Archive for the ‘art’ Category

the art of anticipation…

Posted in art, beginnings, explore, Fredericksburg, home, journey, notice, ponder, Reno, time, travelComments Off on the art of anticipation…

This is the time of year I start to pack up my Nevada life and drive back to Texas for the winter. In truth, I started packing things up over a month ago – anticipation, you see. We all have things that we look forward to in anticipation. Vacations, grandchildren, children, promotions, holidays, weddings and for some, just the next day. We can look forward in anticipation to both big and small things.

For me it’s a road trip.  

I’m not sure anything  compares to everything that leads up to the excitement and pleasure I derive from planning a road trip. This year the trip has the added twist of a scrapbook documentation of  3 days on the road. I find pleasure in those small things as mentioned previously, like the driving snacks, packing the car just right, organizing the maps by each days progress. We all have our little road trip diversions and my husband has an abnormal fascination with mile markers. I like the roadside oddity. Other travel companions I have had love their music library. Researchers say that talking about your upcoming ‘anticipations’ , be they vacations or weddings or the like, increases your happiness level – so I blog on!

The WELCOME TO signs along the interstates and WELCOME CENTERS are another favorite of mine. You can drive across France, but you are pretty much always in France. I love the uniqueness that driving across the United States affords as you pass from one distinctively different state to another, each welcoming you with open arms and also letting you know when you are leaving. WELCOME! You can live here if you want, or just passing through is alright with us as well, so goodbye – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING…

And yes, I anticipate my time spent in Texas. It’s a time to immerse myself  completely in my art. This year I’m beginning a new body of work and I have even more anticipation regarding what that holds. Ideas and visions for the paintings live in my head for now and occupy mile after mile of the upcoming road trip. I’m never bored when I drive and think I would have made a pretty good truck driver in another life.

What else do the researchers say about ANTICIPATION? They say that anticipating the future delivers more happiness than reflecting on the past.

Given that, even if the road trip holds disasters ahead, or the body of work I envision in my head disappoints, I will have had plenty of excitement and positive expectations built up to offset things that don’t quite come to pass.


Enjoy your winter friends, wherever you are.


walk on…

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Did you know there was a time in our history when the simple act of walking was America’s favorite spectator sport? A man has written a book about this:

Matthew Algeo’s ,” Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Sport.”

It all started in 1860, with a challenge between two men resting on Lincoln winning the presidential election. The bet lost, the man had to walk for 6 days  from the State House in Boston to the unfinished Capitol building. Competitive walking events ensued and continued for over two decades!

I happen to love walking. It was my favorite thing about living in New York City. I walked to work every day, from Sullivan Street, through Washington Square up to midtown. It was the best part of my day. It was contemplative, and relatively pedestrian free at that early hour – not so much coming home. But it afforded me a chance to unwind and feel my bodies’ motion in a way that both grounded and lifted me out of my ever racing head.

In his book, “A Philosophy of Walking”, author Frederic Gros, calls this contemplative walking. It’s what you do to clear your head. One can also do walking as a form of meditation. I’ve seen race walkers, and  I must say it wears me out to see that unnatural gate. On this form of walking I must agree with Mr. Gros, who declares, “Walking is not a sport.”

As an artist who loves to walk, my favorite assertion from Gros is this.

” when walking, the body stops being in the landscape: it becomes the landscape.”

What more could a painter ever ask of an activity?

chasing life …

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After I survived my formal education, I went on to many years of art school in the form of a BFA and an MA. What I learned from my art school years, was that ART was a verb, not a NOUN. It is something that runs like a thread through your life – sometimes a tangled mess, sometimes beautifully woven into something that helps you articulate what words could not express.

I have chased life through my art for enough years now to know better than to rush through the time needed to process an idea. In fact, I find myself doing far more processing of late than art. I found this disturbing initially. Ideas and images would come and go as inspiration for a new body of work. An idea would blossom and fade overnight. Even more fleeting was the actual need to physically stand in front of my easel and paint. I found myself going through the motions of creating an entire work in my head. I would visualize standing in front of the completed piece and be quite pleased with the result. All this …in my head. For a while now I have had no inclination to go beyond that satisfaction and have been secretly hiding my ‘painting -in-my-head’ world.

I finally shared my ‘secret’ recently with a close friend who never judges or finds my ramblings in life odd or out of character. Her calm acceptance of my explanation gave me a grateful sense of relief. Then, almost as confirmation, I came across a passage from a marvelous book entitled, Miss O’Keefe, by Christine Taylor Patton and Alvaro Cardona-Hine. The book is a memoir that covers the last years of Georgia O’Keefe’s life through the eyes of her artist/nurse. Here are a few of my favorite passages from this beautiful book.


 … When people asked her did she miss painting, she’d tell them, “Well what makes you think that I am not painting anymore?” She told them she painted in her head, that she could still see the colors inside her head.

“… Art has nothing to do with paintbrushes or ink or graphite or any of the materials that are used to create it; those are just used in an attempt to make the transition from the spiritual to the physical and back again. The magic that is sometimes present in what we call art has nothing to do with those materials. It may have to do with passage, with something made visible by one human being to another.

” We do art a great disservice by having to reduce art to a material plane, to painting, drawing, or sculpture “           


Art has become that thread , invisible or not, that runs through my life. It is in everything I think and do. It is sometimes tangible and other times, like a song in my head for no one to hear or see save myself. And now that I have stopped judging myself over a certain tangible productivity, I get on with following that thread.

doodle power!

Posted in 7 deadlies, art, family, friends, gifts, journey, memory, notice, ponder, technology, time, UncategorizedComments Off on doodle power!

There seem to be plenty of articles lately on retaining your memory. As we depend more and more on smartphones to keep all our important information at our fingertips, we rely less and less on our memory. Gosh, I used to have over a dozen telephone numbers as well as addresses (zip codes too) memorized and ready to recall at a seconds notice. No more. I’m mortified to admit (sorry mom) I even have to look up my own dear mother’s phone number, now having grown lazy of mind, since at the push of one button I can dial her automatically. So when I read this great article entitled, ‘  The Power of the Doodle ‘ , it brought back a few important memories that I had long forgotten.

The article pointed out that doodling has the power to improve your focus and memory. This increases both the focus and attention you pay to your doodling. It can serve to increase your memory retention during that time so engaged.

Flash back to my 5th grade book report on the explorers. I had chosen Sir Frances Drake. It was my first serious book report and in all honesty I found Sir Frances Drake fairly dull subject matter. I remember discussing the assignment with my mother, who always seemed to know how to bring out the artist in me. (thanks mom!) She suggested I write the book report in a diary style, which I did, but then found myself adding doodle illustration drawings in the margins of the paper. Little wooden sailing ships. Antique map details. Things that helped to illustrate his ocean voyage, which suddenly became much more interesting to me now that I could connect to his journey through my doodles. I got an A+ for my efforts. God bless my teacher for not deducting points for drawing on my book report.

Now I’m in junior high school. ( still don’t know how I lived through that) I’m in Mr. Michael’s American History class and he is droning on and on about the French Revolution as I desperately try to stay focused. Mr. Michael’s was always kind enough to tell us that the test we would be taking would come directly from his lecture, so paying attention and good note taking was imperative. I’m listening to his words, but not looking up as I am doodling Marie Antionette’s head, cakes, and peasants in rebellion when I hear my name being called out…loudly.

“Miss Massaro, would you please care to share with me what is more important than what i have to say!?”

I just about fainted and now am about to be called up in front of the class to show that I am sketching instead of note taking. Public humiliation 101. I hand him my crazy looking notes with my weird little doodles in between historical facts, ready for the humiliation hammer  that is about to fall. Instead he hands it back to me and says,” Well, I am very happy to see someone is paying such close attention to my lesson.”

God bless you Mr. Michaels for seeing that I learned a little differently than other kids and keeping me on my young creative path.

I was red faced by the attention, but so relieved that I did not get chastised in front of my peers.

Art vindicated me again and I passed the test too. It seems the power of doodling indeed helps you focus. Not only that, it enriches the information you are surrounded by in a very physical manner.

I still doodle. As an artist it’s called sketching. I do it in any setting, anywhere I find myself bored or inspired. Boredom can often lead to inspiration. Sitting in the audience while my husband plays is no where near as interesting as being up there playing. So I draw. I sketch. I doodle. I am intently involved in not just the music, but the players, the audience and the environment as a whole.

I had no idea where I was going in my life back then, but others might have seen what was ahead for me. My mother, a few good teachers. We can never underestimate the influence one kind or encouraging act can have on a persons life –  at any age.

Let’s just keep passing it on and on. What a difference we can make, whether we know it or not.





knowing when to stop…

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It‘s hard to know when to stop.

There is a movement afoot to lighten our loads. I think we are beginning to be overwhelmed by the burden of our possessions. It’s natural for this to happen when you get older , as with my generation, but I think the young are seeing it too. It’s evidenced in the ‘tiny house’ movement, the move to apartment living instead of home ownership, and the ever growing recycling movement. Recycle, reuse, repurpose.

It’s hard to know when to stop.

Supersze. Big Gulps. Big Macs. Double stuff. Double toppings. Tall, Grande, Venti, Trenta!


It’s hard to know when to stop.

I make art. Lots of us do. It stacks up. Some of it sells, some of it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it stacks up. How do you stop doing something you are compelled to do? Do you put yourself on an art diet, like you would with food. Simply stop creating certain things that add to your stockpile? Do you limit yourself , like with a tiny house, to making only small works? It’s a quandary for the creative soul.

It’s hard to know when to stop. 

If ancient sailors had not set sails, the world would still be flat.

If Van Gogh had stopped painting, there would be no Starry Night.

If the wheel had not been invented there would be no modern transportation.

If Bob Dylan had stayed acoustic there would  be no Subterranian Homesick Blues.


It’s hard to know when to stop.

There’s no easy answer for those driven to create. I don’t have one yet for myself anyway. Like a junkie, I often wish I could just stop. Lay it down and watch life go by. I even tried it once. It only lasted for a few years, and then it came back in spades, like the floodgates of creative hell. I have learned to pace myself a bit more, but that is mostly a function of  maturity and experience.

It’s hard to know when to stop.

I await a sign. If I went blind, would I sculpt from memory? If I lost my dexterity to arthritis would I fight through the pain and carry on?

If I lost my joy of life, would the creative spark die with it? I have no answers … I guess I will find out in time, because for’s hard to know when to stop. 







intercept life…

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Getting out of your own way in life is no easy task. I’ve had lists of things that I wanted to do, achieve, see, make etc. And I’ve had lists of thing I swore I would NEVER do. Never say never. Next year I am crossing some oceans to do something I swore I would NEVER do.

Take a trip on a cruise ship.

 I swore to never set foot on cruise ships, convinced I was too germaphobic to not get deathly ill. Then an intriguing invitation came for a trip entitled –  the  MUSE CRUISE. The title had me intrigued. It is being hosted by an artist and coworker from my early days. The cruise is for women creatives from all walks of life. Painters, photographers, writers, jewelers , poets, and I’ve heard rumors of ranchers and homemakers, all wanting to walk a creative path. The trip has a workshop in creative journaling and docks at some fabulous caribbean ports of call. With the exception of one country, I have never been to all the others.  It includes one very tantalizing spot that is on the list of the 7 Wonders of the World. It’s a bargain for a week filled with all the energy that being surround by interesting, creative women from all over the country might afford. The MUSE Cruise is calling, and I must go! This continues my studio without walls odyssey, and gives me yet another opportunity to ’embrace the horror’ and get out of my own way in life. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’m choosing to think about all the great things that will happen!


” …if you lead an interesting life, you’re on track to make interesting art. Your job is to put yourself on an intercept path with interesting experiences.”  Ted Orland from The View From the Studio Door


straight lines

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” Oh, I wish I could draw.  I can’t even draw a straight line.”

This is the most common thing people remark when they ask what I do. I have heard it countless times. I want to tell them that there is no magic, just a certain passion, a calling perhaps. There is rarely a way to make a living wage outside of the commercial art world, so passion or a calling are the only things that compel you to make art. You do it because you simply don’t know who or how else to be. And that applies to dance, music, writing or any of the fine arts.

But people so often fail to connect their natural creativity and how it intersects with their daily lives. Making a beautiful birthday cake. Laying out a garden. Singing songs to your children. Restoring a classic car.  A disciplined yoga practice. It’s those daily moments in life that require no ruler whatsoever that makes us all artists to a certain degree. It’s the fine art of living that is available to all of us everyday.

And that brings me back to the ‘straight line’ comment. I want to tell them, that’s the beauty of being an artist – you don’t have to ever draw a straight line. It can be a curved line. A dotted line. A colored line. A digital line. But make your life line, using whatever tool or medium you choose.

“Your job is to draw a line from your life to your art that is straight and clear.”  (from ART & FEAR)

studio without walls…

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My year of a ‘studio without walls‘ is going very well. Of course the beautiful weather contributes to working on anything outside, but that has not kept me from sketching and drawing on location whether it be camping or nightclubs. I laughed when I recently read an article where the author posed the question, “In this age of digital media, are we taking too many pictures?”

I confess, I still take lots of pictures, but I do reference them and often. But executing a drawing, or painting while on location is an entirely different experience.  It’s immersing yourself in the scene, looking very, very closely at your subject, taking in the overall feel of the space and environment. It appears to be  a much more personal moment than the camera in that the  result  captures the ‘hand of man’ in a way that is undeniably tied to the artist.  Mostly it’s the knowledge that ‘time’ plays a very specific role in a drawing or painting, and rarely do people recognize the time it takes to survey a scene, find a unique point of view, and then capture a moment that will be lost in an instant with a camera. What most people fail to recognize is the time it takes the person behind the camera to make the decision to snap that image. Maybe what I am talking about here is intention. A photographer has a deeper intention behind the lens than the masses of people behind their smartphones,  iPads, and digital cameras . So perhaps to answer that authors question, ” … are we taking too many pictures?”  I would say –  yes. At least without the proper intention.

But I am  also speaking from an artists’ point of view. It cannot hurt to consider  for a moment, what you miss when you are busy trying to ‘get the shot’ instead of experiencing the moment more deeply.  Be mindful that you don’t substitute the moment for the shot. Try at least to be in the moment, locking it into  memory and then taking the shot. Don’t remove yourself from that moment where you have connected to something meaningful. To lose the experience but freeze the moment seems like cheating yourself out of life.

My ‘studio without walls’ year is waking me up again in a most stimulating way. My feet rest solidly on the ground and I’m finding great pleasure in experiencing moments in a very deep and thoughtful way.

PHOTO CREDIT – Sarah Cowen  ( shot with the most excellent intention)

your dragons…

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BEYOND HERE THERE ARE DRAGONS!                                                                                  


This is what old map makers would write at the edges of maps when new worlds were yet to be discovered. When they still worried that sailing beyond known boundaries might have them falling off the edges of the known world. The fear of the unknown was fearsome dragons … proceed at your own peril. Or for the few who could not resist the call of adventure, proceed at your own risk and wonder.

It’s like that with art. You can give yourself a million reasons to quit. I don’t have a gallery. I don’t have a studio. I haven’t sold anything in years. I can’t make a living on it. That guys work is so much better. I’ll never be famous. The excuse list goes on and on.

You quit because you have convinced yourself you are already doomed to failure.

Beyond here are dragons! I will stay in the known, safe world. The world that has already been charted and mapped out – by others.

Making art is much about repetition. The repetition of starting over, again and again. Idea, after idea. Voyage after voyage into the unknown of a blank canvas. An empty sheet of music. An expanse of dance floor. How do you tell your story over and over again, each time with fresh eyes and something new to say? It’s daunting, like peering at the the edge of a horizon, the edge of the map, the boundaries of what is known into that which is yours to discovery.


…” for most art, there is no client, and in making it you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated; that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world.”  ( from ART & FEAR )

Art has been my life’s education. It has shown me my shortcomings & failures as well as my victories and successes. It’s never deserted me as long as I was willing to go to the edge of the map looking for dragons. And so it is with life. Whether you are living the life of an artist or not, we have to slay our own dragons. Become a mapmaker for your life and go beyond where the dragons are. You will learn far more about yourself than you ever could have imagined.



Life is now in session…

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I’m standing in my garage looking at everything that was previously in my Reno studio. The sight of my ‘ art stuff ‘ relegated to a cold , dirty, dark, garage makes my head hurt. It’s a nightmare begging for organization. By choice I have given my studio space up to my step-son while he finishes his last year of college.

I have been without a studio before, so I am not terrorized by the loss of the work space itself, rather the assembled stacks of what I have deemed  necessities to create art. My first inclination is to pitch it all. My second is to organize it and find a way to walk out there and find it a pleasing environment. My third is simply to spend the year creating art outside of the studio. I am choosing the third option, though it will still necessitate me organizing the nightmare somewhat.

It’s easy to get too comfortable with our life. Stay in a routine … after all as humans we naturally look for patterns to organize our life around. So throwing my creative environment up in the air and seeing where it will land is alot like standing on a piece of ice as you feel it breaking away from the shore line. Still, I am, as is my wont, more excited about how I will adapt to the year rather than losing what was and standing outside of my comfort zone.

We get used to having  the familiar around us. It comforts us. It can also make us lazy. Forced out of the routine I created in my comfortable studio, I am now going back to the spontaneity of life drawing, location painting, photography and letting the outside world become my inspiration again rather than creating from within the walls of my studio. It’s suddenly exciting again to be working within a living , breathing event as it happens. And this summer when it’s time again for camping, the woods will be my studio. In truth, it’s like a rebirth of wonder to be free of the studio and engaged in the world outside.

So, I’m rolling with it. Do you have something in your path that seems like an obstacle? Life is now in session – don’t waste a minute of it.

You still have choices – go left or go right … or roll away the stone.