Chateau Orquevaux

collaboration, creativity, inspiration, process, Residency

Day One

Three weeks after returning from France, I’m finally sitting down to reflect on this residency experience and the profound impact it has made on my art practice and my life.

I spent the month of September at Chateau Orquevaux in France with 17 other artists. We’re writers, painters, collage artists, photographers, builders and makers from Iran, India, Ukraine, Russia, El Salvador, Canada, and the US. All but 2 were there for the full 4 weeks. The setting was sublime.  Every resident had a private room and private studio.  Just imagine waking up to this view every morning!

View from my bed(!!!)

View from my bed (!!!)


I lucked out by also having an en suite bathroom (shhh!!) and a private bath. And here’s the kicker ~ all meals were provided. There was never a shortage of food. Or wine. Or coffee…

Classically trained Chef Marie brings the joy every single night, providing numerous menu options to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs.


Especially as a mom, having all my needs met, having nowhere else and no one else I needed to be, nothing else I needed to be doing but diving deep and creatively exploring was life changing. 

The Stables. My studio = carriage doors on the left.

My studio was in the stables, just down the driveway from the Chateau. As someone with a home studio, this ritual of walking to my work space was new to me. I came to appreciate this short commute between where I live and where I create. This distance gave me the privacy I needed to release the pressure valve and finally explore matters I’d been avoiding. With no to-do lists cluttering my mind, my journal pages were filling with hopes, dreams, and fears that needed a wide expanse of time and space to surface. 

Then, with my heart wide open and vulnerable, I would head into the studio. Instead of listening to podcasts, as per usual, I listened to music. Following a tip from my writer friend Jonathon, when I found a song that resonated with the emotional space I was in (or wanted to be in), I added it to my ChateauO playlist and put it on repeat. And wow, did that open doors I wasn’t ready for. My thinky brain was no longer in command of my creative process. All I could do was paint my way through my feelings…which was one of my creative goals.

Rise & Shine, Acrylic & oil on 30″x 40″ linen canvas.


At this point, I could write about the work I made, the breakthrough pieces, my choice of medium and materials. And maybe I will in another post. But here’s the honest truth. I was ready to show up and make a lot of work. I was prepared to push myself to go deeper. I was looking forward to luxe accommodations and exploring the grounds and the town.

But what blindsided me was the degree to which I would fall in love with my fellow residents. After 2+ years of being an isolated pod person, I felt socially awkward and dreaded having to engage with strangers for 4 weeks. Luckily from what I could tell, socializing was limited to dinners and sporadic evening events.

Chateau Orquevaux ~ September 2022 Residents

I never imagined a gathering of such talented, brilliant, wickedly funny people. We laughed, danced, sang, cried, explored, told stories, bore witness, made art, played dress up, took chances, and bared our souls. My final Instagram reel contains no images of the mountains of art we made. Just photos of people falling in love, making memories that will last a lifetime.  All in the span of 28 days.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by eliaichi kimaro (@elikimaro)

 

Residency Goals

creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Residency, Story

I have the good fortune of spending the month of September at an international artist residency in the Champagne region in France. Chateau Orquevaux offers 2- and 4- week residencies to artists of all disciplines from around the world. This will be my first experience at an international residency.

As I close down my studio and pack my bags, I have a few goals in mind:

1. I will leave my oil and encaustic paints at home, and instead travel with acrylic paints, charcoal, ink, watercolor, crayons. And I want to work on paper so that I can pack all my work in my backpack and suitcases when I come home. Travel light. Keep it simple.

2. When COVID shut the world down, I took advantage of the increased access I had to teachers/mentors. When they went online with their course offerings, I was right there, ready to soak up their teachings. So the past 2 years for me has been a period of intensive learning about color, value, design, texture, best studio practices ~ just arming myself with knowledge to expand and deepen my ability to paint and see.

But the more I learned, the harder it became to paint instinctively. My brain became a bully, taking command of the creative process. All my choices became conscious, calculated decisions. I was thrilled to discover that I could apply what I know to resolve my painting at any stage ~ especially those early stages with fresh, energetic marks. The flipside was that I grew precious about my work, fearful about letting go and trusting that something better would emerge. As a result, my paintings ~ which used to be 20-30 layers deep ~ became very surface and shallow.

So my goal now is to find my way back to how I used to paint. I need to trust that all my learning is there and accessible if/when I need it. But I don’t want to lead with my head any more. I want to return to using my gut as my guide to painting my truth.

Winter/Spring Art News…

Art For Sale, collaboration, creativity, education, Exhibition, Gallery, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Speaking, Story

Just published my Newsletter with updates on 1) creative collaborations with filmmakers, authors, musicians & chefs, 2) my foray into teaching, and 3) shows in venues around town.

You can click the Subscribe button at the top of the page if you would like receive my newsletters (I send out 2-3 a year).

Composing a Life” – Acrylic mixed media on 24″x 24″ wood shipping panel.

 

Memorial Day (Commission) – Origin Story

collaboration, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress
This Spring, I received a captivating commission request. Chris Weber and Jack Gingrich were long-time employees and soon-to-be co-owners of The Herbfarm, a restaurant that creates thematic 9-course dinners showcasing the exceptional seasonal food and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In his initial email, Chris shared The Herbfarm’s compelling origin story. Theirs is an inter-generational story of hope, ambition, success, tragedy, resilience, and grace. At its essence, this painting would be about inheritance and legacy ~ my creative core. As I read it, I could clearly see how every layer of this painting could correspond to a chapter in The Herbfarm’s life.


On our site visit, a few more things came into focus. The decor of the restaurant is formal Victorian, which is not in my artistic wheelhouse. Having an abstract piece was going to be a departure, so I wanted to keep it simple, organic and elegant. I wanted the painting to feel like a weathered, textured rock face you might encounter on a hike. Against the dark walls, this statement piece would be mostly white and monochromatic. We decided on a diptych with a circle connecting the two halves, but wanted to make sure the two halves could also stand on their own. And mimicking the restaurant’s palette, I limited my paint palette to natural, earth-based pigments ~ ochres, umbers, saffron, indigo… 

 

The following process photos show the evolution of this painting. The captions are pulled from Chris’s initial email…but you can find a beautiful rendition of The Herbfarm’s history on their website.

The original owners, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman, started this restaurant in a plant nursery; Memorial Day 1986. 

 

 
It was built from the ground up…

 

The restaurant flourished…

 
…receiving national recognition and a dedicated cult following within a decade. 

 

 

 

Point of Process

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story, Works In Progress

I’ve recently become aware that I need to refine how I talk about my creative process. My process is largely iterative ~ far from linear. I love repurposing old paintings, building upon the history that is already there. I’m happy to abandon ideas of where I was trying to steer my painting, and open myself up to where it wants to go.

But in the midst of these bold 180s, one can miss the fact that there is a method to the madness. Every layer is deliberate and serves a purpose. Every layer is infused with intention. And this intention, whether it can be seen in the final piece or just felt, can be sensed by the viewer when they stand in front of the finished painting.


For example, here are four starts to four separate pieces:

• A meditation on contemplative imagination (and the ways that our art can amplify our activism).

• 2 collaged panels of transcribed interviews with my family/Chagga tribal elders.

• And images of notable milestones in my life.

Even though my approach might seem intuitive and loose, rest assured, it is not random or mindless. Every layer serves a purpose and informs the final piece, even if they lie deeply embedded beneath the surface…🤓

10 years ago today…

creativity, family, Film, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story

#TBT2011 10 years ago today, I had the thrill of seeing myself, my family, my film through a stranger’s eyes. Lindy West (who later authored Shrill, The Witches Are Coming, and most recently Shit, Actually) wrote the first ever review of my film. By the end of it, I was crying. Up until that moment, I had no idea whether my film would resonate or connect with anyone outside my circle of friends and family. Mostly because I had been told by funders and distributors for 8 years that no one would care. I was an unknown. There was no one famous in my film. It took place in “Africa. Who could relate to this? Why should anyone care about the stories of these people? What makes you think your story matters to anyone but you?” It was a relentless torrent of unequivocal No’s.

So after hearing (but not believing) that my personal story was unrelatable, the power of seeing my film reflected back at me in Lindy’s words knocked the wind out of me.  She got it.  She got all of it. She offered insights into my family and my story that I hadn’t even made. I felt seen and validated.

I cannot overstate the power of this moment.  Reading Lindy’s words erased the years of rejection, and set me on a new course.  I stood taller. I breathed deeper. I stopped seeking the permission or approval of traditional gatekeepers, hoping they could pave the way for my film. I carved out my own path instead, and my film’s life span has exceeded all expectations.

My take away, from both my film and experiencing Lindy’s review ~
Never underestimate the power of bearing witness to another person’s story.🖤

When We Were One

Art, Art For Sale, creativity, family, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, Story

Everything I create is about exploring the stories I’ve inherited and the stories I’m passing down. I make art to better understand my place in this flow of cultural inheritance and legacy.

When I was pregnant, I had a book that gave weekly updates about the fetus development. I remember reading one week that if I was having a girl, my body was creating all the eggs she will ever carry.

Having worked for 12 years as a crisis counselor, and knowing what I know about inter-generational trauma, I didn’t take this news lightly. So I took that week off, and reflected on what it means to be creating descendants whom I may never meet.

When We Were One” deals specifically with this week, being pregnant with my daughter ~ and more expansively, considers the bloodlines that connect us all. 

Here is a short video where I reflect on what this piece means to me…

 

Art Fueling Activism

Activism, Art, inspiration

This week, I decided to offer my art as a gift to my beloved BIPOC and queer friends who have been inspiring me with their leadership.

The words and actions of these educators, journalists, writers, organizers, health care workers and artists over the past few months has kept me going.

So I created an online room and invited them to browse through recent paintings. And if any piece caught their eye, it was theirs.

This is the first wave of paintings that will be hand-delivered (or shipped) to their new homes this weekend…🖤

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Thoughts on Inspiration

Art, creativity, education, inspiration, process, Story

My dear friend Carolyn Autenrieth asked fellow artist friends to reflect on the role of inspiration in their work for her high school art class. So I wrote out some ideas in my journal this morning. While this may be too long for what she’s needing, it’s the perfect length for a blog post.

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A few weeks ago, I made this inspiration board on my phone ~ a visual reminder of things that I find beautiful. The images could be of anything, not necessarily art.

I took screen shots of my Pinterest boards and wrote down words that inspire me. What do I love? What are ideas, objects, symbols, activities, places, hobbies that make me feel alive? It could be anything that makes me feel the whole hearted joy of my daughter in this picture. Seeing these images and words together, I started to notice common themes, in terms of colors, ideas, textures, and design elements that I’m drawn to.

So pay attention to your attention, because it’s trying to tell you something. There’s something here that you love. What is it? What’s with all the doors? Why do I love rust so much? Why do I feel drawn to the textures and design found in nature. Sometimes the answers are obvious. Sometimes I don’t discover until much later why I find the texture of tree bark or aerial landscapes so compelling.

Some people might not see the beauty in these images…but to me, they’re exquisite! I want to make art that makes me feel the way I feel when I look at my board. This is what inspires me. And when I’m inspired, I feel creative…and the work starts flowing.

It all begins with inspiration.

The whole goal of art is to create something that is unique to you. So your job as an artist is to get really clear about what you love and why. From there, making art is just a series of Yes/No decisions. When you’re clear about what inspires you, it will come across in your work. And people will be able to feel it. Even if they don’t personally find rusty doors beautiful, they will feel my love of the door coming through in the painting. And that, to me, is the beauty and power of art.

Creating this inspiration board made me deeply consider what I find beautiful. And then, I set it aside. The next day, I pulled out some paper and just decided to paint something that brings me joy. I had no plan, no end goal in mind.

A couple hours later, this painting emerged. And I could clearly see elements from my board coming through.

Custodian of the World Within

So…

Notice what brings you joy.

Get clear about what you love, and why.

Make art that makes your heart sing.

Remember that inspiration is everywhere.