Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Ladies Walking



There is a skill in teaching that typically goes unsaid and yet becomes apparent when a really gifted one comes into your life. Most of us have drawn our inspiration from them at some point in our lives, or maybe better said, from one or two that made their mark on us if just by creating an environment that both physically and mentally challenged us to think, to explore and to be better. The act of sharing your knowledge with others and doing so in such a way as to impart on them your passions and “bringing them along” so they get a taste of your passion for the subject matter is like no other.  I began my college career as an art education major. I loved the art studios and classes in the basement of some of the oldest buildings on campus - once called a “teachers college” and where Robert Frost taught for a bit. The environment and those years living in a small valley in New Hampshire were womb-like yet I found I was still searching. My art teachers were okay but I was bored and at the time there were very few teaching jobs and I changed my major from education to photography and decided I’d be the person that took photographs for science text books. Then I took a geography class and I never looked back. Here was an area of study that took my creativity and curiosity to a different place and I soon found myself doing research in the mountains and ocean-side cliffs of Arcadia National Park, ME. Geography seemed to combine my love of art, rocks, landscapes, maps, history, philosophy and people. But the main attraction was the man behind the geography - Dr. M.W. Dow. Here was a professor that taught with passion and challenged us to find answers by observation, reason and research...and while he was fair he was really tough and you had to always be on your toes and could not hide in the back or take a day off. I think this was also why I changed my major to geography. I loved the challenge and was motivated by this man and found the subject matter exhilarating. That is the trait of our best teachers. To get us excited about the subject matter and lead us to discover the answers on our own. Artist Jane Slivka made this happen during her acrylic “Painting Out Loud” artists workshop in New Smyrna Beach that I attended two weeks ago. I found out about the workshop by pure luck while searching online for art in the area.  Back when I was painting daily I felt at home working in watercolor. I always liked working and watching how the water and paint interacted and I always liked to work fast and furiously yet during my many years of not painting I was developing a more mature creative mind and knew I needed to explore other mediums. So here was one on acrylics and what better way to jump start my need to start painting again than with a workshop - so off I jumped. The morning painting was a slow start for me as I spent time learning how this paint felt on the brush and how it reacted to water and the canvas as I worked on our assignment of a house by the water. I wanted to paint fast and free like I did with watercolor but had to learn patience with more focus on negative painting. At the same time my heart was pounding as I was beginning to feel like acrylics may be the best medium for me since it was like watercolor but also had similar qualities of oils without the smell and toxins. When it was time for the afternoon painting my confidence was rising and yet I was in a panic on the subject matter - people! We were given a photocopy of a few images of caribbean village people and told to develop our own composition. Then Jane showed us how she paints people and I was thrilled and petrified that it was threw a series of very quick strokes with larger brushes to give the sense of the figure’s body and then we were to paint the cloths over the images. I tentatively stepped up to my blank canvas with dark green paint on a 1.5 inch brush and took a deep breath and sketched the three figures.  Having to learn patience as you need to wait for this to dry I found washing your brush and changing out your water was just about the right amount of time to allow the paint to dry as well as your creative thinking to rest a bit. I then used the same wide brush with white and painting the cloths with swift long strokes. Then another clean brush/water action and went back and worked in the backgrounds and light sources. The final result is “Three Ladies Walking” -partially shown above and the entire image can be seen in the Art Studio portion of this site.  When we both looked at the painting together and I heard her praise I knew I had made a break-through and felt another door opening.  Many years ago a soccer coach told me that the best athletes make the really difficult plays look easy and that is what Jane did. Her passion for painting and painting with acrylics filled the room and her teaching style made the exercises seem easy while she motivated & led everyone in this new subject matter. Oh and did I mention she’s also a very well-respected artist and sells her work in many galleries and large retail stores like Target sell prints of her work. I left the workshop feeling exhausted, enlightened and with a “can’t wait” to get back to painting and look forward to working with acrylics. During the ninety minute drive back home I couldn’t help but reflect on how this came about. Was it just “by accident”? Brush on!

P.S. You can find links to learn more about Jane Slivka and the Atlantic Center for the Arts in the Art Studio section of my site.

Friday, September 25, 2009

THE PATHS WE CHOOSE


I am still getting to know Flagler County. The best roadways and shortcuts and the good places to shop. Yesterday I was at Michael’s to pick up art supplies for a workshop I am taking tomorrow and decided to head down to Ormond Beach to find a shopping plaza that I knew had some nice stores without having to drive even further yet to get to the closest mall. Earlier in the week, driving back from Orlando, I tried to find it on my own. I got off the exit for Ormond Beach and drove and drove and had no luck.  But yesterday, google map in hand I wound up in the parking lot of Coldwater Creek. Well gee I did receive a coupon so why not go in and browse around?! This is a woman’s clothing store by the way and I found myself in the back of the store near the dressing rooms where a number of nice, comfy grey folded sweaters and dark brown folded long-sleeved tee’s were on a wooden table and as I was running my hands over the fabrics I noticed there was also a book on the display. A book of...poetry?! And it’s for sale, here? Hhhmmm. I picked it up and opened right to a poem and began to read. It was wonderful. She spoke of a hummingbird that used to come by her window every day but now no longer. It was about the waiting. About love. But not mushy. Crafted. Visual. Strong yet kind. [I am working on a few poems about birds, one of them in the works, “The Language of Birds” is in the Writing Room at yellowfishcafe.com]. So I was immediately drawn to this book and held it for a moment and then read the jacket. 


The book is entitled, Evidence - Poems by Mary Oliver and I discovered that she a) won the national book award and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and b) lives in Provincetown, MA (my parents live on the Cape, my brothers in Boston).  I thought, how could I have not heard or read of Mary Oliver? And wondered, is hers one of the faces on the barn I took photos of at the wharf (I was just in Provincetown two months ago)?  So I carried the book around the store as I listened to these thoughts and wondered about how all these signs seem to be just cascading on me. I found a few things to try on and while at the check out counter I remembered the sales woman had told me, after remarking to her my surprise to find a book of poetry for sale at this store, that they had another book of poetry that was quite popular - and I remembered to ask her about it. She scurried off and came back with a smaller book entitled, Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again & Again by Roger Housden. Well I took it and turned it over. I had heard of the Ten Poems series and thought it was probably worth looking at but not sure if I should buy it (and secretly was thinking I should be over at Barnes & Noble where I’d at least get my 15% discount) and then fell into a trance of creative shock when I saw listed on the back as one of the ten poems, “What to Remember When Waking” by David Whyte. OMG. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that finding the poetry of David Whyte has changed my life, that I have been unable to find an actual book of his locally (and have since ordered one via Amazon.com) and this poem, this very poem is one of the best poems I’ve read of his and possibly one of the best poems I have ever read, this exact one. Well I have to say this did it for me. Of course I bought the book if only to help the cause of giving David Whyte a lift, not like he needs it. But, and more importantly, late last night as I spent some time reading some of the poems out of both of these books I just knew that this is what I am meant to do. And meant to do now. This sign, and the many other signs that have recently almost overtaken my very soul, is now breathing into me to molt myself through words. Poetry. The words that no one reads anymore. That no one buys. There is no career here, just the words. And yet even if I have just a few someones to share them with then that’s enough for me. “And off the ledge again I push myself” (another book of poems I have in the works). So why am I taking a painting workshop tomorrow? Why not a writers workshop? The act of painting, the creative act itself, puts me in a state like no other. A place of mindful creative seeing. All the negative chatter is gone. All the worries of the world. Gone. And all the details of the world are clear. Both the beauty and the darkness. And when I enter this place of calmness, if even for a few minutes or for a few hours, I am floating. Time has stopped. Concentration is bullet-like and all things are possible and all ideas are working, bubbling under the surface and I can hear them. Listen to them. And, eventually, write them down. And eventually, get there on my own and stay there full-time, living in the creative. Java!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cooking for Bimbos?! =]

I have yet to see Julie & Julia but I am in a very similar place, especially when it comes to rekindling that passion in the kitchen. My husband is the chef in our home and while I used to love playing around with a few favorite dishes (and was known for my quiche many moons ago) I was pushed out early in our marriage (ok, rightly so) but now I have the urge to get back in there and see what’s up...and I found this site that has me feeling that I can do it - it’s called CookingForBimbos.com! Immediately you find that it’s a site for those that want to cook for their friends but just don’t know what to make and how and here you find a number of recipes with instructions on how to make some impressive yet simple dishes. I like that it is run by one woman, Blakely and I love the fun and functional nature of her site and that it is unpretentious - no Bams! here. I have only reviewed the breakfasts to date and found that the “Egg Cuppies” to be an instant hit (especially since I’m in the low carb/no carb zone these days). I’ll include the recipe and a link to her website in The Kitchen - take a look!  I also love the idea of bringing back the apron. She offers a very cute yellow one (which of course makes our list) and a link to Flirty Aprons dot com. I recently helped my mom with some spring cleaning by going through some of the closets and storage areas and found one of her aprons that I remember her wearing back in the day.  I just couldn’t send it off to the church’s free shop and now I have it here in my kitchen so I better start cooking so I have a reason to wear it. I have so many memories of my mom and other mom’s at home in the kitchen. Seems like there was always a large, homemade cake in one of those glass covered cake plates on the kitchen counter and I can still see my mom standing over the counter with a recipe book open, a layer of flour dust everywhere and a wooden rolling pin in her hands. She used to make pies.  While my favorite was the traditional apple, made with fresh local New York State Granny Smith’s I believe, as an adult I came to appreciate her homemade Strawberry Rhubarb pies. Both the strawberries and rhubarb were from her garden and the crust was always from scratch (wasn’t it mom? I do remember seeing a Mrs Smiths crust in the freezer from time to time but for today we’ll say it was always home made, ok?) and I do remember it was very sweet so I’m sure it was piled with sugar to offset the sour nature of the rhubarb but those were the days when we didn’t count calories, or carbs. I remember a day in late summer when she made one of her Strawberry Rhubarb pies for my best friend’s dad who lived next door and was suffering with a brain tumor at a very young age. I can still see the late afternoon sun on the grass as we carried that pie across the back yard. And then, an intimate group of family & friends gathered nosily in a simple celebration around the large farm table in the room off of the kitchen in their old colonial home and we all shared and watched as pure joy came across her father’s face and a renewed glint that appeared in his deep blue eyes as he sat in his wheelchair and dove into a large piece of that Strawberry Rhubarb pie and smiled as the pie slowly let out her red glazing innards. A wonderful gift, food. Especially when it’s made with love and shared with family & friends.  Java!  - yf -

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Finding David Whyte


I discovered two things that changed my life while searching for art and/or writers workshops in Ireland prior to my trip. The first was the Burren College of Art (in photo above, see yesterdays blog about the experience) and the second was discovering (just by chance ?) poet, author and corporate lecturer, David Whyte. First of all I was caught off guard by how much his rich and thick poems cut right to it and I advise you hear him reading his own work at www.davidwhyte.com.  Now David is a man that grew up in Yorkshire, has a degree in Marine Zoology, and spent his early adult life as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands, led expeditions in the Andes and has published 6 books of richly philosophic yet natural poetry and today has a very intense and in-demand schedule of lecturing and holding organizational workshops at major corporations around the world using poetry to illustrate how we can foster creativity, courage and engagement in business and in life. [He also leads a few “tours” one of which is to Ireland and thus how I stumpled across his name.] What a grand discovery. Being a lover of poetry and having lived the corporate executive life for many years it never occurred to me that poetry could cross over to help an organization, that poetry could have a place in training others in leadership and management or how best to handle, in todays cliff-edge climate, the changes and challenges in our lives. So this seemingly small by-chance discovery has opened another very large door for me. David has found a very creative way for poetry to touch people, found a way where poetry and his poetic cadence opens doors creating an almost hypnotic calmness which allows us to really hear and imagine how we can be leading a more creative life - be it in business, with family & friends or in our own lives.  He has found a way to open us to that place where we develop our courage, our strength to really be who we are. And yes, we want and need our leaders to have vision and courage and to do so creativity because these are the people that inspire entire organizations and in so doing we, the inspired whole thus inspires each other - creatively. 
P.S. I wanted to purchase a few of his poetry books to read on the plane before I left but came up empty locally. I was successful in purchasing a few of his works on tape via iTunes before I left - The Three Marriages is a good one for those that are searching for balance between work, family and self. Java!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox

Prior to going to Ireland I was online doing research to see if there were any cultural events going on in the area of our stay related to art shows, workshops, book signings/author visits or lectures - that sort of thing. I think subliminally I wanted to see if there would be a reason for me to stay a bit longer as I had given up a writer’s workshop that was to be that same weekend in Florida as well as an artist workshop that was to be the weekend I returned. Not that these would keep me from going to Ireland but with my husband out of town and my daughter off to college I had put these two weeks in September on the calendar as my “art and writing time” so why not find a great place to do that in Ireland!? Well, I just happened to stumble across two things during this online search that changed my life. One of them was discovering The Burren College of Art. I bookmarked the webpage after learning they held summer workshops that were 5 days of intensive [insert art, theater, writing, etc] workshops but of course these had all ended and so I signed up for their newsletter and explored what one had to do to become an artist in residence and put it off for another time.  That next week we were driving around and through The Burrenon our way to Galway from the Cliffs of Mohor (this is like driving through the desert here, it is a very impressive and large area of balding hills covered with rows of rocks that almost seemed to have been placed by hand and with no trees) when at one point we pulled aside by an entrance to a farm to take pictures. The Burren was actually across the way but finding a place to pull over is always a challenge on the narrow roads so a driveway is usually the best bet. We had been stopped for only a few minutes when I happened to notice this sign on the stone wall.  I could not believe it. I stared at it for the long time it took my brain to connect that this was the very place I spoke to by email the week before and had hoped to find but didn’t put on the “must see” list. And here, here we had just literally stumbled at her doorstep just like these many rocks from glacial times. We drove up the long narrow drive with large meadows on either side of her stone walls and quietly reviewed the small family of buildings and took some more photos. It was a perfect place for an art and/or writing retreat as well as a very small but dedicated college of art. It was like a farm with just the right balance in size as well as form and function (some very old Irish historical-like buildings, some new additions had been made with all-glass walls).  I had to just sit in the car and breath it all in for a few minutes. I still have the image of this moment etched into my soul and I meditate on whether this encounter was by chance or by fate and whether I’ll be back. Attending an art or writing retreat would be ideal in Ireland however yesterday I was online to check out a poetry link a former colleague had sent me and was perusing the locations for poetry readings and saw a name of a local college of art that I was unaware of. I went to that site and discovered it is very much like, at least from the pictures, the Burren College of Art and it is just about 30 minutes away! So I quickly searched to see what they had going on and bumped into a notice about a one-day, all-day painting workshop that is taking place...this Saturday! Again, is this fate?  How does this happen? Does art come to us or are we more open to searching for it? I think it’s in the balance of things - when we are balanced we are more open to being in sync with the earth’s axis. Not riding the orbit but being a part of it. So I hope they have room for one more this Saturday and if so I’ll share the results. As to that other thing I stumbled across while researching Ireland that changed my life? More on that tomorrow. Java! - yf - 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hugs for Coffee Mugs


I turned the dishwasher on last night and this morning, after I made the coffee, Starbucks earthy extra bold Sumatra, I opened the machine and there before me filling the entire top rack were all of my favorite coffee mugs. I sleepishly starred down and quickly realized I had to make a decision this early in the day and had to do so right then and there. I had to decide which of my children was my favorite!?!  I didn’t think too much about my collection of mugs until we recently moved and our daughter was helping to unpack the kitchen boxes and made a comment about (I’m sure there was a whine involved) the number of mugs we have and who is going to drink out of all of these, anyway? I mean mom, don’t you just need enough for say a week and then wash and re-use??!! Hmmm. She had a point. And yes they do take up a lot of room in the cupboards so I made an attempt to cull them by tossing about ten of the “old favorite” logo’d mugs from my many years in the TV business and I still had far too many. I felt like one of those women in the show Clean House...you know the ones that just can’t give up stuff that looks like junk to the rest of us but the poor woman has a ton of baggage wrapped up into why she just can’t part with her rubble of guilt and regrets.  Back to the mugs. What makes certain mugs our favorites? Why do we even have “favorite coffee mugs”? It’s all very much like art - they have stories, they talk. We seem to naturally pick the mugs that fit best into our hands and homes and we like the ones that say a little bit about who we are and maybe where we’ve been. Take the one in the picture. This is one of my favorites because it was handmade on Cape Cod with Nauset Beach sand by Steven Kemp. I buy something from the Kemps before I get on the road to go home after visitng my parents and I hear many people do this, too. I almost always buy something from the green collection and those that that fish on them. I have a number of fish mugs, fish bowls, and light switch plates with fish on them as I love the soothing nature and natural balance of his work (and of his son’s who is now also potting) and I love to have anything that is hand made in my house. But it can’t just be something with a fish, it has to be a fish that appears strong and wise for just being a fish. One with a soul. And I like the mugs that when you hold it, look at it, or share it with someone you feel it is an extension of yourself and has become part of the family. This mug has just the right balance between function and beauty.  I’m going to hold on to my favorite mugs and I can’t imagine not buying more from the Kemps but every once in awhile I will pack up the ones that were store-bought or whose stories no longer seem strong and find a good home for them. Java! - yf -

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Christine Sullivan & Yellowfish Living

The richness found in the nooks and crannies of our lives often catch us by surprise. That first soft ray of sunlight stretching across the wood floor. The line of silver canisters near the coffee pot that suddenly appear as a row of birch trees. Even the newspapers tossed in the recycling bin create a random act of art when you are in the right frame of mind.  When the emotional state is calm and the eyes, ears, nose and heart are awake there is a renewed energy where all things are possible and your creative self develops its courage and becomes centered. Time seems to stand still while your creativity, strengths and vision expand. Athletes call it being "in the zone."  I call it the Yellowfish zone. This blog and my website, yellowfishcafe.com, is dedicated to this never ending journey of growth and exploration through writing, painting and advocacy for whatever it takes to live a more creative life. 
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