Secrets to Happiness: Journal After Italy (part 2)

“Art that is deeply felt and valued is the energy source for all art-making.”

Peggy Campbell, friend and poet

Sequel to Journal After Italy (part1)

Oct. 3, 2017

I wish I could lose sight of myself, my ego, my fears, and just paint, explore, take risks…

“let it grow on it's own…” as Nancy Bossert suggested when I interviewed her for the Irregular.

Well, it will happen. I’ll have days like today. I just need to honor my studio hours and trust that good things will follow.

Oct. 10

So today I painted for 3 hours and I don’t feel satisfied with what I made. But, that’s ok. I mean, painting is learning. I’m not always going to crank out shining pieces of art that people are eager to buy. What I keep stumbling up against is this realization that the chiaroscuro work feels boring to me. I can’t seem to accept it, and I keep choosing to do it rather than other things, because it “feels safe.” But I can’t shake this feeling that it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.

I know I’m afraid of messing up and making bad art, but that’s OK.

New goal: Make some bad art while growing and exploring!

“ Morning Alone”  painted paper collage, 4x6 inches

Morning Alone” painted paper collage, 4x6 inches

Oct. 19

3:30 pm, waiting in the sun for the schoolbus. It’s warm and it smells good: warm autumn smells. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids again, loving them! Hugging them! Listening to them chatter. I love them so much!

The trees across the street wave so gracefully in the warm breeze, so gently, their beautiful greens are so interesting. I think about how I might mix those greens. Tomorrow I’m going to paint outdoors…

I feel like I’m settling into a good autumn rhythm, finding space in each day for all the important things.

my family, reading (see    Storytime Sketches   )

my family, reading (see Storytime Sketches)

Oct. 20

“Art that is deeply felt and valued is the energy source for all art-making.”

Peggy Campbell, friend and poet

“Depth takes time.” —- ibid

Oct. 21

I feel so miserable. I cry at red-lights. I’m so sad. Will I always be sad? My heart hurts so much.

Oct. 22

Utterly overcome by sorrow.

I can’t really fight these emotions. I just have to be gentle with myself.


[I modeled for an art class at Lafayette College, taught by Ed Kerns.]

Ed Kerns, the professor, had a brief yet stimulating chat with me before class. He had some good observations about me as an artist.

“You’re authentic,” he said. “You’re physical. You want it. But you have not stepped up to your next level of mentor. You want the painting to be so friggin’ good, and it can be, but you gotta be physical with it. You gotta go bigger.” He advised me to get a canvas size closer to gesture size. He also told me to look up the artist Ying Li (whom he could connect me with, if I wished.) She is a juicy painter, driven by natural processes rather than a subject. Her drawings are searching, her art is hard-won (like mine.) A lot of physical scraping and moving, Ed explained.

I was so moved and inspired by my short conversation with Ed. How can he know me so well? The things he said were like bursts of light illuminating the darkness within me…

Where St. Francis Walked (by      Ying Li     )   2006, oil/canvas, 30x40"

Where St. Francis Walked (by Ying Li)
2006, oil/canvas, 30x40"

I miss Italy. I wish I could be there again, walking the hot streets, looking at lemon and cypress trees growing in people’s yards, and all that good food…

Lemon tree in someone’s yard in Civita Castellana, Italy…

Lemon tree in someone’s yard in Civita Castellana, Italy…

Oct. 26, 2017

Secrets to Happiness:


  1. go on a long walk outside

  2. Make Art

  3. Rest

  4. Spend time with family and friends

Nov. 1st, 2017…

At noon I walked to the college art building and Ed Kerns met me. We talked a bit. Then he GAVE me two large canvases! (30x40 inches)

“Make good paintings,” he said.

I nodded like an idiot.

When I got home I practiced the piano. I’m learning two Tchaikovsky pieces, and I let my mind clear. When I’m playing music, and also at times when I’m painting, I have that wonderful freeing sensation of forgetting myself.

I’m so scared to paint large. But…. I have done other scary things. Like…

  1. Giving Birth (twice!)

  2. travelling alone to Italy

  3. calling myself an artist

So, I can do hard, brave things.

Generous Permission

Nothing redeems but beauty, its generous permission, its gorgeous celebration of all that has previously been uncelebrated.”  --Dave Hickey, The Invisible Dragon  

I’m so excited about the next two years.  I can’t contain myself!  Here is what is happening with me:  I have been a stay-at-home mom, devoted to raising my two wonderful children for nearly 9 years, and they started school this week:  both of them!  (kindergarten and 3rd grade)  It has been a long time since I didn’t have a little one at home all day.  Suddenly, I will have the hours between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm all to myself.  It couldn’t come at a better time. 

For the past year, I have been on fire, fiercely, in my soul.  I am an artist!  I want to paint!  I need to paint!  Of course, I have been painting all along, squeezing it in wherever I can, but now the doors are opening.  And I am so ready.

Several months ago, I was surfing the internet, cruising around looking at artist-residency opportunities, and fantasizing about packing my bags full of paint brushes and canvas and moving to Italy, to immerse myself in painting.  After a few days of this, Ian, my patient, loving, albeit somewhat startled husband, started to protest.  In his opinion, abandoning my own family in pursuit of Art was not my best course of action.  “Why not have an artist residency here?” he asked.  “It could be a mom-housewife-artist residency.  Let’s call it a two-year residency, and then we’ll have a meeting at the end of the two years, and plan our next steps.”

"Father and Son ," oil on canvas, 11x14''

"Father and Son," oil on canvas, 11x14''

And so, Ian gave me generous permission to go for it, to really work on what I am passionate about, without worrying about money.  And it will be work.  I intend to WORK.  In the most joyful, most enthusiastic, most exhausting sense of the word.  For the next two years, I have been given this generous permission to pursue my passion to the hilt.  As with all artist-residencies, I do have to uphold my side of the deal.  In this situation, I have to keep the house from completely decomposing into the ground, feed my family, and meet the kids when they get off the bus.  No problem!  I don’t plan to win any housekeeping awards, but certain mediocre standards will be upheld.  (However, I do have high standards for loving my family and being a good mother, so I will be vigilant to make sure that doesn’t slacken.)

In the meantime:  Art!  It’s not really Ian who has given me this generous permission.  I am giving it to myself, by speaking up about what I need, by listening to my heart, and by valuing my vocation as more than a selfish hobby.  Instead, it is the life-blood of my existence.  And I would like to give you, dear reader, the same generous permission.  Redeem your life, take up your paintbrush, your pencil, your camera, your monologue, your artistic weapon of choice, and follow me into this awesome battle, to slay our monsters and conquer lands that until now have only been in our dreams.

Stay tuned.  Every Wednesday I will write an art-related blog post to encourage, inspire, intrigue, amuse, or surprise you.  May my blog be “a glorious celebration of all that has previously been uncelebrated.”

"Roses for my Mom," oil on canvas, 9x12''

"Roses for my Mom," oil on canvas, 9x12''