I’m still turning the wheel

Pencil sketch
Copyright 212 Margaret Sloan

The night before my birthday this image came out as I sat doodling in bed. (It’s my favorite time to just draw without worrying about results. I sleep better—if I sleep at all—after a visual brain-dump of how I’m feeling at the end of the day.)

You may already know that after a certain age birthdays still hold joy, but also anxiety and trepidation. I’m getting older, that’s all there is to it, and with age comes a kind of panic that I haven’t done all that I have meant to do. There’s a hopelessness that I never will accomplish what I set out to do. And a heart-wrenching sadness that in our youth-obsessed culture, my age can and will be used against me.

But dammit, I’m still on the wheel, working harder at turning it than when I was young. And in many, if not most respects, I’m doing a better job at the half-century mark than I ever did when I was young.

Lovely lists

One of my favorite bloggers, Ricë Freeman-Zachery at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe has been blogging about getting organized, and she had a great post on the value of lists.

Lists! Normally the dining table (which doubles as my office) is awash in lists.

But her post reminded me that I had sort of fallen off the list wagon, and that I had better climb back on if I wanted to accomplish anything. So I sat down and made a list of stuff that had to be done—grinding, boring, distasteful chores like balancing my checkbook—and it had to be done soon, or my world would would sputter and stall like a 1967 Volkswagon fastback in a rainstorm.

And I actually finished the most pressing things on that list. And, as is often the case, after I disposed of those boulder-like tasks that weigh so heavily, I suddenly had a spurt of creative energy. Now I have three half-finished drawings and ideas for a dozen more. It’s funny how undone business like an out-of-balance checkbook can block my creativity.

Actually, right now I’ve got another type of list that’s working well: a list of things the artist must do.  At the Portrait Society of America, on their archives page there is a good piece in pdf form called From Rookie to Pro by Michele Rushworth. It’s evidently notes from a lecture, each item a bullet point, and it’s very good advice. It helps me maintain my discipline and determination.  A copy of the list now lives on my refrigerator where I read it every morning and evening.

Life gets in the way

Tombow brush pen that's been smeared with a waterpen
Tombow brush pen that's been smeared with a waterpen

When I can get away from the day job, I go to the park at lunch and sketch. I draw the moms and their kids as they do the same summer thing I did with my mom in the same park many years ago. (Yeah, this is Silicon Valley, so some of the kids are with their nannies—kinda sad when you think about it. We were poor, but Mom was available almost everyday to take us to the park.) Boy, do I wish for those endless summer days of having nothing to do but play.

In a sense, I am on summer vaction now. Since classes finished I’ve been concentrating on socializing, since I get darn little of it during the school year. I’ve been catching up on seeing friends I haven’t seen in a long time,  hiking at Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve, and hanging out with my family. Blogging has taken a back seat.

momsinpark-1After my disastrous Every Day in May experiment, in which I attempted to post every day and instead ended up stressed and snappy from the pressure,  I decided that it wasn’t worth it.  Blogging was taking away time from actually painting and drawing. I’m not read to give up the blogosphere, but the everyday blog-a-gig isn’t going to happen for me while I’m juggling life as if I were a clown in Cirque du Soleil.

So for now, I’m drawing like crazy, and thinking about  my project next year at the Atelier. I keep a journal handy along with a pen so I can draw when I find a few spare minutes. I manage to play some tunes now and then.

Empty nest

Watercolor on Arches Hotpress watercolor block
Watercolor on Arches Hotpress watercolor block

One of the sad parts about life is saying goodby to people you love. This summer has been especially hard.  Two friends leave the area (going first on an excellent adventure, then to settle in the Pacific Northwest). And my two beloved neices left for college (also in the Pacific Northwest—is there a trend here?). I know that they are all doing exactly what they need to be doing, but that doesn’t fill that hollow space in my heart.

I know that I can go see them. In theory. But finding the time…that’s nearly impossible. Still, I’ll have to do it.

Heroes step-by-step

Walnut ink on Fabriano
Walnut ink on Fabriano watercolor paper

Some weeks are just harder to get through than others. This is one of them, with too much to do, and too much to look forward to. And I have to just get through it.

I often lionize  people who live outside the normal upper-middle-class life. Those who travel the roads of their lives in amazing jalopies of color, sound, and action. Oh, and how I envy them!

Yet I realize that these kinds of Odyssian life styles can’t be for everyone. There is honor in the person who daily just gets on with it. Who puts one foot in front of the other, even when that life path is boring, bothersome, tiresome, or even painful. They slog on even when disheartened—they’re not doing it for self-preservation or self-aggrandizement.  The moms and dads, uncles and aunts, husbands and wives, partners and friends keep moving out of love and responsibility to those who depend on them.

Here’s a shout-out to those day-to-day heroes.

It’s an uphill battle


This painting is another in a series of small walnut ink paintings I made for my friend Doug Rees. It’s from a larger painting I created one sleepless night while in the midst of a self-pity party. Felt like everything in life was just one big heavy bundle that I was trying to tote up a steep and barren hillside.

One of the things I hate about getting older is that things don’t seem to get easier—life is full of burdens, griefs, and sadness that you have to continually carry around with you, and the climb is steadily uphill.

But I suppose the view from high on the rocky mountain of existence takes in many things.  The bundle of the old woman’s back also carries treasures and trinkets of joy.