Archive for the ‘journey’ Category

walking heart…

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I read this recently and was so moved by how beautifully these words were both chosen and written. How much of our days are spent attending to the most mundane activities that eat away time. I myself, spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about health and health matters. This could be time worse spent, for sure, but then there is the question of balance in one’s life. Attending to our heart and soul. The needs of our heart and mind.

I have the luxury of being in very close proximity to the woods of northern California, where within 45 minutes I am so far removed from the mundane activity of modern life, that I have occasion to enjoy this type of walk in the woods with my heart. It’s not about the exercise, though I am grateful my legs still carry me so, it’s that effort it takes to recognize how much our heart needs to be pampered and constantly healed and nourished by things like, ‘the magic whispers of old trees’ ; trees that have been here so very long before generations of us, and will still be here growing ever bigger after we are long gone. We need their silent whispers in our lives, as well as their old wisdom to put us in our place and humble us, and remind us of  how we choose to spend our days. We can race around believing much of what we do matters, or we can respect the fact that much of what we really have to learn, we learn in silence… and the whispers of old trees.

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!

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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


extreme travel…

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Facebook is awash in photos of summer vacationers in a seemingly fiendish pitch to show how far flung and incredible their vacation excursions are. Take heart those of you who keep your travels close to home… for joy and adventure can be found in the most mundane of trips. That fellow down the block who has turned his yard into a folk artists dream but his neighbors nightmare. The outdoor graduation parties loud enough and close enough to be in your yard too. Street fairs in small towns across the country. Luling , Texas has a watermelon festival! You needn’t go to the far flung ends of the earth to have FUN!


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)

Light my fire…

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Where I grew up , in upstate New York, if you were lucky enough to be a Girl Scout, you went to Girl Scout Camp Thunderbird for two weeks if you had sold enough cookies to qualify.

I loved, loved, loved Girl Scout camp. It was two weeks of heaven. I never got homesick, and came home looking and smelling like a small woodland animal.

I’m fairly certain that Girl Scout Camp gave me my love of camping, which I have only recently rediscovered. I am amazed to see how quickly the campgrounds fill up. In fact they are practically booked solid through August already. Young , old, singles, families, everyone is out there. It occurs to me it’s the most democratic recreational activity we share in this country.

Camping is still as popular today as it ever was, and if  you have not been in a while, I am here to encourage you to rediscover it . If for no other reason than the best part of camping – the campfire. It’s the very best part of the day, as it gets cool, dark, and everything revolves around the fire. You hunker down in your chair, cozied up to the smoke and flames as night surrounds you in a giant hug. And every camp site around is doing the exact same thing, having a similar experience. Sounds get quieter as voices and activity gets less and less till only the sound of crackling wood and flickers from campsite to campsite are left. Children have passed out from exhaustion and fresh air. Adults are in charge of nothing more than a stick to poke at the flames and wood and watch the fire as hours pass and embers die down.

If you are lucky, the stars will come out. If you are very, very lucky, you will have timed your trip during a full moon. The fire will be hypnotic.  The moon light is in fact, silvery. There will be a lovely comforting sense of order and whatever silly worldly troubles that consumed your day will burn away in the red coals of the campfire. It’s the cheapest therapy on earth. A bundle of wood and a match.

When morning comes, the smell of wood burning wakes you up, and the fire again is something to center you while coffee or tea taste a hundred times better in the fresh air than around the kitchen table. And I like how I feel after a couple days of camping- like a small animal again- closer to the earth, grounded and happy minute to minute, for the breeze to blow, the sun to rise or set, birdsong, stream rushing, fire crackling.

” Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” Walt Whitman