I can’t wait to get to the studio! I’m almost there, tomorrow! I can feel myself standing in front of a piece of blank paper, mixed up some paint, paint brush and a drawing tool in my hands, music on, hours ahead of me, an infinity of space for creativity. Free to begin a new series of work for a show next year, a gallery space, a book. Nothing is standing in my way. I need patience and a new attitude for the days in between my work days. It’s hard, with the smell of stinky, fish, pots and pans staring at me, a dishwasher full of clean dishes and a sink full of dirty dishes, walls with drawing on them, toys scattered all over the floor. I can not pick up and clean everything all the time. What did I do before kids? What was my home like? How clean was it then when I thought it was dirty? Was it always clean, picked up? Was that stress I did not have? As Jack and Fiona get older, now almost four years old, the messes appear faster, it’s like Jack and Fiona need to live in chaos. Furniture that we’ve had for nine years, was in great condition, now in tatters. Chairs turned over, turned into forts. Cabinet doors broken, floors and doors warped from water damage in the bathroom when they played in the sinks with the stoppers in, they were supposed to be taking their naps. Dark mornings I am woke, “Mommy, my bed it wet”. I just want a few more minutes to lay under warm blankets. Did I ever think of any of this when I was going through infertility treatments? I thought I could keep my home organized when I had kids, I thought I could keep it clean. What I went through to have kids, the difficulty in raising kids, the way it takes over your whole existence, except those magical moments in my studio, is it worth it? Is it worth it for the sweet moments of pure joy, living life through a child’s eyes, learning about relationships and love like I never have before. Holding their sweet little hands, kissing them goodnight. Learning things about myself I could have never learned without becoming a mother. It is all worth it, to me. The house is here to be used, to be lived in. It’s not a museum. It doesn’t matter, it just stinks sometimes, like last nights fish dinner.
A windy fall afternoon, the ground adorned with large light tan fig leaves with rusty tops. Pink and magenta bougainvillea leaves, wispy sticks and thick sticks. Deep red wine. Long legged dark brown spider crawling across the floor in the morning. Yellow school bus, purple sage. Studio full of paint, paint drips, paint splatters, dark, dirty charcoal, paintings, drawings, frags, all contained. Work leaves my studio, graduates, becomes contained in a frame, hangs, is looked at, is bought, is re-hung in a new location. The cycle repeats, spreading an idea, a concept, a mistake, a masterpiece. I remain, for now, to create, to paint, to write, to care for, to love. I circle on through the Fall, through the Winter, through the Spring, through the Summer. One year leads to the next. One years’ worth of work contained in my series “Never Enough Time”. From Autumn to Autumn, from days before Trump was elected. My studio gave me a refuge, a place to react and deactivate my murky days. To bring me back into focus, to work though my feelings and emotions, to come back into being a homemaker, a mother an artist. Practicing becoming me, a full version of me. Artist and Mother and Wife. I look at my work for this show, all together as a group. I have worked hard. I see my growth as an artist, aesthetically, an esthetic that is uniquely me. It’s beautiful and scary simultaneously. It’s my whole self, my innards and outers exposed for everyone to consume. It’s a glass of deep red wine on a late fall afternoon
A beautiful late June morning. Blue sky, cool breeze, I see a small bird on top of a tall tree, it just flew down, probably catching a bug. The chimes blow softly, I hear a chain saw off in the distance. My dog lays patiently on the floor waiting to be fed breakfast. My children are at preschool, my husband at work. In one hour, everything will change. Jack and Fiona will be home from school, the quiet will turn to laughing, playing, crying. A house of activity. Two paper plate turkeys still hang on the wall from last fall, Jacks is missing a gobbley eye. A few paintings they made last year hang next to the Turkeys, I can’t believe how long they’ve lasted with just scotch tape. Paintings that were created with little hands in a tiny moment in time. A moment behind us, never to come back. A moment of little babies making marks and eating paint. A moment so precious that we can never get back. The paintings now made by these young beings are becoming more conscious. They are not purely a chance to make a mess and explore the surprise of paint spilling and covering their little bodies, splattering and tasting. Sometimes now they even ask me to wipe their hands clean during a painting project. There’s still the occasional body painting.
I am a parent of children now, no longer babies; kids now who still need my full attention and love. When Fiona sat on my lap at the audiologist the other day, asking the doctor big girl questions about her hearing aid molds that were being made I was taken aback. She no longer sat there and just let the doctor squirt the mold making goo in her ears, Fiona wanted to know why and how. Her legs folded long over mine, her head right in front of mine. She wasn’t a baby I cradled in my arms trying to distract, nor a toddler I had to comfort, she was a big girl, still only three and a half years old, but aware of what was going on. I got a freight, I’m their parent, I thought. I have two kids. Having babies is one thing but kids? Strong, independent, smart, loving, kids. They are developing their own tastes and interests now. I balance between letting them explore and learn and grow and teaching them how not to behave without squashing their individuality or shaming them for doing things inappropriate in our society. It’s a difficult balance for me, I sometimes wonder if I would be considered a permissive parent. I hope I’m strict enough, I don’t want spoiled brats or entitled kids. It’s difficult to find the balance. At least I know they are loving and kind kids.
The Sycamore Tree
There is a giant sycamore tree on my street. I can see it from my kitchen window. It was planted the year we moved into our house in a five-gallon bucket. Today it’s the tallest, widest, tree in our neighborhood. In the summer, it’s full of dark green leaves. In the fall, they turn to yellow then bright orange. Winter, magnificent bare branches are exposed where in the spring tiny yellow finches cover the tree. From my window in February the branches still look bare, but when I walk by close I can see tiny little leaves. So many things in my life have changed since that tree was planted. Eight years ago, when I was training for my first Olympic triathlon I would ride my bike up our steep hill until I saw the sycamore tree, sweaty, legs weak, tree still small. The year after that I did my first IVF transfer, followed by disappointments, sadness, infertility treatments. The next year, pregnant I relaxed watching the tree, then my first miscarriage I recovered, watching the sycamore tree. Its leaves reach up into the fog this morning, air cool, a crow in the distance cawing. Clanging of recycling being dropped into the big yellow trucks. Jack and Fiona are still sleeping. When Jack and Fiona were born I set up blankets on the deck where we could see the sycamore. They laid down, two chubby babies, so tiny, compared to the giant tree. My studio downstairs, waiting for me. There are no windows in my studio but I can still feel the presence of the tree. The first fall Jack and Fiona were alive as the sycamore tree started to change I felt like I was missing my cue. I wasn’t registered for any art classes, I wasn’t starting any new programs like I had every year of my adult life. I was a new mom, the tree reminded me of the time passing, fall into winter into spring. Jack and Fiona were growing, the first several months were difficult. I needed my studio, I needed my creativity to grow like the tree. I started to get worn down after nights of constant feedings and diaper changes. I was missing my classes, my painting. I didn’t know how much I was changing and growing, or how much the experience of motherhood would affect my studio time.
The lifespan of Plantanus Occidentalis, the American Sycamore tree is more than 200 years. That tree will be there long after we are gone. I think about that, our short time here. I first started back in my studio after the babies were six months old, it felt like a long time had passed. I started getting very depressed. At first, I tried to get large chunks of time in my studio, like I was used to from my life before becoming a parent. It was difficult to get much time, I was frustrated. It took me several months to develop a new technique that worked. I learned that even if I only had an hour or thirty minutes it was worth it. I started working on my naptime notebooks and paintings. I focused on spontaneity. I left my critical mind out of the studio. I’ve grown as an artist this way, with these restrictions. I shed my leaves and grew back new ones, use what time I do have instead of thinking I don’t have enough time, inspired and grounded by the sycamore tree. Memories are imbedded in that tree, it is a keeper of the past and a beacon of years to come.
Daisies; So many green stems, yellow and white flowers, crows and hawks talking to each other. Children’s voices in the distance. Jack wants to watch a show. Alan wants us all to be together in one location. I want to go with the ebb and flow of the children and my creativity. Sit outside, listen to the birds, chimes, and the slow rustle of the leaves in the wind. The gentle sky soft and blue. Sounds of Sunday. I bring outside to the deck for Alan, Jack, and Fiona, ice cold waters, gummies, and cheddar ducks. I go back in the house to get toilet paper from the garage, go pee, get my sun hat and shades, make a few marks in my studio. I hear Jack call my name. I go out, peek my head out the door, “What are you doing? Are you doing art?” I am questioned. I lie to my husband, “No, I’m not doing art, I just need to do a few things, I’ll be out in a minute.” What a strange thing to lie about! “Jack was wondering where you were”. I think lots of things in my head, like, I can’t even step away for a minute, I don’t need to be tracked because I won’t even be gone for very long. I got everyone so many wonderful things, I needed to do the same for myself. Now those water bottles and glass of fresh cold water are still sitting outside, everyone is inside now. I just try to grab a few private moments to myself here and there when I can now. Without the naps and only one day off a week I need to use a different strategy to get my work done. It needs to be incorporated into my daily routine, like exercise or breakfast. I’m trying to teach the children how to entertain themselves for thirty minutes at a time. Most of that is letting them watch T.V. so I can do my things. Thank god for T.V.!
When I went into my studio today, I was excited. I worked fast. The first time I had seventeen minutes. I put on one show for Jack and Fiona. Alan was still working in the office. I worked in my notebooks with ripper canvas collage and journal entries, I painted over some canvases in white. The second time I went to my studio, after I had delivered waters and restocked the toilet paper, I added silver and charcoal. I want to go down again now to check and see what I did. To add or start some new ones. Everything is quiet in the house right now. Alan is reading his I-Phone on the couch, the babies are watching a show quietly in their room. The afternoon wind just blew the door shut. It’s 1:30 PM. I am going to sneak down to my studio one more time. I sit and contemplate how to do it, without needing an excuse or reason. Without being questioned. Without sneaking. I just need a few minutes here and there to myself. In my studio.
Getting Buzzed. Listening to Tears for Fears. Drinking Zin.
Jacks watching Sponge Bob, it’s such a strange show. Funny and strange. I never watched sponge bob as a kid. I went into my studio to paint today. I worked on my notebooks with golds, purples, charcoal, big paintbrushes, drips and fine lines. A portrait, I call “Mirror Image”. I write on it, I scratch on it. I love it. Maybe it’s the cover of my book. The most amazing thing is happening to me. My book editing is influencing my painting. My painting editing; gathering my works to get photographed tomorrow is influencing my book layout. The pictures have become an integral part of the book, the emotion, they mirror the writing, the writing mirrors the paintings, it all mirrors me and I mirror it all. It’s like I’m in the HOUSE OF MIRRORS. The paintings start to mirror the other paintings. The babies mirror me. The writing mirrors the babies and the babies mirror the writings. The NOTEBOOKS are the glue that holds the whole body of work and of SELF together. The blog is community, a vast ecosystem where I let words and images trickle out into the giant internet ocean. This is gonna be epic for me. My website has been SO under used. I am going to fully avail to all that is available to me to get this project out with a bang. I’ve been working on this for so many years, all of it. Everything I’ve done has led me here. Everywhere I’ve been has led me to this beautiful, full circle OPEN place I am right now. Nap Time Paintings, you taught me so much. All the teachings I ever had have converged in NapTime Paintings and NOTEBOOKS. The babies, being a mom. Everything I’ve done has led me here, my blue finger nails, bleach blond hair. My suburban, yoga, minivan, mama of Marin. My beautiful stiff, strong body and soul. It’s laid out, raw and bare for all to see.
I’m watching Jack and Fiona climb on our new deck lounge chairs pretending they are roller coasters. Jack slips off, bumping his head face first on the deck. He cries, I go out and hold him. He’s tired. I haven’t been giving them a nap regularly lately because I’m trying to get them to go to sleep earlier. It doesn’t always work, and it requires a massive amount of patience on my part. Fiona and I sat at PEETS coffee this morning at a two sweater. We had a battle of why and why not. Then we walked through the mall to exchange a skirt at H&M I bought without trying on, it’s too small for me. We go up the escalator. I’m holding Fiona’s Hot Coco, that’s cold now, but she still wants it, her half pack of Madeline’s, and a piece of cheese in one hand. I’m holding the bag with the skirt in the other hand. I can’t hold onto Fiona’s hand on the escalator. I get scared she’s going to get hurt, but I feel helpless, my hands are full. “Be careful Fiona” I say. I tell her she can pick out her own wardrobe, since she’s grown so much and has very particular tastes. I spend way more money than I plan, even with the exchange, but Fiona’s style is cool and quite cohesive. Some of the pieces are still a bit large for her, the shoulders slide down exposing her whole chest. It seems she gets a satisfaction out of lifting the strap back over her shoulder. She changes outside the store, puts on her new stockings and too big dress. She puts on her size too big white sparkly princess flats. I go to another store, Crazy 8, to buy her a pair of thick socks so her flats don’t fall off. Later, I make some time in my studio; I put on a Wiggles DVD. I love what I make, the colors, the charcoal drawing on them. I had to work in my studio today, I had to be creative. I paint as fast as I can. I also edited one of my pieces for my book. As I read the piece as my now self, which was my future self when I was writing the piece, I was struck by some of the things I thought that turned out a completely different than I thought they would. I wrote how I thought Billy would be dead by the time Jack and Fiona were old enough to help take care of her. But they are helping take care of Billy already. Billy is still alive and well. Or how I thought the park by my house was yucky, was too dirty for babies, but now I love it, it’s beautiful and fun. How do I read things I thought one way then and think a different way now? To keep the integrity of the piece I need to have restraint and not change too much because of the way my now self thinks. I have many questions about the layout of my book. It is a very creative and tedious process. It’s different than I thought it would be.