Writer Ray Bradbury titled one of his short stories, “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” a lyrical line that has danced in my head for as long as I can remember. It comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem The Song of Wandering Aengus. Yeats composed three beautiful, short stanzas to describe a life of yearning, striving, and searching, all for an elusive desire.
Like the character Aengus, I’ve carried a lifetime of longing for a single thing: I’ve always wanted to be an artist.
During this process of unlocking myself as an artist, last November I wrote the following joyous plea to myself. In it, I remember how good it felt to be a creative child, and to be spellbound by both seeing and creating art.
You Always Wanted to Be an Artist
Right? So why aren’t you being one? Photography is great, it’s an art, you love it, you’re good at it … But I expect more from you.
Painting, love you long time.
Since your youth, you’ve admired painters. As a teen, you read their diaries and writings, And spent your weekends—not at parties—but at Art museums and galleries, looking at paintings. On your wall, you hung posters and post cards of, yes, paintings.
Then, you stole a book. Sort of. It was the first library book about the Impressionists you saw, And you didn’t return it. (Paying for it later, it still sits on your shelf.) When new exhibits came around, you were there, Eating all the beauty and wonder with your eyes. You looked at every single piece of art In every single museum Available to you, Repeatedly. You made an effort to understand modern art, Even when you couldn’t.
You have always wanted to be an artist. (Also, a poet, a writer, a dancer, even an actor.) But you’ve always wanted to use your hands To make art. To lose yourself in making art. You used to do that, remember? Remember that feeling of being lost in creating. Before judgement, And before insecure people visited their shortcomings on you. (Before the jealous friend made you hide your light, And an ex told you weren’t being an artist the right way—as if! Before you learned how little most artists make, And before, before …) Forget all that!
Remember these instead: Being a child lost in drawing, coloring books, paint-by-numbers, And book-corner animations. Those times when You copied drawings, drew animals from photos; Drew what you saw at church, instead of listening. Drew from sculptures and paintings. Painted from paintings. Photographed paintings…
Set aside persecution, cast off doubt. Step away from the experiences and people That drove you away from something you loved —And still love— Though it might seem hard to find that love Without shame and fear of judgement. But! The creative person inside loves you, and is smiling. She remembers that pleasure of losing yourself By immersing yourself in art.
Remember, too, what you mused over as a child? The things your mind and imagination touched on, Ruminated over, wondered about?
It’s time to touch base with that musing nature again. To be free to meander and Look and muse, explore and muse, Walk and muse, read and muse, Just to look at things, Look look look and muse. Find your muse. To rediscover your many muses, work with them, Let them stir you, rouse you.
After all, you’ve always wanted to be an artist.
I know you can remember that feeling, Finding wonder in the things surrounding you. Light bouncing golden off the pavement, And how it glowed on a wall. The sound of rustling leaves, and wondering, What does the source of the wind looked like? A turn of phrase in a book that carried you, Inspired, into a daydream. That is what it was like, To be lost in creating. It was sensual, magical, mystical, delightful. Remember that feeling. Nurture it. Imagine it! FEEL IT!
You loved it. While creating, time was timeless. You were in the moment, Not in any story Other than the story of the moment.
That moment was golden, innocent, Connected to nothing but self and doing, Doing and ether, ether and mystery, the mystery of how. How the ability came, how the inspiration arrived, How the marks made the results.
Because it is a mystery, it’s a knowing without knowing how. You’ve known it was born in you, never to be taken away, Something that will live in you for as long as you live. And because of your knowledge now, you know it’s Part of ancestry, a thread that goes back beyond history.
No wonder you always wanted to be an artist! So now that you can remember, It’s nearing the time to work through what’s happened, One way or another. To pull that thread through the eye, Unravel the knot that blocks its passage, Do what it takes to see your imagination and creation come forth. And, soon enough, it will be time to do the work. So…
Then work through.
Then do the work.
One step at a time, though.
Right now, let’s just remember that ART FEELS GOOD.
After Being Reminded that I Always Wanted to Be an Artist
The night I wrote that, I slept like a baby.
Subsequently, I’ve done a lot more writing, which has taken me back to good memories, times I felt connected, safe, and loved. Conversely, I’ve recalled difficulties, explored why I’ve been stuck, and scribbled or typed raw expressions of frustration. Sometimes I’ve ruminated on the quizzical nature of other people, and their impacts on me.
These forays into the past have often been streams of consciousness, letting whatever-it-is pour out of me, going wherever it will, and carrying me along.
Surprisingly, expressing myself to myself has proven to be less emotionally heavy than I had feared. For years, decades, I’d shy away because I thought something dark would come out.
Instead, I’m finding light. Often I feel energized rather than dragged down, even in the midst of revisiting negative experiences. Within, there is a sense of fortitude and healing.
Best of all, I feel movement, and that movement is forward.
Here’s my poem, followed by the backstory and inspiration:
She lay headfirst on the table before me, A slight and youthful beauty, Gossamer hair fittingly pale blonde, To match her translucent skin. In 15 years, I never saw another With hair so impossibly fine, Floating into my oiled hands, Unbidden, undesired, and yet … A cherished memory; a muse.
For 15 years, I was in (mostly) private practice as a medical massage therapist. Some clients came simply for relaxation, many others for my specialty in pain management. However, my super-rare, very special specialty was in vocal massage therapy. As such, I saw clients with vocal pathologies, resulting from birth disorders, trauma, surgeries, brain tumors, cancers, radiation treatment, and other medical conditions. Further, I worked with professional singers, and folks with speech-heavy professions, like trial lawyers. I did a lot of work around the head and neck.
Now, being a particularly conscientious massage therapist, I was always hyper-aware of getting oil in people’s hair (assuming I was using oil, which wasn’t always the case). This was, unsurprisingly, due to my own experiences. When I went for massages, I’d repeatedly had my freshly-washed hair oiled up by other therapists. Many of them, in fact. I hated it, and could never understand how so many could be so thoughtless. Some of them weren’t just careless around my neck, but they’d purposefully run their heavily oiled fingers through my hair. Subsequently, instead of allowing the oils to condition my body until the evening, I’d have to shower immediately upon returning home, simply because my hair was now an unsightly mess.
Inspiration for the Memento Poem
Fairly early in my career, I practiced medical massage in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. One day a client came in, and she had the finest, most wispy hair that I have seen, before or since. It wasn’t sparse, just ultra fine and soft. I didn’t know individual strands of hair could actually be so thin. Her hair was shoulder-length, and I wondered if she could grow it any longer, before it succumbed to stress and broke.
Naturally, when this client lay down on my massage table, I was acutely aware of just how fine her hair was. In fact, gossamer was exactly the word that then came to mind. And, indeed, her hair practically floated into my oiled hands, despite my careful attempts to avoid such a fate. Oh, well. I apologized to her, and she said it didn’t matter.
But apparently it did, at least in my memory. Her hair was so remarkable, I’ve never forgotten it. She reminded me of so many beautiful, pensive, even sad paintings of lovely young women, like the one of Ophelia I include above.
And now she’s inspired my little poem, Memento. It’s short, but I hope you enjoyed it!
Wallpaper for your desktop or tablet. Download higher resolution versions of the following photos (click any you want, fits screens up to 2560 wide): [This is a benefit for people who’ve signed up for my artist updates. I invite you to sign up, too! Learn more here.]
An experiment. Over the last few months, I’ve considered mixing photography with painting. This week, I ordered samples of photographic prints on various papers and substrates, as well as a proof of a larger print. When these arrive (should be in about 10 days), I will test them with a few media—starting with soft pastel and fixative—and see how they work together. I’m excited about this new direction! Watch for future developments.
Tips: If you too are an artist or photographer, two of my blog posts in the last month might be of interest:
Strategic Photo Posting on Social Media – Whether you’re a professional or hobbyist, you can benefit from strategic photo posting. Having clarity on what you want to be known for directs your choices, significantly improving the impression you make. read more
Benefit from Standing Back – Artists learn to take a few steps back from their work, to assess progress. Photographers benefit from this same technique, when selecting possible works to share, and when processing photos. Learn why and how you can use this technique. read more
Rejection as motivator. Last week I applied to participate in an open studio event, happening this fall. This week I received a rejection notice. The worst part is, I wouldn’t have approved my application either. I’ve let photography take precedence over painting this last year.
My takeaway? The work towards painting accomplishment needs to get back on track, so I moved some art supplies from my smaller upstairs studio into my second, much bigger studio space. Today I began putting pastel to paper, in a larger format than I’m used to, and will be experimenting with different techniques to expand my multimedia repertoire.
Appreciation. Contrary to every experience I’ve had on other social media, I adore Mastodon. In less than 6 months I’ve garnered 600+ followers, made lovely online acquaintances, seen terrific work, and learned new things. The littler pond allows one to be a bigger fish, which is good for the artist ego. Appreciation stokes creativity.
I appreciate you, too! Thanks for reading. If you’ve poked around my web site and have questions about any of my creations, want to know more about Mastodon or Glass, or have constructive feedback about my work or this newsletter, feel free to reply to this email [contact me]. It’s great that you let me keep in touch with you!
I suppose it’s rather odd to begin a new blog with a post title signifying something ending, yet here we are. I wrote the following poem specifically for this photograph, which I took last November 18th. It was a magic hour of rich and sublime colors, mixed with layered, quickly morphing cloud formations. The photography outing resulted in more than a dozen strikingly distinct images worth sharing. (Find some on my Photography page.)
Despite the rosy scene, this poem unexpectedly turned dark. The first stanza poured out of me, setting the tone and direction. (Each stanza is touched by its own ending.)
Our life-giving sun king has slipped away at last, tinting clouds in pink-lavender-peach as a final offering to his cold, moon-faced queen, beckoning her to come—quickly!—but she is too late, too late for his demise.
Beneath the fading vapors, forest-clad mountains wear thick autumn coats, yet shiver, bereft, in the chilled evening breeze.
On gentler hills, the vineyards—arms intertwined in helpless defense—have been stripped of their grapes, those green and purple teardrops, once kissed and sweetened by the very sun for whom they now cannot weep.
And in the lowest field, heads bowed in silent grief, the sunflowers gather in mourning, blackened on their withering stalks.
Undoubtedly, this will not be the last photograph + poem combination I publish here. Due to the beauty of Pfalz, Germany (where I live), with its rolling vineyards and fairy tale forests, I am inspired to write. Combining these arts is soul-enriching. Does the coupling of image and words also float your boat?
During this process of unlocking myself as an artist, I wrote the following joyous plea to myself. In it, I remember how good it felt to be a creative child, and to be spellbound by both seeing and creating art.
A no-nonsense, straightforward guide to working safely with soft (chalk) pastels. I cut through conflicting information, draw on safety data from several pastel brands, and offer an inexpensive, highly effective solution for airborne pastel dust.