In September, 2002, an insistent inner voice urged me to "Do Art." While this calling seemed to come out of nowhere, I paid attention and, ever since, I've explored what doing Art means to me. (At the time I was 52.) I work at my art harder now and with more dedication than when I worked in hospitals as a nurse and, later, when I served churches as an ordained minister. In this, my third career, I live immersed in my vocation to serve the art ideas that seek expression through me.
When I wake up in the morning, paintings I've made speak to me from the walls of my bedroom. I see what I love about them, what I would do differently next time. After meditating for 20 minutes, I visit my studio. There are more paintings, works in progress, recently completed paintings, and blank canvases fill the easels and line the walls. Downstairs, to make the coffee, more paintings. They're all talking to me! It's such a lively conversation—I hardly squeeze a word in edgewise. Later, I get my licks in with the brush.
While I occasionally paint from outer references, much of my studio time these days is spent exploring my inner life using paint. Inspired by women abstract expressionist painters such as Joan Mitchell, Lee Krassner and Helen Frankenthaler (to name but a few), I am increasingly drawn to an intuitive painting style. Beginning with expressive marks, I spontaneously layer color on the canvas in a process of concealing and revealing, until the painting is resolved. Much of my recent work has featured the suggestion of birds which are to me gestural shapes that perch within the frame of the picture.
I first practiced this meditative approach to creating in my previous career as a church minister. After years spent over-preparing for Sunday talks, I found that when speaking extemporaneously, without notes, I seemed to tap into a spiritual source that seemed me to use me to deliver its message. Now I understand that facing a blank canvas on my easel is not much different than standing in front of a congregation without a script. Free of agenda, art for its own sake appears, expressing creative ideas I didn’t know were in me.
This way of painting is both daunting and fulfilling--it's a constant exploration of the Mystery of creation. Often, what appears at first seems chaotic and out of control. But, then, later in the process, after much concealing and revealing, something unexpected happens. Luminous layering, coupled with invited accidents, creates rich texture thus satisfying my taste for a painting that delights and surprises while also pointing to something deeper.
Although I spent most of my life in the Atlanta area, I now live in Frankfort, a quiet town in northern Michigan about 4 blocks from a beautiful Lake Michigan beach. In summer, I plunge in the chilly water most every day. Hundreds of people come to visit my Studio & Gallery each year, mostly when the weather is good, but more often these days even in the bleak of winter. It's a good life.
I enjoy teaching in workshop settings. Several years ago I began offering Open Studio Workshops in Michigan and have recently added an Art Retreat in San Miguel de Allende, MX. As this format evolves I find myself integrating painting technique with exercises designed to work with the psychological and spiritual side of art-making. It’s very exciting to see participants break through their perfectionism, fear, doubt and other inner obstacles to creating. I put myself through similar paces to keep breaking through whatever seems to get in my way. You can read more about my approach to the art life in my book 7 Habits of Deeply Fulfilled Artists: Your Aesthetic Needs & How to Meet Them.