pruning and editing

Yesterday was a winter anomaly. A day in the high 50’s with sun shining.

Well, OK it’s almost March, but in these parts the snow can seriously fly this month.

prunings on the ground
30x22 charcoal, ©2012 Nanci Erskine

So, after consulting our recently made list of “stuff that we need to do around the house outside” I set out to get some pruning done on some bushes.  There is a lovely place by the side of our house where a natural doorway is made in a tangle of trees and shrubbery, that fleetingly bloom in late spring- but with winter snow loads, and time, it can get a bit out of control- bending and spreading in ways that become too dense; starting to shade out a bed where I put in some lilies a few years back.

As I began to sort and cut, deciding which branches and twigs to eliminate, I was struck by how analogous this process is to what I do in the studio with drawings and paintings now.  First, the impulse is to let things fly and get too overgrown,  and then I am compelled to go back in and start wacking away; removing and letting air and space back into the work.

It’s a process I like and find challenging, because it often means painting over passages, and then repainting on top of that, or scraping off something and rehashing how it works.

Beets me….

some might dread the coming of winter-

a few weeks of CSA beets waiting for attention

me, I’m actually looking forward to fewer little tasks that need attention-

like harvesting the last of the garden, remodeling the bathroom, and the end of an interesting but time-consuming contract job. Gives me itchy fingers just thinking about it.

In other words… more time in the studio ahead. Why do I get myself involved in so many other things that distract and dilute me?  Can I not say “no” to an opportunity to replenish the bank account, gain satisfaction from doing things myself….hmmm…I like a challenge and being handed a big project.

But the down side is that I’m uber organized, and that translates into sleepless nights occasionally.  The curse of being able to look ahead  I did just read that the optimum amount of sleep women need to live the longest is 6 hours a night- just anecdotal I’m sure, but it gives me some bizarre comfort!  My pledge for the year starting November 10 and thereafter is to only do things that help my art, help my physical health, and help my happiness quota!

(by the way- baked them, and shredded them, made borscht, and might even pickle some!)

Exploding watermelons….David Letterman segment or????

Wait- I think I’ve got problems????

… just was reading someone’s old copy of Time magazine-   apparently somewhere in China, 150 some acres of watermelons spontaneously exploded in the fields because of too much growth enhancing chemicals…

so check the provenance of the fruit you’re buying if you don’t want any nasty side effects this summer!  Me- I’m in a CSA and get lots of local veggies from a great organic farm each week for half the year.  What a treat.  Now I even appreciate kohlrabi- (still working on kale)

Weeding out

well, it’s that time of year, when the garden and the studio seem to be both clamoring for my attention.

iris at the beginning of June

We have large plot that runs along the driveway, (which has gotten smaller over time) and for years, it was the main source of summer veggies, strawberries and flowers. Now, however, there are two trees at the east and west of it that have probably grown at least 15 more feet in height.
One is a cottonwood in the neighbor’s back yard that towers over most trees on our end of the block. Suffice it to say, that when I track the sun now, this same plot maybe gets about 3 hours of full sun max in a day…… so not the best location for tomatoes, and other yummy things. So, there are pockets in other flower beds that hold my Roma plants, and to make up the difference, we now subscribe to a local organic CSA- Grant Farms- which supplies us with copious greens and other tasty veg.

My enthusiasm for spending hours weeding has waned over the years too. But it must be done- preferably after a good rain.
While weeding and harvesting in the yard takes up some time, I’ve also been weeding out other items in the house, and also think of this as a way to describe the process when I am working on a painting! (more on that later)
Downsizing has become a mild obsession with me- after seeing a few episodes of “Hoarders”, working with some hospice clients who have spent years stocking up on stuff, and seeing the stacks of papers in files in my mom’s house. It all makes me nervous about getting my possessions / art related stuff / kid stuff / stuff stuff, down to a leaner level.

Some of the bulkier items have gone by way of Craigslist- four wood crates that I built to ship paintings years ago. A remnant of the days when I was eager to ship out entire shows.
Weeding out old dried up playdough, I realized I’ve been hanging on to a lot of my daughter’s old classic toys- the Playschool Farm, (love the door that moos when you open it!), and other goodies- yikes a whole box of Barbies and assorted fashion accessories! Everywhere I turn, it seems, there is something that I was “saving” for some future time when- ??Who? would be around and want to use it?? uhh, not any time soon.
It takes a shift of mind to realize when you are hanging on to things, friends, fantasies, ideas, whatever- long past the boundaries of common sense or usefulness.

The same holds true for painting.
I’ve already been at the point many times when it doesn’t phase me a bit to ditch or destroy old work. Not cuz it’s bad even, just because it doesn’t move me forward… or feel like something I want to keep so i have examples of work I truly loved.
This same eliminating/weeding out now occurs when I paint.
I find myself starting a piece with way more density and information, and over time, carving away at it/ painting out things that might be quite nice, but aren’t really necessary.
Looking for only the right leaf, branch, space of air. I sense that I am having a change of aesthetic , calling out from the wall, and that’s why I paint – to see where it leads me next.