I’m still relatively new to keeping a sketchbook, but I’m starting to see the appeal. Small book, cheap materials and low stakes opens the door to playing and experimenting with reckless abandon…and that creative energy is starting to spill over into my larger paintings.
The Offering (48″x48″): I love pieces that develop in their own time. As these paintings grow with me over months, my challenges, wishes, joys and sorrows get embedded in the layers. The painting becomes a time capsule that captures who I am and how I’m feeling as the piece evolves.
I love some of the color and energy in the earlier versions, but these passages, while pretty, were meaningless. I relish paintings where the struggle leads me to unknown places and pushes me beyond my capabilities. At their best, my paintings feel like an archeological discovery, as if I’m unearthing something that’s always been there. The finished piece is something I never could (or would) set out to paint. So these origin stories remind me of how a painting came to be…
June 15, 2023: I am both here and not here…a meditation on impermanence that is resonating with me today. And so I embedded it in the first layer of this 48″x48″ piece.
June 18: Starting to build up surface history that I can later work back into. Happy to be working large once again…
June 22: Working on large pieces in a small studio makes it hard to stand back and view the painting from a distance. So posting progress pics on Instagram scales down the image, allowing me to troubleshoot compositional problems and figure out where the piece wants to go next…🤓
June 25: Very early stages yet, but after a brief TimeOut, we’re starting to listen to each other…
I was recently a guest on the Future Tripping Podcast, a project of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. The host, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, is an author/activist, an internationally recognized leader in the field of trauma exposure ~ and one of my dearest friends for the past 30+ years! As such, she holds all the pieces of my personal, family, work and creative life. At its core, our conversation reveals the depth and breadth of “making art to better understand my cultural inheritance and legacy,” and shows why art – the creation and maintenance of it – can be an essential act of liberation.💗
I am delighted to be featured in the Summer issue of PublicDisplay.ART ~ Seattle’s only community-supported, arts-focused publication. What an honor to be in the company of so many artists I admire. And it’s the first time my art & story has been featured in print media!
If you’re in Seattle, you can find the magazine at 600+ local retailers, restaurants, cafes, galleries, bars and libraries around town. Or if you prefer, you can view the issue online here (I’m on pg 26-27).
PublicDisplay.ART is published by OneReel, the same organization that produces NW Folklife and Bumbershoot (among many other cultural events/projects year round).
In March, I participated in Crush/Repeat, a 31-day challenge to create something every day. I decided to focus on creating a small painting in my sketchbook daily. And now I can’t stop!
I could line a shelf with all the sketchbooks I’ve abandoned after a couple pages of tentative marks. So I pulled out my smallest (5.5″x8.5″), cheapest sketchbook and let go of any expectation to produce anything finished. My only goal was to show up & play ~ experimenting with colors, materials and techniques. The lessons learned from these bold little explorations are starting to show up in my larger paintings.
Starting my days by writing in my journal, followed by a 20 minute art page, loosens me up and gets me in the zone. I am no longer tethered to needing a full day in the studio to feel like I got my creativity fix. If 20 minutes is all I have, I know it will be enough.
(I’m grateful to my friend, Helen Kim, for showing me the way of her morning pages.)
I had the joy of talking with a dear friend the other day on her podcast (more info soon!) And as it often does, our conversation sparked further thoughts and ideas. So I’m trying something new. I will be posting short videos ~ a parking lot of thoughts/ideas about art and life, and why creativity (in its myriad of forms) matters…
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
Collaged transcripts, oil & cold wax medium on wood panel
The daily writing practice I started when I was 7 has become the creative cornerstone of my life. Writing makes my subconscious conscious—it is my key to mining the stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from. Then I head into my studio to make sense of what I have just unearthed. The act of creating shows me where I stand in the flow between cultural inheritance and legacy.
Family stories form the foundation of this painting…
June 28, 2021: A new piece has me burrowing back in to the family stories I collected for my film, A Lot Like You. I’m cutting up transcripts of stories told to me by my family on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and gluing them onto a 36″x60″ wood panel. Even in paper form, my Aunts’ stories are arresting. What a gift that time was. 17 years later, I’m still feeling the ripple effects of our conversation in the hut. (I tell the story of our time together in my 2016 TEDxSeattle talk, Why the World Needs Your Story.)
June 28, 2021 (end of day): Record breaking 110° in the studio today. Foundation laid. 15 square feet of transcripts. Calling it a day. Going to melt into a G&T!
July 13, 2021: Laying down some warm tones over the collaged transcripts ~ the first of many layers to come. I expect this painting to be a slow and steady build over the coming weeks.
July 14, 2021: Next layer on the 36″x60″ transcript painting…
July 19, 2021: Can’t stop laughing at this guy! No time to paint the last 4 days, so my starting layers totally dried. Time to start again. It’s way too early to be precious about any of this. So I get to start the day scribbling, doodling, writing, painting with colors I don’t usually use to reactivate the surface. Getting this piece from 0 to 60 so I can cruise into the week ahead…