Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It has been a groovin' summer for me so far. Maybe not in the sense of lying-on-the-beach laid back, but mine is a kind of permanent vacation, being retired and all. Still my days usually come with as much work and scheduling of projects as a thoroughly supervised corporate peon. Really, my summer project should be learning to climb down from the machine, step away from the idea, forget about the goals. But that's just not me to do that, and I think I really don't mind the structure. It's more a matter of degree. How many projects are enough, are they relevant to my current goals, do they bring me joy or at least satisfaction? So that is where I stand. Having achieved a strong turn this past year toward the life journaling arts, I am finally stepping back, breathing, and feeling a sense of connection to my story.

So yes, a happy medium has got me groovin'. What exactly does this mean? Well, in the sense of the 60's Hippie slang, my life is "groovy"--I am liking, enjoying, being one with--summer! I am sitting still enough for it to warm my bones, soften my consciousness, engage me in just being. Every day possible there is a long walk in the sun with music in my step, there is quiet time in the shade with a beverage, special moments of connection with my husband, time observing and recording my world.

Groovin' is also "in the groove." Literally, fitting in to the stream of the moment. Connecting with a flow both in my online and local worlds. One that I have created over time, and that absorbs me, supports me and lifts me.

So what have I been up to in the last month  (when not just being there?) Starting in mid June, for two weeks , I was totally absorbed and stimulated by 14 lessons in 14 days, in a class called "Photo Silly" by Steve Sonheim. Each morning I woke up to a new challenge, and ended each day with an amazing new vision of my world and my abilities, as well as connections with new friends from, literally, around the world. Two of my newest Facebook friends are from Germany, and we met through the flikr class site. Others were recording their lives in France, and Russia, and New Zealand. While I might be taking shots of an all-American supermarket bagger gathering carts, one of them was doing a portrait of a Maori couple and their wonderful tradition facial tattoos. It was amazing fun.

Here are some shots taken during each day's lesson. These are generally not the completed or chosen entry for the assignment, but illustrate what I was striving to achieve. The complete set of final cuts can be found here on flikr.

Assignment #1-Shooting 20 shots in a row with our eyes closed, but trying to imagine the shots we were getting. This resulted in,  to say the least, some unexpected, but often interesting images.

Assignment #3-Blink. Compose shots with a cardboard viewfinder and  commit to memory or sketch.  Two days later we actually went back to the images and captured them with the camera.

Assignment #4-Biographer Frog. A Self portrait without the self, from the point of view of  a wee thing on the floor. I chose this dark image from a series of seven bracketed exposures, because I like the drama.

Assignment #8-Take Your Camera to Work Day. A rainy start to a day of recording it all. The final pick of twenty shots went into a photo collage.

Assignment #9-Really? Turning our hand into a character and photographing with backlighting. The final pose became the giggle getter on flikr. Look for it there.

Assignment #10-Flip Flop. Teach Steve how to do something in four photo steps. This shot was a warm up idea for "How to Brew Satisfaction".

Assignment #13-Blur. Learning to capture a blurred image on purpose.

What pleased me the most was not any particular technical skills I learned (although the camera started to be less of a mystery, for sure), but three important concepts applicable to all my art:

     1) Find a new focus: look beyond the expected.

     2) Wait for the light: the best photos are real and don't require a lot of artifice to make them work, just look for the best and shoot, shoot, shoot (then toss, toss, toss.)

     3) Connect with my work and the people and animals within it, lose my fear of the stranger and the strange situation, make friends with life.

None of this is what I expected to learn, and all of it was wonderfully useful for moving forward in many disciplines.

Starting next week I will be taking a one week class by Steve called "Shoot Your Art," a more technical set of exercises in how to capture images of your 2D art. I'm expecting this to prove useful and enlightening. (Small pun :-) )

Following the June class I recaptured what I feared I had lost--my need to draw and paint without prompts from others, something I have done on a regular basis since. The carry over of lost fear is allowing me to draw more easily in public, and at a recent minor league baseball game, I did these two journal pages.
Waiting to get in the stadium, I stood in the shade of a tree and sketched a streetlight with my  Grey  Tombow and water brush.

Very new to trying to draw the human figure, and these gentlemen  NEVER stopped moving. An interesting challenge. I was also being watched by my husband's workmates who were sitting nearby.

My little themed handmade books are calling me and I decided to fill the garden journal with ink and watercolor pages that allow me to practice creative composition and record scenes from my own garden while I vacation there in this first half of summer. I am able to do more complex and leisurely painting on my home turf that may take two or more sessions and several hours. Later in the summer I want to practice a simpler,  looser style on locations away from home.
The fountain in the center of my garden, under a large shady elm. The plants were brought in to the house for closer study.

Fourth of July morning,  instead of doing the parade, I painted the hot of the day.

Each of these pots holds a complex floral planting. I decided to go simpler.

One of my online creative friends recently remarked that it doesn't matter how we express ourselves, creativity must out! Less defining, more acceptance and integration with everyday life. The needle is tracking the groove, and it's all beautiful music to me. Care to join the dance?


  1. YOur art is beautiful, inspiring, and a glimpse into your world. I am so glad you have shared it with me this morning as I have my morning coffee! Thanks!

  2. Wonderful journey of discovery...keep sharing it with us!

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Cheryl. I am happy about the connections, the contact, inspiration and the sharing with you and all the other creative people at our Photo Silly class. It is so touching to read about your journey and your thoughts related to it. The fun and the divergences, your philosophical insights - thanks! Kerstin aka Krapprotdunkel

  4. Just found your blog through EDM, and wanted to say hi! The Photo Silly class looks great! And from someone else enjoying a groovy summer (your description of this hit the nail on the head for me!) happy holidays!

  5. Very interesting post about the class you took, it sounds really great. Neat drawings, too - my favorite is the lamp, but I also like your journal pages a lot!

  6. I've been enjoying your creative blog while hugging the AC. Glad you feel so happy about summer--I find summer to be a battle against the heat (over 100 F. in Tunisia) to keep the garden, and myself, alive. However, your photo exercises were helpful to view things a different way. I look forward to following your artistic journey. Your textile work is extremely interesting.
    best, nadia

  7. Sounds like a great class, and many interesting things here on your blog! Thanks so much!! nancy

  8. How fun to read about your Summer so far. I'm impressed that you are doing quick sketches (the baseball game drawings)out in public. I need to remember to take my Tombow pen along with a waterbrush. I still feel like I labor too long over my journal drawings. I find I'm craving being looser in my drawings...not sure what it will take to get me there. I've signed up for all three of Carla's classes in August, but will be at a teacher workshop in San Diego for the first week class. I will be taking my watercolor journal with me and might try to do the classwork while there, if not, I will do it later when I get home. Hope to see you there in the class.

    Enjoy the rest of your Summer!

  9. Your artwork is fab! Just took a look at your work on etsy.Amazing.Blessings.Maisie.

  10. cheryl, hey... this class is wonderful... if i weren't going six ways from sunday i might try to take one of his classes. i need to get better acquainted with my camera. i like the concept quite a bit. also your journals are beautiful i love that watercolor and pencil look in journals... you must have been drawing for quite some time. they are lovely!
    and in regards to your guild(re comment on judes) i would really like to swap stories about that.. maybe we can email each other? my email is on my blog.
    good luck with your new class.

  11. Hi, Cheryl! Back again! Pertaining to your question about how I learned to quilt--I learned on my own during the 1980s (with the help of some good books). Thanks to need and desire, I've done my fair share of bed quilts, pillows, etc. But I had taken art lessons as a kid and into college. So for me, drawing, painting, quilting, sewing--those are all techniques. It's what you do with it that counts and it's ok to break rules, although good technique and fine craftsmanship count for me. For awhile I designed and made crib quilts and sold them in a store in Tunis (exhausting production work). It's around 1991 and the Gulf War that it all came together--I had something to say and enough ideas and technique to do it. I also had built a good collection of fabric gleaned from the flea market. I sincerely believe that it is liberating to work with "recycled" fabric. If I had gone out to buy fabric, the expense of it would have severely crippled my creative flow.
    I love your drawings and garden journal. My journal is just a bunch of scribbles about ideas for artwork (I could never show it!), which I never stick to, just a jumping off point. I haven't taken any classes and maybe that's a good thing. I do look at interesting work on the internet and in books, but eventually I find it overwhelming and just go back to what I was doing! I'd rather figure it out for myself. Here is the question: if you take a class, will it affect your own vision? How can you build your own body of original work if you take classes where you risk being influenced? I've met two people who said "Oh, I did this painting with this teacher and that painting with another teacher, so you can see the difference." Yeah, the teacher's hand. I think I'll have to write a post on this!
    Ultimately, it's the ideas that you want to express that count, something you really love or hate, something you feel strongly about. I'm not sure I'll ever do small pieces or playful stuff because I have so many big pieces to work on that feel like giving birth. And thank you for allowing me to express all that. When I reread it, I thought, "This woman is really DRIVEN!"
    best, nadia