Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Touchstone Voice

The tug-of-war has gotten underway....well, maybe that's casting a rather negative gloom over the creative process. But, there are moments when it feels like a tug-of-war! Do you often feel there are countless voices at work inside you, each with their own take on giving you just the right advice?

You can't listen to everyone of course, and for me the secret is tuning out the others and just listening to the unnamed voice that I learned to trust probably 15 years ago. I'd been making art before that for decades, but somehow I began to trust myself and the work that is truly my own began to come forth. It was only then that I knew that I'd slipped into my own skin as an artist. Maybe I'll call it my touchstone voice.

It's a quiet voice, one that encourages letting go and trusting. And there's the big struggle....giving over control and allowing the process to unfold in its own time. Patience is required.
Of course, my ego wants to control the work, wants to bring to life the vision in my head. That's the first step in letting go and eventually it happens with me, because I'm forced to admit defeat by hitting the wall. When the work goes badly session after session, I know, if I'm listening to the touchstone voice, it's because I haven't let go. Here's how the touchstone would speak to me, if it happened in straightforward English, which it doesn't, because I think the touchstone speaks in a kind of pre-language.

"Forget that idea in your head, it's coming from the wrong place....you'll see the essence of that idea come to be, but it's not going to happen the way you are going about it. You are waiting and pacing by the front door for something to happen, but the work is going to come to you through the back door, wearing clothing you won't at first recognize. It will come like an apparition, in layers, building slowly. It may take some time to materialize, but you'll recognize it when it does."

And it's true. At least for me, the best work I've made happens that way. You've never seen the other stuff, because it never gets finished. Those pieces get tossed out or those first "cognitive thinking" attempts get painted over and I let the work emerge as it wants to. I quit watching the front door and sit quietly, waiting for the creaky sound of the back door opening.

So the photos here are a work in progress...the back door is unlatched and open. Lots of layers of gouache, lots of letting go, building I know not what exactly. I don't know where this is going....the "me" with the old worn out brush in my hand....I'm the last to know. Sometimes that conversation and the struggle happens in another room out of my hearing and I can actually enjoy the process. Like here....I'm enjoying watching this piece unfold. This is gouache on a luscious, sturdy handmade paper. Eventually, I'd like to have some sewing on it as well....and just whose voice is that?

I must leave this piece for a time as my husband and I travel to visit family for the holidays. Wishing you peace and joy this season. I'll keep in touch on my travels. Cheers!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reclaiming the Practice, Revisiting Gouache

I'm back in the studio....and it's no longer an office! The desk is now strictly for painting, drawing, sewing and associated musings! In honor of being back in the saddle, so to speak, I finally opened the set of gouache paint that I bought last month. Kind of daunting....as I haven't worked with gouache in decades. Back in those days, when I was in art school, all the color and design assignments were done in gouache. I believe the philosophy was that if you could master gouache, you could handle anything. I'm not sure if that's the case, maybe they were just trying to whip us into shape and toughen our spirits. I don't know what will happen now, but it's a new day and I'm willing to give it a go again. After roughly two years in the academic world, I want to see what I have to say about it all, now that I have time to reflect. 

Now that I am back to painting and drawing, I am anxious to see what is revealed through my hands. Everyday I look at this postcard by one of my painting heroes, Edouard Vuillard. I so love the luscious paint quality, the pattern and the rich color. But alas, I'll never paint like Vuillard, because that's not who I am.

Below is a lovely gouache painting done by Vuillard...probably a study for a larger painting, but not sure.

If there is one lesson I've learned through my creative practice, it's the one of learning to trust yourself. So, I am back to being me, rediscovering the trust in who I am as an artist. The marks on paper below are the ones that come naturally to me. I've broken the ice....opened the gouache, begun the dance. I feel so at home letting my hand glide across the page. Let's see where this goes. I'll go on appreciating Vuillard, along with countless other artists who make works that I wish I'd made. But, the lesson I learn each day in the studio is that those were not my works to make....my works are the ones that come through my hands when I allow myself to dance.

Cheers to you!

Friday, December 11, 2015

December Is Slipping Away!!

Hello friends! I was suddenly alerted last night by my inner time clock that I'd better set some timetables pretty quickly for any sales of work to be shipped before I leave for the holidays! I've put a note on the announcement page for my Etsy shop, so wanted to let my blog readers know that if you want to make a purchase and have it shipped in December, please order by December 15th. I know....it's just a few days away! Some pieces in my shop are framed and that will take extra time to prepare for shipping, so please order any framed piece by December 13th. Please do remember that readers of this blog have access to the coupon code ANCESTORS for 10% off anything in the shop. The coupon code is good through December 31st. As I will be travelling throughout the month, anything ordered after December 15th will ship on January 2nd. Remember you can use the coupon code even if the work won't be shipped till after the new year.

I hope that's not too confusing...feel free to contact me with questions, if so. I'll be back here with another post or two before my traveling days begin, but wanted to make sure you all had the heads up. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In The Round

Hello on this fine December evening! I'm excited about getting back in the studio to create a new body of work and am thinking that my upcoming show will be made in the round! I am going to play with this lovely 8" round cradled birch panel. I think I may attempt to do a small painting a day....well, perhaps I should call it a mixed-media drawing, which is more what I make.

I think a small gallery full of small round pieces could be rather enticing! But first, I must cross the last mountain hurdle, with one more final paper to complete by the first of the week. Today I passed the big exam I was dreading, so that's now behind me...whew! I guess this is like climbing some sort of mountain and I'm nearly at the top. I'm not sure if the view will look any different once I have a masters degree in Adult and Higher Education. January will be a time to focus in the studio. Then I will be able to think about my next steps....as I've said many a time here in these posts, I think with my hands, so the process of making will allow me to see the path unfolding before me. 

I'm so pleased the tiny daily drawings I've been adding to my Etsy shop are making people happy....just added the three below from the pile I found from a couple of years ago.

Hope you are having a good week. I had a birthday on Monday and am recovering from the shock of adding yet another year to my age. Isn't it funny how we feel so much younger inside than we often are chronologically. I read somewhere years ago that we each carry an image inside us of ourselves at a particular age, even as the years pile on. I think of myself as in my early 30s....say 33... and am often quite taken aback when I am confronted with the realization that I am a long way from it! Do you have this sense about yourself? What age are you inside?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Counting the Days, the Studio Awaits

The November daily drawings, seen in the two photos below, have been dipped in beeswax and now make a lovely (and much taller!) stack. They join the ranks of the September and October drawings seen in the background of this first photo. I'm not sure if these dailies will feature in my upcoming show at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City or not. The show opens in mid-February and I hope to make all new work for it, but first have to finish school (counting the days).  After the holiday travels, I will spend January devoted to being in the studio full-time....can't wait!!

These drawings were just listed over at MissouriBendStudio on Etsy. These are from the daily drawings done in February of 2014....seems so long ago!! I'm sharing some of my favorites from that group and hope some folks out there will give them a loving home.

After an amazing winter wonderland start to the week, seen below, our temperatures are climbing into the 40s for the foreseeable future....the snow is nearly gone.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. May moments of inspiration take you by surprise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Inner Language: The Individual Mark

Hello again! I've been meaning to do a post about something that I hope will touch a chord...a glimmer of recognition, and that is...the power of the individual mark. That's a rather ambiguous term, I realize, but it's a way of talking about how each one of us, whether or not we consider ourselves artists, has a way of making marks that is unique. And that is a very powerful thing, it seems to me. I have spent years drawing, making my marks, and I've come to understand how impossible it is to deny that we have a personality that expresses itself in the marks we make.

I believe it still holds true that our fingerprints belong to us alone and I think we all agree that each person has a unique handwriting. So, if we are free from fear, from the inner critic, along with all the "shoulds" and "musts" that follow us through our day....and if we let go of thinking to let our hand wander, I believe that our inner language flows through the ink tracing its path across the page. 

I spend a few moments in this activity every day, in a kind of ritual that I call the daily drawing. I don't try, I don't think, I let my hand go and watch the dance unfold. Day after day I watch this process, as if looking over my own shoulder, and the same thoughts occur. The marks I make are absolutely consistent....across time, across media...my body expresses itself in an effortless dance
in this daily ritual.

Below are a couple of pieces I started a month or so ago...just as drawing on handmade paper with a layer of acrylic. These drawings will be heavily layered with alternating and intertwining paint and drawing that both reveals and conceals. It seems quite obvious that I can't quite get away from myself, as the marks on these upper drawings absolutely resonate with what comes through my hands in the daily drawings seen below. I've just posted a couple from the last few days, along with one that reveals bits and piece from the November pile....now ready for their long-awaited dip in the beeswax!

All this is not to tout these drawings in any way, but to express the notion that each one of us has the capacity to express ourselves in unique ways. Rather than follow all the latest trends out there that have you following the lead of others, why not experiment with a simple practice that allows you to find your own voice and your own mark. 

Try this. Take seven small sheets of paper and a favorite pen (or other mark-making tool). Find a quiet space and a quiet time each day...even 5 minutes is enough. Close the door and leave that inner critic outside. Without thinking, let your hand move the pen around the page, stopping when something inside says stop now. Tomorrow do the same thing...and again for the rest of the week. I have a sense that what you will find is that, if you have really let go and not tried to make a "Drawing", then you will begin to see yourself in a new way. You will find that the way you put pen to page will be gaining consistency and that you can discover and recognize yourself in the marks you make. These drawing don't have to be "good" in the eyes of anyone else....there is nothing better than you being you. It's a dance and you are free....don't think, just be in the moment. I think the discovery of your own creative self is a very powerful thing.

I'd love to hear from you if you want to share what you've found! Hope the rest of your week is full of hope and moments of inspiration! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Farewell November....and What's New At Missouri Bend Studio

Greetings on this last day of November. Here in South Dakota, another snowstorm is blanketing our world in layers of white. This will keep up throughout the day and night, apparently totaling nearly 10 inches. I'm sure we'll get there this afternoon at the rate it's falling! Good day to be inside, finishing up the last chapters of reading for school and checking in on my friends here on the blog, with a steaming cup of cocoa in hand!

This photo was taken from the deck, looking through the neighbor's yard to the river....which has, of course, disappeared in the field of white!

This is taken from my studio window, which is partially beneath ground level, so the windows look out at ground level. The pattern of the window screen creates an interesting layered effect.

The little daily drawings from 2013/2014 that I started listing in my Etsy shop are showing a bit of popularity. I've already sold 2 of the 3 I first listed. They are quite affordable at $10 each, so can be purchased without much angst involved! I've just listed 3 more, shown below, and will continue adding them to the Daily Drawings shop section each day. Please remember that I'm open to doing a bulk discount if you are interested in three or more of the drawings. Just let me know and we'll make arrangements!

Also, just want to remind my blog friends that there is an ongoing 10% discount on anything at MissouriBendStudio available to you by using the coupon code ANCESTORS at checkout. This code will be available through December, so hope you will find something that suits your fancy!

I'll be back in the next couple days with a fresh post, but for now, must get caught up from the time away over the Thanksgiving holiday! Cheers to you all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Edges of Knowing....Liminal Spaces

I can't remember where it was, but I came across the word liminal as I was reading the other day. Because I love that word and find it so evocative, it usually stops me in my tracks, so to speak. It was the same the other day....I paused and kind of savored it in an almost sensory way. The taste of that word and everything it summons up came back to me just a little while ago as I made this daily drawing. 

I've said this before in the virtual space of this blog, but the meditation drawings (which includes the practice of the daily drawings like this) are a way for me to learn what it is I'm thinking....I think through my hands and as I made those little branching forms clinging to the edges, I understood they were about liminal spaces. 

That's where I am right now....on the edges on knowing and not knowing, leaving one identity and claiming a new one. I'm drawn to the edge of the page these days....the spareness of this drawing reminds me of the sense of frailty I feel. Clinging to limits of the page, but about to break free, there is a tension in the spareness of the drawing, that I find compelling. And the nice thing is, it's a good thing to step outside of ourselves once in awhile to see things from another place and point of view.

Liminal....it's a lovely word and I am learning to appreciate the wide open possibilities of my life right now. Edges and boundaries are interesting places for exploration!

1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

See  you soon!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Insufferable Procrastination!

The first snow of the season and we are suddenly transformed and transported. It kind of takes your breath away to wake up for the first time to a winter wonderland....even when you are expecting it and have laid in groceries. It's a shift for the psyche to be pushed along into the next season...and so, here we are, welcoming winter!

I would be enjoying this day so much more, watching the snow fall steadily, building up inch by inch, if I wasn't suffering from such a serious and guilt-inducing case of procrastination. I don't quite recognize myself....Ms. Slow and Steady-Get-the-Work-Done and then relax is now behaving like a reluctant child trying to get out doing her homework. 

Counting the days until graduation. For now, I guess I should be reading these articles below, rather than staring out the window. Alas....there is no cure for procrastination except to get to work.

Hope you have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Creativity Is Not A Straight Line

A couple of gray and rainy days here in South Dakota, complete with thunderstorms, which is most unusual for November. Subdued color, touched with melancholy....this is the palette that finds its way in my work. This landscape, so beautiful through all the seasons.

With only about four weeks left to go in the semester, I thought I'd better delay gratification and concentrate on school rather than being in the studio....counting the days though! I am thinking a lot about next steps and how I can unite my love and interest in the arts, education, and connecting people with new ideas and with one another. 

One of the undercurrents that runs like a river through everything is my belief in the creative abilities of everyone. Our culture has made us believe that some people are creative and others are not. That it's a gift bestowed upon us....or a talent some of us are lucky to receive and others miss. I don't believe it and it makes me sad to know that so many people carry the label for themselves, often wearing it like a badge..."oh, I'm not creative at all....I can't even draw a straight line." 

As if....a straight line, which anyone can draw with the aid of a ruler or straight edge, is somehow connected to creativity. I can't draw a straight line and frankly don't really want to. A straight line serves a function, but it doesn't inspire me, nor does it reveal much about the way our lives are lived, our ideas are formed or the struggles we face. We are creative beings. It's a function of how our brains work and we belittle ourselves and the huge potential each of us carries, by confining the role of creativity to the life and work of those in the arts. 

I'll be exploring this topic here as time goes on. For now....let's start with a TED Talk by Julie Burstein, 4 Lessons in Creativity. It focuses on creativity, as experienced by some folks in the arts, but she makes it clear that the core ideas apply to all of us. 

Hope you have a creative and energizing week. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Additions to Missouri Bend Studio on Etsy

Well, it's quite the gloomy day here. Cool and wet, but nothing unusual for mid-November....except that this year we've had such warm, beautiful weather, anything else seems an affront to the senses! I expect winter will arrive at some point, but even once we get through today, we're back up to the 60s for the weekend. Who can argue with that?

I have been slowly adding the pieces that remain from the Notes From the Ancestors series. Up until now, they have been listed on my website, but only sporadically on Etsy. I would say that the work from this series is the most dear to my heart and includes some of my favorite pieces, but now it's time to let them go to be loved by someone else.

As a thank you to the love and support I've received from blogging friends near and far, I'm creating a coupon code: ANCESTORS, which you can use for 10% off (active until 12/31/15) anywhere in my Etsy shop, MissouriBendStudio. A few of the Notes From The Ancestors pieces are professionally framed, which makes them even more costly, I realize, but that also makes them ready to hang!! Some of the pieces added this week are here on this post. Head on over to MissouriBendStudio and do a little perusing. Other new pieces have been added as well, including a couple from the companion series, The Celadon Suite.

Feel free to contact me with questions, especially if you are interested in an unframed piece. Because the works are beeswax and often are created with stitching, beads and/or buttons, framing is not so straightforward as with other works of art. I'm happy to discuss and share ideas.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

October Dailies Stack Up

The October 2015 daily drawings form a stack 1 1/2" high once they are dipped in beeswax. Such a transformation in surface and luminosity!

Each day's drawing unfolds, of its own accord, in a meditative way, so no two drawings look alike. Each is a trace, a kind of documentation of the day. Of course, even though I try to let them be what they want to be, by the end of the month, I do have some favorites. October 30th became my favorite for last month.

So, I'm toying with some ideas of how I might share these....or at least share the experience of them. Some part of me loves them as a whole, a stack of daily drawings of the month....as a collective record of the days. And that part of me is not willing to let them go....as, in a sense, they are part of a spiritual practice.

But, if they could also bring some joy to someone else's life, that would be a lovely thing and I could see making them available in my Etsy shop somehow. There are questions though, and I wonder if you, my dear readers and friends, might be willing to weigh in with your opinions.

 I can't quite envision breaking the month up into individual drawings....that feels a bit sacrilegious somehow. So, if it were possible to have them professionally reproduced (before dipping in the beeswax) on a similar paper that could also be dipped in beeswax, the entire effect could be replicated. I could afford to sell an entire month at an affordable price and more than one person could enjoy any particular month's drawings. Would someone want to have a stack of them wrapped loosely with strips, like ribbons on a package....or would they need to be more formally encased in a book-like cover? Or, this....what if the daily drawings became a kind of calendar...or an illustrated blank journal? 

As I think about it, there are lots of possibilities, but I am held back by my long ingrained one-of-a-kind maker point of view. Somehow, it still feels like I've let go of something if I have them reproduced, even if they are of high quality. For now, the stacks of September and October drawings sit side by side, waiting to be joined by November, December....and then January and beyond. The days continue to unfold and I must mark their passing. Would love to hear from you about this conundrum, if you care to share your insights!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Navigating the River

I am in the middle of a strong current of late, as I move into the last stages of graduate school. I'm not sure where my degree in Adult and Higher Education will take me, but for now there is a very strong pull to be back in the studio. I realize that spending time in engaged in creating....drawing, sewing on paper, keeping my hands moving....has moved into the priority position. My classes this semester are online, which allows me to let them more easily slip to the side. It's interesting to watch this process unfold, as I've been such a very diligent student until now. I still am dedicated, but now it's more of a struggle.

What's next? Well, I sure wish I had a crystal ball! I know that the next couple of months after graduation will be spent making new work for an exhibition at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City. I'm so glad to have that opportunity, as it will give me a focus and the impetus to create a whole new body of work!

My practice of making daily drawings is now entering the third month and it seems firmly in place as a daily activity. I make the drawings at the beginning of each day. Here are the drawing for the first of November. 

I spent a fair amount of the morning finishing the stitching on this autumn mediation drawing below, which was just so relaxing and well....meditative! Navigating the River and the meditation drawing below, November Afternoon, are now listed in my Etsy shop. 

It's incredibly warm here in South Dakota for November. Plants on the porch are still blooming and full of color....I feel as if I were back in Florida! This will no doubt change and winter will take us all by surprise, but for now we are enjoying a beautiful autumn.

I'll be back with periodic updates soon. For now, I'm counting the weeks till graduation! Cheers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Intersections, Cross Sections, Moments in Time

Greetings, everyone! We are definitely in the last days of October and here in South Dakota, temperatures are still unseasonably warm, it seems to me. Memory is faulty, though, and it occurs to me that perhaps I say this every year! Most of the leaves are on the ground, but still a good number on the trees, displaying all manner of beautiful fall gorgeousness.We had a road trip to Minnesota last weekend and admired the colors in the landscape along the St. Croix River that divides Minnesota from Wisconsin. Autumn is definitely a favorite time of year.

In my last post, I mentioned the idea of intersections and how at any moment we find ourselves reflected in the crossing of time with place. As in...you are here. We are crossing a river of time that moves swiftly from a past, through us in the present and on to the future. You can't hold it and there is no stopping it, as the current is swift. But something in the tiny daily drawing I made yesterday made me think about this a little differently.

Moments like this remind me why it is so important for me to engage in the practice of making the daily drawings. My best thinking, my best insights come through my hands. As I made this deceptively simple drawing, I was reminded of tree rings, which are a kind of mirror that reflect time and place. 

All manner of things affect the growth of a tree, all of which are reflected in the pattern of the trees rings. Rain patterns, temperature, conditions of crowding, insects and more leave their mark...a reflection of time and place in the cross section of a tree. 

This lovely photo below led me an interesting site, Urban Remains, that reclaims, recycles and documents antique building materials in Chicago. There is a fascinating blog that reveals Eric Nordstrom's intense interest in the history of these building materials and the other artifacts that are unearthed. I am heading back there to investigate further....porcelain, 19th century nails, ancient wood, all beautifully photographed and documented. This site is all about the intersections and cross sections, revealing lost moments in time. There is a lesson here connected to remembering and forgetting, even as we pause to acknowledge our place in the flow of history.
Enjoy the rest of your week....cheers!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crossing the River

I've been thinking a lot about another book I recently read, one that I will cherish for a long time to come. Nine Ways To Cross A River by Akiko Busch is a beautifully written tale of swimming across rivers (nine of them to be exact) both literally and metaphorically. While her ventures in seeking out and navigating particular rivers to swim across is fascinating, what most resonates for me is the metaphor of the river, the notion of the crossing and negotiating the current. 

We are each engaged in navigating the river throughout our lives. Maybe because I live on the Missouri (seen below), the river is always present in my life and in my work as a metaphor for the journey we each undertake. Lately, I've come to think of the importance of any particular moment in our lives as an intersection of time and place. And, if we imagine that our life, from birth to death, is the crossing of the river from one side to the other, then our location in that journey is met with the waters that are flowing downstream, from the past to the future. This is where we find ourselves at any moment, navigating the current. Sometimes the current is so strong it threatens to take us under, in others we find ourselves swept downstream during our crossing. And yet, we long for those moments when we can cross without struggle, able to relax and enjoy the view, completely in the flow. Our crossing encompasses all these experiences and more, all of which are difficult to articulate.

I've begun what might become a series of drawings about this idea of the intersection, finding ourselves a particular point in time and in place. Below is a tiny snippet of one of the drawings....really just a layering of marks, lines that come to resemble flow...possibly the flow of a river, even without trying to draw the flow of a river...if that makes sense. This is just the beginning of this layered mark making....I will see where it takes me as lines build, one on top of the other.

I think the inspiration for this notion came to me from glancing over at one of the daily drawings I'd made the day before, as seen below. This reminds me of the importance of the daily drawings and the fact that they are made without thinking, without trying....the only effort is in keeping the hand moving until I feel the moment of making is over. Because it is completely internal and comes from a place without language, I sometimes see patterns and other things that trigger new thoughts and ways of seeing. We all operate from this place throughout our lives in ways we don't realize...but more on that another time!

Now, it is time for me to get back to work, juggling the school work with the studio work. I will say that the studio is definitely gaining the upper hand! I hope you are finding yourself in the flow of your particular river, not struggling against a strong current. 

I will leave you with this quote from W. H. Auden, referenced in Nine Ways to Cross a River. 
"Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings." 

Thanks for reading...it gives me cheer to know you are out there!