Tuesday, October 1, 2013

drawing on inspiration; an appeal for beauty to abound


I see the words crème fraîche and pumpkin together in the same recipe title...

Vanilla beans are dispersed into a milky infusion of spices;

Someone mentions they are on to their next cookbook project;

Someone else expresses their love of Campari;

Intricate pattern and lace are carved out of newspaper;

Burrata tenderly torn apart on a plate of tomato juices and breaded eggplant takes me back to my first taste of this decadent cheese -- in my first real job post-college;

A pineapple fragmented behind the glass of a punch bowl, all graciously layered and brushed into life by the hand and sight of an artist;

Gathered ingredients for a simple vinaigrette suddenly look like they belong in a frame -- similar hues of pink, grey, and varying yellows and neutrals bring a torn seal, the wispy skin of a shallot, and a cutting board together.

Sometimes it is too tempting as an artist to spend so much time surrounded by inspiration that we neglect to put our own creativity to use. Inspiration is essential (and it's delightful), but there are times when the busyness of intake overwhelms all opportunities for output.

Just yesterday, one of my young art students sat at her desk bent over a colorful palette of oil paint. She had taken her canvas from its easel and rested it on her lap. Cross-legged, she cradled a little story of life and motion as it came into vibrant clarity through her touch. I was jealous, in the best of ways.

I am beginning to map out a series of artwork through sketch and watercolor application, and I can't wait to share it with you as it unfolds. (Even more so, I can't wait to begin its unfolding and be surprised, myself, with the parts of the process that I can't predict.) Process from start to finish on artistic endeavors is full of unknowns, and I love how often these things start out with one aim or goal in mind and then take on a life of their own. Or how they require life and action to begin even before any sort of end hope is in sight.


Last summer I spent a lot of time painting to get ready for an art show. The timing was burdensome and yet also perfect as I battled my way through the emotions of a break-up. Often times my energy felt sapped, and I wanted to be out in the sun doing nothing. Simultaneously, I wanted to be constantly within close reach of people so loneliness could be kept in check and silence wouldn't surface anything unwelcome. Many of us have been through this sort of thing, I know.

I stumbled upon some writing I had done in that time in my studio and thought I'd share a bit of the artist process that helped me move along, sometimes haltingly so.

In recent days, I have finally chosen to lift up a weapon of resistance to these doldrums, to the weight that keeps me burying my nose in my pillow as my body stirs to morning light. In daylight hours my paintbrush has become a sword wielded in defense of the nighttime emptiness deep in my belly, when a pillow pressed close and long against my body serves to temper the ache.

As subtle of a defiance and as mild of a fight as I have the strength to entertain, taking paint to canvas holds hope. I do not understand how it will help these days pass into a further-healed state, but I am aware that placing a slender piece of wood between my fingers, bristled end wet and coated in deep hue, emotes worthwhile action.

This small measure of being entirely and utterly surrendered reduces down to a basic routine: Fill water cup, squeeze bent small paint tube, select paintbrush tip. Smear colors together, reach, dip, apply to canvas. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Rhythm helps my mind to ease and my breath to release. Rhythm seems so simple, an elementary, intuitive step. But daily rhythms of grace and renewal have been few in number. Of my own selection and impulses, their presence near me has diminished as I have turned and twisted and responded both wisely and foolishly to the unpredictable emotions of being utterly tender...

As I rise up and lay down, as I go to work and cook my meals, as dishes are washed and grief is forgotten in sweet pockets of genuine laughter, I’ll let time move forward. I will wait in hope and in forward motion. I will blink my eyes open at a new day and wonder if memories will be a little less raw in the coming hours. I will attend to my canvases and paint the beautiful details around me and appeal for Beauty to abound. It will again.

Maybe, just maybe, as I am inspired by the links at the beginning of this post and by the reminder and reflection upon putting my artist impulses into action, you will be as well. That is why I share this today.



On a closing aside, a beautiful little space in San Francisco to find inspiration is at the corner of Gough Street at Oak. I popped in with my cousin on a quiet Friday morning at ten o'clock. At that point only a small table was occupied (by three middle-aged grizzly-bearded men in Carhartts sipping Blue Bottle, I might add). This place is pristine (a wonderful juxtaposition to the casual trio customers). That is the word that kept coming to mind, as natural light poured into the space, highlighting each intentionally placed detail. Beautiful lighting, rich fabrics, and authentic vintage decor, 20th Century Cafe has already received press for its interior design by the owner, Michelle Polzine.

We each ordered a cappuccino and split an irresistible slice of the Russian Honey Cake that sat tall and elegant on its cake stand on the corner of the bar. I will certainly be back to try the apple strudel and was left wishing this place was close enough to home to make a regular stopping point.



{In case you missed it, each of the sentences at the beginning of this post does link to a blog very worthy of your time. Promise.}