Friday, July 31, 2009

Obsessions and Yo Yos

I took a few days off because there is so much going on in our house. Two in a musical, another in a very intense dancing and singing camp. Both with performances Saturday - we will watch them one after the other, with a mad dash of 25 miles between. Should be a totally exhausting weekend.

But this week is what the summer has been about, for two of us, and the timing was not ours to control. And we're all glad to be doing this - it's just going to consume us completely. In a good way...

I took the days off to get some perspective on work projects, and to be able to help as much as possible with the logistics.

Several days ago Youngest and I were talking about yo yos. He has a cheap one that doesn't work, and another that is basically a plastic party favor. We looked up yo yos on line, because I was curious if the old Duncan Imperial was still made (my yo yo as a kid was a translucent orange-yellow Duncan Imperial). I was bemused and surprised to discover that, like bikes, yo yos have been completely re-engineered since I was kid. Bearings, weight rings, star and ring response systems, hybrid response systems, lots of discussions about mods, categories of play, off-string yo yos... The prices run from two dollars (the Duncan Imperial - strongly discouraged in reviews because it is so difficult to get it to behave consistently) to over four hundred. The average for high performance, competition yo yos seems to be around a hundred dollars. We spent a lot of time on the YoYoNation store site. We talked about yo yo models in the car coming and going to Daughter's camp, and she heard us go on and on. We wear her out, sometimes, the two of us.

On my day off yesterday I dropped Daughter off at her camp, and then drove to Chapel Hill. After three days, the yo yos would not get out of my mind. I finally realized I was being nudged to do something about it. It wasn't going to leave me.

With a shake of my head and a grin, I gave in and stopped at several stores, looking for the new breed of yo yos. I finally found them at Learning Express. They stocked several models of Yomega, in the Raider line-up. They had been fairly well reviewed. I bought a transaxle model for Youngest (more responsive - i.e. will return up the string more easily) and a bearing model for me (they can "sleep" at the end of the string longer, and then still return). They're $13-$15 yo yos. I can understand a price like that. Shame the yo yo that bit me on-line is over $40 and no longer seems to come in the colors I fell in love with (YoYoJam's Mini Motu - red and gold - above) - but these Yomega models will be fine.

So I went on to Davis Library, at UNC Chapel Hill, where I spent so many idle and productive hours in college, wandering the stacks. I automatically gravitated to the N section of the Library of Congress system - the sixth floor of Davis' eight. I discovered that my throw was still intact (like riding a bike, you never forget) and that the yo yo was sweet. I set up my camera and did about two dozen shots on timed delay before I finally got one with me, the yo yo, and the string, all in the shot. Then I spent an hour and a half reading a gorgeous volume of Vincent Van Gogh's letters to Emile Bernard, including beautiful reproductions of the paintings and drawings referenced in the letters. I got confirmation from Vincent, of several things I've been experiencing as a painter; I'll be able to let them be, now that I'm more certain where they lead. One of the things confirmed was that you must not ignore or deny the seemingly silly stuff. Play.

Later that evening, Youngest and I drove to pick up Daughter from camp. When we got to the parking lot, a little early, he was walking ahead of me between the cars. I pulled the yo yo quietly from my pocket and threw it - the lovely high sleeping hum made him turn around. He dropped his jaw. He had talked to me about yo yos several times in the last few days, also bitten, apparently. I said, "I found it in Chapel Hill. Yours is in the car." For the next ten minutes we played them on the grass waiting for Daughter to come out. She lost it when she saw us - laughed long and loud (her laugh, and Dearest's, are the music I love the most). Youngest has been working with his quite a bit since, trying to get the throw strong enough and straight enough to get a solid return. Right now he either throws straight OR fast enough. He's probably only completed a few returns, but he keeps at it. I love that he is breaking into something he can't do and yet he's still happily working at it. That's new since he turned 10 - and important.

But it's not just about him and sharing something with him (though that's a big part of the joy in this)...

My yo yo is in my pocket and it feels right there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I walked from Georgetown to Virginia Avenue, and back towards the ever present Washington Monument. Then, to my right, I saw the Lincoln Memorial. I knew it was in the totally wrong direction for my walk back to the hotel, and that it was farther away than it looked, but I had to go pay my respects.

In the last block before the green circle that contains America’s finest nod to Greek architecture, I passed between many baseball diamonds. There, within a homerun hit of the Memorial, were teams of every race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background, playing America’s game. Up the hill from those softball teams is that famous statue of our saddest and possibly our most revered President, flanked by two of his most famous orations, both concentrated on the subject that burned in his heart every hour of his Presidency: the preservation of the union and the end of the conflict that made combatants and bitter enemies of the ancestors of some of the players outside on those baseball diamonds.

I read both of those speeches, and chuckled at the part of the Gettysburg Address where he says these words will not be remembered. And what if we were given an oration today like his Second Inaugural Address? Would we resonate with the ringing English? Would we be swayed by his quiet disbelief that some men feel entitled to get their bread by “the sweat of another man’s face”? Would we be moved by the humble submission to the will of God, and the determination to see the terrible thing through to the end as justice and the Almighty might require? I wonder.

I photographed where North Carolina’s stone is set on the top. We’re on the side, just around from the front. When I looked at the front of the Memorial, as I was leaving to walk back along the Mall and up 19 Street, back to Dupont Circle, I noticed that the stones are laid in the order of statehood, and for the 13 Colonies this meant the order of their ratification of the Constitution. I laughed, realizing that NC initially refused to ratify the document, causing them to be one of the last of the 13 to join, and losing them a spot on the front of the Memorial. But I grinned when I remembered why they refused. They would not agree until it included the Bill of Rights. I’m proud of my adopted home state, where I’ve lived nearly two thirds of my life - and I find it amusing that North Carolina shares that stone with the only other state where I’ve lived, the state of my birth, New York.

In New York I lived from age six to seventeen in the town of Gallatin, named for a French financier who helped get the new United States off to a good financial start. I was delighted, on my earlier walk in DC, to see this statue of Gallatin in a place of honor in front of the Treasury Department. The town in New York is too small to make most maps - it had one major intersection (a “T” with one stop sign) and an interchange on the Taconic State Parkway, where the sign mentions the road (Jackson Corners Rd) but not the town.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Painting Today

Maybe I should take my blood pressure after painting...

Here I am with Louise (the paint brush) dreaming on the newly stretched Arches hot press. It's actually quite cool on my cheek, and so soothing with all the possibilities. I used to dread a blank page, but now I love it. I like to run my hand over it a few times, savoring it like taking a deep breath over a bowl of some comforting, delicious soup before you put your spoon in it for the first time.

Here are Louise and Abner. Louise painted my Dad yesterday. Today it's Abner's turn. Abner is older than Louise - perhaps you can tell. I brought Louise into the scene about six months ago, when Abner was having a little trouble with finer lines and corners. But he's a perfect pal for the kind of painting I'm planning today.

I went back through my photos of trees and woods, looking for one that would strike me. This one did, and I let it run through me and out the pencil. Fast. No thinking. Trees, light, the slope, rocks, moss, leaves, sun pricking through, branches in the way... No words, though, just the feelings of the things, and leaving out the things that I wish I could look past or around.

And then I painted it the same way. Fast, without fussing over it. The last hour was slow, looking at it and adding or subtracting. It's close to finished, I think. But I may tinker with it a little more once I get away from it and come back again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This might be how I'll look in twenty years. Well, actually I doubt Dearest would let me shave off my beard, and I don't have the earlobe that comes down from my Dad's mother, but in other ways...

I made a number of discoveries recently, which led to this portrait.

First, I knew my blood pressure had been climbing a bit, and I do have a cuff to check it. So I went ahead and measured it last night and this morning early, after a good night's sleep and sitting quietly for five minutes before pumping and listening. 142 over 105. Those are not good numbers, I found out on the Mayo Clinic site. Those would be stage 2 hypertension. I'll be watching those number closely and making an appointment.

I realized that I've been working too hard and too constantly. It has contributed to the item above, I suspect. I like the work; I'm passionate about it; it matters a lot more than anything else I've done in my career. But balance...

I found an interesting piece of advice. It said, "Do what you're good at." Seems simple. Then it expanded on this, explaining that in the workplace most people spend a lot of time focused on the things they don't do well, trying to fix that part of their performance. Managers don't help, pointing out the weaknesses and bringing them up on performance reviews. (Actually my last three bosses all have let me do things my own way - I've been lucky, and they've been smart enough to know I work better and harder that way). No, the advice went on to say that if you have things you do exceptionally well, you should concentrate on THOSE and spend as little time as possible on the stuff you do poorly. I found this incredibly freeing. Due to some rearranging at our company, I'm covering four positions worth of responsibility at the moment (I'm hiring to help this). I juggle things as well as almost anyone I know, but I mourn and fret over the things I'm not getting to. Actually, though, some of the things I'm not getting to are things I don't do well, anyway - that's one reason they're at the bottom of the list. I feel a lot lighter now that I've set them down and walked away from them. I'm never going to get to them, and now I won't feel bad about that. At least until I pick them back up again from habit...

The museum trip in DC rekindled my desire to paint. It's just been sleeping a bit, never all that far from the surface. Today, after checking my blood pressure, it blew back over me like a balm. I knew I needed to paint as part of healthier living. The walks and trips to the farmer's market to buy lots more fresh fruit and vegetables, and eating less will also help - but painting is going to lower my pulse and help as much or more than changing my blood chemistry.

So today I stretched another piece of Arches hot press, and I will paint over two pieces that are stuck and which I don't want to paint, anyway. I have been bitten bad by that Vuillard painting I saw in DC, and it won't leave me alone. I feel like those cartoon characters that you see from the front, then they turn sideways and there is a small bulldog latched on to their butt like a bear trap. My bulldog has a collar and dog tag written in French. But it was fed on Hundertwasser and Redon, and Klimt, and Schielle, and it's fur is brightly colored, and it's eyes shine like flashlights. It's grinning with glee. So am I.

Today youngest is out playing with his friends, and the others in the house left at 1:00 to rehearse and work on scenery. I donned headphones, pulled out an Arches pad, opened up one of the photos I've been considering for a portrait, and spent three hours looking very carefully at my Dad.

Dad is a quiet man, with a peaceful face that shows his Magyar and English ancestors. To me, his face always seems ready to smile. He smiles often, though even his smiles are quiet, not usually showing his teeth. I think this is a better likeness of him than the photo from which I worked. That pleased me greatly - and encourages me to move on to other portraits.

Of course others might be harder - after all, this is as close as I can come to doing another self portrait...


After the first day of conference, all talked out from networking and steering lunch and break conversations to topics of interest to me and to the company that sent me, I took a long solitary walk from Dupont Circle to Georgetown, down P Street, and then up 31 and 32 Streets to Dumbarton Oaks. It was closed by then, though I would have loved to have seen the poplars in that garden, but I walked along the outside of the walls, to Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the retail heart of Georgetown.

On Wisconsin I selected my dinner, stopping in the Cafe Bonaparte for this delicious cheese sampler and pate plate. I added a glass of Reisling, and I spent an hour juxtaposing and combining the five cheeses, strawberries, sweet toasted walnuts, and the pate, and tasting or inhaling the aroma of the wine. It’s the intersection and the transitions between all the flavors that is the magic of French food. The slow kaleidoscope of subtle changes in the mouth and nose, and the arrival of the next morsel while the after affects of the previous are still apparent around the edges and back of the tongue. The wait staff smiled at me a lot (I was doing a lot of smiling with my eyes closed), and left me to enjoy myself.

For dessert I went back out on the street and ate the golden light on the long downhill run of storefronts and shops. I was greeted by Reginald Johnson, who did not ask me for money, but instead asked if I would buy him a sandwich. His good humor and straight open gaze into my eyes, made it easy to immediately agree. He's a professional. We walked together to the mall, a block away, and down the escalator to the food court, where the sub shop staff greeted him warmly and said, “Steak Sandwich?” He was a regular, often with a patron along to buy his dinner. He told me he had been on the street for fifteen years. He seemed happy, clean, healthy, and at peace with everyone. Quite different from so many of the other panhandlers I saw frequently throughout the city. I put a number of ones into a number of paper cups.

At the bottom of Wisconsin is a waterfront. This area was a frightening mess, as I recall from trips to DC in the 70s and 80s, but now it is in revival, and very expensive condos and restaurants are being built. The place in this photo was alive with music and the sounds of hundreds of conversations, all soothed and bubbled by the fountains in the middle, and bathed in the last hour of the late summer sun.

Just down the waterfront was yesteryear’s popular waterfront happening spot, now run down, in disrepair, looking dated and ugly, and put up just the day before for auction, with a starting price as low as one million dollars, because it’s estimated that one hundred million will be needed to renovate. Watergate. Half the shops were empty, the others were pretty sad looking and low budget enterprises. Most of the apartments and rooms looked vacant, as well. It had a lost and forgotten feeling, but I could see that forty or fifty years ago this was a big deal; this was a desirable address. So how will that glitzy location in the previous paragraph look in fifty years?

Friday, July 24, 2009

The News

As I walked back to my hotel in DC Tuesday, I saw a proud series of messages through the first floor windows of a plain brown building on my left. They were about news, and the freedom of the press, and the responsibility of and public trust in the media. It was the headquarters of the Washington Post. And as I was passing the entrance, I encountered a line of well dressed people, most of them carrying professional binders, some looking through them to make sure they had their resume and other materials in order. They were there for job openings.

And I wondered, sadly, how many of them had been employed by the Post until recently, when shrinking newspaper budgets caused their jobs to be cut, possibly after years with the paper. And I realized, as I photographed the scene, and many of these people noticed me doing so, that I was doing a little journalism of my own, seeing them and their story as newsworthy, due some attention, some thought.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

DC Walk - National Gallery

Conference in DC this week. I got to town in time to walk over to my favorite museums on the Mall, before working in my hotel room into the evening. I wanted, in particular, to visit the Robert Motherwell painting in the modern building. This has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it. I can't decide why. I think it has to do with motion, repetition, and the ratios. It also seems to be escaping its frame, or the internal frame painted lightly around the 10 foot by 30 foot canvas.

And the Calder gallery, with the mobiles and stabiles and their changing shadows on the walls. This room would have pleased him, I think. It's a playful space, and the mobiles are in constant graceful motion. Today I noticed how much they owe to the split and arrangements of branches and leaves on certain species of trees. I am almost certain that's what inspired some of these.

I also had to visit the Matisse paper cutouts. Last time we were in this museum, a little over a year ago, I think, the cutouts were up in the tower by themselves, which gave a reverent, chapel sort of feeling to the exhibit. Now they are in a small gallery downstairs - still by themselves in the space, but not as set apart. I love them - this is the only one I photographed - the larger ones won't be captured.

As I was leaving the modern building, to head for the more traditional building next door, I saw one more little exhibition, of "Small French Paintings." I am so glad I took the time to go in there. They had a small room dedicated to small paintings by Vuillard, Bonnard, and one Odilon Redon. I could have eaten the tiny Redon canvas with a spoon like my favorite flavor of icecream, it was so delicious.

But my favorite in the entire building was the small Vuillard scene of fields in Brittany. If I could have any object in Washington DC, I might choose this little canvas, probably not more than 10 by 12 inches. The little works in that room inspired me all over again to paint.

And I stood for quite a while in front of Whistler's Symphony in White #1. This is probably my favorite of his paintings. The sad thing is that it probably contributed in a major way to his death. The painting is worked all over with the lovely, fat, creamy white he loved best - Flake white - a strong lead pigment. Jimmy Whistler worked with several brushes at once, and, as he switched rapidly between them, he held the extras in his teeth. He died of lead poisoning. Close by the Symphony, is a portrait of Vanderbilt - the first fortune maker, I think - the grandfather of the Vanderbilt who created Biltmore House in NC.

It was a warm day, but not as brutal as July should be in Washington. The walk was long, possibly five miles round trip, but I enjoyed it, and the hot dog with sour kraut I bought from a pushcart on the way. The cityscape, the people on the sidewalks, the light, the shops and restaurants - DC has so much variety. The smells on the streets were also a constant whirl of change, pleasant and unpleasant.

I worked hard today, absorbing an 84 page standards document for tomorrow's session, plus the long drive up here and several hours of answering e-mail. But it was lovely to have a brief chance to get out into this American city, hear snatches of conversation all around me, many in languages I did not recognize, and watch the world rolling by as I strolled through it on my way to absorb some art.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Biking Adventure

Today I spent part of the afternoon visiting Dick's Sporting Goods to get Youngest's bike tuned-up (bought the bike a few months ago, he learned to ride that same day) and getting some replacement tires and handle grips for my old Diamondback. Then, after tire repairs, chain lubricating, and adjustments, given the unusually clear day, and the mid-eighties weather (a reprieve in our NC July), Youngest and I decided to go ahead and take that ride we've been discussing, through the waterfowl impoundment north of Durham. The whole area is closed to cars and it makes a great off-pavement experience. This photo is of the place where the ride began, but I took it on a hike four of us took there in February, a year and a half ago. Picture it all overgrown, with six foot grasses on one side and a field of corn on the other.

We road more than four miles over gravel roads, stone causeways, and overgrown grassy paths. We took a long road I'd never taken on my previous trips, which excited him - the unknown. We never saw another human until we were back at the end. The sun set on the tail end of the trip, when we were driving back. The light was glorious, the riding was fun (even though I will be sore in fifty places tomorrow), and we saw so much wildlife. The place was shaggy, overgrown, and like the back forty of an old semi-abandoned farm. We startled a fox, who ran down the road ahead of us for three or four hundred yards, before ducking into the woods on our left. Later we had a deer bounding across the road in front of us, with tall leaps and several flips from its stunning long white tail. Gold finches flew around us in the fields, bending down the tall heads of redstem grass. We rode in a nearly constant cloud of dragonflies, which rose from the road in front of us. We saw passion flower blooming in one spot, and jewel weed, and jacob's ladder, and huge white hibiscus. The roadway itself was yellow with the small bright blossoms of thread-leaved helenium. Most of the old fields were fallow, but some were sown in corn, which was bearing. Some cobs were here and there left by the road, plundered and eaten by racoons. One section was planted in large sunflowers, just starting to bloom. Tiny toads hopped out of our way as we walked the bikes over the eighth stone causeway.

We ate a picnic dinner in a clear space beneath two old trees, where the large bright green June beetles (cotinus nitida) were buzzing around the ground and up into the branches. I caught one and showed it to Youngest, letting it vibrate loudly up out of my hand, its brilliant deep green back exposed by the elytra spread in flight.

Toward the end of the long ride we walked the bikes through the maintenance area, which was abandoned in the Sunday evening. We passed by one large garage where two heavy old trucks, early 80's vintage, one a Ford and the other a GMC, sat side by side, like old rivals/friends. A little further was an open garage bay, with equipment visible in the gloom within. We were so busy looking at the interior that we both nearly missed the large black animal stretched out on the concrete entryway. My entire body clenched at the sight of such a huge black dog, braced for it to wake up and charge us. Then I realized with even greater fear that it was a black bear. And almost in the same instant I realized it was dead. I have never felt such a rush of relief and sadness both hit me so suddenly together. Youngest had seen it just before I did, and I realized he was asking me about it. It was actually a small bear - but it would have been quite intimidating if it had been alive. We never slowed our walking - both relieved and weirded out by the whole thing. Neither of us wanted a closer look.

The entire ride was like a story, a strange fairy tale, even, full of birds and insects, and animal talismen, with a large dark scary creature dead near the close.

But we had another mile to ride after that, almost all down hill, over a long gently curving gravel road. We rolled along, side by side, and talked as the stones pinged and popped from under our humming wheels. Youngest wants to do more of this. So do I. At the end we put the bikes back in the van, pulled out some home made chocolate chip cookies (Tollhouse), more bottles of water, and walked back into the fields. We sat down in the middle of the gravel road (about half way up that photo above). I stretched, and we ate cookies while watching the slate blue clouds drifting north across a pale western sky. Usually we chatter each other's ears off when the two of us are in the car alone - but this trip home was fairly quiet, each of us full of thoughts and the relaxed contentment that follows an adventure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Lure of the Road

I've written before about how roads can take my breath away. This is an unusually beautiful road, in exceptional light. It's one of my favorites, and I've walked it in every mood of sun and shadow, and even in inky darkness. I've tried to photograph it many times, and this shot comes closest to what it means to me.

The desire to linger in this perfect spot, and savor this amazing view. Standing in shadows and looking forward into the brightness to come. The crunch of the gravel underfoot contrasted with the silence of the open space before me. The urge to follow the curves, restless to see more before the light disappears.

Life feels like this, a lot, lately. I feel like everything is larger, stronger, and better lit than ever before. I want to hold all of this, keep it all, and I want to rush on to the next things. I'm hungry for it all, my eyes and heart consume everything before me.

And I'm also old enough to be able to stop, grin, and sit on the side of the road for a while, enjoying those who pass by, knowing that I can get back up any time and walk some more. I no longer feel so rushed. Eager, pulled forward by the desire to see what's next, but not pushed from behind.

I would never go back to my twenties, nor even to my thirties. I have never felt younger or more free, in some ways, than I do now. Everything feels like the open road - this open road, familiar and yet always new.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Art Insights - The Usefulness of Absence

I've been pulled back from my art, and after a while that lends perspective. I'm not saying I was deliberately stepping back for the bigger picture, but I seem to be getting some insights by accident.

1. I realized that I want to push my paintings. I'm not satisfied doing the same thing well - I want to be reaching for more.

2. I'm still excited by color, more than anything else.

3. Certain artists have come into the foreground for me over the last few years. I'm drawn to them. They're my artistic family, with have similarities I can't ignore. Hundertwasser, Nolde, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Klee, Cezanne, Bernard, Klimt, Schielle, Munch. These are my guides, somehow.

a. They are not at all afraid of color.
b. They paint recognizable subjects.
c. They let paint be paint, but also make the paint serve the image they are creating.
d. There is a sense of light and place in most of their works.
e. Their paintings are generally beautiful, though the subject matter is not always.
f. Their works are composed, and the compositions are recognizably part of their style.
g. Possibly most of all, there is an immediacy and feeling of exploration in every stroke which feels like their inner child is holding the brush. That child may be hurt, or obsessed with the erotic, but it's still a child that is painting. Their work isn't too polished, either - it has a reality that makes it breath, like a musical recording where you can still hear the fingers move on the strings.

4. I still prefer to strive for a sense of play and a gleeful light to come through the pieces I create. I'm moved by strong, sober paintings when I visit museums, but I would not want to live with them, or spend a lot of time creating them, either. I feel like these preferences are simply choosing the company I keep.

5. I am impatient of spending time painting something I don't care about - something I don't want to paint, something I don't LOVE to paint.

6. I find that my pieces have more meaning for me, and that I'm pushed harder to create the right image, if there is a story. Having something I am striving to illustrate brings more of me into play, and the art shows this, I think. The paintings I created for a friend's poem (she is looking for a publisher) are still among my very best, I feel. And painting them stretched me considerably.

7. I've instinctively been looking for a subject or a poem that drives images. Today I leafed through a book of Cavafy poems. They stirred me, but they didn't seem to be from the right country. I'm looking for the verse or prose that is from the same country as my paintings. I know it exists. I sense it's at the tip of my fingers. It probably in a book right here in the house.

8. Most importantly, regardless of the other ways my creativity is being expressed right now, I miss painting. It fills a part of me. I don't want to live without it. I am enjoying feeling the tug of it on my heart while I'm busy doing other things. The tug is growing stronger.

I spent part of the last few days in bookstores, looking at several artists. Seurat (I like his drawings better than his paintings, which seem over-composed to me). Chagall (I love his colors and the dreamy way his paintings make me feel, but his paintings seem under-composed to me). Toulouse-Lautrec (So much acid green and pink, reds and oranges - I felt like I was looking at the Mannerists, again, who painted after the Italian Renaissance, and who also favored these hot hues and exagerated human figures. I love his drawing - his paintings always work as fine drawings, as well). Cezanne (I bought a small book, and I'm looking forward to reading more about his method - looking at things the way he did. More than most artists, I think his art is about SEEING).

Yesterday Daughter and I were out driving and then spent some time on Ninth Street in Durham. We went to the Regulator bookstore, which was open even on the 4th of July. I could not believe the number of art related magazines on their racks. I looked through more than ten, all with slightly different focus, from the more traditional ArtNews, to some avant garde and "art brut" publications. They made me tired. Some interesting or intriguing things were there, but mostly it felt like trying too hard to impress. I used to be intimidated by these trade rags, and the seriousness of the art they publish - now it just seemed sadly grown up, in a boring way. Some little voice in my head wonders if I'm dodging the challenges implied in the magazines - copping out on trying to create something that relevant - but that makes me grin. Nope. I just think it ought to be more fun than that.

I don't know where this hiatus will end up, but I'm aware that, under all the lack of activity, I'm on a journey. I also know that at some point I have to paint my way along that road, I can't just ride above it all with my brushes standing upside down in jars, clean, dry bristles in the air, and with my face in books.

Painting in the photo above is "Singing the Catfish's Song" - the first painting I sold, on opening night of the gallery we founded in Hillsborough, NC. I left the gallery after a year, but it was a great experience and launched my art again. I visited the Gallery on Friday and was greeted warmly by one of the other founders, Chris Graebner, a talented painter of large, vivid blossoms, and a certified botanical artist. This third year is their best year, even with the recession, and seven of the original 15 artists are still there. It's a co-op, owned by the artists. If you're in Hillsborough, check them out. Hillsborough Gallery of Arts.