampling...
Book for the written morning pages and a portrait of my
new fountain pen!
If you love to write and draw with a fountain pen, as I do, you might want to go out and gather up whatever supplies of them you can, because we have found that the mighty fountain pen is very quickly becoming a relic of the past. John and I were in Sioux Falls last week and began looking for fountain pens....I wanted a nice one for my daily practices and he wanted an inexpensive one to experiment with using it for drawing with sugar-lift solution, a printmaking process. Not long ago, they were easy to find in office supply stores, but not these days.....not when people don't write on paper with a tool such as a nice pen. By the time we got to the third store, I joked that the person we queried would look at us in wonder and ask what a fountain pen was....it wasn't quite that bad, but close. Fortunately, there is a wonderfully, charming store in downtown Sioux Falls, called Zanbrosz, that sells all kinds of delights...great household items , bath salts, upscale games, jewelry, metal wind-up toys, interesting books and you guessed it, a fabulous selection of new and used fountain pens....it's a good thing we remembered to go there. I found my beloved blue pen there and now we start our days together.