Some stitches are easier to drop than others. This blog project, begun with such enthusiasm in August 2016, lost its momentum about a year ago; I intended to take a little break, then life happened.
Luckily I do have a record of where all that time went, even if my memory is sometimes blurred. Several years ago I began an annual ritual that occurs each winter during ‘Old Year Week’– that odd time between Christmas and New Year’s Day. My first step during that week is to look back through my datebook for the year and the journals I have created, and summarize the highlights of each month. (I do this for my own sake, because the milestones in my life are not always obvious to me.) Then when I finish the summary, I go back with a highlighter and mark the Accomplishments and the Challenges. Like many people, I tend to overlook the former and magnify the latter because for me, apparently chagrin is stickier than pride. So this is where I have journeyed since I last posted.
There have been many endings:
I stopped attending a church that I belonged to for over twenty years. It felt a bit like that scene from Forrest Gump when he is running across America just because he felt like it, and in the middle of the Arizona desert, most of the way to his destination, he suddenly stops, turns around, and starts walking back home. No reason, he just felt like it.
Second, in June I also resigned from a job that I had had for two years because it no longer felt like a good fit for me or for my employer.
The third ending is harder to explain, because it is deeper and more personal. I stopped looking outward for other people’s suggestions and approval, and began getting to know the real Bobbie again, without affiliations or obligations. “If you could do whatever you want for the rest of the year, rest of your life, what would you do?” The silence was deafening. But not for long.
The beginning? First, art study
I took a look at my downsized bookcase, which is now 90% art books, and picked one. Like many people, I love buying books, await their arrival with great anticipation, then when they do arrive I leaf through them and gently lay them in a place of honor in the bookcase, to be read ‘soon’…hopefully.
I began with Alwyn Crawshaw’s book
Alwyn Crawshaw’s Watercolour Painting Course and filled a beautiful, large-format sketchbook with all the exercises I had done and lessons I had learned.
Hungry for more, I launched a study project using Joe Miller’s Joe’s Journals: The art & tales of a sojourner : a decade of watercolor journaling, another great book full of wit, wisdom, and a bit of technique too. If you like their style, you will love these books.
In June I traveled to the west coast of Canada, to Salt Spring Island to attend a school/conference about The Three Principles. I came across this way of understanding the human experience about ten years ago, and it has been a life-changer for me, like a delicious combination of religion, philosophy, psychology, and a brand new pair of glasses. Spending a week on that beautiful island with friends old and new continued to expand my horizons.
My second trip was to Virginia in October with my dear friend Maggie Butler. There I met her gracious family and enjoyed southern hospitality at its finest. Traveling for me is all about eye candy, seeing new flora and fauna and admiring mountains with profiles different than those in my beloved New Hampshire. The lovely folks I meet are a bonus.
Finally, my own vision of the future, and of art
I had a scare last summer which thankfully had a good ending and it motivated me to strengthen my resolve to never, ever take my remaining eyesight for granted. In late June, just as I began my time of freedom from commitments, I woke up one day to the shocking realization that something was very, very wrong with my eyesight. A few hours later I was told I was in the midst of a retinal hemorrhage. Having sight in just one eye makes this all the more frightening. My vision was so distorted that driving a car was out of the question, perhaps forever. I learned how to take the city bus, and how to re-evaluate the road beneath my feet which now appeared more like a Salvador Dali painting than the neighborhood sidewalks I had come to know so well. Reading was extremely difficult. I was advised to walk up stairs slowly so that my blood pressure could stay even and low; in general, I felt like a ticking bomb as the hemorrhage waxed and waned. I endured injections directly into my right eye, flinching a bit at the thought of it, but knowing it was the only hope, although there were no guarantees. My television became more like a radio as I quietly imploded.
Thankfully, by September, things were looking brighter, literally. Some of the sight in my eye was restored to what it had been in June, not perfect but good enough. Armed with a fresh shot of Carpe Diem, I went searching for an art class to take locally, but the one I had in mind just wasn’t offered anywhere. I shrugged my shoulders, made a cup of tea, then sat down at my computer to catch up on some paperwork. Out of nowhere a small voice deep inside said, “Ya know, if you can’t find that class, you could teach it…”
Where the heck did that idea come from? I opened my word processing program, started typing as fast as I could think, dashing off a rough draft of a curriculum that I for one would thoroughly enjoy. The next day I called the director of the local art school, pitched the class, and eventually wore him down to the point where he agreed to give me a try. The class on October 7th was a huge success, and I continue to teach this three-hour beginning workshop, and an intermediate follow-up class, to students who want to infuse their drawing experience with confidence and humor. This is my new mission in life, to share that infectious enthusiasm for the ability to “Look at That!” any time you want, with or without art supplies. You can ‘draw’ simply by looking, seeing, and pausing to say, “Wow…”
I will stop here for now. There are some very exciting changes coming to this blog, including a new product line created by yours truly, and some free-of-charge advice on ways you too can fall in love with the portable and affordable pleasures of drawing, doodling, watercolor, and opening your mind, your heart, and most of all, your eyes.