Tag Archives: work

The Secret Life of Holes

The notorious "double hole"

The notorious “double hole”

This weekend my husband and I decided that the little barn needed a bit of sprucing up – specifically, a plant, larger than my perennials, to take care of a bit of naked lawn.  I don’t know why it didn’t seem naked until the little barn was built but, there you go – sometimes you just have to trust your aesthetic sense and go with it.

We spent the morning wandering around the local nursery debating the strengths and weaknesses of dogwoods, cherry trees and hydrangea.  The shrub expert there, patiently answered our questions and showed us various plants until he introduced us to the dogwood that we fell in love with and decided to adopt.

Of course adopting a tree requires a bit of preparation, namely, digging a spacious hole for it to spread its roots in.  The first task was to decide exactly where the hole should be.  We took turns holding a 20 foot board (I’m a visual person) in various places in the yard, standing back and seeing where the new tree should live.  We finally settled on the perfect spot and set about the chore of digging with optimism and shovels.

The hole needed to be about 24” deep and as I got closer to my goal, I was astounded that I only needed my husband’s muscle and the pry bar a couple of times to remove some nasty rocks.  This is the New Hampshire, the granite state, after all.

We took a break in the early afternoon to go for a walk and check out a local trout stream for next spring.  I decided that I still had enough energy to finish up the hole so that it would be ready for the delivery of its esteemed occupant.  At exactly 24” I hit a rock that I thought should be removed and called over the pry bar expert.  Right square in the middle of my beautiful, deep round hole was a rock the size of Vermont.

We tried to remove it.  We really did.  But when the pry bar sings that particular ringing song that means it has hit something immoveable and you can’t find soft soil around even the perimeters of the bottom your hole, even true stubborn New Englanders know that it is time to let the earth be what it is and to re-examine expectations and move the damn hole.

Our tree will find a lovely spacious new hole in the ground to wiggle its youthful roots in when it arrives.  It will grow into its home, spread out so that it too becomes a part of that secret world that hides underneath the sod.  We will enjoy its blossoms in the spring and its shade in the heat of summer.  It will be wonderful, albeit, slightly to the left of perfect.  After all, this is New Hampshire, the granite state.

What is Your Gift?

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
Emile Zola

When I first read that quote, many years ago, it made me furious.  I took it to mean that to be an artist you had to have been given the gift of talent or vision or some such nonsense, and I make it a personal crusade in my life to tell everyone I know that yes, you too can learn to draw or paint or whatever it is you want.

Of course not being given “the gift” is a great excuse for not leaping into the next adventure.    I, for instance cannot sing.  I wasn’t given “the gift” and so I sing in the car, in the shower, in the woods, alone at home and anywhere else I am absolutely sure that I will not be heard.  I sing loudly and with great feeling.  In my head, I sound great!  I should be on stage!  If anyone overheard me I would be sure to be discovered!  A musical friend told me a while ago that anyone could be taught to sing.  Did I believe him?  Absolutely ….….well………let’s just say, I agreed with him and told him about my own crusade and continued to sing in private.

Do I believe I could learn to sing?  Sure – if I wanted to spend lots of time in front of a piano, doing scales or whatever you do when you have voice lessons, I could probably learn to sing.  Do I want to?  The part of me that belts out show tunes in the shower desperately wants to be on stage and have that audience loving me and asking for more.  It looks like so much fun.  So what is the problem here?

There is another part of me that loves making things more than singing (and heck, if I’m honest here, when I turn the radio up, I can sing while I make things!).   And what about that gift?  I don’t have a great gift for drawing.   I don’t have a great gift for painting or sculpting or even printmaking.  What I do have is a passion.  I can get up at 6:00 in the morning and have to leave the house for work at 7:15 and find 15 minutes to set up a plate or lay down a bit of color so that I will have something to come home to that afternoon.  I miss it when I am not making something.  I think about what I am going to make next.  I plan my ideas.  Sometimes I dream about what I am going to do next.  My ideas are often lined up behind the time I have to actually commit them to paper.

When I look at that quote again, I see that the “gift” – at least for me – is not the innate talent to do something easily or well, it is instead the passion for doing the thing and the pleasure that I derive from the making that is my gift.  And the work?  In this second half of my life, I am finding that I have a passion for the work that is new to me.  I am not so easily discouraged if something comes hard.  I find that if I push myself to practice, to do the hard work that it takes to be deliberate about my art, I am blessed with a different kind of gift, one that I have given myself.

Practice

Practice

Earlier this week, I had dinner with some of my art friends.  It was our monthly meeting of dinner, wine and show and tell.  One of us works at her art full time.  The rest of us juggle full time jobs and children along with the precious time that we carve out to make things.  As we were talking, my full time art friend said something that I knew was true but didn’t really understand in a visceral sort of way until recently.  Her comment was that no matter how many ideas we have, and how technically able we are, we can’t be our best at what we do unless we practice.

Duh….but you have to understand that in my world, things come easily.  I got good grades in school without studying, I was an average musician without practicing and I was good at my various jobs by being able to make quick decisions.  Doing things was easy.   Practicing was hard.  It meant doing something more than once.  It meant paying attention to the details of things and it meant being deliberate in the decisions that you made.

So why am I thinking about practice now?  I’m not quite sure.  I do know that I have started “practicing” my art.  This week, I made 3 prints using the same colors and the same design.  I tried hard to see them with new eyes.  What could be different?  How did I manage to make that mark that I really like on that one?  Why is this one more appealing than the first one?  What is it about the color that I love or hate?

It makes a difference.  It makes a big difference.

In printmaking, especially monotypes, I love the surprises or unexpected “gifts” that come as I lay the ink on my plate or pull the print.  But, as an artist, I am not just a receptacle for gifts that come by chance.  I have a responsibility to myself and my vision to work at my art, make deliberate decisions about what I am doing and after that, then, I can understand and accept the gifts that come through the practice of my work.