Slow-Moving Cars & Shiny Objects

Distractions abound. One split second of inattention can lead to disaster, whether it’s the roadside wildflowers that make me fail to notice the brake lights ahead of me or the glittery wings of a metallic beetle that keep me from realizing that everybody in my promenading party has walked on ahead without me and I don’t quite know where. Not such great and significant dramas in the grand scheme of things, these, but small indicators to remind me that things could have been so much worse if I hadn’t been so fortunate, and might be yet if I don’t learn from the nudges.Digital illustration: Tripping along the Road

The best fortune in them is, of course, that I’m cautioned before the crack of doom. How much better to be alerted by noticing the swerve I had to make to avoid plowing into the slowed traffic, or by realizing I have to catch up with my strolling companions than that I actually caused a crash or hiked right off the trail into uncharted wilderness alone. A little jolt is an occasion for large thankfulness.Digital illustration: Dyslexic Map

That’s how I travel through life, bumbling along its unmapped corridors with my faulty personal GPS and my avid, easily attracted magpie eye. I bump into life as much as I take a route through it. I’m just relieved to have lived this long without disappearing down any of an infinite number of rabbit holes and being lost forever in the warrens, tripping in them obliviously only because I was too mesmerized by nonessential Other Things along the way.

Fishing Expeditions

digitally painted monotype

I *know* I came in here for something . . .

Even those not in my Age Group (i.e., old) have had that irritating experience of going into a room and having no clue on arrival what they intended to do once there. I just have it more often than most. I’ve had it more often than most since (ironically) before I can remember. Thank you, short attention span and daydreaming obsession. But I’m kind of used to it, even if it’s still a little frustrating in the moment. I just have to go on lengthy mental fishing expeditions to try to recapture those slippery thoughts that had swum on through, not stopping quite long enough to satisfy the need of the occasion.

Surely I have mentioned here more than once that I have made many an artwork with fish as topic or, often, as random interjection. The piece above followed my work on a series of icon-like works, so it started out as yet another saint-with-a-halo sort of thing, but then these fish came jumping into the frame and suddenly the whole storyline veered off in a completely different direction. So I guess it could be said to be a perfect self-portrait in that way. Then again, maybe it’s still a good metaphor for a so-called Saint, since from what I’ve read and heard and been told, very few of them ended up doing ‘what they came into the room to do’ in life, but rather got knocked off course and went on other tangents.

That’s reassuring in its way, but it doesn’t fix my problem of forgetfulness or lack of focus, now, does it. There’s certainly no surprise in our forgetting a thing or two over the course of a lifetime. The batik-like little image below (with fish as its subject, in another shocking development) is not only a picture of a sort of trademark type of tale but also has my characteristic style of line, textures, and composition. But darned if I can recollect when, where or for what purpose I made the piece. I would not have known I had made it if it weren’t for finding the photo of it when it was hanging on the office wall of a company for whom I made a salmon-centric exhibition because they had a facilities grand-opening celebration in which they wanted to emphasize their commitment to saving the native Washington salmon runs not protected by similar companies’ practices. Oh, yeah–that was why and when I made the work. What happened to it later is another question, though the company did end up buying a handful of the shown works to keep in their buildings after the exhibition, so maybe it still lives there. But clearly, I’m not the one to ask. I just don’t remember stuff like that. I get a thought; it shoots off into deeper waters.

Hmmm, what was it I was talking to you about? Oh, well, maybe I’ll come back to it later. Maybe . . .

digital painting

I'll be thinking of you . . .

To Find Balance: Open the Book to a New Page and Begin Again

digitally edited photoI’m never quite satisfied that I’m getting as much done as I want to do, doing it as well as I wish, improving at the rate I think I ought to manage. I’m hardly a perfectionist, nor am I particularly obsessive (at least about things that I think truly matter)–I’d guess I’m just a fairly typical person who thinks I’m always running just a bit behind the pace and always crossing things too slowly off the To Do lists. But I don’t think that’s grounds for quitting or even for not trying at all.

It just requires that I take a step back and regroup–reassess my priorities–once in a while. Hence my recurrent list-making and all of those times spent sitting and, to all outward appearances, staring off into space, when what I’m really doing is having a long hard look at what’s in front of me that I’d forgotten how to see, or what’s inside that’s not quite getting its message heard clearly enough anymore.

photoFor one thing, my time-management method, if any, is often the old familiar one of doing what appears right in front of me, often leading to that state I’ve mentioned many a time wherein I set out to do one task, get diverted from it partway through by something else that catches my attention, veer off from that toward another thing that drew my eye, and so on ad infinitum but rarely ad finitum. That’s hardly the end of the world, because of course the short and simple tasks that pop up midway do get taken to completion and crossed off the list, and eventually the original plan will recapture my attention. It’s just wonderfully inefficient and sometimes I prefer to reevaluate whether those bigger tasks aren’t better broken down into groups of manageable smaller ones, ones that might perhaps get finished if stumbled upon tangentially in this habitual way.

All of this is a rather sidelong way itself of saying that I haven’t reestablished my drawing habit as firmly and regularly as I’d like, so I’m revisiting my intention to create a specific schedule or plan that encourages me to focus better on drawing, even a little bit, more often again. I know that I will do this; I can do it and have done so before. But I must choose to do it, and how, and that’s the agenda of the day. Other things (like, oh, blogging, f’rinstance) have stolen my attention and intentions away from drawing, and I would like to rebalance my doings a bit.

Needless to say, this has led to a fairly large overhaul of my household Fix-it lists, because I always prefer that there be at least the possibility of my getting those things done that will keep a solid roof over our heads and a comfortable living environment in which to do things like drawing and blogging surrounding us. That list is as big as always, full of everything from essential repairs to the rearrangement of rooms to better reflect and accommodate how we actually use them, to long-range and perhaps highly fantastical proposals for things I might attempt to build, create or accomplish sometime down my long and wayward path of homemaking.

photo of graphite drawing in progressBut there is also this quick-fix remembrance that what I always advocated to my students had better be usable advice for me: To begin drawing again, make a mark. Waiting around for the Inspiration Fairy to appear and bonk me with a magic wand of fully fledged ideas and a baptism of heartwarming motivation makes for delightful internal pictorials, but not an iota of drawing to show for it. The best cure for a staring, empty piece of paper is A Mark. Directionless and indecipherable as any random thing, it may well be, but it’s amazing how very brief the time usually is between seeing a dark scratch on an otherwise pristine piece of paper and my hyperactive editorial mind kicking into gear and critiquing that mark as something that ought to have purpose and attempting to decipher what that purpose is, steering my hand to further scribbling or erasure, and either way, toward something specific and concrete, even if entirely abstract and nonobjective. That’s what’s going to happen, for starters. Where it goes from there, I’ll have to report back to you when it begins.graphite drawing

I was Going to Write the Great American Novel, but I Looked out the Window for a Second and . . .

My attention has drifted awry once again,

Has shifted from matters of weight among men

To things of no import, exceedingly tiny

And so insignificant–Hey! Look! It’s shiny!

I set out to do some magnificent thing,

But what it was? I can’t remember. The sting

Of memory loss in old age will be naught

Compared to the blank Inattention has wrought,

Distraction, and phantasmagorical dreams;

To focus and think is more work than it seems,

So, though I’d meant well and begun my great task,

My progress dried up like a sot’s whiskey flask,

And instead of inventing great stuff, plodding darkly,

I did something else–Hey! Look there! Something sparkly!

mixed media on glass

Look! Up in the air! It's a bird! It's a plane! Hey, it's my attention flying way off course again!