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.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Reflections and Notes from the Commonplace Book

I do a lot of reading and this morning noted the following quote in my commonplace book. It is taken from Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, and reflects some of the sentiment behind my penchant for documenting (see Discovering Logbooks). Jahren is reflecting back on the memory of a spruce tree that grew just outside her bedroom window throughout her childhood and adolescent years. She's just learned the tree has died and has had to be taken down.

"Time has also changed me, my perception of my tree, and my perception of my tree's perception of itself. Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not."

It's the taking note, the paying attention to the small things, which may seem insignificant now or in the whirl of the events of everyday life. But we can't know, can we, what will come to be important....either to ourselves in later years, or to historians or the next generation looking back? I think about the huge gaps we are creating in the record of our collective days, as so much of our lives is lived online. We no longer write letters to one another on paper, diaries seem to be a quaint relic of a bygone are and the very busy lives we live result in little documentation that is tangible. 

The little book above, The Book of Disappearing Wisdom, is new to my shop and is a reflection of these thoughts....tiny dots that resemble writing line the pages and clusters of colored dots seem to move across and through and then disappear. We think we are wise, but I suspect generation after generation spends much of its time learning the lessons of their ancestors. Much is gained by the progress we make, but much is lost and there is a certain ambiguity that fills our days.

Thanks for taking the time to slow down and read these posts! Enjoy your weekend....cheers!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Discovering Logbooks

I had a small revelation yesterday during one of my many laps around the indoor track at the gym. I love how those moments of epiphany can come at you, seemingly out of the blue, when really it's probably just a simple thought, like the strike of a match, that ignites them. So, there I was, moving along at a brisk pace, congratulating myself on my persistence in actually going to the gym consistently over the last month and looking forward to recording that day's workout activities in my little log book at home. In order to keep myself motivated and to create a history of what I've actually been doing to try to lose a little of my middle-age weight, I started an exercise log (see below).

It was then that I realized that "logging" is the idea behind so many things I do! It dawned on me all at once that I am engaged in all manner of activities that involve logbooks, of sorts. My daily drawing practice (the last three days of which can be seen in the top photo) is, at heart, a way of capturing moments of time, leaving a trace of the day in a small drawing...a kind of log, just not contained in a book. But, I have delicious moments of satisfaction by making notations in my many other logs, which are contained in books.

It may seem silly, but I find a little moment of bliss in recording in a tiny green log any book that I actually finish reading. I write the date, the title, the author and sometimes if I really love the book, I give it a few stars! I've been doing this for several years now and I look back in it sometimes to see how many books I've read in a given year. Reviewing the titles reminds me of the pleasure of reading each one of them. I do start and don't finish all manner of books and alas, they never get recorded in the little green "Books Read" log. But, I could start yet another log and record all the books I started and never finished....alas, that one might fill up first!

Okay, so now I am revealing my truly obsessive nature with the logbook above. Don't ask me why I do this, because I actually have no credible reason, except I love to document things....and more than I ever realized! The notebook above is a log I keep each day of the number of views on this blog. I record the date, the number and the time. Any time I create a post, I record the number of views at that point and the time I made the post. I know that there are online trackers and analytics for this kind of thing and I can look at those, but there is something very satisfying about the practice of making the notes myself. The information doesn't actually mean anything really, but I do it anyway. And, when you think about it, the blog itself is a kind of log.....the name "blog" is a truncation of web log. So, that little notebook above is a log of my blog.

When I came home from the gym, I wanted to investigate "logbooks" a bit more and of course, as many of us do, went straight to the Wikipedia entry:

logbook (a ship's logs or simply log) is a record of important events in the management, operation, and navigation of a ship. It is essential to traditional navigation, and must be filled in at least daily.

Of course, we all probably think first of ship's logs when we think of logbooks. I've always found them fascinating and now looking at that definition I can see it as a metaphor for my own practices. Each of us navigates the journey of our lives and a log helps us to document that voyage. Many of us do it through keeping journals, diaries, blogs, etc. What else was out there, I wanted to know....what did these other logs look like? I was enamored with so many, as I love books, even just the pages of writing I find beautiful. Here's a wonderful image of an illustrated ship's log:

Another image caught my eye, which was of a kind of visual journal....another kind of log.

This is an image from The Graphic Recorder, a blog by Doug Neill and was seen in his post, Starting a Visual Logbook. I read the post with great interest and had another epiphany! My obsessive nature aside, I have never been one to keep a sketchbook or a journal of writing in any consistent way. It just never seems to stick with me, despite my desire to want to want to do such a thing. But this.....this way of documenting the highlights and activities of the day in a delightfully direct way appeals to me. I could do this without feeling the burden of an actual journal! I happened to have a thin blank Moleskin within so I began to my log....not so visual yet, but I'm just getting warmed up!

But, true to nature of the world of cyberspace, reading this entry on Doug Neill's blog, led me deeper to the source of his own inspiration to begin the visual logbook, which was a post by the writer and artist, Austin Kleon. My next stop was the entry on Kleon's blog, On Keeping A Logbook, which provided yet more inspiration and validation. He reports that, like me, he was just too lazy to keep a regular journal, but a log was a different story....just the facts, a documentation of the day. That's what I'm after....my interest is the documentation and beneath that, the desire to capture and hold the time which continually slips through our fingers. It's a futile quest, I know, but the traces left behind by the attempt are satisfaction enough for me. Thanks to Doug Neill and Austin Kleon for the inspiration!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Welcome Autumn!

This morning, here in the United States, we officially ushered in autumn and I'm happy that it's here!
The last few days have been unseasonably warm....too hot and muggy to even have a nice walk. I hope that will soon change, as I'm ready for those crisp temperatures to return. 

The leaves are turning more quickly now and after last night's rain, I was happy to see the accumulation of color and texture on the back deck.

This morning remained dark and gloomy, but so beautiful! I love it when the clouds hang low and the hills of Nebraska across the river are shrouded in mist. I thought sure there was some weather brewing out there, but by noon it had cleared up. Still....autumn is here and I welcome it!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Autumn Reflections

Although the calendar doesn't seem to agree with an official time stamp, autumn is in the air and it is indeed glorious. The cottonwoods are still full of leaves here on the river, but those leaves are turning yellow and beginning to drop. The nights have cooled off and we have flung the windows and sliding doors open for fresh air.  I do sleep ever so much better when the air is fresh and cool!

I find though that the forecast calls for a few warmer days ahead, back up just beyond 80 degrees and I'm disappointed. Many folks around me are thrilled to stave off the cool fall days, as they are but a prelude to the cold and snow of winter. But each season is quite enough for me....I'm ready for summer to pack her bags for good and I welcome autumn with its rich color, the cool and crisp sweater days, the smell of wood fires and the sound of crunching leaves underfoot. I know winter is not far behind and when that time truly comes, I'll be ready.

Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Moments of Mindfulness

August 20, 2016

As many readers of this blog are aware, I am a practitioner of a daily drawing practice....at least most of the time. I change the size, format and materials now and again, but I find that my life always feels more in balance somehow when I'm sticking to this practice. I think of it as a spiritual practice, because these few moments when I sit down, with pen to paper, are pure mindfulness....that is, a qualified "mindfulness", as I am certainly not all that enlightened, to be sure. 

September 13, 2016

And yet, I can sense that my mind has left the ceaseless chatter on the other side of the doorway and I am in the flow. Being in the moment for that short period involves watching time unfold through the marks that I make as my hand moves across the page. It feels free....a moment of being. And then there is continued moment of pleasure and satisfaction at the end.

August 4, 2016

But then, as I move into my other studio mode, trying to navigate that tricky line of marketing the work that I make, I run into some conflict. While the part of me that treasures the joy of this daily practice holds sway, I am happy to see the tiny piles grow into bigger piles of drawings in my studio. But the studio artist, the one with an Etsy shop, the one who procrastinates about finding other venues for the work....that person, see the vast amount of drawings that collect on shelfs and tables and says....why not share these with the world and make them available at an affordable price....maybe you will make someone happy. 

August 3, 2016

And who can argue with that....it's true. I have put a number of the daily drawings in my Etsy shop over the last months at $10 each and they sell fairly well and do seem to bring joy to others, for which I am quite grateful...and gratified. So....where's the problem?

August 1, 2016

The problem is that the person who dedicated those precious moments to a spiritual practice suggests to the studio artist that perhaps there is a compromise going on. Perhaps there is a shift in the practice itself if we (we? I think our lives are comprised of the conversations going on between our various selves) know that the drawing becomes a result, a product. Can this spiritual practice actually become a piece for the marketplace and remain a true practice?

July 31, 2016

The answer is, I'm not sure. I'd like to think so, but there is undoubtedly a shift in what happens when I sit down once I begin thinking of listing the drawings. The drawings I am showing here are a selection from a new set begun back in July that are roughly 4"x4". There was a big gap in the practice in August and I've just started them up again. I said these weren't going to be listed....they would just be the practice. 

September 12, 2016

But, there is another part of me that enters the room to engage in the conversation....and that person wants to share. I love these drawings, they bring me joy, both in the experience of making and the result, and I do want to share them. Yet, I want to hold off from listing them in my Etsy shop. And so, this internal conversation continues....but in the meantime, I will say this. If this kind of inner conflict sounds familiar to you and/or if any of these drawings speak to you, let me know. I'd love to hear from you! 

I encourage you to begin a simple daily practice....let your hand dance across the page and discover the joy of making, of being in the moment and of what may become for you the power of mindfulness.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Notes from the Commonplace Book: Words

I don't know about you, but I find that my life feels just a bit flat when I'm not immersed in a book of some sort. Not that I must have my nose in the book at all times, but reading provides a certain texture and elevation to my days and the text, whether fiction or non-fiction, always expands my view of the world in unexpected ways. I am a lover of words....language provides food for my being and makes the work in the studio possible, providing the metaphor and the magic I draw from every day.

I was thrilled to see this book on my most recent trip to the public library in Vermillion. The author is the host of a radio show On Being that we have often listened to over the years. Her interviews with people from all walks of life in locations across the globe are fascinating and enlightening. I've brought out my commonplace book again, which I keep handy while reading, as there are many passages I've chosen to record there. In the chapter entitled Words, this passage struck me:

"I take it as an element of truth that words matter. This is so plain that we can ignore it a thousand times a day. The words we use shape how we understand ourselves, how we interpret the world, how we treat others. From Genesis to the aboriginal songlines of Australia, human beings have forever perceived that naming brings the essence of things into being. The ancient rabbis understood books, texts, the very letters of certain words as living, breathing entities. Words make worlds."

I started this post with an image of one of the recent pieces in a series of embroidered teabags....an homage to words, to the power of language and the magic unleashed in just a few lines of text....or a sentence....or in a word. May your spirits be lifted today by the magic of a simple set of words!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Buttons, Relics and Memory

Last night my husband, Johntimothy, came home from teaching his printmaking classes at the University with this nice handful of old buttons. Some weeks before, he'd taken in some old shirts to turn into rags and he and his students had spent part of the afternoon cutting them up for use in the shop. "Save the buttons!" he called out to them, thinking of the collection of old buttons I keep in a jar in the studio. After he unloaded them on the counter, he started to work the bits of thread and clinging cloth left on them, but I stopped him. No, save the bits left on, I told him....they are part of the memory, part of the trace and the history of those buttons, of the clothing and of you.

My sudden pronouncement to save the vestiges left on the buttons reminded me of a tiny book I made decades ago. Relics featured buttons from my collection with tiny fragments of stories of the people who had worn the garment that once held the button. The book is housed in a plexiglas box filled 
with buttons of various sizes in all shades that might be known as white. 

Oh wait....I detect some random color in there!!!

Each tiny page of the book had a fragment of a story from a day in the life of someone who was wearing a garment that once held that button. I typed them up on an old typewriter and slipped the little story, along with the button, into a tiny plastic bag. They were held in the accordion folds of the cover, which was a piece of primed canvas with an image transfer of buttons on it. I've never made anything else like it and I'm not sure what possessed me to make that, nor how I would have even known how to go about it back then....except that the book  fairly well made itself, even as those fictional stories tumbled from my imagination, sad and bittersweet.

I'm a believer that the material world, the objects that surround us, even the humble buttons that adorn our garments, tell stories and serve as touchstones of our history. Like a cairn, this little pile of buttons Johntimothy poured out onto the kitchen counter serves as a kind of marker on the path, a simple reminder of a life lived.

I will leave you with the second piece in the Autumn Suite Series...a floating memory of falling leaves as they tumble down from the trees in a cascade of color. I do love autumn....it's still pretty green and fairly warm here, but the colors are definitely changing and I'm refreshed by the cool, crisp mornings.

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Autumn Suite....Recollections of the Season

Now in early September, I can feel the change of seasons. I find myself reenergized, ready to be back in the studio in order to capture the feeling of fall. As much as I enjoy the bounty and rich color of summer, my color palette is that of autumn, with the subtle tones shifting in the fading light. I'm now returning to work I did more frequently some time ago...spare pieces that I think of as meditation drawings, with the intent of capturing the essence of the thing...whatever it is.


As longtime readers of this blog know well, while I love the natural world, I am not one to draw or paint directly from life. I prefer to let the beauty of nature come onto the page not from direct observation, but filtered through lived experience. The memory of fleeting views comes through my hand onto the page in a way that surprises and delights me.


As always, there are those tiny marks and those dots....for me they are a language I use to express the ineffable. Time moves on....summer gives way to fall...once again. Hope you are enjoying the change of seasons wherever you are!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Fog Is Lifting

Early this morning we were enveloped in a fog as we set out for our morning walk in the neighborhood. With the sun barely up and the temperature cool enough for a sweater, we were reminded that autumn approaches, moving closer day by day. It wasn't until after nine in the morning that the brightness of the day took over and the fog began to lift. Ever so slowly, Nebraska came into view as the farmland across the river began to show itself once again. The magic moment of golden light can't quite be captured, but I realized that the lifting fog was a kind of metaphor for the dissipation of the stupor that has kept me away from doing much of anything in the studio or maintaining my connections with readers on my blog! Hello again! 

For some time, I've been feeling adrift, floating through the days, like these circles above....hovering, waiting, watching for the signal that the next thing is on the horizon. After my time of being back in school and then the month of intense work on my show last winter, I found myself without a direction, much less a job....or is that...without a job, much less a direction.

I am in the fortunate position, I realize, to be supported by my hardworking husband with a faculty job at the University. For me however, finding a suitable job in this small town, despite the fact that it is home to the University, is more than a challenge. Like being in the middle of some sort of inner ping pong game, I alternate between the side that pushes me to find a job and the other which reminds me that perhaps my place is here, in the studio and connecting with readers online. Community can happen in a multitude of ways and I have found a wonderful community in the time I've spent here on the blog and with my Etsy shop. And so, with a bit of renewed energy and an afternoon cup of tea, I'm reconnecting with the artist that I am....let's see what happens next!

I've been in-between far too long, it's time to start moving....I think I'll go out and meet the autumn on the road. I can't wait for the crisp nights and cooler days, the smell of wood fire and the sound of crunching leaves. See you soon.