Climbing to a new base camp

I’ve been feeling different about my day-to-day work, since Open Studios. That weekend was such a prolonged, nervous-energetic high of owning myself, reaching out, and challenging myself both personally and creatively — I’m finding it hard to go back to my usual habits of freewrites and simple practice sketches; I’m finding, I suppose, that I want to work bigger and bolder, and I’m ready to do so.

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Actually it’s not just Open Studios that has me thinking. Last night we went to hear Fiona Apple on her tour with Blake Mills. Much has been made of Apple’s apparent fragility — I don’t want to belabor it because the word “fragile” is used too often to describe women who may or may not be that — but it was astounding how vulnerable she seemed onstage. I don’t mean weak, but emotionally open to a truly remarkable degree. It made it all the more startling and powerful when she launched into songs with such a high level of control, range, and oneness with the music that both Erik and I felt we’d gotten to see/hear something very special. I thought my Open Studios attempt was brave, but this was that taken so much further.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I’ve begun volunteering with a national organization called Learning Ally, which records audio versions of textbooks for the benefit of blind and learning-disabled students. Basically, for a couple of hours a week (or more, or less) I get to go into a proper recording booth and play teacher/helper/audiobook narrator. It is so much fun I can’t believe it’s allowed. It’s challenging work, but I find it very meditative, because it requires such absolute focus. You’re not just reading off a text (ideally with appropriate emotion and inflection), you’re also keeping track of yourself on a screen, and offering interpretations of non-text elements like pictures and tables. It’s the perfect blend of creative and structured, and for reasons I haven’t yet completely explored, it makes me want to step it up with my art too.

Hey, remember when I said this apartment was making me go totally writer-y? I guess momentum has swung the other way, now. I’m still doing a bit of writing here and there, but visual art is starting to feel like my primary medium once again. So curious how this happens — it’s so rare when I want to do both at once; most of the time it’s just one or the other taking center stage.

Some of my recent sketches from magazine photos (sharing page space with older doodles) — the ones that make me want to do something more:

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