The Challenge of An Art Club in the Time of COVID

I belong to the local art club and am also on the Board. It’s been a real challenge for us keeping things going this year.

With Covid being such a concern, a lot of our members did not rejoin this Spring. Many who have rejoined are not participating in club activities. They are fearful. We understand. We also understand that we have some members who want to continue to have events in some form or fashion. We are trying hard to keep both sides of the debate (do something, don’t do something) happy.

So… we have been trying. We had a Zoom virtual meeting back in October. It was mostly the Board who tuned in. That was really disappointing. Our club’s President spent a lot of time with the logistics of it all. As the program presenter for that month, I video taped, edited, and uploaded my presentation. I doubt if more than a few watched it. (But boy did I learn some things during the process!) For this club, doing things via internet isn’t their thing. We understand.

For November we had a “come and go” project for community outreach and we can claim it as a success. Members were given the option to 1) come, stay, and create handmade cards to be given to a local assisted living/memory care facility or 2) come, drop off their handmade cards, and leave quickly with a hearty wave of their hand.

This come and go type of meeting format seems to work for us… so far. Masks are required, hand sanitizer is available in mass quantities, tables/chairs are limited and set far apart, and elbow taps (or booty taps) have replaced hugs. Though the masks prevented us from seeing each others smiles, they couldn’t keep us from hearing the laughter and talk from those who have missed seeing each other in person.

More events are planned around the limitations of the current health crises. Luckily for us, we are not in an area that has a high number of cases. If that changes, our plans will have to change. Planning or running any kind of club is a matter of being flexible right now and knowing that things could be cancelled at any time.

One good thing. If the club should fall apart this year, the Board has a really good excuse. It wasn’t us. It was COVID.

Artists and Their Muses

What is a Muse?

Image by Michael Drummond

According to the dictionary, a muse is:

  1. (from Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, who were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.
  2. as a noun, it means a person – usually a woman – who is a source of artistic inspiration.

Artists and creative persons have, for centuries, referred to their muse either with great affection or with great despair. It all depends on whether the creative person is having a good day, week, month… or not.

Muses, it seems, can be very fickle.

Do I Have a Muse? Do You?

I think all creative people have someone or something that inspires them. So, yes, I think I have a muse… probably more than one. Are they female? Are they real or spiritual? Do they show up in human form or in the form of an animal? Is it in the form of nature?

I am my own muse, the subject I know best.
Frida Kahlo

Nature’s my muse and it’s been my passion.
Frans Lanting

I have, for years, told my cats that they are my muses. When I’m painting, one or more finds the need to watch what I’m doing or curl up and nap somewhere near. Having them around when I’m painting does, in fact, relax me and that feeling lets the creative juices flow… until they start wrestling with each other, which leads to at least one getting pissed off, which does tend to interrupt my artistic flow.

That’s when my muses get the boot from the room. At that point, they have ceased to be “musing” or “amusing”.

Clear Your Mind, Let Your Muse In

Whatever your inspiration is or wherever it comes from, you won’t hear it or be inspired by it if your mind is cluttered… and we all have been feeling the effects of “mind clutter” since this darn Covid 19 came on the scene.

I read the comments of many other artists in various social media groups. Often I see that people are not feeling motivated (inspired) right now, but that happens even in the best of times. Clear your mind. Find your happy place. Let your muse in.

Three Muses 2020

Your muse or muses, your sources of inspiration, have NOT left you. It’s just hard to hear them right now.

Probably because they are wearing a mask.

Hang in there and focus on hearing what’s being said. Your inspiration is still speaking to you.

Wishes In The Wind

One of the many things from my childhood that makes me smile are the memories of picking dandelions that had gone to seed. What a joy it was to pick them, blow, and make wishes in the wind.

Seems easy, but there was a learning curve to it. Blow too hard and the fluffy head of seeds exploded. Blow just right, with pursed lips, and the seeds gently lifted into the air and rose higher and higher with the currents. Blow into the wind and you wound up with seeds in your hair, your mouth, your nose. Not fun.

Making your wish prior to sending them airborne was the ultimate thrill. You just never knew if a seed would carry that wish to the right “unknown” whereby the wish would be granted.

Many a race was run as I would try to be the first to get to a ripe dandelion before friends got there. And many a near fight would take place when, before I could make that wish-filled blow, someone next to me would blow first! Little heathens. There are unwritten rules for making dandelion wishes.

I still enjoy watching a child following the ages old tradition of picking one of these magical weeds and making a wish prior to blowing it into the air. Sharing that moment with a child is even better. The younger they are, the more magical the moment is.

However, if the magical, wish inducing, dandelion being blown into the air was found in my yard… then I really hope the wind is blowing away from my lawn.

Those things grow, you know… like weeds!

When It’s Hot, Paint Cool!

Summer is still here. The outside temperatures make that quite clear. Though I’m not a plein air type of girl and regularly paint inside where there’s air conditioning, I often find myself needing to paint in response to the heat outside. In other words, I need to paint cool.

So…. what is painting cool? Stripping down to your underwear (or your birthday suit) when you paint? (Maybe.) Putting your easel and your feet in your kids’ plastic pool? Misting yourself with ice water? Physically, all of these would indeed cool you down, but that’s not what I mean.

For me, painting cool means two fairly simple decisions. Choice of colors and choice of scene.

Think about it. We are very influenced by colors and composition (i.e. the scene). Our brains equate certain colors with temperature and time of season. We indeed often feel what we see.

Want to beat the heat? Want to paint cool? Mix up cool blues, some blue grays, various shades of purple, some pinks, some colors that evoke the many shades of white… then paint a cold snow covered treeline, a barn in winter, a figure bundled up with the hint of flakes falling, mountains with their highest peaks covered in snow. Or, as I did above, paint a frozen lake. Even the colors of autumn will get your brain to imagining cooler days and nights.

Painting cool works. At least until you open the door and walk outside. One more thing, this winter, when you’re actually cold… paint warm.

Dealing With a Dismal 2020

I am sick and tired of all the crap that has come with this year. If I were a flower… I would be so wilted, you would have to toss me out.

I’ve had it with divisions that have seemingly spiraled out of control among us. The disappearance of civility. The mistrust. The disobedience that leads to violence. The lack of being allowed an opinion that might differ from yours without getting trashed, beat up, or worse. Politicians on both sides who, the majority of which I firmly believe, are only interested in protecting their cozy and very entitled lives by saying or promising whatever they think will get the most votes. A current administration that seems to have no clue or afraid to get one. The virus that we can’t really control. The continuing damage we inflict on our environment and the damage our environment inflicts back on us. Worldwide unrest and corruption. In a nutshell, 2020 sucks (and we humans are mostly to blame).

So, how do we deal with the rest of a dismal 2020? I don’t know about you, but here’s what I intend to do:

  • Limit my time watching national news. It really does affect me. I get upset, angry, mortified… rarely soothed by what the media throws into my living room.
  • Focus on good things that are happening within my community, within my circle of friends, within my immediate and extended family, within myself!
  • Share more good things, funny things, and less of the “did you see this, or, is this fake?” kind of things. (Yeah, talking about social media.)
  • Look ahead with more optimism. Our country has been through hard, crazy times before. It WILL get better. Growth can be a long and often painful process.
  • Spend more time enjoying what I have and less time pondering about what I don’t have.
  • Spend more time on my back porch watching the clouds pass overhead.
  • Continue painting since it is, indeed, my favorite method of disconnecting from the world and feeling good… especially when clouds are involved.

Stay well. Stay hopeful.

Coffee Girls 4: Too Much Coffee

Again, she has no name. She’s a lovely person. People like her. She is however, addicted to coffee.

She starts her day with at least two cups in the morning. She has a cup mid-morning. She has one or more mid-afternoon. She supports many local coffee shops. Without coffee, she thinks she can’t function. She thinks she can’t get through her day without it. It keeps her awake and focused. She likes the feeling of being so productive! She gets things done!

Her family and friends try to get her to cut back on her consumption or at least switch to decaf, but she acts like they have just asked her to cut back on her breathing. She doesn’t see what they see. She’s wired. Wired from the caffeine in the coffee. She thinks she’s fine. It’s just coffee! She isn’t affected by the caffeine! She laughs at their concern. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

She is oblivious to the signs of too much caffeine. She thinks she was born with an overactive bladder. She thinks her high blood pressure is hereditary. She thinks her nights of insomnia are part of getting older. Her head is stuck inside her favorite mug.

For her, coffee in it’s purest form, is her source of power. She will not unplug or even put in a dimmer switch regarding it. She’s fully wired and the switch is always set to ON.

Coffee Girls No. 3: Early Morning Coffee

This is number 3 in my Coffee Girls series. From necessity her day starts early. Too early for someone who likes being in her nice comfortable bed. Too early for someone who may not be a morning person. Too early for someone who may have stayed up way too late the night before either working, taking care of family, or having a good time.

She needs her coffee. She’s not necessarily a “coffee junkie”, but can’t get her eyes to fully open without it. No decaf for her. She needs it full throttle. When she drags herself out of bed, she often is half asleep through her shower as her body runs on autopilot. Her main thoughts? “Coffee… I need some coffee.” If you speak to her before the coffee takes effect, you will get mumbled responses. It’s better to leave her alone until her second cup for any meaningful interaction.

No fancy mugs for her. She grabs whatever is closest on the shelf. It’s all about the liquid. For this girl, coffee is the power source for her drained battery. Once the green light comes on, she will be ready to go.

Coffee Girls No. 2: Love My Coffee

This is the second in my Coffee Girls series. Once again, she has no name. You may recognize her in yourself or someone you know. She loves mornings because mornings mean…. coffee!! She probably does not have to rush off to work, or if she does work, she looks forward to the weekend when she can enjoy her favorite morning drink with no need to hurry.

Coffee is her favorite morning companion. With or without food. As soon as she smells the aroma, all her senses wake up and she’s almost instantly focused. On the coffee. She feels a deep connection to the drink in hand and her day rarely starts without a cup.

She collects mugs. She enjoys sipping coffee from mugs that reflect her fascination with the drink. She also has a favorite coffee that she brews. She is not adventurous in her choices. Once she finds one or two flavors/combinations that she likes… she stays with them. Her taste buds are loyal. For her, a morning without coffee would be… not happening. She is blissfully a coffeeholic.

Coffee Girls No. 1: The Coffee Break

Sometimes I just like to paint something different, something involving a face. For a long time, almost everything I painted or sketched involved a face or figure. Sometimes, realistic… mostly slightly off kilter. More fun that way.

So here is the first I did in a fun series I call the Coffee Girls.

She doesn’t have a name. You may call her whatever you like. She’s a dedicated office employee and gives 100 percent to her boss. She rarely misses a day of work and rarely misses her afternoon coffee break. She will often take a shortened lunch hour so that she can tack on an extra fifteen minutes to her normal 3:00 p.m. break just to enjoy her favorite brew a little bit longer.

On weekends, when most people want to meet up at a wine bar for a drink and a visit, she will be the one to suggest a favorite coffee shop instead. When she walks in, the staff behind the counter knows her name. She loves the familiarity almost as much as she loves her coffee. She can guide you through the coffee menu with ease. She likes to try new flavors and is confident in her choices. She is a true coffee connoisseur.

Walk With Me

Right now with all the mess going on, I know you and I won’t be walking together any time soon. And, truth be told, I kind of prefer walking by myself. If I am by myself, I don’t have to make polite conversation, talk (or hear) about problems, or have anyone roll their eyes when I have to stop (for the umpteenth time) to look at something we saw earlier in another spot. Look! Another rabbit, squirrel, bird, flower, butterfly, cloud formation, tree shape. The list goes on… and on… and on.

oil and cold wax painting

Note this: if you are the same way on a walk, we would get along fabulously (and probably be taking a lot of photos).

However, if we can’t walk together physically, we can at least walk together in spirit. Fact is, sadly, I do most of my walking this way now. No, not by some meditative mind thing. I do my in spirit walking through photos. Either my own or those so graciously shared by others. I love seeing where people have been and am very glad they are willing to share their adventures so I can come along.

This is why I now so enjoy painting outdoor scenes, even if it’s from a photo (with permission of course if it’s not mine). It doesn’t have to be a live outdoor painting experience (i.e. plein air) for me to feel it. And truth be told, I don’t like to sweat, get sunburned, fight off bugs, or lug supplies around. Also, at my age, the thought of not being close to a bathroom is a big NO NO. (Just for that, I have a huge amount of respect for plein air painters. They must have really healthy bladders.)

Anyway… at my age, I have had enough life experiences to be able to look at a photo and visualize being there, walking there, seeing the colors in the tree line or on the side of the hill. I can feel the breeze that might be blowing, feel the heat of the sun or the cool of the shade, smell the fragrances of what’s growing, hear what sounds might be there. I can put myself into the scene I am painting. I am spiritually there because at some point in life, I was physically in a scene pretty much like it.

Hopefully, if I can capture the feeling of being there, the viewer will feel they are there too. Isn’t that’s what all artists hope for? A connection with their viewer?

So, walk with me. I hope you enjoy the stroll.