If Death Were a Spice

Is death a flavor, a spice to living? If it is a spice, it is one that comes with a sense of fear, chili perhaps. It is the spice that inspires us to do the things we want to do–before it is too late. Have the big art show. Write the novel. Sail around the world. Go to Burning Man.

I see the fear. I see the goal. Do not let the fear consume the goal. Do not let the fear consume.

If death is a spice, what does its bottle look like? Dark? Dusty, skull and bones? Or filled with light brighter than the eye can see. Angel of deliverance. Angel of deliverance. Suffering’s end.

Where do we go? My uncle died and visited my father. They talked for hours. “How are you here?” my father asked.

“I am everywhere,” my uncle replied.

He is now particles, dispersed–everything suspended in the dust that blows around the earth. Free from suffering. Free form existence.

Distracted, my eye wanders to the bubbles in the glass, levitating to their death. The short life of a bubble in a carbonated beverage.

Somewhere someone is allergic to wheat. Someone’s a gravedigger in a small town. Someone young has leukemia. Someone is dying, their particles beginning to disperse. Quickly, we must remember why we are here. Before it’s too late. Before we go somewhere, nowhere, anywhere.

I don’t mind talking about death–however, staying there may be too much for too long.

How do we keep death at bay? We sing. We dance. We create to combat its unmaking. We must make, make merry.

The star that won’t be dimmed.

What are we?

Part bone, part hair, part flesh, part soul, part laugh, part cry, part stone, part ocean, part mountain, part sky.




Take these thoughts and transform them into gold. Rumpelstiltskin them. Spin this grey day into silver. Gather weariness into a diaphanous strand of longing. Take these desires and spin a gossamer gown. From this dullness, weave a pair of wings. I’d like to wear a mask. I’d like to dance. I’d like to fly.

via Simplify


she wanted somewhere to hang her hat
he was not a coat rack
she wandered around aimlessly
a thread loose here, a thread loose there
she was a voice, listening
knowing of a certain luminosity–
and the time it takes to get there
looking now and then behind the curtain
a thread loose here, a thread loose there
gathering leaves and flowers to make an offering–

via Bewildered


to be honest, truthful, natural
to be caught off guard, but also not caught
these are the better photos, before fear sets in
what does the camera do with your soul?
no one knows
a little piece removed– a section of self caught in amber
a fly, a memory locked, impervious to distortions of time
the trembling waters still–
an image remains
siring nostalgia

via Daily Prompt: Candid

If You’re New to Watercolor…


This is for anyone who is new to watercolor painting. You may feel as though there is a struggle when you expected it to be an enjoyable experience. The feeling that you are being challenged is completely normal and it can happen even when you are very experienced working with any medium.

My advice to you would be to try and embrace the challenge that is working with a new medium. Just like any new skill, you need to give yourself time to practice, make mistakes, and learn. Try to focus on your successes rather than your shortcomings.

A good place to start appreciating your progress is to focus on experimentation. You can give yourself credit for trying new things like mixing new colors, patterns, textures, and playing with color saturation or dilution (how much water you are using with your pigment). You are experiencing the process of painting, let the beauty of the colors inspire you. If you are painting from life, give yourself freedom to exaggerate colors and shapes. Have some fun! Crank up the tunes to blast out that internal critic. Use your favorite colors.

Try to avoid comparing yourself to individuals who have been painting for longer than you have. Remember that it is a skill that takes practice. When you become frustrated, remember to take a break and lay your paints to the side. It is helpful when using watercolor to let layers of paint dry so that you can achieve a greater variety of darks and textures.

Give yourself a pat on the back, and keep practicing. Painting is more about the journey than the destination.  People appreciating a work of art may think painting is about the final product. To the painter, it may be about the challenges of creating the illusion of depth, the intangibility of  light, and the joy of working with color. The process of painting is a wonderful thing to experience.

From Refuse to Reverence


There are certain materials which have always appealed to me, and thankfully, some of them are upcycled or recycled. One of my very favorites is cardboard. Ever since the days when I would help my mom make theater sets out of cardboard, I have been fascinated with its texture and construction capabilities. It is stiff and needs to be cut in the exact shape you wish it to have, but at the same time it can be broken down into a more flexible and paper-like substance. It is likely that my fascination with cardboard comes from my fascination with paper, and is somehow connect to wood, which is ever so tentatively connected to my love of plants and growing things.

Is it possible that I love one thing and all other interests stem from that one fascination? The natural world is a most fascinating place for me. It is amazing to see a seed create a plant and that plant, in turn, create a fruit which can be consumed. If my materials can imitate any event in the natural world, I am grateful. As I sand the wood, the grain becomes apparent. As I work with a piece of cardboard, it becomes softer and more organic, but still has a memory of its life as a box. This memory creates an unpredictability when I work with it, an unexpected lack of motion that I collaborate with.

It is important that the creation of art does not destroy that which it depicts and upholds. If I paint a landscape, but use materials which are not sustainable, then I am doing a disservice to the very landscape I am depicting. Thankfully, trees and plants can be re-grown as long as it is done in a conscientious manner. I also like to use wood that has had another life as cabinets, drawers, or bookshelves.

Note: I also love Altoids tins. They are great for little paintings.

Do you like upcycled or recycled materials?

How do the materials you use influence what you create?

Why do you think you like the materials you work with?

What memories are linked to those materials?

The Zone

Here I am trying to pose for painting of a Jester Ballerina. I’m not angry, this is my “focus” face.

The “zone” is this special place where artists go when they are really focused on their work. I have been thinking a lot about this special place and what is needed to get there. Surely it is different for each one of us, but there may be some general similarities. Here are some of the requirements I have for getting in the zone:

  1. It is important to be physically able, meaning moderately comfortable, well-rested, and fed. If my body is unduly uncomfortable, there is no way I am going to be able to make art. If I am so tired that I cannot see straight, I will probably have difficulty making anything amazing. However, it is important that I make sure I am not just making up excuses. (The question here could be: Why do we make up excuses that keep us from doing what we love?)
  2. Freedom from distractions. Distractions can come in any form. Maybe my phone is buzzing, or there is a sink full of dishes. If your studio is in your home, there is always the chance that life will creep in and pull you away from your art. Lately, I have been leaving the house early in the morning and painting before anything from life tries to take over the day.
  3. It is good to be inspired by the subject, or at least like it. Sometimes inspiration comes after liking.
  4. Music is sometimes helpful. As I discussed in the post about sound, music can be very helpful. However, I have found that there is a certain stage of the zone where silence becomes necessary. I am not sure why this is exactly. It is almost as though the internal dialog needs to be heard, but it speaks without words. Perhaps, I am listening really intently to something that does not use words. This sounds odd, but if you create, you may know what I am talking about.

This article talks about how to focus using scheduling, “work zones,” and distraction zones.”  I hope to try some of these techniques to stay in the creative zone more regularly.

What do you need to stay in the zone?

How do you know when you are in the zone?

What time(s) of day are you most likely to be in the zone?

Is the zone important to your creative process?


Fear is the mind-killer.

“The Show Must Go On” collaboration by Lance Wadlow and Nicole Thibodeau

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”-Frank Herbert, Dune

This wonderful quote from the novel Dune has become so famous because it is a useful tool against fear. Fear stops us from doing stupid things, like jumping off a cliff, but it also stops us from wonderful things, like creating art and sharing our feelings.

When I was an undergraduate student, thinking great thoughts at Bethany College, we read Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bales and Ted Orland. At the time, I was very put off by the title because I felt like art was a joyful undertaking. I still feel that way, but I am not sure a book entitled Art & Joy would address so many of the obstacles an artist might face. Perhaps this is a book I need to write after I finish Cats in Bikinis, but I digress.

I must also mention that I was in denial of my fear, and it had not been allowed to age and grow with me for very long. I had grown up in an art-loving family in Taos, NM. I was not aware of the amount of fear that surrounded my small protective bubble. People who do not make art sometimes have difficulty understanding it, or accepting creativity in themselves and others. Even people who make art don’t always understand what they create. The creative act can have elements of mystery and the unknown, that is what makes it so intriguing. However, people are intrinsically afraid of what they don’t understand. It is probably a trait that helped us survive as cave persons. It is still useful for keeping us safe, but sometimes fear gets out of hand.

Let us move away from fear. I am a strong believer in the idea that we create our world. If we focus on our fears, they will multiply and rule over us. Conversely, if we focus on what brings us joy, it will multiply and surround us. I take issue that the word “rewards” is in parenthesis in the title of Art & Fear. Let us take a moment to focus on the rewards of making art, to help bring it out of the parenthesis. If you create something:

  • It will help your brain grow.
  • You will feel a sense of accomplishment. (Even if you create something you dislike, you will have learned something about the materials you are working with.)
  • You will be able to express something beyond words. (Even if you are a writer, the combination of the words you choose has the potential to combine and surpass their definitions.)
  • You will form a connection with another human when they see/read/hear/taste/smell/touch your creation. This connection will be beyond words.

Have you read Art & Fear?

What part does fear play in your creative process?

Are there uses for fear in the creative process?

If you are a creative person, have you been confronted with fear of creativity from others? How did you handle this fear?

If you consider yourself a non-creative person, what experiences brought you to this conclusion? (I think everyone is creative, but maybe that is obvious.)