Tuesday, January 20, 2015


In the history of discovery, scientists, philosophers, artists and poets have something in common, they start with a problem, and they make some new connection which solves this problem.

So many great advancements are accidents, while someone is looking for something else, they stumble upon a whole new way of looking at, or doing something.

*Alexander Fleming, while on vacation, left his lab dishes dirty and a new fungus grew which killed all the bacteria - penicillin was discovered.
*The microwave oven was invented when a scientist investigating rays had a chocolate bar in his pocket that melted.
*A Swiss scientist found burrs attached to his dog's fur, and developed velcro from this idea.
*Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped his rubber onto a hot stove, and vulcanizing rubber was invented, changing the durability of rubber, and the whole industrial system.
*In September 1940, 4 boys and their dog in the Dordogne region of France went into a cave following the legend of buried treasure. What they found, the prehistoric cave art of Lascaux, was one of the most magnificent finds of neolithic art in the world.

So, it makes sense to ask a question with an open-ended answer. To let the various connections and fragments happen as they will, and see what answer emerges. This is one magnificent way to use your journal.

Do you have a pressing question for your life?
What is the most authentic work I could be doing?
What is the best way for me to use my skills?
Is there something I could do to create a life that feels more fulfilling?
I have this particular struggle, what is something I could do to help me through it? How can I change my perspective on this one problem?
Am I where I am meant to be?

I have been reading Zen Buddhism, and one deep understanding I am getting is that being in a Zen state is to believe that where ever you are, at that moment, is exactly where you are meant to be; that whatever you are doing at this moment, is exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

So put together the serendipity of discovering something new and unexpected along with the idea that you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this very moment.
What do you get?

I don't know the answer for you, but you can ask your journal.
Jot some possibilities, whatever comes to your mind. Create a collage of images that appeal to you. Play with some answers, even the most outlandish ones. See where this takes you. You just might find a revelation that you were looking for, but could not uncover because you were assuming you knew the answer already, but that answer was not quite right.

You just might connect two or three things in your life; people or events or projects, that will be determine your future.  You might discover yourself.

Good luck!

"I think on some level, you do your best things when you're a little off-balance, a little scared. You've got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing."
--Willem Dafoe

"Each person is an enigma. You're a puzzle not only to yourself but also to everyone else, and the great mystery of our time is how we penetrate this puzzle."
 --Theodore Zeldin

Monday, January 5, 2015

Get going, it's 2015

This is a page from Egon Schiele's journal.
What are you working on?

"We’ve gotta carve out some time and space from the day to day noise…the laundry, the groceries, the homework, the job, the spouse, the friends, the television to go away.
Live and learn?
How about Isolate and Create."
--Chase Jarvis

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flowers in the Winter

We have less than two days until the Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year.

A great way to rejuvenate is a visit to a Botanical Gardens -- here in Denver we have a wonderful tropical pavilion, filled with heat and humidity and birdsong and colors.

Yesterday I took my brother, who is visiting from Oregon, there.   He is a botanist, so it's always a treat to visit plants and trees with him.
I know I will be bringing the watercolors along next time.
Maybe an art date is just what you need this busy time of year!

“In a cool solitude of trees
Where leaves and birds a music spin,
Mind that was weary is at ease,
New rhythms in the soul begin.”
--William Kean Seymour

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back to basics . . . .

Visual journaling for me has been a progression, and a many-years-long adventure.

When I first started keeping a journal (back in middle school!) it was spiral notebooks filled with words. In college and architecture school, I had sketchbooks and idea books, but these did not get to the essence of what I wanted to say, they were just a place to take notes, a place to record what other people were saying.

As I started on this visual journaling path, I added pictures and sketches to illustrate the words.  I started to let my right brain/sub-conscious tell me secrets through the process of letting my mind wander, letting my creative brain take charge. Words then became less common. Images took over.  I found that there was a pre-language place in my brain, and by collaging and painting without direction, I could more easily access the creative and non-verbal, it felt like I could access secrets and discovery of things my rational self didn't always have access to.

I still work this way, but sometimes, to shake things up, it's nice to go back to the beginning, and let the spiral of evolution bring the work to a new place.  I can start with lots of words, then see what happens after that.  It's good to shake it up, to not get in a rut, to try new ways of working.

I recently attended a workshop based on Spiritual ideas; not art. Some of the speakers were artists, and I listened closely to what they had to say. One in particular got my attention. She has lots of interesting talk and ideas. I ended up sitting with her at lunch, wanting to hear more about her process. When I got home, I looked up her website - there was nothing there. I was not surprised. It is so easy to talk about art, it's so hard to do it.  Don't listen to others who declare themselves masters. Find your own work inside yourself, keep at it, work long and hard.

If you are serious, you will punch in and work a solid 8 hour day.
If you are serious, you will keep at it even when frustrated, or bored, or scared.
If you are serious, you will work through the anxiety and doubts.
You will learn to follow through with your ideas, and not just have them.
Doing this, you not only contribute to your own evolution, you contribute to the evolution of us all. How many of us really commit to the process of finding our truest voice?
of finding a totally unique and personal way to express ourselves?
Doing this is a huge gift to the world.
Make your work and your life a gift. Don't just follow others' shallow talk, find your own evolution.

I am going back to basics a bit - putting words on paper.  Then working through with my ideas to completion, seeing where I am to go.

Stop reading about art on the internet.
Go make some.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What does it mean to fall in love with your own imperfection?

I've been learning about Wabi Sabi.
Wabi Sabi is the very hard-to-define Japanese sense that the imperfect and impermanent aspect to things is of great beauty and importance.
Think of an ancient oak table - the nicks and scratches and discolorations make that table all the more epic.  A brand new raw unscathed chunk of oak would not have the same gravitas, the same history, the same aged beauty.

We all are damaged - how can we get through life without nicks and bumps?
and some whoppers of scars and yes, a few colossal mistakes?
Now imagine that all those scars and bad decisions and character flaws and less-than-perfect physical traits are the very things that actually make you beautiful?
Hard to do, isn't it?

When I was a kid, I stuttered.  I was horrified whenever in the middle of a sentence my words stuck. It felt like my brain was short-circuiting.  It felt terribly embarrassing, and the curious expressions on other people's faces as I struggled to make words come out of my mouth horrified me.
I also was a sort of chubby, messy kid.  My clothes didn't always fit right, my hair was really hard to keep neat (it still is a frizzy nest), I didn't always understand hygiene.  I think most kids are like that, but all of these things horrified me.  That stuttering chubby kid did not feel much self love.

Cut ahead a few decades - I learned to polish it all up - I straightened my hair, learned to talk more fluently, took showers and groomed myself.  Ta Da.  I am now okay, I thought.
Then, this last year, my stutter came back.
I can not tell you the horror that fills my brain when it gets stuck on a word.  It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.  and believe me, I notice it.
I even went to a neurologist to see if anything was wrong.
She didn't think I stuttered (it didn't happen in her office.)  She said not to worry about it.
But I worried.

Then I started learning about Wabi Sabi.
and not only am I learning that what makes us imperfect makes us beautiful and interesting, but also that the challenges we face and overcome make us much more interesting people.

Those stretch marks?
Signs that I birthed three amazing children.

Those freckly age spots?
Signs that I have spent lovely decades outside enjoying being in the sun.

Those chunky thighs?
Signs that I am not now and never will be thin, but that my body type is beautiful as it is.

That frizzy hair?  A sign that there is room for all types in this world, not just straight-haired blonds.

I am not quite ready to be thankful that I stutter.
But I know that the old oak table with marks and dents and nicks has stories to tell.  and it's character makes it so beautiful.

So I am working on embracing my Wabi Sabi.

This Ted Talk given by Cheryl Hunter explains it in a powerful way.

What will you put on your blank page?  Fill it with all your imperfections, your Wabi Sabi.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What gives you joy?

That is what you should be doing.
I'll say that again -- What gives you joy? That is what you should be doing.

Why is this so hard to sink in deeply? I seem to do a thousand things before settling down into my studio:  reading Facebook, twitter, some cool threads on reddit, watching youtube interviews of celebrities, getting some coffee, maybe a chocolate, doing some dishes, organizing my files, stacking up my journals and looking at them, maybe another chocolate.
and oooops, the day is mostly over.

Focus and intention are my biggest challenges.
What are yours?

Ask yourself this question, whenever you are given any choice or opportunity.
Ask: "Will saying YES to this path bring me closer to the source that brings me to life? Or will it take me further away?" No matter how alluring, no matter how beautiful, no matter how sparkling and fancy and delicious — do not say YES to other people's dreams.
Do your own thing.
Live in your own waking dream. Stubbornly.
Even if it means not washing your hair for a week. (ESPECIALLY if it means that!)
--Elizabeth Gilbert

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

One thing at a time . . .

I've been re-reading one of my all time favorite books, "Long Quiet Highway" by Natalie Goldberg. It mostly is memoir about her finding Zen meditation, and how it affected her creative life.

At one point, her teacher tells her she either should be a Zen monk, or a writer, but not both. I found this hard to hear, because I always seem to wear many hats. Having three kids, grad school, then working outside the home, then working at home, at many different jobs, I learned that it was a luxury to think I would ever only have one thing on which to focus. I did learn to only do one thing at a time, and to be fully present for whatever I was working on. (at least to try to do that.)

The idea of Zen seems to be fully present and aware, and to understand how fleeting all life is.

I was at the beach at the Outer Banks recently, and my journal pages reflect the calmness I was feeling there. I turned off my phone (mostly) and ignored social media for three weeks as a digital detox. I was falling into the trap of checking my phone/computer/ipad multiple times a day, and obsessing over answering messages and comments, returning and deleting emails.
Instead of being in the moment, I was thinking about photographing and sharing the moment on Facebook. The time away from social media was very good for me, and now I can spend much less computer time, and more being alive time.

and the idea that we need to be just one thing? I think we need to be the one thing that we are at the moment, and if while we make art we think about the chores we need to do, or while we write, we think about the art we should be doing, or while we teach, we think about the studio work piling up, then we are not fully in the moment.  At the beach, I was at the beach. I wasn't spending all my time sharing the beach on Facebook or Twitter. It was a nice realization that this computer time has a way of taking us out of what we are doing.  I want to be present, not thinking about sharing the present all the time.

One teaching in the book is about putting a horse on a horse; that riding a horse is hard enough, why would we ride a horse on a horse? Which to me means living life is hard enough, why would be try to observe and analyze it while we are doing it.   My over active mind tends to worry and wonder and speculate all the time on what I should be doing, rather than what I am doing.   or how I will share what I am doing on social media.

I am working on not doing this, on not riding a horse on a horse. On being fully present.

and a few journal pages from the beach:

and the beach colors, aqua water and turquoise sky have inspired this:

"To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."  Zen Proverb

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Birds and Words

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
― Robert Lynd

Saturday, August 23, 2014

apropos of nothing.

A gekko on a tee-shirt.
because I like it.

"Indeed, if he could believe his teacher, ideal meditation had no practical application whatsoever. 
Sure, there were Westerners who practiced it as a relaxation technique, as a device for calming and centering themselves so that they might sell more stuff or fare better in office politics, but that was like using the Hope diamond to scratch grocery lists onto a bathroom mirror.

“Meditation,” said his teacher, “hasn’t got a damn thing to do with anything, ‘cause all it has to do with is nothing. 
Nothingness. Okay? 
It doesn’t develop the mind, it dissolves the mind. Self-improvement? Forget it, baby. It erases the self. Throws the ego out on its big brittle ass. What good is it? Good for nothing. 
Excellent for nothing."

--Tom Robbins, from Fierce Invalids

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Something I work on is trying to stay away from consumerism.
Our culture seems to define success as getting more and more and more. Even our GNP is measured in growth, quantity over quality.

The ads on TV, radio, before the movies, in magazines, and on-line offer a thousand things we didn't know we needed as necessities.  I try to just ignore it all, then something catches my eye and I get sucked in.  I think I need that thing, but the truth is that thing doesn't fill a hole that the ad created.  I will just want more the next day.

My friend says "it's The Man, trying to get you to borrow to buy, then be a slave for the rest of your life paying it back."
I dream of going off the grid, growing my own food, lighting a fire to stay warm. Then I get into my comfortable bed in my temperature controlled house, and watch a movie on my new gadget.

Finding the balance is a lifetime of work, I guess.

"Beauty surrounds us, but we need to be walking in a garden to know it."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Creating to soothe

If I have one of those days, I collage.
There's nothing like sitting at my table, cutting and tearing, arranging then gluing, adding some words, playing with image and composition.
Maybe adding some stamps.
and maybe adding the date.
maybe more words.
and here is today's art therapy:

“A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.” -Vincent Van Gogh

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For the beauty of the earth . . . .

"For the beauty of the earth ..." is a hymn which was quoted at my Unitarian Church service this last Sunday by our amazing minister, Wendy Williams.

The words and tune are so stuck in my head, but it's a good sort of stuck. I have been accused of being a tree-hugger. I do hug trees, they sort of hug back if you take your time and feel their energy.
This week a violent storm came right over our house, and a huge branch from the very large maple in our backyard came crashing down - the tree had the kindness and grace to help deposit this branch exactly in between my garden (where it would have destroyed my squash, garlic, lettuce, and herbs) and our hot tub. There was a narrow alley of about ten feet, and here is where the huge branch landed.  No damage was done, gratefully.  Thanks to our majestic maple for this kindness.

It seems so obvious to me that we live in a system, that all of us are dependent on every other part to have the balance we need to thrive.   If we dirty our water and air and soil, our food is dirtied, our lungs and skin and cells are compromised.  If we keep making plastic and dumping it into the ground and the oceans, there must be a reckoning at some point.   It just seems so simple to me to pay attention, but it's about habits.  I tried for a whole year to not use ONE single plastic bag.  If I found myself in the store at the cashier without a bag, I made myself go back out to my car to get one. That was last year, and already this year, I have found my habit creeping back of accepting single use plastic bags instead of getting my reusable bag.  It's such a small habit, and if we all never used single use bags, it would have a huge positive effect on the oceans and landfills.

How do we stay intentional? How do we remember to be vigilant and thoughtful about not making any more bit of waste than we need to, to be thoughtful of consuming less, protecting the parts of the earth that need our protection?

When a species is extinct, it is gone forever. In our busy world of go go go, it's just easier to focus on the small daily tasks of living life. Saving the planet is too big a chore. But I am working at remembering, remembering that for the beauty of the earth, I owe my life, that the balance of all of us depends on all of us working as a team.

Today I get to go to a high mountain pass in the Rockies to meet a friend. We plan on walking to a waterfall, and decompressing from all the stress of life.  ( and I am aware that I am using fossil fuel to make this day trip.)  I hope I can pay back the beauty some how, and be a good steward.

For the beauty of the earth, I am so very grateful.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.
Let us remember within us The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.
That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.
--John O'Donohue

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Giveaway . . . .

So this is scary, but I am going for it.
I am asking via kickstarter to fund giving away 500 copies of my book. Here's the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/791806575/one-whale-of-a-tale

Because if you don't ask, you don't receive.
I am proud of my book, and would love to share it with the world, so go check it out and see if you want to help me do this.

"Love is the water of life.  Jump into this water."  --Rumi

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

As I age - thoughts when approaching a birthday.

In a few days I turn 53.
I know it's not popular to divulge one's age when it passes that multiple decades mark. But here I am, letting the world know.

Mostly in my life I have not worried about age, I was too busy getting on with it; school, marriage, 3 kids, work, moving numerous times, the wonderful and amazing world of connection and wonder I got to be a part of; after all, the internet was invented in my lifetime! Riding my bike around Paris 30 years ago, I dreamed of living in France, becoming a famous architect, working on an archeological dig, writing books, having a beautiful home with lovely, happy children, my husband and I settling into a life of creativity, travel, hard work and abundance. Some of those things have happened, some haven't. 

I will be honest and say it's been way, WAY harder than I imagined. I developed chronic illness late in my 20's, it took a huge toll, but went undiagnosed for about 15 more years. Now I know about Celiac disease, and how it has compromised my body. It's been a hard road of discovery, and one of continuing struggle, some days I am in pain and feel 80 years old, other days, it goes fine, and I can ask my body to do what I want, yoga, walking, cleaning, hiking, etc.

And here I am with many of my life dreams come true - I did become an architect, I did travel quite a bit, I did raise three amazing children and my husband and I did live in numerous places. We worked hard and dreamed big.
and there was suffering.
Agony and very real trauma and great loss in our lives. and many great joys, as well.

I just now woke up from a dream of riding my bike around Paris as a twenty-something. In the dream, I had the mindset I had thirty years ago, I woke up remembering so deeply that sense of invincibility, that notion that the world was mine for the taking, that I could do whatever I dreamed of. The way my body was so strong and powerful was quite vivid, it was hard not to feel the loss of that when I woke up.

Three months ago, I did a series of pages in my journal to re-evaluate my life, mostly my work life which had been floundering since we moved here to Colorado 5 years ago. "I want to use my art and writing skills to write a children's book," was one of the intentions I found. So I did! I worked on it, and it's done. It's over there at Amazon, if you want to check it out. http://goo.gl/QWvFPA and it feels like a nice milestone for me. I am happy with the accomplishment, and find it amusing that it took this long to find work that would be so well received by the world . . . but there it is.

I don't think I will ever ride my bike around Paris like that again, and I KNOW I will never have that huge sense of power and owning the whole world that I had in my twenties.

But I do have this - I can think of a project, dream it big, manifest it. and I can tell the world about it here. That's a really huge accomplishment, and one I never dreamed of thirty years ago. (I was still writing with my electric typewriter, and didn't dream then I could possibly ever be an artist, being an architect seemed much more plausable.)

All this, my life, my kids, my work, my house, my dog, my garden, my studio, I am so very grateful for this life. Am I grateful for the illness? the suffering? the trauma?   In truth, no, but would I be able to dream up a book that feels like one of my biggest life accomplishments, and then make it within a few months?

No.  I could not.

I could not have learned that without the troubles I have had. The struggles of our lives make us who we are, and they make the accomplishments all the sweeter.

I now know that at age -almost- 53.

I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road. I said: what about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning. I said: what about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it? I said: pain and sorrow. . .
He said: . .  stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you. --Rumi

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What fills your sails?

I have been learning that Joseph Campbell's idea of "following your bliss" as a blessing to the world can be a life lesson.

Recently, I sort of got stuck on a whale painting binge. I would put on youtube videos of whales swimming, and soundtracks of their singing, and just sit at my paint desk and let the images of the whales flow. After a few sketchbooks full of these, I realized that I had a children's book! I am in the process of having some giclees made of some of the final images, so the art can be up on a wall, and not just in print. As I worked on these, there was some voice in my head that told me it was indulgent to follow my bliss, that doing something purely out of joy was not what I was supposed to be doing. "Be responsible, do something meaningful, contribute," the voice would say.

But I wanted to paint and make beautiful things.

Do you know why whales jump out of the water? Scientists don't always understand why, but it seems to be something just about the joy of doing it. Let's remember that. Jumping for joy, doing anything for joy, only adds to the wonder of the world, and our place in it. I know there are injustices to work against, hungry people to feed, knowledge to struggle to find, suffering. But there is also bliss. There is a beautiful world to be celebrated.

Art can do this.
Sharing your art can do this.
Choose Joy.
It is never wrong to jump.

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” --Pablo Picasso

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Are you someone who wears many hats?

I am.
Right now my work includes book design, jewelry design and showing in craft shows and local shops, licensing work, (just got a set of pillows up on KekaCase) and painting, both for hanging on the wall and putting in my books.
Sometimes it feels crazy and scattered (well, a lot.)
But I also know it's how I work, and that one area of my art always sneaks into another.
As a creative person, I would simply wither and die if I had to sit at one desk and do one thing every day, day in and day out.
I applaud people who are able to do that, but I'm not one of those people.

Once I was watching a video about a young girl (maybe age ten) who had decorated her room in crazy contrasting patterns, it was a frenzy of color and shape.  The interviewer asked her what she was thinking, and her answer was:  "Well, I'm just not a matching kind of girl."
I love her answer, and I love even more that she was aware enough at such a young age to know herself like that.
It's taken me a lifetime, but I can say it: I'm not a do-one-thing sort of artist.

So ignore that the world tells you you have to focus and become an expert.  Work hard at what you do, but try many things and don't worry about exploring.  One day, maybe the three or five or ten things you do will each be accomplished and unique.
and you can put it ALL in your art journal!
Lately I've been painting whales mostly, but birds seem to sneak in as well.  Here's one:
Painted from a photo by Jennifer Kamerer Studebaker.

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way, things I had no words for."   --Georgia O'Keeffe

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Leaving on a jet plane . . . .

In two days I am getting on a plane for a trip to New York - my rep shows my work at Surtex, a yearly trade show there, so I get to go and schmooooooze, and see lots of great art.
I've been so busy with work that I have not been journaling much.
I miss it.
I hope on the trip to take some time to work in my journal, on the plane, or during down time.
I have been painting and working on several book projects, so I will just let this hummingbird flutter around a bit here until we can get some journal pages going:

You are the deep innerness of all things, the last word that can be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourselves differently: to the ship as coastline,
to the shore as ship.  --Rumi

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Using your journal to find your focus

Today started early, I have a new graphics client, so I organized my work space, neatened up some folders, cleaned up supplies, worked on a talk I will be giving next Saturday, sent out e-mail reminders for another meeting, wrote some checks, blah blah blah.

I think we don't give ourselves enough credit for the complicated lives we live in this Internet Age.
It's so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life.
It's so easy to neglect the inner work that should be the foundation of our days.
Do you meditate?
Do you sit in silence and connect to your higher self?
Do you use your journal to help you find your focus?
It's so important to remember WHY we are here.
Our daily work should not just be to get our desks cleared, then collapse and vegetate in front of the TV.
If we connect to our greater mission statement every day before we power on our computers, it will be way easier to act according to this mission statement with more clear intention.
It's a practice that I have to work on.

You know when you get interrupted by someone who needs you and it is just so easy to feel irritated by that?
I find that if I am connected to my greater mission statement, it is easier to know I need to help that person instead of continuing on the project I had been in the middle of.
What is your higher reason for being?
Have you written it down on a post-it and put it in front of you?  How do you remember it?

and if you don't know it, your journal is a fantastic place to brainstorm on this.
Open to a blank page, start doodling and writing.
Don't just start with your to do list, think of the greater calling, the dream you wish your life was focused on.
Imagine the very most perfect miraculous day; what would you be doing?
Your journal really does help you find this focus.
AND it can help you remember it if you return to it, keep working on it, doodle just a few minutes every day in it.

The hard work of becoming our most authentic selves is to eliminate the clutter of our lives.  Let your journal help you do this.

“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.”