Relics as Inspiration for Art

Inspiration strikes at curious moments. I recently came across an old relic: a phone booth. It sits on a corner, in front of a laundromat, near a bustling downtown. I’ve probably driven past it a hundred times or more. On this particular day though, given its proximity to downtown, a thought struck me. I wondered how many wild nights came to their conclusion from that phone booth.

Like I said, the phone booth is a relic. In a bygone age, it would have offered an out. In a time when phones weren’t carried in everyone’s back pocket, this phone would have offered solace or refuge. This isn’t the kind of phone booth that you can step into, it’s a later model. But still, how many collect calls had been placed there? How many times did someone reach deep into their pockets or purse, hopeful for the loose change that could connect them to the voice on the other end of the line? The circumstances are countless. A walk of shame after a night of partying, waiting patiently on the bench next to the phone for a ride.

I allowed these thoughts to permeate my brain for the day, then I took a late night walk back to the corner. This time, with my camera in tow, taking photographs of the booth. With the laundromat in frame. from another angle, with the church up the street behind the booth. It would have been a beacon in the dark of night or the early morning hours.

I recall making calls from phones like these, even if I can’t recall the circumstances. It’s a life experience many just can’t relate to anymore. The dread of putting the phone too close to your mouth, or worse, the unseen piece of chewed bubble gum someone had left in the ear piece.

There is inspiration here for art in old relics. I’ll see where I can take these thoughts, how to turn them from thoughts to creation.


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This Week's Work

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I’m starting off the week’s work with a sketch in colored pencil. I was inspired by two colors: gold and periwinkle. The Bradford Pear trees in the neighborhood took on lovely golden leaves after the cold weather last week, and the powder blue almost lilac color of periwinkle always looks pretty with gold. The rain that followed the cold spell, warmed the days a bit, and soaked the bark of the trees. The tree trunks turned dark, and caused the golden leaves to look even brighter against the contrast. It was really beautiful.

Friday night, I completed a practice watercolor painting during my first ever live-stream on YouTube. I tried to channel my best Bob Ross while painting and interacting with viewers. I think I pulled it off. At the very least, I managed to complete the painting within an hour.

It was a whole new experience, as I’ve never talked through the creation of an entire painting. Typically my process for painting (or creating in general) is very private and introverted. My thoughts and next steps are rarely spoken out loud. Although I must confess that I like the vision of a mad artist at work, talking to herself, and occasionally answering. For the purposes of the live-stream, however, I had an interested audience asking me questions, and cheering me on. I am very pleased at how it all went. I will continue to get better at it, and will iron out the technical challenges.

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The completed painting provided me with a rough draft of what I’ll be working on this week. I wanted to make sure that the reference photo I’d chosen was a viable candidate for an acrylic painting. I think it will work out.

The process behind this series of work may seem, to the casual observer, a bit nonsensical. It began with a jumping ball and a tutu. A couple of items that my inner child finds truly awesome! My next step in the process was capturing a sense of childlike wonder. I took to the streets with my hippity hop ball, in my tutu and big black boots and sunglasses, and I hopped. With abandon like a child, enjoying myself regardless of who was watching. Videos and photos were taken and shared. This week, the real work of capturing that mood in paint continues!

"What A Feeling" (Memories of a Tiny Dancer)

I recently acquired a copy of “Flashdance...What A Feeling”. It’s a single release on a 45 record from 1983. It reminds me of a passion I once had.

In early 1983, I was six years old. I can’t recall what time of year it was, but my parents took me to the movie theatre. We watched, “Flashdance” for the first time. I often wonder now what they were thinking, I wouldn’t take a six year old to that picture. Nevertheless, I saw it, bigger than life. It must have made some kind of impression on me, because I spent the next few years completely engrossed in the theme song. Dancing my young little heart out. Over and over again, I’d dance to the entire soundtrack. I had it on cassette, and would blast it full blast on the living room stereo. I believe it was an emerson. Complete with a record player, 8-track, cassette deck, and radio. Two giant speakers took their places on either side of the unit, and it all rested on an old  dining room sideboard.

It was the theme song, though, that truly motivated me. The music starts, and I am on the floor: still. My head hangs, chin on my chest, arms at me sides, hands on the floor. My legs tucked under me, and my back to my audience. I make myself so small, insignificant on the stage in my mind. Then the words begin, and I rise from the ground, like a lotus from the depths, back still turned to the audience. “First when there’s nothing, but a slow, glowing dream.” Carefully moving to the swell of music, I begin to move. I raise my hands to the sky. I believe it was graceful and powerful, but I never saw myself dance. I just felt that it was so. It is what I believed, and it was my means of conveying the emotion that the song evoked.

“All alone I have cried silent tears full of pride. In a world made of steel. Made of stone”, then the pace of the music increases. I turn to face my audience. I move through my motions as the song progresses.

“Well, I hear the music. close my eyes, feel the rhythm wrap around take a hold of my heart”.

“What a feeling!”, and the music changes intensity. I kick my legs high above my head, jump and spin, and cartwheel! “Take your passion and make it happen”...my soul and my dance soar in unity. Spinning (I was a particularly good spinner in ballet) and dancing throughout the giant living room stage.

The music fades out with the words, “I can have it all”. I stand center stage, facing my audience, and bow my head, triumphant.

I practiced alone often in the living room. But that wasn’t all. I shared this particular dance every chance I got. Talent shows, church events, family reunions, private viewings for friends and family in the living room theatre.

I was a tiny dancer, always small for my age.Unbeknownst to me, I also had a heart arrhythmia. I don’t recall the doctor saying when I was 12 that I should stop dancing, but it seemed at home that there was that expectation. I stopped dancing without complaint or tears, seemingly, I had a high threshold for disappointment. In my life since, I’ve never been told that a strange heart rhythm is physically limiting in any sense. So I’m not really sure why I stopped. I do know that listening to this song again, with intensity of memory and its overarching theme, that there will never be any reason for me to set my passions aside again.  

Today, I once again perform my dance for anyone who reads this. Reconnecting with that little girl, I bow my head before you, triumphant! I practice my passion of creativity everyday, figuratively dancing my way through life.


Rights & Responsibilities

This week marks a midterm election. I think I’ve voted in every midterm and primary election since I was old enough to do so. Ironically, this week as I once again exercise my right to vote, I will also be fulfilling my civic duty with jury duty. I’ve never had jury duty before, even with all my years as an active voter. I’m not particularly excited, but there is some level of comfort in knowledge that this is how the system works, despite any discouragement I may feel about the current political climate. Maybe I’m just an optimist. Or perhaps these little actions of voting and fulfilling duties add up to the bigger picture. A bigger picture of a system designed to provide rights to its citizens. The right to vote and the right to a trial by a jury of peers. I’ll take that hope.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote!

Changing Seasons

There’s something about Autumn. It has too long been a something that I couldn’t quite define. I’d begun to attribute it to merely a change in season that reflected my own sense of loss of summer dresses, long days, and warmth. It was a feeling very much like that of waking from a dream, almost recollecting what that dream world was all about, but not being able to see it or describe it clearly. Just a vague, fleeting feeling of longing.

But I pinned it down with the clarity of having just woken.

This is what it is: I was sixteen.

It is a sense of excitement over the setting sun, because we’d walk in the cover of darkness. The chill in the air drawing us closer together for warmth. The sweet smell of decay and change as leaves fall from the trees and gather deep in spaces protected from the wind. We’d seek those spaces and make plans for the future. The crunch of those leaves under foot as we walked, hand in hand, without expectation or destination. Through the woods next to the river. Down the streets, past the houses; passing through the wood smoke from their fireplaces. Everyone inside them seeking warmth and coziness, while I passed outside with my warmth and coziness beside me. His warm embrace was my safety.

Autumn is romantic.

In the woods next to the river.

In the woods next to the river.