The Holy Grail of My Practice

Back in February two things came onto my agenda–a massive studio clean-out and a total renovation of my website. I got a little help with the heavy lifting of cleaning, but the website was all on me. In April I took a three-week adventure, and now, mid-May, I’m wrapping up the loose ends of both these huge projects and looking forward to the Studio Tour at the very end of this month.

In March the studio clean-out meant my creative space was an unmitigated disaster. To meet my needs for image-making I had to move elsewhere and elsewhen: I started watercoloring sketches first thing in the morning, from my bed.

I’ve never been a fan of watercolors, but they do have a charming ease of use–all you need is water, and paints, and brushes (that are easily cleaned). They are lightweight and nimble–which also adds to their charm. As I worked with them every morning, I discovered they have a curious relationship with water, that lovely life-giving element. You partner with the water, and then it evaporates, leaving you with your image. There’s something about that process that intrigues me.

There’s a lot of opposites between pastels, my preferred medium, and watercolors–dry vs. wet, darks first vs. lights first–but I find my practice is finding equitable footing in both. I can almost feel the neural networks activating, the way one might feel one’s strength adapting to a new exercise. It is an invigorating challenge.

Still, a sketchbook filling itself up with images does not meet my needs entirely. The thing that I am on the hunt for, the holy grail of my practice, is the feeling that I’m engaged with another realm. Or perhaps even better, that another realm is engaged with me. Everyday life, and big projects like website re-dos and studio clean outs can get in the way of this, after all. We only have so much energy. So when I found myself on the other side of those mountains of work, the questions of my project Dreaming Animals re-presented themselves to me.

In some ways, Dreaming Animals is two projects–the dreams of animals, and our dreams of animals. What an animal might dream, even one as close and dear to me as the husky sleeping soft on my bed right now, or the pug warm on my lap, is entirely guesswork, something I might work out in my imagination but that I can’t quite know. I think I might find some truth to what they dream, regardless of my lack in proper animal communication skills, because there is a magical quality to imagination–it is a doorway into the Otherworld realm where curious truths are told, sung even, by spiritual beings who know us, and which whom we may even be a part of. But to get to that depth requires many things, and even then it might not be given–an answer to what animals dream might always be beyond the realm of humanity.

So what do the deer dream, the owls, the wood thrushes? I am not sure. But perhaps, if I am lucky and persistent and blessed, I’ll get a dream, my own dream, of a wild animal’s dream, or a pug’s dream, and then my project of two will become properly woven together. It feels like a project that could last a lifetime, and that does not bother me one bit.

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